By Joe Henricksen

June 2010 Archives

St. Rita Rising

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By Joe Henricksen

While everyone goes gaga over De La Salle (the Hoops Report did in the June 15 blog), raves about the recent success of Hales Franciscan, discusses all the wins Leo has piled up in the last decade and thinks back to the last big school state champion from the Catholic League back in 1985 (Mt. Carmel), there is another program in the Chicago Catholic League ready to join the basketball conversation.

St. Rita is building and the Mustangs are coming fast. Coach Gary DeCesare, the former DePaul assistant and legendary high school coach at St. Raymond's High School in the Bronx, has a young nucleus that is ready to take a big step forward this winter. The Mustangs just won the PEHS Shootout at St. Xavier this past weekend, with a trio of juniors who continue to blossom in 6-7 A.J. Avery, 6-1 Tony Hicks and guard Cullen Foulkes. DeCesare also has a couple of senior guards in point guard Marshawn Tobin and shooter Luke Barry who are valuable commodities.

A big part of the resurgence has to do with DeCesare, who brought instant credibility to the basketball program. It's not every day a high school basketball program gets to bring in a coach with college coaching experience and who compiled a 286-142 record, won four New York City championships, two state titles and produced more than 30 Division I players in 16 years at the prep level. That will open the eyes and grab the attention of any high school player. In addition, people are seeing more of St. Rita basketball than ever before, both in their scheduling and how active the program has become in playing in various summer events. That is such an underrated plus for a program, especially one trying to take the next step, as St. Rita played in events like the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, Hoop Mountain Shootout, the PEHS Shootout and others.

It's not as if St. Rita basketball has been horrific. The Mustangs have consistently been in the 14-17 win range over the past several years. There was a three-year period where the program struggled between 2003-2006, but it's basically been a 15-win-a-season program that has lacked postseason success.

However, this is a school where the baseball, football and wrestling programs have taken off over the past 10 years. The baseball program is arguably the strongest in the state of Illinois since 2004. The football program has averaged over 10 wins a season the past seven years with a state title in 2007. And in the winter, the wrestling program has been a monster over the last decade with numerous state trophies since 2003. Maybe it's time basketball takes that next step on Western Avenue between 77th and 79th streets.

DeCesare's presence and the talent level in place should translate into more success. The program is in a strong position going forward with young talent and more on the way with a trio of incoming freshmen this fall, two of which are among the Hoops Report's top 15 in the Class of 2014.

While De La Salle is clearly the team to beat in the Chicago Catholic League, don't be surprised if St. Rita's resurgence is sooner rather than later.

Emerging Johnny Hill picks ISU

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By Joe Henricksen

Johnny Hill, Glenbard East's up-and-coming senior star who showed promise and potential as a sophomore and blossomed this past season as a junior, ended his recruitment by committing to Illinois State and head coach Tim Jankovich.

Illinois State and assistant coach Paris Parham, who was the lead recruiter, was in on the fast-rising Hill early as the Redbirds were the first of several schools to offer the up-and-coming 6-3 guard this past winter. Hill's recruitment, which included early interest from DePaul under the previous coaching staff, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Loyola, Murray State, Bradley, Tennessee State and Wisconsin-Green Bay, was beginning to pick up steam as the July evaluation period approached.

The success Illinois State has had in recent years with three NIT appearances and an average of nearly 24 wins a year in those three seasons was attractive to Hill, along with the style of play Jankovich's Redbirds play and the relationship he built with the coaching staff.

"The coaching staff was so genuine and I just appreciated how they were during the recruiting process," says Hill, who averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds and 3.5 steals a game as a junior. "They were very supportive in showing me the basketball side and academic side of things. And I liked how they told me how I could get better, pointed out what I needed to do as a player to improve. I like the style of play, the distance from home and the success they've had as a program."

The long and active Hill had a terrific junior year in helping lead Glenbard East to a 27-2 record and a trip to the sectional championship game, where it fell to Benet Academy. Hill has that glide up and down the floor in transition, finishing on the break or spotting up on the three-point line as a much-improved catch-and-shoot perimeter shooter. He's at his best just making plays, spotting up from three but also with a pull-up mid-range game and using his length and athleticism to get to the basket and create havoc on the defensive end. Physically, Hill needs to progress as he remains thin and undeveloped, which a college strength and conditioning program should take care of.

Although it's a cliché, Hill's best basketball is clearly ahead of him. What makes Hill so intriguing is the upside he possesses as a prospect as he's just beginning to come into his own as a basketball player. Due to his experience level as a player and physical make-up, Hill was a late-developing prospect who continues to open eyes the more he plays. He has been solid this spring playing with the Rising Stars on the AAU circuit and in leading his high school team to titles at both the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, where he was named the event's MVP, and the Loyola Rambler Shootout.

Purnell a positive for DePaul

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By Joe Henricksen

We're not talking Mark Aguirre's days at DePaul. Heck, we're not even talking Stanley Brundy's days -- or the great Ray Meyer coaching on the sideline or regular NCAA Tournament appearances or the old rivalries with UCLA and Notre Dame or a No. 1 national ranking or a sold out Allstate Arena or the days of being broadcast nationally on WGN or ... well, you get the idea. But DePaul basketball, to a lesser degree, has a little something going.

Typically, a new coaching hire will generate instant enthusiasm. Oliver Purnell, who has had success everywhere he's been but has yet to coach a game for the Blue Demons, created excitement for the DePaul fanbase just with his arrival in Lincoln Park. Now Purnell and his staff are working hard to create that enthusiasm and excitement for those that matter most -- the talented young basketball prospects in the Chicago area and all those people that surround those players.

Obviously, nothing will generate enthusiasm and excitement more than wins on the floor and making a move up the Big East mountain. But if this past week was any indication, Purnell and his staff are on the right track. The new staff and the program itself are enjoying a bit of a honeymoon period and taking advantage of it. The DePaul Team Camp at Attack Athletics on Monday and Tuesday had many of the basketball movers and shakers in the city on hand and a long list of talented prospects in the gym. There was such a positive vibe in the gym. It was a happening place. When was the last time "DePaul basketball" and "positive vibe" and "happening place" have all been intertwined?

