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Joe Henricksen: April 2009 Archives

Warriors love playing under the radar

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By Joe Henricksen

The number of college greats and NBA players the Illinois Warriors, Larry Butler's club team, have churned out are endless. There is no program that has produced more pro talent the past two decades. The last few years, however, Butler has been coaching lower-profile prospects and getting many of the same results.

So while other AAU programs have college coaches swooning over their players, Butler's Warriors are doing just fine. Last year, with very little fanfare, the Warriors piled up arguably more tournament success than any other team by winning the Howard Pulley Tournament and the Price Chopper Tournament in Kansas City, while losing in the title game of both the Real Deal on the Hill and the Super Showcase in Orlando. Now this year the Warriors are fresh off winning the Real Deal on the Hill Tournament in Arkansas two weeks ago and captured the Nike Spring Showcase last weekend in Merrillville. The Nike Spring Showcase featured virtually every AAU power in Illinois with the exception of the Rising Stars Gold 17-and-under team.

"It's not a one-man-show," Butler says of the key to his team's success last year and again this season. "It's been team oriented. They are playing together with no ego. Just like last year, this team has bought into that mindset."

Butler also gives credit to the high school programs his players have come from. He notes the majority of his players are coming from high school teams that have experienced a ton of success. Ahmad Starks and Anthony Johnson both won state titles while playing for Whitney Young. Dwayne Evans of Neuqua Valley was on a 30-win team that reached the supersectional. Fabyon Harris of Hyde Park reached the Chicago Public League title game, a Class 4A supersectional and beat Simeon's Brandon Spearman, another Warrior, in the sectional championship.

Still, the Warriors have just one player on its roster -- Anthony Johnson -- currently ranked in the majority of top 10 player rankings in the Class of 2010.

There was a day when Butler's Warriors produced the best talent pool in AAU basketball. While last year's team was led by D.J. Richardson, the talented Peoria native and Illinois recruit, it boasted emerging, under-the-radar players, like Naperville Central's Drew Crawford and Rockton-Hononegah's David Brown. Butler, though, likes it this way.

He's enjoying the group of kids he's working with now even if they don't have the biggest names or come with the most hype. The loaded rosters featuring a handful of high-major players from those past teams are a thing of the past. Butler has turned to hungry, committed players who want to make a name for themselves. Butler says three things have factored into the change in the type of teams he now puts together.

"First, it really got frustrating seeing many of those big-named players I had go and have college success and then move on to the pros and see them forget all about us," says Butler. "All the work and time that went into their development, and there just wasn't any sign of appreciation. That gets old. It's been so much better being with family, being with people who appreciate. Give me a Jon Scheyer, a Luke Fabrizius, a Drew Crawford, a Dwyane Evans any day."

Butler says the second biggest factor has been the proliferation of club teams in the state. Instead of a few big AAU operations a decade ago, the number of teams in the state has exploded. The talent pool is slimmer to pick from and the wealth is spread out.

But it's the one rare exception to the aforementioned factor (the spreading out of the high school talent) that is reason No. 3, which is as Butler puts it, "the self-hyped Fire team."

"The Irvins have lured all the so-called elite talent and big-named players who are way overrated," says Butler of the Mac Irvin Fire team. "We've seen this picture before. At the end of the day they will be decent college players, but they aren't what they make them all out to be. How many great college players and pros have they turned out?"

Butler claims that earlier this week the Fire tried to talk one of his own players into changing teams and joining the Fire.

"They went to one of my players and told him if he came to play with the Fire he would be a top 100 player nationally," says Butler. "It's nothing but hype with them. They market them. They don't develop them as players. They like to walk around with these so-called hyped players, but how much better are they getting? I don't want those kind of players. I want kids that want to be coached."

Mike Irvin, who has taken over for his father, the legendary Mac Irvin, says his program is not about stealing players and denies any wrongdoing.

"Our team is set," says Mike Irvin. "We don't steal players. That's not what we are about. We have respect for LB [Larry Butler]. He's a disciple of my father and our program, a friend of the family."

Irvin says the program is -- and always has been -- about getting kids to college.

"Our background speaks for itself," says Irvin. "It's not about hyping. It's about telling college coaches about our players. That goes way back to my father calling UTEP to tell them about Tim Hardaway, calling Duke about Sean Dockery, telling Maryland that Steve Goins is the best available big man, getting Terry Johnson and Zeke Upshaw to Illinois State and on and on. Almost all of our kids are inner-city kids who we encourage to use basketball as a vehicle. It's about getting kids to college and getting degrees."

As far as some of the early struggles the loaded Mac Irvin Fire 17s have had, Irvin says the pieces are still coming together and it's not always easy getting all the talent on board as one.

"In defense of all the other teams out there, I don't think there has ever been this much talent together on one team," says Irvin of a team that boasts arguably the three top prospects in the Class of 2010 in Jereme Richmond, Meyers Leonard and Crandall Head, along with two of the best juniors in Wayne Blackshear and Mike Shaw. "It's a matter of gelling together. That is going to take some time. But as far as over-hype, why are all these high-major schools recruiting our guys up and down our program?"

In the early part of the AAU club basketball season, two teams have clearly stood out -- the Rising Stars Gold and Butler's Illinois Warriors. There really is no chance the two would meet until the final week in July in Orlando. The Warriors, though, could get the Mac Irvin Fire this weekend at the Spiece Run 'N Slam Tournament in Fort Wayne in what would be an entertaining matchup.

City/Suburban Hoops Report's All-Illinois Warriors Alumni Team
Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young (New York Knicks)
Corey Maggette, Fenwick (Los Angeles Clippers)
Andre Igoudala, Springfield Lanphier (Philadelphia 76ers)
Dwyane Wade, Richards (Miami Heat)
Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor (New Orleans Hornets)

Northwestern offers Brust

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By Joe Henricksen

In hopes of continuing their recent surge both on the floor and in recruiting, Northwestern offered Mundelein star Ben Brust today. From all accounts it sounds as if Northwestern made an impression on Brust and will certainly be a serious player in his recruitment.

The 6-2 senior, who plays AAU ball with the Rising Stars, was apparently very impressed with Northwestern coach Bill Carmody in his visit with him earlier today. The Wildcats, who secured a huge recruiting coup last November by signing Naperville Central star Drew Crawford, would love to add another top in-state recruit. Brust is currently the No. 5 rated player in the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2010 player rankings.

Brust has a bevy of mid-major offers, with Butler firmly in the mix, along with high-majors Iowa, Stanford and Virginia. The recruitment of both Brust and New Trier's Alex Rossi, who teams with Brust on the Rising Stars AAU program, will surely heat up between now and July.

Young stars, the vet, the forgotten AAU team

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By Joe Henricksen

With nearly all of the top AAU programs in Illinois competing in the Chicago Hoops Nike Spring Showdown in Merrillville from all different age groups this past weekend, one scene jumped out at the City/Suburban Hoops Report Saturday afternoon. And it showed how different the world of high school basketball is today.

