By Joe Henricksen

Hoops Report's player power rankings

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By Joe Henricksen

The high school basketball season is over. The club circuit is upon us. And if anyone wants to argue and debate that the "offseason" isn't about the individual player, line up at my door.

With that being said, the Hoops Report takes a look at the top individual college prospects in the state of Illinois in this player power ranking (top six players are listed in this blog with another blog coming to add to the list).

Unfortunately, the list of the top six prospects doesn't include a single player from the Class of 2012. With Simeon sophomore Jabari Parker and Whitney Young freshman Jahlil Okafor clearly at the top and at a different level than their peers, here are the top 10 college prospects in the state of Illinois -- regardless of class.

1. JABARI PARKER, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: A one-of-a-kind talent. No one playing in the state of Illinois today (well, except Derrick Rose) is wired like Jabari Parker. Parker's will to win, team-first attitude and desire to get better as a player separates him from everyone else. Plus, he's already shown the "I get better when it matters most" gene. And, oh, he's 6-8, skilled, extremely versatile and people are finally beginning to understand he's way more athletic and explosive than given credit for.
So far: Parker has accomplished what we expect great players to do. He has been a part of two state championships for the South Side power Wolverines. He's ranked among the top five players in his class nationally. And he will be a team U.S.A. basketball fixture going forward.
Needs to: Stay grounded and humble. This shouldn't be a problem as this is one of his real strengths. Parker has rare abilities for a player with his size at his age, but maybe even more rare, is how self-effacing and truly modest this kid is, which is a credit to the loved ones around him and a true plus in his favor in his development as a player.

2. Jahlil Okafor, 6-9, C, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Year: Class of 2014
What's to like: Oh, mercy! The quintessential big man doesn't come around very often, but Okafor is the type of player we haven't seen around here in a long time -- an imposing physical presence who will overwhelm high school players in time. He's huge, light on his feet, has an emerging back-to-the-basket game, soft touch around the rim and very great hands. And when you consider his age and the time he still has to develop, the future is a very similar to Parker's: unlimited.
So far: He's only played one varsity season for a loaded Whitney Young program, but he proved his worth in the small role he played as a freshman. Like Parker, Okafor is one of the top players nationally in his class and will be one of the most coveted prospects in the country over the next three years.
Needs to: With great size and good agility, Okafor is not an overwhelming athlete. We're not talking Dwight Howard here; think Brook Lopez. Going forward, he must continue to add to his game. While he will be a dominating figure on the block with his size and feel, if Okafor develops a consistent 12-15 foot jumper? ... It's over.

3. Cliff Alexander, 6-8, C, Chicago (Curie)
Year: Class of 2014
What's to like: He's huge. A true big man with legit size, girth and he moves well for his size. With an ability to finish around the basket with authority on dunks and block and alter shots defensively, Alexander is a coveted big man prospect. The state has produced very few true big men in recent years, but Alexander has a chance to be one of the best that have come through the state. Big Cliff has a chance to be a real force in the paint and a big-time prospect.
So far: A slow start for Alexander as a freshman on varsity, even missing time in December. But Alexander certainly had his moments late in the year, including a 23-point, 8 dunk performance in a Public League playoff win over Marshall. He also had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in a regional win over Richards and 9 points, 13 rebounds in the season-ending loss to Lyons.
Needs to: The big Condor will need to continue to define and shape his body and endurance. When that happens, Alexander will offer game-changing plays on a consistent basis. The development of big men typically takes time, but Alexander is already ahead of the curve.

4. Paul White, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Year: Class of 2014
What's to like: Remember not too long ago when the "point forward" was at the tip of the tongue in the basketball lexicon? (Thank you, Scottie Pippen!). While that terminology has cooled in recent years, point forward certainly comes to mind when watching the versatile and smooth game the long and skilled White brings to the floor. He's a player with size on the perimeter who can handle it, see the floor and make plays.
So far: White was another one of those early middle school hot shot names that pops up way too early in this day of hyping young kids. But he is also one that has grabbed the attention of high-major college coaches and even been offered before he played a varsity minute of high school basketball. His role, both on the club circuit and high school team next winter, will expand greatly.
Needs to: Like so many of those great "point forwards" who have been talked about in the past, White needs to continue tightening up his perimeter jumper and become consistent with his shot. That alone will make all other parts of his game better and elevate his stock and ceiling.

