By Joe Henricksen

The top 25 college prospects in Illinois

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By Joe Henricksen

The high-major college coaches are salivating over the young talent in Illinois. After a year in which only two players from Illinois signed with high-major programs in the Class of 2012, there is a bumper crop waiting in the wings. And a couple of these prospects, particularly Simeon's Jabari Parker and Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor, become even more tantalizing to college coaches and even more coveted if the talk of increasing the age limit in the NBA Draft -- to 20 years old and at least two years removed from high school -- becomes a reality.

The Hoops Report has compiled a list and ranked the top college prospects in the state of Illinois, regardless of age or class. What makes this list so intriguing is the size, with the top five prospects on the list all 6-8 or bigger. That size, obviously, goes a long way in projecting these talented players at the next level.

These types of lists create all kinds of dialogue, debate and disagreement, but this isn't a list of the best or most productive high school players in Illinois. This list looks at players as "prospects" and who the very best college programs have their eye on and where the Hoops Report projects them as college players.

Here is a look at the top 25 college prospects -- regardless of class -- in Illinois today as we head into this 2011-2012 season.

1. Jabari Parker, 6-8, Jr., Chicago (Simeon)
He's been a part of two state title teams and showcased his talents nationally and internationally this past summer. The consensus is Parker is an elite talent with the character and mindset to achieve all that is expected. Parker has the size, skill, intangibles and a desire to be the best. We're talking one of the all-time greats to come out of Illinois.
Projection: A one-and-done college superstar in the mold of former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony, who led the Orangemen to a national championship in his one year playing under Jim Boeheim. Parker is that type of program-changing talent.

2. Jahlil Okafor, 6-10, So., Chicago (Whitney Young)
The talented Okafor will be the most productive true big man to come out of Illinois in years and a national recruit. Considering his age and experience, there are few weaknesses in Okafor's game. No current prep big man can affect a game in more ways due to his pure size, intelligence, nimble feet, soft hands and an advanced back-to-the-basket game.
Projection: Though it's rare to project "can't-miss" players at this age, Okafor is a surefire high-major difference-maker.

3. Cliff Alexander, 6-8, So., Chicago (Curie)
Came on for Curie in the second half of his freshman season and then burst on the scene this past spring and summer. He's another talented prospect with legit size and some bounce and athleticism to go with it. He finishes around the basket, is a terrific rebounder and runs the floor. The physical tools are there to be one of the better players in his class nationally. He will become the classic power player in time who finishes with authority.
Projection: A no-brainer high-major prospect. He's still young with a lot of room to grow as a player, so it's in the hands of the young big fella as to how good he wants to be at that high-major level.

4. Paul White, 6-8, So., Chicago (Whitney Young)
Another big name who has gained some national attention since an early age and is among the top 25 prospects nationally in his class. Possesses excellent all-around skills. Right now he does a lot of things well but nothing out of this world just yet, but he's young and still developing. Greatest strength is his combination of size and versatility, which makes him a do-everything, Swiss Army knife-type player. He will fill whatever role coach Tyrone Slaughter and the Dolphins need this winter.
Projection: Yet another high-level prospect who will play at the high-major level. Though he may not be as athletic as Evan Turner, he has a chance to be an Evan Turner-type player.

5. Kendrick Nunn, 6-1, Jr., Chicago (Simeon)
A tough, hard-nosed, athletic scorer who can put points on the board and knock down shots. He must gain consistency -- both with his shot and overall production -- but that will come with age and experience. Nunn has the tools to become a terrific defender on the perimeter.
Projection: He may be a small 2-guard at the high-major level, but he is blessed with three high-major qualities: shooting ability, toughness and athleticism. He's just a "player" who has the hunger and talent that will lead to success at the high-major level.

6. Malcolm Hill, 6-6, Jr., Belleville (East)
Has the ability to beat people off the dribble, get to the basket when he wants and finish with his length and athleticism. He's a big wing with enormous potential and an ability to get to the foul line, where he knocks down free throws.
Projection: The problem with trying to predict the future for Hill is that he keeps exceeding those predictions. He improves so rapidly that, at his present rate, he has a chance to surpass others on this list over the next two years. The sky is the limit, especially if his jumper can even get to the point where it at least has to be respected. Illinois commit solidified himself as a high-major player with a big sophomore campaign and then raised his game to another level this past spring and summer on the AAU circuit.

