Chicago Sun-Times
By Joe Henricksen

June 2012 Archives

Anthony Davis is the greatest ...

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By Joe Henricksen

No, Anthony Davis, the former Perspectives star and Kentucky national champ, is not the greatest player to ever come out of Illinois (at least not yet, but it might not be so crazy in 10 or 12 years).

Is he even the best high school player in state history? No. Not even close. He was a non-factor, for the most part, through three seasons (he did have a big junior year stat-wise playing against no one). His Chicago Perspectives team was bad and even his superpower senior talents couldn't change that.

So what is Davis? The greatest basketball PROSPECT to ever come out of Illinois.

There is no better way to judge a prospect than this: Davis was the consensus No. 1 ranked player coming out of high school following his senior year and, one year later, is the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. While earning that No. 1 title has a little something to do with past accomplishments and production, most of it has to do with projecting a prospect at the next level.

Davis is now in the family of greatest overnight stars in the history of this planet. A bit dramatic? No, not really. Davis did not follow the typical celebrity career arc -- or even the route many basketball stars have taken. Think about Dwyane Wade, whose celebrity career arc was basically the exact opposite of Anthony Davis from the time he graduated high school to where he is today.

Davis is in a select group. He's in that group with Kate Winslet (after "Titanic"), Robert Goulet (after starring in "Camelot"). Barack Obama, Jeremy Lin, a few of those "American Idol" winners, the 1990s dot-com mavens and the homelessman with a golden voice, Ted Williams, who became an overnight celebrity and was quickly doing voiceovers for Kraft, MSNBC and the Cleveland Cavaliers. OK, a little far-fetched and far-reaching list, but you get the point.

Remember, Davis' high school career was hardly a blip on the radar in a star-gazing city like Chicago. Aside from his team not winning or putting together any real success in the Public League or in state tournament play, Davis was rarely seen or watched by the average fan (or even passionate fan). In 25 years when people are sitting around the gym talking about the first time they saw the great Anthony Davis, there will be few talking about his high school days. Most of his exploits on the court were done in camps and the AAU circuit. He didn't win Mr. Basketball or any state or Chicago area player of the year honors.

What we're talking about here is simply Davis as a prospect, and one that has blossomed nearly overnight -- from an unwatched junior in high school to the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in a matter of a little over two years. Unheard of and absolutely incredible.

Again, we're talking prospect -- the No. 1 player in the country as a senior in high school and the No. 1 NBA Draft pick 12 months later certainly quantifies that. What better way to judge a prospect than that? And in between he's done this:

• Won a NCAA National Championship
• Named NCAA National Player of the Year
• Named NCAA Freshman of the Year
• Named NCAA Defensive Player of the Year
• Sports Illustrated Cover Boy
• NBA No. 1 Draft Pick

Has there ever been anyone like Anthony Davis to come out of Chicago. I mean, really. Ever? The greatest basketball prodigy to ever come out of Chicago played at PERSPECTIVES????

Try comparing those feats just mentioned to any past highly-acclaimed products to ever come out of Illinois. Mark Aguirre, the No. 1 pick in the 1981 NBA Draft? No. Derrick Rose? No. Kevin Garnett? No. Eddy Curry? Shaun Livingston? Darius Miles? All NBA Lottery Picks out of high school with superlatives thrown their way but ... no, no and no.

Davis will go down as the greatest basketball PROSPECT to ever come out of Illinois. Now, will he live up to being the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and reach the heights Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Isiah Thomas and Kevin Garnett (yes, we're counting him even after spending just one year in the city at Farragut) have reached? I can't wait to watch and see where he goes from here.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Illini coach John Groce gets it right with hire

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By Joe Henricksen

With the expected hire of former Illinois State assistant coach Paris Parham to fill out his coaching staff, John Groce, the first-year Illini head coach will have solidified his staff the way he intended to -- hiring an all-around coach who covets the Illinois job, adds the right chemistry and complements his present staff. In addition, he's bringing a highly-respected "Chicago guy" with endless ties and relationships with city and suburban basketball coaches, players and families to Champaign.

This search for an assistant coach was as thorough of a process as any head coach or program could go through. Groce spent extensive time in both vetting the candidates and, along with his staff, sitting down and talking with a very short finalist list over the past few weeks.

In an exhaustive search, which meant weeding through a lengthy list of names and "candidates" that clearly weren't fits (some even laughable) even before getting to a final short list of three or four viable candidates, Groce hired a coach who offers experience in all facets of college coaching, from recruiting to scouting to player development.

"Paris was an outstanding coach, scout, mentor and asset to our program," says Tim Jankovich, the former head coach at Illinois State who is now at SMU. "As a coach, he's the entire package in every area, across the board."

Jankovich, who has a feel for the state of Illinois after coaching at ISU for five years and spending a brief time at Illinois as an assistant under Bill Self, believes Parham is also the perfect fit for the Illinois job.

"It's great to see that in a world where the earth is round and things can be just perfect, that Paris Parham to Illinois was meant to be," says Jankovich. "I really believe Paris was born and raised to be an assistant coach at Illinois. I can't think of a coach with a better background, feel and desire for this particular job than Paris."

Parham is personable, well-liked and connected throughout the city, as well as the entire Chicago area and state of Illinois. He can recruit the city, suburbs and rural areas. And this is the job Parham desired and wanted.

Parham, who was instrumental in helping build the Illinois State program under Jankovich that averaged 21 wins a season, played in three MVC title games and reached four NITs the past five years, was left in a peculiar position during a once-in-a-blue-moon coaching search at SMU. Jankovich was tabbed as an assistant and head coach-in-waiting at SMU, which didn't allow him to bring any of his former staff. Meanwhile, Rob Judson, another valued ISU assistant, was assured a spot on the Redbird staff when Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller was named head coach.

While Parham fielded a few other coaching offers over the past month, it was the Illinois job he dreamed of and believed was the ideal fit for him. With the connections he has to the city, suburbs and throughout the midwest, most notably Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana, along with his roots to the state and the immediate respect he gained for Groce during the interview process, it was clear to him.

But make no mistake, while Parham is well versed as an experienced coach in terms of player development, scouting and player relationships, the hire is a hit with the all-important Chicagoland area. There is now a definitive connection between the University of Illinois basketball program and the Chicago basketball community.

"He's the right fit for this job right now," says Rob Smith of Simeon, a coach and program that has had a long and close relationship with Parham for years. "The strong ties he has to Chicago are legitimate. I know he also has ties throughout the state and the Midwest, but when it comes to all the people in Chicago, he has great, true, long-lasting relationships with coaches, players, their families and this community. People respect Paris and genuinely want to help him."

Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter spoke of the legitimacy Parham brings to the table and the Illinois program with the hire.

"This is a legitimate coach with legitimate ties," Slaughter says of Parham. "This is actually the first time in a long time the University of Illinois has had someone on staff with legitimate Chicago roots and ties. He actually has experience recruiting Chicago. He knows the city, the landscape and the right people. He gets it. And he is ready to go from day one. Paris has the ability to get definitive answers at the very early stage of the recruiting process. This was a no-brainer hire for Illinois."

