By Joe Henricksen
Yeah, yeah, there are some who get tired of it all. They get sick of hearing all the praise thrown at young players. And they get irritated by the annual over-hype created by the media and the now two-dozen plus "talent evaluators" in Illinois. It happens. But that's not the case with the Class of 2013 in Illinois.
When this class entered high school a little more than two years ago, the talk centered mostly around the trio of Simeon's Jabari Parker, Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton and De La Salle's Alex Foster. Now the junior class as a whole is set to make its mark on the high school basketball season this winter -- and show it's as good as advertised.
"I do think there are times when Chicago kids get a little too much hype, maybe even overrecruited," says one high-major college coach. "But not with this group. Plus, there is some great depth in that class in Illinois that will trickle down to the mid-major level."
There are some who made a name for themselves last season as sophomores, but this group, collectively, is poised to blossom as players and prospects over the next five months when things finally matter again.
Parker, one of the most coveted players in the country, is obviously at the top. And that's not changing. Derrick Rose, the former Simeon star and current NBA MVP, entered high school as clearly the best prospect in his class and remained the best prospect throughout his high school career. The same goes with Parker.
The next group that rounds out the top five, including Simeon's Kendrick Nunn, St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens, Belleville East's Malcolm Hill and Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, are pretty much interchangeable at this point. And looking down the list of prospects, there will be double-digit players from this junior class who end up in high-major conferences. Now we finally get to see and enjoy them as veterans at the varsity level.
Here is a look at the Hoops Report's top dozen college prospects (the list will be added to later this week) in the Class of 2013 in Illinois.
1. Jabari Parker, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
When it's all said and done, Parker will be one of the top five prospects ever produced out of the state of Illinois -- ever. Now it's a matter of just where the versatile Parker falls among the all-time greats as he builds his Chicago hoops legacy. No player in the state can affect a game in more ways. He has the entire package -- size, skill, basketball I.Q.and intangibles -- which is why he's the No. 1 player in the country in his class.
2. Kendrick Nunn, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
He may be an undersized 2-guard, but Nunn is explosive off the floor and can stretch a defense with his shooting ability. Look for Nunn to blossom this winter in comparison to his role-playing ways of last season; Nunn will rarely be less than effective and frequently brilliant this season for the No. 1 team in the state (and country?). With his de-commitment from Texas A&M, Nunn is a highly coveted prospect nationally.
3. Kendall Stephens, 6-4, 2G, St. Charles (East)
Long and smooth with a beautiful, consistent shooting stroke and size on the perimeter that allows him to get his shot off. He's still physically developing and maturing as a player, which is why his upside remains so high. The Purdue recruit will put up some big offensive numbers this season and only get better as he adds to his game over the next two years.
4. Malcolm Hill, 6-5, WF, Belleville (East)
Has the look of a big-time prospect with size, length, body and bounce of a high-major wing player. In the last 12 months he's blossomed as a player but with that untapped potential and high ceiling still present. Hill's dimensions, athleticism and versatility ensures he will be a matchup nightmare at the prep level. The Illinois commitment never seems to overdo things and uses his strengths to his advantage. If Hill's perimeter shot ever gets to the point where it needs to be respected and a still developing killer instinct completely evolves, this could be the best prospect in the class not named Jabari Parker.
5. Tommy Hamilton, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
A big five months ahead for the talented but enigmatic Hamilton, who is looking to finally put together an impressive stretch of basketball. Enormously skilled -- he can draw opposing big men out to the three-point line and make a no-look pass with the best of them -- Hamilton hopes to quiet critics with a big junior year playing alongside Jahlil Okafor.
6. Billy Garrett, 6-4, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with his combination of size, smarts and shooting ability. Garrett, a DePaul commit, is a heady lead guard and confident player who simply makes the right plays at the right time. He's a player who is perfectly content with playing distributor -- as long as his team is playing well -- for 31 minutes, but he wants to take that big shot and make the key play with the clock winding down.
7. Gavin Schilling, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Look for Schilling, who missed most of the summer with an injury, to emerge as one of the elite prospects in the class this winter. An underrated athlete with a great looking body for a 4-man. He possesses nice length and bounce off the floor, runs the floor fluidly and features touch and feel around the basket.
8. Sterling Brown, 6-4, WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
Slowly but surely Shannon Brown's little brother gets better and better. He's long, agile and is certainly a promising prospect who has not yet come close to maximizing his talent. Still developing that killer instinct and aggressiveness to take over a game, but he's starting to become more consistent, assertive and productive as he matures.
9. Kyle Davis, 6-0, 2G, Chicago (Hyde Park)
There aren't many players more explosive in getting to the basket or in the open floor than Davis. He's not a point guard at the next level as others insist. And though he's an undersized 2-guard with a suspect jumper, Davis is a player who could thrive in the right system and style of play. Davis is an energetic athlete who makes plays and constantly puts pressure on opponents at both ends of the floor.
10. Russell Woods, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Leo)
An athletic 4-man who will rebound, run the floor and has a body that will evolve into the type of college basketball physique coaches covet. Right now, though, his offensive game must take a big step forward if he wants to take his game to another level. Woods needs to get back to being a no-nonsense player and a rebounding and defensive presence.
11. Jaylon Tate, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Simeon)
The talented Tate makes the move from De La Salle to Simeon, where his role will certainly be different than the past two years. Tate may lack the ideal burst and athleticism, but at his best he is a calm, composed, distributing lead guard. If Tate's shooting accuracy improves, his versatility will become a strength and his stock will rise.
12. Jalen James, 6-3, PG, Chicago (Hope Academy)
James needed July to enhance his skills and further his development, but the pure point guard, who loves to pass and is at his his best making those around him better, missed most of the summer with an injury. The Illinois commit, unfortunately, won't be tested or pushed a whole lot playing at Hope, but he's a promising all-around talent at his position. He's more interested in setting up his teammates than chucking shots, but his perimeter jumper and lack of any real explosiveness is cause for concern at the high-major level.