7. Gavin Schilling, 6-8, Jr., Chicago (De La Salle)
Full disclosure: The Hoops Report has seen very little of the new player to hit the Chicago area as he recently moved back to the area. Fluid athlete with size who can beat other players at his position up and down the court, get off the floor with a hint of explosiveness. Plus, he has the frame and body to fill out and become an ideal 4-man at the next level. Offensive game away from the basket a long way away. He's still developing, footwork has a ways to go, but look for Schilling to be one of the most coveted high-major prospects in the state within the next couple of months.
Projection: A high-major player who has a chance to be an impact player at that level with added strength and continued development in his offensive game. Still, he's a ways away.

8. Kendall Stephens, 6-4, Jr., St. Charles (East)
The Hoops Report has been a bigger fan of Stephens than most, but he's still far removed from becoming the player he will be down the road. A smooth, effortless shooter with range out to 23 feet, Stephens has the size, length and release to get his shot off when he wants. He's cool, composed and has a solid basketball I.Q., but the slender and rangy Stephens must continue to develop physically, take contact a little better and add a killer instinct.
Projection: High-major shooting stroke and size for a 2-guard will help him get on the floor early in his career. The Purdue recruit is a poor man's version of UConn star Jeremy Lamb.

9. Tommy Hamilton, 6-9, Jr., Chicago (Whitney Young)
The much-talked about power forward has some unique abilities in that he can step out to the three-point line and knock down shots, is a terrific passer and has a skill level that is extremely high for a player his size. But is the desire to dominate still coming?
Projection: Still possesses high-major skills for a player his size and the ability is there to be the player everyone projected he would be as a hotshot 8th grader and freshman. But there is work to be done for Hamilton to lower some of the red flags he has raised during his first two years of high school.

10. Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, So., Normal (U-High)
Considered a combo forward right now, there are some questions as to just what position he will play and defend at the next level. But Bates-Diop is just entering his sophomore season, so there is plenty of time to sort that out with continued development, maturity and growth. He's become more fluid, aggressive and sure of himself, which will lead to greater productivity going forward.
Projection: Bates-Diop may not be considered a high-major difference-making talent just yet, but he's a high-major prospect with high-major offers and growing interest. And he's so young and coming so fast. The combo forward is shooting up the ladder by the month and has as high of a ceiling as many of the more ballyhooed players on this list. There is still a little more catch-up for Keita, but he's coming fast.

11. Jalen Brunson, 5-11, Fr., Lincolnshire (Stevenson)
The Hoops Report absolutely loves Brunson's maturity and demeanor on the floor. He's calm, cool and cerebral with the ball in his hands. There is no player in the freshman class who has a better feel for the game or the point guard position. In fact, it's mind-boggling he's just a freshman -- the best freshman in Illinois. The reality is he should probably be even higher on this list, but lets allow the youngster to rise moderately.
Projection: Brunson is small right now but his father, Chicago Bulls assistant and former Temple and NBA player Rick Brunson, was a 6-4 guard. When Brunson adds a little size and strength, we could be talking one of the elite guards in the country in his class.

12. Tyquone Greer, 6-5, So., Chicago (Orr)
Greer has some of that crazy talent. Athletic, bouncy, wiry wing with length and very little fanfare thus far. When Greer starts to better utilize his athletic and scoring gifts by refining his ballhandling, his stock and production will soar.
Projection: At the same stage, he's a better prospect than former Orr star Mycheal Henry, who blossomed as a high-major in the eyes of the Hoops Report in the middle of his junior year. Although less heralded than nearly everyone else on this list, the Hoops Report believes Greer will be a high-major player if his progression continues over the next two years.

13. Billy Garrett, Jr., 6-4, Jr., Chicago (Morgan Park)
A true point guard with a terrific feel. He has the imagination, mindset, great guard size and shooting ability to overcome some athletic limitations. Garrett is a facilitator who is always in command of his team and has a knack for making the right play -- and big play -- when it matters most. He seems to be a player that can blend into any situation and run a team effectively.
Projection: He may not have the type of pure, untapped potential and raw ability and athleticism the elite "prospects" possess. But Garrett will do everything that will be asked of him as a high-major point guard and succeed.

