Chicago Sun-Times
By Joe Henricksen

October 2013 Archives

Top Illinois prep prospects of the 2000s: 6-10

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You want a tall basketball task? Go ahead and try ranking the top basketball prospects, as seen coming out as high school seniors, from the state of Illinois since the turn of the century in 2000.

You will notice an asterisk next to the names Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander when they appear on this list. That's because their prospect grade remains incomplete. Their respective body of work is, well, still a work in progress. The fact they are already among the top 10 without having played and completed their senior year of high school says a lot.

Okafor and Alexander are the only two on this list that can move up depending on their senior year and their continued development over the next five months. Alexander, in particular, has come so far since last season, so when looking at the jump he's made, it's tantalizing to think what he can become.

Much has been made of the recent run of true stars the Chicago area has pumped out since Derrick Rose moved on from Simeon in 2007, led Memphis to a NCAA title game appearance in 2008 and became a NBA star and league MVP. He was followed by Anthony Davis, Jabari Parker and now, Okafor and Alexander.

What's challenging and difficult is to match up and compare eras. Where would the likes of Thornridge's Quinn Buckner, East Leyden's Glen Grunwald, Manley's Russell Cross, Westinghouse's Mark Aguirre or (choose the name of a super prep player and prospect and enter here) fall in the following list? It's extremely difficult to effectively compare players from different eras. How would the plethora of modern athletes with the size, strength and speed we now see match up against the sound, fundamental players of 25 or 35 years ago?

Also, the list isn't comprised of the best high school players (you couldn't leave Jon Scheyer of Glenbrook North off that list) or the best post-high school players (i.e. Dwyane Wade of Richards, Evan Turner of St. Joseph, and Springfield Lanphier's Andre Igoudala).

For example, the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Player of the Year in 2000 was Dwayne Wade. He received that award over bigger, more highly regarded prospects named Darius Miles and Andre Brown. Although some liked Wade more than others (He was clearly a better prospect than Andre Brown in the eyes of the Hoops Report despite the national rankings), no one could have imagined or forecasted just what Wade would become after leaving Richards.

While Rose was clearly the top dog in the Class of 2007, Evan Turner wasn't too shabby. But even as a prospect at St. Joseph -- he finished as the No. 54 ranked player in the country in the final RSCI rankings -- Turner wasn't quite viewed as a Big Ten Conference scoring champ, NCAA National Player of the Year type and No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft material.

In 2002 it was Providence's Michael Thompson, Julian's Sean Dockery and Proviso East's Dee Brown all playing in the McDonald's All-American game, while Springfield Lanphier's Andre Igoudala, a future NBA star, was home watching.

While it is extremely difficult to effectively compare players from different eras, it's somewhat more doable when keeping it within the turn of the century, which is why this list -- a compilation of prospects since the graduating Class of 2000 -- is presented today. It's not as if Igoudala was this unknown, overlooked player. But nationally he wasn't even a consensus top 25 prospect in the class, while names like Shavlik Randolph, Evan Burns, Sean Dockery, Antoine Wright and DeAngelo Collins were.

No doubt any list like this is debatable. It should be. There isn't any one exact answer or one opinion. Kobe? The Big O? Jerry West? Magic? Bird? That's tough.

And this is a tough list to crack, too, and an even tougher list to rank. I went back and forth, over and over, moved players up and down the list multiple times, conversed with several prep and college coaches about the list. Plus, you always need to go back and remember them as the prospect they were as seniors in high school, which includes their national ranking, their distinct strengths, their defining games and where you thought they would peak as basketball players.

After some careful deliberation, here goes ... The Hoops Report starts with prospects No. 6 to No. 10 (with the top five coming tomorrow) ...

* #6 Cliff Alexander, Curie (Class of 2014)
Early in his high school career Alexander was a two-trick pony: He rebounded and dunked. This wasn't all he showcased as a prospect -- he was big, ran the floor and was a terrific athlete -- but his rebounding and finishing around the basket brought him early success. As a rebounder he's the best at the high school level since Quentin Richardson in 1998 and Jonathan Mills in 2009.

But those who've watched him morph into a much more complete player have to be impressed with how far he's come in the last 9-12 months. Alexander is a completely different player than he was when fans watched him at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament last December. As a result, he's elevated himself as a prospect, with offensive weapons that go beyond dunking and finishing at the rim. An absolutely exciting talent who -- and this is what really gets you excited -- seems to be just putting it all together and scratching the surface of what he will become. Plus, he just appears to love to play the game, work and play with a chip on his shoulder no matter the fanfare he receives.

#7 Eddy Curry, Thornwood (Class of 2001)
People will focus and immediately preach that Curry was a bust, a NBA Lottery Pick of the hometown Bulls who never reached the level many projected. There were some unfortunate turns in his career, but Curry actually produced at various points, leading the NBA in field goal percentage in the 2002-2003 season and then averaging 14.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game in just his third year out of high school.

With the Knicks in 2006-2007, Curry averaged career bests 19.5 points and 7 rebounds a game as a 25-year old. But the fall from that point on was rapid. And this question always surrounded Curry as player and prospect: How badly did Eddy Curry want it? How dedicated was he to the game, to staying in shape and to improving as a player?

All of THAT has diminished how Curry was viewed as a prospect in high school. Regardless of what he became (or what he didn't become), Curry was an absolute beast in high school with enormous potential at his size. A dominating physical presence at 6-11 with nimble feet and terrific hands, there was a reason he was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the country, MVP of the McDonald's All-Star game, went straight to the pros and was the No. 4 pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.

#8 Darius Miles, East St. Louis (Class of 2000)
On a recent list of the 50 most overhyped prospects in NBA history, Darius Miles checked in at No. 21. Ouch.

Nonetheless, when Miles was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the third pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, yours truly (and plenty other basketball fans from Illinois) was ecstatic knowing this young, dynamic talent was joining Chicagoans Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette on what was the damn coolest NBA roster imaginable.

Attitude, personality traits and commitment always dogged Miles throughout his short and rather unproductive NBA career. A severe knee injury didn't help, nor did an undeveloped perimeter jumper.

He dazzled, though, during his time at East St. Louis, leading the Flyers to Peoria and the Elite Eight his senior year. He was a high school prodigy, a thoroughbred, generating a buzz throughout Illinois -- partly due to his talents and partly due to the fact so few people saw him play. Miles was ranked No. 3 in the country following his senior year, behind only Zach Randolph and Eddie Griffin. The 6-9 forward would block shots, pass, slash, rebound, lead the break and showcase the coveted length, versatility and athleticism NBA general managers became enamored with.

#9 Shannon Brown, Proviso East (Class of 2003)
Although Brown was cut by the Washington Wizards a little more than 24 hours ago, overall he's been a little underappreciated as a prospect and player. He started 89 games in his three years at Michigan State, averaging over 17 points a game as a junior, was a first-round draft pick and, after a slow start in his professional career, found a niche in his seven years in the NBA.

People forget how highly the 2003 Mr. Basketball winner in Illinois was thought of as a prospect nationally. The athletic 6-3 guard was the No. 3 ranked player in the country his senior year, behind only LeBron James and Luol Deng -- and ahead of Chris Paul.

#10 Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor (Class of 2005)
A terrific athlete at 6-8 with a 7-foot wingspan, Wright was a McDonald's All-American and the No. 6 ranked player in the country as a senior, behind Josh McRoberts (Carmel, Ind.). Monta Ellis (Jackson, Miss.), Martell Webster (Seattle, Wash.), Tyler Hansbrough (Poplar Bluff, Mo.) and Louis Williams (Snellville, Ga.). All five of those players remain on a NBA roster today, while Wright, the No. 13 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, hasn't played in the NBA since 2011 and signed with Krasnye Krylia of the Russian Professional Basketball League in September.

A player on this list the City/Suburban Hoops Report wasn't as ga-ga over as others were in terms of his projection, Wright was a coveted prospect who played two seasons at Kansas. But a somewhat soft side and lack of any kind of perimeter shot tempered the Hoops Report's enthusiasm over Wright over the course of his high school career.