On hand this past weekend were the many prep stars from the Mac Irvin Fire, Illinois Warriors, Meanstreets, Full Package, Illinois Wolves and other loaded programs, including the Peoria Irish and Illinois Heat. But the game on Saturday that was the most anticipated and that drew the day's biggest crowds and interest was one that featured a bunch of 8th graders. The battle between the Mac Irvin Fire and Meanstreets 15-and-under teams had the bleachers jammed and the court lined with fans three or four deep. The game -- and young prospects -- didn't disappoint.

The Mac Irvin Fire, fueled by the play of freshman-to-be Tommy Hamilton, stormed back from a 20-point deficit but fell in a tight one to Meanstreets, 65-64. Maybe it's because so many top players commit early and the recruiting suspense is gone. Maybe it's just the fact this particular group of 8th graders have received more attention than your typical young players and there is plenty of intrigue following them. Whatever the reason, fans were into it and loved every minute of it, something you don't always see in AAU basketball.

On the court were a trio of fascinating prospects in 6-7 Hamilton, 6-7 Alex Foster and 6-4 Jabari Parker. All three continue to defy their ages with their size and incredible skill level. Again, hyping the youngsters is always a tricky and sometimes slippery slope, but it's hard to not marvel at the potential in these three. It's hard not to be drawn to this talented trio and several others in this class, including promising Lorenzo Dillard. The 5-11 point guard is another young talent to watch in the Class of 2013. Also on hand for the Meanstreets team in the matchup with the young Fire is talented sophomore T.J. Bell, a 6-5 freshman from Charleston.

Depending on the day you watch, any of the three could be labeled the best of the bunch. On this day, Hamilton was pretty special. When he's dropping in tough shots from beyond the arc pretty regularly with a beautiful release while also battling on the block, you can quickly forget how old he is.

So much can happen over the next three years in a player's development, so yes it's risky to forecast the future with such young players. However, these three are certainly different than past young hotshots who, whether warranted or not, received early hype -- mostly overhype from anyone and everyone. No, not everyone can be young phenoms. Unfortunately, we try to create more than there really are. That's why this is a little different. They are different.

In addition to their individual skill level that is off the charts for their age group, what they also bring are the physical attributes, namely size. Right now it would hardly be a surprise if all three were ranked in the top 25 nationally (maybe higher?) when it's all said and done following their senior year in 2013. Just a word of caution to these three young talents: don't believe the hype and keep working hard on your game and skills.

Attention college coaches, be sure to keep tabs on Class of 2009 star, T.F. North's Kyle Cain, over the next year or two. This is not the same player you -- or the Hoops Report -- may have watched last summer or even this past winter while playing with his high school team. While he was good all season for T.F. North, he's been great since.

While the youngsters stole the show on Saturday in Merrillville, it was the play of Cain that continues to impress the Hoops Report. The 6-7 Cain has been an absolute monster each and every time he's played this spring.

Cain, who had committed to Detroit last fall, will now be heading to either a junior college or prep school. He has been so impressive since the completion of his senior year that the Hoops Report believes there is no question he will be a coveted recruit next year and be an impact mid-major plus college player. And at this rate who knows, he could end up even higher.

He is so athletic with an impressive college-ready body and improving skills. Cain's aggression and explosiveness is better than ever. He has the power and strength to mix it up inside and clear space, while also having the willingness to run the floor effectively. He uses his length and athletic ability to block and alter shots. He rebounds and competes. He finishes with authority around the basket and is dunking everything.

If he does land at a prep school and has four years of eligibility as a 2010 recruit .... wow. With an extra year to mature and further develop his game, could he turn into another Joey Dorsey-type player? Dorsey was a raw, physical specimen who went to Laurinburg Prep before landing at Memphis and helping the Tigers to the Final Four.

While nearly all the top teams from Illinois were on hand at what turned out to be a loaded field of individual players from the state of Illinois in the Chicago Hoops Nike Spring Showdown, there was one AAU power missing. The Rising Stars program went to the King James Classic in Akron and fared quite well. The Rising Stars Gold 17-and-under team, however, has been flying under the radar locally due to not playing in some of the local events like this past weekend's Nike Spring Showdown and the Chicago Showdown a couple of weeks ago. It's not as if they have been forgotten, but maybe people have forgotten just how good they are.

The Rising Stars, however, had an impressive weekend in Akron. They also grabbed the attention of a couple of national recruiting analysts with their solid play, which included going 6-1 in Ohio. They knocked off both DC Assault and God's Glory, while also beating a red-hot, overachieving Illinois Kings team in convincing fashion for three of their six wins. Their only loss came to arguably the best AAU team in the country, All-Ohio, which is led by 6-8 Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), one of the three best players in the country.

Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith, New Trier's Alex Rossi and Mundelein's Ben Brust stood out, according to both coach Mike Weinstein and national recruiting analysts.

With the early struggles of some prominent AAU teams in Illinois, the Rising Stars may have the most complete 17-and-under team in the state. They have size inside with 6-10 Jordan Threloff of DeKalb and 6-9 Fred Heldring of New Trier. They have perimeter shooters and scorers in Rossi and Brust. They have versatile, athletic wings in 6-3 Lenzelle Smith of Zion-Benton and 6-3 Rayvonte Rice of Champaign Centennial. Plus, despite all the Division I talent on this roster, they play well together and minimize the egos. Throw in some point guard play from Waukegan's Mike Springs and a few nice role players (Fremd's Chris Klimek, Prospect's Joe LaTulip and Evanston's Eric Dortch) and this team should be poised for a big July.

Check back for more coverage on the Chicago Hoops Nike Spring Showdown later in the week.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Brust heads list of players ready to rise

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By Joe Henricksen

Every offseason there are players that elevate their games or, simply, play well at the right time with the right eyes on them. Their stock soars through the roof and college scholarships come flying after mild interest throughout their high school career.

Last year no player made a bigger splash in the summer than Lake Forest's Matt Vogrich. While playing for Full Package in AAU competition, Vogrich went from a player a few mid-majors were after following his junior season to a coveted high-major recruit with offers from big-named programs. In the end, Vogrich signed with Michigan last November.

Naperville Central's Drew Crawford also put together a terrific summer while playing for the Illinois Warriors. Crawford, who will be headed to Northwestern this fall, grabbed the attention of several high-major programs after playing in relative obscurity.

So what player will step up, rise to the occasion, climb the player rankings or at least open the eyes of college colleges and national talent evaluators? Mundelein's Ben Brust could certainly be that guy. Here is the lowdown on Brust and a few others the Hoops Report feels could evolve into the Matt Vogrich of 2010. They may be highly-regarded locally but are still seeking national attention.

BEN BRUST, 6-2, 2G, Mundelein
Anyone who has followed and read the Hoops Report over the last 14 years knows it loves and appreciates players who can simply put the ball in the basket. Give the Hoops Report a scorer any day. Brust, the No. 5 rated player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 rankings, is that guy. He's hardly an unknown and there is certainly high-major interest, with Iowa recently offering and five other high-majors -- Northwestern, Virginia, California, Stanford and Notre Dame -- showing heavy interest. However, despite the fact Brust's interest is a bit higher at the same stage than Vogrich's interest was a year ago at this time, he is poised to break out on the national level. He's still rounding into form and is probably still a couple of weeks away from being entirely back from a broken tibia that ended his junior season. He can flat-out score and is arguably the best perimeter shooter in the senior class in Illinois. He has great range and moves well without the ball. He doesn't appear to be a natural ballhandler, but he's efficient. Like Vogrich, Brust is a better athlete than people realize. He could be a Steve Kerr-type at the college level wherever he plays.

