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Joe Henricksen: November 2009 Archives

Season of change in prep coaching ranks

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By Joe Henricksen

Although there were few big-named coaching jobs open this offseason, there was perhaps as much turnover and movement in the high school coaching ranks as we've seen in quite some time. There were more than two dozen coaching changes in the Chicago area alone.

The biggest name that moved was Bob Williams, who built a power at Schaumburg and is now the head coach at a struggling Niles West program. Williams spent 18 years at Schaumburg. In the last 16 years his teams averaged 20 wins a season, won nine regional titles and went to the Elite Eight in Peoria three times, winning a state title in 2001.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at many of the coaching changes throughout the Chicago area.

Previous Coach: Bryan Tucker
New Coach: Tom Livatino
Comment: Livatino steps in after having success at Lincoln Park, where he never won fewer than 18 games and went 100-41 in five years. There is young talent within the program, including talented freshman David McCoy. The potential is there to have a private school power on the North Shore.

Previous Coach: Tom Livatino
New Coach: Brian Murphy
Comment: The transition should be minimal as they kept it within the program in hiring Murphy, an assistant in the program under Livatino. The cupboard is not bare, with the return of big man Mike Gabriel and perimeter players Greg Tucker, Demarko Nash, Aric Dickerson and junior Rashad Wahab.

Previous Coach: Marty Dello
New Coach: Bryan Tucker
Comments: After 10-plus years as a head coach at private schools (Loyola Academy and Marian Catholic), Tucker moves to the Mid-Suburban League and public schools at Barrington. The Bronco program, which has struggled the last three years, would love the success Tucker had at Loyola.

Previous Coach: Rob Sarmiento
New Coach: Gary DeCesare
Comment: Although it's a football and baseball school, DeCesare brings some impressive credentials in helping build the basketball program at the Southwest Side school. Some feel it could be a sleeping giant. DeCesare, who was most recently an assistant coach at DePaul, was one of the most successful high school coaches in the country in his 16 years at St. Raymond's Catholic in the Bronx. He compiled a 282-141 record and produced 35 Division I players.

Previous Coach: Tom Pallardy
New Coach: Mark Sevedge
Comment: Sevedge takes over a program that Pallardy has run for the last 16 years, which included a 26-win, sectional title season in 2003. Sevedge has been the sophomore coach at St. Laurence for the last five years.

Previous Coach: Glenn Olson
New Coach: Huey Crawford
Comment: This program has been hit hard. In addition to losing its head coach, Glenn Olson, the program lost two very valuable players this offseason as well. Senior Charles McKinney headed to a prep school and 6-6 junior Abdul Nader transferred to Niles North.

Previous Coach: Fritz Wulfram
New Coach: Bob Williams
Comment: Williams brings instant credibility for a program that has won just 25 games in the last four seasons. In the short term Williams will surely make Niles West more competitive; in the long term don't underestimate what one of the top coaches in the state can get done.

Previous Coach: Bob Williams
New Coach: Matthew Walsh
Comment: A longtime assistant coach at Conant, where he compiled an 82-14 record on the sophomore level over the last four years, Walsh takes over a program that Williams built into a Chicago area power with three trips to Peoria and state title in 2001.

Previous Coach: Bill Pistorius
New Coach: Glenn Olson
Comment: Olson helped revive a downtrodden Maine East program that had not won anything in years, capturing a regional title in 2008 and winning 19 games a year ago.. While the history has been rough at Niles North with only one regional championship and several single-digit win totals, those in the area truly believe this program can be a winner and is an underrated job.

Previous Coach: Mark Lindo
New Coach: Jeff Powers
Comment: Longtime coach Mark Lindo steps down after 18 years and eight regional and two sectional championships. Enter Jeff Powers, who assisted Al Biancalana at York last year after 11 years as head coach at Timothy Christian, where he went 201-110. The Huskies return a ton of size and experience.