(Tomorrow: The top 5 Illinois prep prospects of the 2000s)

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Chicago Elite Classic offers monster talent, matchups

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Chicago area basketball fans will be treated to a special day the first Saturday in December. The second annual Chicago Elite Classic, which will be played Dec. 7 at the UIC Pavilion, is bigger and better than the inaugural event a year ago.

Matchups for the event were announced Tuesday night on Comcast's Sports Talk Live, which includes a seven-game lineup with eight teams from Illinois and six out-of-state powers.

"What's really exciting to me is that we do have very, very good teams, nationally-ranked teams," says Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, the creator of the event. "We could have seven teams ranked among the top 20 nationally. But we also are going to have some fun, entertaining individual matchups within the team matchups."

Here is rundown of the recently released matchups for the Chicago Elite Classic.

• Whitney Young vs. St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.)
The season opener for Jahlil Okafor & Company will be a dandy with true star power. Okafor, the nation's top prospect, along with Georgetown commit Paul White and Saint Louis-bound Miles Reynolds, face a loaded St. John Bosco team, which boasts a pair of superstars in UConn commit Daniel Hamilton, a 6-6 wing ranked among the top 25 prospects in the country, and 6-4 combo guard Tyler Dorsey, who is the No. 5 ranked player in the country, according to Rivals.com.

• Curie vs. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.)
A battle of elite big men as Curie's 6-9 Cliff Alexander leads the Condors against Bishop Gorman's 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman, currently the No. 2 ranked prospect in the country in the Class of 2015. Another talented junior, 6-8 Chase Jeter, has offers from Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina among other high-major programs and returns from last year's 29-3 team.

• Simeon vs. Hamilton (Memphis, Tenn.)
The four-time defending state champs reload with 6-5 senior Donte Ingram and a bevy of young players, including 6-7 junior D.J. Williams, 6-6 junior Ed Morrow and 6-4 sophomore Zach Norvell. Hamilton features the brother tandem of 6-7 senior K.J. Lawson, a Memphis recruit, and 6-7 sophomore Dedric Lawson, who is currently ESPN.com's No. 4 ranked player in the Class of 2016.

• Benet Academy vs. Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.)
Led by Xavier-bound Sean O'Mara, a veteran 6-9 presence, Benet will face the defending Division II CIF State Basketball champs from a year ago. Redondo Union won 28 games last season and returns a boatload of talent from that team, led by senior point guard Ian Fox, the Southern Section 2A Player of the Year, and talented 6-6 junior Jeremiah Headley, a Division I prospect. Plus, Redondo Union will welcome the addition of transfer Terrell Carter, a 6-8, 270-pound post player who will go head-to-head with O'Mara in an intriguing matchup inside.

• Marian Catholic vs. Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.)
A terrific pairing as two talented point guards both ranked among the top 50 in the nation go head-to-head. Marian Catholic's dynamic Tyler Ulis, who is headed to Kentucky, squares off with Etiwanda's 5-11 Jordan McLaughlin, who committed to USC over offers from Arizona, Connecticut, Gonzaga and Indiana.

• St. Rita vs. Gonzaga College High (Washington, D.C.)
Coach Gary DeCesare's club, led by Northwestern recruit Vic Law and highly-regarded junior Charles Matthews, starts the season out with a bang, playing at Curie Dec. 1 and then meeting up with Gonzaga a week later. Gonzaga won 26 games a year ago and features star junior guard Bryant Crawford, who sports offers from UConn, Georgetown, Indiana and other high-major programs.

• Fenwick vs. Normal U-High
If Northwestern recruit Scott Lindsey makes it back from his injury, this game will feature a pair of Big Ten recruits in the 6-6 Lindsey and U-High's 6-7 Keita Bates-Diop, an Ohio State commitment and one of the top 30 players in the country in the senior class.

For more information on the Chicago Elite Classic, go to www.chicagoeliteclassic.com

Eight young pups to watch this winter

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How many puppies are in the average litter? I looked it up and it depends on the breed of dog, ranging from 8 (German Shepherd) to 7.8 (Labrador Retriever) to 5.9 (Bulldog) to 4.8 (Cocker Spaniel).

So with that meaningless bit of trivia out of the way and in mind, the City/Suburban Hoops Report will stay in that range in putting together this list: The top young prospects to watch in the Class of 2016 and 2017 in Illinois.

Remember, it's early. They are still just pups, with names we haven't heard of still yet to develop and, potentially, any one of these names slipping as their development stalls over the course of the next three or four years.

But here are eight of the top young prospects, listed alphabetically, who will all make various impacts at the varsity level this upcoming season and have opened the eyes of the Hoops Report already.

Barrett Benson, 6-9, C, Hinsdale South (Class of 2016)
As is the case with any true big, you're going to have to be patient with his development. But he has true, legit size that makes him an immediate attraction among college coaches at all levels. And although he lacks ideal athleticism, he has soft hands, touch around the basket and a budding set of skills in the post. It's a wait-and-see as to how quickly and how much he develops.

Nojel Eastern, 6-1, PG, Evanston (Class of 2017)
Of all the player on this list, Eastern has the best feel and acumen -- and he's yet to play a high school basketball game. But the Hoops Report loves the way this kid plays the game. Eastern is an unselfish, pass-first point guard with natural instincts. Already seems to have that team-oriented, winner's mentality that anyone who watches will appreciate.

Devin Gage, 6-1, PG/2G, Curie (Class of 2016)
While Cliff Alexander is the aircraft carrier for a state title contender, Gage will be shouldering a lot of responsibility. As a result, we will see how high a level of prospect he is in a hurry. He's strong, possesses a little explosiveness off the dribble and uses both in getting to the basket and finishing.

Skyler Nash, 6-4, 2G/WF, Whitney Young (Class of 2016)
Powerfully built perimeter player with size and an ability to knock down shots with range. As he continues to develop his overall skills, add polish and become more of a true 2-guard, Nash will ultimately evolve into a pretty high-level scorer in time. For now, Nash simply has to serve as an ideal complementary player for a senior-dominated, star-laden team.

Zach Norvell, 6-4, PG/2G, Simeon (Class of 2016)
The City/Suburban Hoops Report believes Norvell is, without question, the top prospect in the state in the Class of 2016. Right now he's arguably the best pure basketball "player" in the entire Simeon program. Norvell has terrific size as a combo guard who has the vision and shooting ability to play both guard spots. He seems to always be a step ahead of his competition.

Manny Patterson, 6-7, PF, North Lawndale (Class of 2017)
He's very young and still very raw but advanced physically and athletically. Those last two attributes will be enough to get him on the floor early in his career and make an impact as a rebounder and presence around the basket.

Nick Robinson, 6-5½, WF, Kenwood (Class of 2016)
Without question Robinson has the least recognizable name on the list, but the Hoops Report has been very high on him for quite some time. He's just a fawn, still looking to put together his game and consistency at a higher level. But he's an exciting "prospect" who could be on the verge of breaking out sooner than later.

Jeremiah Tillman, 6-8, PF, East St. Louis (Class of 2017)
He's last alphabetically but is probably at the top of the list when it comes to projecting the very best prospect among all freshmen and sophomores in Illinois. His upside is higher than anyone in the younger classes. Tillman was so impressive this summer when combining his advance skill level for a big man at his size and age. He runs the floor, nimble, touch around the basket and can already find ways to score for a young player.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

What Cliff Alexander is really thinking

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As Curie star Cliff Alexander finishes up his round of official visits this weekend at Illinois, followers of Big Cliff's Twitter account will be looking at their phones intently over the next few weeks.

The big fella, who has set Nov. 16 as his decision date, has enjoyed the recruiting process and had fun with it. So why shouldn't we?

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at Big Cliff's real tweets over the past several months and breaks each one down with their true, intent and meaning (wink-wink) behind them. Have some fun, please.


7/12/13 Retweet "At Waffle House with my brother @humblekid11"
(Translation/Real Thought: I really like waffles.)


