Chicago Sun-Times
By Joe Henricksen

Final look at impressive Class of 2011

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By Joe Henricksen

The Hoops Report took a look at the top 15 prospects in the state of Illinois, including the impact Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives had on the class, in the previous blog. Here the Hoops Report takes its final look at the top 40 college prospects in the state of Illinois.

The class produced one of the higher number of Division I recruits and a dozen-plus high-major players, highlighted by the nation's top-ranked prospect in Anthony Davis.

1. Anthony Davis, 6-10, PF, Chicago (Perspectives)
The nation's top player brings so much talent and upside to the table as he possesses the things you can't teach: size at 6-10 with never-ending length. He's extremely active, especially on the defensive end, and boasts a skill level you typically don't see in a player with his height. His slender frame and lack of strength will be issues initially. He may not be as athletic or ferocious as Kevin Garnett, but he has many of the same talents at KG.
2. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
This is a player who came into high school with a ton of hype and lived up to it. A big, strong, athletic wing whose skills have improved every year. He's a strong finisher whose jumper has improved and will only get better. Blackshear will be a major factor for the Cardinals and coach Rich Pitino.
3. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius)
When it's all said and done, the Hoops Report believes Egwu is a better college prospect than many players in Illinois currently ranked ahead of him by others. He's big, agile, runs the floor, can really shoot it, plays hard and is a sponge with more to learn and improve on. Unfortunately, national analysts watched Egwu when he was injured last summer and don't pay a whole lot of attention to the high school season. But like in his high school career, it's going to take time.
4. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East)
Put together the most dominating high school season in the state of Illinois and was co-Mr. Basketball. An electric talent who averaged over 30 points a game. He's jet-quick, athletic and can put the ball in the hole in bunches and is a blur from end to end and in open court. How will his individual game -- and lack of size -- translate to the next level? His explosiveness with the ball in his hands sets him apart.
5. Mycheal Henry, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr)
A disappointing season for Orr took some of the fanfare away from Henry this past winter. But Henry, who bloomed a little later than some, has terrific size and shooting ability to score at the high-major level. As Henry's ball skills and willingness to defend improve, he will evolve into a big weapon for coach Bruce Weber at Illinois. Still, there is a lot of polishing up to do with Henry and an improved motor (hopefully?) will speed that process up.
6. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island
Rock solid and steady throughout his career, which culminated with a Class 3A state championship and sharing the Mr. Basketball award. Randle, who could slide anywhere on this list from No. 4 to No. 6, may not wow you, but he is polished, does so many things well and is one of the more college-ready players in the class. He brings an overall game and intangibles that will get him on the floor right away at Stanford and make an impact as a freshman. Such a safe projection with Randle.
7. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
A bouncy, athletic wing with a long wingspan who moves fluidly up and down the floor and is a highlight waiting to happen. At the very least, Thompson can become a big-time perimeter defender in the Big Ten for Ohio State. Both his handle and shot have improved, but he must continue to make strides in those areas, which will lead to more productivity on the offensive end.
8. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel)
With a solid make-up, toughness and contagious positive attitude, Abrams has molded himself into a scoring point guard who is still learning the nuances of the position. Will prove to be a physical guard who will defend and find ways to make plays but must tighten up his ballhandling. While he may not have a whole lot of upside, he's a program kid who will be coachable and be a valuable role guy at the very minimum.
9. Frank Kaminsky, 6-10, PF/C, Lisle (Benet Academy)
There weren't many players who improved more over the course of their career -- and the last 12 months -- than the Wisconsin-bound big man. The skilled Kaminsky, who handles it and shoots it well for a player with size, found the perfect fit at Wisconsin and the high-major level. Look for Kaminsky's improvement to continue under Bo Ryan and become a factor down the road.
10. Abdel Nader, 6-7, PF, Skokie (Niles North)
Put together a monster year (24 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg) in leading Niles North to its best season in school history. An intriguing face-up 4-man who has very good shooting ability and range. Plus, he has some athleticism to get quite a bit done around the basket. He has to get tougher and stronger and more focused. Of all the recruits in the Class of 2011, Northern Illinois nabbing Nader this late in the process is the biggest recruiting steal in the class.
11. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Likely a little overrated by some, both locally and nationally, but if he can find his niche at the high-major level, Shaw can have a very productive career at Illinois. A mobile, put-together 4-man who will rebound and compete at his position. Offensively, he has a long way to go and is still trying to become more consistent. This 6-8, 225-pounder will get bigger, stronger and can be the ideal blue-collar workhorse with just enough skill to make him a threat. Hopefully Illinois fans won't have unrealistic expectations as he's a role player at the high-major level.
12. David Sobolewski, 6-1, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy)
You just know what you're going to get with the Sobo. He may not have the untapped potential and upside of others in the class, but he brings a winning attitude and security to the point guard position. Battled through a nagging back injury for a large portion of this past season. Will take care of the ball, make the right decision and knock down a shot for Northwestern.
13. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G, Lombard (Glenbard East)
The Illinois State recruit capped off his senior year with a bang, opening eyes with high-level performances in leading his team to a third-place finish in Class 4A. Long and active, Hill's perimeter jumper became a threat to go with his ability to flourish in getting to the rim. Plus, he just knows how to play with his natural instincts and is a highly underrated passer.
14. Roosevelt Jones, 6-3, WF, O'Fallon ... Highly productive and successful high school career with numbers and wins over the past three seasons. There are certainly questions how his game will translate to the next level, but he does fit nicely into Butler's system. Jones is tough, strong and competes at an extremely high level.
15. Bruce Baron, 6-3, PG, Carbondale (Brehm Prep)
While he can get a little erratic and wild, Baron is a big, strong, athletic guard who can take contact and score. Headed to Oregon, Baron's talents and style of play simply needs to be reined in as a collegian.
16. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks)
Battled injuries throughout his career, including a freak injury that knocked him out for seven weeks this season. Bounced back with a big second half of the season and led Eagles to city title and Peoria in Class 3A. Wisconsin-bound Marshall will knock down shots from his point guard position.
17. Jamee Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee
Really put together one heck of a senior year in leading Warriors to their best season in school history. He's always been a freak athletically, but Crockett used that athleticism to become a much more efficient scorer and productive rebounder. Should fit nicely into coach Oliver Purnell's style at DePaul.
18. Derrick Marks, 6-2, 2G, Plainfield (Central)
Big, strong guard who excels in the open court and running the floor downhill towards the basket. Does a terrific job of using his body and strength in drawing contact, finishing at the rim and getting to the line. Headed to Boise State next fall.
19. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest)
Yet another Hoops Report favorite as "Juice" has proved two things: he wins games and can put the ball in the hole from his point guard position. Strong, compact lead guard who, despite his small size, has length and strength. A struggling Toledo program landed a good one and added a key piece to the rebuilding project.
20. Dre Henley, 6-6, WF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Another recruiting steal for Northern Illinois. The versatile Henley, who has a nice blend of size and skill, can be a factor at a few different positions in the MAC, especially if his perimeter jumper becomes more consistent. Joins Abdel Nader to form one heck of 1-2 recruiting punch for coach Mark Montgomery.
21. Ryan Sawvell, 6-7, PF, Mundelein
In the eyes of the Hoops Report, one of the more underappreciated players in the Chicago area with the numbers and success he had this past season. The Evansville recruit is sneaky athletic, runs the floor and plays hard. He will need to add upper and lower body strength, but Sawvell is a worker and a kid with some size who can put the ball in the hole.
22. Quenton Chievous, 6-4, WF, Niles (Notre Dame)
The Hoops Report has liked Chievous and his potential a little more than others. Though he is still in the process of putting it all together, he's a big-bodied wing who has vastly improved in all areas. Both his range and efficiency with his perimeter shot are better. The Tennessee recruit still needs to get more comfortable putting it on the floor and creating for himself and others off the dribble.
23. James Farr, 6-8, PF, Evanston
Another player who wrapped up his senior year and will become a 2012 recruit with a year at prep school. Farr still possesses a great deal of upside. Recently committed to Xavier. Farr, who can face up and knock down shots with some range, will need to continue to fill out physically, improve laterally and become a bigger factor around the basket.
24. Dylan Ennis, 6-2, PG, Lake Forest (Academy)
The Rice-bound point guard has a nice blend of size, athleticism and playmaking ability as a lead guard and scorer. Although his game can be a little loose and a bit erratic, he's improved and is a rhythm scorer who can shoot it and slash.
25. Keifer Sykes, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Marshall)
A Hoops Report favorite due to his demeanor, the way he carries himself and an ability to play tough and rise to the occasion. Wisconsin-Green Bay has a a good one in the diminutive Sykes, who leads, makes plays and ultra-athletic. While others fell asleep on Sykes, UWGB has themselves a steal and a potential all-league player.
26. Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame)
Had a monster senior year and ended up parlaying it into a Big Ten scholarship from Michigan. Strong with little athleticism, Bielfeldt showed he can step away and knock down face-up jumpers. But more than maybe any player in the class, his game does not translate to the level he will be playing at in college.
27. Aaron Armstead, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
Smooth, skilled scoring guard who should blossom in time at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Armstead, who can knock down shots from the perimeter and brings size to the perimeter, became more consistent and productive in helping lead Hales to a state championship.
28. Macari Brooks, 6-2, 2G/WF, Richton Park (Rich South)
It could be argued that Brooks is one of the top three or four athletes in the class who, despite being a little less skilled than most would like, has improved his shot and ballhandling over the past year. Shot selection and decision-making can be questionable at times, but he makes plays with this athleticism and is an above-the-rim player.
29. Greg Mays, 6-8, PF, Crete-Monee
Just may be the biggest wild card in the Class of 2011. An intriguing prospect due to his impressive combination of size, build and athleticism. Throw in the fact he has not played a ton of basketball just yet and is just beginning to evolve into the player he can be, the sky is the limit for this Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit.
30. Nick Zeisloft, 6-4, 2G, LaGrange (Lyons Twp.)
A tremendous shooter with range who can shoot off the pull-up and off the catch. While he may not move great laterally, Zeisloft is a player with surprising athleticism. An Illinois State recruit who will bring a much-needed quality to the program: shooting the basketball. Still must get more comfortable off the dribble.
31. Michael Powell, Jr., 5-10, PG, Chicago (Brooks)
There weren't many players in Illinois who raised their stock more during their senior year than Brooks, who was a catalyst in leading the Eagles to a city title and a trip to Peoria in Class 3A. Powell continued to be a big scoring threat, both with his shot and off the bounce, but he evolved into a solid point guard
32. Donivine Stewart, 5-10, PG, Bartonville (Limestone)
The Bradley-bound guard began his career among the top 10 players in his class due to putting up ridiculous numbers and production as a freshman. But his overall lack of size and athleticism ultimately prevented him from staying among the elite prospects. A scoring point guard who has a great feel for finding ways to put points on the board.
33. Keith Gray, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Brooks)
He's long, bouncy, has good size and a decent frame. Overall, Gray has big man upside as he became a much more productive, aggressive and confident player in helping lead Brooks to a city title and trip to Peoria. Signed with Northern Illinois.
34. Deji Ibitayo, 6-3, WF, Olympia Fields (Rich Central)
Broke out with an impressive summer a year ago and grabbed the attention of college coaches with his off-the-charts athleticism and big perimeter body. A big-time finisher on the break and around the rim. If he puts his mind to it, the Akron recruit can become a terrific perimeter defender with his size and athleticism. While his jump shot and skills have improved, there is still much work to be done.
35. Mike Turner, 6-7, PF, Chicago (University)
With Turner it's about potential. Northwestern hopes Turner's untapped upside and late-developing game can blossom down the road. Right now he's a pretty skilled face-up 4-man who can knock down a shot and ultimately can fit into Bill Carmody's style of play. He will certainly need to refine his game and add weight and strength.
36. Darien Walker, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
Often the forgotten man in Simeon's run to back-to-back state titles. Walker is a big, strong perimeter player who has shown an ability to be a lockdown defender. While he must polish up his overall skills and become more efficient, Walker can get to the rim and knock down a shot.
37. Jerome Brown, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Morgan Park)
The UIC-bound Brown is one of the top perimeter shooters in the senior class, with a quick release and range. He also has some size and length to become a more than adequate perimeter defender. Still must find a way to become more effective with the ball in his hands to become a bigger weapon at the mid-major level.
38. Luke Hager, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Battled injuries and some inconsistency throughout his senior year, but the UNC-Wilmington recruit has some quality physical attributes. Hager could develop into a valuable weapon with his versatility and athleticism. The perimeter jumper is certainly a work in progress, but Hager remains very intriguing.
39. Jordan Nelson, 5-11, PG/2G, Lincoln
Evansville locked up perhaps the best pure shooter in the Class of 2011 and one of the all-time leading three-point shooters in state history. Yes, he's on the small side, but Nelson possesses an ability and unique quality -- shooting the basketball -- that coaches covet.
40. D.J. Tolliver, 6-4, 2G/WF, Chicago (Farragut)
After an impressive and productive year in the Public League, Tolliver was arguably the most overlooked and underappreciated player in the Chicago area this past winter. Tolliver has one glaring weakness (perimeter shooting), but with his size, length, active style and intangibles he finds ways to do so many other things on both ends of the floor.

