By Joe Henricksen
The final summer of club basketball is quickly coming to an end for the loaded Class of 2011 in Illinois. While the first evaluation period has come to a close, there is a chance for the class to continue to make waves nationally. Just how many kids from Illinois can be ranked in the top 100? How many in the top 50? Might there be multiple McDonald's All-Americans?
National scouts will continue to watch Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives as he solidifies himself as one of the top 10 prospects in the country while playing for Meanstreets. Another late-bloomer on the national scene -- Orr's Mycheal Henry -- has found a new home for the second evaluation period. Henry will be teaming up with talented Branden Dawson, one of the top 25 players in the country, and SYF Players next week. There will surely be national scouts checking in on Henry in Orlando after the 6-6 wing made a splash this spring and early summer.
Rock Island's Chasson Randle is back on the circuit after playing with the U.S. National Team. The Illinois Wolves star remains one of the top uncommitted players in the country, with Purdue, Stanford and Illinois (and a few others) hoping they can add a key and important piece for the future. While there are those that believe Florida is the school to beat for Whitney Young's Sam Thompson, the high-flying Dolphin will continue to showcase his talents for the Mac Irvin Fire. Thompson's Mac Irvin Fire teammate, De La Salle's Mike Shaw, is believed to have Illinois and Michigan State at the top, with Big East schools Marquette and DePaul in the picture.
The recruiting will sort itself out in time. Right now the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the Best of Everything in this special Class of 2011 as we head into the final stage of the July evaluation period.
THE BEST ...
• Anthony Davis, Chicago (Perspectives)
It didn't take long for observers to appreciate Anthony Davis' game -- once people actually saw him play. His coming-out party was in April, where he wowed scouts and evaluators before the college coaches were able to even get a look at the biggest mystery in Chicago prep basketball history. He has that A+ potential with a wingspan and skill level that, to his credit, he's grown into quickly and nicely. He's a difference-maker defensively with his timing of block shots. Offensively, he's fluid in running the floor, can handle it a little, has a soft jumper and touch around the basket. What is scary is the thought of Davis getting more practice, repetitions and terrific coaching at the college level. Just enough of that could translate to a one-and-done college career, though the physicality (or lack there of) could mean a couple of years of seasoning in college.
• Ryan Boatright, Aurora (East)
The superlatives to describe Boatright's offensive explosions are endless. Blink and Boatright will hang 40 on you. And it's a fun 40 to watch. He is a player that can take over a fourth quarter or overtime on short notice and win a game by himself. Just ask Neuqua Valley. The 5-11 scoring point guard scored 21 in the fourth quarter of the regional title game and finished with 45 in an overtime win. He's had a number of 40-plus games in his career. The jet-quick Boatright is a blur in the open court and a nightmare to stop in transition, while also showing an ability to get hot from beyond the three-point line.
• Mycheal Henry, Chicago (Orr)
Anyone who reads the Hoops Report has known for awhile the appreciation it has for Henry and his abilities. Henry, who will finish out July playing for SYF Players on the AAU circuit and playing the second evaluation period in Orlando, is a terrific shooter who is not afraid to take over a game. There was a time where the Illinois recruit fell too much in love with his improved perimeter jumper. But he has made more strides in becoming a complete scorer. As a junior he averaged over 25 points a game and is a versatile scorer on the wing, capable of dropping threes with range, finishing at the basket and on the break or scoring on the block. Plus, his offensive repertoire continues to grow and add more polish each time out.
• Wayne Blackshear, Chicago (Morgan Park)
As a finisher, Blackshear has it all. He's bigger and stronger than almost everyone at the high school level. Plus, he's a tremendous athlete whose explosiveness allows him to be a powerful finisher at and above the rim. The 6-5 wing, who is a Louisville commit and one of the top 25 players nationally, can finish through contact and is so difficult to defend along the baseline and on the break.
