By Joe Henricksen

Class of 2014 is special at the top

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By Joe Henricksen

With the tandem of Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander, the Class of 2014 in Illinois has the potential of landing two players among the top 10 players in the country. It's not often the state of Illinois has had two players ranked that high together.

Darius Miles of East St. Louis, who went the preps to pros route, was a consensus top five player following his senior season in 2000. That same year Leo's Andrew Brown, who signed with DePaul, was ranked as high as No. 9 in the country and as low as No. 16 by national recruiting experts. There was the 1998 tandem of Whitney Young's Quintin Richardson and Fenwick's Corey Maggette. Richardson (a consensus top 10 player) and Fenwick's Corey Maggette (a consensus top 20 player) were among the top 20 players nationally.

Okafor and Alexander, currently ranked No. 3 and No. 8, respectively, in one of the latest rankings (Rivals.com) and No. 2 and No. 11 in another (ESPN.com), head the list of talented sophomores in Illinois. Here is the Hoops Report's look at the top 15 prospects in Illinois (and a few more).

1. Jahlil Okafor, 6-10, C, Chicago (Whitney Young)
He's one of those no-doubt-about-it type prospects, a consensus top five player nationally who offers up the rare ability among prep talents to dominate a game on the block. Okafor is a special talent and a great kid. While he's not an over-the-top athlete, his fundamentals for his age and pure size are off the charts. Okafor possesses great hands, advanced footwork and a solid understanding of how to play big. How many true centers with this type of ability come around?
2. Cliff Alexander, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Curie)
There is the size, the body, the agility and the athleticism that make him an eye-opening prospect and one that will remain among the elite players in the country in his class. Already a major factor on the glass and blocking shots, Big Cliff has become a dominant finisher around the basket with his powerful, thunderous dunks. While still very raw and a bit unproven on the offensive end, touch on his developing jump-hook shows the promise he has offensively.
3. Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, WF, Normal (U-High)
You love players that continue to make strides and improve little by little, which is what Bates-Diop has done over the past three years. When he fully develops physically (which will probably leave him at 6-8 or 6-9) -- and as he takes a leap forward with his assertiveness with continued maturity -- look out. He can step out, face the basket and knock down shots. He's blessed with ridiculous length with a 7-foot wingspan. Still a long way to go for this talented combo forward to reach his ceiling, which makes him that much more appealing.
4. Tyler Ulis, 5-8, PG, Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)
Some will say this is too high. Yes, the Hoops Report has had a thing going for the little guy in the south suburbs for the past 12 months. When it comes to his handle, his passing, making people better and his basketball I.Q., it's as pure as it gets for a point guard prospect. Sooner or later the high-major college coaches will forget about his diminutive size. To survive and succeed at that level at that height, the player has to be special. Ulis is special.
5. Paul White, 6-9, WF/PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
The multi-talented White has had a bit of an up-and-down year, due largely to injuries and missing time. While not real explosive, he's remains a unique 6-9 skilled forward who shows an ability to handle the ball and face up very well for a player his size. White is starting to play some of his most consistent basketball.
6. Malek Harris, 6-7, WF/PF, Orland Park (Sandburg)
There is no question Harris was the breakout performer in the Class of 2014 this spring. He's been a fixture in the Hoops Report's top 15 prospects in the class since he entered high school, but his promise and potential are now quickly emerging and being showcased. People still don't realize his versatility. DePaul and Iowa have offered Harris, who now not only passes the look test with flying colors, but is producing at a high rate. The perimeter jumper still needs to take a big step forward, but he rebounds, runs the floor, handles the ball and plays hard.
7. Larry Austin, 6-1, PG/2G, Springfield (Lanphier)
A player who received some major hype and accolades nationally over the past two years. Averaged 12.5 points a game for a team that won 28 games and finished fourth in the state in Class 3A. He's a strong, hard-playing, tough-minded guard who will defend and find ways to get to the basket. But his shot (he was just 2 of 18 from the 3-point line this past season) must improve. One thing is for sure, Austin will put in the time and effort to refine his game.
8. Sean O'Mara, 6-9, C, Lisle (Benet Academy)
Another true on the-the-block big man in the class who put together a terrific sophomore campaign. Still needs to move better laterally with this feet, but he's a little better athlete and has a little more lift than people realize. His game, though, is around the basket, where he rebounds, finishes and uses his size efficiently and effectively.
9. Tyquane Greer, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr)
Hoops Report has always gushed about the upside of Greer, who is growing and filling out physically. He's still just a pup. A super athlete with length and an ability to shoot the ball with range. Still needs to play with more consistency as he will float in and out of games. He must also become a bigger weapon off the dribble and add to his overall offensive game.
10. Milik Yarbrough, 6-5, WF, Zion-Benton
When it comes to pure production, it's difficult to find a player in this class who has been more productive than Yarbrough over the first two years of high school. He's a versatile scorer who has a fundamental understanding of how to put the ball in the hole. Just has that knack to score in a variety of ways. The lack of overall explosiveness and footspeed are questions when trying to project him to the highest level in college.
11. Marlon Jones, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Orr)
This actually may be too low. But the Hoops Report hasn't seen enough live action of Jones, who sat out this past season after transferring to Orr. He passes the look test with pretty smooth athleticism and great length. Long, active 4-man with bounce who is capable of sticking both his nose in things and sticking a 15-foot face-up jumper. Still proving himself and in the process of gaining consistency, but there is a lot to like.
12. Ore Arongundade, 6-2, 2G, Arlington Heights (St. Viator)
Jumped on the scene this past winter while putting together an outstanding sophomore season. He's an underappreciated perimeter shooter with sound mechanics who shoots with range. He competes, plays hard and makes plays. Has a knack for getting in the middle of things defensively. Needs to continue to build on his overall floor game.
13. Paul Turner, 6-4, WF, Westchester (St. Joseph)
A big name early on in his career who, at this point, does many things pretty well but has yet to establish one strength to hang his hat on. Has some size and length to become a potential shutdown perimeter defender. When he's playing well and in the flow of the game, Turner's mid-range game may be his best offensive attribute.
14. Peyton Allen, 6-4, 2G/WF, Chatham-Glenwood
He's developed into a high-major shooter, thus he now entertains high-major offers from both Oklahoma State and Iowa. Allen has size at 6-4, shooting range and a pretty solid basketball acumen. But his body type and lack of foot speed and athleticism are cause for concern when projecting him at the high-major level.
15. Amanze Egekeze, 6-6, WF/PF, Huntley
Projecting Egekeze isn't easy at this point, but he could still grow some and will continue to add to his developing skill level. What is easy to appreciate is Egekeze's demeanor and willingness to compete at a high level. Even without ideal "next-level" athleticism, Egekeze battles. While it still needs more consistency, the perimeter shot is coming along and now extends out to the three-point line.