Smith believes the hiring of Parham will only speed up the process for Groce and his staff of getting to know and understand Chicago and all that goes into recruiting the area.

"I think that will really help Illinois a lot," Smith says of how Parham brings instant recognition between the city and the University of Illinois. "He has ties inside the community, strong ties. He is respected. I thought this was the best hire they [Illinois] could possibly make."

The 40-year-old Parham brings a wide-ranging background, with 14 years of college coaching experience, time spent coaching in the AAU world and being a former high school coach in the Chicago Public League. In 2006, Parham was named one of the City/Suburban Hoops Report's top five young high school coaches in the state of Illinois.

Aside from his college, high school and AAU coaching experience, Parham is true Chicago. He was born and raised in Chicago, played at and graduated from Dunbar on the city's South Side and has recruited the city and suburbs extensively. Parham completely understands the fabric and culture of Chicago basketball, which is no easy task, and has long-lasting ties and relationships with prep coaches, AAU coaches, players and their families which date back decades.

Having coached and lived in the Bloomington-Normal area for the past five years, Parham has developed a close relationship with Normal U-High 2014 star Keita Bates-Diop and his family, a key Illinois recruiting target.

"I think he's one of the underrated guys in the business," Mike Mullins of the Illinois Wolves told the Hoops Report recently. "He's one of the few legit candidates that makes sense at Illinois. He's a Public League guy, but he has shown that he can recruit the entire Chicagoland area and throughout the state. He's not beholden to one group, one sector or organization. He's done a great job cultivating relationships. I wish Paris and the Illinois staff success."

Parham's relationship with Tai Streets of the respected and talent-filled Meanstreets program goes way back as one of Streets' coaches was recruited by and played for Parham when he was an assistant at Maryland-Eastern Shore.

"I think it's a great hire for Illinois," says Streets. "I can only say great things about him in all my dealings with him. He can recruit and he can teach and he's well respected."

Curie coach Mike Oliver, who has been a successful city coach and coach's junior star Cliff Alexander, believes Parham can help unite the city when it comes to Illinois basketball. Parham's neutrality over the years will pay dividends, says Oliver.

"He's one guy I think we can rally around because he's been so neutral," says Oliver. "With Paris he was born here, lived here, grew up here, played here, coached here and he can deal with both sides of the city. He's a guy that everyone can get along with. He's a true guy."

Parham, who the Hoops Report believed was the ideal Illinois assistant hire from the get-go, is that "Chicago guy" so many people referred to when Groce began assembling his staff. Hiring a "Chicago guy" isn't, nor should it be, a mandate. Hiring a "Chicago guy" is only beneficial if there is a legitimate, quality "Chicago guy" candidate, which for this particular job at this particular time there are very few out there who fit the bill. Groce now has that guy.

With Parham in the fold, Groce -- and the Illinois fan base -- should feel comfortable and excited about the staff. Groce now has a balanced, very well-rounded staff that should complement one another well when it comes to both player development and recruiting. Illinois fans should be enthused about the fact this staff has strong ties to areas outside the state of Illinois, with Groce, Jamall Walker and Dustin Ford all with connections throughout the Midwest.

When it comes to recruiting the Public League and the Chicago area, it's more than a one-man job. It has to be a tag-team effort among assistants, along with a head coach who is invigorated by recruiting the talent pool in Chicago. Illinois now has the familiar and affable Parham to go along with Walker, who has made a push in the city and suburbs, and a head coach in Groce who has shown he's ready and willing to establish ties and roots in recruiting the area.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Big talent on display at DePaul Team Camp

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By Joe Henricksen

There is no question the DePaul Team Camp, held earlier this week at Attack Athletics on Chicago's near-West Side, is a valuable tool to the Blue Demons basketball program. The opportunity for coach Oliver Purnell and the DePaul staff to get that many talented teams and prospects together for two days is an advantage few college programs anywhere in the country are granted.

In addition to it being an advantageous chance to evaluate players -- there are four high-level games going on at once in the same gym for two straight days -- it's a time for Purnell and the staff to see, get to know, introduce, further establish and build relationships with prospects, coaches, parents and Chicago's "basketball people" in a laid-back atmosphere.

Here is what the Hoops Report took in while attending the DePaul Team Camp for two days earlier this week.

➤ With the absence of Simeon's Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn and Young's Jahlil Okafor, who were all playing with the U.S. National Team, the top two prospects in the camp were in the Class of 2014. While Curie's Cliff Alexander, among the top 15 players in the country in his class, was the event's top prospect, the second best prospect was Normal U-High's Keita Bates-Diop.

After a slow start in the opener against Morgan Park on Monday, the 6-8 Bates-Diop continued to acclimate himself to the surroundings and showcase his versatility and off-the-charts length. As Bates-Diop continues to physically develop and become more assertive and comfortable as a player, his game will go to a completely different level than it is right now. He just oozes potential. He's a player with a strong work ethic, zero maintenance and one who clearly has room to grow physically and as a player. He's caught right now being in between a promising face-up 4-man and a legitimate wing, but he has the ability, tool package, size and a good enough combination of quickness and athleticism to become both at the high-major level in time. Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, DePaul and Kansas State have offered, with Louisville and several others showing a lot of interest.

➤ The Hoops Report will continue to scream it from the mountain top: TYLER ULIS IS A HIGH-MAJOR POINT GUARD. Marian Catholic's 5-7 (maybe 5-8) point guard is the ultimate quarterback. And nothing has changed since the Hoops Report's diatribe on Ulis back in December in this very space. The kid is special, but that December blog, which may appear as if Ulis is my own son, sums up every thought and belief the Hoops Report has of the player some high-major will ultimately give the green light to.

➤ Speaking of past blogs, the superlatives the Hoops Report threw Kendall Pollard's way in a blog a couple of weeks ago need to be repeated. The Simeon senior is putting it together as he prepares to show college coaches this July just how far he's come as a player. Every mid-major plus program in the country should be on Pollard, who may be playing himself into a bottom-end high-major player as we speak. He's lost weight and is more explosive. He's more confident and comfortable on the offensive end.

➤ Give credit to Springfield Lanphier's Larry Austin. After missing the cut for USA Basketball -- he made the team last year -- Austin traveled home from the tryouts in Colorado and made the trip to Chicago for Day 2 of the DePaul Team Camp to play with his high school teammates. That says a lot about Austin. The 6-1 guard is still a work in progress in terms of establishing himself as a true point guard at the highest level, but he did show off an improved jumper. It's clear Austin has put some time in with his jump shot since helping lead Lanphier to Peoria this past March. Austin was terrific in his first game against Farragut on Tuesday, which may have been the best the Hoops Report has seen Austin play. Although Austin wasn't as productive in the next few games, his game and development has improved.

➤ There is some serious talent on Chicago's West Side as Orr figures to be one of the top teams in Chicago and a state threat in Class 3A, but there isn't a player in the program -- past or present -- with as much upside and potential as Tyquone Greer. The 6-6 wing is still figuring it all out in terms of understanding the game and knowing when and how to impact games on a regular basis, but he's blessed with a whole lot of tools. Greer is long, athletic, shoots it well from the three-point line and is getting to the rim more and more, both in transition and in the halfcourt. Greer still projects higher than a few of the more ballyhooed prospects in the Class of 2014 in the eyes of the Hoops Report.

