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Joe Henricksen: July 2009 Archives

A whole lot more from Las Vegas ...

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By Joe Henricksen

While Wayne Blackshear was the best, most consistent performer of Illinois players in Las Vegas (see the previous Hoops Report blog on Blackshear), the City/Suburban Hoops Report took in the action out west and came away with several other observations. Here is a quick rundown of the Mac Irvin Fire and other Chicago area teams and players.

• After a slow start in the first couple of games, Whitney Young's Ahmad Starks turned in a couple of sterling individual performances. In Las Vegas Starks was much more of a scoring point guard, even taking over the offensive load and making big shots for the Fire in some critical situations.

• The Hoops Report really liked the effort Mike Shaw of De La Salle gave. He will stick his nose in there and battle, but the results and productivity weren't always there. But he played hard and carries himself well. It will be interesting to see if the Shaw-Blackshear package deal will materialize as the two have indicated they would like to play together in college. However, Blackshear is clearly at a different level right now than Shaw. Thus, will a high-major power such as Louisville take both of them?

• Big man Phillip Jackson of Providence St. Mel, who had recently dropped a bit in the most recent Hoops Report player rankings, played his best basketball in quite some time. The 6-8 senior was very active, especially on the defensive end. He made his presence felt, went nose-to-nose and competed with some bigger, stronger players and made an impact blocking shots and rebounding against big-time talent and athletes. He was the Fire's most productive big man. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but when he's committed defensively and running the floor with his speed and athleticism, he opens eyes and looks the part. There are several mid-major/mid-major plus type schools hoping he didn't show too much of his potential in Las Vegas. He can be an impact type of player in time at that mid-major/mid-major plus level.

• While Jackson was probably the most productive big man for the Fire, Robinson's Meyers Leonard clearly remains the best big man prospect in Illinois. There were times he disappeared and struggled against some of the more physical players he went up against and didn't play quite at the level he has shown at other times this summer. Leonard's upside, though, is just so huge, yet he still has so much to learn on both ends of the floor. That is what makes him such a special talent and prospect. He has all the tools in the world to go along with the size, length and an emerging toughness. All he needs is some college coaching, added strength and more experience playing top-level competition.

• After showing very little interest and having little impact in the first couple of days in Las Vegas, the state's top player, Waukegan's Jereme Richmond, again showed why he's among the country's best players with a big effort in the Mac Irvin Fire's opening-round playoff win. However, his lack of motivation, body language and willingness to make an impact continues to be a bit puzzling at this stage. He seems too bored too often. If Richmond's motor was the equal to his talent or at the level of some of the past great names the state has produced (i.e. Quentin Richardson, Sergio McClain, Dwyane Wade, etc.), we would be talking about one of the greats.

Thornton's Reggie Smith, one of the top unsigned players in the state of Illinois in the Class of 2010, showed again what his strengths are and what he does best in Las Vegas. He brought energy and aggressiveness off the bench and used his off-the-charts athleticism defensively and in getting to the basket and finishing at the rim. While he has improved in the skill areas, shooting, ballhandling and decision-making in the halfcourt are not his strong points. His skill limitations -- and lack of size for a non-point guard -- are still what keep Smith fr. USC had coaches watching him in each and every game.

Fire 16s cruise, then stunned
The Mac Irvin Fire 16s, led by Whitney Young's Sam Thompson, Rich South's Macari Brooks, Brehm Prep's Dre Henley and a host of other talented juniors, were dominant in early action in Las Vegas. The Fire 16s rolled, winning games by the scores of 82-65 and 74-44 in pool play and beating Mo Flight in the opening round of tournament play. The Fire, though, were upset Sunday morning in the quarterfinals by the West Virginia Wildcats who went on to win the 16-and-under Main Event title.

Thompson's potential is always being raved about, but he's starting to find his way and become the talent everyone expects he will be. He's still not physically ready right now, but he's just a pup. At this point Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear and Whitney Young's Sam Thompson are the top three prospects in the Class of 2011, with Hoops Report favorite James Siakam of Brehm Prep rising and making a push. There has been so much made of late about Thompson being a done deal to Oregon State, but his recruitment may be a bit more open than people realize.

The young ones so impressive
The loaded Mac Irvin Fire 15 team, which could evolve into the best and most successful group the Fire have ever had, cruised to its tournament title while in Las Vegas. There has been so much made of the Class of 2013 already, which features the three-headed talent of Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, Simeon's Jabari Parker and De La Salle's Alex Foster. However, there is talent and depth behind the Big Three in this class and many players that will be making their presence felt at the varsity level sooner than later. But it was awfully impressive -- really kind of embarrassing and a bit of a joke -- watching Hamilton and Parker basically toy with players their own age while playing with the Mac Irvin Fire and leading them to a tournament title.

While they are certainly young, the recruiting for these two will be at a feverish pitch in coming years. Interestingly, there was just one high-major head coach in the gym to see Hamilton, Parker and the rest of the talented Fire 15s in Sunday's championship game -- Illinois head coach Bruce Weber. In fact, there were only three coaches to catch the game: Weber, Purdue assistant Rick Ray and Illinois State assistant Paris Parham.

Making the most of the opportunity
After missing a big chunk of the "live" period, Glenbrook North's Alex Dragicevich took advantage of his opportunity in Las Vegas while playing with Full Package. While the Hoops Report may not value Dragicevich quite as much as some do, he played himself up in the eyes of a few college programs, with the biggest offer coming from Notre Dame. Dragicevich is a player who finds ways to put the ball in the hole and scores in different ways. He's a versatile offensive threat with a little size. The question is just who does he guard at the highest level and will he be able to get by the athletic-type players on the wing? There may not be a bigger difference of opinion on a player among college coaches than Dragicevich.

Still overlooked
Deerfield's Duje Dukan, a skilled 6-8 shooter, continues to remain the most overlooked player in the Class of 2011 from Illinois. Dukan, who plays with Chicago Elite and will be in action this week in Merrillville to close out the evaluation period, has the size, upside and shooting ability that should be attracting more college interest. He played well in the Chicago Summer Classic, was very impressive in Milwaukee's Summer Jam and was again solid in Las Vegas. There might not be a player that has made bigger strides in the last 12 months than Dukan.

First Step review ...
The Hoops Report caught a little of First Step action and the Seton Academy duo of Khameron Harper and 6-7 Chris Olivier both showed flashes. Harper, who is a similar version of Hyde Park's Malcolm Griffin (Toledo recruit) from last year, is a big-bodied guard who can really put the ball in the hole. Olivier is getting in much better shape and is a viable low-Division I post player.... Sandburg's D.J. Bennett remains a prospect of intrigue. He doesn't have a lot of basketball experience and his skill level is really lacking, but he's 6-8 and runs and jumps as well as anyone. Bennett is a prospect small college programs should be taking a look at.

Vegas brings out best in Blackshear

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By Joe Henricksen

With Rick Pitino looking on closely, the Louisville coach just might have had visions of another Terrence Williams, Pitino's first-round NBA draft pick a month ago out of Louisville, dancing in his head while watching Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear. The 6-5 Blackshear was that good this past week in Las Vegas while playing with the Mac Irvin Fire.

Pitino wasn't alone as the likes of Kansas coach Bill Self, North Carolina's Roy Williams and several other high-major programs were front and center for a lot of the Fire action that was certainly centered on Blackshear.