And three others that could rise right along with Brust....

MIKE McCALL, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Foreman)
He has clearly escaped the shadow of his own teammate, point guard Lavonte Dority, and risen to No. 6 in the Hoops Report Class of 2010 player rankings. The jet-quick guard still has plenty to prove. He's devastating in the open court and can be dazzling finishing in transition. He's nearly impossible to stay in front of and is aggressive offensively. If his perimeter shot becomes consistent and he tightens up his handle and decision-making when the game gets fast, look out. He sees the floor extremely well, but he isn't a natural point guard.

RAYVONTE RICE, 6-3, WF, Champaign (Centennial)
The rugged wing gets better and better. And now that he's reportedly given up playing football and will dedicate 12 months to playing basketball for the first time, the sky could be the limit if he dedicates himself to polishing his skills and rounding himself into a better basketball body. He doesn't come with the perfect basketball dimensions, but he gets so much done. A host of mid-majors have offered, with Drake, Illinois State, Western Michigan and Loyola among the several offers. Both Iowa and Penn State have been in to watch Rice.

KARL MADISON, 5-10, PG, Springfield (Lanphier)
Here is the guy no one talks about due to playing outside the Chicago area, but like Brust this kid can put it in the hole. Though smaller than Brust, Madison is more of a combo guard, capable of playing the point or moving over to the 2-guard spot because of his shooting and scoring ability. He's a Daniel Gibson-like scoring point guard with a nice bag of tricks offensively. This lefty can get to the basket, knock down shots from beyond the arc and has a mid-range game.

Sleeper Harks commits to Olivet

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By Joe Henricksen

Glenbard South's Jordan Harks, a late bloomer and sleeper in the Class of 2009, committed to Olivet Nazarene Wednesday evening. The talented and athletic 6-6 forward received a wide range of interest from Division III powers, Division II schools and even some opportunities to walk-on at the Division I level, but in the end decided Olivet, a NAIA school in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference, was the ideal fit.

In addition to the basketball opportunity and how impressed he was with coach Ralph Hodge, Harks noted the Christian environment fits his core values. Harks, who was MVP of the Western Sun Conference, averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds a game for a team that finished 20-8 and won a Class 3A regional championship. Harks is an underrated athlete who blossomed in his senior season.

Harks joins a recruiting class that also includes Washington sharpshooter Ben Worner, a 6-3 guard who averaged 16 points a game for the Panthers.

Final look at the Class of 2009

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By Joe Henricksen

The 2008-2009 season has been completed and this year's seniors will move on to college. Here is a final look at the top college prospects in the Class of 2009 and where the City/Suburban Hoops Report ranks the individual players in the class one last time.