➤ With Simeon's big guns either playing with Team USA (Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn), absent or resting here and there, it was time for promising D.J. Williams to showcase his abilities. Williams has sprouted another inch and is probably a 6-6 wing now as heads into his sophomore year. He had some very impressive moments for Simeon on Tuesday, particularly with his perimeter jumper. Williams is right there as a top 2015 prospect with Stevenson's Jalen Brunson, the Hoops Report's No. 1 player in the sophomore class, and St. Rita's Charles Matthews.

➤ When it comes to blossoming 2014 prospects, Morgan Park's Josh Cunningham could very well be the one who blossoms as much as any junior over the next 12 months. There's a lid on Cunningham right now when it comes to college programs and national evaluators, but he has a plethora of talents he is able to tap into as a long, agile, athletic 6-5 wing. He's just scratching the surface and must polish up his skills, but he's clearly among the top dozen prospects in the junior class.

➤ Just keep doing what you're doing, Alvin Ellis. The De La Salle senior continues to get a little more steady and consistent as he matures as a player. He's slowing down his thought process in the halfcourt and with his decision-making, while showing that he can still attack the basket -- still his greatest strength -- and be aggressive when he needs to be. When he avoids rushing things, gets his feet set and squared up to the basket, he knocks down shots with range on a more regular basis.

Morgan Park's Kyle Davis remains that disruptive force when he's in his comfort zone of attacking the basket. The point guard skills still are coming along as he tries to become a legit combo guard, but he understands his situation.

"I just want to show how I've changed my game, that I'm a better skilled point guard," says Davis.

Davis says he has a wide range of offers and listed Northwestern, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Dayton, USC and Florida State as the six schools who he hears from the most.

➤ The Hoops Report still doesn't quite know what Tevin King is as a specific player -- a point guard? 2-guard? combo-guard? who cares? -- but the Providence St. Mel junior is just that: a player. The 6-1 guard is tough, robust, plays hard, takes contact and gets to that rim.

➤ The player the Hoops Report continued to constantly be drawn to over the two days was Proviso East's Javon Carter. You can read a previous blog from earlier this week and get a closer look at Carter, his exploits at the DePaul Team Camp and his potential right here.

Proviso East point guard Paris Lee continues to shine, just as he's done all spring once the ball was put in his hands following the graduation of Saint Louis recruit Keith Carter. The little fella makes opposing ballhandlers wince bringing it up the floor against him with his quick, pesky defensive prowess. Plus, he gets you buckets from the point guard position. Forget the size. Lee is the ideal mid-major point guard.

Chatham Glenwood made the trek up to Chicago as highly-regarded 2014 prospect Peyton Allen and the Titans went up against some unfamiliar foes. With suspect quickness, foot speed and body type, the 6-4 Allen will need to continue to knock down perimeter shots -- Allen's strength -- at a high rate to garner more offers from the likes of Iowa and Oklahoma State.

➤ There were several out-of-nowhere talents at the DePaul Team Camp who grabbed the Hoops Report's attention. Add a couple of names to the list in 2014. Farragut junior Ashawn Jones, a 6-2 guard, is a flat-out player. Jones is a smooth guard with scoring ability who just goes and makes plays. In addition, keep an eye on North Chicago junior Jayqan McCloud, a 6-1 guard who missed last season with an injury but is very talented and promising.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Andrew star Adekoya commits to Valpo

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By Joe Henricksen

Although there was some confusion among members of the Adekoya household regarding Andrew star Jubril Adekoya's commitment to Valparaiso Wednesday morning, it is official. The 6-6 senior committed to Valpo and coach Bryce Drew.

Early Wednesday morning, Adekoya's parents informed the Hoops Report that their son's commitment to Valpo was news to them.

"Neither I nor his mother are aware of any commitment," said Adekoya's father Wednesday morning when told of the commitment. "If he has committed, he has not run that by either one of us and that would go against everything we have talked about as a family."

But the sharp, mature Jubril Adekoya took the blame when it came to the miscommunication with his parents about his commitment.

"They knew I wanted to go to Valpo, that I wanted to commit," Jubril said of his parents. "But I jumped the gun. It was totally my fault and I take responsibility for doing that. They just wanted to sit down and talk about it a little more, to be sure of my decision. But I am committed to Valpo. That's where I want to go, where I want to be."

There were several factors in Valpo's favor when it came to Adekoya choosing the Horizon League school over other mid-major programs that were courting him. A big one was the relationship with the coaching staff.

"Both coach Drew and coach Powell are young, energetic coaches who I really got along with and who I could see myself playing for," says Adekoya. "I can see myself there, playing for them, over my four years of college.

"Plus, the playing situation is going to be there. I think there is a chance and an opportunity for me to play there early in my career if I take care of things on my end, keep working hard and improving."

Adekoya is a big recruiting get for Drew and Valpo. He has been one of the top prospects in the Illinois class of 2013 since the day he entered high school. The rugged but versatile 4-man led Andrew to its most successful season in school history this past season as the Thunderbirds went 24-3 as he averaged 15.8 points and 11.1 rebounds a game. Along the way, Adekoya set a single-season school record with 301 rebounds and a single game record of 21 rebounds in a win over Tinley Park.

Valpo picked up a commitment from Marist senior guard Lexus Williams a little over a month ago.

Proviso East's Jevon Carter won't be sleeper for long

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Whether people want to believe it or not, Proviso East has a chance to be as good as a year ago. The Pirates, if you remember, ran the table during the regular season and rolled through March before falling to Simeon in the state championship game.

Sterling Brown, who blossomed late this past season and elevated his reputation and moved into the stratosphere of high-major prospect, is poised to become a true go-to player. Brown's senior classmate, jet-quick point guard Paris Lee, has been terrific this spring (as highlighted in a previous Hoops Report blog) and puts constant pressure on opponents at both ends of the floor. But it's junior Jevon Carter who can make this Proviso East team so dangerous. This kid has impressed the Hoops Report in a big way.

With Carter, it's as if Proviso East and coach Donnie Boyce have this secret little weapon no one is really aware of just yet. We're not talking one of those "players to watch" types; he's the real deal.

Carter, an under-the-radar prospect in the Class of 2014, has opened the Hoops Report's eyes with his play all spring. And he did so again over the course of two days of action at the DePaul Team Camp at Attack Athletics. Every time you watch Proviso East, Carter is getting buckets.

The Hoops Report has a thing for three different types of players when scouring for college prospects: the ideal, true, on-the-block big man (the most difficult player to find); the pure, prototype point guard (when you find one it's enjoyable and refreshing); and the sweet-shooting, natural scoring 2-guard (more difficult to find than you think).

When you find one of the aforementioned three types of prospects, you get excited. That's why Carter excites you when watching him play. He's one of the top shooters in the Class of 2014. Plus, he has added more to his game off the dribble and become a big-time scoring 2-guard since first impressing the Hoops Report last fall in an open gym as a sophomore.

