By Joe Henricksen
The three most talked about prospects in the state of Illinois this summer have been:
1. Jabari Parker of Simeon
2. Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young
3. Cliff Alexander of Curie
Parker ... because he's the best freaking prospect in the country regardless of class. And that tends to generate a little interest, you know?
Okafor ... because he's added big-time offers from major programs across the country, played on the U.S. National Team, is 6-10, 260 pounds and has been a fixture in top 10 rankings in the Class of 2014 for over a year.
And Alexander, because ... like Okafor, is blessed with tremendous size and potential while opening eyes and blossoming nationally this summer.
Take the national rankings for what they're worth -- and depending on which one you are looking at, who knows what you'll find and agree with -- but by and large, the top 20-30 kids in any class are the ones the national experts aren't bamboozled by. After the top 30 or 40 it's easy to start losing legitimacy in national rankings.
So taking a look at the recently released ESPN.com national rankings, Parker is No. 1 in the Class of 2013. He's also the No. 1 player in Scout.com's rankings. In the Class of 2014 -- and yes, a lot can change in three years -- Okafor remains in ESPN.com's top 10 at No. 3 overall among sophomores, while Alexander made the huge jump to No. 13 overall. So, yes, the summer hype was warranted and the endless chatter about the three is legitimate. Those are some lofty standards for our young players from Illinois.
But oddly, one of the least talked about players in Illinois this summer has been Paul White of Whitney Young. And guess where White is ranked by ESPN.com? No. 17. Yes, the No. 17 player in the country, who is a 6-8 point forward, has been an afterthought.
The biggest reason is due to the fact White missed a great deal of the summer with an injury. During the U.S. National Team tryouts for his age group in June, White dislocated a finger. He took some time off, aggravated it and doctors told him to shut it down. That kept White out of action throughout the month of July. And it drove him nuts.
"I'm not going to lie, it has been frustrating for me," says White of not being able to play and while listening to how good everyone else has been this past summer. "Words can't describe how frustrating it was being on the sideline."
He could only watch -- and listen -- to the superlatives being thrown around to other players in Illinois.
"Just seeing these guys have terrific summers and seeing how Cliff [Alexander] took off this summer is great for them, but I wasn't able to even get out there and play," White explains. "I wasn't able to show people what I can do as a player. I do kind of feel forgotten, but that's just more motivation for me."
The fact is, White has hardly been forgotten in the grand scheme of things. He was hurt, didn't play, missed July and the potential buzz that comes with it. While it's unfortunate -- and maybe not even right -- the summer evaluation period is a "What have you done for me lately?" scenario.
However, White is an enormously gifted talent who is yet another high-major prospect in the Class of 2014. He's a point-forward type with great size. White's substantial length and skill, along with his versatility, make him such an intriguing prospect. Adding consistency to his game, which often comes with age and maturity, may be the final step in White evolving into a go-to type this season.
When you throw in White with the group that already includes Parker, Okafor and Alexander, we're talking four players who are all underclassmen, all 6-8 or bigger who will all likely be ranked among the top 25 players in their respective class.
While White is a coveted prospect, he says recruiting and his college destination have taken a back seat. Plus, he says he has mom to take care of the recruiting end of things.
"Getting back on the floor and looking ahead to this season is on my mind 24/7," says White of his current focus. "Thinking about what college I want to attend is about the last thing on my mind. My first priority is to get healthy and get better as a player. My second priority is to take care of my team at Whitney Young. We have big goals for this season. College will be there, but I'm not even going to worry about that right now."
White insists he has no present leader. He will take some unofficial visits this fall. This summer, White says, Missouri, Arizona and Marquette are "three schools that have really stepped up their interest." They join a list that includes Illinois, DePaul, Purdue and Wisconsin as those that have been heavily involved, White says.
And there will be plenty more once White gets back on the floor. Don't worry, Paul White. You haven't been forgotten.
HOOPS REPORT MAILBAG III
Another Hoops Report Mailbag is coming -- Part III. Any reader can email the City/Suburban Hoops Report at firstname.lastname@example.org with a question pertaining to anything high school basketball/recruiting related with the questions and answers coming in a future Hoops Report blog. List "mailbag" in the subject line of the email and include a name (name can be anything -- first name, full name or nickname, initials, etc.) and list where you are from.
Below are links to the past two Hoops Report Mailbags. As you see in earlier mailbags, there is some creativity and fun in the questions and answers. The Hoops Report will try to answer all the questions it can in an upcoming blog.