By Joe Henricksen

Several seniors still stating their case

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By Joe Henricksen

The regular season is coming to a close this weekend, with Class 4A and 3A regional action tipping off Monday night. With the arrival of state tournament play, it's a final chance for college coaches to take in game action of prospects who remain unsigned and uncommitted. The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at many of the senior prospects who hope to leave one lasting impression on a college coach in the coming two weeks.

• Jerron Wilbut, Downers Grove South
There is a flurry of interest surrounding the athletic 6-3 guard, which will only enhance as Wilbut gets closer to qualifying between now and the end of the school year. Wilbut is the Hoops Report's No. 3 ranked prospect in the senior class in Illinois.
Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg was in to see Wilbut Wednesday night and remains very interested. Wilbut took in the DePaul-Louisville game last weekend as the Blue Demons continue to keep tabs, and Oregon has been very active in recruiting Wilbut throughout the season. Cleveland State, Missouri State and Dayton all are in the mix as well, while Maryland is the latest program to show an interest. The Terrapins are expected to make a trip to the Chicago area to catch Wilbut in state tournament action.
• Willie Conner, Crane
The interest in the big-bodied, strong 6-4 wing was minimal when the summer concluded, but since Conner has pumped in over 20-plus a night for coach Chris Head's Cougars, the interest has picked up considerably from a wide-range of schools from the low-major and mid-major levels. Conner is now among the top 20 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings and one of the better unsigned players on the board.
"When it's all said and done, he's going to be a mid-major, a high mid-major college player," says Head. "Willie's best basketball is ahead of him because he works so hard. He's a student-athlete, a great kid with a solid support system. He's one of the best players in the city."
• Akeem Springs, Waukegan
The 6-3 wing brings a lot to the table, including versatility and outstanding academics. After having committed to Tennessee State and then de-committing, then signing with Mississippi Valley State and then being released, Springs is on the open market again.
UIC has been heavily involved, recently offering the four-year Waukegan star. Florida A&M has offered and even Mississippi Valley State has remained in the mix. Several Ivy League schools remain in the hunt, with prep school still an option. Springs, who is currently battling a shoulder injury that pops in and out of placed, has received inquiries from Nebraska, Penn State and Ole Miss.

• Devin Foster, Curie
If there was a Most Improved Player Award in high school basketball, Foster would be in the mix when looking at how far he's come as a player since the end of last season. He's been one of the Public League's most productive and consistent players all winter, averaging nearly 19 points a game and having a knack for making plays when his team needs them the most.

"He just does so much and impacts a game is many ways," says Curie coach Mike Oliver, whose team is 24-2 heading into state tournament play.

Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Pan American, Western Illinois and IPFW have all shown a growing interest in the 6-3 guard who climbed into the Hoops Report's top 20 prospects in the senior class.
• Paris Burns, Proviso East
The City/Suburban Hoops Report has been on the Burns bandwagon since watching him shine with his new Proviso East team this past fall and now throughout the season. He continues to be one of the overlooked talents in the senior class, an unsigned "player" who may not fit any one description or position but just makes plays. The 5-9 Burns, who is blessed with tremendous quickness and athleticism, is a playmaker who constantly puts pressure on opposing guards.
"There aren't many players in high school who constantly attack on both ends of the floor," says Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce. "He's a player who loves to compete."
Burns, who is averaging just over 13 points a game for the state's No. 2 ranked team, poured in 30 points in a win earlier this season. He has offers from Hampton and Florida A&M, while Niagara, Northeastern, Wisconsin-Green Bay, LaSalle and Valpo have all checked in on Burns. He is among the top 30 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings and should be coveted by low-Division I schools.

• Gabe Levin, Oak Park
Another player whose stock has soared, both in the eyes of the Hoops Report and Division I college coaches. Levin, who the Hoops Report projected as an ideal small college prospect at the Division II/NAIA level following the summer, has proven the Hoops Report and many wrong by solidifying himself as a Division I prospect since the start of the season. The 6-6 senior proved his worth once again Wednesday in a loss to Proviso East, scoring 19 points, pulling down 15 rebounds and adding six blocks and five steals. On the season, Levin  is averaging 19 points, 9 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2 assists a game.
"He's improved every facet of his game," says Oak Park coach Matt Maloney. "He has worked tirelessly on becoming a wing player and has shown improved ball-handling, passing, shooting and defensive work on the perimeter. He is much more assertive and confident this year."
Loyola, Colgate, South Dakota State and Sacramento State have all offered Levin, while both Bradley and Wright State showing interest.

• Kory Brown, Elgin
The 6-4 senior has put together a stellar career at Elgin and has flown under the radar this season in leading the Maroons to a 21-3 record and an appearance in Friday's Upstate Eight Conference title game. Although Brown has several Division II offers, he has yet to attract at Division I offer at this point. However, led by heavy interest from Loyola, along with Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois, Brown's Division I interest has picked up. A stat sheet stuffer and a top 35 prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings, Brown is averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds a game.