While the City/Suburban Hoops Report still has Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams in the top spot in the Class of 2011, Blackshear is certainly right there with him at 1B in the junior class. After having some ups and downs over the past eight months, including sitting out half the year with the transfer from Curie to Morgan Park and then battling a nagging back injury, Blackshear played arguably his best, most consistent basketball while in Las Vegas.

Blackshear's development still has a ways to go. He needs to establish a more effective jump shot, both his mid-range jumper and from beyond the arc. He lacks the great shooting stroke he will need to play on the perimeter at the highest level. He also must tighten up his ballhandling skills. However, those are skills that can be vastly improved on over the next two or three years. The physical attributes he brings and upside are what makes Blackshear special right now as a college prospect.

Always recognized as an athletic specimen with great size and strength, this past week in Las Vegas he took a big step in the consistency department. Blackshear's aggressiveness in getting to the basket, using his strength and athleticism to finish at the rim and simply making plays time and time again put him at a different level. He has the strength to finish and was terrific rebounding the basketball from his position while playing extremely hard from tip to buzzer. He was motivated and a difference-maker on a consistent basis. The Hoops Report loved his assertiveness and attitude.

The Mac Irvin Fire 17s would certainly have liked to have advanced a little deeper in tournament play while in Vegas, but the talent the Fire faced, both in pool play and tournament play, was top-notch. A lot of credit goes to the Fire for the energy they brought in some high-profile games against some high-quality competition.

After a lackluster performance in their first game while in Las Vegas, the Fire followed up the game with an immediate practice later that night. What followed was perhaps the best basketball the Fire have played this summer. The Fire were impressive in some closely contested battles in the StarVision Center Stage Tournament. Arguably the best, most intense and physical game took place against Seattle Rotary Friday night, which included an energetic crowd and some intensity between the two teams as the Fire lost a heartbreaker. The Fire's run ended in a loss to a sound Dallas Heroes team in the quarterfinals.

The Mac Irvin Fire then headed to Arizona to play in the Desert Duel Tournament, a tournament in which they won a year ago. The Fire crushed Carolina Cobra 84-45 in the opening round and dominated D.C. Assault 64-46 to advance to the semifinals in Phoenix, where it will face -- you guessed it, the Dallas Heroes in a rematch Tuesday morning. A second Mac Irvin Fire team lost its opening round game Monday but bounced back and beat Friends of Hoop in the consolation bracket.

Check back later for a City/Suburban Hoops Report recap of the action that took place throughout Las Vegas all last week.

Where is all the "blowing up" this summer?

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By Joe Henricksen

When it comes to evaluations of prep talent in Illinois and around the country, "blowing up" has become the all-too-often used phrase when a prospect plays himself up in the college basketball recruiting circles with his play on the court. A big showing in the right tournament and in front of the right people and the individual's stock soars.

A year ago it was Lake Forest's Matt Vogrich, who went from a mid-major prospect among college coaches to having offers from Michigan, UCLA and other high-major programs after a few stunning summer performances in Cincinnati, Deerfield and, finally, in Las Vegas. It wasn't too long ago when Bobby Frasor of Brother Rice had a big AAU performance in the spring and North Carolina came calling. There have been plenty of others over the years who have elevated their status with some sterling play during the evaluation period.

As we head toward the stretch run of the July evaluation period, with tournaments in Orlando, Las Vegas, Arizona, Merrillville and a few other spots around the country, there has been very little "blowing up" happening in the Chicago area. There have certainly been some nice stories, with players like Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill, Deerfield's Duje Dukan, Foreman's Mike McCall and a few others opening some eyes and raising their stock. But there has not been a player from Illinois who has jolted up the national rankings or become household names among high-major coaches in the Class of 2010. Even in the much-talked and heavily-hyped Class of 2011 it's been a little quiet.

When it comes to the Class of 2010 in particular, we likely won't see it. Overall, the class simply lacks the dynamic players to fully take advantage of the opportunities out there and shine on the biggest AAU stage. As the Hoops Report has stated, there are only four no-doubt-about-it high-major prospects in the state: Waukegan's Jereme Richmond, Robinson's Meyers Leonard, Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith and Crane's/Rich South's Crandall Head. There are others that have already committed and could commit to high-major programs, but they generally fit into the category of need-based or system players at the high-major level.

A year ago the Class of 2009 had a total of 10 players that committed to high-major conference schools. This year that total will again be right around 10. But last year there were several players who lifted themselves to that level, such as Vogrich, Marshall's Darius Smith, Naperville Central's Drew Crawford and Lake Forest Academy's Angus Brandt. This year it's just not happening, though things could certainly change between now and July 31 with a magical performance or two from an individual player. The Hoops Report, though, just doesn't see it.

And the Class of 2011 is puzzling. Depending on what national rankings you pay attention to, the state of Illinois has as many as 10 different players that are among the nation's top 100. However, no one in that group has dazzled to the point of "blowing up" nationally or being the talk of the AAU circuit. Maybe it's due to so many of those players all being lumped together on one team -- the Mac Irvin Fire -- and the opportunities to shine being limited. While he may not get the "blowing up" label tagged to him, the Hoops Report does believe 6-6 James Siakam of Carbondale's Brehm Prep is finally becoming a little more appreciated. Siakam is a high-major player.

Here's hoping for someone to step forward over the last 10 days of July.

Still being overlooked
While these players don't fit into any category of "blowing up," they still should be receiving a little more attention than they have. The following players have still been a bit overlooked for various reasons and have much to gain in the final 10 days of July.

Isaac Smith, III, Chicago (Leo) ... There have been some other guards in the Chicago area who have garnered Division I interest and even offers, yet Smith, a 6-1 guard who can score and defend, has been way overlooked. Smith, who is an above-average athlete, can get it done off the dribble and will knock down shots. His best attributes may be that he will do what is necessary for his team to win and is more than willing to get after it and be a lockdown defender out on the perimeter.
Where he can be seen: The Chicago Elite-Full Package team will be heading to Las Vegas for the Super 64 and End of Season Showdown in Merrillville during the second July evaluation period.

Duje Dukan, Deerfield ... For more on Dukan, read the last Hoops Report blog entry. This kid's upside is tremendous. He's 6-8, skilled and is not yet done growing into his size 16 shoes.
Where he can be seen: Dukan will also be playing with the Chicago Elite team in the Super 64 in Las Vegas and in Merrillville at the end of the month.

Jeff Johnson, Champaign (Centennial) ... He seems to fit in the mode of either really liking him or not among college coaches. But for all the whining the Hoops Report hears from college coaches about not being able to find quality big men, here is one of them. Johnson, who has offers from SIU-Edwardsville, American and Eastern Kentucky, has toned his body up since the high school season and is the perfect pick-and-pop player as the 6-8 big man can really shoot the basketball and with range. No, he's not a true back-to-the-basket guy, but he is willing to post up and will mix it up a little.
Where he can be seen: Johnson's Peoria Irish team will be traveling to Orlando and playing in both events while there.

Eric Gaines, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) ... He has certainly drawn the interest of some while playing with the Orange Crush this summer. However, his overall value and what he brings to the table has not been fully appreciated by college coaches. At 6-4 he's long, can handle the ball, will defend three different positions and is highly versatile. While his perimeter shot if far from consistent, the upside is there.
Where he can be seen: The Orange Crush AAU team will be in action in Orlando.