7/14/13 "Might be taking my 5th official to Kentucky or Florida"
(Translation/Real Thought: Even though I have no real plan to visit either one officially, that's gotta be good for picking up a 1,000-plus followers. Ha!")


7/18/13 "Today stats: 68 new followers, 9 new unfollowers"
(Translation/Real Thought: Good day for me in the Twitter world")


7/31/13 "Confused"
(Translation/Real Thought: Forget about the confusion this choosing a college thing brings, I only picked up 13 followers this week!?!?!? What's up?)


8/7/13 "Who got 6th period lunch at Curie?"
(Translation/Real Thought: Yes, I may be a NBA Lottery Pick 20 months from now, but I'm still a kid who looks forward to hanging with my friends at a lunch table at school!)


8/9/13 "30 shot he aint healing more back lil herb got off "
(Translation/Real Thought: Pretty sure I just confused 99 percent of my twitter followers with that one!")


8/11/13 Retweet "When you have talent like @humblekid11 you could go to Rhode Island and be lottery. So really, only 1 school is league and legend. #ILL"
(Translation/Real Thought: You know what? Maybe I WILL give that a try! Where do I sign, Tracy Dildy!?!?! Chicago State here I come!")


8/17/13 "Good morning"
(Translation/Real Thought: How crazy is it that 9,220 people today even read or care about me saying Good Morning to them? #GoodToBeMe)


8/18/13 "In church today thanking The Lord"
(Translation/Real Thought: Dear Lord: Thank you for making me a 6-8 physical freak made of Adamantium and for giving me the potential to take care of my family through this game of basketball!)


8/21/13 "I don't care about the rankings ... They are just someone's opinion on you"
(Translation/Real Thought: Tell me again why I'm NOT ranked No. 1? Puh-leaze!)


8/22/13 "My view at the trump towers (with photo overlooking the Chicago River and the city lights)"
(Translation/Real Thought: Whoa! This is a way better view than looking out the Horse Research Farm from my I-Hotel window in Champaign! Dang, wish Allstate Arena was this nice!)


8/24/13 "Eating steak for dinner tonight"
(Translation/Real Thought: Hmmmmm, no way they have a better steakhouse in Lawrence, Champaign, Memphis, East Lansing or Tucson than they do in Chicago. DePaul does have Chicago Cut and Gibson's going for it!)


8/25/13 "I gotta feed my family"
(Translation/Real Thought: Are they really going to make me go to college for one year? Dumba** rule."


8/25/13 "Ima lose alot of followers when I commit"
(Translation/Real Thought: Maybe I won't sign in November and keep them coming back for more until I sign in April!)


9/1/13 "Leron is not a 4 he's a 3"
(Translation/Real Thought: My subtle way of putting Illinois fans in a tizzy!)


9/3/13 "These curie girls ain't nothing else better to do they need a life"
(Translation/Real Thought: Thank goodness I have me a college girl!)


9/5/13 "Today stats: 61 followers, 13 unfollowers"
(Translation/Real Thought: Just lost 13 more Louisville fans on twitter.")


9/8/13 "I am not on Illinois campus it's just a big rumor"
(Translation/Real Thought: That should let us get around town now a little more easy, @JayTate_1. Now lets go pick up that pizza at Papa Del's.")

9/12/13 "Take a official visit to U of I Oct. 26 #TurnUp"
(Translation/Real Thought: That should rile up this state! How many more followers is THAT tweet going to get me?)


9/12/13 "I realized there are so many fake ppl in this world ..."
(Translation/Real Thought: Oh, shoot! No, no, no, not you Jerrance or Paris or Billy G ... Oh, great. Now I have them all worried I'm tweeting about them. I'm talking Miley Cyrus!)


9/18/13 "Bout to finish up my homework"
(Translation/Real Thought: Y'all quit worrying! I'm going to qualify!")


9/22/13 Retweet "Cliff Alexander is a GROWN MAN #OneAndDone"
(Translation/Real Thought: Damn, straight!)


9/25/13 "Today stats: 31 followers, 38 unfollowers"
(Translation/Real Thought: Uh-oh. About time I stir things back up again with a wild tweet.)


9/30/13 "at the airport in Indonesia."
(Translation/Real Thought: Why aren't THEY recruiting me?)


9/30/13 Retweet "If @humblekid11 doesn't commit to Kansas this weekend, I think the Illini are in there like swim wear."
(Translation/Real Thought: I love dorky white people's cleverness.)


9/30/13 "Cliff Alexander commits to ... NO WHERE ... :-) :-) :-)"
(Translation/Real Thought: I absolutely LOVE this! I love messin' with these crazy people. ... But, dang, I am going to have to actually make a decision sometime soon, aren't I?)


9/30/13 "Back in the states"
(Translation/Real Thought: Wait, the NBA is actually interested in overseas expansion? Hope they wait 15 more years.)


10/2/13 Retweet "@humblekid11 what an unstoppable player perfect fit in an izzo type of game. he'll turn him into a top player. get it done #BleedGreeen#msu#izzo"
(Translation/Real Thought: "OK, sure. But wasn't Adreian Payne a 6-10, five-star, top 20 recruit who's still playing in college as a senior? I'm sure East Lansing and the Izzone is great and all, but come on ... 4 years!?!?!?)


10/2/13 Retweet "Only if my life was like people think it is People assume I got the perfect life or I get whatever I want Nah it's a story behind everything."
(Translation/Real Thought: If these people that follow me only knew!")


10/4/13 "Can't wait Til the season start"
(Translation/Real Thought: I love you like a brother @BigJah22, but I'm coming at you and proving I'm the best damn player in the city, the state and the country.)


10/4/13 "Just touchdown in Lawrence"
(Translation/Real Thought: Speaking of touchdown, you know a college football program is bad when you fly over their stadium and they still have a track around the field. Why IS Kansas football so bad?")


10/6/13 "I need to change my number again to many ppl got it"
(Translation/Real Thought: I know deep down I'm liking and enjoying the hype and attention, but it's official: These reporters, bloggers, website operators and recruiting service people have reached the annoying stage and are driving me crazy.)


10/7/13 "TOP 5 schools in NO ORDER!!!"
(Translation/Real Thought: I do have an order, fools, but you really think I'm putting it out there to y'all? Now give me some more love!!!!)


10/8/13 "I will be making my college decision on ESPN November 20th tune in"
(Translation/Real Thought: Even though I'm going to change the date in, oh, a couple of hours, that tweet should go viral and I can do it all over again in a bit #DrivingThemCrazy.)


10/8/13 "Change of date. November 16th my birthday I will make my college decision"
(Translation/Real Thought: Pysche! Now retweet that!)


10/8/13 "Today stats: 332 followers, 36 unfollowers"
(Translation/Real Thought: Bingo! 332 new followers! I knew that commitment date tweet would draw them in! But those followers down in the Bluegrass State keep dropping like flies!)


10/11/13 "Sosa go crazy on every song"
(Translation/Real Thought: They're not stupid enough to think this has anything to do with Sammy Sosa, is there? Oh, boy, guess I should have included #ChiefKeef to avoid confusion.)


10/13/13 "Thinking ...."
(Translation/Real Thought: All these people out there thinking that I'm thinking what school do I want to go to? What coach do I want to play for? What's really important to me in finding the right college basketball program? But I'm just sitting here at the McDonald's counter thinking, "What should I order?")


10/14/13 "Man I just cracked my phone"
(Translation/Real Thought: If it weren't for these stupid NCAA rules I'm sure one of these college coaches would buy me a new one.")


10/15/13 Retweet "jahlil okafor is way to overrated, seen him twice, he can't play against good talent. Cliff Alexander is alot better"
(Translation/Real Thought: Hey, Jahlil! It's not ME saying this! Just some random dude! But Big Cliff -- yes, I can talk in first person once in awhile --  will have one of those "By the way, in case you didn't know, I AM THE NO. 1 PLAYER" moments or two this coming season. Just so you know.)