While he may not be an explosive athlete, Carter has quickness and instincts. And he makes shots. He can make them in bunches, often in an effortless manner. He has a solid shooting stroke with sound mechanics, a quick release and range. He will slice to the basket and get to the rim off the bounce. With so much attention being paid to Brown, along the the disruption Lee creates with the ball in his hands, Carter is in position to be a huge weapon for Boyce this coming season.

"He has a chance to be a really big part of what we are trying to do next year," Boyce told the Hoops Report at the DePaul Team Camp. "He is talented and can really score. Plus, he wants to get better."

Carter is a blip on the recruiting radar right now, but in the eyes of the Hoops Report he is one of the better guard prospects in the entire Class of 2014. Although probably just 6-1, Carter, who is the cousin of former Proviso East star Keith Carter, has some length to him and looks as if he may grow a little. If Carter were to add a couple of inches, we're talking the ideal, prototype college 2-guard with basketball instincts, a beautiful jump shot, scoring ability and just enough size.

With Brown, Lee, Carter and emerging Brandon Jenkins, an explosive 6-3 senior wing, this Proviso East team will at least be more potent on the offensive end than a year ago.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Text and call to your heart's content

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By Joe Henricksen

All you Class of 2013 and 2014 college basketball prospects out there, keep those cell phones charged.

With today's teens, that task won't be too difficult as the device is now permanently attached to them. I personally saw it all earlier this spring when it comes to the whole teens-can't-survive-a-minute-without-their-cell-phone generation. As a player was fouled and headed to the free-throw line on the AAU circuit, he takes his cell phone out from the pocket of his shorts and checks his phone as he walked to the other end of the floor to take his free throws.

Beginning this past weekend, Division I men's college basketball coaches are now able to send unlimited texts and make unlimited phone calls to recruits who have completed their sophomore year of high school. Coaches are now also able to send direct messages on Twitter and private messages on Facebook.

Prior to last Friday, coaches were allowed to contact a recruit just once a month between June 15 after their sophomore year and July 31 after their junior year. Then from that point coaches were allowed just two contacts per week, with text messages completely against the rules.

There are pitfalls with this new legislation, with the biggest being high school kids absolutely bombarded with text messages and phone calls from college coaches every day, all day. Imagine the weekends of the July evaluation periods later this summer when top players from around the country are being watched and evaluated on the AAU circuit? These kids will be leaving the floor with college coaches surrounding the court ready to text and call ... "Loved your game today." ... "Just watched you. Can't get you out of my mind." ... "I was there. Did you see me?" ... "How close are you with Jabari Parker again?" ... "Call me ASAP!!!" ... "Were those the new shoes I sent you? Oops. DELETE now! LOL." ... "Great game! Will call you at 6:30, 8 and 11 tonight." ... "Why aren't you picking up!?!?!"

There is also a risk of rising phone bills for recruits, though that has been reduced somewhat due to the various calling and texting plans families now have. Plus, kids can now nearly always identify who's calling and simply not pick up. That should send a message to a college coach loud and clear during the recruiting process.

On the other end of it, college coaches will now have to really think hard about how many calls they make and how many texts they send to individual players going forward. Before. coaching staffs had to monitor and check with one another how many times they had contacted a prospect so they didn't break the rules. Now, coaching staffs will need to communicate well with one another as to how many times each of them have called and texted a specific prospect so they aren't driving the kid crazy. There was always a built-in excuse for not calling a prospect religiously: it was against the rules. Now, coaches will need to worry if they are calling a prospect too much or not calling enough. Where will the "annoyance" threshold be for the student-athlete?

I can see an exchange like this after a prospect finally has had enough: "Coach, did you NOT get the hint when I didn't pick up your previous 43 call attempts and didn't respond to your 94 text messages?"

And the biggest loser of this rule change? The wives of college coaches. You thought your husband was on the phone a lot BEFORE?

But here are the three reasons why the Hoops Report believes the new rule is good.

1. The rule limiting phone calls and texts was absolutely too difficult to completely monitor and enforce. Not only were the rules being constantly broken by those that just simply ignored the legislation, but there were also so many ways around the rules. It's not too difficult for a coach to have a second phone in addition to his school-issued phone. You really think Kelvin Sampson and his boys at OU were the ONLY ones breaking this rule?

2. With more direct calls and texts, college coaches can eliminate the middle men just a little bit more. Yes, there will still be people college coaches will have to mess with, schmooze, cater to and tell them what they want to hear in order to "recruit" the prospect. But with more access to the player, it will mean less time dealing with the often-dreaded third parties for college coaches. They won't need to touch base and reach out to the handlers and/or AAU coaches quite as much as before.

3. The most important aspect of the limitless calls and texts is the building of relationships. Coaches can now spend more time on the phone getting to know the prospects they are recruiting, while the prospect can get a much better feel for those coaches they really want to get to know better. While it's true that prospects could always just pick up the phone and call a coach to talk, remember, they are teenagers and time passes quickly before they get around to the to-do list. College coaches, with complete phone access to their targets, will now take even more responsibility to develop the relationship.

Hopefully, this will be one step in trying to shrink the growing number of college basketball transfers across the country. There have been too many prospects committing very early in the recruiting process, before they've really built any type of trust and relationship with the coaching staff of the program they committed to.

While the NCAA has been labeled many different ways when it comes to their recruiting rules and regulations, the organization has made a few positive steps of late. In addition to the phone calls and text messaging changes, bringing back a couple of "live periods" in April was a positive as well.

The recruiting calendar is far from perfect when it comes to evaluating high school talent. And this massive and near-impossible undertaking of monitoring Division I recruiting practices continues to be problematic. But at least there has been a movement to improve them both.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Academic Showcase set for July

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By Joe Henricksen

The Elite Academic Athletes Showcase, an event for incoming sophomores, juniors and seniors, will take place next month in Lake Barrington. The one-day showcase will be July 11 at the Lake Barrington Fieldhouse and run from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The event will include a NBA-like combine to give each student-athlete an opportunity to show his abilities in front of college coaches at all levels, including highly-regarded academic universities. There will be skill work and drills prior to players being placed on teams. The afternoon session will include a team practice and three games. Each player must carry at least a "B" average academically to participate (3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale or a 3.7 GPA on a 5.0 scale).

For those student-athletes interested in participating or for more information, call (847)-260-8119 or email info@eliteacademicathletes.info.

Alex Foster's transfer to Seton is official

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By Joe Henricksen

Less than a week after departing from De La Salle, Alex Foster is officially a part of the Seton Academy basketball program. The 6-7 senior officially enrolled at the south suburban private school on Wednesday.

Foster, who is regarded as one of the top players in the Class of 2013 in Illinois and has double-digit Division I offers, has been a fixture at De La Salle since joining the varsity as a freshman. He now joins a Seton Academy program that went 10-0 in the Catholic League last season, won 28 games and finished fourth in the state in Class 2A. The talented senior will bring added size and a bonafide low-post presence for coach Brandon Thomas.