With the new NCAA rules virtually preventing schools to stray too far off campus in putting together events such as this, DePaul has the ideal avenue to reach out to players and coaches in the city and suburbs. A team camp like the one DePaul ran early this week in the back yard of many of the top high school players and programs is the perfect and ideal opportunity to sell the product. And like with any good sales job, Purnell has a presence about him. Purnell and his assistants worked feverishly and impressively in communicating, connecting, introducing, selling and promoting with so many prep basketball people under one roof. As a result, people are writing and talking about DePaul basketball in early summer, which typically doesn't happen too often following a 1-17 conference season.

As indicated in the Hoops Report's April 6 blog, with where the DePaul basketball program was in both stature and success, the Purnell hire was pretty darn solid. What DePaul has is a reputable coach who has had success coaching in one of the top three conferences year in, year out. He won a lot of games over the last few years at a school that is not exactly oozing with a basketball reputation. The Clemson program was pretty down under former coach Larry Shyatt when Purnell arrived. In the three years prior to Purnell's arrival, Clemson was 40-49 overall and a dismal 11-37 in ACC play. In Purnell's last four years at Clemson the Tigers averaged 23 wins a season, went 35-29 in the ACC and made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. That's a turnaround. And that's something that can be sold to prospects looking at a DePaul program that has been in the doldrums.

There is a new coach. There is a new dynamic. And there are early minutes for these prospects, who will also be assured of the head coach being around for them with the five-year contract Purnell has going forward. Now whether or not DePaul can get a lot done on the recruiting front between now and the early signing period in November, remains to be seen. Purnell, in less than three months, has made progress in a short period of time and has at least put DePaul in a position of being a factor. That alone is a step in the right direction.

Mundelein's Sawvell headed to Evansville

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By Joe Henricksen


Evansville, with former Illinois high school basketball legend Marty Simmons as head coach, has put in a lot of effort recruiting the state of Illinois. And the work has paid off in the Class of 2011 as Mundelein star Ryan Sawvell committed to the Purple Aces late Tuesday night.

"I was happy with the interest and the offers I had received from really a wide variety of schools, so I didn't see any point in waiting," says Sawvell.

Sawvell has been a City/Suburban Hoops Report favorite over the past couple of years and a mainstay in the top 25 player rankings. Although blessed with a solid skill level for a 4-man, the 6-8 Sawvell brings the type of energy and intangibles to the floor you can't teach. Sawvell gets up and down the floor so well for a player his size. He hustles, gets after it, competes, rebounds very well in space and out of his area with his above-average athleticism and uses that energy to thrive on second-chance scoring opportunities.

Sawvell, who plays with the Rising Stars on the AAU circuit, simply brings his lunch bucket to work every day. While he is active and a much better athlete than people realize, he can also bring some of that throwback style as well in terms of his competitiveness.

Offensively, Sawvell's back-to-the-basket game is still coming along, but he is a finisher who can also step out and knock down a shot and shoot it with a little range. His strength and weight will only improve as he gets on a college weight program.

Evansville, particularly assistant coach Chris Hollender, put in a ton of time on Sawvell from the beginning. Sawvell made two separate trips to the Evansville campus, with the last one coming this past spring and decided to end things before the July evaluation period, when the Hoops Report envisioned the interest in Sawvell to rise even more among mid-major programs. While a host of schools were involved with Sawvell in the recruiting process, including Loyola, Western Michigan, Illinois State, Central Michigan, Toledo and Valparaiso, he pulled the trigger Tuesday night.

"The coaching staff were just nice guys who like to make it fun but have a little of that blue-collar mentality," Sawvell pointed out. "Coach Simmons actually reminds me of my dad in some ways. I like the fanbase there as well, and I got along with the players who are young and are going to be around when I'm there."

The early commitment

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By Joe Henricksen

Megan Fox is a Hollywood bombshell, a 24-year-old beauty on the covers of magazines, the big screen and a top 5 regular on Maxim's Hot 100 List. She was engaged to Brian Austin Green (Huh?) but the engagement was broken off last February. (There is a point to this story being in the Hoops Report blog. I'm getting there.) So Fox and Green break it off. No biggie. Heck, he's 36 (12 years older) and of "Beverly Hills 90201" fame. Though he was of the less cheesy males on "90201", so says my wife, he's still Brian Austin Green! And she's MEGAN FOX! Come on! That's like Robert Di Niro in the movie "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" or Lebron playing in Cleveland!

But now the Hoops Report wife informs me Fox and Green are back together as of this month. Just like that the two are engaged -- for a second time. On again? Off again?

The early commitment in basketball recruiting has often been compared to the whole engagement process: A prospect commits to a school, starts buying t-shirts and sweatshirts at that school's bookstore but nothing is final until signing day; the girl gets the engagement ring, says yes, sets a date but nothing is final until she walks down that aisle and the two of them both say, "I do." You just never know.

And the same can be said for those on the outside looking in at those two timeless traditions -- the early basketball commitment and the engagement periods. The ring on that girl's finger signifies she's taken, while the commitment that prospect gave signifies he's taken. In theory, they are off limits. Some guys (both on the open dating market and college coaches) will respect that and some won't. And I do mean in both cases. But we all know so much can happen -- and does.

The early commitment comes in all shapes and sizes. Jereme Richmond, a high-profile talent, gave coach Bruce Weber a commitment in November of his freshman year at North Shore Country Day. He stayed true and signed exactly three years later in November of his senior year at Waukegan. A year before, Cully Payne, who was a month out of 8th grade, gave DePaul and coach Jerry Wainwright a commitment before he stepped foot in the halls of Burlington Central High School. The circumstances changed and he ultimately de-committed. He then committed to Alabama and de-committed due to coaching changes. Payne ended up at Iowa.

There are endless early commitment stories like these across the country. And the stories, which have gone on for several decades, all have different twists and turns with some uglier than others.

The early commitment is not intended to be treated as or resemble a 30-day money back guarantee. A college coach and program can't afford to get in the habit of throwing commitments back to the sea after reeling them in, while prospects should think long and hard before de-committing from the school they felt was right in the first place. Prospects and college programs just don't reunite very often like good 'ol Fox and Green did.

The early commitment, which has been happening more in recent years due to more offers being put out there earlier in players' high school careers, is really all about trust. A coaching staff has to trust their talent evaluations and projections of a player more than ever before. College coaches are having to identify players at an earlier stage of a prospect's career and be comfortable and willing to pull the trigger with an offer just to keep up with the current recruiting landscape. College coaches have to trust that the player they offer -- and who just might commit to them early -- has the makeup and mindset to continue to work hard and get better as a player.