Sean McGonagill, Riverside-Brookfield ... Yes, it seems the Hoops Report is the personal P.R. machine for the R-B guard, but he has done basically everything asked of him in proving he can play at the Division I level. He runs a team and can control a game from the point guard position, while consistently knocking down shots from the perimeter. He has received interest from some high-academic schools and received an offer from North Dakota.
Where he can be seen: McGonagill and the Illinois Kings will be heading to Orlando for both events.

Lee Skinner, Glenbard East ... The ultimate sleeper who has opened the eyes of Division II coaches and earned a couple of offers. Extremely young for his age, the 6-6 Skinner is still maturing. But he runs like a deer, has tremendous hands, is an above-average athlete, has length and is gaining consistency with his face-up game.
Where he can be seen: Skinner will travel to Orlando to play with the Illinois Defenders AAU team, though he will be playing with the 16-and-under team.

Choosing the right fit and level
Kudos go out to a couple of 2010 players for making the early choice -- but also the right one. Tim Rusthoven, the talented and crafty 6-7 senior from Wheaton Academy, committed to William and Mary recently. Rusthoven could have played it out longer, see what may have come his way and decided later. But he found a place he loved and will be playing at a level he can make a difference at.

The same could be said for Simeon's Brandon Spearman, whose stock is rising but opted to end things earlier than later with a commitment to Dayton. Spearman, whose productivity and assertiveness have picked up this summer, picked the right level. While consistency and balancing playing under control while still being in an assertive and attack mode are continued battles for the talented Spearman, his strengths will translate to the Atlantic 10 level.

Too many times kids get hung up on trying to play at the highest level possible. Rusthoven and Spearman chose a couple of perfect fits with William and Mary and Dayton, respectively.

For more information or to subscribe to the printed version of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, beginning its 15th year of publication, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709.

Duje, Big Ham and the Kings

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By Joe Henricksen

When the City/Suburban Hoops Report's post-July reviews come out, the player that will be making the biggest jump in the Class of 2010 is Deerfield's Duje Dukan. While the Hoops Report has questioned his foot speed and lack of quickness, he simply makes up for his shortcomings in so many other ways.

The highly-skilled Dukan, who is the son of Chicago Bulls Supervisor of European Scouting Ivica Dukan, reminds the Hoops Report of a Toni Kukoc-type. Ironically, Ivica Dukan played 14 years professionally in Europe and even played with Kukoc for one year in Split, Croatia. He began working for the Bulls in 1991 and even helped in Kukoc's transition to America.

The younger Dukan is a versatile 6-8 perimeter player who can shoot, pass and dribble. He has a solid handle for his size and, with his combination of size and length, is able to get shots off when he wants to. He is one of -- if not the best -- shooter in the state of Illinois. He can catch-and-shoot, shoot coming off screens or shoot off the dribble. The classic pick-and-pop player.

The $100,000 question is will he be able to defend more athletic players at a higher level as his lateral quickness and foot speed are issues? He does have trouble defending the post right now and the quick athlete on the perimeter. But you know what? There are players on every college basketball roster right now who can't guard. Every team, typically, has one guy they have to hide on the defensive end. In the right system, Dukan could absolutely flourish. He can play a number of positions on the offensive end (as Kukoc did), anywhere from a point forward to a face-up 4-man if need be. He brings some intelligence to the game, along with a skill package that is tough to match for a player with his size or his age.

Dukan's AAU coach, Steve Pratt of Full Package, is stunned in the lack of higher interest in Dukan. And after recently watching Dukan in both the Chicago Summer Classic and at the Milwaukee Summer Jam, the Hoops Report agrees. Right now George Washington, Miami-Ohio, William & Mary and Wisconsin-Green Bay are pursuing Dukan the most. Those schools -- and others at that level -- should be salivating at the thought of getting a player like Dukan. With a solid showing in Las Vegas next week, look for that interest to pick up. While a higher level school may have to wait for him to develop more strength and mature as a player, Dukan's upside is greater than the majority of the kids in this class.

More from Full Package
And speaking of the Full Package program, there are a couple of others whose upsides are so bright. In the Class of 2011, 6-6 Abdul Nader of Maine East has been talked about in this blog as one of the real sleepers in this class. He's coming quick. The athletic and freakishly long Nader is starting to tap into that potential and get more and more done on the floor. He still has to get more done on a consistent basis, improve his skill level and play with some more energy, but he's now among the top 25 college prospects in the junior class.

Class of 2012 star Charles Harris, a raw 6-4 perimeter player, has a chance to be special. He has a long way to go, but he will have plenty of college programs paying close attention to his progress at Lake Forest Academy with the upside he brings to the table. When it's all said and done in a few years, Harris could be at or near the top of the Class of 2012 rankings.

Tommy Hamilton and NBU
While the young D Rose All-Stars pulled out of the Milwaukee Summer Jam, NBU out of Chicago came in its place and made a strong showing. Tommy "Big Ham" Hamilton, who is headed to Whitney Young, showed again why he's among the top players nationally in the Class of 2013. The 6-7 freshman-to-be is just so skilled for his size and age. Everyone who watches sees the potential, with the ability to use his size, body and soft touch around the basket or stepping out and knocking down the three-pointer with a great release and rotation on his perimeter shot. However, his most underrated attribute is his ability to pass the basketball, especially from the high post. Hamilton looked to be enjoying himself and having fun on the floor and with his teammates, which is exactly what he should be doing. That is especially good to see with all the talk and hype surrounding him in the early part of his career.

In addition to Hamilton, another Whitney Young prospect showed a lot of promise and pure athleticism in Milwaukee. Sophomore Nate Brooks, a 6-4 athlete who looks like he could grow, will certainly be a contributor for the Dolphins down the road and emerge as a college prospect. He is a finisher with that length and athleticism and he can really run the floor.

And while the Hoops Report has raved about Keith Carter of Proviso East and Bobo Drummond of Peoria Central in the Class of 2012, don't shortchange Mt. Carmel's Malcolm Hill-Bey. The 5-9 sophomore ran the point for NBU and may have the best handle of any player in the state. He also is willing to get out and defend fullcourt. The Tracy Abrams and Hill-Bey will form one of the top backcourts in the state next season -- and certainly the best young backcourt.

Singing the Kings praises
Yes, it's become a common theme here in the City/Suburban Hoops Report to sing the praises of the Illinois Kings AAU program. But after another terrific showing in Milwaukee, it's difficult not to. The Kings, led by the tandem of Riverside-Brookfield guard Sean McGonagill and Justin Phipps of Lyons Twp., put together a run at the Summer Jam in Milwaukee. This team is not blessed with the abundance of Division I talent other programs are, but they just keep winning. In Milwaukee, the Kings advanced further than the other high-profile teams in the tournament, beating both Full Package Elite and the Milwaukee Spartans. But on Wednesday, playing its fourth game in 24 hours, the Kings fell to 43 Hoops in the quarterfinals.

McGonagill continues to be closely watched -- probably even over-evaluated by college coaches at this point. The kid just plays, gets things done time after time, no matter who he's up against. Yes, he certainly has his limitations athletically, but there have been a whole lot of other non-productive players that have signed Division I scholarships who didn't have the intangibles McGonagill has. Phipps, meanwhile, is the undersized 4-man who gets after it with physical strength, a high motor and productivity. He's the perfect Division II player.

For more information or to subscribe to the printed version of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, beginning its 15th year of publication, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709.

