By Joe Henricksen

July 2012 Archives

Sterling Brown separating himself

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By Joe Henricksen

Whether fair, true or accurate, Sterling Brown is continuously compared to his older brother, Shannon Brown, who is currently enjoying a fine NBA career after starring at both Proviso East and Michigan State.

The truth is, however, there is very little that is the same between these two talented hoopers -- other than the obvious, which is the last name, blood and the Proviso East roots.

They have different strengths and styles of play. Shannon was an uber-athlete, an explosive scorer, a big-time finisher who was so strong getting to the basket and played with a nasty chip on his shoulder that exuded toughness and confidence; Sterling is more passive, yet more versatile, smoother and a tad bit more skilled than Shannon was at the same age.

They are built differently and have developed at a different pace. Shannon was a 6-3 guard with strength, a solid body and was among the top players nationally in his class early on in his career; Sterling is 6-5 with more length and is in the process of solidifying himself on the national scene. As far as their development as players -- at least through their early years as high school players -- Shannon's rise and development was meteoric, while Sterling's has been more subtle. Sterling is now realizing it's his time.

And their recruitment has certainly been different.

No one is more in tune with all of the Brown comparisons and seeing the differences than dad, Chris Brown.

"As players they are completely separate in almost every way," says Chris Brown of his two sons.

The Hoops Report caught up with the proud father last week, spending a little time breaking down both Shannon and Sterling.

"Sterling's flight [as a player] has been a little different," dad points out. "You can run down the hill and beat up the one guy at the bottom. That's what Shannon did. Or you can take your time, walk down the hill and beat them all up, one by one. Sterling wants to walk down that hill."

Sure, Sterling may have picked up the pace a bit and sprinted just a little last March when he tore up Simeon in the Class 4A state championship game. Who was it that starred in that game? Jabari Parker? Marquette-bound Steve Taylor? Kendrick Nunn? Nope. It was Sterling's title game performance -- 25 points on 10 of 18 shooting with a couple of 3-pointers and 5 rebounds -- that left everyone in attendance and those watching on TV thinking, "OK, NOW he's ready to take that next step." But overall, Sterling's progression has been, just as dad noted, a process.

"The thing with Sterling is that when the light went on and he began to realize how good he can be, that's when his confidence skyrocketed," says Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce. "He walks into the gym now with a little swagger. He has to keep that attitude, that hunger. that intensity and want to continue to get better."

Chris Brown has started to see Sterling separate himself from others after averaging 13 points and over 9 rebounds a game as a junior.

"He deferred to the three guards last year as a junior," says Chris of the talented Pirate trio of Keith Carter, Paris Burns and Paris Lee. "Then the state tournament rolled around. That's when you started to see Sterling separate himself from what he was."

Yes, indeed. The Hoops Report is so much more enamored with Brown than it was 12 months or even six months ago -- that state title game performance helped, of course. But physically, his body has developed right along with his assertiveness. But what makes Sterling Brown so intriguing is his versatility. He's able to defend multiple positions. And while still more of a 3-man/wing than a true 2-guard at this point, he's become a better ballhandler and his developed mid-range game is quietly sneaking out to the 3-point line. For the right team, in the right system and in certain matchups in college, Brown will be able to play three different positions effectively down the road.

"The biggest difference I've seen with him is his willingness to play multiple positions," says Boyce, who plans to create all types of mismatches on the floor with Brown this season. "He's not afraid to mix it up in the post and his perimeter skills have become more polished."

The other aspect Chris Brown has seen that's been entirely different with his two sons is their recruitment. Dad says it's been a world of difference when it comes to the recruitment of Shannon and Sterling.

First, despite it being just 10 years ago, the courting was different. There were boxes of letters from college coaches for Shannon, not the endless phone calls, texts and emails he and Sterling receive.

"The social media has changed it all so much," says Chris. "Plus, it was different in that Shannon was a top 10 player in the country his junior year."

In the final post-season RSCI rankings, a compilation of all the national rankings into one by national scouting services, Shannon Brown was the No. 3 ranked player in the country. He was behind only LeBron James and Luol Deng, while ahead of players like Chris Paul and Kendrick Perkins.

Meanwhile, Sterling's reputation is, once again, still growing. He's the No. 128 ranked player in the Class of 2013 by Rivals.com (too low), while checking in at No. 76 by Scout.com (a little closer to being right). Regardless of where the kid is ranked, Sterling Brown is a coveted high-major prospect.

Chris Brown says the decision will be "entirely up to Sterling." He does know there are three things -- in order of importance -- that Sterling will be looking at when breaking down his suitors.

"He will first look at the education that will be offered. That's first," says Chris matter-of-factly. "The system they play will be second, followed by how many guys they get to the league [NBA]. But I'm supporting any decision he makes. I just encourage him to work on his craft."

According to dad, the recruitment for Sterling remains wide open. They want to see who is there at the end of July.

"What schools are going to show they really want Sterling?" Chris says at the thought of what lies ahead in August.

There is a list of schools that have shown the most interest and the Browns are interested in, which includes the local programs -- Northwestern, DePaul and Illinois -- along with Minnesota, Georgia Tech, Colorado, Louisville, Xavier, Florida State, Saint Louis and Miami.

"But there is a new school or a new offer about every week," Chris points out. "Sterling will narrow it down in August and take some visits in the fall."

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Some leftovers from the week that was ...

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By Joe Henricksen

A lot has been discussed in the City/Suburban Hoops Report blog in regard to the talent-filled Summer Jam just outside Milwaukee last weekend, including ...

• The runs both the Illinois Wolves 17s and Chicago Lockdown 15s enjoyed, with both playing in the title game in their respective age groups.

The increased recruiting attention paid to a pair of 2014 big men: Benet Academy junior Sean O'Mara and the arrival of 2014 big man Michael Finke of Champaign Centennial.

• A look at the 2015 prospect who probably deserves more pub than he receives -- Roosevelt Smart of Palatine.

• The eye-popping potential of Keita Bates-Diop as a bonafide national prospect in a blog last week, profiling the U-High junior and all that he offers as a player and prospect.

But here are several other observations and tidbits from a first-class event that included our Illinois club programs battling Midwest and national power programs like D.C. Assault, Utah Reign, Sports U, Atlanta Celtics, Wisconsin Swing, Iowa Barnstormers and the Houston Defenders among others.

➥ While the Hoops Report stated Palatine's Roosevelt Smart needs to be included in the upper echelon of prospects in the Class of 2015, Joshua Stamps of Curie does as well. He's a smooth scorer with terrific length and size as he is closing in on being the prototypical 2-guard. He's all of 6-3, probably closer to 6-4, has shooting range and just that natural ability to score the basketball. And he's going to have plenty of opportunities to score this winter with opposing teams so focused on the big fella inside, 6-9 Cliff Alexander.

➥ Lets reiterate what the Hoops Report tweeted from Milwaukee last weekend: If Darreon Reddick of Belleville East played north of Interstate 80, the 6-3 guard would get a whole lot more love. It's quite simple, Reddick is better than many of the more heralded guards in the Chicago area in the Class of 2014. As his jumper continues to get better and more consistent, his stock among college coaches will increase. He's big, strong, has a good feel, can play both guard positions effectively and uses his strengths to his advantage.

➥ In regard to prospects, recruiting and college fits, the Nate Taphorn to Northwestern pairing is a really nice match when it comes to the package he will offer Bill Carmody and his style of play. Whether it's his continued development as a player or the idea his college recruitment is closed with his commitment to NU, the 6-7 senior from Pekin played free and easy in Milwaukee. He looked loose and was more aggressive, showcasing his ability to stretch a defense and knock down shots from the perimeter in a variety of ways. Taphorn had a solid showing at the Summer Jam as the Wolves 17s made a run and reached the title game, where it fell to Sports U out of New Jersey.

➥ Speaking of commitments, Valpo secured themselves a rock solid point guard in Lexus Williams of Marist, who has both playmaking and scoring abilities. Williams is just steady and consistent with a D Rose team that struggled in Milwaukee.

Larry Austin is a high-major player. But the Hoops Report doesn't view the Springfield Lanphier standout as a top 50 talent in the country, which both Rivals.com and Scout.com currently have the 6-1 guard. Austin plays hard and will get after it defensively about as well as any high school guard that you will see. He finishes at the rim well. And he plays unselfish, often going stretches where he doesn't even look to score. While his jumper has been worked on, it's still very much a work in progress. In addition, he's yet to lock into being a natural at either one of the guard positions.

Ben Moore is going to be good. And at the right level, Moore has a chance to be really good down the road. It's not as if the Bolingbrook prospect isn't a productive talent right now, but the 6-7 senior gets the all-too-often-mentioned "best basketball is ahead of him" tag. It's the truth. Moore, who made nearly as much progress from November to July as any player in the Class of 2013, is just beginning to figure it out. He's long, bouncy, active and, just as he should be, is a coveted mid-major prospect. He's an ideal Horizon League-like 4-man right now, with a weekend in Las Vegas with the D Rose All-Stars to try and show schools in the Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10 that he can play at that mid-major plus level.