1. Brandon Paul, 6-3, 2G, Gurnee (Warren) ... With D.J. Richardson off to prep school there was no doubt who the top college prospect was in the senior class. Paul's immediate impact won't be felt too much -- Hoops Report envisions a breakthrough down the road, likely during his junior season at Illinois. But his upside and untapped potential should be brought out under Bruce Weber and gives him the edge as the state's top college prospect.
2. Drew Crawford, 6-5, 2G, Naperville (Central) ... There weren't enough people who were able to see just how good Crawford was during his high school career. Look for Crawford, the Hoops Report Player of the Year, to start from day one at Northwestern (he's the most college-ready player in the class) and truly blossom into an all-Big Ten selection before his college days are done.
3. Jack Cooley, 6-8, PF, Glenview (Glenbrook South) ... The best big man in Illinois may take some time to make his presence felt at Notre Dame, but he will eventually. A blue-collar workhorse who will be a fine four-year college player.
4. Darius Smith, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Marshall) ... He may not be a true point and may not shoot it like a 2-guard, but he just makes plays, defends, competes and wins. He's an asset every time he steps on the floor.
5. Angus Brandt, 6-9, PF, Lake Forest (Academy) ... Skilled and a good athlete, Brandt has a big upside with his ability to shoot it with range and finish at the rim. He will gain weight and strength and be a horse while maintaining a little bounce.
6. Matt Vogrich, 6-3, 2G, Lake Forest ... More than just a shooter, this underrated athlete can flat-out score. He will fit in perfectly in Michigan's system, but he will need to be surrounded by players.
7. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... A power-packed point guard who still must work and improve his perimeter shot, but he can get in the lane and get to the rim.
8. Cully Payne, 6-1, PG, Schaumburg ... Was enjoying one heck of a senior year until a back injury forced him to miss half the season. He is a steady presence at point guard and can really shoot it. Iowa is probably a better fit than Alabama.
9. D.J. Cooper, 5-9, PG, South Holland (Seton) ... He's a gamer, a true point guard with quickness, vision and the ability to make big plays and hit big shots. A real find for Ohio.
10. Joseph Bertrand, 6-5, PG, Sterling ... He is not college ready, yet his upside remains. He has the length, skills and athleticism to blossom down the road. However, will he develop the consistent perimeter jumper and, more importantly, the killer instinct to develop into that type of player?
11. John Taylor, 5-11, 2G, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... An undersized Patrick Beverly-type. There may be no one better in the open court in transition and getting to the rim. He still has his flaws, however, including an inconsistent shot and decision-making.
12. Terry Johnson, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... Sacrificed this season for a loaded team after averaging over 20 a game as a junior at St. Rita. Johnson has the ability to get by people and an offensive repertoire that will fit with the system Illinois State plays.
13. Michael Haynes, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Fenger) ... Sat out his senior year and now becomes a big-time junior college recruit. He's a strong athlete with a great body but lacks the skills, which keeps him as an undersized 4-man.
14. Jonathan Mills, 6-4, PF, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... He may be very limited offensively, but you win games with players like Mills, the best rebounder in the state of Illinois. He's a warrior around the basket.
15. Derek Needham, 5-11, PG, Chicago (De La Salle) ... The Catholic League Player of the Year is so fast and strong in the open court and getting to the rim. As his shot becomes more consistent he will be that much more dangerous offensively. Highly undervalued and an absolute steal for Fairfield.
16. Kyle Cain, 6-7, PF, T.F. North ... Has climbed the rankings with a stellar spring, showing a knack for rebounding and finishing with authority around the basket. He's got the bounce, the body and the improved skills to be an impact recruit at mid-major plus or higher after spending time at either a junior college or prep school.
17. Marcus Jordan, 6-2, 2G/WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... A physical, overpowering force. Still must improve his mechanics on his shot and become comfortable running a team, but potential there to be a big, physical perimeter defender. He picked the perfect level at Central Florida.
18. James Kinney, 6-1, 2G, Champaign (Centennial) ... Put together a terrific senior year in leading Centennial to 3A state title. He has big-time scoring ability, can shoot with range and just has a smoothness about him. A Cooper-Kinney backcourt combo at Ohio should be one of the best in the MAC before long.
19. Zeke Upshaw, 6-5, 2G/WF, Chicago (Lab) ... Another real sleeper. This late bloomer is so skilled and smooth -- and he's only going to get better. He won't be an impact player at the college level immediately, but as he adds strength and experience his versatility could make him a dangerous weapon at Illinois State down the road.
20. Robert Covington, 6-7, WF, Proviso West ... Here is your most underrated and overlooked talent in Illinois. Tapped into that booming potential this year and blossomed into a talented and productive player. He's so long and active with an enormous upside. There will be college programs who will look back and wonder why they didn't roll the dice with Covington.
21. Dyricus Simms-Edwards, 6-2, PG, Washington ... Have to feel for the kid as it seems he's been battling injuries for the past year. A nice-bodied player who is still learning the nuances of the point guard position.
22. Nik Garcia, 6-5, 2G, Evanston ... Somewhat of a lost season for Garcia after sitting out the first half of the season. He can certainly shoot the basketball but must do a little more off the dribble to avoid being a one-dimensional threat.
23. Diamond Taylor, 6-3, 2G, Bolingbrook ... The Wisconsin-bound guard has certainly fallen in the player rankings as he didn't shoot the ball particularly well. Will need to add weight and strength for Big Ten battles.
24. Shaun Pratl, 6-8, PF, Oak Lawn (Richards) ... A real steal for Eastern Illinois. With Pratl finally dedicating 12 months to basketball he should be able to fine tune some of the rough edges in his game. He's big, strong, skilled and a good athlete for his size.
25. Colin Nickerson, 6-3, 2G, Waukegan ... Raised his stock a ton over the last 12 months. Long, lanky and a terrific shooter and scorer. Still needs to get stronger and tighten his handle. Fairfield got a good one here.
26. Jordan Prosser, 6-7, PF, Eureka ... A former top 10 ranked player, Prosser had a big senior year and is still a valuable recruit for Bradley because of his size and decent skill level.
27. Tony Nixon, 6-4, WF, South Holland (Seton) ... Still needs to work on perimeter skills and aggressiveness offensively, but he will knock down shots when surrounded by other weapons.
28. David Brown, 6-3, 2G, Rockton-Hononegah ... Had a solid senior year with little notoriety, but he should be a nice MAC player with his ability to put the ball in the hole.
29. Malcolm Herron, 6-3, 2G, Downers Grove (South) ... When he learns to bring it every day he can be a big-time offensive force both off the dribble and shooting from the perimeter. Will go JUCO route and be a mid-major in a couple of years.
30. Jeremy Jones, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Simeon) ... Jumped out of the gate quickly with some monster games in the first half of the season. Will be a Division I recruit coming out of junior college.
31. Jordan Walker, 6-6, WF/PF, South Holland (Seton) ... Really came on the second half of the season. He has length, athleticism and can really run the floor. A couple of years at JUCO could do wonders for maturing both physically and as a player.
32. James Pointer, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Leo) ... A force in the open court and nearly impossible to stay in front of. He can put points on the board in a hurry, but he must improve his decision-making and gain some consistency with his perimeter shot.
33. D'Mitri Riggs, 6-3, PG/2G, Bloomington ... An up-and-down career leaves him headed the JUCO route and a chance to polish his game and mature. The talent is there to play at a high level if he dedicates himself the next two years.
34. Brian Conway, 6-3, WF, Chicago Heights (Bloom) ... Had to sit out the year due to some legal issues. His future remains uncertain but he's a long, wiry athlete who is a finisher in transition.
35. Seth Evans, 6-1, PG, Seneca ... Underappreciated point guard who just gets it. Solid with the ball, knocks down shots and a high basketball I.Q.
36. Malcolm Griffin, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Hyde Park) ... Toledo recruit needs to fine tune his body and get in a little better shape, but Griffin can score.
37. Eriq Harris, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Marshall) ... Battled injuries his senior year and is the classic 'tweener, but he's athletic and has an upside.
38. Chris Eversley, 6-3, 2G/WF, Chicago (Payton) ... Rice gets a fundamentally sound, strong-bodied, versatile perimeter player. He's capable of getting things done around the basket and stepping out.
39. David Smith, 6-2, PG/2G, Lake Forest (Academy) ... He doesn't do any one thing great, but he has good size and strength for a lead guard in what will come in handy in the physical Missouri Valley.
40. Mike Black, 5-11, PG, Oak Park (Fenwick) ... Smooth, underrated point guard who can create, get in the lane and distribute. Headed to Albany next fall.
41. Markus Yarbrough, 6-7, PF, Zion-Benton ... A big-bodied, on-the-block scorer with a nice touch around the basket but a below-the-rim post. Still needs to get in better shape and tone his body.
42. Corbin Thomas, 6-6, PF, South Holland (Seton) ... Became a productive, even dominant player at times, in the second half of the season. Still raw and learning how to play but athletic with a great body.
43. Conrad Krutwig, 6-5, WF/PF, Algonquin (Jacobs) ... All heart and hustle. A combo forward who will battle you inside but has developed a nice face-up game.
44. Paris Gulley, 6-0, PG/2G, Peoria (Manual) ... The kid can put the ball in the hole but lacks a true position.
45. Aaron Nelson, 6-6, PF, Chicago Heights (Bloom) ... With Nelson it's about production. Had a huge senior year, constantly putting up double-doubles and using his big body well. Will step out and knock down the 17-18 foot jumper as well.
46. Luke Scarlata, 6-8, PF, Berwyn-Cicero (Morton) ... Skilled big man who can use either hand around the basket with a nice touch. What he lacks in pure athleticism he makes up for with his smarts. A big-time steal for Division III Augustana.
47. Anthony Dixon, 6-4, 2G/WF, Chicago (Hyde Park) ... Slender wing headed to San Jose State.
48. Bryant Smith, 6-0, PG, Chicago (St. Patrick) ... He has the athletic ability and quickness to play in the Southland Conference. His progress and improvement with his skill package will determine what kind of impact he has at Texas-Arlington.
49. Lawrence Thomas, 5-7, PG, Springfield (Southeast) ... He's skilled, can score and knows how to play the point guard position. He will always have to overcome his lack of size.
50. Ronald Steward, 5-8, PG, Zion-Benton ... Has shown time and time again he's a winner and the ultimate competitor. This year he showed he will knock down shots when left open.
51. Kendrick Morse, 5-6, PG, Rich South ... Tiny, jet-quick point guard gets where he wants on the floor, is strong for his size and will battle anyone.
52. Kevin Senechalle, 6-7, PF, St. Charles (East) ... Competes, battles, a good athlete and has a tremendous frame. When he packs on 15-20 pounds he will prove to be an absolute steal for Wisconsin-Parkside.
53. Jeremy Saffold, 6-5, WF, Homewood-Flossmoor .... Big finish to the season elevated team and his own stock as he became a big-time scorer.
54. Trevell Rivers, 6-3, PF, Harvey (Thornton) ... The ultimate undersized four-man, but he packs a punch with his tenacity around the basket and absolute, freakish explosiveness.
55. Cortney Bell, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Lincoln Park) ... Battling back from injury. He passes the look test with impressive athleticism and a nice body, but he still has the dreaded 'tweener label.
56. Troynell Adams, 6-5, PF, Chicago (Farragut) ... What a tough, troubled season this athletic but undersized four-man had.
57. Stan Brown, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... He has his limitations athletically, but he came up big down the stretch for state champions and showed he can be a serviceable big man.
58. Matt Sullivan, 6-4, 2G/WF, Wilmette (Loyola Academy) ... He won't wow you or pass the look test on the floor, but he's a hard-nosed, multi-dimensional player. Should have a solid career at Brown.
59. Troy Synder, 6-5, WF, Bolingbrook ... A long, active wing who signed with Wisconsin-Green Bay last November. If he can gain consistency with his jumper and improve his ball skills he can be a nice fit.
60. Jordan Harks, 6-6, PF, Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South) ... Had a terrific year and opened a lot of eyes. The athletic four-man being recruited by several Division II/NAIA programs.

