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Joe Henricksen: November 2008 Archives

Thanksgiving statements and surprises

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By Joe Henricksen

We are in a results society. And in sports the results, whether fair or not, are pretty cut and dry. You win or lose.

But when it comes to Thanksgiving Tournaments in high school basketball, you have to be careful and not get too wrapped up in the success and failure of teams in November. Remember, these teams didn't have exhibition games prior to the opening tip of the season. In fact, the amount of practice time coaches get with their teams at the prep level is awfully short.

Here are a few of the bigger statements made in the opening week of the season.

Niles Notre Dame
Forget about the lack of size, this team has the chemistry, guard play and shooting ability to put together an outstanding season. The Mike DiGregorio-led Dons went into Winnetka and beat New Trier over Thanksgiving weekend as DiGregorio controlled the game and scored 25 points. Notre Dame will give St. Joseph all it can handle in the East Suburban Catholic, a league that figures to be a three-way battle between Notre Dame, St. Joe's and St. Patrick. St. Joe's went 3-1 at a solid St. Charles East Tournament, while St. Patrick went 2-1, beating North Chicago and losing to Fenwick in its own tournament.

Neuqua Valley
The Hoops Report had the Wildcats preseason No. 17 but there were plenty of doubters. This team is talented, features a Division I prospect in junior Dwayne Evans and beat a ranked Morton team to win the York Thanksgiving Tournament.

South Elgin
Here is the team that could pose the biggest threat to Neuqua Valley in the Upstate Eight. Behind the scoring of Jimmy Childs and the play of big man Dan Lopez, the Storm rolled through the Fenton Tournament with a 4-0 record, which included a win over highly-regarded Naperville Central and star Drew Crawford.

Jereme Richmond, Waukegan
The questions that dogged both Richmond and the Waukegan basketball program last season have been put on the backburner. And all signs show that Richmond, teammates and coach are on the same page with one another. If that's the case, look for quite a season in the north suburbs from Richmond and Waukegan. Richmond has been terrific and Waukegan is off to a 3-0 start, which includes a win over Warren and Brandon Paul.

Marc Little, Bartlett
Bartlett went just 1-2 in the Waukegan Tournament but the tiny, jet-quick guard went on a scoring binge. Little scored 104 points in three tournament games.

Josh Humphrey, Crete-Monee
The junior transfer made his presence felt immediately as he was tournament MVP at Oak Forest, as Humphrey led Crete-Monee to the title.

Downers Grove South
Morton's toughest test in the West Suburban Gold may not come from perennial power Proviso East. Downers Grove South looks to be much improved from a year ago. The Mustangs, led by tournament MVP Malcolm Herron, went 3-1 to claim a strong St. Charles East title. Downers South beat St. Joseph in the title game.

Bloom
With all the distractions and legal issues surrounding its two best players, who are not with the team, the Blazing Trojans went out and won the Chicago Heights Classic. And along the way to its 4-0 start, Bloom beat rival Homewood-Flossmoor behind big man Aaron Nelson. This was the first Thanksgiving Tournament title for coach Jasper Williams in his six years at Bloom.

Evergreen Park
Behind the 1-2 punch of junior Cedric Watkins and versatile Anthony Welch, Evergreen Park rolled to a 4-0 record in the Battle of the Ridge Tournament. The four wins included an impressive 64-60 victory over a talented Maine East team.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 14th year of publication, call the (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Super 65 in 2009

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By Joe Henricksen

The 2008-2009 high school basketball season tipped off this week around the state. The City/Suburban Hoops Report, which begins its 14th season of covering the high school basketball scene in Illinois, takes a look at the top 65 college prospects to check out in a gym this winter.