Cahokia's Darius Austin looks the part. He's athletic with a great body and a motor, thus the 6-5 junior is intriguing. But the 2014 prospect is a major work in progress when it comes to his skill level and refinement as a player.

➥ This just in: Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge can shoot. Really shoot. And when you can shoot like that, you're going to be coveted. Brownridge is a mid-major priority for programs in desperate need of a perimeter shooter with his consistency and range. People can say all they want about a lack of true size and athleticism for a true 2-guard, but Brownridge walks into a gym and makes shots. It's as simple as that.

➥ Illinois Old School 16s have flown under the radar most of the summer, but this group is one to watch next year during the club circuit. The Hoops Report really likes the trio of Taft's John Joyce, who is among the top 30 prospects in the Class of 2014, St. Charles East guard Dom Adduci and unknown Scott Lindsey of Fenwick.

➥ The Peoria Irish spring and summer season has been highlighted by the rise of Hoops Report favorite, Alec Peters of Washington. While the Hoops Report has gushed over Peters for 12 months, the 6-7 senior had perhaps his toughest couple of days of basketball, particularly shooting the basketball, at the Summer Jam. There was no way around it, he struggled. How crazy is the AAU world? A college coach asked me after watching Peters struggle in two games, "You still think Alec Peters is a sure thing for us?" There lies the problem sometimes in these mini-evaluation weekends in July. OF COURSE HE'S STILL A SURE THING FOR YOU, COACH! Peters remains an absolutely terrific mid-major plus prospect.

➥ While we are on the topic of the Peoria Irish, don't forget about Peoria Richwoods point guard Preston Wells. Albany and North Dakota have come forward for Wells, but he's been steady enough, productive enough and offers enough upside to deserve more looks than that. He gets by opposing guards with a bit of a burst off the dribble, gets to the rim and his jumper, while still not consistent, is getting more efficient.

➥ Since he suffered injury issues late in the season for his Naperville Central team, it's been a rough go of it for 6-7 junior Nick Czarnowski over the past five months. But the big post player had his moments in Milwaukee, showing some decent work in the paint and a degree of competitiveness and physical play around the basket.

St. Viator sophomore Mark Falotico can run my high school team any day. The point guard was again the catalyst in leading Chicago Lockdown to a Summer Jam title last weekend. He's so calm and cool while understanding the game and situations. Falotico and junior Ore Arogundade will form one of the top backcourts in the Chicago area over the next two years and keep coach Mike Howland's club in the East Suburban Catholic mix.

➥ The Hoops Report really likes Marcus Bartley of Decatur MacArthur. He came up to the Derrick Rose Shootout in Chicago this past winter and performed well. And he's been solid all spring and summer with the Peoria Irish. The 6-3 junior will have to battle a lack of weight, strength and a very slender frame, but he is a natural point guard and bonafide Division I prospect.

➥ While the Hoops Report focuses entirely on the state of Illinois, it's great to get a look at the national talent. The player that really jumped out and impressed at the Summer Jam was Rashad Vaughn out of Minnesota, who plays with Net Gain. What a super talent. He's ranked anywhere between 15-20 nationally by most, but it's hard to imagine 10 prospects better than the 6-5 shooting guard in the Class of 2014 after what the Hoops Report took in last week.

➥ And throw 6-8 Kevon Looney out of Milwaukee Hamilton, who plays with the Milwaukee Rebels, in that no-brainer list as well in the Class of 2014.

➥ On the other end of the spectrum, Nate Britt out of Washington D.C. has generated a whole lot of buzz nationally. Although it was just a small sampling from the 2013 point guard, the Hoops Report left Milwaukee hoping for more from the North Carolina-bound senior.

➥ Is it just me or does it seem like I've been watching Marquette recruit Deonte Burton out of Milwaukee play AAU ball for 10 years? What an athletic and physical monster this 6-5, 235-pound wing is on the high school level. He will fit in perfectly at Marquette for coach Buzz Williams.

➥ The Chicago Elite Classic set for Dec. 1 in Chicago will be loaded with big-named power programs like Simeon, Whitney Young, Mater Dei, DeMatha and others, but one fun team to watch that day will be Lone Peak High School out of Utah. The Utah Reign AAU team, made up of Lone Peak players, impressed in Milwaukee. They know how to play, are fundamentally sound and play well together. Plus, they are talented, led by the duo of shooting guard Nick Emery and 6-8 Eric Mika, who have both committed to BYU. It's going to take a lot for the Illinois team matched up with Lone Peak on that December day to come out with a win.

➥ Finally, without throwing any individual players under the bus, it's still amazing the notoriety, rankings and discussion that is out there when it comes to some (many?) of the players in Illinois as they play out the club season. We've just about made it through another AAU season of constant hype. We will now let the recruiting landscape settle on so many of these players as the high-major dreams for many -- and even the notion of playing Division I basketball -- come to a slow death between now and signing day.

And just to reiterate one last time, when it comes to running events it really doesn't get any better than NY2LA's events in Mequon, Wis., particularly the Summer Jam last weekend. In addition to a loaded field, the facility is ideal with gym space, seating, parking and accessibility, especially for Chicago area based club programs. Plus, NY2LA events are always organized, which is far and few between when it comes to typical AAU events.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Palatine's Roosevelt Smart one of top 2015 talents

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By Joe Henricksen

The Illinois Wolves 15s, which boast a terrific collection of young, talented guards, reached the semifinals at the Summer Jam in Milwaukee last week. When talk turns to the young Wolves, the conversation typically begins with St. Joseph guard Jordan Ash. Then it trickles down to the trio of St. Joseph point guard Glynn Watson, Bolingbrook shooting guard Prentiss Nixon and Palatine's versatile guard Roosevelt Smart.

Ash, who sports high-major offers from Purdue and DePaul, is among the top five prospects in the class. He's gaining a national rep as well, with national scouts checking in on the kid who has been talked about in Illinois extensively over the past 12 months. The 6-1 combo guard continues to showcase his superior athleticism and explosiveness for his age, an improving jumper and the most overall productivity of the young Wolves.

Nixon, a 6-0 shooting guard, is already among the top shooters in the state in the Class of 2015. Now he's in the process of working on diversifying his game. He has a textbook release and shooting stroke that doesn't change, whether it's from 16, 19 or 23 feet from the basket. He can catch-and-shoot and shoot off the dribble. While he still needs to work on his overall floor game and comfort level as a creator and distributor, especially at his size, there is no question about what he can become as a shooter.

And the 5-10 Watson, the younger brother of former St. Joe's star Demetri McCamey, is a player that already has a natural position as a pure point guard with some get-by speed. In Watson's mind and in his reads, the game comes slower for him as he manages his team and game situations.

But the player that continues to impress the Hoops Report every time it checks in on the young Wolves is Smart. The shooting guard, who is pushing 6-3, not only looks the part but has as much upside as any player on this Wolves team, including the highly-regarded Ash. In the eyes of the Hoops Report, Smart is one player that should be talked about more when it comes to the promising college prospects in the Class of 2015.

Smart's perimeter jumper is what is beginning to separate him from other players in his class. For a young player this past season and early in his AAU career, Smart already possessed the lost art of the mid-range game. Now his range is out to the three-point line and it looks smooth and is getting more consistent with a good release point and elevation.

Smart is clearly still learning the game, especially since he didn't play a whole lot of organized basketball from 5th to 7th grade. But he's an exciting prospect, especially if he were to get to a legit 6-4 in becoming the ideal 2-guard with size, shooting and just enough athleticism.

Very wisely, Palatine coach Eric Millstone brought Smart along slowly last season as a freshman at the varsity level. But as the year went on and the more Millstone threw at his young talent, the quicker he adapted.

"I was amazed at how quickly he picked things up," Millstone told the Hoops Report earlier this summer of his young freshman last season. "His scoring ability and willingness to take big shots were there, and we really needed that from someone on our team. Roosevelt was very comfortable with that role."

Although Palatine struggled mightily last season, the Pirates have a valuable young piece to build around over the next three years. And the Mid-Suburban League, which has had a shortage of top-level talent in recent years, could use a marquee name and player like Smart.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Eye-catching 2014 bigs making noise

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By Joe Henricksen

As the Hoops Report watched Benet Academy's Sean O'Mara last weekend in the loaded Summer Jam for what seemed like the 84th time this summer, this realization came to mind: How in the world does this true big man, who has good hands, passes well, is a whisker under 6-9 and WANTS to be on the block have one stinking offer?

UIC offered O'Mara nearly a year ago. (Kudos to you, Howard Moore and staff!) Since then? No one -- until this week. Xavier, Loyola, SIUE and Iowa State have all stepped forward with reported offers, with Drake expected to offer shortly and half the Big Ten monitoring him closely the past two weeks.

While the top of the 2014 class includes two of the best bigs in the country in Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander, players like O'Mara and the fast-rising Michael Finke out of Champaign Centennial have quickly proven themselves to college coaches. And with such a premium on big men in recruiting, college coaches are scurrying around to catch them both.