Chicago Summer Classic lived up to hype

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By Joe Henricksen

After watching three full days of action at the Chicago Summer Classic it's difficult to wrap up all that took place in the event. The Summer Classic certainly lived up to the hype as the best collection of talent ever assembled in the state of Illinois with the most college coaches in and out of the doors this state has seen. Here are a whole lot of highlights from catching three days of action in Deerfield...

Best player, best game, most talent
While the City/Suburban Hoops Report covers the state of Illinois, the most impressive player in the event was out-of-state star James Bell, a 6-4 beast of a 2-guard from Team Stat out of Florida. Bell, who committed to Villanova a year ago, was a manchild in his team's thrilling and hotly contested win over the Mac Irvin Fire. Obviously the Hoops Report has seen little of Bell, but it's hard to imagine 40 or 50 players better than Bell in the Class of 2010.

There were so many great games -- with an abundance of them going to overtime -- throughout the three days, but no game featured more talent than the Mac Irvin Fire-Team Stat battle Friday night. And that was without the two biggest names playing in the game. These two teams brought intensity, were chippy with one another, went at it and physically beat up on one another. It was a fun and entertaining one to watch.

De La Salle's Mike Shaw continues to show he's much more comfortable facing the basket. He knocked down a trio of three-pointers in the loss to Team Stat. While he did get frustrated at times and wasn't always productive around the basket, he did show a lot more assertiveness and some toughness. He battled against some big, talented players.

The Mac Irvin Fire-Team Stat matchup overshadowed the Fire's Thursday night game with the All-Iowa Attack team, which may have drawn the biggest crowd of coaches and fans. The game showcased Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear playing his best basketball. While he still struggled a bit with an inconsistent shot, he was a monster along the baseline and getting to the basket. He was in attack mode, assertive and productive. Blackshear, Robinson's Meyers Leonard and Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams were the three most impressive players on the floor in this game. Abrams plays at another gear and brought his usual toughness and unselfishness. Leonard, while not overly productive, provided some eye-popping highlights as he showcased his length, skill and athleticism.

If there is one prime example of how AAU can help a player it is without question Meyers Leonard. The big, talented 6-11 kid out of Robinson certainly wasn't going to be tested hanging around gyms in downstate Crawford County. He brings confidence and toughness in a high-profile AAU culture that needs it. He may get pushed around as he waits to add strength and weight to his frame, but he's not going to back down from anyone. He battles, competes and has a little swagger to him that may sometimes rub people the wrong way but the Hoops Report loves, especially from a player who was a relative unknown 18 months ago. As long as he works hard and wants to get better, Leonard will be very special.

Speaking of the Mac Irvin Fire, the Hoops Report continues to be impressed with Tim Hardaway, Jr. The Class of 2010 2-guard out of Miami will be a perfect fit at Michigan. If Hardaway were in the state of Illinois he would certainly be one of the top five prospects in the senior class and probably check in at No. 3 overall behind Richmond and Leonard.

Siakam, Baron becoming household names
A year ago at the Chicago Summer Classic the Illinois Titans were solid and began to generate some interest. This past spring the Titans made those in attendance take notice as they came to the Chicago area and were terrific in winning the Chicago Hoops Spring Tip-Off Classic. They came back this past week and again were impressive. There probably aren't two players in the Class of 2011 that will have gone from a little to a lot of interest this summer more than Illinois Titans teammates James Siakam and Bruce Baron.

Siakam is the classic undersized 4-man who you win with and who can still be an impact player at the highest level because of his individual attributes. Yes, he's only 6-6, but his athleticism and wingspan with his freakishly long arms allow him to play much bigger. Throw in the motor he plays with and he consistently gets things done. He was solid all three days but was a man throughout the day on Saturday as he helped his team win the 17-and-under championship. This is a kid who could be dominating in a league like the Missouri Valley Conference or Atlantic 10, but he can be a productive, get-things-done type at the high-major level.

The rise of Bruce Baron continues. He is a force with the ball in his hands with his burst off the dribble and overall strength. He gets in the lane, takes the contact and finishes at the rim. He's still inconsistent with his perimeter jumper, but he knocked down several three-pointers on Saturday. Baron is currently the No. 15 ranked player in the Hoops Report's most recent Class of 2011 player rankings, but he is clearly both better and has a bigger upside than a few of the players in front of him. After July he will be pushing himself towards the top 10.

Big names from Wolves, Rising Stars
It certainly was an up-and-down three days for two high-profile Illinois teams. Both the Rising Stars 17s and Illinois Wolves 16s were lacking players here and there during Match Play action. Here are some quick thoughts and observations from those two talented teams...

Chasson Randle only played the first day for the Illinois Wolves before returning to Rock Island to play with his high school team. But Randle was clearly the best of the Wolves talented bunch. He now possesses a new sense of confidence and ease on the floor, which is an area in which he has made huge strides in. As Wolves coach Mike Mullins said to the Hoops Report, "As other players his age were playing with their high school teams in June, Chasson was playing with and against the best players in the world in his age group."

St. Ignatius big man Nnanna Egwu had a tough three days. The Hoops Report has raved about his progress and improvement, which vaulted him in both local rankings and national rankings. But people still have to realize it's a work in progress. Remember, it's been just a little over two years since he first picked up a basketball and the speed of the game and reacting to things others instinctively do is still coming along at a slower rate for him.

• After a bit of a slow start Jacob Williams continued to get better as the event went on. He seemed to be pressing a little early on but really got into the flow of the action on Saturday. The upside is clearly there -- along with the ability to glide to the basket, both in transition and in the halfcourt. He has to continue to get comfortable as a basketball player and sharpen the tools that he's blessed with. He remains the long, lanky, athletic wing with size that college coaches covet these days because of the versatility he brings and the ability to defend bigger players on the perimeter. Williams will have to continue to work on his perimeter jumper, extending his range, and prove his toughness as a player to become the elite prospect he has the potential to be.

• A pair of recent commitments, Mundelein's Ben Brust and New Trier's Alex Rossi, did what they could with a shorthanded team. The Rising Stars were missing both Rayvonte Rice of Champaign Centennial and Lenzelle Smith of Zion-Benton on Thursday and Friday as they were both at the Reebok Camp. Brust did what he does best -- put the ball in the hole. The Iowa commit was consistently putting up 20-plus points. After struggling the first two days of action with future head coach Mike Montgomery in attendance, the Cal commit put things together on the final day of play and shot the ball with the consistency he typically does. He is a system guy who will knock down shots for you and provide some intangibles.

Rice and Smith did miss the first two days of play but returned for Saturday's action. As one college assistant coach mentioned in conversation, "players typically come back from national camps and struggle in their next event." Rice and Smith showed flashes of why they are so highly regarded -- Smith at the high-major level and Rice at the mid-major level -- but were clearly not themselves.

Both Rice and DeKalb's 6-9 Jordan Threloff remain the two coveted players remaining on the board for the Rising Stars 17-and-under team. Threloff -- if some high-major program doesn't become enamored with him -- is going to make some mid-major program extremely happy during the November signing period.

Warriors' brief appearance
The Illinois Warriors 17-and-under team didn't get in a full slate of games at the Summer Classic, but it was enough to generate enough buzz among college coaches. If the rumors are true, though, Dayton could be taking one of those prospects off the board as it could be very close to landing Simeon's Brandon Spearman. The big-bodied and athletic wing has turned it up a notch this summer with his play, becoming a bit more assertive and productive. Now he has to gain the consistency and manage the fine line of dialing down the speed of his game while still staying aggressive.