Previous Coach: D'Arcy Stanfield
New Coach: Loren Jackson
Comment: Is there any doubt this program will have an influx of talent coming sooner than later? Look for Julian to be a player before long with Jackson back at the school where he once coached. Jackson, who was at Fenger last season, produced some elite talent, including former Julian stars Sean Dockery, Brandon Ewing and Mac Koshwal.

Previous Coach: Larry Hight
New Coach: Deryn Carter
Comment: Hiring the young Carter (29 years old) may be just what the doctor ordered in getting someone with roots to the school and program after having heavy turnover in recent years. Carter, who was a Division II assistant coach for eight years, graduated from Larkin in 1998 and is the school's fourth all-time leading scorer. The program has had its dips, including a 9-45 mark the last two seasons, but has had success. Coach Dom Cannata won back-to-back sectional titles in the early 1990s and the Larkin won another sectional title in 2005.

Previous Coach: Mike O'Toole
New Coach: Jeremy Izzo
Comment: Since coach Mike Gillespie enjoyed success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the football powerhouse has never been able to get it going on the hardwood. JCA hopes Izzo can bring some stability. He's young (28) but learned a thing or two while at the University of Illinois, where he was a student manager for both Lon Kruger and Bill Self and student manager/graduate assistant for Bruce Weber. He does have a player to build around in junior shooter Wes Koral.

Previous Coach: Cray Allen
New Coach: Josh Virostko
Comment: The program has hit some hard times since coach Dan Batka enjoyed success earlier this decade, particularly last season. Allen resigned during the season, interim coach Tom Bergen took over and the team finished 5-23. Although just 31 years old, Virostko has plenty of head coaching experience at Plainfield Central (2 years) and Paris (4 years).

Previous Coach: Paul Runyon
New Coach: Jay Baum
Comment: Runyon enjoyed success at DGS, which included a three-year run from 2003-2005 with 81 wins, three sectional titles and two trips to the Elite Eight in Peoria. The program stayed within and hired Baum, a fixture within the Mustang basketball program. Baum has coached DGS basketball in some capacity for 23 years.

Previous Coach: Josh Virostko
New Coach: Steve Lamberti
Comment: After just two years Virostko left for Lake Park. The first-year coach inherits arguably the most talented team in the league, with 6-6 Winston Williams and 6-2 junior Derrick Marks.

Previous Coach: Kevin Gimre
New Coach: Kevin Baldus
Comment: After a 22-win regional championship season in 2005, West Chicago has struggled mightily. The program has suffered through a 17-90 record over the last three seasons. Baldus, a 1993 West Chicago graduate, has his first head coaching job after coaching at every other level in stints at both Glenbard West and Willowbrook.

Previous Coach: Ed Lynch
New Coach: Lee Maciejewski
Comment: Lynch handled things well during some turbulent times at the school, going 62-47 and winning two regional titles in four years. While Lynch will remain in the program as a lower level coach, the Red Devils will turn to the veteran Maciejewski, who has had lengthy head coaching stints at both Glenbard West and West Chicago.

Previous Coach: Rob Wostratzky
New Coach: Rick Runaas
Comment: Lemont turns to a veteran coach who has had some success. Runaas compiled a 64-43 record at T.F. North from 1998-2002, including the school's first regional championship since 1946.

Previous Coach: Jeff Haynes
New Coach: Deon Tolliver
Comment: Has it really been that long since this program won big under coach Mike Kaczmarz in the 1980s and coach Larry Moore in the 1990s? A tough job in a tough league for Tolliver, who takes over a program that hasn't had much success since 2000.

Previous Coach: Charles Demas
New Coach: Larry Faines
Comment: A third coach in three years is not exactly the way to build a program in the Public League, especially one that many coaches feel is a program with real potential in the city.

Previous Coach: Rich Wolf
New Coach: Scott Luetschwager
Comment: The 29-year-old Luetschwager takes over after Wolf led the program for the last nine years. If anything Wauconda, which finished 3-25 last season, has the tallest coach in the state in the 6-10 Luetschwager, who coached the sophomore team last year.