It is puzzling, though, how so few programs at the mid-major and mid-major plus levels haven't been on O'Mara intently before this July. After all, he's had name recognition, put together a solid sophomore campaign and played well at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament last December. At least dip your foot in the water, get in on him early and hope he doesn't blow up. And if he doesn't? You're in there before the majority of the others were.

"His game is expanding and he continues to get better and push his game forward," says Benet Academy coach Gene Heidkamp. "He's put in the effort to improve in the areas he's needed to improve. His decision-making is better. He's unselfish. At times last year he was almost too unselfish, but he passes well and creates shots for teammates."

The Hoops Report has seen enough of O'Mara. It has seen enough of other big men who want no part of the paint. It has seen enough of big men who are stiffs but have great size. It has seen enough of college programs taking bigs who can't play. O'Mara, who has been a fixture in the Hoops Report's top 10 players in the Class of 2014 for well over a year, passes the test.

O'Mara is already big and will be huge by the time he hits college and immediately begins a college weight training program. The big fella establishes position on the block, can catch and has an idea of what he wants to do with it. Yes, he's limited athletically and may not rebound out of his area real well, but he will finish with a rim-rattler in transition, use his body effectively around the basket, passes very well for a big man and has post-tools to work with.

We aren't talking about a bonafide, knock-your-socks-off high-major star here, but it's so difficult to find players with his size that have a true position and the type of big man package to work with going forward. He's a 5-man .... And likes it! He's a high-major recruit. Those offers will come sooner than later.

While O'Mara has been a top 10 player in the class for the past year, Finke certainly wasn't. But when the Hoops Report puts together its post-July evaluations and rankings, this much is certain: Finke will be the player that raised his stock and ranking the most in the Class of 2014.

The junior big man, who received interest during his sophomore season from locals like Illinois, Illinois State and Bradley, picked up offers earlier this week from SIU-Edwardsville, Eastern Illinois, North Dakota State, Nebraska-Omaha, South Dakota State and Loyola. He continues to grow, sprouting to a legit 6-8 over the past 12 months. And along the way, Finke will go from a relative unknown to a commodity and easily among the top 25 prospects in the junior class -- and climbing -- in Illinois.

Finke was very impressive this past weekend at the Summer Jam in Milwaukee with the Peoria Irish, showcasing a bit more athleticism than at first glance, nice footwork around the basket and an improving face-up game with a perimeter jumper.

At the end of the day, Finke, with a nice frame to build on and even better bloodlines, will be a load. His father, Jeff Finke, was a legend in the small town of Casey, which is about halfway between Terre Haute, Ind., and Effingham. Finke was a prep star in basketball, baseball and football before signing with Lou Henson and the Fighting Illini. He was a part of the great Illinois basketball recruiting class in the mid-1980s that included Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, Stephen Bardo and Larry Smith. The older Finke ultimately left the basketball program after the 1986-87 season and ended up playing four years at tight end for the Illinois football program.

Now Michael Finke is about to go through his own basketball recruiting experience as a multi-faceted 4-man who, at 6-8 with skill, will continue to make headlines and grab the attention of college coaches. When you toss around 4-man, multi-faceted, skill, 6-8, the excitement among college coaches grows. With his rapid individual growth and the strides he's made as a player, Finke will be a coveted mid-major/mid-major plus prospect at the very least.

Did Bo Ryan do it again?
Wisconsin has had a wonderful knack for grabbing players, many of the lesser-known variety, and fitting them in perfectly with what coach Bo Ryan wants within his swing offense and system. And he's done a terrific job of identifying the right players and nabbing Illinois prospects who were somewhat overlooked by others.

Remember Alando Tucker? The former Lockport standout didn't demand big-time recruiting attention as a prep player. Ryan scooped him up and by the time Tucker graduated he was the school's all-time leading scorer, Big Ten MVP and a NBA first-round draft pick.

Currently, the Wisconsin coaching staff is extremely excited about George Marshall, the former Brooks point guard who will be a redshirt freshman this coming season. If Marshall does what the Wisconsin staff believes he can do over the next four years, there will be more than a few high-major programs in the Midwest wondering why they didn't hit Marshall harder on the recruiting trail a few years ago.

And now Wisconsin has quickly secured a commitment from little-known Ethan Happ of Taylor Ridge-Rockridge, a small high school near the Mississippi River just southwest of the Quad Cities. Happ, who averaged 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals a game as a sophomore, committed to Ryan and the Badgers in late June.

After an initial glance -- and what proved to be too little and too late of a look at Happ -- the Hoops Report projected a quality mid-major prospect heading into the summer after seeing him play. "He's going to be a heck of a Missouri Valley Conference prospect," the Hoops Report said to a college coach prior to the summer.

Now, after watching Happ more during the July evaluation period with his Quad City Elite team, its obvious he's more than a Valley kid. He showcased athleticism early on, but he's a better finisher around the basket than originally thought, has good basketball instincts, passes well and is becoming a better shooter with more range. Happ is among the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2014.

Happ did have offers from Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wisconsin-Green Bay this spring, but Wisconsin did its homework and snapped him up quickly. The Badgers had Happ on campus twice, including a run in their elite camp. They loved what they saw, offered him and the 6-7 forward with a nice combination of athleticism and skill accepted the scholarship offer less than two weeks later.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Wolves 17s, Lockdown 15s shine at Summer Jam

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By Joe Henricksen

While the Peach Jam on the EYBL circuit is the class of summer events and brings together the most talent of any event nationally, the NY2LA Summer Jam just north of Milwaukee was loaded last weekend in all age groups.

With more than two dozen Illinois teams competing in a terrific five days of high-level basketball, a pair stood out from the rest when the Summer jam concluded on Sunday. The Illinois Wolves 17s won seven games before falling to Sports U in the title game of the Platinum Division, while Chicago Lockdown captured the 15-and-under title in impressive fashion.

The Wolves 17s thrive on three characteristics: depth, balance and terrific guard play. In the playoff games alone, junior Keita Bates-Diop of Normal U-High, who played up an age group in the title game, Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge, Pekin's Nate Taphorn and York's David Cohn all took turns as the leading scorers.

Sports U, which is out of New Jersey and features talent from the likes of Bob Hurley's legendary St. Anthony program, took care of the Wolves in the 17-and-under final. In a big semifinal matchup with the Houston Defenders, which boasts the brother tandem of Andrew and Aaron Harrison -- both ranked among the top five players in the nation in the Class of 2013 -- the Wolves picked up 61-56 win behind Brownridge's game-high 17 points.

Brownridge, a 6-1 sharpshooter, scored 24 in a win over D.C. Assault in pool play and then scored a game-high 13 and 17 points in quarterfinal and semifinal victories. He's easily one of the top two or three shooters in the state, which is why he's such a coveted mid-major prospect.

In three pool play wins, Pekin's Nate Taphorn, the versatile 6-7 forward and Northwestern recruit, was the most consistent performer. He played with ease and confidence in knocking down shots and looking to create a little more for himself and teammates. St. Joseph big man A.J. Patty was active throughout the weekend, while Bartlett's Lance Whitaker played a key role with his defensive play.

What more can you say about the Lockdown team the Hoops Report raved about last spring and has quietly put together one heck of an AAU season? Yes, other AAU teams and programs from Illinois receive a whole lot of hype with big-named prospects, but Lockdown was dominant in the Summer Jam.

When it comes to AAU basketball, Lockdown is far from the norm. As is the case every time the Hoops Report takes in a Lockdown game, this group plays together and is about as fundamentally sound as any AAU team you'll watch.

The catalyst remains St. Viator point guard Mark Falotico, who singlehandedly took over the quarterfinal matchup with Net Gain, another solid Illinois 15-and-under team with talent from Central Illinois. With Falotico, Hinsdale Central's 6-7 Matt Rafferty and Lyons Township guard Harrison Niego leading the way, Lockdown beat the Houston Defenders in the title game 53-43. Lockdown's average victory margin throughout the weekend was 18 points.

Illinois Attack did not play in the Platinum Bracket but did make a run in the Gold Bracket Playoffs, beating the Peoria Irish in the semis before settling for a co-championship. Attack opponent Southern Select had to leave the tournament early before playing in the Gold Bracket title game. Leading the way for the Illinois Attack 17s were Oswego guard Miles Simelton, Neuqua Valley guard Jabari Sandifer and West Aurora's improving 6-7 Josh McAuley.

July absurdity
When it comes to prep basketball and recruiting, there is no month like July when it comes to news -- both fact and fiction. With websites, twitter, reporters and endless recruiting services and gurus (the number grows daily), it's a talent to syphon through the garbage.

Several great case in points over the weekend ...
A "congratulations" goes out to a college assistant coach for securing a commitment from a player that was recently reported that day. "We did? Who?"

When asked about offering "Player A" a scholarship that was out there electronically, a high-major head coach tells the Hoops Report, "I'm not sure I've ever seen that kid play?"

When reports surface that a particular program offered a certain player, the response from an assistant coach of that program: "We like him, but we've never talked to the kid, his coaches or his parents."

And from another head coach of a mid-major program: "I just read on a website where we were involved with two or three seniors in your state [Illinois] that we've never contacted directly."