On the cusp ....
• Josh Cunningham, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
Active and athletic forward still figuring it all out but boasts loads of potential.
• Isaiah Hayes, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Crane)
A natural and smooth player with the ball in his hands and fresh off an impressive sophomore season.
• Darreon Reddick, 6-3, PG/2G, Belleville (East)
Solid. That's the easy way to describe this big-bodied guard's game.
• Vic Law, 6-5, WF, Chicago (St. Rita)
Another player with a high ceiling whose skill level continues to improve.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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25 Comments

Nice list (as always). You may have missed Tevin King (Prov St Mel). Thanks. Honorable mentions for future lists: eric locke (brooks), Joseph Stamps (Curie), Karriem Simmons (St Joseph), Isaiah Hayes (Crane), Kierre Perkins (?). All look like potential d1 players.

JOe, you are definitely on target with the Class of 2014. But, I am a little guy from Bloom Township 5' 7 1/2 and have went to many of the Marion Catholic games (that's all we got all here)and stood next to Tyler Ulis after a game. He is a fantastic player with all the right moves, but nowhere near 5'8 even in his basketball shoes. Maybe 5'5.

So many overrated cats in this 2014 class and not a one of the ones I was thinking of are in this list. So thanks! Tough to argue to much with this list though I think Greer can be a top five kid.