The prospect has to trust his instincts. They all get the sales pitch from college programs. But filtering what's true, what's not and the sincerity of it all is almost a form of art players and their parents try to perfect through the process. They have to trust that while they are committed the school stays true to them as well.

Yes, it's a two-way street. And yes, circumstances can certainly change with the player or the program, but it should be left up to the player that committed and the school that received the commitment to sort that out. There are unwritten rules in college basketball recruiting, which some follow and respect and others don't. But the good ones in the recruiting game stay away from a committed prospect until they are no longer committed.

So getting an early commitment can be a blessing, especially if the world were a perfect place and the dirty, seedy, filthy part of recruiting didn't exist. A high-major program can nab a commitment from a talented but under-the-radar player before the big wolves (Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, etc.) get involved. A mid-major school can secure an early commitment from a player they would have had no chance at if the recruitment had extended through the fall of the player's senior year.

Plainfield Central's Derrick Marks committed early to Albany. Last December, just a couple months into his junior basketball season, the talented 6-2 guard gave the America East Conference school a commitment. He found what he believes was a great fit for him. Marks built a relationship with the staff and program and he has stayed true to that commitment. And Albany, which made NCAA Tournament appearances in 2006 and 2007, made Marks a priority early on. Albany did its homework, identified a piece that would be perfect for them and, to the credit of the Great Danes staff, got the job done.

These are the types of early commitments you really appreciate, where both the program and player find something that works, is shared and is ideal. This wasn't a kid committing early to Kansas, Kentucky or Duke, a commitment others would view as a "no-brainer." This wasn't a kid committing early to the Big Ten or the Big East, conferences that have produced multiple Final Four teams in recent years. Marks found what he was looking for early in the process, was fortunate to feel that comfort level and looked to take a load off his shoulders as he played out his final two years of high school basketball. And he remains committed. And this is exactly the type of commitment --and others like it -- that should be respected by college programs across the country.

In the recruiting business you hear all too often of college coaches still actively recruiting prospects that have given a "verbal commitment." There is an unwritten rule in basketball recruiting that those players are off limits. No coach in the country wants a player that is committed to them being recruited -- or even contacted -- by other college programs. So why do some still do it to others? Why do men continue to hit on an engaged girl?

Summer hits always a certainty

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By Joe Henricksen

In the summer of 1966 "Summer in the City" by The Lovin' Spoonful was No. 1 in the Billboard Top Singles chart. This is just one of so many summer songs that have swept through our radio airwaves over the last half century and pounded out of our car stereo speakers.

Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" is a Hoops Report longtime fav, along with good 'ol "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. And I'm not a big Kid Rock fan but go ahead and play "All Summer Long" at any backyard barbecue I'm at.

Underrated and underplayed "Happy Summertime," featuring R. Kelly and Snoop Dogg, was a mild hit.

There was "Wipe Out" by The Surfaris in 1963, one of the greatest surfing rock songs of all time -- right there with "Surfin' USA" by the Beach Boys. How about Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69" or Mungo Jerry's "In The Summertime?"

There was the unforgettable (wait, forgettable?) "Cruel Summer" by Bananarama. Go ahead and YouTube this particular Bananarama music video. Arguably the worst music video ever made. Go ahead, do it.

For old school summer tunes you have "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran. ... "SOMETIMES I WONDER WHAT I'M GONNA DO, CUZ THERE AIN'T NO CURE FOR THE SUMMERTIME BLUES! ... dah-dah-dah-dah .... dah-dah-dah-dah ...."

"Summer Breeze" by Seals and Crofts remains a classic and Olivia Newton-John will make you melt with "Summer Nights." For those cheesy people out there, go ahead and blast "Endless Summer Nights" by Richard Marx. Well, maybe not blast it.

Every summer there is a new hit or two on the radio dial. It's been that way for decades. And it's the same with high school basketball as the summer months play on and college coaches get their best look at prospects during their specially-designed "summer camps" and throughout the July evaluation period.

While that July evaluation period is just around the corner, the high school prospects in Illinois are back playing with their high school teams in the month of June. These players are shuttling between team camps on college campuses to summer shootouts and leagues.

After putting together solid junior years, attracting interest from college programs and nabbing scholarship offers this past winter and spring, there are a host of players who the Hoops Report believes will attract more attention and open more eyes and see their reputations grow. As a result, the college interest will grow with it as they play out the summer. Here is a list of a half dozen prospects in the Class of 2011 who are known in the recruiting circles but could see their names become much bigger between now and August 1. The combination of productivity and upside should shine through.

• Phillip Greene, 6-2, Chicago (Julian)
Love this kid. Why don't you? The City/Suburban Hoops Report has Greene as the No. 10 prospect in the senior class, yet the high-major interest has been somewhat mild. Look for that to change. While the scoring guard hasn't received the type of hype and love he probably should have received locally up to this point, he's done enough for the Hoops Report to solidify himself as a high-major prospect and among the top 10 prospects in the class. Greene opened eyes at the West Virginia Elite Camp in early June and came home with an offer from coach Bob Huggins. With the ability to play both guard spots, Greene will be securing more national recognition over the course of the summer, while the likes of West Virginia, DePaul, Oklahoma State, Dayton, Bradley, Ohio and several others have been in the mix.

• Luke Hager, 6-7, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Yes, the Hoops Report has Hager ranked higher than most. That's due to the versatility he has as a player and the vast upside he possesses. He still must get from point A to point B, but it's coming. Hager's opportunities were limited a year ago with a loaded Whitney Young club, but he will be instrumental in the success of the Dolphins this winter. Hager can handle it and has become more aggressive in attacking the basket, using his super athleticism and size for a wing. The perimeter jumper isn't there yet, but he remains a prospect who will be heavily watched this July and should see his recruiting stock increase.

• Johnny Hill, 6-3, Lombard (Glenbard East)
The classic late bloomer who just gets better and better. The interest and curiosity in the rangy and active Hill has certainly picked up since he helped lead his high school team to a 27-2 record last season. That interest continues to increase as he's led the Rams to tournament titles at both the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout and Loyola Rambler Shootout early this summer. Hill has improved his perimeter shot to the point of becoming a solid spot-up shooter. He's still at his best gliding in the open floor, finishing in transition and breaking people down off the bounce in the halfcourt. Physically, Hill has some ground to make up, but the promise he shows remains a constant.