14. Milik Yarbrough, 6-5, So., Zion-Benton
The Hoops Report loves players who put the ball in the hole, and Yarbrough does just that and in a variety of ways. Despite not being an electric athlete, Yarbrough is still an explosive offensive talent. Simply has a natural feel to score.
Projection: If Yarbrough gets to the height of his father, Del, and brother, Markus, (in the 6-7 to 6-8 range), and he works hard to stay in shape and his weight down, watch out.

15. Tyler Ulis, 5-7, So., Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)
Oh, he's tiny. But, man, can this kid play. He's been among the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2014 player rankings since this past summer. He has the unique ability to make everyone around him better.

16. Charles Matthews, 6-4, Fr., Chicago (St. Rita)
Exciting young talent with great length, instincts and size for a player who looks as if he will be able to play both guard spots before it's all said and done. For a young player, already has a nice repertoire of moves and mixes them up well to keep defenses guessing.
Projection: Yes, it's early, but hard to imagine Matthews not being among the top five prospects in the Class of 2015 throughout his high school career.

17. D.J. Williams, 6-5, Fr., Chicago (Simeon)
The next in line in the Simeon basketball factory? Long and wiry wing with size is probably a little more raw than some of the other freshmen on the list, but his upside is huge. With Williams, right now it's all about projection. And with players this young, upside is imperative.
Projection: This begins a run of young players on the list. And whether fair or not, the new game that is played in college recruiting -- projecting how high of a level freshmen can play at in college -- is here to stay. With an increased motor, assertiveness and continued work ethic, Williams can reach the lofty status of a high-major player.

18. Larry Austin, 6-1, So., Springfield (Lanphier)
Brings a lot of important intangibles to the floor, including strength, a winning attitude and a willingness to get out and defend. The jumper is still very suspect, but Austin is
Projection: The development of his perimeter jumper will determine if Austin continues to elevate his status as a prospect and where he fits in as a high-major prospect.

19. Steve Taylor, 6-7, Sr., Chicago (Simeon)
The old veteran on the list as Taylor is the first player in the Class of 2012 to crack the top 25 prospects. He may not have elite level athleticism and maybe doesn't lock into a specific position, but he's solidified himself as the No. 1 senior in Illinois as a consistent face-up 4-man.
Projection:Taylor will be a solid contributor at Marquette.

20. Rashuan Stimage, 6-7, Sr., Chicago (Farragut)
All indications are Stimage will be heading the JUCO route, but a couple of years of development, focus and polish should land the athletic and blue-collar Stimage at the high-major level.
Projection: It's up to Stimage as to what level he wants to play. If he wants to be a high-major, he will be. He has that type of potential, talent and athleticism.

21. Sterling Brown, 6-4, Jr., Maywood (Proviso East)
This could be the breakout year for Brown, who has been a work in progress but a player who has, slowly but surely, improved his game and production. He can slash to the basket and has a very developed mid-range game. A big season will generate more high-major interest.
Projection: Brown is just starting to figure it all out and put it together, which makes him so intriguing. Though he may not project to be a superstar at the highest level, the Hoops Report believes Brown will be a solid high-major player.

22. Jalen James, 6-3, Jr., Chicago (Hope Academy)
There is a whole lot to like with James whenit comes to being a smooth, pass-first, run-your-team point guard with good size. He glides up and down the floor and is patient in the halfcourt, allowing plays to unfold and putting teammates in position to succeed.
Projection: Illinois locked him up this past summer before he really enhanced his stock on the recruiting scene. The injury this past summer slowed his progress and development. Nonetheless, James will only get better but needs to improve his shooting and overcome a lack of explosiveness.

23. Jordan Ash, 6-0, Fr., Westchester (St. Joseph)
He's been the hot name among players in the Class of 2015, even receiving an offer from DePaul before he played a high school game. A talented and explosive lead guard who is looking to improve his perimeter jumper.
Projection: If he can lock into one of the two guard positions, many high-major offers will undoubtedly come his way as he's strong, athletic, works hard and is very explosive.