10/16/13 "I really need to change my number... Some random white dude just called me on FaceTime."
(Translation/Real Thought: Wait a minute! I know that guy from somewhere ... Was that Dr. Ron Bradley, the associate head coach at DePaul?")


10/22/13 "Durk got off in bangbros"
(Translation/Real Thought: I do wonder what my followers think when they follow my tweets. I mean like right here: Are they wondering if Durk or Bangbros have anything to do with basketball or recruiting whatsoever? I'm going to send the majority of these fans of mine on Twitter on a google search with that tweet and they will all be disappointed they wasted their time looking up a rapper from Chicago.)


Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Whitney Young's Miles Reynolds chooses SLU

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While teammates Jahlil Okafor, the nation's No. 1 player, and Georgetown recruit Paul White have grabbed most of the headlines over the past three years, Wednesday was Miles Reynolds' day as the Whitney Young senior made his college decision.

Reynolds, who was down to Saint Louis, LSU and Columbia, committed to coach Jim Crews and SLU Wednesday night.

The 6-1 combo guard believes the opportunity at Saint Louis is ideal as the Billikens will be graduating the starting backcourt of Mike McCall, a Foreman product, and Jordair Jett.

"The main reason is they have two guards graduating and there is a real opportunity to play early in my career there," says Reynolds. "I also wanted a good academic school, and Saint Louis has great academics. So with the opportunity to play early and the academics, it's a perfect fit for me."

Reynolds also noted he has a "special connection" with Crews, who took over for the late Rick Majerus last season and led the Billikens to 28 wins and a NCAA Tournament berth. In addition, Reynolds is excited about working with new SLU assistant coach Calbert Cheaney, the former Indiana star and 13-year NBA veteran.

"I think coach Cheaney will really help me in developing as a player," says Reynolds, who will be a three-year starter for the Dolphins this winter.

Reynolds joins a recruiting class that also includes 6-4 point guard Marcus Bartley of downstate Decatur MacArthur and 6-4 point guard Davell Roby of White Station High School in Memphis.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Plenty of young talent on display at Pangos Camp

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Beware! Read with caution!


That warning label should go before any story highlighting young basketball players, many of which have yet to play a single minute of varsity basketball or have just one year of high school under their belt.

Today, we read a tweet, blog or story on young prospects blessed with some basketball ability at an early age and the nice little player becomes an undeserved prodigy. They're not all phenoms, you know. Very few are, in fact. Remember, as the Hoops Report warned you days ago in this column, we may be waiting awhile for the next true "Big Thing" in Illinois prep hoops.

So attending any all-star type of camp where players are thrown together for what is basically five-on-five, pick-up basketball is cause for concern when tossing around superlatives.

But with that understanding, the 2013 Pangos All-Midwest Frosh/Soph Camp this past weekend in LaGrange did showcase the top in-state talent in the Class of 2016 and 2017, with a few Class of 2018 prospects sprinkled in.

Here are some individual player storylines the City/Suburban Hoops Report took from the Pangos Camp.

THE BEST IN 2016: There is no debate right now who the best prospect in the state of Illinois is in the Class of 2016. Simeon's Zach Norvell, the combo guard who is closing in on 6-4, continues to impress. Whether it was with his play this past summer with Mac Irvin Fire on the AAU circuit, watching him in open gym with his Simeon teammates or in an all-star camp setting like this, Norvell continues to be at ease playing against older competition and is typically a notch above all those players his own age.

What you love about Norvell is that he's always the player impacting each and every game he plays. His size is such an advantage as a big-bodied guard with outstanding shooting range. Has the height and offensive awareness to see the floor and make an impact, even without blazing speed or elite athleticism.

OVERLOOKED IN 2016: While the City/Suburban Hoops Report has had Nick Robinson among the top five prospects in the Class of 2016 since the day he entered high school, few have talked much about the 6-5 forward from Kenwood. But Robinson is blessed with that alarming upside you envision all coming together at some point. And when/if it does, Robinson could end up as a 6-7 or 6-8 skilled forward with that pass/handle/shoot combination. Will his breakout season be sooner or later?

STILL TOO YOUNG, BUT OH WELL ...: The Hoops Report reluctantly highlights players who have yet to step foot in high school, but after watching young Marquise "Kezo" Brown again, it's warranted. He's just a couple of months into 8th grade, yet Brown continues to show why he's the most talented 8th grader in the Chicago area at this point in time.

The 5-11 guard impresses with his off-the-dribble explosiveness and attacking style with an excellent crossover and change of pace dribble. He brings competitiveness and tenacity to the floor. Plus, the kid has a clue how to play, even at this young age. As you would expect with any young teen, Brown has a long way to go in his development, but he's a pure talent. It would be surprising to find Brown playing anywhere other than a loaded Simeon program a year from now.

ST. RITA TALENT PIPELINE: Coach Gary DeCesare's St. Rita basketball program will be among the top half dozen teams in the preseason rankings. For starters, there is the senior duo of Northwestern recruit Vic Law and guard Dominique Matthews. With the junior trio of star Charles Matthews, point guard Armani Chaney and 6-8 Myles Carter, the Mustangs have some staying power for the next couple of years. But DeCesare also has a solid group of young talent in the pipeline, including 5-9 sophomore Malik Hall and freshman shooter Paul Kingsley, the younger brother of Scott Kingsley, who graduated from St. RIta last year and is playing at Fairleigh Dickinson.

But the best of the young bunch is 6-2 freshman Te'mon Elijah Green, who grabbed the Hoops Report's attention with his play at the Pango All-Midwest Camp. Big and strong for a player at his position and for his age, Green showcased various tools as he knocked down perimeter jumpers and used his size to his advantage.

SKYLER NASH READY TO BE COUNTED ON: He's not going to be asked to carry a huge load, but with the departure of big-time wings Joseph Toye and L.J. Peak, who both transferred out of Whitney Young, 6-3 sophomore Skyler Nash will be asked to carry a bigger load than expected this winter. With the way Nash has played, it appears the sophomore is set to provide some offensive punch for a team that will be built around 6-11 Jahlil Okafor and rely heavily on seniors Paul White and Miles Reynolds. Nash, who is evolving into a versatile scorer with a solid frame, is among the top five prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2016.

BEST YOUNG TALENT: Although the best young talent in Illinois, 6-9 Jeremiah Tillman of East St. Louis, wasn't in attendance, every other top talent from within the state in 2016 and 2017 was on the floor at Pangos. And the top talent in those two classes combined begins with this trio: Simeon sophomore Zach Norvell, Hinsdale South's 6-9 sophomore Brock Benson and 6-1 point guard Nojel Eastern, who is just a freshman at Evanston. All three were on the floor together Sunday afternoon in the final round of scheduled games, with Norvell the most consistent and impressive.

But an all-star setting like this is no friend of a true big man like Benson, who showed a soft touch around the basket and then stepped out to knock down a three-pointer. And Eastern was a trooper playing despite the fact he broke one pinkie and dislocated the other. But I absolutely love Eastern's feel for the game, presence and demeanor.

REVIEWS OF OTHERS: It's always interesting, somewhat entertaining even, hearing and reading what some national evaluators have to say about our Illinois talent after one or two glimpses. As the Hoops Report has said so often, it can't imagine scouting the country as a national evaluator and seeing so many players so few times.

YOU CAUGHT MY EYE: The Hoops Report notebook was filled with notes attached to young prospects who had their moments -- some big and some just enough to be noticed. Here are a few other individual player tidbits taken from the Pangos All-Star Camp.

Brian Bowen, Saginaw (Arthur Hill). An out-of-state prospect the Hoops Report can easily rave about and sing the praises of as a super smooth and skilled 6-6 guard who has received some early buzz. It's legit and well deserved. Bowen, who is just a freshman, was the best looking prospect at the camp and will be a high-major recruit.

Joshua Thomas, Simeon. An aggressive and rugged guard who uses his body and strength to get to the basket and finish at the rim. Thomas, a 6-2 sophomore, could evolve into a key piece off the bench for the defending Class 4A state champs. He's tough, strong and his offensive game continues to develop.

