By Joe Henricksen
The early signing period for the Class of 2012 is one we haven't seen in quite some time here in Illinois.
First, there will only be two players -- Simeon's Steve Taylor (with Marquette) and Crete-Monee's Michael Orris (with Illinois) -- in the senior class signing with a school in a high-major conference. That's far from the norm out of the state of Illinois. Second, as of the opening day of the early signing period, there looks to be just four players from the typically loaded Chicago Public League to sign letters-of-intent with Division I basketball programs. Four?
Nonetheless, there are a couple dozen players throughout Illinois whose dream of signing a Division I scholarship becomes a reality this week.
Now, pretend for a moment there was a magical formula or a high-tech computer system -- you know, like the BCS computer rankings or the formula for baseball's OPS -- where we could input all types of factors and statistics, including the talent and ability of the player, the level of the college program they are signing with, the best possible player/team fit, etc. ... What the Hoops Report computer would spit out would be a Signing Day power ranking, which would include an Impact Scale based on how important and big of a recruit that player is for his respective school. And it would look a little something like this:
Impact Scale: 10
Jordan Smith and Nate Brooks, Whitney Young (University of Chicago)
There may not be an official letter-of-intent or athletic scholarship at the Division III level, but make no mistake, Smith and Brooks to the University of Chicago is the fall signing period's biggest steal -- even without the signatures. Imagine an independent film maker landing Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe to star in his indie film? Happy early Thanksgiving, coach Mike McGrath. In recent years, the highest ranked Hoops Report player to land at the Division III level was Morton's Luke Scarlata a couple of years ago. Scarlata was the No. 44 ranked player in the Class of 2010. Although that Class of 2010 was certainly stronger and deeper than the current senior group, the fact Smith is currently the No. 30 ranked player in the Class of 2012 -- and Brooks is among the top 60 -- shows the type of impact recruits the University of Chicago has landed.
Impact Scale: 8.5
Fred Van Vleet, Rockford Auburn (Wichita State)
Wichita State, the NIT champs a year ago and expected to contend for a Missouri Valley Conference title this season, landed the perfect fit for its style and program. If the cerebral point guard would have stayed on the open market -- he committed just before the July evaluation period -- Van Vleet certainly would have had a few high-majors involved and courting him after his play in July. But the cool, mild-mannered Van Vleet would have none of it. He stayed true to those who recruited him early and the hardest. Now he's signing with a program that wants its point guard to simply run a team, direct traffic, make others better and limit the mistakes at the position. Van Vleet, who is arguably the biggest winner in this senior class, will do all of that for coach Gregg Marshall and the Shockers.
Impact Scale: 8
Tony Hicks, St. Rita (Penn)
By the time the first week of the July evaluation period had ended, Hicks, who was scoring in bunches, was entertaining offers from a number of mid-major and mid-major plus programs. Fortunately for Penn of the Ivy League, Hicks is a grounded kid who took his academics and future after basketball seriously. Thus, an Ivy League program that has struggled of late -- the Quakers have suffered through four consecutive losing seasons -- landed a potential difference-maker at the low-Division I level.
Impact Scale: 7.5
Steve Taylor, Simeon (Marquette)
While nabbing the consensus top-ranked player in Illinois in 2012 isn't quite as headline-grabbing as other years, Marquette still accomplished quite a bit in signing the 6-7 Simeon star. First, they landed a player that is ranked by some as a top 100 recruit nationally (#56 by Scout.com, #64 by ESPN.com, #108 by Rivals.com). Second, coach Buzz Williams and his staff tapped into the city of Chicago and, specifically, the talent pipeline that is Simeon, and signed a high-profile recruit out of Illinois. Marquette, which has been in on several Illinois prospects in the past, now has a link going forward.
Milton Doyle, Marshall (Florida International)
In the most recent issue of ESPN The Magazine, every college team in the country is ranked 1-344. Florida International, coached by legendary Illinois prep and NBA player Isiah Thomas, checked in at No. 303 and picked near the bottom of the Sun Belt Conference. With Doyle, FIU hit the jackpot in helping the Golden Panthers climb up the conference ladder. This is your classic recruiting steal. Doyle, a long, active 6-4 wing, sat out last season with an injury and then didn't play on the AAU circuit this past summer. This is an under-the-radar talent, who the Hoops Report had pegged as a mid-major prospect if Doyle had decided to play out his senior season and wait until the spring signing period. Instead, FIU has a
Impact Scale: 7
Marcus Posley, Winnebago (Ball State)
Plain and simple, Posley is an ideal Mid-American Conference player. The strong, compact, rugged 2-guard can still thrive at his 6-0 (maybe 6-1) size in the MAC and be a potential difference-maker. For a program that is fresh off its first winning season since 2002 and poised as a sleeper this winter in the league race, Ball State snuck across the border and stole a good one in Posley and has elevated its recruiting presence in Illinois.
Impact Scale: 5.5
Darius Paul, Warren (Western Michigan)
Western Michigan grabbed three Illinois products in the 2012 class, including St. Rita's A.J. Avery and Lake Forest Academy's Charles Harris, but securing a kid with the size and potential of Darius Paul was its biggest recruiting coup out of Illinois. If the 6-8 Paul, the No. 17 ranked prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings, comes to grips with who is as a player at the next level, he has the ability to make a big impact in the Mid-American Conference.
Anthony Beane, Normal (Illinois State)
There are a handful of players in the Class of 2012 who are far from reaching their potential and have higher ceilings than most. The uber-athletic and lanky Beane, a 6-2 point guard who led Normal to a top four finish in Class 4A last March, is one of those players. Beane is smoothing over some flaws, but he has some eye-opening physical tools and projects nicely as a prospect.
Darrell Combs, Thornwood (Loyola)
There is always a need for players who can put the ball in the hole, which Combs has the ability to do. The 6-2 scoring guard averaged over 18 points a game as a junior. First-year coach Porter Moser landed a smooth prospect with upside and who the Hoops Report always felt was undervalued.
Impact Scale: 5.0
Cameron Harvey, Wheaton Academy (Eastern Illinois)
While this signing won't generate a lot of buzz among the Class of 2012 recruits, the Hoops Report believes Harvey is on the verge of a breakout season for coach Paul Ferguson's Wheaton Academy club. And if Harvey puts together the season the Hoops Report anticipates, then coach Mike Miller and Eastern Illinois are going to be glad they locked up the big-bodied guard in November.