Illini recruits rule 2010 rankings

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By Joe Henricksen

Since the very first Class of 2010 Hoops Report rankings came out in the fall of 2006, Jereme Richmond has been at the top. And all he's done is continue to separate himself from the rest of the pack. That initial ranking nearly three years ago didn't even have the likes of Meyers Leonard on the list. Now he's the No. 2 prospect in the class. Throw in No. 3 ranked Crandall Head and coach Bruce Weber and his Fighting Illini have secured commitments from the top three prospects in the state.

A lot will develop between now and the end of July in regard to player improvement, but here is a look at the top 25 players in the Class of 2010 heading into the spring, with the next 25 coming later in the week.

1. Jereme Richmond, 6-7, WF, Waukegan ... He's one of the top five prospects the state has produced in the last decade and should be a consensus top 10 national player before it's all said and done. He is in rare company when you combine his skill level, feel for the game and size.
2. Meyers Leonard, 6-10, PF, Robinson ... Continues to get better and better and open people's eyes. He's long, very agile with good hands, runs the floor and has the body and frame to bulk up and add weight and strength. Did you see him in the IHSA dunk contest and what he did as a 6-10 post player in that competition? Impressive. Reminds Hoops Report of a young Jason Smith, the former Colorado State star and NBA first-round draft pick.
3. Crandall Head, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Crane) ... He has stayed a little too raw a little too long, but you can't ignore the pure upside and ability. Even with his explosive athleticism, he still has to start putting it all together and play with a purpose.
4. Lenzelle Smith, 6-3, WF, Zion-Benton ... A complete, highly versatile player who elevates those around him and helps teams win. He has great vision in recognizing open teammates, finishes around the basket and has great body control. He still needs to get more comfortable and consistent shooting from the perimeter.
5. Ben Brust, 6-2, 2G, Mundelein ... Arguably the best shooter in the state and shoots it with range. He can fill it up and is a better athlete than people think. He moves well without the ball, has a quick release and excels at catch-and-shoot or shooting off the dribble. Could really stand to bulk up and gain more body strength.
6. Mike McCall, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Foreman) ... He's poised for a big, breakout summer. He is a smooth glider with a killer crossover and ability to break people down. A blur in transition. While he sees the floor well, he may not have the true point guard mentality. An improved perimeter jumper has made him a deadly offensive weapon.
7. Anthony Johnson, 6-3, PG/2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Will get his chance to shine on next year's Whitney Young team. He can reel off big points in a hurry, whether scoring in transition or knocking down shots from beyond the arc. Lack of weight and body strength still an issue.
8. Phillip Jackson, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Providence St. Mel) ... Shows very good mobility, runs the floor with ease and has improved his touch around the basket. A very good athlete with length. He must build on his limited variety of back-to-the-basket moves and become more polished offensively.
9. Karl Madison, 5-10, PG, Springfield (Lanphier) ... A Daniel Gibson-like scoring point guard. A big-time scoring lead guard who can put points on the board with a nice bag of tricks offensively. He gets to the basket, hits mid-range jumpers and his range extends out to 20 feet. Does he possess a point guard's mentality and feel?
10. Reggie Smith, 6-0, 2G, Harvey (Thornton) ... He competes, gets after it and is probably one of the few true elite, off-the-charts athletes in the class. His perimeter shot has improved, but he still needs to make major strides in the skill areas. Smith is an awfully difficult player to peg.
11. Alex Rossi, 6-5, 2G, Winnetka (New Trier) ... Shooting the ball well for his Rising Stars AAU team after an up-and-down high school season. He plays the game with maturity and intelligence and comes with a great deal of experience under his belt. Works well off picks and screens. Defensively he could struggle to defend more athletic shooting guards and is lateral quickness is lacking.
12. Rayvonte Rice, 6-3, WF, Champaign (Centennial) ... While maybe not spectacular at first glance, there is so much to like. A tough, strong, physical perimeter player with great athleticism. Has shown a high basketball I.Q., understands how to get by opponents, finishes after contact. As his perimeter skills improve, including getting more consistent with his perimeter shot, the sky is the limit. Look for a breakout season on the AAU circuit.
13. Jordan Threloff, 6-10, C, DeKalb ... As big as they come and getting better and more productive by the day. When he fully develops physically he will be immovable and will hold his position with anyone. He's developed ways to score around the basket (put-backs, short flip-ins, jump hook). While he runs the floor well for his size, he's a below-the-rim player without much athleticism.
14. Ahmad Starks, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Has a lot of point guard abilities such as controlling tempo if necessary, court vision, high basketball I.Q. and leadership. He can go through hot and cold periods with his shot but is capable shooting from the perimeter. His lack of size and body type will always be an issue at the next level.
15. Alex Dragicevich, 6-6, WF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North) ... A Jason Kapono-type who will extend defenses with his quick release and range. He has a niche as a scorer at the next level but must become a more complete player. The foot speed is lacking defensively and would be a concern at the highest level.
16. Dwayne Evans, 6-5, WF, Naperville (Neuqua Valley) ... A unique player who gets so much done and does a little of everything. He is getting much more consistent with his perimeter shot, extending his range out to 20 feet. Typically works harder than most everyone on the floor.
17. Anthony Shoemaker, 6-6, WF, Joliet ... Just an extremely long and athletic wing who is still learning how to play but will impress with eye-popping plays and finishes. While a bit erratic, he has decent skills for a player his size. While his jump shot is improved and he is capable of hitting the 18-20 foot jumper, the mechanics aren't what you would want and there is still much work to do in polishing his game.
18. Isiah Jones, 6-2, PG, Mounds Meridian ... Talented lead guard hidden playing in the deep southern part of the state. Has a very nice body and size for a point guard, uses change of direction well to get by defenders, strong finisher. He has to establish his outside shooting.
19. Lavonte Dority, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Foreman) ... A little on the small side in height but makes up for it in strength. His strength overpowers players at the prep level. The biggest downfall is that his upside is limited and he lacks the true perimeter shot you covet.
20. Tim Rusthoven, 6-7, PF, Wheaton (Academy) ... Still flying under-the-radar among college coaches, though more are taking notice. Hoops Report continues to see a smaller version of John Shurna, the former Glenbard West star. He has a little old school game to him with the ability to do a little on the block, post up, face-up, knock down shots. He's a solid passer and gets so much done with what he has size-wise and athetically.
21. Jarod Oldham, 6-3, 2G, Decatur (Eisenhower) ... Streaky scorer with a wide array of tools offensively. Good lateral quickness and athleticism on the perimeter. He has a habit of getting out of control and being a bit careless with the ball.
22. Brandon Spearman, 6-3, 2G/WF, Chicago (Simeon) ... A bit of a 'tweener but he is a big-bodied, athletic wing who can knock down shots but needs to gain consistency. Will he become a productive scorer and improve overall skills, especially his ballhandling?
23. Fred Heldring, 6-9, PF, Winnetka (New Trier) ... He's got the height, length and skill level that grabs your attention. Will toughness come as he gets older and matures physically?
24. Eric Gaines, 6-4, 2G/WF, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) ... Long, wiry and athletic wing who is a disruptive force defensively and impressive in transition, getting to the basket and is a great finisher. He hits the glass well for his size. Lacks consistency and needs to become a better shooter.
25. Tommy Woolridge, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Foreman) ... The undervalued player in Foreman's talented senior trio, but Woolridge can score and score in bunches.
26. Patrick Miller, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Hales) ... Talented, smooth point guard who will distribute and score. Look for Miller to blossom this summer and show he has the ability to run the show for low-Division I program.
27. Jay Harris, 6-0, PG, Oswego (East) ... This rail-thin combo guard can really score with range, a pull-up game and off the bounce. He has a little swagger to his game. His lack of size is a concern.
28. Tevin Rumley, 6-3, 2G, Rock Falls ... Doesn't get a lot of attention being outside the Chicago area, but Rumley is a big 2-guard who has about as good of a mid-range game as you will find at the high school level. Uses his big body and above-average athleticism well.
29. Jermaine Winfield, 6-5, PF, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... Hoops Report may have him a little high but you won't find players who play harder. He's an undersized four-man with limitations, but he's tough, rugged, plays defense and will knock down that 12-15 foot face-up jumper.
30. Kashaune McKinney, 6-3, 2G/WF, Park Forest (Rich East) ... Terrific body and outstanding athleticism. He has the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter, although a bit streak, while still getting the feel of getting some things done off the dribble.
31. Antoine Cox, 6-3, WF, Bolingbrook ... One of those eye-popping athletes who explodes off the floor. A bit inexperienced as a basketball player, but he's improved with his skills but has a ways to go, both with his handle and consistency with his jumper. Great body.
32. Dave Dudzinski, 6-8, PF, Maple Park (Kaneland) ... A big, tall, rangy face-up 4-man who has made big strides since last summer. He has the impressive combination of size and coordination and moves well for a player his size.
33. Wayne Simon, 5-11, PG, Westchester (St. Joseph) ... Another thin guard who needs to add weight and strength to his frame. He will drop the mid-range jumper on you all day. Plus, he's crafty in using his body, length in getting to the basket.
34. Vincent Garrett, 6-5, PF, Chicago (Marshall) ... Still raw and unpolished but his athleticism will jump out at you. Big-time athlete with a pretty high ceiling but an undersized 4-man right now.
35. Duje Dukan, 6-6, WF, Deerfield ... Will shoot the basketball with just about anyone. He's still growing and will serve a need for some Division I program as a deadly perimeter shooter. Also brings good size but lacks the foot speed.
36. Aaron Williams, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Vocational) ... Pretty versatile kid who can go inside and battle around the basket or handle the ball a little on the perimeter. Still needs work on his jumper.
37. Paul Bunch, 6-10, C, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... Yes, his stock has fallen, but he is a legit 6-10 with a big frame. Shows some definite flashes on both ends of the floor.
38. Mike Gabriel, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Lincoln Park) ... Tough, hard-nosed 4-man with some strength. He lacks the lift and overall athleticism you would like, but he will get after it. Developing a decent face-up game.
39. Jeff Johnson, 6-9, PF, Champaign (Centennial) ... There may not be a better shooting big man in the state with legitimate range out to the three-point line. He's not much of an athlete. Coming along with his back-to-the-basket but must become a bigger threat on the block.
40. Ben Brackney, 6-5, WF, Lincoln ... A better-than-you-think athlete but lacks the foot speed. He can really shoot the basketball, has some size and has played well this spring in AAU ball.