You know when you have that summer mosquito bite on one of your toes or maybe on one of your ankles? It can absolutely drive you crazy itching it through your sock or you can't get to it through your shoe? It may rank up there as one of the top five Hoops Report annoyances -- right there with July tweets and recruiting news.

Big-time event
When it comes to running events, it really doesn't get any better than NY2LA's events in Mequon, Wis., particularly the Summer Jam this past weekend. In addition to a loaded field, the facility is ideal with gym space, seating, parking and accessibility, especially for Chicago area based club programs. Plus, NY2LA events are always organized.

The Hoops Report will have a breakdown of some individual performances from Milwaukee in an upcoming blog.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Illinois State lands Proviso East's Paris Lee

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By Joe Henricksen

Illinois State coach Dan Muller has been on the job for just a few months, but he landed his first big Chicago area recruit -- Proviso East's Paris Lee. The jet-quick 5-9 point guard committed to Muller and the Redbirds on Sunday evening.

Lee, who has been a Hoops Report favorite over the past year and is currently among the top 20 prospects in a talented Class of 2013, has seen his recruiting interest pick up the last two weeks after entering July with just two offers. But he didn't need to wait and see who else would get involved after getting to know the ISU staff and visiting the campus in June.

"First, I'm a big fan of the Missouri Valley Conference," said Lee, who helped lead the Pirates to a second place finish in 4A last season and a 32-1 record. "When I went on my visit, it couldn't have gone any better. Coach Muller showed me everything I was looking for in a program and in a school."

Lee also credited assistant coach Dana Ford, who Lee says "did a great job recruiting me."

"Everyone at ISU made me feel so welcome," says Lee, who averaged 12 points a game and knocked down 57 three-pointers last season. "I was just feeling ISU. It's close to home, yet it's far enough to let me grow up."

Illinois State was certainly in need of a point guard. Star freshman Nic Moore left the program this past spring and followed former head coach, Tim Jankovich, to SMU. The projected ISU starter at point guard, Anthony Cousin, will be a senior this season.

Muller and his staff were scouring the country for a point guard in the Class of 2013, but Lee quickly became their top priority at the position. He brings a dynamic personality and leadership traits that can't be underestimated. Lee is an energizer and catalyst.

As a player, Lee may be on the small side at 5-9, but he has the ability to constantly put pressure on opposing teams at both ends of the floor. He harasses opposing point guards with steals, deflections and being an overall nuisance with his speed and quickness.

While playing off the ball last year, Lee was a consistent threat from the perimeter. While knocking down 57 three-pointers, he shot well over 40 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line. Now the ball will be in Lee's hands to run the show at point guard with the graduation of Saint Louis-bound Keith Carter, and he's been exceptional this summer in leading a loaded Pirates team that figures to be one of the top two or three teams in Illinois this coming season.

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Ideal prospect Bates-Diop excites you

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By Joe Henricksen

Keita Bates-Diop's progression as a player has been impressive. The growth the Normal U-High junior has made in the last six months has set himself apart as a prospect from everyone in the Class of 2014 not named Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander.

From about May of 2011 to December of 2011 when he began to be recognized as an intriguing and talented prospect by the masses, the 6-8 forward always garnered the projection quotes: "Just wait until he figures it out." ... "When he finally reaches his ceiling, look out." ... "Wait until he physically develops." ... "He has so much upside. When will it all come together?" I remember sitting with a high-major coach in December as we took in a Bates-Diop game and the coach saying, "Yeah, well, he's not there yet."

Today, six or seven months later, he still hasn't figured it all out. He still hasn't reached his ceiling, he still isn't fully physically developed and it still hasn't all come together. But that is exactly what makes Bates-Diop such a special and exciting prospect going forward. Using a horse racing analogy, Bates-Diop is closer to being in the "backstretch" than he is the "homestretch" in his development as a player.

Bates-Diop has thoroughly progressed as a player since the Hoops Report took in a couple of his games in the State Farm Holiday Classic in December, while still maintaining the aforementioned "prospect labels" you hope a young player still possesses heading into their junior of high school. You don't want a talented prospect to be tapped out by his junior or even senior year of high school. And Bates-Diop is not even close to being maxed out as a player.

We all tend to expect so much from young prospects -- and by young we're talking freshmen and sophomores -- and are often too anxious, unwilling to wait for their progression from promising prospect to ideal player. Because their names are out there, because they are ranked nationally and have high-major offers, many expect to see that player dominate. Well, the truth is many young freshmen and sophomores aren't yet ready to dominate. But you see the potential, you see the flashes. The promising prospect to finished product happens at a different rate for different players.

In helping lead his high school team to a state runner-up finish in Class 2A last March, Bates-Diop averaged 13.6 points a game. While he didn't put up monster numbers or have a big performance in the two games in Peoria, it was another step in his development as a player. So to was his play this past spring on the AAU circuit with the Illinois Wolves, where he took yet another step in growing up as a player.

There are still moments where he shies away from being an aggressive and assertive difference-maker. And while he can score in a variety of ways, he still doesn't always do so efficiently. But it's often as if he's not quite sure or acclimated to knowing which of his many skills to assert in different situations. That will come with time, maturity and experience. The flashes of who Bates-Diop can be are becoming more consistent and more prominent.

There are the eye-popping dimensions as a 6-8 forward with a much-talked about 7-2 wing span, along with what he can do with those dimensions and his athleticism: block and contest shots, reach loose balls and keep balls alive, be an above-average defender and, as he did this last weekend at the Chicago Summer Challenge at Riverside-Brookfield, throw down a dunk over the top of a defender that puts a buzz throughout a gym.

Then Bates-Diop will drop in a 3-pointer, which is a dimension to his game that will only get better as he gains body strength. He then shows how much more comfortable he is with his pull-up, mid-range game in the halfcourt. So while he can still exploit his size and length around the basket, he's slowly but surely becoming a more effective perimeter threat with his shooting and improved ability to put the ball on the floor. Plus, his instinctive basketball abilities continue to emerge more and more.

Bates-Diop is evolving into the coveted hybrid forward with versatile, unique talents that continues to show why the traditional power forward (where have you gone, back-to-the-basket 4-man?) is becoming less important and the "combo" forward -- the combination of an athletic wing and a face-up 4 -- is so valued.

In terms of a visual for the fan, try former Louisville star Earl Clark or former Syracuse star Donte Greene as a couple of players that Bates-Diop resembles in terms of length, skill and position.

Bates-Diop isn't in need of more love. He is already a consensus top 50 prospect, checking in at No. 36 in the Rivals.com national rankings and No. 43 in both Scout.com and ESPN.com. He's been the Hoops Report's No. 3 prospect in the class, behind Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander, for some time. He has high-major offers from the likes of DePaul, Illinois, Kansas State, Michigan, Purdue and Northwestern -- with many more to come.

But he's also so far away from reaching his ceiling and becoming the player he can be, which is why it will be intriguing watching his development over the next 24 months. You compare Bates-Diop to other top prospects in Illinois not named Jabari, Jahlil and Big Cliff and there is just so much more that catches your eye and keeps you excited thinking of the heights he has yet to reach.

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July eval weekend encore

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By Joe Henricksen

The City/Suburban Hoops Report checked out action at the Chicago Summer Challenge at Riverside-Brookfield, the King James Summer Classic in Waukegan and the D1 Elite Event in Wisconsin. Here are a whole bunch of Hoops Report points in an encore presentation of the first weekend of the July evaluation period ...

KENDALL POLLARD, PARIS LEE, ALEC PETERS -- and a few other players -- were highlighted in this blog a week ago as ones who will grab the attention of college coaches the most this July. They would open eyes, add more offers -- and bigger offers than they had previously received. They didn't disappoint in the opening weekend of the evaluation period, with those three and others finally earning the accolades and respect the Hoops Report has been preaching.

Peters, the Washington star who already sported a number of low-major and mid-major offers, added the likes of Saint Louis, Rice and Boston College to his list, with heavy interest from Butler and a few others. From all reports, Simeon's Pollard was terrific at the Nike Skills U in Virginia, as proven by the number of calls the Hoops Report took in from college coaches regarding Pollard. La Salle and North Texas had been the two schools on Pollard the longest and the hardest prior to July. But Dayton, Southern Illinois and Illinois State have jumped on board for the 6-5 wing, with plenty more expected to follow in the coming two weeks. And Lee, the Proviso East point guard, is going to have a surplus of mid-major programs knocking on his door.

THE BEST PROSPECT IN ILLINOIS not named Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander -- three players all ranked among the top 10 players nationally in their respective classes -- is Normal U-High's Keita Bates-Diop. More on the 6-8 junior later this week ...

THE HOOPS REPORT WILL GIVE ALEC PETERS THE NOD as the best pure shooter in the state of Illinois. With his size at 6-7 and feathery touch and picture-perfect release, the Washington star is the ideal fill-it-up shooter from the perimeter. But right behind him is Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge. The 6-1 senior had moments this past weekend with the Illinois Wolves where he was on auto-pilot from beyond the arc. Plus, slowly but surely he's starting to put it on the floor better. It seems the entire Missouri Valley is on Brownridge, with Creighton and Illinois State right near the top. But both Saint Louis and Dayton from the Atlantic 10 are both showing heavy interest.