With the arrival of Foster, Seton figures to be one of the top 2A teams in the state again this winter. The Sting return a pair of solid guards in seniors Mark Weems and Kamal Shasi. Weems and Shasi averaged 15 and 11 points a game, respectively, this past season.

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Chicago Elite Classic finalizes power lineup

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By Joe Henricksen

Go ahead and mark Dec. 1 on the calendar. The city of Chicago will showcase five of the top teams in the Chicago area, including three-time defending state champion Simeon, and match them up with five out-of-state prep powers in what promises to be an elite event.

The Chicago Elite Classic, which was created by both the Whitney Young and Simeon basketball programs, has officially announced all 10 teams that will be competing in this high-profile national event next season.

The star-studded lineup is headed by Simeon, which is led by the nation's top-ranked player, Jabari Parker. The Wolverines, who also boast 6-1 high-major talent Kendrick Nunn and the tandem of 6-5 Kendall Pollard and Jaylon Tate, will be shooting for a fourth consecutive state championship next season.

The out-of-state contingent includes some monster national names in high school basketball, including DeMatha Catholic out of Maryland and Mater Dei out of California. Milton (Ga.), Lone Peak (Ut.) and St. Vincent-St. Mary (Oh.) -- yes, the SVSM program that produced Lebron James -- round out the five out-of-state powers.

"This event will bring in top, nationally-recognized high school programs," says Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter. "Plus, there will be a plethora of Division I talent, including high-level talent who could be future McDonald's All-Americans and playing in the game that returns to Chicago next year."

Famed DeMatha Catholic, which legendary coach Morgan Wootten -- the coach with the most wins in basketball history with 1,274 -- made famous, is the most storied of all the programs with five mythical national championships under its belt. This year's DeMatha team will welcome back Syracuse recruit Jairus Lyles, a 6-2 guard, and 6-8, 270-pound Beejay Anya, one of the top 25 players in the country in the Class of 2013.

All Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight has done in 30 years is compile a 926-83 record. (Yes, you read that right). The winningest coach in California prep history has a high-profile young star in Stanley Johnson, one of the top 25 players in the country in the Class of 2014, and a Division I guard in Elijah Brown, the son of Lakers coach Mike Brown.

Milton, Lone Peak and St. Vincent-St. Mary are all about winning championships as well. Milton and Lone Peak are the defending state champions in Georgia and Utah, respectively, while St. Vincent-St. Mary tied a state record in 2011 for the most state championships with six. Lone Peak has won four of the last six state titles in Utah.

Then there are the locals. Yes, all eyes will once again be on Simeon and Jabari Parker next season. But the foursome of Whitney Young, Proviso East, St. Joseph and De La Salle bring quality credentials as past and current Chicago area powers. All five Illinois representatives boast high-major college talent and instant name recognition.

Whitney Young boasts 6-10 sophomore Jahlil Okafor, a consensus top five player nationally in the Class of 2014. Slaughter will pair junior stars Okafor and 6-9 Paul White together in what figures to be one of very best teams in Illinois next winter.

Proviso East is fresh off a 32-1 season, losing only to Simeon in the 4A state championship game. With the return of rising star Sterling Brown, a 6-5 senior, and senior point guard Paris Lee, the Pirates are expected to once again be among the top five teams in the state of Illinois.

Legendary coach Gene Pingatore, the winningest prep coach in Illinois state history, has an abundance of talent. A.J. Patty, a 6-8 senior, and a pair of juniors, 6-4 Paul Turner and 6-5 Karriem Simmons, are all Division I talents and return from a team that won 20 games and a regional championship last season. In addition, a pair of highly-regarded young guards in sophomores Jordan Ash and Glynn Watson are on their way.

De La Salle will enter the season ranked among the top teams as well with a talented and experienced senior group leading the way. The duo of 6-8 Gavin Schilling and 6-4 Alvin Ellis are coveted players in the senior class and, along with guards Marcus White and DeMarcus Richardson, are among several key players returning for coach Tom White.

"We are honored to be involved," says White. "It shows there is a respect for our program to be involved in an event like this. It's great to have these types of teams coming to Chicago. These are some distinguished national programs and an outstanding opportunity for De La Salle."

Follow all the teams and all the Chicago Elite Classic news online at www.chicagoeliteclassic.com

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Alex Foster withdraws from De La Salle

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By Joe Henricksen

A year ago coach Tom White's De La Salle basketball program took a big hit with the transfer of point guard Jaylon Tate to Simeon. Now, one year later, another key piece is leaving: highly-regarded 6-7 senior Alex Foster.

Foster withdrew from De La Salle late last week. According to sources, the family cited "travel distance" as the reason behind leaving the South Side private school. There has been no decision yet where Foster will attend high school next fall, though Seton Academy, Andrew and Simeon have been rumored as possible destinations. Another source did say "it won't be Simeon" when asked if Foster would be transferring to the defending state champs.

The Hoops Report did talk briefly with the Foster family, but at this time they had no comment as to where Alex Foster would be heading next year.

Like Tate, Foster was a key contributor for the varsity the moment he entered De La Salle as a freshman. He put together solid sophomore and junior seasons, collected double-digit scholarship offers and was doing very well academically.

With the return of talented seniors Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis, DeMarcus Richardson and Marcus White, De La Salle is expected to be one of the top teams in the Chicago area next season, with or without Foster. But losing a veteran 6-7 Division I prospect will certainly be a hit for White's Meteors.

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Kendall Pollard, Paris Lee, others shine at R-B

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By Joe Henricksen

Bouncing from gym to gym and taking in over two full days of action at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout last weekend provided opportunities. It's not very often you get to spend two days jumping from court to court and watch an organized 36-team event that boasts nearly all of the major players and teams in the Chicago area.

There was a chance to watch two of this country's best amateur players -- Simeon's Jabari Parker and Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor. There was a chance to see the reloading of Proviso East and several better-than-expected teams. And there was an opportunity to catch the rise of individual players as they make various jumps in their game.

When you combine the development of Simeon's Kendall Pollard, along with new opportunities for him as a player, there are few prospects -- if any -- in the Class of 2013 who have made a bigger jump since the conclusion of this past season. It's not inconceivable to say that Simeon could have three players among the top eight players in the senior class when the season tips off next November if Pollard's rapid ascent continues.

"A lot of people don't realize that at Simeon, there are some guys who have to wait their turn," says Simeon coach Rob Smith. "We talked about that with Kendall last year, about not being in the limelight but still being a key part to what we were trying to accomplish. He's waited his turn."

During fall open gyms last September and October when Pollard was just a blip on the radar, college coaches would regularly check on the kid who was guarding the star, Jabari Parker. Typically, it was always Pollard, a strong, barrel-chested 6-5 wing who possesses that defensive dog mentality. Pollard went head-to-head with the nation's No. 1 player for the past year. You better believe it made a difference.

The questions with Pollard were always about what position would he play at the next level and his jump shot. Even with those concerns, Pollard always had something to hang his hat on: toughness, competitiveness and a willingness to really guard. He's ultra-tough and competitive, which has helped him become one of the elite defenders in high school basketball. At the high school level he can guard any one of five positions; at the next level, Pollard will easily be able to guard three different positions, maybe four if necessary. That's a luxury.