Big man Kyle Cain, a 2009 graduate of T.F. North, was closely watched by several coaches in the Horizon League and Mid-American Conference. The 6-7 Cain, who was terrific this spring, has made big strides in the last year and will likely be heading to New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire this fall.

Yes, he's tiny, but Hyde Park point guard Fabyon Harris continues to impress with his toughness and dazzling quickness. He was given more responsibility on Saturday as Whitney Young point guard and Warrior teammate Ahmad Starks left the Warriors to go play with the Mac Irvin Fire in the Peach Jam Tournament.

The winners
While the Illinois Titans won the 17-and-under title, St. Louis Gameface and the Illinois Defenders shared the 16-and-under title. The under-the-radar Defenders, who had a solid showing at the Hoosier Shootout in Indiana last week, simply are one of the best coached and few system AAU teams out there. The Defenders tied the game on a buzzer-beating three-pointer to send the game against the Iowa Barnstormers to overtime, where the Defenders then put the game away. The Defenders are led by the Glenbard East tandem of 6-6 Lee Skinner and point guard Zach Miller, Rich Central's 6-2 athletic Deji Ibitayo and 6-4 Nick Burt of Lyons Twp. Skinner, who is a young senior and thus plays with the Defenders 16-and-under team, continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in the Chicago area and is an ideal Division II target.

Kudos go out to the Joy of the Game staff, including CEO Michael Weinstein, and Brian Stinnette of Chicago Hoops for putting together an event that brought so much talent and exposure to one event. When it comes to finding the best talent in Illinois, there has been no better place to find it than the Chicago Summer Classic.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report will try to have another update on other players, teams and action from the Chicago Summer Classic later this week.

The very best coming to loaded Summer Classic

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By Joe Henricksen

There is no debate. And there is no need for hype. The proof is in the talent. In only its third year of existence, the 2009 Chicago Summer Classic that tips off Thursday morning at Joy of the Game in Deerfield is without question the most talent-filled event in the history of Illinois involving prep talent in this state. Yes, that's saying a lot, but it's true -- from both an individual and AAU affiliation standpoint there has never been a collection of prep talent together in one event quite like this.

The trio of Joy of the Game CEO Michael Weinstein, David Adelman and Brian Stinnette of Chicago Hoops have assembled a ridiculous load of college prospects. As a result hundreds of college coaches are heading to the Chicago area for the three-day event, which will be followed by a unique Academic All-American Showcase event for players seeking to play at a high-level academic college basketball program.

The local flavor in the Chicago Summer Classic will include plenty of opportunities for bragging rights among AAU programs in Illinois. Most all of the heavyweights will be on hand, including the Rising Stars program, Illinois Wolves, Mac Irvin Fire and Full Package Elite. Plus, 17 of the top 20 players in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 rankings will be in action, including the top six players in the class. The list includes Illinois recruits Jereme Richmond of Waukegan, Crandall Head of Crane and Meyers Leonard of Robinson playing with the Mac Irvin Fire. Ohio State-bound Lenzelle Smith of Zion-Benton will join his Rising Stars teammates, New Trier's Alex Rossi (Cal) and Mundelein's Ben Brust (Iowa). Add in some of the top uncommitted prospects in the senior class -- Thornton's Reggie Smith, Foreman's Mike McCall and Lavonte Dority, DeKalb's Jordan Threloff, Champaign Centennial's Rayvonte Rice and Providence St. Mel's Phillip Jackson to name a few -- and it's an absolute smorgasbord for college coaches.

Then there is the loaded Illinois Wolves 16-and-under team that have college coaches drooling this summer. Rock Island's Chasson Randle and Nnana Egwu of St. Ignatius are both among the top 100 players nationally in the junior class. Teammate Jacob Williams, the talented 6-5 wing, is anxious to show why he belongs in that group. The Hoops Report's top Class of 2011 player, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, will be on display, as will Mac Irvin Fire 2011 stars Mike Shaw of De La Salle, Dre Henley of Brehm Prep, Sam Thompson of Whitney Young and Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park. Add James Siakam of Brehm Prep, who plays with the Illinois Titans, and each of the top nine players in the state in the latest Class of 2011 Hoops Report player rankings will be playing in the event.

While Jereme Richmond is the biggest local name on the national scene, a pair of the biggest names in high school basketball outside of Illinois will also be showcased-- Brandon Knight of Ft. Lauderdale and Austin Rivers of Winter Park, Florida.

Knight, a 6-3 guard and the No. 1 rated player in the country by some with the likes of Duke, UConn, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky and a few others coveting him, will be the most sought-after player. And Rivers, a 6-3 point guard and son of legendary Doc Rivers, will also be making the trip to the Chicago area. Rivers is a consensus top five player nationally in the Class of 2011 and has committed to Florida. You better believe the top players in Illinois would love a shot at matching up with the likes of Knight and Rivers this week.

The Hoops Report's No. 1 players in each class for the next four years in Illinois. The nation's No. 1 senior. Loaded AAU programs from Illinois, the Midwest and around the country. All of this talent from within and outside the state -- and this doesn't even include the abundance of young talent that will be in the event playing in the 15-and-under age group -- have people in the recruiting world buzzing. And it's right here in the Chicago area.

Academic Showcase set for July 12-13
The Joy of the Game in Deerfield will play host to the fourth annual Academic Showcase Sunday, July 12 and Monday, July 13. This event is a unique opportunity for high-achieving student-athletes to be seen by college basketball coaches from high academic institutions all in one setting.

The event this year, which still has a few openings remaining, will feature over 125 players from 17 different states. Virtually every Ivy League, Patriot League and a few other high academic Division I schools will be in attendance, as well as high academic Division II, Division III and NAIA schools from around the country.

Changing culture targets 2013 once again

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By Joe Henricksen

Another day at an event where once again the evaluating principles show how much they've changed. While the Milwaukee Next Level Invitation lacked an abundance of high-major talent, the player with the biggest upside at the event was a freshman-to-be, 6-4 Class of 2013 star Peter Jok of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines (via Sudan in Africa). That's what the City/Suburban Hoops Report took from the two days spent in Milwaukee -- that the best college prospect had yet to play a high school basketball game.

It's very rare the Hoops Report talks much about out-of-state players, but in this case it's hard not to after so much attention has been paid to the terrific Class of 2013 trio of Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, Simeon's Jabari Parker and De La Salle's Alex Foster out of Chicago. As talented as the trio of Hamilton, Parker and Foster are, Jok is better. And that's saying an awful lot. Of course we're talking about kids just out of 8th grade, so a lot will change over the next four years. It's still difficult sometimes to talk -- and praise -- players this young. But it's the nature of the recruiting business as we have seen over the last few years.

On Tuesday in Milwaukee Jok squared off with one of Chicago's 2013's best -- Alex Foster and a very talented Meanstreets AAU team. Jok, who will play with his older brother on the Des Moines Roosevelt team this winter, was scary good, even guarding Foster for parts of the game. When you consider his age, it's amazing how effortless he is putting the ball in the hole. He has a beautiful release and rotation and already seems automatic from the perimeter. Whether it's from beyond the arc, pull-up game, putting it on the floor and getting by people, using the glass, drawing contact and finishing, he's an absolute force. Then throw in his length, athleticism and beautiful feel for the game, and it's hard to imagine many -- if any -- players his age better at this point.

