By Joe Henricksen
The Illinois Spot-Lite Fall Showcase last weekend was another opportunity for many of the top players--and those looking for some love and respect--to put their talents on display. Larry Butler's event last weekend drew talent and didn't disappoint.
The event provided another opportunity to get a look at Simeon's Steve Taylor, the up-and-coming 6-7 junior who is promising and poised to make a bigger impact for coach Robert Smith this season. Taylor has certainly elevated himself to the point of being among the top two or three prospects in the class--and it could be argued the best prospect in the Class of 2012.
The Hoops Report really likes Taylor . He's currently an undersized 4-man right now, likely a face-up 4-man at the next level, with a soft shooting touch that extends -- but is not yet quite consistent -- out to the three-point line. While he's not a bouncy, superior athlete, he does look the part with his length and basketball build. But Taylor is still figuring it all out--how to use his body, how to impact a game in different ways, how hard he needs to work, how to play with energy for more than just stretches at a time. He has one thing going for him in that he's a terrific kid. And if he does pop a couple of inches and becomes a 6-9 skilled face-up 4-man, then look out.
Whether it's Taylor, Champaign Central's Jay Simpson, North Chicago's Aaron Simpson or any other 2012 prospect, the class still lacks the no-brainer, unquestioned high-major prospect that leaves a high-major program wanting and needing him. And that's not something we're accustomed to seeing in a class here in Illinois at this point--during the fall of their junior year.
There is just one player -- Jay Simpson to Purdue -- who has committed to a high-major school. With big men in such high demand and at a premium, it's no wonder any kid with true size and skill is going to garner high-major offers. But it's amazing how few high-major offers have even been extended to this class, especially in comparison to the last few classes that have come through the state. In the end, the Hoops Report suspects both Taylor, who has been offered by Northwestern, and Aaron Simpson to both join Jay Simpson as high-major commitments down the road. Could a couple of others join them? Sure. The development of teens playing basketball changes rapidly. But right now it's basically a wait-and-see approach for high-major college programs in terms of evaluating the top talent in the Class of 2012 here in Illinois, just as it should be.
When it comes to national rankings and how the state of Illinois is viewed, the Hoops Report seldom sees eye-to-eye with their up-to-date rankings of Illinois prospects. But it's hard to argue with the fact that Scout.com's most recent top 75 prospects in the junior class fails to have a single prospect in it from the state of Illinois . And Rivals.com has no one in its top 75 and only one player--Jay Simpson at No. 86--in its top 100. Again, from an Illinois standpoint it's hard to gripe with those national rankings after having watched the top players in the class over the past couple of years.
"Honestly, I really don't even pay attention to the rankings and where I am," said Taylor of all the rankings. "Right now it's about staying in the gym and getting better, both as for myself and our team. My confidence has grown."
Taylor, who unofficially visited Illinois on Saturday, will be a cornerstone for a Simeon program that will be looking to repeat this winter in Class 4A.
"We try to stay humble and get better," says Taylor, who has been hearing from a whole bunch of schools.
Taylor, who at this early stage of his recruitment is looking for what many prospects commonly look for, mentioned Northwestern, DePaul, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, Southern Illinois, Illinois State and New Mexico State as the schools that have been recruiting him the most.
"At this point I'm looking at schools that can offer playing time, a good education, where I fit best," says Taylor.
For more information on the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 16th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email firstname.lastname@example.org