Bol Bol, Olathe, Kan., (St. Paul). The resemblance was eery. Then the name struck you. You couldn't help but notice the similarities between this long, skinny 8th grader who's already 6-5 to his father, the late Manute Bol. The son of the former NBA player who, at 7-7, remains one of the tallest players in NBA history, is a very promising prospect.

Manny Patterson, North Lawndale. For a kid just entering high school, the 6-7 freshman is a physically gifted specimen who is active, runs the floor and has tools to work with. Aside from the obvious when eye-balling Patterson, what excites you about him are the strides he's already made since watching him this past summer.

Nick Rakocevic, St. Joseph. The Hoops Report loves capable shooters. And when they're a legit 6-8 with range out to the three-point line, all the more reason to be impressed. Rakocevic, who is just a sophomore, will be a vital piece for coach Gene Pingatore as he builds around junior guards Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash.

Ethan Meeker, Galesburg. The 5-11 sophomore guard from Galesburg will catch your eye with his skill level (an outstanding passer) and shooting ability. The kid knows how to play.

Charlie Moore, Morgan Park. He's still young. He's still little. But the 5-8 sophomore can go get you baskets.

Alonzo Chatman, Morgan Park. This may have been the most eye-catching performance the Hoops Report has seen from the early-hyped 6-6 sophomore in quite some time. If he can play with consistency and productivity, the undersized 4-man will be a key figure in helping coach Nick Irvin's Mustangs repeat in Class 3A. Chatman had his moments in the Pangos Camp.

Trey Mack, St. Ignatius. Each time you watch this 6-1 lefty guard you leave the gym saying, "I like that kid." This freshman plays hard, with a sense of urgency and is capable of knocking down shots with a pretty advanced skill set for a freshman.

Nate Kennell, Metamora. The 6-5 sophomore is STILL one of the most efficient shooters in the state of Illinois, regardless of class.

Terrell Phipps, Al Raby. Clearly a new name on the 2016 radar as the unpolished 6-7 forward is active, bouncy and impacted a stretch here and there with his length.

Carleton Williams, West Aurora. If coach Gordie Kerkman's Blackhawks have any visions of winning a third straight sectional title next March, this raw 6-8 sophomore will need to make an impact. Again, he's raw, but the size and potential are there to develop over the course of this upcoming season.

Antonio Williams, Proviso East. There is a surplus of talented guards at the Maywood school, with this sophomore perhaps the least recognized among returning talents in Jevon Carter and Kailin Fisher, along with promising freshman Mahir Williams. But the 5-11 Antonio Williams has a chance to be a disruptive force with his explosive athleticism.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Sorry, but next 'Big Thing' isn't coming anytime soon

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Shame on you, Anthony Davis. And you, too, Jabari Parker.

While we're casting blame on kids, Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander are guilty as charged.

You've all ruined it for the next wave of prep stars coming through Chicago and how we look at them -- at least for the foreseeable future.

When you add Derrick Rose to this list, we're talking five players since 2007 ranked among the top five players in the country in their respective class and have been, or are projected to be, near the top of a NBA Draft class soon after high school. It's an unprecedented run of rare talent.

Rose and Davis were the No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Parker isn't expected to last at Duke for more than a year before he declares for the NBA Draft and becomes a top five pick. Okafor and Alexander are currently projected to be among the top five picks in virtually everyone's 2015 mock NBA Drafts.

Again, rare, striking talent we shouldn't get used to in Chicago on such a regular basis. They are players who, while maybe not guaranteed, were/are at least primed and preparing for big things beyond high school and college.

I received a phone call recently from Chicago Magazine, which does a magnificent job of bringing readers the very best the City of Chicago has to offer. The writer wanted to know who was next? Who is the next Jabari? The next Jahlil? Who is the next "big thing" in high school hoops? I mean REALLY "big thing" and not just your regular high school hotshot.

There isn't one. There isn't one in Garfield Park, Beverly or Englewood. You're not going to find one playing in any of the SICAs, the western suburbs or Lake County.

There. Just. Isn't. One. So quit trying.

Simply because a player is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in his respective class, whether it be in 2015, 2016 or 2017, doesn't mean they should get the Jabari/Jahlil/Cliff treatment. Despite the natural hype machine in prep hoops that has evolved, players can't be anointed as the "next great phenom," nor should we expect them to be.

This isn't to say the top players in the younger classes in Illinois aren't outstanding, high-level prospects. There are several high-major prospects, a few who are capable of playing just about anywhere they want collegiately. But they aren't what we've been spoiled with. And that's OK.

Think back to what Derrick Rose was as a young player in the Chicago Public League, with his breath-taking athleticism and explosiveness to go along with an unmatched obsession for winning, an ability to make those around him better and a special upside. You remember thinking back in those early years, "What kind of basketball monster will we have when his jumper becomes consistent?" There isn't a young Derrick Rose anywhere in Illinois.

And aside from Rose, the other four -- Davis, Parker, Alexander and Okafor -- are all at least 6-8 in height. The NBA is a superman's league, where, barring a few rare examples, size and athleticism have become prerequisites at every position on the floor. You won't find any player in the junior, sophomore or freshman class in Illinois taller than 6-7 with the type of pure size/athleticism/agility/skill combination as Davis, Parker, Alexander and Okafor.

Does the possibility exist another player could rise out of nowhere like Anthony Davis, growing seven inches in a year and going from an absolute unknown to the top high school basketball prospect in the country in a matter of months? Uhhhhhh, yeah. Sure, that could happen again.

While Okafor and Alexander are still so young, have a lot of work to put in and plenty to prove, they've certainly set themselves up to join the pantheon of all-time great preps in the player/prospect category. There is a distinction between the list of greatest players and greatest player/prospects.

Former Glenbrook North star Jon Scheyer will forever be one of the all-time great high school players in state history, but he was never the prospect Rose, Davis and Parker were. Again, this is a special tier of players we're talking about with unique talents and far-reaching ceilings.

These were/are players any high school basketball fan will remember watching and talk about 20 years from now in any prep hoops historical conversation. These were/are players with unparalleled peers as teen hoopers but are still far from peaking. At the high school level, their games were/are transcendent.

I will still enjoy watching young players in the upcoming classes and their individual development as prospects. But the reality is this little magical run of unique local talent, players you can be assured will be talked about on the national level for many years and we've been fortunate to watch, is coming to an end. And we shouldn't expect it to come around again anytime soon.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

The Committed

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The two big ones are still out there, uncommitted, enjoying visits and making coaching staffs and fans of a select few college basketball programs swoon over them. When you're Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander, you can afford to take your time, make everyone wait for your decision and enjoy the ride.

There always seems to be a new twist or turn in the Alexander sweepstakes, but the consistency of Kansas being the school to beat has remained a constant. Will that last official visit to Champaign and the University of Illinois in late October turn the tide for a program that is in position to win big with Alexander on campus for the 2014-2015 season? Can Michigan State end its 0-for-Illinois run? Can DePaul pull off a shocker? What if Okafor commits to Kansas first?

With Okafor, the two big visits are coming up: This weekend at Kansas and the following weekend at Duke. The Hoops Report puts the KU-Duke race at 51/49, though it's not sure which one to put at 51. That's how close this one is coming down the stretch as Okafor and Minnesota star prep point guard Tyus Jones continue to gauge the landscape at both schools as they look to play together.

With Okafor and Alexander still on the board, along with a host of others (the Hoops Report highlighted the top unsigned prospects in Illinois in this blog), it's time to get a rundown of all those who have committed. There are 28 Division I commitments in the Class of 2014 and well on our way to 45-plus. Among those 28 verbal commitments, 11 will sign with programs in high-major conferences.

As we head towards signing day in November, here is a look at the list of up-to-date Division I basketball commitments in the Class of 2014 from around Illinois.