• Derrick Marks, 6-2, Plainfield (Central)
The Hoops Report caught up with Marks at the Oswego East Shootout last weekend. He stated he does remain committed to Albany, where the powerful guard would be an absolute steal in the America East Conference. Marks has a burst in the halfcourt and in the open floor that allows him to get to the basket, where he uses his strength and great body control to finish at the basket. He's constantly in attack mode and is one of the more underrated players in the state of Illinois who is trying to show he can also play some point guard as well. He's among the top 20 prospects in the senior class in both the Hoops Report and Chicago Hoops rankings, yet gets very little fanfare playing in the southwest suburbs.

• James Farr, 6-8, Evanston
There maybe isn't a player that has come as far (pardon the pun) as Farr has come since last November. He continues to grow both in height, maturation and in ability. This face-up 4-man has range out to 20 feet, yet has a soft touch around the basket with a nice developing jump-hook. The left-handed Farr is not a freak athlete and needs to gain weight and strength, but he can run the floor and step out and help space the floor with his perimeter shooting abiltity. That late development has meant many schools being late to the James Farr Recruiting Party. Boise State is the lone offer for Farr as of earlier this week, but the likes of Murray State, Northern Iowa, Colorado State, Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Green-Bay have shown heavy interest.

"He's made such big strides with his confidence and maturity in the last year," says Evanston coach Bobby Locke. "Plus, he's just starting to figure out how big he is and understand how he can impact games with his size."

• Dylan Ennis, 6-0, Lake Forest (Academy)
He quietly committed to Akron but has recently opened things back up again after a stellar spring playing for NLP on the travel team circuit. Now he's among the better point guards in the Chicago area with a terrific frame and length for a lead guard. While still battling inconsistency at times and trying to grow as a student of the game, Ennis is a talent with upside. Although streaky with his shot, he's made strides in this area. As he becomes more consistent and a little less erratic, Ennis should blossom with his active perimeter play and impressive tools on display through July.

NIU secures first 2011 commit

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By Joe Henricksen

Following up what Northern Illinois believes was a solid 2010 recruiting class, which includes highly-thought-of Nate Rucker out of Memphis and talented point guard Kyree Jones out of North Carolina Tech Preparatory Christian Academy in Charlotte, coach Ricardo Patton secured his first commitment in the Class of 2011 when Glenbard East's Zach Miller committed to the Huskies on Thursday.

Miller, the consummate point guard who will knock down shots, had made a few trips to the Northern Illinois campus in recent weeks and decided to end his recruitment. The 5-9 Miller sees the floor about as well as any player in the senior class, while running a team as a floor general is second nature to him. Miller's high basketball I.Q. helps overcome some of the physical limitations he will have to deal with playing at the next level. Miller, who plays with the Illinois Defenders on the AAU circuit, was the DuPage Valley Conference MVP last season and helped lead the Rams to a school-record 27 wins.

NIU's recruiting attention will turn to several other Illinois targets who they remain heavily involved with, including Miller's teammate at Glenbard East, 6-3 Johnny Hill, and another rising prospect in Evanston's 6-8 James Farr.

Northern Illinois will host its Satellite Team Camp at Proviso West this weekend, with several key targets, both in the senior class and underclassmen, on display for Patton and his staff. Among the top teams with prospects include Evanston, Hyde Park, Loyola Academy, Rockford Auburn, Curie, Hillcrest, Hales Franciscan and Mt. Carmel among others.

De La Salle a big deal again

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By Joe Henricksen

De La Salle basketball's quest to take the next step as a program is as close to reality as it's been in a long time. As the Meteors head into the 2010-2011 season next November, the expectations will be as high as they've been since the Jerry Tokars-coached teams in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

With the official announcement of the return of talented Dre Henley, who spent a year at Carbondale Brehm Prep working on his academic situation, De La Salle clearly becomes a preseason top five team. Even without Henley, who played his first two seasons at De La Salle, the Meteors would have been pushing towards the top five. But now Henley will team with 6-8 Mike Shaw, a coveted high-major prospect, and highly-thought-of 6-7 sophomore Alex Foster to form a nucleus that is as good as it gets in Illinois.

Coach Tom White will have to replace some valuable role players from a year ago, most notably D.J. Bland, who brought defensive energy, toughness and some surprising scoring abilities, but with Henley, Shaw and Foster the Meteors have an intimidating, versatile and big frontline. Plus, Henley is capable of playing any position on the floor if needed.

What makes the coming season even more intriguing is the fact last year's sophomore team was as dominant as any lower-level team in the city and suburbs last winter -- and that was without Foster and another freshman, talented guard Jaylon Tate, playing up on the varsity. Foster, Tate and classmate Alvin Ellis, a 6-4 wing with tremendous upside, are three of the top 10 players in the Class of 2013. And there is more talent on the way. There is Marcus White, a 5-8 point guard, who played on the sophomore team as a freshman last year and is having a solid spring and summer on the travel circuit, along with junior-to-be Pat Haynes, a 6-3 wing who was a big contributor to the success of the sophomore team and may be able to fill a role this season.

While many in the Chicago area have talked about the talents of Foster, Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton and Simeon's Jabari Parker in the loaded Class of 2013, both Tate and Ellis have the potential to be special players as well. Tate played a big role a year ago and gained valuable varsity guard experience as a freshman, while Ellis is booming with potential and is already a college prospect despite not having played varsity basketball.

The Meteors have won three straight regional championships under White -- and six regional titles since White took over in 1995-96. However, getting over the sectional hump has been the hurdle the Meteors have not been able to clear. A year ago De La Salle fell to Foreman, 63-55, in the sectional final. A couple of years ago eventual 2009 state champ Whitney Young defeated the Meteors 55-52 in the sectional championship. Catholic League rival Mount Carmel ended De La Salle's season three years ago in the sectional semis.

Under former coach Jim Tracy, De La Salle won five regional championships in seven years in the 1980s but again fell short of claiming a sectional championship.

The last sectional championship for De La Salle? Nearly 30 years ago in 1983 when Tony La Russa was managing and Carlton Fisk was catching for the White Sox down the street at old Comiskey Park. The Meteors fell to Thornton in the supersectional that season.

De La Salle's heyday in hoops came in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Tokars led three teams to the Elite Eight in Champaign, including the 1976-77 team that finished third in the state. That Meteor team, led by a rising star in 6-6 sophomore Darryl Allen and senior Ray Rhone, beat old Weber in the supersectional and knocked off Collinsville by one point in the state quarterfinals. A state semifinal loss to Springfield Lanphier ended De La Salle's state title dreams.