1. Brandon Paul, 6-3, 2G, Gurnee (Warren) .... The top senior prospect in Illinois due to his upside. Coach Chuck Ramsey has been thoroughly impressed with his maturity, improvement and how prepared he was coming into this season. He remains an explosive athlete who, when his shot is falling, is so difficult to defend with his ability to attack and get to the rim.
2. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... What a recruiting steal for Iowa State, tapping into the city for an elite point guard capable of breaking just about anyone down off the dribble.
3. Jack Cooley, 6-8, PF, Glenview (Glenbrook South) .... Is there a better way to describe this kid than "rock solid." Everything about him is "rock solid." He is strong, competes, rebounds, finishes around the basket, does the little things.
4. Darius Smith, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Marshall) .... He competes, gets after it and wins. And his teams usually do, too. Questions still remain with his jumper, but he does too many other things well.
5. Matt Vogrich, 6-3, 2G, Lake Forest .... Don't be surprised if the sweet shooting Vogrich puts up some gaudy numbers and evolves into a Mr. Basketball candidate. The talented guard found the perfect system for his talents in Michigan.
6. Angus Brandt, 6-9, PF, Lake Forest (Academy) .... The top uncommitted prospect in Illinois is highly versatile with size. With step out and knock down a three or take you baseline and dunk on you. He's a high-major talent.
7. Drew Crawford, 6-5, 2G/WF, Naperville (Central) .... It took some time but finally people are realizing just how good this multi-dimensional guard is. He makes people around him better, though he can be too unselfish. Shooting the ball extremely well.
8. Joseph Bertrand, 6-5, PG/2G, Sterling .... Is it his time to put everything together and consistently? His body is getting stronger. He's got the wing span, he's smooth with great vision and is pretty cerebral. But it may take him some time at the next level to reach his full potential.
9. Michael Haynes, 6-6, PG, Chicago (Fenger) .... Tough and undistinguished high school career for the undersized but powerful four-man. Good rebounder and shot blocker for his size, due mostly to his explosive athletic ability.
10. Terry Johnson, 5-11, PG/2G, Chicago (North Lawndale) .... Hoops Report hasn't jumped off his bandwagon as there is still something to be said about a player who puts the ball in the hole, scoring off the dribble, from beyond the arc and with a nice mid-range game.
11. Nik Garcia, 6-5, 2G, Evanston .... Will he be eligible at Evanston in January? He can shoot it with the best of them.
12. D.J. Cooper, 5-9, PG, South Holland (Seton Academy) .... Chose the perfect level in the Mid-American Conference and Ohio U. Has a terrific package of speed and skills.
13. John Taylor, 6-0, 2G, Chicago (North Lawndale) .... Uber-talented for sure and would thrive in some systems with his tremendous one-on-one abilities. But still awfully wild.
14. Jonathan Mills, 6-4, PF, Chicago (North Lawndale) .... If he does indeed land at Corpus-Christi, what a steal for that program. No one rebounds better. An absolute monster around the basket. But he's still an undersized 4-man.
15. Diamond Taylor, 6-3, 2G, Bolingbrook .... Looking to bounce back and quiet some critics after being a consensus top 10 player a year ago to falling out of the top dozen. He still remains a pretty potent scorer but has lacked the consistency.
16. Marcus Jordan, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Maybe no player in Illinois has more varying views than Jordan. Strong, powerful athlete who can get to the basket.
17. David Brown, 6-3, 2G, Rockton-Hononegah .... Stock dropped somewhat after somewhat fizzling down the stretch this past summer. Nonetheless, this is a solid recruit with upside for Western Michigan. He can score in different ways and will get out and defend.
18. Shaun Pratl, 6-8, PF, Oak Lawn (Richards) .... Chris Colvin to Iowa State and Pratl to Eastern Illinois were the two biggest recruiting steals in November. You just don't get a player of his size, athleticism and skill level in the Ohio Valley very often.
19. Zeke Upshaw, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Lab) .... Your classic "upside" prospect. He is just beginning to develop as a player and is far from a finished product. But he's 6-5 with a very good handle and can shoot it.