• Ore Arogundade, 6-2, St. Viator ... Drake
• Darius Austin, 6-5½, Cahokia ... UMKC
• Larry Austin, 6-1, Springfield Lanphier ... Tennessee
• Marcus Bartley, 6-4, Decatur MacArthur ... Saint Louis
• Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, Normal (U-High) ... Ohio State
• C.J. Carr, 5-6, Rock Island ... SIUE
• Jevon Carter, 6-2, Proviso East ... West Virginia
• Gage Davis, 6-3, Bolingbrook ... IPFW
• Justin Diecker, 6-9, Freeburg ... Kennesaw State
• Amanze Egekeze, 6-7, Huntley ... Belmont
• Michael Finke, 6-9, Champaign Centennial ... Illinois
• Armon Fletcher, 6-6, Edwardsville ... Southern Illinois
• Ethan Happ, 6-7½, Rockridge (Taylor Ridge) ... Wisconsin
• Malek Harris, 6-7, Sandburg ... Marquette
• Jalen Henry, 6-6, Springfield Southeast ... SIUE
• Vic Law, 6-7, St. Rita ... Northwestern
• Scott Lindsey, 6-6, Fenwick ... Northwestern
• JayQuan McCloud, 6-2, North Chicago ... Murray State
• Josh Meier, 6-6, Richards ... Chicago State
• Tai Odiase, 6-8, Homewood-Flossmoor ... UIC
• Sean O'Mara, 6-9, Benet Academy ... Xavier
• T.J. Parham, 6-4, Marian Catholic ... Army
• C.J. Rivers, 6-2, Cahokia ... Drake
• Brock Stull, 6-3, Rockford Boylan ... UW-Milwaukee
• Donte Thomas, 6-5½, Thornwood ... Bradley
• Frank Toohey, 6-7½, York ... Air Force
• Tyler Ulis, 5-8, Marian Catholic ... Kentucky
• Paul White, 6-8½, Whitney Young ... Georgetown

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Five biggest pairs of shoes to fill in 2013-2014

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The opportunity will come for so many players around the Chicago area to play different roles and be asked to step up in different ways this winter for their respective teams.

Maybe more scoring will be required. Leadership might be asked or simply more varsity minutes. Some will transform from specialized role players at the varsity level or the featured player on the sophomore team to impact varsity players.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at five players on five teams that will all help in filling some significant shoes. Each team will be ranked or have high hopes this coming season.

Gone: Jabari Parker, Simeon
While Jabari Parker wasn't anywhere near 100 percent healthy the first half of his senior season and simply wasn't the superstar we grew accustomed to during that time, he stepped up and was huge when it mattered most: During Simeon's state tournament run. His presence alone often set a tone, with his overall talent and feel often taking over.
Next up: When talking about filling the shoes of the first two-time Mr. Basketball winner in state history who captured four straight state titles, it's a little unrealistic no matter how you look at it. Plus, the shoes of Kendrick Nunn, Kendall Pollard and Jaylon Tate also have to be filled. This will be a fill-in-the-shoes by committee, but with some remarkable fill-in talent in 6-5 senior Donte Ingram, 6-7 junior D.J. Williams, 6-6 junior Edward Morrow and sophomore Zach Norvell all poised to emerge and blossom in 2013-2014.

Gone: Alvin Ellis, De La Salle
While De La Salle can look to the return of several young, talented players in the program, coach Tom White relied heavily on Michigan State recruit Alvin Ellis a year ago. He scored over 1,000 career points and put up 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists a game while opposing defenses built their game plan around slowing down Ellis. He was steady and consistent, provided momentum-building plays and really emerged as a senior leader.
Next up: The Meteors will look to junior Brandon Hutton to become more consistent and serve as the primary scoring option. Hutton will do it differently than Ellis, but with his athleticism, talent and build he's ready to become "the guy" after a terrific offseason. De La Salle will be dependent on Hutton's ability to rise to another level if it wants to go from a good to really good team this winter.

Gone: Billy Garrett, Jr., Morgan Park
What didn't Billy Garrett do for Morgan Park last season? And it goes way beyond his season stats of 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists a game. The 6-4 point guard, now at DePaul, was the player others looked to, and he was the player who seemed to always make the big play in the important moments.
Next up: The folks at Morgan Park have been excited about 5-9 Charlie Moore since he entered high school. Moore can expect to see his minutes and scoring opportunities increase. All the little sophomore will be asked to do is replace a four-year varsity winner who led Morgan Park to a Class 3A state championship last season. He's not Billy Garrett, Jr., but he's a fun, talented floor general who can score with his shooting ability.

Gone: Paris Lee, Proviso East
Most will point to the departure of Sterling Brown, the higher profile player in 2013, brother of Shannon Brown and freshman at SMU as the biggest shoes to fill. But Paris Lee, who is now at Illinois State, was the point guard who brought a competitive spirit and a set-the-tone defensive mentality that led to 60-plus wins and a pair of trips to Peoria the past two years.
Next up: One might think West Virginia-bound Jevon Carter or junior Kailin Fisher would be next up. But if the pieces come together just right for coach Donnie Boyce, he will be relying pretty heavily on a freshman -- Mahir Williams. Though it's always hard to project a player this young and how he will transition to varsity basketball, the 5-9 Williams possesses a feel, toughness and competitiveness you don't typically find in a freshman at the point guard position.

Gone: Pat McInerney, Benet Academy
No, McInerney doesn't fit the profile of the other players on this list. The rugged 6-5 forward isn't even playing basketball anymore -- he's playing baseball at Illinois. However, there is no getting around the fact McInerney was Benet's most valuable piece and filled so many essential roles for coach Gene Heidkamp's 27-win team a year ago. He brought scoring, rebounding, physical and mental toughness, was a secondary ballhandler (sometimes the primary ballhandler) and was an unquestioned leader.
Next up: The problem is there are too many roles and responsibilities McInerney left open for one player to fill at one position. The loss of McInerney means there is now opportunities for everyone. Can star Sean O'Mara become a vocal leader? How much has Collin Pellettieri matured as a point guard? How much more offense can junior Colin Bonnett provide in an expanded role?

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Top 15 in Class of 2015

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With National Signing Day approaching for the Class of 2014, college coaches are turning the page and turning up the heat in pursuit of the next wave of prospects in the junior class.

The Class of 2015 in Illinois maybe isn't off-the-charts good like the Class of 2014, which has pure star power at the top and great Division I depth, but it's very solid. But any comparison to the Class of 2014 isn't fair. It's like "Low Winter Sun" following up "Breaking Bad" on AMC.

The class did take a hit locally with the departure of both K.J. Santos (Geneva) and Joseph Toye (Whitney Young) to prep schools. Those two perimeter players oozed upside with their great size and opened the eyes of college coaches this past summer. The athletic Toye would likely have been among the top half dozen prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2015, while Santos would have been among the top 12.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the top 15 prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2015.