The 1980s, which produced seven regional championships and one sectional title, will always be remembered for the talent and memorable players that went through De La Salle, including big man Mike Williams, Eric Moore and the unforgettable and famed Niego brothers -- Charlie, Tom and Joe.

Now, with the talent in place sitting at Wabash and 35th Street, De La Salle is poised to end that sectional title drought -- and maybe more. Although schools like Hales Franciscan, Leo and Seton Academy have won small school state titles in Illinois, there hasn't been a Chicago Catholic League school to win a big school state championship since Mount Carmel in 1985. De La Salle has a chance to become the next.

Benet's Kaminsky will be a Badger

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By Joe Henricksen

Aside from Perspectives' Anthony Davis, no player in the state of Illinois has seen his recruiting stock rise more than Benet Academy big man Frank Kaminsky in the Class of 2011. A year ago the 6-10 Kaminsky was hardly a blip on the recruiting radar. Now he's headed to the Big Ten.

Wisconsin, led by lead recruiter Howard Moore, received a verbal commitment from Kaminsky, who plays his club basketball for coach Mike Mullins and the Illinois Wolves. The Badgers continue to recruit the Chicagoland area hard as Kaminsky joins Brooks point guard George Marshall as future Badgers in the Class of 2011, which follows up the 2010 recruiting class of Mundelein's Ben Brust and Deerfield's Duje Dukan.

Kaminsky, who should pack on weight and strength once he gets on a college strength and conditioning program, certainly fits the mold of Wisconsin big men. While he's still trying to become a factor on the block and in the paint, he has the ability to step outside and knock down perimeter shots and with some range. He helped lead coach Gene Heidkamp's Benet Academy team to a supersectional appearance last March and will be a focal point, along with guard David Sobolewski, this upcoming season for a team that will be preseason ranked.

Riverside-Brookfield recap

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By Joe Henricksen

After two days at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this past weekend, there was plenty to digest for high school basketball fans who just can't get enough. The previous Hoops Report blog touched on the tournament run put together by Glenbard East, which went 6-0 in capturing the title, and the strength in the western suburbs, with Glenbard East, Downers Grove South and Benet Academy all capable of keeping DuPage County on the basketball map this winter. The following is a snapshot of what the Hoops Report took in on Saturday and Sunday.

St. Rita's talented tandem
Coach Gary DeCesare has quite a junior tandem in 6-7 A.J. Avery and 6-2 guard Tony Hicks. Avery has been on the map a bit as he's been among the top 20 prospects (now pushing himself into the top 15) in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 class rankings. With the body and length he features, Avery passes the look test with an A+, but he's a player as well with enormous potential as he's still in the process of figuring it all out and putting it together.

But it has been Hicks who continues to impress the Hoops Report with his growth as a player. Hicks appears so much more polished and poised as a player after watching him this past winter. A part of that is the natural progression and maturity of a young player. Hicks now plays with more confidence and a better understanding of the game with the ball in his hands. He is one of the players in the junior class ready to make the biggest jump in the class rankings. He's more than just a shooter, which continues to be his strength. He's a versatile scorer on the perimeter who is capable of beating people off the bounce or using his nice shooting stroke, both from mid-range and beyond the three-point line.

It will be interesting to see the impact St. Rita can make in the Catholic League this winter. Although Rita will still be young, it will be an experienced team with veteran senior Marshawn Tobin returning and a host of youngsters that gained valuable experience a year ago. With the rapid development of both Avery and Hicks, along with two other promising juniors in 6-2 Marty Tabb and point guard Cullen Foulks, look for St. Rita to be added to the discussion of top Catholic League teams this season. De La Salle will be labeled the favorite, but DeCesare's program is clearly one to watch over the next couple of years.

Top Performances
• Johnny Hill, Glenbard East
The tournament MVP combined to score 55 points in the semifinals and championship game (30 points in title game). He showed his versatility by hitting a 17-foot jumper off the bounce to send the game into overtime and then winning the game with a catch-and-shoot three-pointer in the closing seconds. The 6-3 Hill's perimeter jumper is improving while he continues to make an impact beating people off the dribble and thriving in transition in the open court. Hill, who already has a few offers on the table, has received heavy interest from Illinois State, Bradley, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, Loyola, Murray State, Tennessee State and Wisconsin-Green Bay to name a few.

• Ryan Jackson, Riverside-Brookfield
The 6-1 point guard has thrived with the ball in his hands this spring while playing for Old Gold and this past weekend with his high school team. The strong-bodied Jackson is at his best with the ball in his hands. A year ago he played off the ball with Brown recruit Sean McGonagill at the point, but Jackson is a point guard who has the ability to knock down shots with a much-improved perimeter jumper. In a win over Evanston on Sunday, Jackson was a monster, scoring a tournament high 35 points while knocking down 9 three-pointers in the game. Look for Jackson's stock to rise as he plays out the summer.

• Sam Thompson, Whitney Young
The overall numbers won't jump out at you, but he simply remains one of the elite athletes in the country and has the physical characteristics (length, wingspan and size at 6-6) that make him the high-major prospect that he is. Thompson is certainly a highlight reel and is a blueprint of the type of athletic talent you see in many of the elite college programs across the country. He is high-level player with so much more room to grow, which continues to make him so intriguing. While he remains inconsistent with his jumper, it looks better and he's made strides in that area. In the championship game of the third-place pool teams, Thompson nailed a fadeaway 25-foot three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Neuqua Valley.

Rising Stock
• James Farr, Evanston
How fast and high can the stock of this face-up 4-man go? Farr, who keeps getting better and growing (he's a legit 6-8), is climbing into the top 25 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 with the upside, versatility and size to climb higher. Farr has range out to the three-point line. While he's not a natural on the block and must become a bigger and better presence around the basket, as a lefty he's crafty and has a nice looking jump-hook. Look for Farr's interest to continue to pick up as he plays out the rest of the summer with Evanston and the Rising Stars on the travel circuit.

• Joe Edwards, St. Joseph
Who? The little-known Edwards opened eyes at R-B. After a solid junior year last winter where he gave way to a couple of more experienced players and waited his turn, the light has turned on for the highly-athletic Edwards. He attacks the rim, finishes in impressive fashion and put together a solid two days of basketball in helping St. Joe's to the semifinals. The 6-3 Edwards needs to extend his range beyond the 15-16 foot jumper, but he can handle it and he's the ultimate slasher and finisher.