20. Tony Nixon, 6-4, 2G/WF, South Holland (Seton Academy) .... An important recruit for Northern Illinois. Nixon can flat-out shoot the basketball and, ever so slowly, is rounding into a more complete, versatile player.
21. Cully Payne, 6-1, PG, Schaumburg .... Does a lot of things well but doesn't blow you away in any one area. But will his size and athleticism hold up at Alabama and in the SEC?
22. Dyricus Simms-Edwards, 6-2, PG, Washington .... No player has more to play for and show this winter. Great body and getting a better feel for the game but lacks that blow-by ability you seek in guards.
23. Jordan Prosser, 6-7, PF, Eureka .... Forget the fact he has dropped from a top 10 player in the class as a sophomore to where he is now. He's a mobile big man with some skill at a position that is so difficult to fill.
24. Malcolm Herron, 6-3, 2G, Downers Grove (South) .... There aren't many players who can score like Herron, who will knock down threes and beat you off the dribble. Still needs to compete harder and on a more consistent level.
25. James Kinney, 6-0, PG, Champaign (Centennial) .... Talented point guard who can score and that may get a bit more fanfare if he were playing in the Chicago area. Signed with Ohio.
26. Derek Needham, 5-11, PG, Chicago (DeLaSalle) .... The Fairfield recruit is a power-packed point guard who can break you down with his handle and abuse you with his physical body. Still needs more consistency with his perimeter shot and size comes into play sometimes when finishing around the basket.
27. Jordan Walker, 6-6, PF, South Holland (Seton Academy) .... Verdict is still out as he's played so little basketball the last 12 months. But he runs the floor and is very active with his long body.
28. Kyle Cain, 6-7, WF/PF, Calumet City (T.F. North) .... Long arms, wiry frame, bouncy and gets a lot done around the basket.
29. Jeremy Jones, 6-1, PG/2G, Chicago (Simeon) .... Should blossom as he's become more than just a spot-up perimeter shooter. Best basketball is ahead of him.
30. Brian Conway, 6-3, WF, Chicago Heights (Bloom) .... Hope for the best in regards to his legal situation. Still very unpolished in the skill areas but is a terrific athlete, long and glides down the floor.
31. Seth Evans, 6-1, PG, Seneca .... He won't wow you but the UW-Green Bay recruit is as steady as they come. He can really shoot it and is poised and in control with the ball.
32. Colin Nickerson, 6-3, PG/2G, Waukegan .... There weren't many players that made a bigger jump from this time last year than this combo guard.
33. D'Mitri Riggs, 6-3, PG/2G, Bloomington .... Four years ago he was in everyone's top three or four players in the class. If he can somehow find that next gear and come to play every day, his upside becomes special.
34. Conrad Krutwig, 6-5, WF/PF, Algonquin (Jacobs) .... University of South Dakota gets a quality player in Krutwig, who can face-up, knock down shots and beat you with his hustle and intangibles.
35. Chris Eversley, 6-3, 2G/WF, Chicago (Payton) .... A blossoming all-around player who, like a few others on this list, clearly has his best basketball ahead of him. The Rice recruit has a lot of versatility to his game.
36. Malcolm Griffin, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Hyde Park) .... When he's in shape and motivated he has the ability to be a big-time offensive weapon.
37. Cortney Bell, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Lincoln Park) .... Make or break for Bell. How hungry is he? Has the dreaded 'tweener label but big-time upside with his body and athleticism. If he was a high energy, great motor guy he could survive as an undersized four-man.
38. Eriq Harris, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Marshall) .... Still waiting for it all to come together for this athletic combo forward.
39. Stanford Brown, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... The Lamar recruit has made progress. He lacks the lift off the floor coaches covet but has been productive.
40. Troy Snyder, 6-5, WF, Bolingbrook .... Combines the ability to get things done around the basket and stepping out on the perimeter. He's the second player in the top 40 to sign with Wisconsin-Green Bay.
41. Markus Yarbrough, 6-7, C, Zion-Benton .... Signed with Tennessee State. He's a solid low-post scoring option with a nice feel with his back to the basket. He can score on the block. Limited athletically and must harden the body and stay in shape.
