By Joe Henricksen

Signing Day 2011 highlights

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By Joe Henricksen

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look back at Signing Day 2011, a year that featured over a dozen high-major prospects signing letters-of-intent and two dozen more Division I players.

Biggest Winner
Illinois
Point guard? Check.
Future leader? Check.
Potential star? Check.
Influx of toughness? Check.
Developing big man? Check.
Knockdown perimeter shooter? Check.
Blue-collar rebounder? Check.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber and his staff were the biggest winners on Signing Day when it came to securing Illinois prep basketball talent. Weber signed the best recruiting class in the Big Ten. Weber was also able to fill so many future--and even immediate--needs for his program with the addition of Orr shooter/scorer Mycheal Henry, Mount Carmel point guard Tracy Abrams, De La Salle rugged, blue-collar rebounder Mike Shaw and St. Ignatius improving big man Nnanna Egwu.

While Illinois will try to get things done in the next week--or throughout the upcoming season--with Alabama prep star Devin Langford, who looks as though he may wait and sign late, the attention now turns to the alpha dog: Simeon's Jabari Parker. When Parker's recruitment ends on Signing Day in two years, there is no doubt Bruce Weber and Jerrance Howard will have put more time and energy into the recruitment of Parker than any other prospect past, present or future.

Best Signing
Anthony Davis to Kentucky
Well, duh! When a program can go out and nab a consensus top 10 player nationally -- and the No. 1 player, according to some -- it's an obvious recruiting high. Davis, who also gets the nod as the most likely to see an NBA uniform first, won't likely be around Lexington for very long. He's an instant difference-maker on the defensive end at the next level, while his skill and feel will allow him to survive at the highest level offensively while he adds some much-needed weight and strength.

Most Important Signing
Illinois landing Mycheal Henry
Illinois needed a player like Henry, the talented 6-6 wing from Orr. For starters, Henry is the best prospect of the bunch and is a true knockdown perimeter shooter with size who can stretch a defense--something the program has lacked. He's also a kid from the city and the first big impact signing from the Chicago Public League in years. In addition, Henry's recruiting would have taken off had he remained uncommitted through the summer, so getting it done when Illinois did was . Henry, though, found the fit he liked and jumped on it last spring. Now Illinois has a potential star down the road, who brings zero baggage or attitude -- as proven by the fact he was never caught up in grabbing all the hoopla that he could have received had he waited it out. Plus, he is as likeable of a kid as you'll find and has the personality that teammates -- and future recruits -- will gravitate to.

Best Recruiting Fit
Wayne Blackshear to Louisville
When you look at Morgan Parks's Wayne Blackshear -- his style, his game, his size, his position -- it's so easy to envision him in a Louisville uniform playing for Rick Pitino. Maybe it's because he reminds the Hoops Report so much of former Cardinal Terrence Williams, but Pitino's teams breed the 6-5, 6-6 type of athletes on the wing. Blackshear will be a perfect fit for Pitino's Cardinals.

Biggest Recruiting Surprise
Abdel Nader doesn't sign
There was very little talk and discussion leading up to Signing Day regarding Niles North's Abdel Nader and his commitment to New Mexico. Now it appears there should have been as the 6-7 face-up 4-man has decided to wait until the spring to sign or possibly re-classify. Nader instantly becomes the best available prospect remaining on the board out of Illinois.

Biggest Signing Sleepers
Derrick Marks to Boise State
Johnny Hill to Illinois State
Juice Brown to Toledo
While we rave about the recruiting class the University of Illinois reeled in, marvel at the rise of Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives and count the number of high-major prospects the Class of 2011 produced, there are a few other talented recruits who could pay huge dividends for their respective schools.

Derrick Marks of Plainfield Central, who de-committed from Albany this past summer, picked a great spot to showcase his strength, power, size and athleticism. With the strengths Marks possesses, he will be playing in a league he can flourish in. Boise State picked up a huge recruiting coup. Every college coach wants to believe they signed a future all-league pick on Signing Day. With Marks and Boise State, it's a reality.

Glenbard East's Johnny Hill, who flew under the radar of most college programs throughout his junior year, is a player who is just scratching the surface and realizing how talented he can be. The 6-3 guard, who is a basketball player with skill, length and athleticism, has a chance to be a special Missouri Valley Conference player down the road. Hill, who has a great feel for the game, averaged 18 points a game as junior for a 27-2 team and nearly four steals a game.

Although Julius "Juice" Brown is an unheralded recruit, he will be so important for the Toledo program going forward. The Rockets are in a major rebuilding mode. 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.

Biggest Recruiting Steal
Greg Mays to UW-Green Bay and Ryan Jackson to Lewis
The recruitment of Greg Mays was the classic perfect storm for a program like Wisconsin-Green Bay. Mays is a 6-8 athletic big man who, due to injury, lack of opportunities and blooming late, was greatly overlooked on the recruiting radar for much of his high school career.