• DGS Duo
The junior guard duo of Jerron Wilbut and Jamal Millison continue to impress. The Hoops Report, without hesitation, has put Wilbut among the top 10 prospects in the junior class. He's an athletic 6-2 guard who is still gaining actual game experience as that has been limited early in his career. But make no mistake, Wilbut is a bundle of talent and athleticism who is just beginning to blossom. He's strong for his age, bouncy, has a nice feel for the limited experience that he has and can shoot the basketball.

Millison, meanwhile, is a scorer who can stretch defenses with his shooting ability. He may not be as explosive or smooth as Wilbut, but the 6-2 guard can handle it with a mid-range game and range that extends beyond the three-point line. Millison, who is among the top 25 prospects in the Class of 2012, scored 24 points in a win over Andrew and added 23 in a semifinal victory over Benet Academy.

• Luke Hager, Whitney Young
The Hoops Report remains a bigger fan of the athletic 6-7 wing than most. But if his shot and mechanics on his jumper improve, look out. We're talking about a skilled, athletic and long player on the perimeter who is showing more and more physicality and assertiveness as he gains experience. Look for Hager to put together a solid summer and have a big impact for coach Tyrone Slaughter next winter.

Another player to watch in 2013 ...
The names at the top of the Class of 2013 have become common among high school basketball fans and college coaches, but there is another talented sophomore-to-be who can be added to the list of up-and-coming players: Neuqua Valley's Jabari Sandifer. The 6-1 point guard, who played on the sophomore team a year ago as a freshman and impressed the Hoops Report in that role, has a chance to be a special player. He's smooth and glides up and down the floor as a point guard who sees the floor well and already seems to have a knack for making those around him better. He can get his points, both in the halfcourt and in transition, but he's at his best getting out on the break, weaving through traffic and making the right pass. The Hoops Report is a huge fan of Sandifer.

And another ...
The list of prospects in the Class of 2013 just keeps growing, with Proviso East's Sterling Brown, the brother of current Los Angeles Laker Shannon Brown, among those ready to burst on the scene. The younger Brown has a few of the same similar traits as his older brother but is already a little taller and longer. With an emerging Brown teaming up with junior guard Keith Carter and the rugged, powerful Traushaun Carroll, look for Proviso East to be a major player over the next couple of years.

And the youngster ...
This was the debut of promising freshman Jahlil Okafor, the 6-8 freshman-to-be for Whitney Young. And advertised in a previous Hoops Report blog, the young big fella is the real deal and will pose quite (scary?) a tandem inside with Tommy Hamilton. Okafor just has some characteristics for a young player, such as soft hands, good footwork and a low-post presence, you simply don't find very often in a player that age.

Young and talented H-F
After getting drubbed by Glenbard East in pool play on Saturday, Homewood-Flossmoor showed why coach Jim McLaughlin's club will be the best of the bunch in the south suburbs this season and one of the state's top teams. H-F finished the shootout with a 5-1 record, winning the second-place bracket with wins over Morton, Riverside-Brookfield and Proviso East.

A year ago the Hoops Report--and many others--were a little quick labeling H-F as a legitimate state contender with a lofty preseason ranking. The simple fact was the Vikings were too young last season. But H-F is long, athletic and loaded, boosted by a junior class that is deep and talented. Tim Williams, a rangy 6-7 wing with eye-popping physical dimensions, remains H-F's top prospect among several in the Class of 2012. However, 6-5 Delvon Rencher, point guard Tyrone Sherman and 6-6 Antonio Bishop are three other juniors with big-time potential.

The key, however, may be sleeper Julian Lewis, a hard-nosed, blue-collar 6-4 senior wing. While Lewis' skill level still needs refinement, he brings a ton to the table, including an impressive defined body and super long arms. He is willing to defend, rebound, get after loose balls and finish at the rim. Look for Lewis' stock to grow as college coaches appreciate all that he does for a team.

Small College Eye-Openers
There was an abundance of small college basketball programs in attendance at Riverside-Brookfield, especially from the Division III level, who were treated to a number of solid performances. Those that impressed and showed promise and potential were Glenbard East's 6-4 Kevin Priebe, Morton point guard Jeff Jarosz, Neuqua Valley's 6-4 wing Jim Stocki, St. Patrick's 6-6 Dorian Walls, South Elgin shooter Sam Sutter, Benet Academy's shooter/defender Matt Parisi and R-B big man Alex Dziagwa.

MVP Hill, Glenbard East impress at R-B

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By Joe Henricksen

A season removed from winning a school-record 27 games and reaching a sectional final, DuPage Valley Conference champion Glenbard East showed this past weekend there is plenty of gas left in the tank for another run next winter. The Rams captured the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout title Sunday with an overtime win over Downers Grove South.

In a shootout field loaded with talent and 32 teams, Glenbard East, behind tournament MVP Johnny Hill, was the only team to leave with a perfect 6-0 record from the two-day event. The Rams, which finished second a year ago at the R-B Shootout, walloped Homewood-Flossmoor on Saturday and finished 3-0 on the day. Glenbard East beat up on St. Patrick, leading by more than 20 points at one point in the quarterfinal matchup, knocked off St. Joseph in the semis and came from behind to stun Downers Grove South in the final.

Hill, an up-and-coming 6-3 talent and among the top 20 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011, was the story. In the semifinal win over St. Joe's he hit a trio of three-pointers and scored a game-high 25 points. In the final, Hill took over late in the game and led the Rams to a come-from-behind win. Downers Grove South led throughout the game and held a double-digit lead late. Glenbard East, however, chipped away in the final three minutes, with a Hill jumper at the buzzer sending the game into overtime. Trailing 66-64 with just 7 seconds to play, Hill then drilled a game-winning three-pointer for the win and finished with 30 points.

With Hill and veteran point guard Zach Miller, who was steady and solid all weekend running the team and knocking down shots, the Rams have the 1-2 punch that should make them the favorites in the DVC again next season. There is some young talent on the way from a sophomore team that went 22-3 last season. Plus, the emergence of 6-4 Kevin Priebe, who missed much of last season with injuries and illness, will be a huge boost. Priebe gives the Rams a third weapon on the offensive end with his versatility around the basket and stretching defenses with his three-point shooting.

Western Suburbs poised for big season
What the semifinals at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout showed was how strong the sectional featuring Glenbard East, Downers Grove South and Benet Academy will be next March. Yes, a lot can happen in the next eight months, but it's tough to imagine any other team in the sectional that could supplant these powers as the top three seeds.