Previous Coach: Brandon Moody
New Coach: George Montgomery
Comment: The program at 31st and King Drive on Chicago's South Side may get a wake-up call with new coach George Montgomery. The father of current NBA player JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards and a former player at the University of Illinois in the 1980s, brings a name, face and presence to the Mightymen program not seen since coach Fate Mickel was on the Dunbar bench.

Previous Coach: Dennis Hansen
New Coach: Brian Johnson
Comment: Johnson, who was an assistant under West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman and previously worked at Dundee-Crown, takes over a program that features a Division I recruit in 6-9 Dave Dudzinski.

Previous Coach: Marc Davidson
New Coach: Steve Hanson
Comment: Unbelievably, lost an Aurora Christian icon in Davidson due to some funding/seniority issues at the school.

Previous Coach: Chris Payne
New Coach: Brett Porto
Comment: BC lost a good one in Payne. Porto, meanwhile, is the youngest coach in the state. He graduated from college in 2008 and is just 23 years old.

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, is due out this week. To subscribe or for more information email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

New Faces, Sleepers Ready to Rise

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By Joe Henricksen

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report is in the mail this week, with profiles on teams, conferences, current issues and rankings in the preseason issue. Here is a sneak peak at a few programs that are rather new to the ranked scene and a few programs that are just fine with the sleeper label.

These programs are all ready to rise this winter and offer a new, fresh look to the Chicagoland area's top 25.

• Mundelein
The Mustangs haven't finished among the top three in the North Suburban Lake since the 2000-2001 season. That includes four-win and six-wins seasons in the middle half of this decade. Now every coach in the North Suburban Lake that was surveyed had Mundelein at the top. And why not? Iowa-bound guard Ben Brust is an elite player who has the ability to carry a team, while 6-7 junior Ryan Sawvell is a monster. Throw in junior guard Leavon Head and hotshot freshman Robert Knar and it's easy to see why coach Dick Knar's club is making its first appearance in the Hoops Report's Top 25.

• Riverside-Brookfield
Remember, a year ago this team won 24 games and beat Oswego, the eventual Class 3A state runner-up. Now fresh off a summer in which they beat nearly everyone they faced and returning its nucleus, the Bulldogs look ready to make a deep run in 3A. The trio of Brown recruit Sean McGonagill, talented junior Ryan Jackson and guard Billy VanderMerkt should lead R-B to its first regional crown since 2002.

• Glenbard East
Another team that really opened eyes with its play this summer after winning 20 games last season. The Rams were picked by each DuPage Valley coach as the preseason favorite and should be as good -- or better -- than the 25-3 team from 2006-2007. Senior Lee Skinner is back and has the potential to be the DVC Player of the Year. And the junior tandem of point guard Zach Miller and 6-2 Jonny Hill are a year older and better.

• Orr
Orr? Really? Time will tell if this team is still a little too young to be a serious threat to other Red-West powers like Whitney Young, Marshall and North Lawndale. However, Curtis "C.J." Jones is special. The 6-0 sophomore can score in bunches and won't be afraid of the bright lights. And this could be junior Mycheal Henry's coming-out party. "He will be the difference," says Orr coach Lou Adams of Henry's development. Throw in talented junior guard Santino Siggers and transfer Malik Logan and the school on the corner of Pulaski and Chicago is set to make a name for itself.

• Maine South
The football power is ready to make a name for itself in the gym. Experience goes a long way and coach Tony Lavorato, Jr. has plenty of it. The Hawks return four players who are entering their third varsity season, including a pair of All-CSL South players in 6-7 Kevin Schlitter and P.J. Killean. Everyone returns from a team that won 17 games, finished second in the rugged Central Suburban League South last year and was picked by coaches to finish second again behind powerful Waukegan. The experience and confidence gained from last season will do wonders this coming winter. This team expects to be good.

