By Joe Henricksen
The Class of 2011 remains a special, much-talked about group of players. The seniors-to-be have been dissected by avid basketball observers throughout the state and recruited by college coaches over the past three-plus years. Now, with their final July evaluation period in the rearview mirror and national rankings established, one season remains for the best group of prospects the state has seen in over 10 years.
The class is deep with a potential 50-plus Division I prospects -- and that's even after top 15 prospects Jamari Traylor and Phillip Greene have moved on from Chicago Julian to the IMG Academy in Florida this year. The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the top 35 prospects in the state of Illinois heading into their senior year, with those players just missing the top 35 -- those in the 36-60 range -- an impressive collection of talent as well.
1. Anthony Davis, 6-10, PF, Chicago (Perspectives) ... What more can be said about the top prospect in Illinois -- and according to some the best prospect in the country? He took the AAU circuit and recruiting circles by storm this past spring and then vaulted up the national rankings. He's the rare prospect where NBA talk is legit as his size, length, skill and still untapped potential will have his name rolling off David Stern's tongue sooner than later.
2. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park) ... Look for Blackshear to put together a monster senior year as he tries to lead the Mustangs to back-to-back Public League championships. The Louisville commit has always had the size, strength and athleticism since an early age, but his skill level has continued to take steps in the right direction. And his production as a player can't be questioned.
3. Mycheal Henry, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr) ... The Hoops Report has a "Big Three" in the Class of 2011 -- and it's a credit to Henry that he's put his name in that mix over the past nine months. Henry is a superstar talent who will only get better as a result of skills still in the process of being refined and the work ethic and mindset he possesses. A big scoring perimeter threat with size and shooting ability, Henry will be in the Mr. Basketball conversation from the start.
4. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island ... There aren't many backcourt players in this loaded class who bring so many different dimensions to the floor. Randle is pretty polished, can play both guard spots, knock down a shot, slither to the rim, defend on the perimeter, help make players around him better and is the ideal student-athlete.
5. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... A lot of people still don't get the type of player Abrams is and will be down the road. There is certainly room to grow as a true playmaker and shooter, but Abrams is as tough as they come, a leader, defends, mentally strong and has scoring ability.
6. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East) ... This kid just oozes with pure basketball talent. Extremely explosive offensively and athletically with great skill. When he plays within himself and focused he can be special. Pound for pound there aren't many players who are better.
7. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... What it comes down to now is Thompson getting on the floor and staying there. He missed chunks of the summer in 2009, sat 13 games this past winter with an injury for Whitney Young and struggled upon his return. He battled injuries and missed parts of this past spring and summer. But he's shown the eye-popping flashes of talent and high-major physical abilities that keep him among the top prospects in the state. Staying healthy and adding consistency to his game and production are the next two hurdles.
8. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius) ... After making such big strides and progressing so nicely this spring (and over the last two years), the injury bug hampered his development and play throughout the summer. He wasn't the same player in July as he was in April and May. He's still a 6-10 post who blocks shots, runs the floor and is gaining a better understanding of the game.
9. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle) ... An easy player to appreciate when you watch enough of him. Just goes out and plays, competes, gets after it and has the mentality of no one is going to outwork him. Shaw's body, make-up, ability to rebound and just enough skill level make him the coveted prospect that he is.
10. Bruce Baron, 6-3, PG, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) ... Big, strong, tough, hard-nosed guard showed flashes this summer that he's about as talented as any guard in the class. He's more than proved he's a high-major talent who plays with a chip on his shoulder and confidence you like. Altho
11. Abdel Nader, 6-7, PF, Skokie (Niles North) ... A face-up 4-man who has the combination of ability and upside. Back-to-the-basket game and footwork are still a work in progress, but the New Mexico recruit will only get better if he stays committed and adds a little edge to his game.
12. David Sobolewski, 6-1, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy) ... He was huge for his high school team over the second half of last season and proved his worth over and over again this summer while playing with the Illinois Wolves. The Northwestern commit can best be described in two words: rock solid. He does what is asked, mistakes are few and far between, makes the right reads while knocking down open jumpers.
13. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G, Lombard (Glenbard East) ... Put together a very solid summer playing with his high school team and with the Rising Stars on the traveling circuit. He glides in the open court and in getting to the basket off the bounce, while possessing a soft touch and improved jumper. Although he has a ways to go physically, he's an active and athletic player whose passing ability and winning mentality is overlooked.
14. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks) ... After battling injuries the past year and unable to find the fit on the traveling circuit, it's clean slate for Marshall as he prepares for his senior year and playing for a new coach in Bobby Locker. He remains a skilled guard who will knock down shots and has a nice feel.
15. Jamie Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee ... Always regarded as one of the top two or three athletes in the class, Crockett showed more range on his jumper -- and a little more consistency with it. When he plays hard he can be a monster on the glass, offensive putbacks and getting out on the break and finishing at the rim. His handle must get better and he needs to bring it every day.