24. Prentiss Nixon, 6-1, Fr., Bolingbrook
A good, young athlete with just enough skill and court savvy for a young player to open a lot of eyes as a freshman. But it's his perimeter jumper that looks so good for a player his age.
Projection: Nixon excited high-major coaching staffs that stopped in and checked out his open gyms this past fall. As his shooting becomes more consistent and his point guard skills develop, his stock will continue to rise.

25. Kyle Davis, 6-0, Jr., Chicago (Hyde Park)
An absolutely explosive player in the open court and getting to the rim. The undersized scoring 2-guard can put points on the board and wreak some havoc.
Projection: In the right system and style of play, Davis can land at the high-major level. But he needs to find one that gets out in the open court and in transition, where he can go make plays.

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23 Comments

No Dominique Matthews... Wow! He led his his team as a freshman the most on varsity than any other prospect...

I am a hoops follower in the Northern burbs. Glad to see Yarbrough on the list, as he dominated my Lake Forest Scouts last year.

1) Was surprised to see Robert Knar of Mundelein not on the list? He can't be too far down? This kid has got to be among the best pure shooters in state. When he was a freshman, he and Ben Brust used to knock down NBA 3's from everywhere. Brust just had 7 3's in a game for Wisconsin.

2) How far down the list is Javarius (sp?) Amos-Mays of North Chicago? Had he not transferred to NC from ZB, ZB would have been extremly tough in the next couple years (though I would not be surprised if he transferred back to ZB for next season, as he has long been part of this much hyped Zion class). I think he is what NC needed to bring a 3A state title to Lake County, after nearly beating mighty Warren.

Very nice blog.

E.

Ok well I have never knocked your list but are u serious. U said the TOP I don't know what games, u guys be watching but the TOP and The BEST player in Illinois and who should be MR Basketball is FRED VAN FLEET hands down. Come on guys u talk all this stuff about all these Chicago kids but theres no one in Illinois who can stop or even compete with this kid. I mean he carried his AAU Team all summer him and Posley. If anyone out there wants to disagree please come on, would love to hear this. Yes he already signed already but so has other players on the list, but to keep him off is disrepectful.

Joe Henricksen you are definitely biased...

As the person stated above, "no Dominique Mathews"... I agree with that comment...

Also, you don't have Jaylon Tate on your list... RIDICULOUS!!!!!!

You mean to tell us that Jordan Ash, Jalen Brunson and Prentiss Nixon are better prospects than Tate and the elder Matthews... it's obvious to me that you don't know ANYTHING!!!

Thank god you're a writer and not a college coach... if you were a coach you wouldn't have your job after your first 100 point loss...

Also, you are a De Lasalle sympathizer.... you don't include Tate on any of you lists or articles because, like coach White, you're mad as hell he left that place... believe me, it shows.

There is not another guard in this state that has better defense, faster, quicker, sees the floor better than Tate.

I hope you come to a lot of Simeon's games so you can take your place with the rest of the haters!!!

A freshman guard from Bolingbrook, a better prospect than Tate... God please, give me a break!

You are definitely a smoker.

Joe a DeLaSalle guy? Please! He freaking loves Simeon and Young so I say biased towards DeLaSalle? Funny. But there must be a reason why Tate is no longer in the top dozen prospects in his OWN class by Hoops Report, Chicago Hoops, etc. and high major offers haven't been flying his way. Just saying.

I think Tha Real might be the hater here! Ha! Damn. Let the kids play!

Ok guys Tate is good ok good but Fred van fleet would eat every city player every suburban player alive. For him not to be top on the list is crazy. Now if all u guys watch basketball u all know about him. I agree I could name ten other players then these freshman come on. Joe u know Fred is the man come on show the kid some love he earned it. Tate should have been up there though

D.Matthews was the leading scorer for St. Rita last year, J. Tate, Marcus Smith, the list can go on. Basketball has become the next political campaign.

Talked to several college coaches I know and they aren't as crazy on Tha Real's guys" as Tha Real seems to be.

Way to cater to the Chicago Hoops readers by putting Ulis on the list. I do not believe for a second that he is a top 25 overall prospect in the state. There is a lot of buzz on Chicago Hoops about him right now, that fueled his inclusion to this list.