Note: Unfortunate news this week in that Maine South's top player, 6-7 Kevin Schlitter, suffered a torn ACL and will be lost for the season.

• Bolingbrook
The Raiders lost a lot from last year's regional championship team, including a pair of Division I talents in Diamond Taylor and Troy Snyder. However, Wisconsin commit Devon Hodges, a 6-7 transfer from Romeoville, is cleared to play and will provide an immediate presence inside. Ryan Walker returns at the point and Antoine Cox and Delorean Weatherall on the wing could evolve into an athletic, exciting and dangerous tandem. Plus, keep an eye on up-and-coming 6-5 sophomore Nick Molonga, who will provide depth.

A regular in the Hoops Report Top 25 over the last few seasons with 100 victories in the last four years, the Bulldogs this year become a sleeper. Coach John Chappetto's program has become accustomed to success and it should continue with the trio of Brandon Snowden, Adonis Bailey and sophomore Dean Danos.

Al Biancalana can coach. If he can take middling talent and form it into a team that wins 15 games and a regional title like he did a year ago, it should be fun to see what he can do with a group that has solid, veteran guard play, can shoot and includes a rising talent in junior Will Sullivan. In addition to Sullivan, the Dukes have a three-year varsity point guard in Kevin Kahovec and senior shooter Evan Fendley. If this team can overcome its lack of size and rebound it will be in the thick of the West Suburban Silver race with Lyons Twp. and Oak Park.

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, is due out this week. To subscribe or for more information email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

Signing Day Replay

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By Joe Henricksen

You just wanna believe. You want to think your school, your basketball program got the job done. You want to look back in four years and see that this day did make a difference. This is the time, after all, when there is reason for optimism with new recruits coming on board in 12 months.

There wasn't a whole lot of drama leading up to the signing period. The state's best player has been committed for three years. And there weren't an abundance of mouth-watering high-major guys in the class. We may have a little more dialogue four months from now after the season plays out. Remember last March when everyone was wondering how Ohio snuck in and nabbed talented guard James Kinney of state champion Champaign Centennial and how fortunate Fairfield was for locking up Waukegan star guard Colin Nickerson when they did? Who will those guys be this year?

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the early signing period as it relates to Illinois prep prospects.

A no-brainer here with Illinois locking up arguably the top three prospects in the state in Waukegan's Jereme Richmond, Robinson's Meyers Leonard and Rich South's Crandall Head. That makes it two years in a row coach Bruce Weber -- you know, the guy that can't recruit -- has nabbed the top two prospects in the state (we're counting D.J. Richardson as an Illinois product), which the Illini have not been able to do in recent years. And this year's top two are top 50 national talents. Richmond and Leonard certainly possess the ability to be difference-makers at the college level. Yes, those are Illini fans pinching themselves after watching the Eric Gordon saga and Derrick Rose fiasco just three years ago.

Wow, did it take some high-majors awhile to get on board. But finally Duje Dukan, the 6-8 skilled shooting wing from Deerfield, received some love. Arizona State and Wisconsin came in hard and offered, while both Virginia and Florida inquired late in the process. But to Dukan's credit, he picked the perfect fit for him at the high-major level. No, there is no truth to me taking Dukan with the first pick in the IHSA fantasy basketball draft!

The in-state Missouri Valley schools have had to battle one another for prospects at the mid-major level throughout the state of Illinois. Now Saint Louis and coach Rick Majerus are in the mix. Saint Louis landed both Mike McCall of Foreman and Dwayne Evans of Neuqua Valley, a pair of top 15 players in the Class of 2010.

And Drake, with Illinois native and assistant coach Kareem Richardson leading the charge, was heavily involved with Illinois prospects throughout the process. Drake signed both Rayvonte Rice of Champaign Centennial and Karl Madison of Springfield Lanphier, while also being deeply involved with DeKalb big man Jordan Threloff and Neuqua Valley's Dwayne Evans to the very end.