SPEAKING OF SHOOTERS, GO AHEAD AND PUT THIS DOWN: As of July 17, 2012, the best shooter in the sophomore class is Bolingbrook's Prentiss Nixon. The 6-0 guard needs to further develop his playmaking and ball skills, but Nixon went stretches this past weekend with the Illinois Wolves where his 3-point makes didn't touch the rim. It comes out of his hand quick and pure and he shoots it with range. Right now he's an undersized 2-guard looking to show improved ball skills and playmaking ability over the next couple of years.

AND ANOTHER SHOOTER ... There is Washington's Alec Peters and Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge when discussing the top two shooters in the Class of 2013. And then there is little-known Capel Henshaw from downstate Harrisburg. He caught the Hoops Report's eye last April in Merrillville, but he hasn't stopped knocking down jumpers. His smooth, pure, effortless, left-handed shooting stroke extends to 22-23 feet and was on display all weekend at the Summer Showcase at R-B. The 2-guard has some strength and size at 6-3 and is clearly a scholarship player as a bubble Division I/Division II prospect.

ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING MATCHUPS OF THE WEEKEND took place at the King James Summer Showcase, where a pair of underclass big men went at it. Benet Academy's Sean O'Mara, one of the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's 2014 player rankings, squared off with Diamond Stone, a 6-10, 245-pounder from Milwaukee (Dominican). Stone is already regarded as one of the top big men nationally in the Class of 2015. O'Mara held his own as half the Big Ten schools took in the matchup. Stone's size and length definitely caused problems for O'Mara, which is a concern, but there were moments where the Benet junior looked the part of a high-major big man. He has the tools to work with as a low-post player. The true, on-the-block big man is a thing of the past, so it's refreshing to see a player like O'Mara relish in the fact of who he is as a player. And college coaches take notice as well. The 6-9 O'Mara will garner high-major offers before it's all said and done.

HOW ABOUT SEAN O'BRIEN? Over the past six months, every single time the Hoops Report re-evaluates the player rankings and gets ready to update them and solidify just what level each prospect can play at, Mundelein's Sean O'Brien climbs higher and higher. The Fundamental U standout is now among the top 30 prospects in the senior class. The 6-6 wing was impressive again and has shown he's a mid-major prospect. The interest has picked up and will continue to do so as he plays out the next two weekends. The list of offers O'Brien has secured this spring and summer: Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, SIUE, Florida Gulf Coast, Eastern Kentucky, Elon and Keneshaw State.

AT 6-9, SKILLED AND A 34 ACT, Lake Forest's Sam Downey is sure to grab attention with those three characteristics alone. But Downey has come a long way in his development as he plays out the summer with Fundamental U. He had some very strong moments at the King James event in Waukegan, showcasing good hands, a soft touch and being a solid passing big man. He still has a ways to go but has a lot to work with. Yale, Northern Illinois and Keneshaw State are on board, with a whole bunch of high-academic schools -- Cornell, Columbia, Lehigh, Colgate and Brown -- increasing their interest.

ANDREW McAULIFFE IS JUST A SOLID BIG MAN PROSPECT. The Glenbrook North senior has size at 6-8, is impressive academically, uses both hands well around the basket, plays pretty consistent when he stays healthy and has just enough skill to get mid-major college programs enamored with him. He may not be the ideal athlete, doesn't play above the rim and can be a bit mechanical at times, but with big men at such a premium the offers are nearing two dozen, with Davidson, Tulane, Rice, Bucknell, Elon, Loyola and Miami-Ohio among those who have offered.

JUST WAIT FOR THE JUMP SIMEON'S D.J. WILLIAMS IS GOING TO MAKE over the next 12 months. If the work ethic is there going forward, the jump will be impressive. He showed again how talented he is at the D1 Elite Event in Wisconsin this past weekend, even as his Meanstreets team played up an age group. The 6-6 versatile wing is bustling over with skills and talent, much of which is still untapped. He will get to the rim. He will impact the game with his length. He will finish with an impressive dunk. He will bury a perimeter jumper. Williams doesn't do any one thing consistently just yet (there aren't many players his age who do), but he's on track. He's one of the top two or three prospects in the sophomore class, with the potential to be the state's best before it's all said and done in the Class of 2015.

I LOVE LUWANE PIPKINS. I love how he competes. I love how he terrorizes opponents. I love how he gets his hands on more balls defensively than any guard in Illinois, regardless of class. I love how tough he is. I love how much he loves to play. I love that he can knock a shot down. Yes, the sophomore guard from Bogan is small, but he is certainly among the top prospects in the Class of 2015. The 5-8 Pipkins just needs to figure out how to play the point guard position, run a team better and avoid trying to do too much.

PALATINE'S ROOSEVELT SMART IS WELL ON HIS WAY. As the Wolves 15s played up an age group this past weekend, Smart simply looked the part as a versatile 6-3 threat on the perimeter. On a very talented Wolves team, which includes St. Joseph's Jordan Ash, Smart stands out. He picked up an offer from Loyola.

AN UNDER-APPRECIATED 15-AND-UNDER TEAM IS NET GAIN. The Hoops Report has said it before but the Net Gain group is a good one. The collection of central Illinois players know how to play the game and mix in some intriguing talent, led by the trio of Bloomington Central Catholic's Jake Reinhart and the Normal tandem of Tyler Seibring and Alex Peacock. The 1-2 punch of the 6-7 Seibring and the 6-5 Peacock is going to be quite at tandem for Normal over the next three years. Seibring is a dead-eye perimeter shooter with size (think high school version of Brad Lohaus), while Peacock is a crafty lefty around the basket with a great look as a player.

TWO OTHER SOPHOMORES WHO REALLY IMPRESSED at the Summer Showcase at Riverside-Brookfield: St. Patrick's Nicholas Coleman and Whitney Young's Joseph Toye. Coleman can shoot it and plays with a little swagger for someone so young, while Toye is starting to figure it out. Always regarded as a smooth, fluid athlete who had some shooting ability, the 6-4 Toye is beginning to utilize his strengths to his advantage.

HOW ABOUT A NO-NAMER FOR YOU? Try Jerry Davis on for size. Who? There were more than a few people, including college coaches, who asked, "Who's that kid?" Here's why you probably haven't heard of him: He plays on a nondescript AAU team and this past season was a junior guard for a team in the Catholic League that didn't win a game. Nonetheless, the Gordon Tech point guard is a player. He's put together, strong, explosive off the bounce and attacks the basket. Look for new coach Tom Kleinschmidt to get the absolute most out of Davis, a 5-10 senior who must show he can knock down shots.

LOCKDOWN's 15-AND-UNDER GROUP CRUISED IN WISCONSIN. The LockDown 15U team, which was highlighted in a Hoops Report blog this past spring, rolled through the field at the D1 Elite Event over the weekend. LockDown went 5-0 behind the play of Hinsdale Central's 6-7 Matt Rafferty, St. Viator point guard Mark Falotico and Lyons Township's Harrison Niego. This LockDown team has some size and length with Rafferty, 6-5 George Kiernan of Nazareth and 6-4 Connor Raridon of Neuqua Valley.

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Pekin's Taphorn commits to Northwestern

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By Joe Henricksen

Northwestern continues its nice blend of attracting Illinois products, along with a national and international recruiting flavor, as coach Bill Carmody secured a commitment from Nate Taphorn, a 6-7 wing from Pekin, Sunday night.

The combination of the current players, coaching staff and the one-of-a-kind academics at Northwestern was too much for Taphorn to ignore any longer.

"The guys there are great," Taphorn said of the NU players. "At Northwestern you get a great education and get to play the game you love. Plus, coach Carmody is one of the best guys I've ever met. I just respect him so much."

Taphorn, who has shined for the Illinois Wolves on the club program and was solid this past weekend at the Chicago Summer Challenge at Riverside-Brookfield, visited the Evanston campus in late June. Both Carmody and associate head coach Tavaras Hardy were on hand for several of Taphorn's games this past weekend. He is among the top 15 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2013 player rankings heading into the July evaluation period.

In addition to Northwestern, Taphorn received offers from over a dozen programs, including Boston College, Colorado, Colorado State, Creighton and several mid-majors.

The slender but skilled Taphorn must continue to develop physically, but he handles and passes the ball well and has the ability to space the floor and stretch a defense with his perimeter shooting ability.

"This is one of the biggest decisions I will make in my life," says Taphorn. "I'm just excited. I hope to make an impact any way I can. I just want to win with my teammates."

The Wildcats, who received a commitment from arguably it's most decorated prospect in the Carmody era last week in point guard Jaren Sina out of New Jersey, continue to stockpile talent the program has never seen, as the Hoops Report indicated in a previous blog about Northwestern's recruiting fortunes in comparison to the past. In addition, led by the recruiting charge of Hardy, there continues to be a strong presence with specific in-state prospects that fit the Northwestern profile.

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July forecast: These 10 will be hot

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By Joe Henricksen

If you're reading this blog, well, you know them. Come on! You're reading a high school basketball blog when it's 90 degrees in July. Yep, you know them.