He's quiet, doesn't cause a ruckus. But a kid doesn't have to be a thug to prove he's Ron Artest-like. Pollard brings the classic blue-collar-type mentality.

But now Pollard, with more opportunities and expectations placed upon him, is rising to the challenge. His game and role have expanded. As he continues to morph into a true 3-man and showcase a much-improved jumper, his stock is climbing. He's now a legit mid-major plus/high-major bubble guy because his shooting and offensive abilities have made such considerable strides. Yes, you read that right. And in July he will show that to college coaches.

Over the course of the spring and again this past weekend at R-B, Pollard continues to show better mechanics with his jumper and range out to the three-point line. Now he has to polish up his ball skills and understanding of when and where to create off the dribble. Plus, he's a higher level athlete with more pop than the Hoops Report originally thought.

"He's so much more confident in his game and takes on challenges," says Smith. "I'm proud of the strides he's made. More people are starting to talk about him, but he's still in the gym working on his game."

Right now Pollard's interest is mostly from mid-major programs, with a scattering of a few high majors keeping tabs on him. The interest, however, should skyrocket in July when the new-and-improved Pollard plays on the AAU circuit.

Also impressing at R-B ...
• Paris Lee, Proviso East. While Pollard was a big eye-opener at R-B, Lee was right there with him. The Pirates could be more dangerous offensively this season than last, and a big reason for that is the ball will be in Lee's hands, a player who can really wreak havoc with his speed, quickness and scoring ability. The 5-9 senior point guard was terrific at times at R-B. Disruptive defensively and back-breaking with his three-point shot, runners and transition layups off steals, Lee was a constant catalyst. He has climbed his way into the Hoops Report's top 20 players in the Class of 2013 and can play at any mid-major level program.

Sterling Brown, Proviso East. He still may not be getting the national respect he deserves, but Brown has solidified himself as a top five prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2013 and a high-major player. The 6-5 wing shared co-MVP honors with teammate Paris Lee at R-B. Brown is the rare star player who needs to be more selfish.

Jack Morrissey, Loyola Academy. The 6-1 guard has always been one of the elite shooters in the Class of 2014. He blossomed as a prep player last season under coach Tom Livatino, but he's added strength and re-shaped his body. While he will never be thrown into the "athletic" category, as Morrissey gets more comfortable off the dribble and becomes more of a scorer than a shooter, his stock will continue to rise. He averaged 27 points a game with 19 3-pointers in his first three games at R-B.

Josh Cunningham, Morgan Park. When you watch Cunningham you get excited because he has just about as much raw ability and upside as anyone in the Class of 2014. You watch him and say, "That kid has a real chance!" The wiry, athletic 6-5 wing (he may be pushing 6-6) is in the process of putting it together. He's so long, so athletic and has the mechanics to become a pretty good shooter down the road.

• Dante Ingram, Simeon. The Hoops Report took in two and a half Danville games last winter. And each time time walked away hardly noticing Ingram, a 6-4 junior who has transferred to Simeon. This past weekend was a completely different story. Ingram was one of the most impressive and consistent players over the course of the weekend. When you consider this was the first time he has even played a game with his new Simeon teammates makes his performance all the more impressive. He glided to the basket, consistently knocked down 3-pointers and was assertive.

• Alvin Ellis, De La Salle. The 6-4, highly active wing still battles inconsistency and complete effectiveness in the halfcourt, particularly with his decision-making. However, slowly but surely he's making strides in both of these areas. Ellis played well in a matchup with Simeon on Sunday, showcasing a more wide-ranging offensive game. He's still a terrific finisher in transition, but he continues to shoot it better -- both mid-range and out to the three-point line.

David Cohn, York. I know, I know, you're tired of the Hoops Report bragging up the 6-2 combo guard who can score with the best of them and probably play harder than all of them. When things are rolling, Cohn can score in bunches and in a hurry.

Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, Homewood-Flossmoor. The production still comes in spurts, but the Hoops Report was impressed with the developing 6-8 big man. Wofford-Humphrey was active and productive in a head-to-head matchup with De La Salle in Sunday's playoffs, blocking and altering a ton of shots, rebounding and running the floor. Plus, he has touch around the basket and out to the free-throw line.

Other quick and final thoughts from R-B ....
De La Salle's Gavin Schilling is still a high-major prospect due to his 6-8 size, athleticism and ability to run the floor. But Schilling remains unpolished and struggles in traffic. His feel for the game and his footwork need to make significant strides.

• Simeon's Kendrick Nunn is not in the category of a pure shooter. He's still a good shooter who can stretch a defense. But when his shots are falling, Nunn can look like the big-timer people project him to be when you combine that with his explosiveness off the floor.

• The motor and court demeanor must improve for Milik Yarbrough, Zion-Benton's talented 6-5 junior with high-level offensive abilities. He's still a heck of a prospect in the Class of 2014 because he can score the basketball, but he has his limitations.

Morton's Waller Perez, a versatile 6-6 wing, can play at the Division I level somewhere if the flashes he showed at R-B come at a more consistent rate.

• Simeon's Jabari Parker is still really good. And so is Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor. Now there is some insight! But aside from their respective talents, these two love the game, want to play and want to get better.

• The Hoops Report is really pulling for Whitney Young's once-very-promising big man Tommy Hamilton. But at some point Hamilton will need to be on the floor, playing and competing on a regular, consistent basis. Hamilton was not with Whitney Young at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.

• With minutes wide open after graduating four key seniors, H-F's Rashaan Surles could have a breakout year for the Vikings. Surles brings size at 6-3, scoring ability and can play both guard spots.

• Considering Mundelein's Sean O'Brien was in a walking boot from an injury for the past three weeks and this was his first action in nearly a month, there was some rust. Nonetheless, O'Brien continues to be one of the underrated players in the senior class. He's a player with 6-6 size, skill and shooting ability.

• He's not flashy or blessed with ultra-quickness or athleticism, but senior point guard Jabari Sandifer of Neuqua Valley gets things done and was rock solid over the course of the weekend.

• Look for Marvin Grant-Clark, a big-bodied 6-4 wing, to make a splash this season for Glenbard East and become a solid small college prospect.

• I just like Glorind Lisha of Andrew. He's not a hot shot, big-time Division I player, but the 6-2 guard can really play.

• Finally, a thank you to Riverside-Brookfield Shootout director Mike Reingruber and the R-B coaching staff for once again putting together a talent-filled, exceptionally well run event. Every team, coach and media member just comes to expect talent on display, true offseason tests for their teams and organization from what has become the premier high school event in Illinois. And the R-B Shootout gets better and delivers year after year.

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More than Proviso East and Simeon at R-B

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By Joe Henricksen

Simeon tangling with Proviso East in the title game of the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this past weekend was no surprise. Simeon will be the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the state next November, while Proviso East is clearly a top five team.