5. Tommy Hamilton, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: Since a very young age it's been impossible not to be intrigued by Hamilton's combination of tremendous size and skill. The big-bodied "Big Ham" has the capability of dropping in three-pointers and look good doing it, while also having a nice feel for the game with his footwork and a no-look pass here and there. While he's not your typical big man on the block, his face-up ability for a player his age and size is impressive. He's just so big and skilled.
So far: A bit of an up-and-down first two years of high school and summer play but with some very high peaks. But that is to be expected from a player with size and who is so young. He's been a valuable figure, though not yet dominating one, for one of the most talent-filled high school programs in the state.
Needs to: Keep with the renaissance. It sounds simple, but he must keep playing, work hard, stay in shape and remain focused. If all of those fall into place, Hamilton will live up to the absurd expectations placed on the kid when he was in 7th and 8th grade.

6. Kendall Stephens, 6-4, 2G, St. Charles (East)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: The Hoops Report admits to having a thing for Stephens as a player early on and hasn't let up. The Hoops Report hype, however, is warranted. The Purdue commit is the Illinois high school version of UConn's Jeremy Lamb. He possessed a high-major quality at a young age: a silky smooth perimeter jumper with a feathery touch and range. He has that ideal height, length and wingspan of a big-time 2-guard. Plus, he's grounded, works hard on his game, has great bloodlines and is barely scratching the surface as a player.
So far: After showing flashes and promise late in his freshman year, Stephens blossomed this past season as a sophomore. He averaged 17 points a game and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. Several high-majors took notice and he committed to Purdue, where his father Everette Stephens starred in the 1980s.
Needs to: Physical development and maturity will take care of any lingering issues of how big of an impact he can make at the high-major level. He will add weight and strength in time. When he does that, along with improving his overall ballhanding, Stephens will reach the level the Hoops Report envisions down the road.

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21 Comments

Joe. Loven your stuff on yourseason. Wondering where you would rate these young players at their same stage as other great young prospects from the state of Illinois at the same stage like Derrick Rose, Eddy Curry, Corey Maggette and others. Thanks and keep up the great work.

Hard to argue with these players. I know you probably like the Stephens kid more than others do but I see the upside and potential with him as you do. Interested to see the next group.

At the risk of offending some, I have to be honest. When it comes to the Parker kid, I simply do not see it. Granted he's 6-6 with some basketball skills and he's clearly experienced, as you can tell he's been playing a lot of basketball for his age. However, he's not athletic and slow afoot, he doesn't do anything exceptionally well be it shoot, handle the ball, defend, rebound etc. I see him as a classic tweener, not athetic enough to play the 3 and not big enough to be a 4.

And to say he is one of the best prospects to come through this area in the past two decades is totally absurd to me. He's not as good as neither Jereme Richmond nor Wayne Blackshear at the same time in their careers, so there's no need to bring up some of the truly great ones. At least those two have their athleticism to fall back on to cover some of their weaknesses as players, the Parker kid does not.

I think he's a classic example of a kid who, because of his experience, gets better faster than some other kids but the ones that are going to be good will catch up and in many cases, surpass him.

Sorry Joe but I'm not believing the hype on this one.

Darnell: Try telling that to Coach K, Bill Self, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo and Thad Matta! Are you kidding?

This dude Darnell is kwayzee!!!!

Joe,
I agree with most of your lists. I agree Jabari and Jahlil are as good young players as I have seen in many years. Paul White is also a good choice and Hamilton has been playing much improved this spring. I believe other State of Illinois players that could have made your list ahead of Yarbrough and Stevens include 2013 players Kendrick Nunn, Jalen James and Alex Foster and 2014 players Larry Austin and Peyton Allen. Keep up the good articles, enjoy hearing your perspective on high school recruiting prospects.

This is not one to debate, time will tell the tale. Do you have any idea how many kids are recruited by big schools that highly overrated? It happens everyday, who do you think are sitting on those benches? Walk-ons? Nope, kids just like this who get hyped up by scouts all the time and some end up not being as good as the hype.

But again, time will tell.

This may be the worst debate I have seen on here. State champion. 6-8. Extremely skilled. Nationally ranked by everyone in the top five. Offered by the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Illinois before his sophomore year is complete. A member of the U.S. team. Yep. Don't see it in him. I agree Darnell.

I think top five are spot on after watching these kids. Sure we could argue others that may be worthy. And how do you project Stephens? I probably don't have him in my top six.

Joe - I like your work but your top 10 list seems to be a little lite.