For more information or to subscirbe to the Hoops Report, now entering its 15th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Illinois Kings shine; Egwu coming quick

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By Joe Henricksen

Uh, maybe it's time to start taking this Illinois Kings team a little more seriously.

A few weeks ago in this very space the Hoops Report remarked what a nice and underrated team the Illinois Kings have after watching them play in the Chicago Hoops Tip-Off Classic. After this past weekend's performance in the Hall of Fame Chicago Showdown at Attack Athletics Center, the Illinois Kings are more than just a nice team.

No, the Illinois Kings don't have the big names or high-profile Division I prospects, but there they were competing against the likes of perennial AAU powers like the Illinois Warriors and Illinois Wolves -- and beating them. In the end they swept the 17U Wolves (Anthony Shoemaker, Jarod Oldham, Alex Dragicevich, Rahjan Muhammad), 17U Warriors (Dwayne Evans, Brandon Spearman, Ahmad Starks, Kyle Cain) and 16U Wolves (Nnanna Egwu, Chasson Randle, Jacob Williams, Bobo Drummond) to claim the title on Saturday.

Once again it was the team play that stood out, but individually Riverside-Brookfield point guard Sean McGonagill has been so impressive in the early part of this spring. In the win over the 17U Wolves in the quarterfinals he impressed the Hoops Report again with his overall floor presence and his ability to distribute and knock down shots -- and big shots. McGonagill, who was co-MVP of the tournament, hit a few game-turning threes in the second half of the win over the 17U Wolves.

If it wasn't McGonagill providing the punch, it was fellow co-MVP Nick Kladis of Hinsdale Central, who shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter. Marist guard Nick Valla also showed the ability to extend defenses with his shooting from beyond the arc.

Lyons Township's Justin Phipps, Neuqua Valley's Kareem Amedu and Bartlett's Luke Labedzki all contributed throughout tournament play. This team has some size and strength inside with Phipps and Amedu, along with a host of players that will knock down the three-pointer.

This Illinois Kings are loaded with small college basketball prospects who so far have gotten the most of their collective parts.

Young, talented Wolves
The Illinois Wolves 16-and-under team, which will be playing up an age level an awful lot this spring and summer and did so in this tournament, is one that has plenty of Division I talent and should only get better. Chasson Randle, the 6-2 sophomore guard from Rock Island who sports several Big Ten offers, is the headliner. The much-hyped Bobo Drummond, a true freshman point guard out of Peoria, has joined the Wolves. And after sitting out his sophomore year of high school basketball, 6-5 Jacob Williams is rounding back into form.

However, the story with the Wolves is St. Ignatius big man Nnanna Egwu. The continued improvement of Egwu is pretty amazing, especially considering how little basketball background he has. Wolves coach Mike Mullins said it best saying, "He's not even recognizable from the player that he was 18 months ago."