No Darius Austin, Tevin king or Erick locke ??

Joe -

Yarbrough really deserves to be rated higher. The way this kid handles the ball and shoots, he is a SG who is commonly playing the 3 or the 4. In college, he will be a matchup nightmare. He's thick and strong for his size. At this age, he's faster, a better ball handler, and a better shot than Lenzelle Smith, who is clearly having nice success at Ohio St. And, with the competition his school plays, you can't argue with the numbers. This kid is a Top 5 prospect.

- Jerry

Paul White 2014 is the real deal - believe he claims a top spot for sure! Playing 17s with Meanstreets who are now #3 in the country. Ranked as a 4 star when those you got before him are 3 stars nationally.

Yarbrough has tremendous talent but at times is extremely lazy and doesn't take the games seriously. He isn't a willing passer and yells at teamates. Lastly, the highschool competition he faces is mediocre at best. Other times he is outstanding and is deserving of where he is at. Which side you will get from him is sometimes a mystery. He does fill it up and can get going in a hurry and also has VERY good athleticism. If anything he should be ranked lower until he plays hard all the time.

- Joe Henrickson I respect You & your Rankings But I Was Wondering Have U Seen A Couple Of Kids Play If So Tell Me What U Think Of These Guys Marcus Smith From Hyde Park, Erick Locke From Books, Miles Reynolds From Whitney Young,Tevin Kings From Providence St Mel and Jevon & Malik Carter From Proviso East

Well Joe you judgment is far superior then your pears at ESPN, Maxpreps, and other sources. I’m so impressed with your ability to rank players. I guess if you play for the Wolves or your boyfriend Mike Mullins (the face) you get ranked. Scott Burgess and most of the Chicago Hoops staff, the Illinois Prep Bulls Eye Brothers you guys put a ton of attention on players from the Wolves and they lose to other Chicago AAU teams consistently. The Fire has not always been the perfect program but they have some pretty good talent on their teams. The CHICAGO FERRARI had some very good teams but you guys always focus on the Illinois Wolves just thinking maybe the other teams might have talent. The wolves have better players? The Wolves win more tournaments? Do yourself a favor go to the entire games see all the teams, I watch you in Milwaukee you never stop by to see the other teams and when you did it was brief. Also Fire16U was in the Finals, but you and your friend reported about the team that had lost most of their games in pool play. By the way happy mothers day!

Joe- I agree with a couple comments above about the yarbough kid, Extremely talented and good kid. I also agree with CraigS on Darius Austin, Not even mention and Once was a Top 10 prospect. Crazy potential he has.

Sounds like a parent of a kid who got cut from the Wolves. Yes, the Fire and Ferrari have some talented kids. The city of Chicago is loaded with talent playing on all different teams. When was the last time the Fire U17 won tournament with all that talent? I cant remember. The Fire 16's? They get kicked out of Chicagohoops tournament for having a illegal player and if chicagohoops wanted to could have reported them to the NCAA and the whole program would have been banned for 5 years. Its not Joe's fault that COLLEGE coaches decide to offer Wolves players scholarships and he reports it or writes on it. Samething goes for other scouts or websites. So basically you are saying the hundreds of college programs that flock to Wolves games or offer their kids multiple scholarships is because Joe and the rest of the media over write to much stuff on them? Get lost. College coaches get payed MILLIONS to evaluate talent. I dont think they would just offer kids, put there career on the line because of a simple name of program. KIDS HAVE TO HAVE TALENT!

Bottom Line Joe keep doing an outstanding job writing on ALL kids from ALL programs like you have been.

