By Joe Henricksen
The recruiting season is closing down soon for the Class of 2011. We are in the home stretch. The interest remains high, with the focus centering around the trio of De La Salle's Mike Shaw, East Aurora's Ryan Boatright and Rock Island's Chasson Randle -- three top 100 national talents who all remain uncommitted. Here is a quick look at some of the remaining recruiting questions that linger and some thought from the Hoops Report as we head towards signing day in November.
Ryan Boatright has de-committed twice and is now back on the open market a few weeks before the signing period. What's up with "Boat"?
Hoops Report: Say what you want about the East Aurora standout, but the fact is Boatright de-committed the first time due to the head coach he committed to (Tim Floyd at USC) being fired. That's normal and acceptable. He de-committed from West Virginia this past week after coach Bob Huggins took another point guard the day after Boatright committed, which would give the Mountaineers a sophomore point guard and two freshmen point guards next season. It's not as if Boatright is just de-committing on a whim; the circumstances have changed pretty significantly at both schools he committed to.
According to Boatright's father, Mike McCallister, West Virginia told his son matter-of-factly that "Ryan was their first choice and the only point guard they would take." But on Tuesday West Virginia took a commitment from Jabarie Hinds, a 6-foot point guard out of New York. Boatright and his family were kept in the dark about the recruitment of Hinds and didn't hear about the Hinds commitment from West Virginia, rather hearing through other sources, before Hinds went public with it. The process left Boatright and his family with a sour taste in their mouth.
Boatright plans on taking more visits and still signing in November, with Connecticut, Oklahoma and UNLV all potential landing spots for the dynamic scoring point guard. Another school Boatright will also look at more closely now is DePaul, according to Boatright's father.
Aside from the big names left on the board, who are the best half dozen uncommitted prospects remaining in the Class of 2011?
HOOPS REPORT: The highest ranked player remaining on the recruiting board is De La Salle's Dre Henley, but there are plenty of others who remain a little overlooked and still in search of a college home. The top six uncommitted prospects are:
• Dre Henley, 6-5, De La Salle
• Quentin Chievous, 6-3 Niles Notre Dame
• Darien Walker, 6-2, Simeon
• James Farr, 6-8, Evanston
• Mike Turner, 6-7, University High
• Aaron Armstead, Hales Franciscan
Will the Mike Shaw recruitment come to a close anytime soon?
HOOPS REPORT: In a word, yes. There has been way too much drama and debate surrounding this one, including plenty of misinformation due mostly to media and internet buildup and unfair assumptions about the kid and his recruitment. Has there been enough analysis yet? Though there have been some twists and turns, the Hoops Report believes the Shaw Sweepstakes will come to a close much sooner than later. The Hoops Report has felt Illinois was the team to beat for Shaw and it will stick with that belief.
So what will it be for Chasson Randle? Purdue? Illinois? Stanford? And when will it all go down?
HOOPS REPORT: Anything spouted about Randle's recruitment and decision at this point is most likely pure speculation and a gut feeling from those on the outside. When a prospect has been this thorough, this calculated, so on top of things in his recruitment, along with being this familiar with the schools recruiting him -- and he still hasn't made up his mind in late October -- then it's anyone's guess. Actually trying to figure out which way Randle leans is now just bordering obsessive.
What player has made the biggest jump with his recruitment from the end of the season last March through the signing period this November?
HOOPS REPORT: There is no question Lyons Township's Nick Zeisloft is that player. After a solid junior year in helping LT to 23 straight wins to start the season last winter, there still wasn't much hoopla surrounding the 6-4 shooting guard. He had a modest season, averaging 11.5 points a game but shot over 40 percent from three-point land. When the calendar turned to July, however, Zeisloft took off while playing in front of college coaches with his Full Package club team. Zeisloft vaulted himself from a wanted small college prospect to a legitimate Division I recruit. Now he's among the top 35 prospects in a loaded senior class and will sign with Illinois State in November.
Who will be getting the single biggest recruiting steal from Illinois when the dust settles in November?