Glenbard East, Benet Academy and Downers Grove South will be battling for that No. 1 seed all winter, with Glenbard East and Benet Academy meeting one another in the 14th annual High School Hoops Showdown at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates Jan. 22.

Benet Academy, which won the sectional a year ago, reached the semis at R-B but fell to Downers Grove South in the semifinals. The terrific trio of point guard David Sobolewski, improving big man Frank Kaminsky and shooter/defender Matt Parisi return and gained valuable March experience a year ago. Coach Gene Heidkamp, last season's City/Suburban Hoops Report's Coach of the Year, is hoping he can fill some holes, particularly the minutes from a couple of valuable role players from a year ago and finding another ballhandler to relieve some of the pressure off Sobolewski.

Downers Grove South, meanwhile, could evolve as this year's sleeper in the Chicago area. Although coach Jay Baum's club will still be relatively young, the Mustangs are talented and feature a difference-making type of talent in eye-opening junior Jerron Wilbut. The 6-2 athletic Wilbut can play the role of slasher, creator or shooter. He's a versatile player who already jumped into the Hoops Report's top 10 players in the Class of 2012 earlier this spring. The explosive Wilbut was sensational in a win over Benet Academy in the semifinals on Sunday.

In addition to Wilbut, 6-2 junior Jamal Millison is another talented piece who is coming off an impressive sophomore season. Millison is a shooter and scorer who, combined with Wilbut, gives Baum a dangerous perimeter pair. Unheralded Ziggy Riauka, a 6-7 small college prospect, provides size and skill inside, while 6-4 Kevin Honn is another solid junior who gained some experience a year ago. While perennial power Proviso East will be strong, DGS just may be the favorite in the West Suburban Gold heading into November.

After spending two days at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, the Hoops Report will have another blog update early this week on all the action that took place. The event continues to be one of the best of the summer, with its combination of talent, facilities and organization. A lot of credit again goes to tournament organizer Mike Reingruber and the Riverside-Brookfield staff.

Transfers, NIU recruiting and a busy 2013 star

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By Joe Henricksen

The movement of college players after just one season on campus is becoming more and more the norm. And two of the bigger names in the Illinois Class of 2009 are on the move. Former Whitney Young star Chris Colvin, who announced he was leaving Iowa State back in April, is still figuring out where he will land next fall.

Word of Darius Smith, the former Marshall star who was the Hoops Report's No. 3 prospect in the class behind Warren's Brandon Paul and Naperville Central's Drew Crawford, leaving Connecticut leaked out earlier this week. Smith saw very limited time at UConn as a freshman, yet those around the program believed he was going to have a significant role with the Huskies down the road. But UConn is also on some unstable ground as the program begins to react to allegations dealing with recruiting violations and a failure-to-monitor charge at legendary coach Jim Calhoun and the program.

Smith is just one of those players that doesn't fit a specific position or even a description. He is simply a baller who makes plays on both ends of the floor. He gets in the passing lanes, makes things happen defensively and has a way on the offensive end that allows him to be dangerous without being a pure point guard or a terrific shooter. Plus, throughout his high school career he was generally always on the team with the most points on the scoreboard when the buzzer sounded. He's a hard-as-nails winner.

Those close to Smith and who are helping him sort things out say the recruiting process will start from scratch and the 6-2 guard will be wide open when he begins to look for his next college destination. Those close to Smith have heard from a number of high-major schools.

NIU making inroads
Northern Illinois basketball has taken some hits in the last year, both on the floor (10-20 last season) and off of it with some player movement and some negative feedback from those personnel moves. However, the staff has become more aggressive on the recruiting front, getting more kids on campus and being mentioned with potential recruits more and more of late.

This week Northern Illinois offered the Glenbard East tandem of 6-3 Johnny Hill, one of the Hoops Report's top 20 prospects in the Class of 2011, and point guard Zach Miller, the DuPage Valley Conference Player of the Year last season. In addition, NIU has been involved with Whitney Young's versatile 6-7 Luke Hager, Mount Carmel guard Adonis Filer, Evanston's rising 6-7 James Farr, big men Devon Hodges of Bolingbrook, Josh Piper of Champaign Centennial and Max Bielfeldt of Peoria Notre Dame, along with University's Michael Turner.

A lot of credit goes head coach Ricardo Patton's staff. Assistant coach Todd Townsend, one of the impressive young assistants in the business, has done a terrific job in his short time in DeKalb of generating NIU interest with recruits along with assistant coach Sundance Wicks.

One of state's elite playing with the best
Simeon's Jabari Parker is preparing for a busy summer, both individually and with his Simeon team. Next week the super sophomore-to-be will be heading to St. Louis, on the campus of Saint Louis University, for the 2010 Nike Hoop Jamboree. The Jamboree, which will run June 10-13, has been one of the nation's premier basketball events for elite underclassmen.

Parker, the Hoops Report's No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2013, will also be attending the NBA Players Association Camp, set for June 16-20 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The camp annually invites 100 of the top players in the nation from the rising senior and junior classes, though Parker is the lone sophomore invited to participate.

In addition, Parker is looking to attend the Paul Pierce Skills Academy Camp in Chicago June 27-30. Pierce, an NBA all-star, will host 15 of the top high school wings for a three-day training camp as part of the Nike Skills Academies. Ironically, Pierce is the player the Hoops Report has repeatedly compared to Parker in comparing the style of play Parker brings to the floor with his size and skill on the wing.

This fall Parker has been selected to attend the USA Basketball Developmental National Team/U16 Team mini-camp Oct. 8-11. The U16 USA Team will compete in U16 FIBA Americas Championship in June, 2011.

Next up ...

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By Joe Henricksen

Ever heard of Kim Ung-Yong? He's a child prodigy on Chicago's North Side who, at the age of 9, is already receiving looks from UCLA, Kansas and North Carolina. There were three Big Ten assistant coaches who recently attended his end-of-the-school-year 3rd Grade Field Day at his North Side elementary school. Ung-Yong, who is a little older for his age group, is as smart as they come on the floor, loves ice cream cake and politely asks his mom for extra syrup on his pancakes. And he now has the premier college programs in the country looking at him as their future point guard.

Oh, I kid you. But if I had left this opening paragraph without the "Oh, I kid you," I am banking on you googling Kim Ung-Yong. ... "Hoops Report touts young Ung-Yong! Who has seen him play?" The hype would soon begin for the next (but fictitious) "Big Thing" in the youth basketball world.

