By Joe Henricksen
For more than a decade the Morris Shootout was the place to be, the premier event in the state of Illinois and one of the best in the country for college coaches to evaluate talent. While those days were 20 years ago, Bill "Flash" Flanagan brought some unique talent and a little luster back to Morris last weekend.
Flash's Fall Hoops Review included plenty of big names in high school basketball, including Tommy Hamilton, Sam Thompson, Jahlil Okafor and Paul White of Whitney Young, Mycheal Henry of Orr, Bruce Baron of Brehm Prep and Steve Taylor of Simeon to name a few.
Here is a quick Hoops Report rundown on the talent that was on display this past weekend in Morris.
Simeon's Farm System
The Hoops Report and plenty of others have noted the talent and depth up and down the Simeon program. What was startling to watch in Morris was Simeon looking so impressive at times--and then realizing coach Rob Smith's team was without sophomore star Jabari Parker.
Parker stopped by Kentucky and visited with John Calipari this past weekend while participating in the John Lucas Midwest Resources Midwest Invitational Basketball Camp in Kentucky. The prized sophomore is a wanted kid, with several heavy hitters, including Kentucky and Kansas, inviting Parker to their respective Midnight Madness practice Oct. 15. Parker, however, has decided he will be attending the Midnight Madness activities at Illinois, which is a big plus for coach Bruce Weber and his staff.
With so much talent in the pipeline it sometimes takes some time to be noticed at Simeon. With that being said, Marquis Todd will eventually be a special talent. The 6-7 sophomore will likely split time between varsity and the lower levels as he develops and gets acclimated, but Todd has all the makings of being a terrific college prospect before it's all said and done.
A college look
When Whitney Young takes the floor this winter there will be no team that resembles a college basketball team more than Tyrone Slaughter's Dolphins. There are the young and imposing twin towers in 6-8 Jahlil Okafor and 6-8 Tommy Hamilton. There is 6-7 junior Jermaine Morgan, 6-7 Luke Hager and 6-6 freshman Paul White. There is a ridiculous amount of riches in size and athleticism throughout the roster.
Okafor remains a unique player in that he already has such a nice feel for the game around the rim and with his back to the basket. He's a young hotshot prospect who understands who he is as a player and one who college coaches will covet due to the lack of true, back-to-the-basket big men out there. The scary thought is if Okafor gets to 6-10 or 6-11. If both Okafor and Hamilton, who trailed on the break and knocked down a pair of three-pointers, continue to work, progress and stay motivated, it's ridiculous to think what kind of combination these two could be in a year or two at the high school level.
There may not be a team in Illinois this season with a better tough-as-nails 1-2 punch than Peoria Manual's Kiki Stokes and Jacoby Roddy. These are a couple of players, who played this past summer with the Illinois Wolves, who are enjoyable to watch. What's interesting about the tandem is they may not fit a particular position right now when projecting them as college prospects, but they are both just players who battle and make plays.
Roddy, who is an athletic but undersized 4-man at 6-5, continues to show an ability to step out and knock down that 12-15 foot face-up jumper. And he rebounds and rebounds and rebounds. Stokes, meanwhile, reminds the Hoops Report of former Illinois player Chester Frazier in so many ways. While he may not be a true point guard or the ideal shooting guard, Stokes defends, competes, is about as tough as they come and finds ways to impact a game.
Add the name Jared Mays to the list of promising prospects out of the Rockford area. The names Fred Van Fleet of Rockford Auburn and Marcus Posley of Winnebago, a pair of talented juniors have been noted a number of times, but Mays is a 6-1 freshman combo guard out of Rockford Jefferson with a lot of upside and will be heard from.
A group of central Illinois players, made up mostly of players from Bloomington-Normal, put together solid performances throughout the day with upsets of some teams with higher profile players. The leader was Anthony Beane of Normal, an ultra-athletic combo guard with good size. The 6-2 junior is still refining his perimeter jumper, but he is explosive and put the ball in the hole more consistently at Morris.
Keep an eye on Normal this winter, with Beane and the tandem of 6-5 D.J. Gillispie and 6-4 Anthony Goodar, the Ironmen will be long and athletic. Plus, 6-8 big man Parker Musselman continues to show he's made strides as a player and is a nice small college prospect.
Random thoughts ...
* Orr's Mycheal Henry, a prized commitment for coach Bruce Weber and Illinois, can just flat-out shoot the basketball. Henry is a legit 6-6 with elevation on his jumper and a high release point. He can get his shot off when he wants to and is so much bigger and stronger than last winter.
* The Hoops Report still believes Simeon's Rashawn McElrath is being vastly overlooked by college programs up to this point. McElrath is a 6-6 wiry and active 4-man who always seems to be around the ball and making a play. While not real skilled, McElrath runs the floor, blocks shots, rebounds, defends and is constantly up at the rim.
* Kyle Heck of Metamora has been receiving some interest from college programs at all levels. The 6-2 guard opened some eyes with his play at Morris and is a solid small college basketball prospect.
* While it will be interesting to see how Young coach Tyrone Slaughter mixes and matches all the parts he has at his disposal, 6-5 junior Nate Brooks is a freak of an athlete.
* Brehm Prep's Bruce Baron is a prized individual talent when he's playing in control and within himself. If Oregon coach Dana Altman can rein Baron in, he has himself a legitimate Pac-10, high-major guard.
For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, call (630)-408-6709 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The first issue of the 2010-2011 season is due out in late November.