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.
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.
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
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.