• Donald Moore, Bloom
The jet-quick Moore has grown as a point guard. Just ask his coach, veteran Jasper WIlliams.
"In comparison to last year, it's like night and day," says Williams. "He's making such good decisions at the end of basketball games and is doing a better job of getting everyone involved."
Moore still has time to score for the 24-3 Blazing Trojans. He's averaging 16 points a game, along with four assists while shooting 41 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the line.
The Division I interest has been mild, even though Moore has improved his academic standing and is now a full qualifier. Cal-Poly and Northeastern have been the most active in recruiting Moore.
• Tim Williams, Homewood-Flossmoor
The 6-7 versatile forward has been healthy after a junior year in which he missed almost the entire season and splitting time between football and basketball in the offseason. Williams has decided to focus solely on basketball going forward and will be taking an official visit to Florida International this weekend. Both Toledo and IPFW have shown the most interest in Williams, who is averaging 11.5 points and 7 rebounds a game.
• Eddie Alcantera, Hales Franciscan
The big-bodied, athletic 6-4 wing has had a solid season and picked up an offer from Pepperdine. Utah has recently been in to check on Alcantera and remains interested, while he's also heard from the likes of Oklahoma, Florida State, Northeastern and La Salle.

Hoops Report's Top 15 Uncommitted Seniors
1. Rashaun Stimage, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Farragut)
A big-time talent with athleticism and upside who will be headed the juco route.
2. Jerron Wilbut, 6-3, 2G, Downers Grove (South)
As his academic standing continues to improve, so does the interest.
3. Marlon Johnson, 6-9, PF, Joliet (West)
After a couple of years of juco, Johnson could emerge as a high-major player.
4. Akeem Springs, 6-3, 2G, Waukegan
A prospect who brings a nice combination of toughness and academics.
5. Willie Conner, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Crane)
Big, strong, physical wing who gets a lot done and plays hard.
6. Devin Foster, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Curie)
Has put his name on the map with an outstanding senior season.
7. Eddie Alcantera, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Hales)
Absolutely looks the part and could be a big perimeter defender at the next level.
8. Tim Williams, 6-7, PF, Homewood-Flossmoor
Hoping to put together a big senior run this March.
9. Jaleni Neely, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Simeon)
The best pure point guard available in the senior class and Simeon's key in March.
10. Kevin Jordan, 6-10, C, Peoria (Central)
Another promising junior college big man prospect who has really improved his game.
11. Gabe Levin, 6-6, WF/PF, Oak Park-River Forest
Continues to get better and better while impacting games in a variety of ways.
12. Paris Burns, 5-10, PG/2G, Proviso East
Doesn't have the size or a true position, but he's a playmaker and tough as they get.
13. Kory Brown, 6-4, WF, Elgin
May not do any one thing great but does a lot of different things well.
14. Donald Moore, 5-11, PG, Bloom
Has evolved into a solid point guard who brings true speed and quickness to the position.
15. Jawad Adekoya, 6-4, WF, Tinley Park (Andrew)
Has been hampered with an injury of late, but he's been impressive.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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Thanks for this list. At this time of the year it is interesting to see the players whose level of play has risen, but are not yet committed. Call them late bloomers.

It would seem one of the local colleges, UIC, Loyola or NIU could sweep in and recruit some very good players whose best basketball is in front of them. And at the same time raise these college programs up and out of the muck. Yes, the college coaches have to "bet on the come" so to speak, but the upside is there.

Give me Stimage, Williams, Foster, and Neely. Or give me Paris Burns or Donald Moore along with Alcantera, and Adekoya. I am betting you will have some very nice building blocks to improve your program immediately. And each of these programs need improving.

Might be a future column for you Joe - those late bloomers in high school who are now playing well in college.

Hey Joe,
Have you heard any talk about Josh Fleming from Glenbard North. Class act and very underrated. Co DupageValley player of the year with Starks from W Aurora?

I think Juwan Starks from West Aurora should be on that list.

Joe, when are you coming out with your predictions for the state tournament?

Just a question on some junior I have recently watched play. Parish McCullum of St. Patrick. Not sure if you've seen him, but you have to check him out. He's a 6'5 forward who has had a great second half of the season. I can't wait to see this kid senior year. Heard of any schools looking at him? Ever seen him?

If anyone can tell me how college coaches pick players, you have several legs up on the rest of the world. Kids I've known that I thought were easily D1 don't even get looked at and kids that I thought were D3 are all of a sudden playing D1. Sometimes it's who you know I guess. It doesn't make any sense to me, and I played D1 basketball. So if anyone else is confused, I'm with you. Kory Brown, Josh Flemming, two good players. Then you have Wilbut whose a poor student and a head case and everyone wants him. He's a train wreck waiting to happen. Then coaches wonder when they get him. Fred Van Vleet, awesome player. Only ends up at Wichita State? Nobody wanted the kid from Riverside Brookfield a few years back and he ends up being a leading scorer in the league his freshman year? WTF. I don't get how the whole thing works.

Yep, predictions and ratings, like lottery tickets, should be for simply for fun boys and girls. It's all opinions and they tend to feed on themselves. Some valid, some not. If any analyst or supposed college scout, including Joe, starts to think how right they are at picking talent,I have two words for them. Anthony Davis! No excuses. They all missed the kid that will likely be the top pick in the NBA draft after one season. He was right in front of you. Seriously, no excuses, including that "well, everyone else missed him too" type excuse. It's all just opinions. I'll give you another, the current great at Brown University from Riverside Brookfield, Sean McGonnagill. No one wanted him. He's laughing at all of them now! I could go on, but you get the idea. I shake my head at quality kids that end up playing at lesser institutions who are way better than kids who made it. it's all opinions.

Missed on Anthony Davis? Do you mean that Anthony Davis grew from being 6-2 to 6-10. Once he started playing AAU ball at the end of his junior year (when he was 6-10) people recognized his immense skill level. That's the reason that Davis jumped from being an unknown to the number 2 recuit in the country in a span of 4-5 months. Davis qualifies as a late bloomer and since he's at UK, I'd argue that scouts didn't miss on him because he is playing for a prominent collegiate program right now.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on February 23, 2012 7:49 PM.

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