While Robinson big man Meyers Leonard is now a hot name nationally and even ranked among the top 50 in the country by some, it's an absolutely huge recruiting coup for Illinois. Big men are at such a premium and so difficult to find, especially legitimate big men with talent, skill and the physical package he possesses. Having been a relative late bloomer and hiding in downstate Robinson, people around the state don't realize what a huge upside this 7-footer has. He's long, athletic, skilled and has an edge to him. He has the potential to be scary good.

When it comes to the level of the school and the caliber of player, Brown (yes, I said Brown out of the Ivy League) may have the best recruiting steal out of Illinois with Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill. A top 30 senior in Illinois in the most recent Hoops Report rankings, he was vastly overlooked by local programs in Illinois and the Midwest. What more did this kid have to do? He's just good. The keys will be handed over to the 6-1 point guard from day one and he has all the makings of an All-Ivy League player in the future. And someday with the Brown degree he will be the smart one. (For more information on joining the Sean McGonagill Fan Club, send inquiries to P.O. Box 1028, Oswego, IL 60543)

Again, quality big men are so hard to find. And for Holy Cross to come from Worcester, Massachusetts and nab a player with the potential of Dave Dudzinski of Kaneland is pretty impressive. The Hoops Report has loved his development -- he continues to get better and better -- while still maintaining the upside you covet in a 6-9 player with skills and coordination.

Gotta throw Pat Miller of Hales Franciscan in here. Yes, he's on the small side but Tennessee State closed it out before he shined this winter.

There may not be a "wow" factor with the Eastern Illinois recruiting class among fans, but coach Mike Miller and his staff were able to get into the city and add defense, toughness and athleticism on the wing as they continue to upgrade the talent in Charleston. Foreman's Tommy Woolridge and Leo's Isaac Smith, III are both undervalued a bit. I'm not sure people realize all these two bring to the table. Lost in the shuffle this fall as everyone watched and waited for the talented Foreman tandem of Lavonte Dority and Mike McCall to make their decision was coach Terry Head's third talented guard -- Tommy Woolridge.

The highly athletic and entertaining Reggie Smith of Thornton is still in the recruiting process. The No. 10 ranked player in the Hoops Report Class of 2010 player rankings continues to be heavily linked to both USC and Marquette. USC coach Kevin O'Neill, though, has already signed a terrific five-man class that includes several perimeter players. But then again, defections following Tim Floyd's resignation left the program dry of talent. Those around the Smith camp insist Southern Illinois will be a player until the end.

Phillip Jackson of Hyde Park will still be a coveted man no matter what lies ahead of him. The 6-8 long but still raw big man will play it out until the end and will remain in high demand. Jackson and Smith are the lone uncommitted prospects in the Hoops Report's top 15 players.

You didn't really think I was going to divulge that, did you?

How about this? The Hoops Report looks back at the Class of 2010's top 10 in the winter of their sophomore year -- 2 1/2 years ago. The top didn't change a lot, but the rest? Yikes can things change .... 1. Jereme Richmond, 2. Crandall Head, 3. Lenzelle Smith, 4. Anthony Johnson, 5. Alex Rossi, 6. Mike McCall, 7. Lavonte Dority, 8. Paul Punch, 9. DeAndre McCamey, 10. Ben Brust

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, is due out next week. To subscribe or for more information email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

Better late than never for Deerfield's Dukan

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By Joe Henricksen

Yes, it took some time to get the high-major coaches on board. In the end, though, that's where Deerfield's Duje Dukan, one of the top five ranked players in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 rankings, is headed. The skilled 6-8 dead-eye shooter committed to Wisconsin and found the ideal fit at the Big Ten school.

"It certainly got a little frustrating," says Dukan of the mild high-major interest early on. "There really is nothing you can do about it, though, except work hard and go out and play your best. Thankfully there were some people who helped get my name out there and now I think I found the best fit possible."