42. Anthony Dixon, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Hyde Park) .... Came out of nowhere this past offseason and landed at San Jose State. He's wiry and glides to the basket.
43. David Smith, 6-2, PG/2G, Lake Forest (Academy) .... Signed with Drake. Great body, strength, body control and absorbs contact well for a player his size. Talented combo guard who the Hoops Report has always like.... but the Missouri Valley?
44. Daron Guyton, 6-4, WF, Maywood (Proviso East) .... Good body, athletic and has a really good looking stroke. But does he know how to play?
45. David Bryant, 6-4, 2G/WF, Batavia .... A glue guy who does what is asked and helps teams win. A good shooter with size but can be a little inconsistent. Lack of foot speed is the concern.
46. Brock Von Nordeck, 6-7, PF, Decatur (Eisenhower) .... A big man who has a little streak in him and is capable of knocking down the three.
47. Lawrence Thomas, 5-7, PG, Springfield (Southeast) .... A little waterbug who puts pressure on opponents on both ends of the floor. He's pesky with quick hands defensively and is a true point guard with the ability to knock down shots.
48. Kendrick Morse, 5-7, PG, Richton Park (Rich South) .... Size is a definite issue. He can really handle it and flies around the court. He would flourish in an up-tempo system.
49. Troynell Adams, 6-5, PF, Chicago (Farragut) .... A big-time athlete who is bit undersized. To his credit he has improved his jumper from 15-feet and in.
50. Nick Washburn, 6-8, PF, Mahomet-Seymour .... Upside comes with his terrific frame and body. Still refining his skill level and will get better and better at Hillsdale.
51. Luke Scarlata, 6-7, PF, Berwyn-Cicero (Morton) .... Quality big man who uses both hands around the basket as well as anyone in Illinois. Lacks the athleticism but has a solid skill level.
52. Mike Black, 5-11, PG, Oak Park (Fenwick) .... A player who knows what he is--a true point guard, with a good first step and ability to get into the lane and to the basket. Heading to North Florida.
53. Matt Sullivan, 6-4, WF, Wilmette (Loyola Academy) ... Old, crafty veteran type that just knows how to score. Should have a terrific career at Brown.
54. Nate Rogers, 6-0, PG/2G, Westchester (St. Joseph) .... Underrated combo guard with good strength and athleticism. He can get to the basket, draw contact and finish.
55. Delino Dear, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) .... The perfect project. A still developing big man who has a long way to go to compete physically. He's long, pretty active and really runs the floor.
56. Brandon Pullman, 6-6, WF, Rock Island .... Passes the look test and will open your eyes with his length, athleticism and ability to sit out on the perimeter and knock down shots. But inconsistency and lack of intensity has plagued him.
57. Ronald Steward, 5-9, PG, Zion-Benton .... Limited due to his size, but he's tough as nails, competes, leads and is a winner. Raises his level of play in big games and in big moments.
58. James Pointer, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Leo) .... Difficult to stay in front of and thrives in open court and in transition. He can put points on the board in a hurry. But shot selection and decision-making are question marks.
59. Danhi Wilson, 6-3, WF, Park Ridge (Maine East) .... A lot of people missing the boat on this raw-around-the-edges prospect who just gets things done.
60. Tyler Ponticelli, 6-7, PF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North) .... A perfect Ivy Leaguer (headed to Brown), with a combination of some size and skill.
61. Brandon Orange, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Simeon) .... Is this the year he breaks out and showcases his abilities beyond his athleticism? The opportunity will be there for him.
62. Tremel Owens, 6-1, 2G, Hillside (Proviso West) .... Another player looking to blossom after sitting out. Good feel for scoring. He can still get out of control and a little turnover prone when he is pressured.
63. Jelani Johnson, 6-4, WF, Aurora (Waubonsie Valley) .... Still developing his abilties to play away from the basket, but he's crafty and long.
64. Paris Gulley, 6-0, PG, Peoria (Manual) .... Good open floor speed and difficult to defend. At times will force the issue too much.
65. Tim Traversa, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (St. Patrick) .... Powerfully built combo guard who utilizes his strengths well.