Basketball isn't Kim's thing. He's this genius Korean cat (I.Q. over 210 that Guinness says is the highest in the world) who attended physics classes at Hanyang University at the age of 4 and, by the age of 15, received a Ph.D. in physics from Colorado State University. That is all true.

What's funny is that the notion he's a basketball phenom playing on the North Side of Chicago would be more shocking to prep basketball junkies than the fact grown men were writing and talking about a 9-year-old! That's how accustomed we've become in ranting about and dissecting young prospects. We just keep getting younger and younger in the evaluation process, from college coaches to recruiting analysts to fans wanting to see the next college basketball hopeful.

We have 7th and 8th graders committing to high-major college programs. There are internet sites rankings the best 6th graders. A few months ago a major Chicago newspaper had a front page feature on Jaylin Fleming, the local 10-year-old basketball star from Steger. Come on, front page!?!?! Was it the slowest news day in a decade in the country's third largest city? And those that follow the game closely would have hardly batted an eye if the Ung-Yong hype were real.

To be honest, we are hardly talking child prodigies here, but each year, it seems, we see more and more incoming freshmen making the jump to varsity basketball and having a bigger impact than ever before. These kids are not to be confused with the real Kim Ung-Yong, who was as legitimate of a child prodigy as we have had on this Earth. No, these aren't Bobby Fischers or even Doogie Howsers, (Way off topic here but was Doogie Howser best in "Harold and Kumar" or "How I Met Your Mother?") but these players are talented enough at age 14 and 15 to provide a role on Friday nights and sometimes more. And they are talented enough to talk about because they have become a part of the prep basketball culture -- at a younger and younger age.

It was just 20 years ago when a sophomore being brought up to the varsity was a big deal. Now? Check out the rosters of teams in the gyms this winter and see how many have freshmen playing up. While the Hoops Report still believes it to be imperative to start identifying potential prospects early on -- mostly due to the fact that's how the recruiting game is played now -- it also still believes it to be highly dangerous to offer 14-year-olds, who have a tough enough time choosing what flavor of ice cream or which of the seven 8th grade girls they like. There are so many things that can go wrong in that four-year window. Still, there are some where coaches aren't exactly rolling the dice and simply have no choice to offer because everyone else is. You snooze, you lose.

A year ago all the talk was of Jabari Parker, Tommy Hamilton and Alex Foster, who all played significant roles as freshmen for top-ranked teams in Simeon, Whitney Young and De La Salle, respectively. All three sport high-major offers and are already nationally-ranked players in the Class of 2013, with Parker being tabbed as the No. 1 prospect in the country by one national ranking.

The Class of 2013 is certainly a talented one, with the "Big Three" at the top and several others who had solid freshmen seasons and are poised for their varsity breakout opportunities this summer and winter (i.e. Simeon's Kendrick Nunn).

Early indications are the Class of 2014 -- you know, those kids with the squeaky 14-year-old voices who are consumed with NBA 2K Live, are just finishing up 8th grade and were born in 1996 (Are you kidding me? 1996?) -- will be another strong class. We now start talking about classes in the future and the talent that is permeating in that particular class as if it's a fine wine. In fact, it's like the reversal of a fine wine. Instead of a wine connoisseur tracking down a vintage 1982 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, college coaches, similarly, are ordering up a 2014 combo guard. I can see a high-major coach rolling into Vegas during the July evaluation period and asking, "Might you have an atypical 2014 back-to-the-basket post, preferably one with a slight jump-hook already developed?"

The Hoops Report doesn't have junior high rankings, particularly because there is no way of seeing and knowing all the potential top junior high players at this point. With that being said, however, there typically are a few players that will jump out and put themselves at a higher level than the rest of their peers. Just a few years back East Aurora's Ryan Boatright was committing to USC, while Cully Payne, then of Burlington Central, had committed to DePaul -- just a week or two out of 8th grade. Then it's a matter of time before we see if they stay right there at the top over the next four years or drop like so many do.

After watching a number of the top 14-and-under teams and players, there are four incoming freshmen who have attracted early interest from college programs and could very well make an impact at the high school level beginning this summer. Here are those four potential impact freshmen (listed in alphabetical order).

Larry Austin, 5-11, PG, Springfield (Lanphier)
• While it's been far and few between, there have been some great ones to come out of the state capital, including Ed Horton, Kevin Gamble, Rennie Clemons and Andre Igoudala. The talented Austin, who will head to Springfield Lanphier in the fall after playing on the summer circuit with Mid-America Ballers, has the potential to be a special player down the road and one of the best to ever come out of Springfield.

While the Hoops Report has seen less of Austin than the other three Chicago area prospects in this list, it was enough to see how poised and how strong he is with the ball in his hands. He made plays. Austin's playmaking ability and composure are at a premium level for a player so young, while his jumper is a continued work in progress.

Jahlil Okafor, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
• A big, strong presence who is advanced for his age in both size and with his play around the basket and rebounding the basketball. The distant cousin of Emeka Okafor doesn't appear to be done growing or maturing physically despite his early physical stature. That alone makes him a prospect of intrigue, but he's more than just a mammoth kid picking on fellow junior high kids on the block and in the paint. He moves well, has good hands and, yes, he's absolutely big. Okafor became a name in the media this past winter when DePaul and its former coaching staff offered Okafor a scholarship. There is a chance Okafor could be playing with his future teammates at Whitney Young this weekend at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.

Paul White, 6-6, 2G/WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
• The skill level White possesses for a young player at 6-6 is pretty impressive. The smooth White, who opened eyes a year ago at an event in Merrillville, projects as the perfect point forward/big wing down the road as he matures as a player. He may just have the most upside of any player in this group. Unlike most players in his age group, the long, rangy White sees the floor very well and can score in multiple ways. The potential trio of 6-8 Tommy Hamilton, 6-8 Jahlil Okafor and 6-6 Paul White at Whitney Young is a scary proposition for opposing teams over the next three years.

Milik Yarbrough, 6-4, WF, Zion-Benton
• The younger brother of former Zee-Bee star Markus Yarbrough and the son of former North Chicago and Illinois State great Del Yarbrough. He possesses a terrific combination of size, strength, skill and versatility for a player so young. Yarbrough can handle it on the perimeter and is such an impressive finisher for his age. As his motor improves with age, Yarbrough could become not only an elite player statewide but on the national level as well. Plus, the incoming freshmen class at Zion-Benton is a good one so Yarbrough, who already overpowers defenders off the dribble and around the basket, should have talent around him.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now beginning its 16th year of publication, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

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