College coaches know them, too.

The following short list, which consists of a few players in the Class of 2013 and a few more in the Class of 2014, is made up of no-doubt-about-it Division I prospects. There are scholarship offers sprinkled among them -- ranging in level and amount depending on the player -- yet they still have more to prove. Every player in the state (Yes, you too, Jabari) has PLENTY to prove now and over the next several years. Lets not forget that.

These players probably aren't going to enhance their stock in the eyes of the City/Suburban Hoops Report -- they are already pretty highly regarded and a few very highly ranked in their respective class-- but they will among college coaches. These are the players the Hoops Report believes will increase their options the most (i.e. more scholarship offers) over the course of these next three weekends during the July evaluation period -- and likely receive interest from higher programs than they currently are.

Class of 2013
• Kendall Pollard, Simeon
There isn't a player in the senior class who has raised his stock in the eyes of the Hoops Report more since the conclusion of the regular season than Pollard. In the last four or five months he's made a huge jump. There has been a transformation for the 6-5 wing, who has climbed his way into the Hoops Report's top 10 players in the class and is currently the No. 7 ranked player in the class. When it's all said and done and August rolls around, we'll look back and say Kendall Pollard was the hottest new name in the Class of 2013 in Illinois.

Of all the players on this list, Pollard probably does have the most interest surrounding him. After all, he plays with Simeon and Meanstreets, and the Hoops Report profiled Pollard's rise in early June. But he's going to be hit a lot harder and by some bigger programs, including a few in high-major leagues, after coaches get a look of his reshaped body and how his skill level is so much further along. Plus Pollard has something to hang his hat on: He just goes out and plays, defends and competes. He brings his lunch bucket and goes to work every day.

• Paris Lee, Proviso East
Come on all you mid-major programs in need of a point guard! Where are you? When the Hoops Report looks at this 5-8 pint-sized whiz who puts constant pressure on opponents, it can't figure out why he's sitting there with two offers heading into July. Right now it's Loyola and Western Michigan who have extended offers, with both Illinois State, Ball State and Wyoming picking up its interest of late. Expect a slew of mid-major and mid-major plus type programs to be on the list at the end of this month. Lee's speed, quickness, charisma and know-how just terrorizes opponents. Plus, he has a little of that "it" factor you love.

• Ben Moore, Bolingbrook
It's not as if Moore hasn't drawn some interest and received offers. The likes of Loyola, Detroit, Toledo, SIUE, IPFW and UC-Irvine have offered Moore. But this active 6-7 senior brings bounce, length and athleticism while adding to his developing skill level. This past season he had a breakout year, going from an unknown to a potential mid-major prospect. He has the coveted "upside" so many coaches try to land and has an opportunity to raise his stock this month. If his motor is running full throttle throughout July, he's going to pick up more interest.

• Alec Peters, Washington
The offer list is getting pretty lengthy for a player the Hoops Report has been gushing about for 12 months. After July plays out, it will be a matter of how long the 6-7 shooter wants the list to get. He will be that valuable to a number of college programs due to his sweet shooting stroke and the ability to stretch a defense. Peters is the best pure shooter in the state of Illinois. The Hoops Report has viewed Peters as one of those elite, must-get mid-major-plus type recruits as plenty of coaches will be checking in on the Peoria Irish this July.

• Jabari Parker, Simeon
Thought he may need a little more exposure. ... Kidding.

Class of 2014
• Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic
(Full disclosure: Ulis is the Hoops Report's favorite player in the history of basketball). OK, that first statement is a stretch of the truth. Actually, it makes the Hoops Report laugh when it hears the so-fun-and-easy-to-watch point guard has two offers at this point. TWO? Really? I know little people in basketball have to prove their worth that much more, but it borders insane where the recruitment of Ulis currently sits. While DePaul and Loyola have offered, there will be double-digit offers after he plays out July with Meanstreets -- and playing an age group up, by the way. There is no player, this side of Jabari Parker, who impacts a game more than the 5-8 Ulis. Trust the Hoops Report on this, please.

• Tyquane Greer, Orr
He's certainly a name. Providence was sold and on board last winter (Kudos to the Friars, by the way!). And DePaul offered him this summer. But for a player with his talent and now a national ranking among the top 100 players in the country in the Class of 2014, the offers have come in pretty slowly for this long, athletic 6-6 wing who can knock down shots. The Hoops Report has been intrigued with Greer and his vast upside and ceiling for quite some time and is a believer. He's a high-major talent. And plenty more high-major schools will notice that and offer Greer soon.

• Malek Harris, Sandburg
A prospect who blossomed this spring and opened eyes by showcasing his versatility and size at 6-7, Harris will become liked even more with the Illinois Wolves this month. DePaul, Iowa and Miami-Ohio have offered Harris, who is looking to show he can shed a little of that 'tweener label. Can he develop into a true wing while maintaining an ability to score around the basket? With the high motor he plays with can he be a bit of a skilled, undersized 4-man? He certainly looks the part and is now playing it as well.

• Ore Arogundade, St. Viator
Right now it's Northern Illinois with the lone offer for the 6-2 off-guard. While there is a lot of interest, that's it. There should already be a whole lot more offers from the likes of Mid-American Conference and programs at that level for a player who brings this combination: disruptive defensively, will knock down a shot on occasion, get to the rim, plays hard and brings zero baggage. He will receive plenty of exposure with the Illinois Wolves this month. Look for Arongundade, who is a top 15 talent in the Hoops Report's Class of 2014 player rankings, to grab a lot of attention among mid-major and mid-major plus college programs this July.

• Darreon Reddick, Belleville East
The downstate kid can play. He's a big-bodied combo guard at 6-3 with a frame to take contact while he gets where he needs to go. Reddick knocks down mid-range jumpers with regularity while extending his range and becoming an adequate 3-point shooter. He plays in the shadow of 2013 star Malcolm Hill at Belleville East, but Reddick, who plays on the club circuit with the Southwest Illinois Jets, will burst on the scene before long as me matures as a player.

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Simeon adds to stable of talent

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By Joe Henricksen

If you really want to be picky and find a negative with Simeon heading into the 2012-2013 season as the Wolverines begin their quest for a fourth straight state championship -- you know, the team that boasts the nation's top player, Jabari Parker, and Kendrick Nunn, along with emerging weapons like Kendall Pollard and sophomore D.J. Williams -- it might be a lack of size and a defensive/rebounding presence in the paint.

Well, problem solved. The official arrival of Leo transfer Russell Woods is official, the Hoops Report has learned. Woods, a talented 6-8 prospect in the Class of 2013, gives Simeon just that -- size and an inside presence. Woods has finalized the paperwork and officially transferred to the South Side power.

In addition, coach Rob Smith will add a perimeter threat as well. Leo's Sean Moore, Jr., a 6-2 scoring guard, is also transferring to Simeon. Moore may not have the name recognition of Russell Woods, but he will prove to be a valuable commodity for Simeon as well with an ability to space the floor with his shooting ability.

Woods has widely been considered one of the better prospects in his class since he entered high school. While his progress as a player has been up and down over the past three seasons, he's an immediate impact player for Simeon with his size and presence. With the national schedule Simeon will embark on in 2012-2013, size is a key component in competing against a national schedule. Woods will provide just that.

When school starts this fall, Simeon's basketball program will welcome not only Woods and Moore, but Danville transfer Dante Ingram as well. Ingram is an up-and-coming 6-4 junior who has played with the Wolverines all summer after enrolling this past spring. He's among the top 20 prospects in the Class of 2014.

In addition, an eye-opening collection of incoming freshmen is headed to the halls of Simeon, led by 6-5 Ben Coupet and promising guards Zach Norvell and Joshua Thomas. Coupet, who turned heads at the Fab Frosh Camp in Atlanta in late June and is already among the top prospects in his class nationally, and his incoming freshmen classmates will restock the talent pool at Simeon.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Ready to impress anyone who will look

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By Joe Henricksen

They aren't household names in the prep hoops world around Illinois. They don't play for Simeon, Whitney Young, St. Joseph or Proviso East. But they are quality hoopers in the senior class who small college programs at the Division II and NAIA level are hoping -- selfishly hoping -- stay relatively under wraps this July.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report was impressed with their play this past winter and continues to be impressed with all they've done this spring and summer. Here is a look at several talented players in the Class of 2013 who hope to open some eyes over the next three weekends of the July evaluation period.

Brad Zaumseil, Barrington
"He's a pure point guard with a great feel," says Mike Weinstein, Zaumseil's club coach of Fundamental U. "People underestimate him. He's pretty fearless."

He's a little slender and on the small side, but he's a lead guard who has a very good handle, quickness and will knock a shot down. He grabbed an offer from UC-Davis early on and has generated interest from the likes of Cal-Poly, Cornell, Bucknell, Princeton, Elon, Bucknell, North Dakota State and Miami-Ohio among others.

Waller Perez, Morton
This versatile wing is skilled, with the ability to handle it, shoot it and pass it. He slashes to the basket and can step out to the three-point line. A player that gets better and better, mostly due to a work ethic his high school coach, Tony Martinucci, says is second to none.