After taking in two days of action at R-B, the Hoops Report came away impressed and mildly surprised with a few other teams that have a chance to build something this summer in hopes of a successful winter of basketball in 2012-2013. Yes, the likes of Simeon, Proviso East, St. Joseph, Whitney Young, De La Salle, Curie, Morgan Park and St. Rita all feature top-level talent and will be on everyone's radar heading into next season. But here is a quick rundown of several better than expected teams that showed promise this past weekend at R-B.

Another ESCC team to watch: Marist will be the favorite in a deep, talent-filled East Suburban Catholic Conference next season. Defending champ St. Viator has good, young players returning, Marian Catholic features dynamic point guard Tyler Ulis, Benet Academy brings back prized big man Sean O'Mara and Niles Notre Dame will contend. But it was St. Patrick that pulled off a surprise or two at the R-B Shootout and showed they will be yet another team to watch in what should be a heck of an ESCC in 2012-2013.

After a somewhat surprising and overachieving 17-9 season a year ago, which included a No. 3 seed in the Glenbrook South Sectional, people shouldn't be looking past coach Mike Bailey's club next season. The Shamrocks reached the semifinals of the R-B championship bracket this past weekend, where it fell in a close one to eventual champ Proviso East.

Senior veterans Royale Ewing and 6-4 Parish McCullum are two mainstays that return. But St. Patrick could be better than a year ago if promising sophomore Nicholas Coleman makes an expected jump forward and senior Keith Langston, a transfer from Whitney Young, emerges.

Don't forget Bloom: Fresh off a 28-5 record and a season that saw Bloom reach Peoria and bring home a fourth-place trophy in Class 4A, coach Jasper Williams is looking to keep the Blazing Trojans among the top teams in the south suburbs. If Bloom's showing at R-B was any indication, Williams will have a team very capable of putting together a 20-win season. Although Bloom graduated three key senior starters, including point guard catalayst Donald Moore, there is some size, athleticism and experience returning in 6-4 Johnny Griffin and 6-5 Jataryan Dejaraux, a pair of starters a year ago. Senior guard Dejahown Freeman, a lefty shooter who can score, and 6-3 senior Nhyree Mitchell will see their roles expand from a year ago. Griffin, Dejaraux, Mitchell and Freeman give Williams a solid nucleus to build around.

One talented 2A team: Quietly, Providence St. Mel won 23 games last season and reached the Class 2A supersectional, where it lost 61-51 to Seton Academy. Look for Tim Ervin's Knights to be a player once again in Class 2A and a league favorite in the Chicago Prep. St. Mel went 2-1 in pool play, losing in overtime to De La Salle, and then finished second in the second-place bracket on Sunday, where it fell to Morgan Park.

Rugged, hard-nosed junior guard Tevin King remains the big name and the heart and soul for St. Mel. But the Knights have talent beyond King, including guard Khalil Small and sophomore point guard Ant Mosley. Like King, Small is a tough, physical guard. The 6-2 senior had games of 27 and 28 in the R-B Shootout, while the slender Mosley is a skilled young prospect. The three-guard attack of King, Small and Mosley will be one to watch next season.

Good news for Mundelein: After winning a combined 55 games the past two seasons, expectations remain high for Mundelein. There remains plenty of good news for coach Dick Knar and his Mustangs. First, Warren, which ended Mundelein's season in the sectional championship this past March, will fully come back to the pack in the North Suburban Lake. Second, Knar has a veteran team with a whole bunch of talent and offensive punch.

The catalyst is high-scoring guard Robert Knar. The Northern Iowa commit is a prolific scorer who will finish as the all-time leading scorer in Lake County history as long as he stays healthy. Sean O'Brien, a skilled 6-6 perimeter threat, is ready to blossom and is a certain Division I prospect. Chino Ebube is one of the elite athletes in the state with mega-explosiveness off the floor. Quinn Pokora is a solid role-playing senior guard, while junior guard Nate Williams adds quickness and depth in the backcourt.

Clear DVC favorite: West Aurora lost the DuPage Valley Conference title in the final regular-season game of the year this past season. The Blackhawks then promptly ran off four straight wins to capture regional and sectional titles, before falling to Proviso East in the supersectional. The Blackhawks went 3-0 in pool play at R-B before falling to eventual champ Proviso East in the opening round of tournament play.

Legendary coach Gordie Kerkman has a huge void to fill with the graduation of Juwan Starks, West Aurora's all-time leading scorer, but he has enough pieces to claim a DVC title next winter. Junior guard Jontrel Walker and emerging big man Josh McAuley, a 6-7 senior, both return, along with role players Spencer and Chandler Thomas. And keep an eye on sophomore guard Roland Griffin.

H-F isn't done: A senior group that led Homewood-Flossmoor to back-to-back Southwest Suburban Blue titles (combined league record of 26-2), two regional championships and 45 victories the past two seasons has graduated. While 6-7 Tim Williams, 6-6 Antonio Bishop, guard Tyrone Sherman, 6-5 Delvon Rencher and guard Willie Lipsey have all moved on after being such a huge part of the program. the Vikings showed at R-B they will still need to be heavily accounted for with relatively unknown pieces in place.

Coach Jim McLaughlin's club played without its top player, Maurius Hill. But even with the blue collar 6-5 senior out with an injury, H-F went 3-0 in pool play. With Hill and the always-intriguing 6-7 Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, H-F will have talent on the block. Plus, the trio of 6-4 guard Rashaan Surles, Ricky Bullock and 6-3 Jason Scott all took turns impressing at different moments over two days of action. H-F lost to De La Salle in overtime in tournament play.

Andrew's 1-2 punch: Yes, Andrew surprised many last year with a monumental season in T-Bolt basketball history. Andrew won 20-plus games for just the second time in the school's 35-year history. With the return of 6-6 Jubril Adekoya, the best player in school history, and underrated guard Glorind Lisha, the Thunderbolts could be looking at their third 20-win season. Adekoya is a coveted mid-major college prospect, while Lisha is confident scorer who can shoot it and space the floor with his perimeter jumper.

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R-B Shootout shows Proviso East reloading

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By Joe Henricksen

Simeon is still, by far and away, the premier team in the state of Illinois. In fact, on paper, when this 2012-2013 Simeon juggernaut takes the floor next November, it may be the most talented of any Rob Smith coached Wolverines team.

But after spending two full days taking in action at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, the elite prep summer event in Illinois, Proviso East showed it will be better than many people thought. Coach Donnie Boyce's club claimed the R-B title with a 72-69 win over Simeon, which played without the No. 1 player in the country, Jabari Parker.

As far as summer play goes, the championship game -- and a few others in tournament play on Sunday, including the Simeon-De La Salle matchup -- were played at a high level. Simeon, which played several of its young players in the program (including two of its high-profile incoming freshmen), battled back from a double-digit deficit. Proviso East's Sterling Brown knocked down a pivotal three-pointer late in the game. With former Proviso East star and NBA player Shannon Brown watching his younger brother, Sterling Brown pumped in 30 points, controlled the game for the Pirates in the closing minutes and was named co-MVP of the event.

"It's always good to get an early look at what areas we need to work on," said Boyce about his team after the game.