The Hoops Report remembers seeing Egwu for the first time the fall of his freshman year. And as Mullins noted, he's not the same player today. He was as raw, unpolished and clueless as they come in terms of basketball in the fall of 2007. While he is far from being a finished product, the 6-9 Egwu has made tremendous strides in a short amount of time. He's no longer just a project. He's added some weight and strength. His skill level has improved. For his size he's exceptional in running the floor. With the little amount of basketball that he has played, his timing in blocking and altering shots with his long reach is impressive. And while he's still learning how to play, he doesn't have a lot of bad habits. More importantly, he seems to really want to get better and is extremely coachable.

What is also remarkable is the few offers Egwu currently has in this age where big men are at such a premium. There will be plenty to choose from in the end for Egwu, but Wisconsin, Indiana and Miami-Ohio are the lone schools to have officially offered. Illinois and Northwestern have both shown heavy interest.

Egwu still can look uncomfortable at times, especially on the offensive end where he is still raw and a bit undeveloped. His offensive court awareness is still evolving. He still is not as strong of a finisher around the basket as you would like for a player his size, but he has improved in every area.

While on the topic of the 16U Wolves, yes there are some bigger names, but Benet Academy's David Sobolewski continues to impress. He had a terrific second half of the season for Benet after coming back from an injury and has kept it rolling. The 5-11 sophomore point guard has a great feel for the game, a high I.Q and can flat-out shoot it. He is one to watch.

Other thoughts and observations
Neuqua Valley's Dwayne Evans was awfully impressive while playing for the Illinois Warriors. The 6-5 junior continues to show more and more consistency with his shot and the ability to extend his range. He dropped in threes, mid-range jumpers and was very active on the glass. He gets so much done.... Someone, likely a JUCO or Prep School, is going to land a good one in T.F. North's Kyle Cain. The 6-7 post was impressive and again showed some bounce and ability to rebound and finish around the basket.... Michael and Matthew Mache of Glenbard West have gotten bigger, stronger and better. The 6-5 twins are a pair of key players for the 15U Illinois Wolves.

The Best of Mr. Basketball in Illinois

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By Joe Henricksen

There were no shortage of quality candidates for the Mr. Basketball Award this past season. Although my Mr. Basketball ballot I submitted had Naperville Central's Drew Crawford on the top, with Warren's Brandon Paul and Waukegan's Jereme Richmond on the next two lines, Paul is more than deserving. You couldn't go wrong with any of the top three candidates. Paul had a terrific year and has an even brighter future as his talents have not been totally tapped into. His upside is just huge.

The reasons Crawford was named the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Player of the Year were documented in a previous blog entry, but it was great to see Crawford recognized and receive the amount of votes that he did get, including 20 first-place votes, to finish third in overall voting.

With the 2009 award in the books, the Hoops Report is going to take a look at the 29-year history of the Mr. Basketball Award and rank the winners in two different categories. And before anyone comments, the Mr. Basketball Award began after the likes of Quinn Buckner and Isiah Thomas played.

The first category is listing the top 12 Mr. Basketball Award winners that had the best post-high school careers, those who put together the best college and pro careers. The second list is ranking the top 12 Mr. Basketball Award winners in order of just their overall high school careers and their impact and dominance at the prep level. Have a little fun in discussing and debating.

1. Kevin Garnett, Farragut (1995). A no-brainer with the top spot. KG skipped college and has gone on to become one of best NBA players of his generation, including a perennial NBA all-star and winning a NBA championship with the Boston Celtics.

2. Nick Anderson, Simeon (1986). The Simeon product became a star at Illinois, helping the Fighting Illini to the Final Four. Anderson was a first-round NBA draft pick following his junior year. He averaged 14.4 points a game during a solid 13-year NBA career.

3. Derrick Rose, Simeon (2007). Check back in five or six years and the Simeon grad may be at the top of the list. In one year at Memphis he led his team to the NCAA title game. Now he's a favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year and a future all-star in the league.

4. Eddy Curry, Thornwood (2001). The former No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls has not lived up to expectations, but he has already played eight years in the NBA, averaged over 13 points and five rebounds a game in his career, and has a huge contract under his belt.

5. Brian Cook, Lincoln (1999). The former Big Ten MVP finished with 1,748 career points (4th all time in school history) and 100 victories while playing at Illinois. He is now a NBA veteran and role player having played six years with the Lakers, Magic and Rockets.

6. Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor (2005). Played just two years at Kansas, averaging 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game and earning All-Big 12 First Team honors his sophomore year. He was a first-round NBA Draft pick and is currently in his second season with the New Orleans Hornets. Wright is young and talented enough to move up this list as his NBA career evolves.

7. Shaun Livingston, Peoria Central (2004). He became the fourth Illinois Mr. Basketball Award winner to jump directly to the NBA out of high school as he was a lottery pick a month after graduation. The verdict is still out as to how big of a career he will have in the NBA. The 6-7 point guard was just signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and hasn't been the same since a devastating knee injury.

8. Deon Thomas, Simeon (1989). He is the all-time leading scorer in University of Illinois history. He was drafted No. 28 by the Dallas Mavericks out of college but instead became one of the most successful American pros of all time in the European leagues. Maybe he hasn't had the notoriety, but he certainly has had a solid, lengthy career playing professional basketball.

9. Darius Miles, East St. Louis Sr. (2000). There could be some debate as to where Miles fits on this list. He skipped college and made the jump to the NBA following his prep career when he was a first-round NBA draft pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. His career has stalled with injuries and off-the-court issues after averaging over double figures the first six years of his NBA career while playing with the Clippers, Cavaliers and Trailblazers.

10. Dee Brown, Proviso East (2002). He became a Fighting Illini legend and fan favorite in his four years in Champaign. Brown finished his career third on the all-time scoring list and helped the Illini to the 2005 Final Four and national championship game. He has had a couple of cups of coffee in the NBA and is now playing overseas.

1. Jamie Brandon, King (1990). All-Everything and dominating prep player while at King. He scored a whopping 3,157 points in his career, which is third all time in state history. His teams finished second in the state his freshman season, third in the state as a junior and won a state title as a senior when the Jaguars went a perfect 32-0.

2. Derrick Rose, Simeon (2007). There wasn't much Rose didn't do during his prep career, including leading the Wolverines to back-to-back state championships. In three years of varsity play his teams went 95-11 while he was considered one of the top five prep players in the country.

3. Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North (2006). Scheyer may not ever crack the first list, but as a high school player he was phenomenal. A legendary high school career, which included three trips to the Elite Eight in his four years. He led his team to a state title as a junior and finished his career as the state's fourth all-time leading scorer with 3,034 points. Scheyer poured in 48 points in a supersectional win in 2005.

4. Marcus Liberty, King (1987). Was considered by some to be the No. 1 high school player in the country. As a junior he led the Jaguars to a state title and a state runner-up finish his senior year. In four memorable state tournament games in 1987, Liberty scored 41, 23, 38 and 41 as he set the state tournament scoring record.

5. Bruce Douglas, Quincy (1982). Well before the internet, AAU basketball and all the hype surrounding prep stars, Douglas was one of the most storied basketball players in state history. In four varsity seasons he scored over 2,000 career points and his teams went an amazing 123-5. The Parade All-American was part of a state championship his junior year, a state runner-up as a freshman and a third-place finish his senior year when Quincy's 64-game win streak was snapped.