So both Iowa and Iowa State will guard its borders as best they can, knowing it will be nearly impossible to fend off the heavy hitters that will be coming in to woo Jok. Illinois assistant Jerrance Howard was glued to the Foster-Jok matchup. Make it four offers in the Class of 2013 that Illinois will have extended.

Other Next Level Invitation thoughts

• Here are a few quick observations from the two days spent in Milwaukee...
Mike McCall of Foreman, the No. 5 ranked player in the Hoops Report Class of 2010, was hot and cold in Milwaukee in the three games the Hoops Report caught of his Illinois Heat team. Though he will entertain high-major interest, the ideal fit for McCall remains a mid-major plus school such as the Atlantic 10 or a prized high-level mid-major power. McCall's teammate, 6-1 Tommy Woolridge, has solidified himself as a Division I player.

• Speaking of the Illinois Heat, the younger team received a sterling effort from Curie point guard Asante Smiter. He was tough as nails against a solid All-Iowa Attack team. Smiter is tough as nails and knocked down shot after shot from beyond the arc. Smiter and Leavon Head of Mundelein are playing solid basketball together in the backcourt.

• The Illinois Kings remain one of the Hoops Report's favorite teams to watch with the way they play the game on the AAU circuit. Highlighted by the play of Riverside-Brookfield point guard Sean McGonagill, the Kings play hard, compete, play together and the right way. McGonagill was brilliant on the opening day of play in Milwaukee, showing why he is an ideal Ivy League/Patriot League prospect. He came back to earth a little on Tuesday, but the Hoops Report is convinced he can play somewhere at the Division I level.

What a backcourt Riverside-Brookfield will have this winter with McGonagill and junior Ryan Jackson, who was solid in Milwaukee while playing with Team NLP. People forget Jackson is playing an age level up with the Team NLP 17 team.

• After catching a couple of Iowa Attack games, Donivine Stewart of Limestone remains a solid mid-major prospect. He just knows how to play and overcomes his limitations (lack of size and athleticism) with smarts and an ability to find ways to get things done.

• The Rising Stars Gold 16 team has a few prospects of intrigue in the Class of 2011. Mundelein's Ryan Sawvell continues to open the Hoops Report's eyes and is one of the real overlooked players. He has a great motor, above-average athleticism, some size and length at 6-6 and versatility. Mycheal Henry of Orr just has to put it all together and refine his skills. The body, athleticism and potential are there.

• The Hoops Report has talked a lot recently about Rockford Boylan's Austin Angel, a 6-4 wing who plays with the Rising Stars Gold 15s. But it was his Rising Stars teammate, 6-7 Connor Boehm of New Trier, who has stood out of late. He has a nice skill level, with touch around the basket and the ability to step out, to combine with some power and strength.

• There was some question who Proviso East guard Keith Carter would be playing with as recently as last week. The Hoops Report's No. 1 Class of 2012 prospect made the trip with Team NLP and teamed with Aaron Simpson of North Chicago in the backcourt.

Class of 2010 special at the top

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By Joe Henricksen

When going through all the recent classes the state of Illinois has recently produced -- in this case we'll include this year's Class of 2010 and the nine previous classes before -- it's easy to see why Waukegan's Jereme Richmond and Robinson's Meyers Leonard are so highly thought of and special.

The state of Illinois has produced its fair share of terrific high school talent and players that have gone on to stardom in the college ranks. And if the City/Suburban Hoops Report had to put together a list of the top 5 college prospects in the state of Illinois in that 10-year period, Richmond would certainly be on it and it could be argued that Leonard would be right there at No. 6 or No. 7 behind the likes of Simeon's Derrick Rose (Class of 2007), Homewood-Flossmoor's Julian Wright (Class of 2005), Peoria Central's Shaun Livingston (Class of 2004) and Thornwood's Eddy Curry (Class of 2001). While Springfield Lanphier's Andre Igoudala (Class of 2002) has turned into a NBA star and St. Joseph's Evan Turner (Class of 2007) will be a first-round NBA draft pick when he leaves Ohio State, both were slightly undervalued nationally their senior year of high school.

While there could be as many as a dozen players signing with high-major schools in the Class of 2010, the Hoops Report believes there are just four bonafide, no-doubt-about-it high-major talents in the class: Richmond, Leonard, Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith and, despite all the skepticism, Crane's Crandall Head. Overall, there could be a large number of Division I players in the class.

Here is a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2010 top 50 player rankings as they head into the July evaluation period.