Proviso East has a similar look to last year's 32-1 state runner-up team. Although it did lose its leader and point guard, Saint Louis-bound Keith Carter, and two other starters in Trashaun Carroll and Paris Burns, the Pirates have a chance to be just as good as a year ago.

Although Brown put together an impressive junior year in which he averaged 13 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, the 6-5 versatile wing is poised to take his game, production and assertiveness to another level this winter. Brown continues to fill out physically and polish his overall game.

In addition to having a star-like player in Brown, the ball will be in the hands of the dangerous Paris Lee more next season. The 5-10 jet-quick point guard, who was co-MVP of the shootout with Brown, was sensational throughout the two days of action at R-B and has bumped his way among the top 20 prospects in the Class of 2013. He's disruptive defensively, an established perimeter shooter with range to the three-point line and a nice little mid-range, pull-up game.

The Hoops Report continues to be impressed with the development of 6-3 athletic wing Branden Jenkins and up-and-coming guard Javon Carter. Jenkins played a key role for the Pirates over the final 15 games last season, averaging 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds a game while providing athleticism and energy off the bench. Look for those numbers to double this season.

Carter has the potential to be an offensive force. The 6-0 junior guard can knock down shots with range and regularity with a pretty release, while getting better and more comfortable off the dribble. He's an underrated player in the Class of 2014.

As was the case last season, Proviso East won't have much size -- at least experienced size. However, Boyce hopes the development of a couple of players without much experience, 6-6 senior Rashad Williams, who did play minimal minutes a year ago, and 6-4 junior Jesse Shaw, can provide at least a presence inside and play an important role for this guard-dominated group.

Look for more on two days at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout in a future blog this week.

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Illini sky is falling? Huh?

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By Joe Henricksen

Maybe I should be accustomed to all of this as a diehard White Sox fan here in Chicago. We Sox fans, traditionally, may be the most pessimistic, hard-to-please sports fans around. Look at attendance figures for proof. Yes, the sky is always falling, as opposed to believing "this is the year" and "wait till next year."

But listening to all the knee-jerk reaction and unwarranted angst among Illinois fans lately makes me think we Sox fans have company.

It was totally understandable for that type of dialogue back in February and March, following another season in which Illinois failed to reach the NCAA Tournament and there was so much negativity brewing. Then there was a wild and somewhat controversial coaching search to replace Bruce Weber, though much of it was a media-created stir that got out of control. And there should be some concern over the fact there isn't nearly as much talent on campus as many fans believe there is. Yes, those were certainly some trying times and uncertainty for Illini faithful.

But these latest developments? Puh-lease! We're talking little blips on the radar that a few believe are program-damaging.

The Isaac Chew departure? The reaction was a bit over the top in some circles. For whatever reason, the Illinois assistant job seems to be one that is analyzed, debated and hyped more than others. Maybe it's that way at other schools in other regions of the country as well but we just don't see it firsthand like we do here. But assembling a "staff" that can work, develop and recruit together, bringing different strengths and characteristics to the table, is far more important than one single individual assistant. It should NEVER fall on one assistant to carry most of the recruiting workload.

Is Chew a quality assistant coach with potential and who brought strong attributes to the Illinois program? For sure. But irreplaceable? No. Is there a chance to lock up someone even better and who fits the needs of the program and adds a different dynamic to the present coaching staff than Chew did? Yes.

I will never shortchange the impact of assembling the ideal coaching staff. That should never be underestimated when projecting success. When a program starts to crumble in college basketball, there are typically several culprits and factors. But quite often the most significant--and easy to point a finger at--is the poor job a head coach does in putting together his staff for that particular job and that particular program. There are some bad staffs out there. And it generally always comes back to haunt the head coach and the program.

Was Illinois supposed to go nuts and match Marquette money for a coach with one year of high-major coaching experience, who was on the job for six weeks and has not exactly been highly involved with recruiting the city and suburbs over the years as an assistant? Yes, Chew has some Chicago ties from his high school days. But to say he has been an active player in recruiting the Chicago area over the years and is "tied in" is a stretch. He's done a terrific job in his various roles as an assistant and attacked other areas in the Midwest when it comes to recruiting and finding his niche at both Murray State and Missouri.

I like Isaac Chew. College coaches are clearly impressed as he has had multiple offers--from Illinois to Marquette to a couple of others--in the last two months. I think he's a bright, young, up-and-coming coach in the business. I consider him a friend since his days at Murray State. I understand why he went to Marquette, which I pointed out in a blog earlier in the week. I think he will do a good job for Buzz Williams and Marquette for what he can offer that particular program. But he was not going to be the lllinois recruiting savior. I believed coming in with the label of a "Chicago guy" and not necessarily being the prototype "Chicago guy" put added pressure and responsibility on his shoulders.

Which brings us back to the "staff"--any staff--getting it done as a whole.

Current Illinois assistant Jamall Walker isn't a "Chicago guy," as people like to say, based on his upbringing and background. But give this guy a little time--just as Illinois fans should do with head coach John Groce and this basketball program in the midst of a rebuilding project--and he is going to be absolutely fine. In less than two months, I am impressed with what I have heard, both from Walker in our one-on-one conversations and from those in the Chicago area basketball world.

Walker is a worker with characteristics that, again, with time, will connect, relate well and gain the trust of those throughout Chicago basketball.
Said one major, influential coach in the Chicago area even prior to the Chew departure earlier this week, "I'm more comfortable with Jamall [Walker] than I am [Isaac] Chew."

But these things don't happen overnight. It takes time. And for the sake of Illinois, Groce and his entire staff, I still believe having a "true" Chicago influence on the staff--the right guy, the right coach--is very important for the Illinois basketball program. It's my belief (and many others in the business) that at Illinois, you have to tag-team the city and suburbs, actually triple-team when you include the head coach. Give Walker and Groce another valuable weapon on the staff in dealing with Chicago to speed the process up, to gain more instant access, to help get kids on campus, and I would LOVE the make-up of this coaching staff.

Chew was a solid choice for Illinois two months ago. And while the actual number of ideal candidates for this job at this time is miniscule, Chew wasn't the only choice. And Illinois has a chance to get it right again with this next hire.

Then there is the fallout from the Jalen James news this week. Well, there shouldn't be any fallout. I personally, for several reasons, don't view it as a setback at all for Illinois. And the Illinois staff isn't thinking that way, either. Now, if Malcolm Hill of Belleville East and the Illini were to part ways? Well, then we may have some problems. That relationship appears strong, with the staff doing all the right things in securing Hill's commitment.

But for several reasons the Hoops Report won't detail or get into, Illinois and James severing ties is a good thing for all the parties involved. This doesn't slow things down one bit for Groce and his staff going forward in regard to their own expectations and needs they have in prospective recruits.

The sky didn't fall this week. The Assembly Hall roof didn't cave in. No need to panic. This staff has a lot of work to do going forward, and it's not going to be easy. But this staff definitely has a plan in place and a vision. The staff understands what it needs and what it wants. Now go and complete this staff, John Groce, and make it one that offers the best for the future of this Illinois basketball rebuilding project.

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