By Joe Henricksen
Typically, the seniors are the players who make the statements during the all-important July evaluation period. The underappreciated go out and prove their worth, play with a chip on their shoulder. They show they can play at a level higher than college coaches and evaluators projected. Heck, sometimes they even trick coaches and evaluators in July with a two or three-day flurry that really isn't indicative of how good they really are but, nonetheless, nab some unwarranted scholarship offers.
This July? It seems there are more coaches wanting to pull offers that were made than throw out more to the seniors in Illinois.
Unfortunately, watching the Illinois prospects in the Class of 2012 this July is a little like watching the movies "No Strings Attached" with Ashton Kutcher and "Friends With Benefits" with Justin Timberlake. ... Exact. ... Same. ... Movies -- just with different actors.
That's how you feel watching the seniors from Illinois this July. Put the majority of the prospects in a hat, shake them up, pull one out and they're about the same low-major plus to mid-major prospect as the next guy -- just a different position.
Hey, there is nothing wrong with that. It's Division I basketball! But the lack of starpower in the Class of 2012 was never more apparent than this July. And there are a boatload of seniors-to-be out there that need to give some serious love back to the Division II and NAIA programs who are showing interest and just may be nice fits for them when it's all said and done.
However, the Hoops Report, along with many others, continues to be impressed with the young talent throughout the state of Illinois. And college coaches are curiously looking around at the next crop of talent growing in the fertile fields of Illinois. In this case, the Class of 2013. And they're relieved. There is talent. And their individual recruitments, which have included a flurry of scholarship offers this summer, will begin to take shape over the next 12 months.
Here is a look at some of those juniors who have raised their stock with their play this July and throughout this offseason.
• Billy Garrett, Jr., Chicago (Morgan Park)
While the college interest didn't increase -- he's been committed to DePaul since early April-- his overall value and reputation nationally certainly did. There were concerns regarding Garrett's lack of pure explosiveness and athleticism playing at the highest level, but he's silenced those doubters (the Hoops Report was one of them) with all he brings to the table. Garrett has that cerebral feel as a point guard with size at 6-4 and an ability to knock a shot down. The son of DePaul assistant coach Billy Garrett, the younger Garrett constantly finds ways to make plays, including big ones down the stretch of tight games for both the Mac Irvin Fire and Morgan Park. Garrett has been terrific this summer and could be yet another player in the class out of Illinois ranked among the nation's top 100 prospects.
• Jared Brownridge, Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)
This is a repeat from last December when the Hoops Report named Brownridge the "Biggest Stock Riser" in the sophomore class over the holiday tournaments. And he's still rising. It was just a matter of time before enough people (and coaches) took in a few Brownridge games and fell in love with that jumper. Simply put, you're not going to find a better perimeter shooter in the state of Illinois in the junior class. The definition of pure: having no faults, free from impurities. That's describing Brownridge's shot from just about anywhere inside 25 feet. Although he's been a Hoops Report top 20 player in the class for some time, he's now a coveted mid-major prospect after a sterling July. He may lack the ideal size and athleticism for a 2-guard, but he offers a high-major skill: shooting the basketball. Plus, he's a terrific kid and an outstanding student academically.
• A.J. Riley, Peoria (Manual)
No one wants to see a teammate go down with an injury. But if there was one player who benefitted from a teammate sitting out, it was Riley. With Illinois commit Jalen James of Hope Academy out of action with an injury, Riley played point guard and led the Illinois Wolves 16s to a whole lot of success. He's a strong, big-bodied point guard who opened the eyes of the Hoops Report with his terrific feel and playmaking ability. There weren't many players in the Class of 2013 who upped their stock more than Riley, who has added some mid-major offers along the way.
• Paris Lee, Proviso East
Senior guard Keith Carter is Proviso East's catalyst and junior Sterling Brown is the best prospect in the program, but the play of the diminutive Paris Lee this summer is a big reason why the Pirates will be one of the top five teams in Illinois this coming season. Forget his 5-8 size; Lee is a player. He puts pressure on opposing guards with his quickness at both ends of the floor, along with a versatile offensive game. Lee can score and distribute. Now he's a mid-major prospect.
• Marquise Pryor, Chicago (Orr)
Go get me a rebound, Marquise! And another. Go get me one more. The undersized 4-man is a man on the glass and a backbreaker to opposing teams with his keeping the ball alive and second-chance scoring opportunities. The 6-6 high-energy Pryor is arguably the best rebounder in the junior class and takes pride in it. And he's a better prospect than most people realize and a better player than some of the more ballyhooed names in this class.
• Jubril Adekoya, Tinley Park (Andrew)
The 6-5 junior first grabbed the Hoops Report's attention in the spring of 2009 as a promising 8th grader. But then a serious broken leg, which also involved the knee joint, kept him out of action until December of 2009. He was ultimately moved up to the varsity as a freshman. The recovery was slow and arduous for Adekoya, but he put together a solid sophomore season this past winter and has followed it up with an impressive summer for Meanstreets. He's strong, physical and has a terrific feel and understanding as an undersized 4-man who is trying to make his way to the perimeter. Adekoya continues to remind the Hoops Report of a former south suburban player, former Thornton star Joevan Catron, who just completed his career at Oregon.
• A.J. Patty, Westchester (St. Joseph)
If you watched Patty this past winter playing for legendary coach Gene Pingatore, he's a completely different player today. He still has a long ways to go physically, but the long, wiry 6-8 Patty is playing with more confidence and is just starting to put things together as a productive player. He runs the floor with ease and is much more skilled than you realize. This is an intriguing prospect going forward and should make another significant jump over the next 9-12 months.
• Elliott McGaughy, Oswego
This junior remains a secret in the Chicago area in the Class of 2013 -- arguably one of the best kept secrets -- but it won't be the fault of the Hoops Report. This kid can play. He averaged 18 points a game as a sophomore. When McGaughy, a 6-2 combo guard with natural scoring ability, plays with a fire and is focused he shines. He can score in bunches while also having the ability to distribute.
• Alec Peters, Washington
The name everyone talks about in the Peoria area for the past few months is Nate Taphorn of Pekin. While Taphorn's reputation has grown with the Illinois Wolves, Peters is another Peoria area player who has made a name for himself in the eyes of the Hoops Report. Here is a player who came out of nowhere as a prospect after a solid sophomore year. Peters has size at 6-6, strength and can really shoot the basketball. Peters is another player who is better than many of the more-talked-about prospects in the class but is still a relative unknown.