1. Jereme Richmond, 6-7, WF, Waukegan ... A terrific talent and one of the best prospects to come out of Illinois in the last decade. All that stands in his way of becoming a true superstar at the next level is physical maturity and an improved motor.
2. Meyers Leonard, 7-0, C, Robinson ... Who would have thought 18 months ago a 7-footer from Robinson would be No. 2 in the state and among the top big men in the country? Great frame to add weight and strength and extremely skilled and coordinated for his size. Has good hands and is an excellent passing big man.
3. Lenzelle Smith, 6-3, WF, Zion-Benton ... The perfect college player who will do what is asked of him and help his team win during the four years he's on campus. He makes those around him better and gets a lot done with his versatility. Has the ability to fill a stat sheet. He's a competitor and has a diverse overall game.
4. Crandall Head, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Crane) ... Well, it's time to step up. The talent, fabulous athleticism and upside have been there -- and remain there -- for a player that has been tough to get a read on over the last 12 months. He will turn the ball over, throw up ill-advised shots and just go through the motions, but has the capability of showing those flashes of why he can become an impact talent at the next level if he sets his mind to it.
5. Mike McCall, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Foreman) ... A little on the overlooked side. He's a perfect combo guard who has really become pretty consistent with a quick-release jumper and ability to break you down off the dribble. Sees the floor extremely well and could flourish in the right system in college.
6. Ben Brust, 6-2, 2G, Mundelein ... The Iowa commit does one thing as well as anyone in the class: put the ball in the hole. Yes, he's a terrific shooter, but he's blessed with great scoring ability. Moves well without the ball and does just enough off the dribble to keep defenses honest. Has a little Tony Delk to his game if you remember the former Kentucky player.
7. Ahmad Starks, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... One of the classiest kids in the class and a winner. He's been shooting the heck out of the ball and is always putting pressure on opposing defenses. He lacks the size you would like, but he gets after it and makes up for that size in other ways.
8. Karl Madison, 5-9, PG, Springfield (Lanphier) ... Another guard who finds ways to score. This smooth scoring point guard will spot up, score with his mid-range game or beat opponents off the dribble. Still must develop true point guard skills and mentality.
9. Alex Rossi, 6-5, 2G, Winnetka (New Trier) ... The perfect system player with the ablity to knock down shots from the perimeter. He also brings a high basketball I.Q. who understands his strengths and weaknesses. He knows how to use screens and reads defenders well to get his shot.
10. Reggie Smith, 6-0, 2G, Harvey (Thornton) ... Has vastly improved his shooting percentage and range but his mechanics continue to prevent him from being a solid perimeter shooter. And he still needs work on his handle. But, oh, the athleticism and ability to get to the rim and finish. And he will compete.
11. Jordan Threloff, 6-9, C, DeKalb ... Just gets better and better by the month. His offensive game has really developed over the last six months, knocking down the 12-15 foot jumper and using a little jump-hook. Still has his limitations athletically which prevents him from being the rebounder you would like and a difference-maker on defense, but he's all of 6-9, huge and will be tough to move in college.
12. Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) ... Has struggled with injuries during the spring and summer. Has a scoring burst to put points on the board. Has the ability to knock down shots and with range but must get that consistency back. Overall feel for the game has improved but not outstanding and his lack of strength is certainly an issue as he projects to the next level.
13. Phillip Jackson, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Providence St. Mel) ... Progress has stagnated somewhat, but he's looking for a bounce-back July. He is fluid with speed running up and down the floor. Long, a body to build on. Has developed a decent turnaround jump shot but still very inconsistent offensively but has a nice touch. Has to become more aggressive, find a way to draw fouls, get to the line.
14. Alex Dragicevich, 6-6, WF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North) ... Really has a knack to score with a pretty effortless release on his shot. When he gets it going he can put points on the board in a hurry. Versatile player and scorer who isn't always the smoothest in getting to the basket but will draw contact and get to the line. He doesn't get much lift and lacks the foot speed to defend certain players. Injury will keep him out most of July.
15. Dwayne Evans, 6-5, WF, Naperville (Neuqua Valley) ... Still trying to shed the dreaded 'tweener label. Perimeter shot extends to the three-point line and has gained consistency, though he's more of a pull-up/spot-up shooter. He's not one to rise up and get his own and must improve his comfort with his handle. Just an old school player who plays with a warrior's demeanor, winner's mentality and high motor. Manages to get a lot done against bigger, more athletic players around the basket.
16. Rayvonte Rice, 6-3, WF, Champaign (Centennial) ... Unique talent and prospect on the perimeter due to his size, strength and girth. Former football star who is dedicating himself to the game of basketball. Capable of overpowering opponents in the open court and halfcourt, with strong one-on-one skills in driving to the basket. Still establishing his consistency and range on his shot and tightening up his handle.
17. Lavonte Dority, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Foreman) ... Has been the shooting the ball better than any other time in his career, though it's not exactly a smooth or pretty stroke. Tough, physical point guard who can bull his way in the lane and to the basket. Will his game translate to the next level?
18. Brandon Spearman, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Simeon) ... A player that the production has not always equaled the hype surrounding him. But he's poised to break out this summer and move up as much as anyone on this list if he continues to show the improvement he's made with his jumper and assertiveness. Has a great build for a perimeter player with strength, athleticism and the potential to be a big-time perimeter defender.
19. Isiah Jones, 6-2, PG, Mounds Meridian ... Although not eye-popping explosive off the dribble, he's a crafty ballhandler who gets defenders off balance. Uses good speed in the open court and sees the floor well. Big-bodied guard who can take some contact around the basket and finish through contact. Outside shot is still streaky and must speed up his release.
20. Anthony Shoemaker, 6-5, WF, Joliet ... Explosive, quick leaper off the floor who has size and length on the wing that is ideal. Really runs the floor. He's active and bouncy but has a bit of an unconventional offensive game. He's come a long way but still lacks a specific go-to aspect to his game.
21. Walter Lemon, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Fenger) ... Has moved up in the rankings more than any other player in the class. Despite slight frame he's pretty strong and is nearly unstoppable off the dribble in the halfcourt with a killer crossover and the athleticism to finish with authority at the rim. While his shooting has improved, his inconsistency can be directly pointed at his unorthodox release.
22. Jarod Oldham, 6-3, 2G, Decatur (Eisenhower) ... Long, wiry slashing wing who is a streaky scorer and shooter. An intriguing prospect with developing skills. He thrives best in the open floor, up-tempo game. He can get carried away at times trying to make the difficult play rather than what's there.
23. Tim Rusthoven, 6-7, PF, Wheaton (Academy) ... Agile but below-the-rim post player who can face up and knock down shots or show his skill work in the post. Has a soft touch and has a variety of moves to get his shot off, using counter moves in the post, making him difficult to defend when his game is on. Must develop physically and establish a toughness to him.
24. Alex Brown, 6-8, WF, Herrin ... Think Tyrus Thomas type of game at the high school level -- long, skinny, active, wiry, athletic, runs the floor and still so raw but with upside. A lot of defensive potential as he loves to block and alter shots. A high risk, high reward type who lacks a true face-up game. A nice low-Division I sleeper.
25. Tommy Woolridge, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Foreman) ... One of the best-kept secrets in the city. The kid can flat-out score. Aggressive and relentless on the offensive end (when he gets the chance with two other Division I players on his team). Has a quick and pretty smooth release. His overall skill level, court sense and feel for the game still needs some work.
26. Eric Gaines, 6-4, 2G, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) ... A big guard with the versatility to play and guard multiple positions. Already a valuable defender with his length, athleticism and willingness. Has the ability to get to the basket but can really struggle shooting from the perimeter.
27. Duje Dukan, 6-7, WF, Deerfield ... Arguably the best shooter in the class. He's got the range, height and mechanics to get his shot off when he wants to. His lack of foot speed, however, means he has to be selective when choosing the right program and system. Another Steve Novak?
28. Patrick Miller, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) ... Lacks the height but has the burst and the physical strength to get where he wants to with the ball. A constant threat to blow by his man off the dribble. He will get into the lane and distribute. He must show the ability to knock down shots and become a little less turnover prone. A power-packed, poor-man's Derek Needham.
29. Jermaine Winfield, 6-5, PF, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... One of those players you have to see a lot of to truly appreciate his work. This warrior around the basket has improved his skill level since last season. An underrated and underappreciated production guy who will do the dirty work, rebound, defend and score just enough.
30. Hollis Hill, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Vocational) ... Talented combo guard committed to UW-Milwaukee. Excellent one-on-one player with the ability to shoot the basketball with range and score. Isn't a natural at setting the table and running the show but shows the capability to improve in that area.
31. Antoine Cox, 6-3, WF, Bolingbrook ... Super athlete was getting his first crack at the AAU circuit to open some eyes and is now out of action with an injury. An improved jumper still has a ways to go -- along with his ballhandling skills. Great body and superior athlete who will get out and defend on the perimeter. A bg-time finisher.
32. Kashaune McKinney, 6-2, 2G, Park Forest (Rich East) ... Has become a fairly consistent three-point shooter. He's not great at creating offense for himself despite the size and athleticism to do so. Just needs for it all to come together to solidify himself as a player and prospect.
33. Mike Gabriel, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Lincoln Park) ... Big, hard-nosed, physical player who will rebound and get after it. Has a Jon Brockman-type game. He's improved his post moves but still is working to become more comfortable on the block. Lack of explosiveness, mobility limits him on both ends.
34. Paul Bunch, 6-10, C, Chicago (North Lawndale) ... Still big, still huge and still the ultimate project. Long arms and size will allow him to block shots and be a defensive presence. He's improved his offensive game. Still too mechanical, slow instincts and must be able to move better.
35. Dave Dudzinski, 6-8, PF, Maple Park (Kaneland) ... Very effective facing the basket 15-19 feet. Ideal high-low player with the potential to develop into a nice pick-and-pop 4-man. Though he has good agility and can really run the floor, he lacks standout athleticism. Has nice length but biggest flaw right now is a lack of strength and establishing a low-post presence.
36. Vincent Garrett, 6-5, PF, Chicago (Marshall) ... He's a prospect due to being a physical specimen with explosive athleticism at the high school level. He can run the floor and can finish with electrifying dunks in the open court. The classic 'tweener. Where does he play? Lacks much of an offensive game as his post moves and shooting touch remain very limited.
37. Sean McGonagill, 6-1, PG, Riverside-Brookfield ... The model of consistency this spring and summer in all facets. His quickness and foot speed are issues, but he always seems to just find a way to get it done. He's a point guard with strength and a good handle; doesn't force things. Shows range and consistency with his shot, both with his mid-range game and extended to the three-point line and beyond.
38. Jay Harris, 6-0, PG/2G, Oswego East ... A pretty skilled combo guard. When he gets going capable of big-time scoring outbursts. He can shoot it off the dribble, with range and has enough quickness to get by people. Solid handle. He can be too aggressive at times offensively forcing poor shots. Must pick it up defensively. Lack of strength and skinny frame a certain concern at the next level.
39. Ben Brackney, 6-4, WF, Lincoln ... Visions of former Pinckneyville star Kyle Cassity (Saint Louis) come to mind, though he doesn't get as much done off the dribble as Cassity. We shall see as he still has plenty left to prove. While a good athlete on the wing, his overall foot speed is a concern. He will extend defenses with his shot from the perimeter.
40. Wayne Simon, 5-10, PG, Westchester (St. Joseph) ... A crafty scorer who is pretty consistent with his mid-range jumper. Doesn't seem to be a natural at the point guard position but is capable. Despite slight frame and lack of size he has some length to him and finishes better that you would think.
41. Mario Redmond, 6-6, PF, Crete-Monee ... He brings the size, length and athleticism college coaches covet. He will provide the eye-popping play as a finisher. His biggest weakness, first and foremost, is his skill level, particularly his jump shot and understanding of the game.
42. Jeff Johnson, 6-8, PF, Champaign (Centennial) ... Remember big Bill Laimbeer roaming the perimeter and knocking down shots? Johnson brings a similar role with his size and touch. He's not afraid to go down on the block, but he's still a work in progress in the post.
43. Aaron Williams, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Vocational) ... Versatile, athletic and a great body. Has strength and is an above-average rebounder who also can handle the ball in the halfcourt out on the perimeter. Will settle too much offensively, especially since he lacks a true perimeter shot.
44. Tevin Rumley, 6-3, 2G, Rock Falls ... Has nice size, strength and scoring ability on the wing. One of the most advanced mid-range scoring games in the class. Thrives putting the ball in the hole off the bounce from 12-17 feet. He lacks pure explosivness off the dribble but moves well without the ball and is above-average athlete.
45. Chris Olivier, 6-7, PF, South Holland (Seton Academy) ... Back-to-the-basket big man making considerable progress. Still has a raw, unpolished offensive game but has made big strides and has a soft touch around the basket. Has become more aggressive around the basket and in finishing. Limited athletically and must become more fluid, improve skills.
46. Fred Heldring, 6-9, C, Winnetka (New Trier) ... The William & Mary commit owns the ability to face-up and shoot from mid-range. Lacks the athleticism, though he can get up and down the floor. Must learn to play hard and stay focused.
47. Isaac Smith, III, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Leo) ... As a junior was a terrific on-the-ball defender and role player. Now he's emerging as an offensive threat, with the ability to knock down shots and an aggressive scorer off the dribble. Brings a lot of energy to the floor.
48. Jonathan Gac, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) ... In the never-ending search for size and big men, Gac is one who shows promise. Slowly but surely getting better and better, but he still just is not very polished as a player. Has a decent frame but needs to develop his body, strength.
49. Jeff Dirkin, 6-7, PF, Oak Park-River Forest ... Skilled 4-man who has had a solid spring and summer. Has become a very consistent shooter along the baseline and from around the three-point line. While he has height he is more of a face-up 4-man as he has minimal back-to-the-basket moves but they are developing. Needs to add weight and gain strength. High school version of Detlef Schrempf.
50. DeAndre McCamey, 6-1, PG, Westchester (St. Joseph) ... You can't help but pull for a kid who has battled through and continues to fight back from a serious knee injury. He brings some intangibles to the floor, steady and capable of both distributing and knocking down a shot.