The message from lol to you on is about the most miss-timed post of a message maybe ever on this blog. You post a message like that just days after a blog is put up with the headline "There's more than just Fire, Wolves and Meanstreets" and that focuses on three other AAU programs in Illinois. Keep doing what you do Joe cuz this is where I do read about others. Thanks.

you totaly misunderstoood the the Wolves have not won anytrhing major in 3 years...... Also the kids from the Fire and other teams have gotten tons of offers. Your son must play for the Wolves.... ok facts or fiction. Facts D1 offers
Fiction D1 schools that they attend! lol you will understand in two years when your son has no offers and no school to attend...
Also I did see over 25 College Coaches attend the Fire game in WV!
KU
IU
IL
SMU
DUKE
MI
MI STATE

To TheKid - I don't disagree that Yarbrough needs to mature and his motor needs to go full throttle more often. You have to believe that will come - he is after all, a varsity starter for two years and not even a junior yet. He's averaged 21 and 24 points, respectively in 2 seasons playing against QUALITY competition - not mediocre as you suggest. Lake County and the north suburban conference have come a long way. Look at the last few years of 4A - Zion finished second in state, Waukegan did it twice, Warren was second and 4th, North Chicago was second last year. Give me a break that they don't play any competition.

- Jerry

Fact: Illinois Wolves u 17 won the Philly Jam.

ummm the wolves just won philly jam fest....How about the Fire? still waiting on your answer? your post makes no sense what so ever. thats great that Duke, KU, etc were at the Fire game....they were there for 2 players only and we all know who they are. and its well deserved!

The Wolves 17s 10 out of 11 players have multiple offers, the 16s 6 players have offers and the 15s have 1 player. so im still lost on your comment "will understand in two years when your son has no offers and no school to attend..." The last four years the wolves 17s every single player has gone on and PRODUCED at a D1 school. Facts are facts look it up. Im not being insulting either.

please forgive me Im so sorry but The Wolves 17U team did when in Philly. But in 3 years the Wolves have not won any major event! In the open period this year most of the coaches attend EYBL or the Arkansas event. The players on other teams have received a great deal of offers lets be fair. I need you to attend a major event and win. I have facts about the teams you guys faced in Philly not the greatest of competition because the next week at Spiece was little different. I really dont want you to think Im upset about any kids getting offers or looks but the facts show the Wolves play a weak schedule, they never do Vegas they only play local for the most part. (PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE STATEMENT MIKE) Update my son does not play basketball nor do I have any relationship with The Fire and other teams.I played pro ball and happen to be a college scout. I have a relationship with Kick Back Mike! lol enjoy


Wolves did beat CIA bounce in Milwaukee. Five star "#1" team in the country. No other Nike team has yet to be beat them in the great eybl. Weak schedule? Obv wolves can't do eybl. They played swish and dish, Chicago hoops, Philly, spiece, and then Dallas for under armour tourney. I don't see a weak tourney in that list. Vegas? It hasn't been good since sonny ran it. Oh ya the wolves did desert duel the past 4 years. So not sure how you are coming about weak schedule? I find it hard that you are a established college scout or have no connections with any other team if you are on a Chicago sutimes blog making points against a certain local AAU team. If you a so called college scout aren't you suppose to worry about the kids and not certain teams?!?one last point, you originally had a problem with joe and everyone else writing to much on wolves. So since you are a "college scout" what's your site or where do you publish articles on players? Would be interested in your credibility. Again I'll go back with the guess you are a parent with connections to other programs or your son didn't make it through the wolves program. And that's ok!

Ore Arogundade 2014 of saint viator high school is a big sleeper? is he high major talent?

I don't know which Wolves team you are talking about losing to other Chicago teams, but the Wolves u-17's (u-16's last year) last year lost to Meanstreets by about 4. They also stomped the Fire. Get your facts straight.

Hey Lol & Wolves;

Since both of you have some affiliation with the Wolves and Fire, schedule a ball tournament with each teams 15u, 16u,and 17u squads. I'm sure finding a venue to hold this won't be a problem and this argument can get settled on the hardcourt not the Internet. Anyone game!

Some things that are being said is really rediciulous. Joe- i also keep hearing that Darius Austin is a name to watch out for and is having a good spring but yet he is not on this list ??

Joe
Jordan Thomas of New trier is on the Ill wolves 16u team.
How is he looking this spring. He is one of the top guards on the north shore. Not much said of him.
Thanks

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on May 7, 2012 2:39 AM.

There's more than just Fire, Wolves and Meanstreets was the previous entry in this blog.

Marist's Lexus Williams commits to Valpo is the next entry in this blog.

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