Five Sleepers in the Class of 2009
CALEB LONG, 6-0, PG/2G, Mt. Zion
KEVIN SENECHALLE, 6-7, PF, St. Charles (East)
JORDAN HARKS, 6-5, PF, Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South)
BRANDON KUNZ, 6-7, PF, Lake Zurich
CORBIN THOMAS, 6-5, PF, South Holland (Seton Academy)

For more information or how to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 14th year of publication, call or email the Hoops Report at (630)-408-6709 or hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Hoops Report's Top 25

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By Joe Henricksen

With the arrival of St. Rita transfer and Illinois State recruit Terry Johnson to an already loaded roster, North Lawndale, the 2008 Class 2A state champions, gets the nod over both Zion-Benton and Whitney Young. The City/Suburban Hoops Report's preseason Top 50 is now out in the preseason issue. Here is a look at the preseason Top 25.

1. North Lawndale
2. Zion-Benton
3. Whitney Young
4. DeLaSalle
5. Seton Academy
6. Simeon
7. Curie
8. Thornton
9. Foreman
10. Waukegan
11. Bolingbrook
12. Hyde Park
13. Glenbrook North
14. Marshall
15. Morton
16. Hillcrest
17. Neuqua Valley
18. Lincoln Park
19. Crete-Monee
20. Mt. Carmel
21. Evanston
22. Leo
23. St. Joseph
24. Warren
25. St. Ignatius

Best Bets
Here is a look at teams most likely to crack the Top 25 sooner than later....
North Chicago
Naperville Central
Glenbrook South
New Trier
Lake Forest
Crane
St. Patrick
T.F. North
Riverside-Brookfield

To subscribe or more information on the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 14th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Whitney Young a little different

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By Joe Henricksen

Simeon has reached Peoria three straight years and made the most of its time there, winning back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007 while finishing second in 2008. Marshall has three state trophies in the last three years, including a state title last March in Class 3A. And even North Lawndale, which finished second in Class A two years ago, brought home a 2A state title last season.

But there is something to be said about what Whitney Young has accomplished and the current state of its basketball program.

Oh, there are naysayers out there for sure. Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter even admits there are people who don't believe his program won enough -- or big enough -- last year when the Dolphins were everyone's preseason pick. This is a program that featured a ridiculous abundance of individual talent but fell short, losing to Mt. Carmel in last year's sectional final. And when the season officially tips off in a couple of weeks, Whitney Young will once again be near the top of everyone's rankings -- if not No. 1 again.

But how about these numbers? Of the seven seniors on last year's team, which included Division I guards A.J. Rompza and Bryan Hall, six received scholarships between basketball and baseball, with a seventh walking on to play basketball at Tennessee State. The combined average ACT score of the seven seniors was 25.6, while all seven had a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.

"There are people that will say our accomplishments weren't enough last year, that we didn't win enough," says Slaughter. "But all these guys won. They all are going to college."

At Whitney Young, getting these young men into college is the objective, the expectation. At Whitney Young, things are done at a high level.

While the program may be lacking that signature postseason win since capturing the state title in 1998 behind the likes of Quentin Richardson, Cordell Henry and Dennis Gates, the state of the program is rock solid. In reality, it's on a completely different level than other Chicago Public League basketball programs. It's respected, if not the envy of others.

The academics have always been there, with Young ranking once again among the elite schools academically in the state of Illinois. There is a definite commitment to academics. The schedule is eye-popping. The Dolphins play in high-profile games all year, including games in six different states -- Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Kentucky. It's the place to play in the city. The school itself includes a beneficial ethnic and social mix.