"He's such a hard-working player," says Martinucci of his 6-4 senior. "He has gotten better on his own, putting in the time, taking a lot of pride in his game and working hard. He's a throwback and a student of the game."

Perez, who is a straight-A student in the classroom and among the top five in his class academically, averaged 15 points and just under 9 rebounds a game last season as a junior. Playing with the Illinois Wolves this July, look for the interest in Perez to increase after picking up an offer from Pan-American earlier this month.

Miles Simelton, Oswego
The 5-11 scoring point guard has matured as a player and as an athlete. He's a slender but jet quick, athletic scorer who has impressed with the Illinois Attack this spring and with his high school team in June. The four-year varsity player will break people down off the dribble and knock down shots with an improved perimeter jumper. Of all the players on this list, Simelton is probably the one most capable of turning the head of a coach on a given day with his scoring, quickness and athleticism. He will prove to some coach this July that he can play Division I basketball.

Kevin Kozan, Providence Catholic
He's a fun player to watch with his scoring ability and outstanding range on his jumper. Evan as a point guard, he needs to be accounted for as a scorer as he has the ability to create his own shot on the perimeter very well with good lift and a quick release. The kid is a competitor and pretty fearless. The 5-11 senior guard can go on a scoring binge that will open eyes with his shooting prowess.

"Kevin is a fierce competitor and a gym rat," says Providence coach Tim Trendel. "He loves to play the game and has a ton of upside to his game."

Marvin Grant-Clark, Glenbard East
A part-time player off the bench as a sophomore for a team that finished third in the state in 2010, Grant-Clark started and came on during the second half of the season as a junior this past season. Now the 6-4 wing with athleticism and a terrific basketball body has blossomed with his high school team over the past month. He's more aggressive, is a force getting to the rim and has refined his skills, including a jumper out to the three-point line.

"He's really turned the corner," says Glenbard East coach Scott Miller.

Jovan Mooring, Hillcrest
The 6-1 guard missed most of June with an ankle injury, but he's now healthy and a go for July. Another scorer in this group who has a knack for making shots, even difficult shots from the perimeter and with range. Think high school version of Vinnie Johnson -- circa 1980s Pistons. He can heat up an offense. Mooring can shoot it and score in bunches as he averaged just over 15 points a game as a junior. He also knocked down 56 three-pointers for coach Don Houston last season.

Aside from his scoring and shooting ability, Houston points out a couple of other qualities that he, as a coach, has come to appreciate in his scoring guard.

"He has a high basketball I.Q.," says Houston. "He's a leader. He's going to hold his teammates accountable because he's always going to do his part. I do think his recruitment will pick up."

Juozas Balciunas, Lemont
When you watch Balciunas it's almost impossible NOT to like him with his approach to the game. There is so much to like with this tough-minded, physically strong and savvy point guard who plays calm and under control. He's a point guard who just gets it, both the game and the position. Last season, Balciunas was the Southwest Suburban Blue Player of the Year after Lemont knocked off Hillcrest late in the season to gain a share of the title. He averaged 15.6 points and 4.4 assists a game. Now he's a small college recruiting attraction.

Maurius Hill, Homewood-Flossmoor
At 6-5 he's the quintessential undersized 4-man who gets more done than players a few inches taller. What Hill lacks in height he makes up for in tenacity and playing hard each time out. He competes and battles, uses his big body well, finishes around the basket and gets on the glass. Plus, he has the chance to perform under the Meanstreets umbrella this July.

"He's tough around the rim, has a very quick first step to the basket and can knock down the 15-foot jump shot," says H-F coach Jim McLaughlin. "With all of that, along with being 6-5, 220 pounds, he is a true power forward. He presents a lot of matchup problems. Plus, he does all the dirty work on the defensive end. He understands how to help, the importance of taking a charge and is truly a beast on the defensive glass."

Brandon Jenkins, Proviso East
Although seniors Sterling Brown and Paris Lee grab most of the attention of the returning Pirates, Jenkins played a valuable role in the second half of the season for coach Donnie Boyce en route to a state runner-up finish last March. An electric athlete, Jenkins is a glider in transition and a big-time finisher at the rim. He's still figuring out how to play the game and his perimeter shot is coming along, but this 6-4 wing's elite level athleticism allows him to constantly impact games. Still a relative unknown, Jenkins is clearly one of the top 40 prospects in the Class of 2013.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Sweet 16 in 2013 headed by Jabari Parker

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By Joe Henricksen

Any class that boasts Jabari Parker, the nation's top-ranked player, is going to be special. The Simeon star will forever carry the Class of 2013 -- today, tomorrow and for years to come when looking back.

And any class that follows the ho-hum Class of 2012 is going to look pretty darn good. For the sake of comparison, last year's senior class featured just three high-major signings, including Simeon's Steve Taylor to Marquette, Marshall's Milton Doyle to Kansas and Crete-Monee's Michael Orris at Kansas State. Plus, four of the top eight players in the Hoops Report's 2012 rankings didn't qualify and are headed the junior college route.

Fast-forward 12 months and the Class of 2013 could potentially churn out 10-12 high-major players, including three -- Belleville East's Malcolm Hill (Illinois), St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens (Purdue) and Morgan Park's Billy Garrett (DePaul) -- who have already committed.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the Class of 2013's Sweet 16 -- the top 16 college prospects in the senior class as we head into July. What this list shows is the quality depth in the senior class, where players like Andrew's Jubril Adekoya, Proviso East's Paris Lee, Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge, Peoria Manual's A.J. Riley, Simeon's Jaylon Tate and a couple of others, who are all solid mid-major to mid-major plus prospects, could be interchangeable with a few on this list.

1. Jabari Parker, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
What other superlatives and awards can be thrown his way? A special talent with character and class to go with it. He's a program-changer at the next level with his combination of size, skill, versatility and great basketball I.Q. All that is left in the next 12 months is to decide where he will end up among the list of state's all-time great players.
2. Malcolm Hill, 6-6, WF, Belleville (East)
A consensus top 100 player nationally, the Illinois commit has great size on the wing and is adding to his offensive game. He can get to the basket, draw contact, get to the line and knock down free throws. Has the size, length, body and frame to eventually evolve into a true physical force on the perimeter. Unfortunately, Hill will be out all of July as he was recently in the hospital with a blood clot in his arm.
3. Kendrick Nunn, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
He may be a bit of an undersized 2-guard at the high-major level, but there are attributes with Nunn that college coaches covet and that translate easily: high-level toughness and athleticism. Plus, Nunn has the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter and is in attack mode in transition, as a finisher at the rim and defensively when he wants to be. He's an unselfish player who plays with the right mindset.
4. Sterling Brown, 6-5, WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
What excites you about Brown is the fact he's really turned the corner over the past four months, while still possessing the clear and obvious upside. Brown is more assertive, confident in his improved skill level and his body has filled out. A monster season awaits for Brown, whose stock nationally will pick up very soon.
5. Kendall Stephens, 6-5, 2G, St. Charles (East)
The slender shooting guard is starting to fill out physically and beginning to play with more assertiveness. You can't help but be enamored with the natural feathery release and touch on his jumper. The thing is pure and projects to be a big-time weapon when he's surrounded by other talented players. When you add his range, size and length, Stephens is able to get his deadly three-point shot off when he wants. The Purdue commit is a top 100 player nationally.
6. Billy Garrett, Jr., 6-4, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
A calming presence with the ball in his hands as Garrett understands the point guard position and just finds ways to make plays. He makes the right play and is comfortable with the ball when the game is on the line. Although he lacks ideal athleticism for a high-major guard, he will distribute, knock down shots and is just sneaky good.
7. Gavin Schilling, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
When you possess the type of body, size and athleticism Schilling brings to the table, it's eye-opening. The athletic 4-man needs to refine and add to his limited offensive game. His feel and footwork need to improve, but Schilling is a commodity with his physical attributes and with room to grow as a player.
8. Kyle Davis, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Morgan Park)
He remains more of a scoring 2-guard than even a true combo guard, but he's a big-time finisher with his explosiveness in the open court and at the rim. Davis makes plays and attacks opponents on both ends of the floor. An inconsistent perimeter shot and growing playmaking ability are the areas of concern.
9. Kendall Pollard, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
He's a different player than he was just a few months ago. No player has improved and raised their stock in the eyes of the Hoops Report more in the senior class since the end of the season in March than Pollard. He's trimmed down, his skill level has improved and he's evolved into a more complete and confident player. Still hangs his hat on his toughness and ability to defend multiple positions, but he can do more now.
10. Alvin Ellis, 6-4, WF, Chicago (De La Salle)
A player who would thrive in the right style and system at the next level. Long and active with above-average athleticism, Ellis put together a solid junior year while improving his perimeter jumper. While he still needs to become more consistent with his shot and understanding of the game, Ellis is a terrific finisher in the open court. The big plus is Ellis has not come close to reaching his ceiling.
11. Tommy Hamilton, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
An important July ahead for the player who was once regarded as one of the elite prospects in the state -- and nation. Injuries have been an issue, but the skill level--perimeter shot, footwork and passing for a player his size--still remains promising. He's not a great athlete and he must get in top shape to impress.
12. Alec Peters, 6-7, PF, Washington
Is there a better shooter in the senior class? Quintessential face-up 4-man who can step out and extend defenses with his clean and pure shot. Peters is crafty, has a toughness about him and plays with a high basketball I.Q. He lacks the athleticism you would like, but Peters is an ideal mid-major/mid-major plus prospect and is a must-get for programs at that level.
13. Marquise Pryor, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Orr)
Quite possibly the best rebounder in the senior class. Though he has limited skill at this point and isn't the most refined player, Pryor is tough, athletic, possesses a great body, is willing to go to work on the block and is always around the basketball. Think a bigger, slightly better version of Jonathan Mills, the former North Lawndale star now at Southern Miss.
14. David Cohn, 6-2, PG/2G, Elmhurst (York)
One of those Hoops Report favorites who finally is getting the respect and attention he has deserved. A scorer who is a combo guard -- but not by default; he can play both positions effectively due to his better-than-you-think gitty-up with the ball in his hands and off-the-ball scoring ability. He's a perfect mid-major plus guard prospect.
15. Alex Foster, 6-7, PF, South Holland (Seton Academy)
He's been a big name on the basketball radar since the day he entered high school as a 6-7 freshman. Now Foster will take his game to Seton Academy for his senior year. He has his limitations, but Foster looks the part, has a nice body and when he's committed to being a physical force around the basket, he's at his best.
16. Nathan Taphorn, 6-7, WF, Pekin
Long, skilled and versatile, Taphorn, who sports an offer from Northwestern and a number of mid-major and mid-major-plus offers, can stretch a defense with his perimeter shooting ability. He needs to gain weight, strength and another level of toughness, but Taphorn still has room to grow physically and as a player.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Illini job a dream for Parham