• JEROME BROWN, Morgan Park and JORDAN NELSON, Lincoln
The Hoops Report couldn't decide on just one in this category so both Brown and Nelson share the shooter role. Brown is the ultimate hired gun who can shoot it with range and anyway you like -- off the screen, spotting up or rising up off the dribble. He shoots a high percentage and is in the mold of good 'ol Craig Hodges, finding a spot and knocking them down. Nelson, meanwhile, is mechanically flawless with a J.J. Redick-ish release. He and Brown are the two premier long-distance shooters in the state.
• Sam Thompson, Whitney Young
There are a number of players who you could plug into this category and you wouldn't be wrong (i.e. Jamie Crockett, Macari Brooks, Jamari Traylor, etc.), but Thompson gets the edge due to his pure explosiveness off the floor, his quickness and how he utilizes it all. He's a high-flyer as well as a deer who runs the floor at 6-6. Thompson's dunks and blocks are the closest we have in Illinois to a video game character. And he will use that athleticism on the defensive end.
• Tracy Abrams, Chicago (Mount Carmel)
The "toughness" category has a short list to choose from. Simply put, there aren't many truly tough kids out there at the high school level. There is a physical toughness and a mental toughness -- and Abrams has both. Pound for pound Abrams is as tough as they come, playing through injuries and showing the mental toughness coaches covet. He has shown time and time again he's capable of coming up with big plays in key moments of games. He brings a defensive mentality, leadership and a willingness to take on anyone at anytime.
• Mike Shaw, De La Salle
Being a great rebounder, like most other parts of the game, requires more than just physical ability. A big part of Shaw's success is his competitiveness, effort and fierce determination. When the 6-8 forward is on the floor he simply gobbles up rebounds. At the high school level he's a man among boys on the glass who goes after rebounds with a vengeance. When the Mac Irvin Fire were outmatched in a spring loss to a loaded Seattle Rotary team in Fort Wayne, Shaw more than held his own and battled throughout the game on the boards.
• Chasson Randle, Rock Island
The thing with Randle, who has gained valuable experience traveling the world while playing with the top players nationally in the Class of 2011 as part of the U.S. National Team, is he can do a little of everything in most every category listed here. Randle has the ability to be a floor general, he passes well, defends on the perimeter and has really become more mature and tougher in the last 12 months. For semi old-timers out there, Randle brings a multi-dimensional game similar to Alvin Robertson.
• David Sobolewski, Lisle (Benet Academy)
There aren't many who run a team better than "Sobo," whose decision-making was the engine that drove Benet to a sectional title a year ago. Sobolewski just gets it. The 6-1 point guard always seems to have a knack for making the right decision and the right pass. He rarely forces things, remains calm and cool no matter what is thrown his way and mistakes are far and few between with the ball in his hands or running a team.
• Zach Miller, Glenbard East
The Northern Illinois point guard commit has the court sense and off-the-charts vision that allows him to make tough passes look easy. Whether the passing comes in the form of transition fastbreak points, penetrating dump-offs or a keen crosscourt pass, Miller finds open players and makes them better. He's a pin-point passer with an uncanny ability to find the open man, averaging nearly 8 assists a game as a junior in leading Glenbard East to a 27-2 record.
• Anthony Davis, Chicago (Perspectives)
There is no one who impacts a game defensively more than Davis, who blocks and alters shots at an alarming rate. He's the prototype for a shot blocking machine. And for a big man Davis will even generate steals. Between all the blocks, steals and defensive rebounds Davis gathers,
• Anthony Davis, Chicago (Perspectives)
When the long and active Davis is floating around the defensive lane with his great wingspan he automatically affects an offensive player's psyche with intimidation. When you watch those that play against Davis, you often see opponents begin to doubt their scoring abilities as the game goes on, especially late in a game. With as little time as Davis has had playing the game with his size, he shows an innate ability to anticipate the shot, jump straight up and time the block. He gets his hand on the ball immediately after the player has released the ball from his hand.