I agree with list in general except for stephens, I watched a few of his games this year and was just not overly impressed the game that sticks out in my mind is against Neuqua Valley I believe he had 2 pts in that game and looked completely dejected and shutdown against a team that knows how to play defense he continually forced bad shots and lacked the ability to score against a team that guarded him tight forcing him to put the ball on the floor. He has the ability to become a solid player but i dont see him a high major prospect

Nice list. I differ a bit on Hamilton. He is a nice prospect but likely not an elite national prospect. His stock has fallen as the competition matures year after year. He has unique skills for a player his size but he lacks the elite athleticism, explosion and quickness necessary to be a top national recruit. His biggest question is his motor. He does not bring it every night and often can disappear against competition that is overmatched physically. I see him as a top 80-50 recruit. He still has a lot of time to improve and develop!

You see there is a motor for high school ball, and a motor on the AAU circuit, Parker has the entire package, the scouts know it, unfortunately some of you don't have a clue, but hey you aren't scouts either, just like Jereme Richmond most of you will say he isn't ready for the league, but some scouts see an upside in him that is worth taking a chance, Parker has a big upside, he is a winner, he has back-to-back high school state championships, that can rub off on the college level, you put a bunch of winners with big upsides on the same team, and boom, you have Coach K knocking at your door, and his father is Sonny Parker, a former pro, that didn't go straight to a four year college out of Farragut, you have a winning combination, and yes his Father made it to the league, guys and girls, this thing is peculiar, I will admit that, but college ball needs winners, and pro ball needs those that have been successful on the AAU circuit, now you know why Parker will be at a bigtme college, and why Jereme Richmond will get drafted in the first round, and before you get upset with me, let me finish, Richmond is going to wow people with is individual workouts, he won't look nothing like he did at U of I, he will be in better shape, he will possess a winning attitude, because he knows, their is money on the line, look at the Portland Trailblazers, they would love a guy like Richmond, most of their guys started out just like he is now, raw, but once he is whipped into their system, sky is the limit!
Parker and Richmond, different but the same!

This is not about Jabari Parker,but about all the student athletes who participate in the game of basketball. Lets continue to support all the kids by being positive with them.The one thing I am proud of my son is his academics, a honor roll student with all A's this marking period taking honor classes.That is the only way he can get in college is qualifing through academics.Jabari is only a sophmore and has a long ways to go.He is very humble kid.Thanks to those who support my son since day one. I try not to get in personal things with peoples opinions,lets deal with the facts and support our young people in a positve way.

Joe - great list. I have seen Milik Yarbrough play the most, because as you said, he was the biggest contributor - averaging about 20pts and 6 boards a game for a 20 win Zion Benton team. He only got better as the year progressed. He's running track this spring in conjunction with AAU/club ball, so expect that endurance and motor to continue to improve. With the way this kid can handle the ball, shoot, and pass - if he gains a couple more inches in height - it will just be scary to see where he takes his game. Also, is an honor student.

- Maurice

PS - Darnell doesn't have a clue about Jabari Parker.

PHIL SMITH JR - Richmond will absolutely not get drafted in the first round, and I'd wager anything on that. He's got an outside shot at second round, if he dominates workouts. Best bet is he prepares his passport for Europe.

Guys who don't start for teams who are mid-tier in the Big Ten, who average 7 points and 3 boards, do not get drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. There is absolutely no precedent for that. And Richmond of all people, will not break that trend.

Richmond has a history of poor attitude, discipline problems, lack of conditioning, lack of hustle, no defense. And, at 6-7 with absolutely no jump shot, he has not chance in the NBA.

Your agrument for Richmond has no merit and you sound very ill-informed.

-Coach

To PHIL:

Jereme Richmond averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds, and was 2 for 12 from 3-point range for this year's Illini team that finished in a tie for 5th place in a very average Big Ten Conference. How is that a fit for the Portland Trailblazers - in what area is that going to be of help?

How is a guy who is lazy and has a bad attitude going to be able to improve against the best in the world? What upside does he have? He doesn't play defense and at 6-7, has a subpar jumpshot, he can't play the 2 or the 3 in the NBA.

I've read 10x as many scout/expert articles on why Richmond won't get drafted, as opposed the couple that rate him as having a chance.

Joe....I seem to remember a few players that were on some people's lists heading into HS that not many people talk about anymore. Do you have any updates on Alex Foster, Royale Ewing, and Markee Williams? How are they doing on their HS teams? And are any colleges pursuing them?
Thanks, love your work.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on April 13, 2011 11:10 AM.

Fire, Wolves off to fast starts was the previous entry in this blog.

Small college programs hit it big locally is the next entry in this blog.

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