And then there is the talent.

There actually may be too much talent on board. Any coach may find it awfully difficult to manage that many high-profile players, keep them all happy and on the same page.

The seniors include Chris Colvin, arguably the top prospect in the senior class (No. 2 currently in the Hoops Report rankings) and a dynamic point guard. Marcus Jordan comes with the name, reputation and is a high-level Division I talent. Stan Brown is a 6-7 post player committed to Lamar. The junior class features the guard tandem of 6-3 Anthony Johnson, who is committed to Purdue, and Oregon State-commit Ahmad Starks. And then there is super sophomore Sam Thompson, a long, lanky, 6-6 electrifying talent who just may end up the best of all.

"We have been fortunate," says Slaughter. "We have the best of both worlds between our academics and athletics. We are so competitive in both. And so many of our kids come from families where their parents are still so involved in their lives and offer support."

Slaughter and his program do covet a state championship, saying "we salivate at having the type of success on the court that Simeon has had."

Maybe that time has come.

Signing Day's biggest winners

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By Joe Henricksen

National Signing Day is here for high school players around the country. Sure, everyone's a winner, with student-athletes getting a college scholarship and college coaches pumping new life into their programs. But here in Illinois there some that were bigger winners than others. The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the day's biggest winners as high school prospects can officially sign their letter-of-intent.

BRUCE WEBER
Why: While the trio of Warren's Brandon Paul, Sterling's Joseph Bertrand and former Peoria Central's D.J. Richardson have been committed to the Illini program for more than a year, it's now official. Add talented 6-8 Tyler Griffey out of Missouri to the mix and Weber can now begin to truly quiet the critics in regard to his recruiting efforts. Couple this class with what's coming the following year -- Waukegan's Jereme Richmond, Crane's Crandall Head and Robinson's Meyers Leonard in 2010 -- and the Illinois program being "big winners" on signing day is a welcome change. While the drama impact now comes on the day kids commit, this is a huge day, nonetheless, for Weber and his program. The influx of talent is badly needed.

ILLINOIS STATE
Why: Simply put, coach Tim Jankovich's program is on a rapid rise. And the Hoops Report likes ISU's recruiting haul a lot better than many others do, ranking two of its prospects -- North Lawndale's Terry Johnson and University Lab's Zeke Upshaw -- higher than most. Johnson is among the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2009 and Upshaw, a real sleeper and late bloomer, among the top 20. Many people have raved about high-scoring guard Justin Clark out of Missouri, who joins his high school teammate, 6-7 Jon Ekey, in a terrific Redbird class. This program is poised to be a major player in the Missouri Valley now and in years to come.

EASTERN ILLINOIS
Why: If Shaun Pratl of Richards holds off and waits until spring, it's hard to imagine Eastern Illinois pulling off a recruiting coup like Pratl, a 6-8 athlete who is the biggest recruiting steal of the November signing period. With a 100 percent commitment to basketball, Pratl, who has split time between basketball and football throughout his high school career, can become an All-Ohio Valley Conference player. He's agile, runs the floor, athletic and can face up and knock down shots.

MATT VOGRICH
Why: It would have been easy for the 6-3 guard from Lake Forest to get swept up in the hoopla when he became a hot commodity following a terrific summer on the AAU circuit. And it would have been easy for Vogrich to get starry-eyed in the name and tradition of a program like UCLA. In the end there might not be a player that picked a better fit for himself than the sweet shooting Vogrich, who fits perfectly in the style and system Michigan coach John Beilein's team plays.