1. Charles Matthews, 6-5, PG/2G, Chicago (St. Rita)
Big, long, versatile guard who has received plenty of national attention and high-level interest. With his size and length, Matthew has the capability to impact games in multiple ways. His versatility allows him to play both as a slasher off the ball or a combo-guard with the ball.
2. D.J. Williams, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
An exciting talent who looks the part with ideal size and skill on the wing. He can put it on the floor, lead the break, finish in transition and is slippery in getting to the basket. Growing, developing and still putting his entire talented package together. With Williams, it remains about his upside, projection and will he get there?
3. Jalen Brunson, 6-2, PG, Lincolnshire (Stevenson)
He's long been a Hoops Report favorite for how he competes, composes himself and plays the game. What's not to love? Pure point guard instincts and I.Q. with high-level scoring ability, particularly as an effective perimeter shooter. Underrated strength allows him to take a pounding and absorb contact from defenders. True high-major prospect.
4. Aaron Jordan, 6-4, 2G, Plainfield (East)
So much to like with Jordan, including his size on the perimeter, consistency, temperament, character and shooting ability. Already sports offers from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Butler, Northwestern and Xavier as a talented shooting guard with a prototypical skill-set for the position.
5. Glynn Watson, 5-11, PG, Westchester (St. Joseph)
Shifty with some speed and kick in the open court as one of the few true point guards in the class. Watson will run a team in the halfcourt, make decisions in transition and is an efficient on-the-ball defender at the other end of the floor. Offers from Purdue, Northern Illinois, Creighton and DePaul.
6. Brandon Hutton, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Highly undervalued in the junior class. Blessed with a terrific athletic body and a big-time motor that rarely turns off. Strong combo forward who attacks the glass and can take contact around the basket with brute strength. Skill level has improved but must continue to make strides as he morphs into a true wing.
7. Luwane Pipkins, 5-9, PG/2G, Chicago (Bogan)
Exudes toughness while playing aggressive and with confidence. Those attributes show with the way he plays the game. Comfortable as both a mid-range and long-range shooter. Decision-making and point guard instincts are still a work in progress, but he can flat-out shoot it and score with the best of them. At some point people will take notice of Pipkins.
8. Ed Morrow, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Simeon)
Despite being an undersized 4-man at this point with a limited offensive repertoire, Morrow is still always around the basketball, finishing around the rim, a factor on the glass and willing to do the dirty work. A solid athlete who gets up and down the floor and competes, makes plays.
9. Roosevelt Smart, 6-2, 2G, Arlington Heights (St. Viator)
After a bit of an up-and-down summer, Smart makes the move from Palatine to St. Viator this season to team up with Ore Arogundade. Smart is a solid mid-range shooter with an ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc.
10. Christian Williams, 6-4, 2G, Decatur (St. Teresa)
Solid summer, along with his physical attributes, increased his reputation and stock in the junior class. Big-bodied guard with enough skill to play both guard spots. Assertiveness and tenacity must pick up to maintain top 12 status in 2015, but the ceiling is very high.
11. Prentiss Nixon, 6-0, 2G, Bolingbrook
Although a little ball-dominant at times, Nixon is already one of the better scorers and shooters in the junior class in Illinois. Continues to try and make strides with his overall floor game and show that he's more than just an undersized 2-guard.
12. Jordan Ash, 6-1, 2G, Westchester (St. Joseph)
Possesses physical and character attributes you like in that he's athletic off the floor, has some strength and plays tough and hard. Fluidity, playmaking and perimeter shooting are all coming along as he matures as a player.
13. Kain Harris, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Morgan Park)
A hulking young guard with size, strength and tools to work with. It's a big year for Harris, who needs to put all those pieces and parts together for results and better efficiency this season. He's clearly capable of making that next big jump.
14. Joshua Stamps, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Curie)
With his size, length and shooting stroke, Stamps fits the description of your classic perimeter threat. Stamps will settle and rely too much on his jump shot at times, but he's becoming more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and creating offense for himself.
15. Myles Carter, 6-8, PF, Chicago (St. Rita)
In a class deprived of players with size, Carter fits the bill with his ability to impact games as a presence on the glass and defensively. Still raw offensively with an inside game that must become more refined, Carter has length, can get up and down the floor and a solid frame.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Sandburg star Malek Harris suspended for season

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In a huge blow for one of the top prospects in the state of Illinois and for a program that was a potential preseason top 25 team in the Chicago area, the City/Suburban Hoops Report has learned through multiple sources that the playing career of Malek Harris is over at Sandburg.

Harris, who is ranked among the top 100 prospects in the country and committed to Marquette last spring, will not be allowed to play this season at Sandburg, due to disciplinary reasons. According to the online Sandburg High School Honor Code, multiple offenses can result in the suspension for one calendar year of performances, activities or competitions.

The multi-faceted 6-7 forward is the City/Suburban Hoops Report's No. 6 ranked prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2014. Harris averaged 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game as a junior and was expected to be the catalyst for a team that returned virtually everyone from a year ago.

This isn't the first adversity Harris or Sandburg basketball has faced. A year ago Sandburg started the season 0-11 without Harris in the lineup as he was suspended for the first 11 games for undisclosed violations. But coach Todd Allen's team regrouped and went 10-7 in the second half of the season. With Harris leading the charge as a No. 18 seed in the regional, the Eagles upset Shepard in the opening round game and stunned No. 3 seed Homewood-Flossmoor in the regional semifinals.

In addition to the expected return of a difference-maker in Harris, Sandburg also welcomed back Alec Martinez and Niko Kojiones, a pair of junior guards who started a year ago. Niko Cahue, a 6-6 senior, is fresh off a terrific summer, while 6-7 junior T.J. Vorva transferred in from Marist. With those pieces in place, Sandburg was poised to make a run at favored Bolingbrook and defending champ H-F in the Southwest Suburban Blue this winter.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Illinois prep hoops Top 100 history lesson this century

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The Top 100 rankings have become a rite of passage over the years, a ritual signifying -- fair or not -- how highly regarded a player is as a prospect among his peers.

The move into the top 100 marks a player's change of status upon entry into a select group, despite the fact it's very common the 117th ranked player is often every bit the prospect as the No. 74 ranked player. Nonetheless, that top 100 is a status symbol for the prep hooper, a badge of honor. Can it be overblown? Certainly.

In 2008 one Samardo Samuels was No. 4 in the class while Draymond Green was No. 95. Good luck finding Damian Lillard, the former Weber State star now playing with the Portland Trail Blazers, in any top 100 list in 2008.

In 2006, Stephen Curry couldn't sniff a top 100 list, while forgettables Vernon Macklin and Duke Crews were both in the top 25. Also in 2006, future NBA player JaVale McGee of Hales Franciscan wasn't ranked in the top 100, while Proviso East's big man Brian Carlwell was in the top 50. Carlwell has hardly been the only top 100 bust out of Illinois over the past 13 years.

There are dozens and dozens of overrated and overhyped Top 100 ranking stories just like this every single year.

Last week the first composite top 100 (Recruiting Services Consensus Index) rankings for the Class of 2014 was released, which is a calculated formula combining the opinions of multiple top 100 rankings into one. And Illinois was well represented with seven players among the top 100, headed by the No. 1 prospect in the country, Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor.

For fun, the City/Suburban Hoops Report broke down top 100 players from Illinois since the year 2000 as a little Top 100 historical look. The ranking listed is their final (with the exception of the current seniors in 2014) ranking in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index.

Class of 2014
1. Jahlil Okafor, 6-11, C, Chicago (Whitney Young)
3. Cliff Alexander, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Curie)
30. Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, WF/PF, Normal (U-High)
31. Tyler Ulis, 5-8, PG, Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)
58. Paul White, 6-9, WF/PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
72. Vic Law, 6-7, WF, Chicago (St. Rita)
97. Malek Harris, 6-7, WF/PF, Orland Park (Sandburg)

Hoops Report Note: Loaded group is the only class with two players ranked among the top 10 and matches the second highest total (7) of players in the top 100.

Class of 2013
3. Jabari Parker, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
57. Kendrick Nunn, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
63. Kendall Stephens, 6-5, 2G, St. Charles (East)
70. Malcolm Hill, 6-6, WF, Belleville (East)

Hoops Report Note: Still believe Malcolm Hill, who missed all of the summer prior to his senior year, is ranked a little too low. Although not in the exact order as national experts had it, these were the top four prospects in the Hoops Report's final player rankings.

Class of 2012
82. Steve Taylor, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Simeon)

Hoops Report Note: A forgettable class, indeed. There were only two players in the class who even signed with high-major programs out of high school.

Class of 2011
1. Anthony Davis, 6-11, PF, Chicago (Perspectives)
26. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
46. Sam Thompson, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
63. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island
64. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, East Aurora
65. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
66. Myke Henry, 6-6, WF/PF, Chicago (Orr)
69. Tracy Abrams, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel)
78. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius)

Hoops Report Note: The best class Illinois has produced since 1998, though the Hoops Report was skeptical of where Illinois players were ranked nationally (i.e. Hoops Report didn't even have Mike Shaw in the top 10 among Illinois prospects, thought Ryan Boatright should have been higher nationally and had Nnanna Egwu as the No. 3 prospect in the state in 2011.)