I understand the Van Vleet exlcusion because there are 25 high D1 players between the 2013-2015 classes. Ulis is not one of them though.

Fred van Vleet is easily the best guard I've seen, hands down. Saw him just plain abuse most team's D1 guards this summer who usually threw two guys at him. Marcus didn't help carry the team by the way. He just jacked up tons of shots and got alot of publicity by taking the most shots. PT had several other players that brought it as well. But Fred is unstoppable. Also heard Marcus got sent back to his old school while trying to get over to Fred's school? True?

And Joe, comparing Kendall Stevens to Lamb??? The age thing, I think, is catching up to you. That is the most way out comment I think you've ever made. A strong gust will blow the kid over. And Lamb is on a super high level. KS will never even get close to that.

People need to actually play against Fred Van Vleet to really know how good he is. Watching just doesn't do it. he does stuff to you like you can't believe. You need to experience it.

Love all the comments on things like this and on message boards from people who most have a personal tie to and support and pump up. I love it even more when the kids they pump up aren't even getting recruited at the level the people say they are.

Hey len I don't live in rockford and my son should be on the list with tons of other kids but when I didn't see Fred it was a slap in the face. Fred came to choops events and dominated all the so called city killers. He killed MAC irvin best he smashed the wolverines best he crushed the Illinois wolves best oh and full package best. Joe and Brian both know him very well. I understand he doesn't live in Chicago and does wear the fire the wolves or mean street on his chest but the boy can flat out play. I just hate to see a kid who doesn't get his props. He's a strong guard and I put him on the top of Mr basketball list. Jabari will win when he's a senior but this year Fred deserves it. He is the top ballers in his class!!!

hbarnes -

You have quite the man crush on Fred Van Fleet! I would wager money its his little sister submitting this entry. Regardless, lets not award him Mr. Basketball before the season has even started yet. AAU ball doesn't factor into Mr. Basketball, so that argument has little merit. Yes, he's talented, but he will have a tough time putting up a resume that will top Jabari Parker's this year. Jabari is playing essentially a national schedule, against the best of the best. He is on the LSU or Alabama of Illinois high school basketball, where Fred Van Fleet is playing for Boise St.; a non-BCS school and much less competitive conference and opponent-base. Both will do very well, but Fred likely won't lead his team to a State title, and Jabari will have done that for multiple years. And individual talents won't gain as much recognition if your school isn't somewhat successful during March Madness, and fair or unfair, Simeon is clearly the class of the state right now. Thats reality. So you may have a point that Fred should be represented on the list, but comparing him to the best player, on the best team in the nation is a debate you will never win.

Joe - can you pls answer my questions from above?????

Thanks.

E.

I haven't seen Van Fleet play but I have heard he is an excellent point guard so I will take your guys word for it. Yes Tate should be on this list as should Amos-Mays. I have some guys that might be able to make this list that most people have not heard about. One is Lorenzo Dillard 6 foot 2 point guard Class of 2013 of Niles North. He was one of the top 5 incoming freshmen two years ago at Evanston. He has had some academic and behavioral issues while he was at Evanston. Heard he is not eligible until second semester but might help the Vikings. Also Emmanuel January 6 foot 0 point guard Class of 2013 of Waukegan. He's tough to keep out of the lane off the dribble but plays well at both ends of the court. Ironic both Dillard and January were at Evanston two years ago.

Joe you take the criticism well on here when people rant on and on about stuff. Some analsysts out there go overboard in defending themselves and shouting back at their readers. Do you read them all and just ignore? Thanks and keep up the great work.

Think they forgot Jubril Adekoya out of Andrew - junior this year who is a BEAST!

How about a refresh of this list, now that the season is over?

Knar of Mundelein is not one of the top 25 players. If it weren't for his Coach(His Daddy) He wouldn't score as much. Would rather have Sean O'Brien, more of a team player. . Only starter who stays in the games when team is up 20. Also is still the only kid shooting with team up 20. cannot play a lick of D. Slow, and always defends the other teams worst player on the court. Always choked in big games against Warren. Listed at 6'1". Was actually measured at 5'11".

Jonathan Lewis of Warren High School should be rank as well. Class of 2015 6-2 solid 187lbs soph.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on November 29, 2011 6:20 AM.

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