SETH EVANS and WISCONSIN-GREEN BAY
Why: Could Seth Evans of Seneca have played at a slightly higher level than UW-Green Bay? Probably. But it's the right fit. He won't be recruited over, should get early playing time and will be one of the better guards in the Horizon League before he's through. Meanwhile, coach Tod Kowalczyk and the Phoenix get a coach's kid who is the consummate team guy and point guard with all the intangibles.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS
Why: Coach Ricardo Patton needed to hit a home run -- or at least an extra-base hit -- from the state of Illinois in the Class of 2009. Sorry, but the likes of Tyler Storm, Bryan Hall and Keith Smith, a few of the 2008 recruits, didn't exactly do it and won't be bringing MAC titles to DeKalb. But the Huskies nabbed Seton Academy's 6-5 Tony Nixon, the Hoops Report's No. 16 player, after the sweet shooting wing had a sensational summer. This was a must-recruit for Patton and the program, getting an impact player from the Chicago area.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 14th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

A dud of a signing day

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By Joe Henricksen

The big day isn't quite what it used to be, that's for sure -- at least not for the fans of college basketball. With so many players committing earlier and earlier, the early signing period in college basketball, which begins this Wednesday, doesn't offer a whole lot of drama or anticipation. Of the top 30 prospects in the latest City/Suburban Hoops Report rankings, only 11 remain uncommitted. And of those 11 several will not be signing anything anytime soon due to academic issues. And the rest? They also will very likely be waiting until the spring signing period to ink that letter-of-intent.

The Hoops Report can't remember a group like this, meaning players that remain uncommitted this late in the process that have left so many people guessing throughout their recruiting process. It's been difficult to get a clear read on many of these prospects.

Illinois Prep Bulls-eye stated on its site recently that it wouldn't be surprised to see both Chris Colvin of Whitney Young and Darius Smith of Marshall both wait until the spring to sign. Whatever the factors are behind both Colvin and Smith waiting, the Hoops Report agrees with that observation in that they will likely wait it out. In fact, don't be surprised if all the top uncommitted players in the Class of 2009 bypass the early signing period and wait until spring.

Angus Brandt, the talented 6-9 forward from Lake Forest Academy who has risen to No. 5 in the Hoops Report's Class of 2009 rankings, is going to wait it out and sign in the spring. "He wants to take his time, really examine things, check out schools," says Full Package coach Steve Pratt, who coached Brandt in a few events this past summer.

No one outside the trusted inner-circle of the Marcus Jordan camp can say they have a good read on the Whitney Young star's recruitment, especially after things fizzled out with Miami-Florida. So, yes, Jordan will be in the group that will commit after the early-signing period.

And while Dyricus Simms-Edwards of Washington has attracted plenty of interest, it looks as if unfortunate circumstances will prevent the 6-1 guard from committing and signing early. He will play out the season and sign next spring. Simms-Edwards suffered a tough-luck injury prior to the July evaluation period, which obviously hurt his recruiting stock from an evaluation standpoint. You better believe Simms-Edwards, who is just a terrific kid, is anxious to showcase his abilities this coming season for his high school team.

Other odds, ends and thoughts...
While it will be a little bit down the road before it reaches its pinnacle, the future backcourt at Mt. Carmel of sophomore Tracy Abrams, the No. 1 prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011, and talented freshman Malcolm Hill-Bey will be awfully special.... Barrington's 6-8 big man Mack Darrow has committed to Princeton.... Mike Mullins' Illinois Wolves program will have an impressive number of players signing this week. Don't be surprised to see 6-9 Zeke Schneider of Metamora add his name to that list this week as he is, according to Mullins, mulling offers from SIU-Edwardsville, Mercer and American.... Batavia's David Bryant, another Wolves player, looks like he, too, will be playing out the season before he decides on the right fit.... Tough break for St. Ignatius recently, losing its best scorer in 6-3 Mario Knezovic until likely January with a broken bone in his foot. Throw in the fact that rising star Nanna Egwu, a 6-9 sophomore, was recently in a walking boot with a broken bone of his own, and coach Rich Kehoe will have a rough start to the season when practice officially opens Nov. 10. Egwu is expected to be out four weeks.... The Pac-10 Conference continues to covet the Chicago area. Oregon has obviously pounded the area, with Joevan Catron (Thornton), Josh Crittle (Hales), Matthew Humphrey (Hales) and Michael Dunigan (Farragut) all on the roster. Oregon State has already secured a commitment from Whitney Young junior guard Ahmad Starks. And while it hasn't materialized just yet with offers, both Stanford and Washington State could be battling for New Trier's Alex Rossi and Mundelein's Ben Brust.... DeKalb's 6-9 Jordan Threloff is a mid-major dream as a legitimate back-to-the-basket player with great size. But a trio of Big Ten schools continue to increase their interest in the big man as Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana all are keeping close tabs.... Who might you guess are the ones most anticipating -- or experiencing maybe the most apprehension -- the national signing period this coming week? How about Division II and Division III coaches? They patiently wait to see just what players truly do have those Division I scholarship offers. There will then be a feeding frenzy for the leftovers.