6. Shaun Livingston, Peoria Central (2004). He didn't put up huge numbers (18 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.5 apg his senior year), but he was the ultimate versatile talent and winner. He led the Lions to back-to-back state championships his junior and senior year, while capping his career as a McDonald's All-American.

7. Kevin Garnett, Farragut (1995). Yes, he played just one season at Farragut, but the 6-11 phenom led Farragut to the Elite Eight and averaged 25.2 points, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 6.5 blocks while shooting 66 percent from the field. The fanfare and media coverage that followed him and his Farragut team was something we hadn't seen. A month after graduating he was a first-round NBA draft pick.

8.Marty Simmons, Lawrenceville (1983). There aren't many players who had a more decorated high school career. Simmons is one of the state's all-time leading scorers with 2,986 points. He was part of a Lawrenceville team that won a state record 68 consecutive games and won back-to-back Class A state championships.

9. Rashard Griffith, King (1993). The legend of Griffith began as a 14-year-old at Marcus Garvey elementary school on Chicago's South Side. That's when he was a 6-10 8th grader and being called the next Lew Alcindor. Griffith and his King teams were dominating in high school. The 7-footer played four varsity seasons, put up monster numbers his junior and senior years, and his teams were an amazing 115-4 in those four years, including two unbeaten state championships.

10. Ronnie Fields, Farragut (1996). The greatest dunker in state history. Whether it's accurate or not, it's believed that Fields had 372 dunks in his high school career. The Parade and McDonald's All-American with the 50-inch vertical jump scored 2,619 career points and teamed with Kevin Garnett his junior year on a team that reached the Elite Eight.

Missing the cut....
Eddy Curry, Thornwood (2001)
Frank Williams, Peoria Manual (1998)
Sergio McClain, Peoria Manual (1997)
Eric Anderson, St. Francis De Sales (1988)
Ed Horton, Springfield Lanphier (1985)

A few more thoughts from Tip-Off Classic

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By Joe Henricksen

As mentioned in a previous City/Suburban Hoops Report blog, the Chicago Hoops Tip-Off Classic offered an array of talent last weekend, which included talented incoming freshmen to even outgoing seniors. Here is another overview of that event with some additional thoughts and perspective.

On top of 2011?
He's not there just yet, but De La Salle 6-5 sophomore Dre Henley is fast approaching the top spot in the talented sophomore class. The Hoops Report absolutely loves his versatility, which includes a high skill level to go with that big body. Henley will showcase his skill level next winter as he will be playing plenty of point guard for De La Salle next season. Henley, who projects as a big, physical, skilled wing in college, will shed a little of that excess weight as his body matures and, possibly, grows another inch or two. At that point he could evolve into a physical force, capable of outmuscling defenders but with legitimate three-point range. Think former Nevada-Reno and NBA player Kirk Snyder.

Here is how the Hoops Report sees the top 10 college prospects in that class, while knowing that many of these spots are very interchangeable.
1. Tracy Abrams, Mt. Carmel
2. Sam Thompson, Whitney Young
3. Mike Shaw, De La Salle
4. Wayne Blackshear, Morgan Park
5. Dre Henley, De La Salle
6. Chasson Randle, Rock Island
7. Ryan Boatright, East Aurora
8. Jacob Williams, Bartlett
9. Nnanna Egwu, St. Ignatius
10. James Siakam, 6-7, Brehm Prep

Will talented Fire put it all together?
Yes, the Mac Irvin Fire 17U AAU team just may have the biggest collection of individual talent of any team in Illinois. However, will all that talent produce and equal wins when the big AAU events roll around? The first weekend of AAU play is hardly the time to base any future success on, but the team does lack a true point guard (could it eventually be Jereme Richmond?) or a distributor of any kind. And how will the minutes be split up between so many star-studded players? It will be interesting to see how this team shakes out over the course of the spring and summer. Richmond was by far the most impressive Fire player on the opening day of action.

Hoopy's move
A year ago the Hoops Report watched and was impressed with Isiah "Hoopy" Jones when he played with the Illinois Titans. Jones, who plays high school basketball at Mounds Meridian, moved on late last summer and hooked up with the Illinois Bobcats. He was impressive this past weekend for the Bobcats, showing his ability to run a team, beat people off the dribble and attack the basket aggressively. He plays mature and has a terrific body for a guard. Jones is a bonafide mid-major prospect and is among the top 20 players in the Class of 2010. The 6-2 junior still needs to tighten up his jumper and gain consistency with his perimeter shot.

South 'burbs' best in 2011?
It's generally accepted that Thornton sophomore guard Jay Parker is the premier player in the south suburbs in the Class of 2011. However, if Rich South's crazy athlete Macari Brooks continues to knock down shots with his improved jumper, the 6-2 wing will be able to make an argument. Brooks possesses off-the-charts, eye-popping athleticism. He's still learning how to play, but he's made progress with his perimeter shot since seeing him early in the high school season. Brooks need to continue to improve and refine his overall skills and establish a true position.

Team to keep an eye on
While the Illinois Kings AAU team may not boast the individual talent of the elite teams in the state, they are certainly one to watch with a number of under-the-radar players who, with an impressive spring and summer, could certainly open the eyes of college coaches at various levels.

Right now Neuqua Valley's Kareem Amedu, an undersized 6-5 four-man, has low-Division I interest and a. He is what he is, which is a productive inside player who has improved rapidly and come a long way over the past 12 months, especially on the offensive end. Amedu, along with Oak Park's 6-8 Jeff Dirkin and Lyons Township's 6-5 Justin Phipps give the Kings several options and versatility inside. The long and very slender Dirkin can step out and knock down perimeter shots, while Phipps was impressive with his strength, athleticism and overall skill level. Phipps was a regular double-double down the stretch for LT, including a 16-point, 14-rebound game in a regional win over Hinsdale Central.

The player to watch, though, just may be Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill, a heady point guard who is physically strong, knocks down shots and has a little more giddy-up than people think. McGonagill, Marist's Nick Valla and Bartlett's Luke Labedzki form a pretty solid perimeter together.

Augustana with DIII steal in Scarlata

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By Joe Henricksen

At this time of the year Division III programs keep their fingers crossed that they can land the players they covet. There is always the chance a bigger school comes in and sweeps away their top targets. In the end, though, there is that steal or two at the Division III level every year.

With the announcement tonight that Morton big man Luke Scarlata has committed to Augustana, coach Grey Giovanine may just have the Division III steal of the year. Scarlata let the Augie staff know of his decision Wednesday evening.

Scarlata, who was instrumental in the resurgence of Morton basketball over the past three years, was MVP of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and has been among the top 50 players in the Hoops Report Class of 2009 player rankings. The Hoops Report anticipates Scarlata being an impact player as a freshman in the CCIW. He is a 6-8 skilled big man who utilizes both hands so well around the basket. Once he adds strength and tones his body with a college weight program, the sky is the limit at the Division III level for Scarlata.

Both Luke and his family were blown away by the hospitality during their trip to the Augustana campus this past weekend. The combination of the people within the program and college, along with the academics and the current players on the roster, helped make the decision.

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This page is a archive of recent entries written by Joe Henricksen in April 2009.

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