Class of 2010
24. Jereme Richmond, 6-7, WF, Waukegan
29. Meyers Leonard, 7-0, C, Robinson
76. Crandall Head, 6-3, 2G, Richton Park (Rich South)

Hoops Report Note: Meyers Leonard already in his second season in the NBA; Jereme Richmond is ... Sad.

Class of 2009
49. Brandon Paul, 6-4, 2G, Gurnee (Warren)
97. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young)
* D.J. Richardson of Peoria attended Findlay Prep in Nevada his senior year and was ranked No. 35

Hoops Report Note: Big omission from national rankings was the City/Suburban Hoops Report Player of the Year: Drew Crawford of Naperville Central.

Class of 2008
22. Iman Shumpert, 6-5, PG/2G, Oak Park-River Forest
23. Mike Dunnigan, 6-9, C, Chicago (Farragut)
* DeAndre Liggins of Chicago attended Findlay Prep in Nevada his senior year and was ranked No. 34

Hoops Report Note: Iman Shumpert lived up to the hype; Mike Dunnigan didn't.

Class of 2007
5. Derrick Rose, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Simeon)
45. Mac Koshwal, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Boys To Men Academy)
52. Evan Turner, 6-7, WF, Westchester (St. Joseph)
65. Demetri McCamey, 6-3, PG, Westchester (St. Joseph)
93. Brandon McGee, 6-7, PG, Chicago (Crane)

Hoops Report Note: A class that produces a NBA MVP (Derrick Rose) and another NBA Lottery Pick (Evan Turner) is noteworthy. Proviso East's Jacob Pullen had heck of a career at K-State (school's all-time leading scorer) after being left off top 100 lists his senior year in high school.

Class of 2006
14. Sherron Collins, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Crane)
28. Jon Scheyer, 6-5, 2G, Northbrook (Glenbrook North)
49. Brian Carlwell, 6-11, C, Maywood (Proviso East)
76. Patrick Beverly, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Marshall)

Hoops Report Note: Well, three of the four had stellar post-high school careers. Sherron Collins and Jon Scheyer both won national titles at Kansas and Duke, respectively, while Patrick Beverly made the league.

Class of 2005
6. Julian Wright, 6-8, WF/PF, Homewood-Flossmoor
31. Bobby Frasor, 6-3, PG, Chicago (Brother Rice)
57. Jerel McNeal, 6-2, 2G, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest)
84. Jeremy Pargo, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Robeson)
87. Nate Minnoy, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)

Hoops Report Note: Jerel McNeal and Jeremy Pargo may have been a little undervalued, while Julian Wright and Bobby Frasor maybe a little overvalued ranking wise.

Class of 2004
2. Shaun Livingston, 6-7, PG, Peoria (Central)
51. Justin Cerasoli, 6-4, PG, West Aurora
77. Shaun Pruitt, 6-9, C, West Aurora
91. DeAaron Williams, 6-5, WF, Bartonville (Limestone)

Hoops Report Note: After Shaun Livingston, the No. 2 prospect in the country behind Dwight Howard, there were a few overrated prospects in this group.

Class of 2003
3. Shannon Brown, 6-3, 2G, Maywood (Proviso East)
28. Richard McBride, 6-3, 2G, Springfield (Lanphier)
53. Brian Randle, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame)
71. Dameon Mason, 6-5, WF, West Aurora

Hoops Report Note: The only two players ranked ahead of Shannon Brown nationally in 2003? LeBron James and Luol Deng. Illinois signees Richard McBride and Brian Randle simply weren't No. 28 and No. 53.

Class of 2002
19. Dee Brown, 5-11, PG, Maywood (Proviso East)
21. Sean Dockery, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Julian)
27. Andre Igoudala, 6-7, WF, Springfield (Lanphier)
30. Michael Thompson, 6-10, C, New Lenox (Providence)
78. James Augustine, 6-10, C, New Lenox (Lincoln-Way Central)
81. Marcus White, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
86. Aaron Spears, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Dunbar)

Hoops Report Note: Andre Igoudale remains City/Suburban Hoops Report's biggest miss in 18 years. Sean Dockery nationally ranked ahead of guards Brandon Roy, Jarrett Jack, Deron Williams and Randy Foye? Michael Thompson? McDonald's All-American? Notable omission in this class: Lockport's Alando Tucker, who went on to become a Big Ten MVP and broke the Wisconsin all-time scoring record.

Class of 2001
1. Eddy Curry, 6-11, C, South Holland (Thornwood)
32. Pierre Pierce, 6-3, PG, Westmont
53. Will Bynum, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Crane)
58. Najeeb Echols, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
62. Roger Powell, 6-6, WF, Joliet
64. Levar Seals, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Providence St. Mel)
66. Marcellus Sommerville, 6-6, WF, Peoria (Central)

Hoops Report Note: A mixed bag here but some on-the-court/off-the-court busts here.

Class of 2000
3. Darius Miles, 6-9, PF, East St. Louis
11. Andre Brown, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Leo)
18. Imari Sawyer, 6-1, PG, Chicago (King)
19. Cedric Banks, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Westinghouse)
28. T.J. Cummings, 6-8, PF, Homewood-Flossmoor
60. Matt Lottich, 6-5, 2G, Winnetka (New Trier)

Hoops Report Note: O-VER...RA-TED ... O-VER...RA-TED

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Benet's Sean O'Mara picks Xavier

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There were several high-level offers early on in the recruiting process for Benet Academy's Sean O'Mara, but of all the big-named programs there was one that was there from start to finish: Xavier.

That commitment and persistency paid off for coach Chris Mack and assistant coach Travis Steele as Xavier landed O'Mara Tuesday night. O'Mara, who received 20-plus offers from mid-major and high-major programs, chose the Musketeers over Loyola. The 6-9, 240-pound O'Mara is one of the top 15 prospects in the state of Illinois in the Class of 2014.

"I started to feel extremely comfortable at Xavier two weeks ago on my official visit," says O'Mara. "I felt comfortable with everyone and everything, from the coaching staff to the players to the managers to the campus itself. It was that comfort that put it over the top."

This was an old fashioned recruiting battle that went down to the wire. O'Mara had completed his official visits nearly two weeks ago but took his time in deciding. In the end, the battle featured programs with different selling points. O'Mara's decision was a difficult one as he weighed the pros and cons of two distinctly different basketball programs.

"I was really excited to say yes and commit to Xavier," says O'Mara, who visited Loyola and Xavier on back-to-back weekends in September. "But it was extremely difficult and hard to call and tell coach [Porter] Moser no."

However, the allure of playing in the newly formed Big East Conference and for a program with the tradition and facilities of Xavier ultimately won out. The Musketeers have averaged over 10,000 fans a game since moving into the state-of-the-art Cintas Center a decade ago, while averaging 24 wins with seven trips to the NCAA Tournament over the past eight years.

What college coaches appreciated about O'Mara was the fact he knew exactly who he was as a player and would relish in it. The big-bodied O'Mara lives on the block, isn't afraid of contact, enjoys battling inside and became a dominant high school player as a result. As a junior O'Mara averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds a game while constantly facing double-teams.

The Benet big man, who is also a starting offensive lineman on the unbeaten Benet football team, believes he fits in well with how Xavier plays and how Mack intends to use him. Plus, he's anxious to spend his freshman year playing with current Xavier junior Matt Stainbrook, a 6-10, 263-pound center.

"I'm a back-to-the-basket 5-man with 4-man tendencies, and their system is a great fit for me," says O'Mara. "They have a big man now in Matt Stainbrook who I can go in and learn from as a freshman."

O'Mara is a true big man with terrific passing ability and whose offensive capabilities are improving. He joins an impressive Xavier recruiting class, which features a pair of four-star recruits in 6-8 forward Makinde London, who committed last week, and 6-4 shooting guard J.P. Macura. The four-man class also includes point guard Edmond Sumner out of Detroit.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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