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By Joe Henricksen

There are very few college basketball assistants who can legitimately say in all honesty they have landed their dream job. Paris Parham, who is now officially an assistant at Illinois under John Groce, can.

As college coaches scurry around looking for their next job and try to climb the coaching ladder, there are a lucky few who land in a spot they are familiar with and had always hoped and envisioned they would be coaching at. When talking with Parham -- even before and after being hired -- his desire for the Illinois job and the respect and passion he has for the program was abundantly clear.

"It's without question my dream job," says Parham, who rattles off Illini basketball highlights and players from the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s with enthusiasm. "When you grow up in the city of Chicago playing basketball, the dream is to go play for the major state university and in the Big Ten. Now I have the chance to be a coach at Illinois and sell that dream.

"There is no other job I could put myself in that better suits me as far as my background and the relationships I have built over the years."

In addition to being a part of Illinois basketball, what also excites the Chicago native is working for Groce and being a part of a staff he was immediately impressed with during the interview process.

"There is a family atmosphere with this staff," says Parham, who says he was fortunate to have a similar type of coaching atmosphere in his five years Illinois State. "This is a close, connected staff. I have always believed that a close staff that respects and trusts each other is a recipe for success."

Parham believes in Groce. And he believes in the product, which he says is a strong academic university and an Illinois basketball program that plays in one of the nation's elite conferences. He wants to help Groce and his staff get that message out, especially to those players who are born and raised in the city, suburbs and around Illinois.

He states Illinois has everything a recruit needs: a high level of high-major basketball, great fan support, a television audience, a powerful conference in the Big Ten, great academics, close to home for family and being "THE state university."

"It's all about the power of the I," says Parham. "That means something, it's significant. The University of Illinois gives them [players] a chance to have an opportunity to play at a place where everyone already knows their name. You have a following that you've built all through high school with the fans in this state that can continue throughout their college career here. And because of those ties to this university, you have now put yourself in a better position to have success in life after basketball."

When the unofficial word of Parham's hire became public last week, there was an outpouring of support from around the city and state. Parham, who played and graduated from Dunbar on the city's South Side, was truly thankful.

"I was overwhelmed by all the support from the many club coaches and high school coaches in the city, suburbs and around the state," says Parham. "I am so appreciative."

That support Parham immediately received surely helped Illinois. The announcement last week that Parham would be named the assistant at Illinois quickly paid dividends. A pair of the top young prospects in the state who Parham has strong connections to, Curie junior Cliff Alexander and Simeon sophomore D.J. Williams, were on campus a couple of days later.

"It's still surreal for me because of the job itself," says Parham of his infatuation with the school and program he grew up watching. "It's a chance to go out and try and make a mark and add to the Illinois basketball history."

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Northwestern's recruiting fortunes remain high

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By Joe Henricksen

There are two huge differences between Northwestern basketball pre-Bill Carmody and now:

1) The Wildcats have been consistently competitive, averaging 19 wins a year, winning 30 Big Ten games and reaching four straight NITs in the past four seasons -- even with suffering through key injuries.

2) Carmody, along with associate head coach Tavaras Hardy and the entire staff of assistants Fred Hill and Ivan Vujic, have recruited at a higher level and are consistently involved with prospects Northwestern has never been in on before. The balance of the staff, with Hill hitting the East Coast hard and Vujic helping land European talent, has been a key.

So while the basketball program awaits facility and amenity upgrades and everyone associated with Northwestern anxiously waits for that elusive NCAA Tournament appearance, Carmody and the program continue to cash in on point No. 2 -- recruiting.

Northwestern received a commitment from Jaren Sina, a point guard out of New Jersey who is considered to be among the top players in the country at his position. Although several ACC and Big East programs, along with Alabama, were in on the 6-1 lead guard from Gill St. Bernards School in Gladstone, NJ, Sina will sign with the Wildcats this fall.

Northwestern has done a nice job of recruiting the Chicago area, bringing in the likes of Juice Thompson (Lincoln Park), John Shurna (Glenbard West), Drew Crawford (Naperville Central) and David Sobolewski (Benet Academy) among others to Evanston, while expanding nationally to find the right Northwestern fit.

How much have the recruiting fortunes at Northwestern changed over the years? Using the rankings of just one recruiting site, Rivals.com, along with the always-debateable "star system," here is the breakdown:

Between the recruiting classes of 2002-2006, Northwestern signed 11 players. But only three of the 11 players, highlighted by Kevin Coble out of Phoenix in 2006, were tagged with the three-star label. From 2007-2012 Northwestern signed a total of 17 players, with 14 of those 17 players being three-star prospects or higher, according to Rivals.com. Regardless of how you view the star ranking of prospects, overall that's a big step up in talent being brought in.

Now you add Sina, who is a top 150 player in the Rivals.com rankings, is considered a four-star prospect by Scout.com and is a top 100 player in the country, according to ESPN. In a 5-6 year run of higher level recruiting at Northwestern, Sina is the biggest catch of them all.

Far from a coincidence, the recruiting surge at Northwestern rapidly turned about the time Hardy, a former Wildcat, joined the staff seven years ago. Hardy has been so influential in recruiting to a place that is not the easiest place to recruit to, which was highlighted in a Hoops Report blog a year ago. While Hardy has been instrumental with so many of the Wildcat recruits, Hill's East Coast ties helped land Sina, while Vujic was responsible for incoming big man Alex Olah, a 7-footer who is expected to be the best true big man at Northwestern since Evan Eschmeyer.

Despite the loss of Shurna, one of the top players in the Big Ten over the past couple of years and the program's all-time leading scorer, Northwestern does have some good, young talent in place going forward. Sobolewski put together an impressive freshman year at point guard last season and will get great support and depth from Sina at the position in 2013-2014. Talented Tre Demps, a shooting guard from San Antonio, will be a redshirt freshman this year, while 6-4 junior Jershon Cobb out of Atlanta is poised for a breakthrough season after being a highly-regarded prospect coming in.

There is a nice mix of veteran juniors and seniors in Crawford, Cobb, Reggie Hearn and Alex Marcotullio to go with a group of developing young players. The Class of 2012 is a four-man group with size -- the class includes 7-2 Chier Ajou and 7-0 Alex Olah -- and another top 150 talent in 6-7 wing Kale Abrahamson out of West Des Moines, Iowa.

With Sina in the fold, Northwestern will continue to pound the Class of 2013, with two Illinois prospects front and center: Proviso East's Sterling Brown, De La Salle's Alvin Ellis and Pekin's Nate Taphorn.

So where does all this leave Northwestern basketball? The program is consistently competitive. Remember, the program had a total of three post-season appearances in 100 years of playing basketball at the school prior to Carmody. Now the Wildcats have earned four straight NIT bids. More dramatically, the Wildcats have won 17-plus games for four straight years, including a pair of 20-win seasons. Prior to Carmody's arrival? The program had won more than 15 games in a season just twice -- 18 wins in 1983 and 16 wins in 1931. Carmody has won 16-plus games five different times. In addition, the recruiting is at a level never seen before in the program's history.

But the elephant in the room remains: the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern basketball has yet to play in one. Whether fair or not, that tournament appearance is all that is lacking from Carmody's Northwestern résumé. In this day of win-now and at all costs, patience is lost. But this much is true: Northwestern fans patiently waited 100 years to become competitive. And Bill Carmody is the one to thank for making them competitive.

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