Division I is not the be-all, end-all

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By Joe Henricksen

Without trying to sound too much like a public service announcement for Division II, Division III and NAIA basketball schools, high school basketball players, their parents and even some recruiting evaluators have to get a grip. Every player is not a Division I prospect.

And you know what? It's not that bad if they aren't and, in some cases, it's better they aren't.

As many seniors await Division I offers or are set to sign their letter-of-intent with a Division I school a little later this month, the urgency and anxiousness is there for many in the Class of 2009. Will they get an offer? Where are the offers? There are seniors and even more younger players who have not given a thought to playing small college basketball. A lot of the Division II, Division III and NAIA coaches sit and wait for reality to set in for many of these players.

And in many cases, the reality is a better situation often exists at a smaller school. Sure, there are several players that are "Division I caliber". What is the most common question the Hoops Report gets from fans, parents, media and even college coaches when it comes to an individual player? "Is he a Division I player?" The problem is most of those players, parents and fans are talking a little higher level Division I than they should be. But there are many schools where these marginal Division I prospects can play at. After all, Utah Valley State, North Carolina Central, Houston Baptist, Central Arkansas and good 'ol Chicago State are Division I schools. Longwood, Seattle and Bryant are, too. But is that really the best fit for that player? Simply put, there is nothing wrong with not getting a Division I offer or -- gasp! -- overlooking, ignoring or turning down a Division I offer for the best possible fit.

Obviously the best fit is in the mind and eyes of the individual player. But going hundreds of miles away from home, to an average academic school to play in front of 340 fans a night for a program that has no realistic chance of playing in the postseason just to say "I play Division I basketball?" No, thank you.

There are so many players (and parents) that just don't get it. They don't understand the talent level at the highest Division III, Division II and NAIA levels. There are so many of these "small school" teams that can actually play with and beat some of these low-Division I schools. And many are better academic institutions and play in front of enthusiastic fans that actually fill a gym. In addition, they may have a chance to play more earlier in their career, be more productive as a player and experience more success.

I understand the need for some to get school paid for and to proclaim "I am a Division I basketball player." Thus, the goal of playing Division I basketball is ingrained in their head from the first day they lace'em up for their club basketball team in 7th grade. But again, Division II and NAIA schools offer scholarships, and often times Division III schools can put together some affordable financial aid packages.

And often it's simply more fun playing at a lower level. Go check out an Augustana-Illinois Wesleyan Division III matchup on a Saturday night to see and feel the atmosphere of a "lower-level" college basketball game. Then go catch the New Jersey Institute of Technology matchup with Utah Valley on Feb. 3 (yes, both are Division I basketball schools).

If the Division I schools don't come calling or if the right one just isn't the right fit or doesn't feel quite right, there are options. Very good options. In the end, give the small schools some time, respect and a chance. You just may be very thankful in four years.


About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Joe Henricksen in November 2008.

Joe Henricksen: October 2008 is the previous archive.

Joe Henricksen: December 2008 is the next archive.

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