Best Small College Prospects Outside the Top 50
Brandon Snowden, 6-0, 2G, Oak Lawn (Richards) ... Strong, tough as nails, terrific rebounder for his size, blue-collar kid who gets a lot done. Pretty versatile defender who must show he can knock down the outside jumper consistently. A solid Division II prospect.

Lee Skinner, 6-6, PF, Lombard (Glenbard East) ... One of the best-kept secrets in the Chicago area and the ideal Division II prospect with a nice upside. Long, good athlete who runs the floor like a deer, terrific hands, active and young for his age. Has had an outstanding spring and summer.

Victor Davis, 6-4, PF, Galesburg ... While the undersized 4-man may find a spot somewhere at the Division II level, he would be a steal for a top-level Division III program. Big-time finisher around the basket, using his strength and body. Just lacks perimeter skills and jumper to play higher.

Iowa lands a good one in Brust

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By Joe Henricksen

When it's all said and done, Iowa accomplished a couple of things with its recent commitment from Mundelein's Ben Brust today. The Hawkeyes continued to keep its foot in the door in recruiting the Chicago area after landing Schaumburg's Cully Payne in the Class of 2009. And, with Brust, the Hawkeyes will be getting a much-needed scorer on the offensive end.

"I just saw what a great opportunity it was for me," said Brust earlier Wednesday of his decision. "The combination of basketball, the academics and the atmosphere really excited me. It [Iowa] fit me as a person."

Brust will play out the July period with his Rising Stars AAU team and then help what should be a much-improved Mundelein team this winter. But he didn't want to wait and see what would have been out there after July.

"This wasn't about me just making a decision to make a decision and get it over with," Brust assured. "I did my homework and I was 100 percent sold on choosing Iowa."

Brust, the No. 6 rated player in the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2010 player rankings, was on the verge of opening a lot more eyes this July. Remember, this is a prospect who missed a large portion of his junior year at Mundelein due to injury. Then after his recovery the new recruiting and evaluation rules prevented many college programs from getting an evaluation of him this past spring. There would have been several more schools who would have become even more involved (Minnesota, Missouri and Virginia to name a few) after getting a few more looks at Brust in July.

Iowa's gain was a big loss for both Butler and Northwestern. Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins was also in the mix to land Brust, but it's certainly more of a significant loss for Butler and Northwestern, the latter of which made a strong late push. Brust was enamored with Butler coach Brad Stevens and would have been a monster recruiting steal for the Horizon League school. However, you have to consider the fact that with the success Stevens has had, coupled with the propensity of Butler coaches moving on to bigger jobs, that it's very likely Stevens would not have been around for Brust's entire career. Then again, Iowa will need to be in a win-now mode -- or at least show improvement -- for that staff to feel fully secure in coming years. But in defense of Todd Lickliter and his staff, they have not filled their roster just yet with their own recruits.

Northwestern, which has stepped up its recruiting and its competitiveness on the floor the last couple of years, would have received another local shot in the arm and benefitted greatly from landing the in-state prospect -- and one that would have helped them. A Ben Brust-Drew Crawford, last year's No. 2 ranked player in the Hoops Report's final 2009 class rankings, combination on the wing would have been a handful down the road for foes.

Iowa, though, is the fortunate one, landing Brust before he potentially played himself up during July. While Brust is not in the category of difference-maker, he is a step up for the program and is underrated nationally. He's a 6-2 scorer who is more bouncy and athletic than most people give him credit it for. And he puts the ball in the hole, both as a shooter, off the bounce and as a slasher. He's a multi-faceted scorer who will certainly provide a lift for an Iowa program that finished 5-13 in the Big Ten last season.

About this Archive

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

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