16. Derrick Marks, 6-2, PG/2G, Plainfield (Central) ... Put together a solid summer and remains one of the top uncommitted players in the senior class. While he may not be a pure point guard or the ideal shooter at the 2-guard spot, Marks brings an attacking style that gets him to the rim and to the line. He's big, strong and takes contact with great body control in getting to the rim.
17. Roosevelt Jones, 6-3, WF, O'Fallon ... The type of player that defies positions and labels. Throw him out there and he produces. The Butler-bound brute is a force on the glass for a player his size and in drawing contact and finishing around the rim. He can handle it on the perimeter and make plays around the rim. If he can somehow make himself just an average shooter the future is very bright.
18. Frank Kaminsky, 6-10, PF, Lisle (Benet Academy) ... Developing big man is still a bit of a project as a high-major prospect, but he's going to Wisconsin to develop. And there isn't a better place for a player like Kaminsky, who won't be required to do a whole lot of posting up and can showcase his perimeter touch and range.
19. Macari Brooks, 6-1, 2G/WF, Richton Park (Rich South) ... Explosive as they come as an athlete. At his best with high-energy, athletic plays around the rim and in transition. Perimeter jumper has improved but at his size must get better and more consistent. Has the attributes to be a lockdown perimeter defender.
20. Dre Henley, 6-6, WF, Chicago (De La Salle) ... Versatility remains the strength he hangs his hat on as a prospect, with the ability to post up, handle and pass. Although he may lack explosiveness, he does offer a big body and some skill on the perimeter.
21. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) ... He's always been a Hoops Report favorite who was overlooked and underappreciated by a lot of people early in his career. He has a little gitty-up in his game and will fill out and be a steady, power-packed mid-major point guard.
22. Dylan Ennis, 6-1, PG, Lake Forest (Academy) ... While he can still be a little wild and erratic at times, the long, well-built point guard has a higher ceiling than a lot of other guards in the class. He brings size, length and athleticism to the point guard position.
23. Aaron Armstead, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) ... The smooth 2-guard has a skill level that looks impressive, including a perimeter jumper with a nice release and a handle to get places. As he's matured as a player the bouts of inconsistency are beginning to disappear. He's become a player and not just a prospect.
24. Greg Mays, 6-8, PF, Crete-Monee ... A breakout prospect who has the size, height and body college coaches salivate over. He may be a bit raw, but Mays is far from a pure project as he features an improved face-up jumper. Athletic and powerful 4-man who could be awfully good down the road.
25. Donivine Stewart, 5-11, PG, Bartonville (Limestone) ... Still won't wow you with his physical attributes, including a lack of size and athleticism, but he has an ability to put points on the board and has a feel for the game. Still has an uncanny ability to get things done. Committed to Bradley.
26. Quentin Chievous, 6-4, WF, Niles (Notre Dame) ... Remains an under-the-radar prospect with some size on the perimeter. He's a glider with a good looking stroke on his jumper. The next step in becoming a complete offensive weapon is tightening up his suspect handle and becoming a bigger threat off the dribble.
27. Darien Walker, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Simeon) ... Made a name for himself in July and became one of the big stockraisers during the evaluation period. Showed a knack to make big plays on both ends of the floor, whether it was a big shot, key steal or pivotal play. Will lock up opposing players with his defensive pressure.
28. James Farr, 6-8, PF, Evanston ... One of a handful of players in the class that has made the biggest jump in the past 12 months. Greatest strength remains an ability to step out and consistently knock down the 16-20 foot jumper.
29. Ryan Sawvell, 6-7, PF, Mundelein ... A battler who gets on the boards. Hustles, runs the floor and uses his athleticism around the basket. Still softening some of his rough edges and has to gain strength, but he's a player that will do what is asked and offers some size and toughness.
30. Jerome Brown, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Morgan Park) ... Don't sell this sharpshooter short as a prospect. But also don't underestimate his greatest strength -- an ability to knock down shots with range and any way you like. Arguably the best shooter in the state of Illinois.
31. Deji Ibitayo, 6-3, 2G/WF, Olympia Fields (Rich Central) ... Absolutely explosive player off the floor who stepped up big in July when no college coaches knew who he was. Now he sports a bevy of offers from mid-major programs, with Wisconsin Green-Bay, Northern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Akron all near the top. A big-time finisher with the size, length and athleticism to develop into a defensive weapon on the perimeter.
32. Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame) ... Big, strong, space eater who has shown an ability to knock down the face-up jumper. It may not be pretty all the time, but Bielfeldt will battle, throw his weight around and is difficult to move.
33. Mike Turner, 6-7, PF, Chicago (University High) ... Classic case of his best basketball being ahead of him as he matures as a player and physically gets stronger and adds weight. Soft touch and solid skill level for this face-up 4-man.
34. Luke Hager, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Still in the process of putting his best work together. An up-and-down summer, but he remains a prospect of intrigue due to his hops, length and a decent skill level for a player his size.
35. Keith Gray, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Brooks) ... A 6-7 bouncy athlete who can get up and down the floor. While he still needs to become a bigger threat and presence in the paint, Gray will show flashes of being active around the rim and finishing at the basket.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report is beginning its 16th year of publication. For more information or to subscribe to the Hoops Report, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (630)-408-6709