By Joe Henricksen
There is a whole lot to like in the Class of 2013 in Illinois. The class has star power at the top, including a player in Jabari Parker of Simeon who will be in a battle for the top spot nationally over the next two years. There is a surplus of high-major prospects and burgeoning depth with new names surfacing every month.
Here is how the Hoops Report sees the sophomore class as college prospects as it heads into the summer.
1. JABARI PARKER, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
The state's top prospect regardless of class will continue to push towards the top spot nationally in his class. Big, skilled, versatile with an unmatched basketball I.Q. and a desire to, above all else, win and succeed. You don't find this type of character, talent, size and skill in a player who has just two years of high school under his belt very often. Parker is the total package.
2. TOMMY HAMILTON, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
He's had peaks and valleys early in his career, which is common for any young player with size. Hard to ignore the abilities he possesses with that pure size. He may not be an elite athlete or a traditional on-the-block player, but the soft shooting touch, passing ability and coordination set him apart.
3. KENDALL STEPHENS, 6-4, 2G, St. Charles (East)
Hoops Report, which vaulted the smooth shooting guard into the top five players in the class nearly a year ago, has compared Stephens to a young Jeremy Lamb of UConn and isn't backing off. Stephens is silky with his jumper and adding more and more to his game. Purdue nabbed a good one who has so much more room to grow as a player.
4. KENDRICK NUNN, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
A 2-guard who brings athleticism and shooting range that are both of high-major quality. If Nunn can tighten up his handle and playmaking abilities to the point where he can be a true combo guard at the highest level, his stock will rise nationally. Still battles a little inconsistency, but he's an exciting talent who can change a game.
5. STERLING BROWN, 6-4, 2G/WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
At the same age, already taller, longer and with an equal skill level as his brother, Shannon Brown. He just isn't as physical or as productive as his brother at the same stage. But the ceiling Brown showcases seems to get higher as he keeps improving that shooting stroke and his overall game becomes more polished.
6. JALEN JAMES, 6-3, PG, Chicago (Hope)
Watch James just a few times and you see the natural look of a basketball player, gliding up and down the floor and oozing with potential. Big point guard prospect that is just beginning to scratch the surface. James first grabbed the attention of the Hoops Report at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament in December and hasn't let up in his progress.
7. RUSSELL WOODS, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Leo)
Physically, Woods is what you like in a college prospect with size, length and an impressive body and frame to build on. Plus, he's shown he plays with a motor and will get after it on the glass. Still must add to a somewhat limited offensive game.
8. MALCOLM HILL, 6-4, 2G/WF, Belleville (East)
Really blossomed during his sophomore year and put up fantastic numbers for a young player, averaging 16.7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals a game. Plus, he got to the line 132 times (shooting 74%). While his perimeter shot and range must become a bigger part of his game, he's a player with size, athleticism and a great look. Terrific looking prospect.
9. KYLE DAVIS, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Hyde Park)
Look for Davis to put together a monster junior year next winter and emerge as one of the top players in the class. Always looking to attack, put pressure on opponents. There isn't a better player in the open court in attacking the basket, where he uses his great burst and athleticism to finish at the rim. Still a little wild and right now lacks the point guard skills and mindset to be considered an ideal combo guard.
10. ALVIN ELLIS, 6-4, WF, Chicago (De La Salle)
This is a player 12 months from now who a lot of people could be asking, "Why weren't we talking more about him for the past two years?" Hopefully with a little more refinement in his game, along with finding his true niche and position, he will be that player. Slowly making strides as one of the more athletic and active wing players in the class. Terrific running the floor and finishing on the break.
11. JAYLON TATE, 6-2, PG, Chicago (De La Salle)
He may not be a top-level athlete, but he's crafty, slithers to where he needs to be on the floor and can get to the rim and score. Pretty fearless player considering how composed he has been playing high-level basketball at a young age. His understanding of court geometry and playing the point guard position gets better and better. Still needs to show a more advanced and consistent jumper.
12. BILLY GARRETT, JR., 6-3, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
Entered high school as a smart, heady and poised player for someone so young. Extremely disciplined player. Those attributes have carried him and helped him overcome a lack of explosiveness. The DePaul commit makes good reads and has a pretty consistent perimeter jumper that extends out to the three-point line.
13. DeSHAWN MUNSON, 6-3, WF, East St. Louis, Sr.
A big, strong, athletic wing that is physically gifted and absolutely loves to attack the basket off the dribble. Averaged 15 points and 7 rebounds a game as a sophomore. He can take contact and finish. While is handle is suitable for a wing, his perimeter shot must get a whole lot better. He draws fouls, gets to the line but only shot 50 percent from the charity stripe.
14. ALEX FOSTER, 6-7, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Physically advanced and polished at an early age, Foster has evolved into a blue-collar, get-it-done type. He's not overly explosive, but he rebounds, battles and runs the floor. He's shown an ability to step away from the basket and knock down a shot.
15. NATHAN TAPHORN, 6-6, WF, Pekin
With Taphorn it's about projection. The Hoops Report raved about the upside of Taphorn earlier this spring, calling him a "super sleeper" in an earlier blog. While he's still not physically developed or imposing athletically, his size at 6-6 (and growing?) and his ability to knock down shots with range and precision is impressive. Throw in a solid basketball I.Q. and Taphorn is a prospect who could continue to rise.
16. ANDREW McAULIFFE, 6-7, PF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North)
A true big man who can get some things done on the block and with his back to the basket. He possesses a solid skill level with a unique ability to use both hands in the lane and around the basket. Limited athletically, so another inch or two would do wonders for McAuliffe, who sports an offer from Northwestern. But with big men at such a premium, McAuliffe's stock should remain very high throughout the recruiting process.
17. QUINTEN PAYNE, 6-3, PG/2G, St. Charles (North)
The brother of former Iowa guard Cully Payne (transferring to Loyola). A guard with very good size, build and smarts. Just a solid player in many different areas of the game who will make the pass, knock a shot down and make the right play. May not be as natural and fluid as a player as his brother, but he has better size and is more versatile.
18. MARKEE WILLIAMS, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
A true point guard who makes plays, has a solid court sense for a young player and is an extremely mature and advanced player for a young lead guard. Despite his lack of size and athleticism for a high-level point guard, Williams is strong and does a great job of using that strength to convert plays under pressure. He must show the capability of consistently knocking down shots.
19. LANCE WHITAKER, 6-3, 2G/WF, Bartlett
A prospect that has made a big impact as a young player at the high school level as a strong, mature wing (played a lot of PG for his high school team). Has a developed body that he uses to his advantage. Solid mid-range game who also has good balance and body control when finishing around the basket. Marginal quickness and athleticism is a question mark.
20. MOSHAWN THOMAS, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Bogan)
Agile big man who can run the floor and, with some teaching and technique, can become a defensive presence. Raw talent who is still finding his way, but he brings legit size, a nose for the ball and can clean up on the glass. Offensively, a bit challenged, developing and not yet comfortable with the ball in his hands. But he boasts an enormous package of potential and is just starting to put it all together.