While he had his moments this offseason, Mays still has not put together the type of long stretch of high-level playing that would warrant bigger and better interest, though it was certainly picking up. That's good for UW-Green Bay. Mays would have been a hot commodity next April had he stayed on the board. But give credit to the kid and those around him in feeling comfortable with a program and staff and not getting caught up in playing at the highest level possible.

The same could be said for Riverside-Brookfield's Ryan Jackson. Division II Lewis University was able to land a Division I player. Jackson, who had multiple Division I offers and should have had more, stayed with his plan of combining basketball with the field he wanted to study in college. Fortunately for Lewis, basketball and aviation are both available to Jackson. Now coach Scott Trost has a key building block for the next four years in Jackson, a scoring guard who is poised to have a big year for R-B this winter.

Wildest Recruiting Ride
Ryan Boatright
Maybe East Aurora's Ryan Boatright has some USC and West Virginia shirts and hats still in the wardrobe, but the talented 5-11 guard is officially off to Connecticut. The Boatright recruitment ended early, with a commitment to USC and coach Tim Floyd in the summer before his freshman year. Floyd was canned and Boatright opened things up again. After going through the process, Boatright committed to West Virginia. However, a day later West Virginia took another point guard and Boatright soon de-committed. Now it's off to UConn.

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10 Comments

Now all Illinois needs is a good coach! All of that talent, and they play incredibly erratic, unmotivated, and sometimes like they've never seen a basketball. Almost losing to Lewis! Come on man!!! Now that you have some talent, get some of that talent on the coaching end! Nice guy, yes. A nice guy that can win with a boat load of talent, NO!

Illinois did very well yesterday. Though Davis and Blackshear are the 2 real difference makers, I agree that Henry fronm Orr is the best of the Illini bunch. He like those 2 could be a pro in a few years unless the Illini style stunts his growth. I don't see Abrams or Shaw being more than good players in division one. They won't be taking over games, but they do bring unselfishness and good chemistry. Egwu is a project. Cynical observers would say Weber didn't get the real blue chippers, but he got some respectable talent. One fear is Henry could clash with Richmond for playing time. I'm hearing Jereme wants to play the 3 but also the 2 with or without extended shooting range. They have a bunch of 2s already. With all this said, the Illini have some good talent. Now we can all sit back and watch to see if Weber can be successful with players "He" recruited.

Oh boy. Here come the Weber can't coach comments. Same guy that took SIU to a Sweet 16. Took Illinois to a couple of possessions from a national title. But he can't coach.

Three big names in this class. Davis, Blackshear and Henry. Everyone else is a distant third. Shaw will be OK. Abrams will be solid, not great. Egwu a long way.

Kudos to Bruce and his staff. He's a great guy; i've met him before. But he can't coach. Thats why he took Illinois to the only National Championship Game they ever played in. That was with Self's players. Now, he has his players. Best of luck to them. Best of luck to Bruce. Congrats.

i guess Weber will have to prove himself by winning with the great talent the Illini has. He has Paul, Head, Leonard, and Richmond to go with McCamey and the others. Many see him as a whiner who blames players for losses, but never makes necessary coaching adjustments to impact game outcomes. I would like to see him shake that label.

Please tell FredS like it is Frickles. You couldn't be anymore wrong FredS. Part of being a good coach is being a good recruiter and he's doing just that. Oh and is your argument going to be, "I never said he can't recruit."? Well if thats your case let me add on to Frickles statement. After Being at Illinois for only 7 years so far, he's already 3rd all time in wins as a coach at Illinois. Has won 70 percent of his games at Illinois all time. 6th highest winning percentage of a coach all time in the big ten who's at least coached 7 years or more. C. 6 of his 7 years as coach they have won 20 or more games. He's made the tournament 5 out of 7 years at Illinois. Two big Ten championships. led them to the national championship in '05. Has had four players go to the NBA draft including Deron Williams. Ever Heard of him? His mentor was Gene Keady at Purdue who was a great coach. His Assistant Coach at Southern Illinois was Matt Painter who learned a lot from Bruce. Now he's at Purdue and is very successful there. Led Southern Illinois to the sweet 16 where they upset one of the greatest coaches to live, Bobby Knight, and his team, Texas Tech. Then Beat Georgia only to lose to a very good Uconn team. I could go on and on but I'll save you some embarassment. This is why Coach Weber is a good coach.

I guess we'll see how Illinois does this season. It's fruitless to argue now. We'll see come March madness. Start thinking up those excuses now. I see the train coming down the tracks. Lewis proved it, and they didn't have a good game that day.

To Fred S: Lewis proved what? That they could play with Illinois in a meaningless exhibition game where everyone plays, the crowd isn't into it and it doesn't count for anything. Wonder how Lewis would have fared against an effort and energy Illinois played with against SIU last night, up by 35 at one point. Go ahead and criticize, knock or whatever. But at least do it in relation to a regular-season game.

Just because Lewis played the Fighting Illini very well, has nothing to do with Coach Weber, besides Iowa and Indiana are the bottom tier teams in the Big 10!
Illinois has a shot at the big ten championship!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on November 11, 2010 2:51 PM.

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UWGB lands another one as Armstead commits is the next entry in this blog.

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