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What kind of individuals stats would Mike Shaw had produced if he played at Niles North with the same teammates as Abdel Nader? Shaw is more skilled in every aspect of the game than Nader with the exception of perimeter shooting. He's a better rebounder, defender, and passer. Also, for Henricksen to put kids like Sobolewski and Kaminsky ahead of Shaw is ridiculous.

Question on Mike Shaw for you Joe. I know his stock has dropped a lot nationally and locally. Even his recruitment didn't include the college giants. I mean Illinois was probably the best overall program recruiting him at the end with Marquette and West Virginia. I saw a ton of Mike Shaw and never really saw any production. I think he averaged like 13 and 8 or so this season. But why was he so heralded early and what do you think he will be in college? Thanks for your work.

Ha! Anonymous no doubt another Illini fan trying, hoping the early Shaw hype wasn't just that. Look, the kid is a nice player. But come on. Whether he is a better prospect than the two or three players ahead of him? Who cares. But I seen to many games of his where he goes for 7 and 3 or 6 and 4. Just not a very productive player.

You can argue Shaw should be a bit higher for sure. But he is not in that first group of players and really not even close. And actually if I had to bet who had a better college career -- Shaw at Illinois or Sobolewski at Northwestern -- I would put my money on Sobolewski as far as an overall college career.

Hey Anonymous! Check out Chicago Hoops where Abdel Nader is the number 6 ranked player in the Class of 2011!!!!!!

Joe. Love reading your thoughts and hearing your opinions. So you would have taken Nader over Shaw if you were Illinois? Thanks

Hey Joe. Great as always; thorough and interesting.

Good to see future Redbird Zeisloft break into the rankings!

Any idea on college choices for Walker or Tolliver?

These rankings are always great. Other than the top 15 or 20, I see scouts with way different opinions. It's hard to call a player top 40 then say he still has alot of work to do, and there are player out there with D1 offers that never make the list. These are interesting to have discussions on, but opinions vary widely throughout the scouting land. Always fun to read these, but I never take them serious.

Mr. Henricksen,

If you were the head coach of a high-major D-1 program with one scholarship left for a PF. Shaw, Nader, and Kaminsky all want to commit to you and your program. Which player's commitment would you accept?

"Everyone gets so wrapped up over what Shaw is (or isn't), maybe more than any player I've watched and covered over the years."

I believe a big reason mike shaw has so many doubters and gets criticized so much (much more than any CPS stud) is due to the fact that he went to DeLasalle. Then, even after all the CPS/AAU goons harassed him to transfer(especially the Irvins and Morgan Park), he refused. Therefore, when he wasnt micheal Jordan, he was crucified by thse jerks.

Whereas the CPS kids who dont live up to other peoples predictions and expectations receive a little less scrutiny.

Dre Henley is better than Shaw(put up better numbers every year they played together)
and will have a better freshmen year and college career than at least 10 players ahead of him. U can put money on that !!

Great job as always Joe but wanted you to expand (I know you have talked a great deal about Shaw now and in the past and I actually agree with you) on your comparison to Landry and Shaw. Thanks.

Roosevelt Jones is getting the old non-Chicago +10, eh?

In reality, there's no justification for him rating below 10th. Hes probably closer to 5th

I've seen a fair amount of these guys play and the one who stands out most is DJ Tolliver. He's incredibly long, athletic,and already has an NBA body. Hoping he gets things in order and develops that jumper as I think HE has a ton of upside despite the risk. Seems like a pretty good kid as well.

Sorry Xander, but Roosy is where he should be. I saw him play against #22, and the better player was Max by far.

Hey Joe. What can you tell me about Devon Hodges? Had he avoided eligibility issues, where or would he be on this list?

Joe, I enjoy reading your comments and admire your willingness to rank these players. It certainly makes for great conversation. One of the variables that you cannot account for in many of these players is their fit with their future college teams. You will see some players who went to the highest level of D-1 teams only to find their games don't fit or translate well at that school. I am sure you see it every year -Darius Smith to Connecticut, only to leave after one year and now end up at Eastern Illinois I believe.

Two guys worry me in that regard, and neither of them in Mike Shaw! Ryan Boatright is one I worry about - he is wickedly athletic, great scorer, massively competitive, but will he become the point guard of UConn's dreams? the other guy who is a worry to me is Sam Thompson - another athletic freak, but I never saw him dominate a game. He is a human highlight every time he steps on the court and in every game he has one or two outrageous dunks or rebounds.

Having said that I hope I am completely wrong and they both become stars.

Two college programs I really like are Illinois State - Hill and Zeisloft will be tremendous additions. The other team is obvious is Northern Illinois. Starting with only Zack Miller and ending up with some of the top players in the Chicago area Coach Montgomery deserves some big time props!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on May 27, 2011 3:55 PM.

Anthony Davis highlights final 2011 rankings was the previous entry in this blog.

Hoops Report spring cleaning is the next entry in this blog.

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