HOOPS REPORT: While some uncommitted players still remain on the board and a player or two will take an unexpected giant step this season during their senior year (it always happens), right now the biggest recruiting steals appear to be Hillcrest's Juice Brown to Toledo and Crete-Monee's Greg Mays to Wisconsin-Green Bay.
The Hoops Report believes Illinois State nabbing Glenbard East's Johnny Hill and Boise State getting a commitment from Plainfield Central's Derrick Marks will prove to pay major dividends down the road and are major recruiting coups for these respective programs. They easily fit into this category. However, the Brown and Mays signings are big for different reasons.
Keep in mind that Toledo is coming off a 4-28 season playing in the often-forgotten Mid-American Conference. Now first-year coach Tod Kowalczyk will welcome with open arms a proven winner and point guard to run the show for the next four years. The Hoops Report has been a bigger fan of Brown than most, who led Hillcrest to the school's first-ever state title last March. He's small but strong, has a burst and can score from his point guard position. Brown has been so much more effective and impressive with his high school team than on the AAU circuit. UW-Green Bay, meanwhile, is getting the coveted big man prospect who is just scratching the surface and has a great upside. Mays may still be raw, but he is 6-8, extremely athletic, has a great body and is a bundle of talent to work with for first-year coach Brian Wardle.
How many Division I players will there be when the Class of 2011 heads off to college in the fall of 2011?
HOOPS REPORT: There are currently 34 players who have committed to Division I programs. The overall number, though, is tough to predict as a result of several players that will be forced to go the junior college or prep school route due to academics. However, when you factor in the players that will ultimately go Division I after a year of prep school or two years of junior college ball, the number of Division I players from the Class of 2011 could very well reach over 50 players. There is potential for that number to get to 60-plus when it's all said and done.
As a class, in terms of high-major players and prospects, how does this year's senior group of players (Class of 2011) stack up against the last couple of classes (Class of 2010 and Class of 2009) from the state of Illinois?
HOOPS REPORT: In comparison to the past couple of years, the Class of 2011 is at another level overall when it comes to high-major talent. That is what those who follow basketball recruiting felt when this class entered high school and, to the players' credit, the class has lived up to the billing.
The Class of 2009 is clearly two or three steps back in comparison to last year's Class of 2010 and this year's crop of seniors in the Class of 2011. While Naperville Central's Drew Crawford, the Hoops Report's Player of the Year in 2009, had a terrific freshman season at Northwestern, and Warren's Brandon Paul showed flashes at Illinois, there has been little impact elsewhere. Marshall's Darius Smith and Whitney Young's Chris Colvin have both transferred to junior college programs this year. Schaumburg's Cully Payne is at struggling Iowa, while the trio of Lake Forest Academy's Angus Brandt, Glenbrook South's Jack Cooley and Lake Forest's Matt Vogrich saw little to no action at Oregon State, Notre Dame and Michigan, respectively. It's still very early in these players' college career, but the Class of 2009 is not shaping up to be a bountiful class in terms of college productivity.
Last year's class featured Waukegan's Jereme Richmond and Robinson big man Meyers Leonard at the top. While the Richmond-Leonard tandem certainly received its share of attention and hype, the Hoops Report always felt both players were a little undervalued on the national level (i.e. ... individual national rankings should have been higher). That's the best 1-2 punch the state had seen in quite some time. Well, until this year's 1-2-3 Public League punch of Anthony Davis of Perspectives, Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park and Mycheal Henry of Orr.
There were actually 12 players in the Class of 2010 that signed with programs in high-major conferences last year. However, there is no comparison between the type of high-major prospects the Class of 2010 produced and the ones being churned out in the Class of 2011. A prime example of that is the fact the Class of 2011 has as many as 10 players who have been ranked among the top 100 players nationally; the Class of 2010 had four -- Richmond, Leonard, Rich South's Crandall Head, who didn't even play his senior year, and Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith. The Class of 2011 is the real deal and the best we've seen in Illinois since 1998.
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