As is the case sometimes, the City/Suburban Hoops Report does become a billboard for certain players. Typically it's those players that are vastly overlooked or being under-recruited that receive the gratuitous plug. That was the case with Dukan throughout the summer. Shouting from a mountain top, the Hoops Report called Dukan "the single most overlooked player in the class" and a "high-major player" to anyone who would listen and "in the right system could absolutely flourish." That all materialized for a kid who is just now beginning to evolve into the player he eventually will be. The key for Dukan was finding the right fit and system.

"I love the swing and I think it plays to my advantages as a player and showcases my strengths," says Dukan of the style Wisconsin plays. "Plus, I felt so comfortable with coach Ryan and the staff, and it's big to be able to play close to home where my family can see me play."

Now it's about being happy for the kid, who put in the time and made bigger strides in the last 12 months than any player in the Class of 2010. Dukan progressed nicely this offseason with Steve Pratt's Chicago Elite and was given responsibilities and was showcased in a variety of ways. Now he's committed to Wisconsin and is poised for a huge year for Deerfield.

While mid-majors coveted the skilled 6-8 wing, the high-majors remained hesitant. Coaches can question his foot speed and quickness all they want, but he clearly had a high-major skill: shooting the basketball. He is one of the best -- if not the best -- shooter in the state of Illinois. He can catch-and-shoot, shoot coming off screens or shoot off the dribble. And with his combination of size, length and release point, he's able to get shots off when he wants and with range. What people have missed, however, is just how skilled he is as he's an above-average ballhandler and passer with the ability to play multiple positions.

Dukan, who has great bloodlines as he's the son of former 14-year European professional star and current Chicago Bulls Supervisor of European Scouting Ivica Dukan, is starting to get stronger and, ultimately, will be able to use his size and post up a little.

While it's sometimes a cliché, Dukan has found the perfect fit in Wisconsin's swing offense, where it encourages guards to post up and forwards to shoot from the outside as players go to assigned spots but react to the defense. The offense needs players with patience, discipline, some size and efficient shooters, which Dukan offers. A lot of credit goes to Wisconsin assistant coach Howard Moore who was the front man in the Dukan recruiting.

Eastern Illinois locks up another one

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By Joe Henricksen

Since Eastern Illinois head coach Mike Miller took over the program, he and his staff have hit the Chicago area hard. The Panther staff snatched one up from the south suburbs last year in Richards star Shaun Pratl, tapped into the Chicago Public League with a commitment from Tommy Woolridge of Foreman earlier this fall and now have a commitment from Chicago Catholic League star Issac Smith, III of Leo.

The Hoops Report has felt all along that Smith, who did have a bit of an up and down summer, was a player that was flying under the radar. The 6-1 guard is poised for a breakout year as he becomes the center piece for coach Noah Cannon at Leo this winter. Smith played a smaller role last year for Leo, while James Pointer dominated the basketball. But Smith, who is among the top 30 prospects in the Class of 2010 in the Hoops Report player rankings, evolved into an athletic, lockdown defender who brought toughness to the floor each time out. While he still needs to get more consistent with his shot, he's a pretty versatile offensive player who is best at getting to the rim off the dribble but also capable of knocking down perimeter shots.

The combination of Smith, who played for Steve Pratt and Full Package during the summer circuit, and Woolridge will certainly upgrade the perimeter athleticism and toughness to the Eastern Illinois roster.

Much deserved Tip of the Hat to Bruce Weber

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By Joe Henricksen

This is typically the time of year to celebrate the high school senior who signs the letter-of-intent or glamorize the recruiting class hauled in by a particular college basketball program. Today, it's time to salute Illinois coach Bruce Weber.

I remember a conversation I had with a respected Division I basketball coach over two years ago who was willing to bet me that Jereme Richmond would never sign with Illinois. And there were other doubters out there, including many in the media. Even the fans were skeptical (and some worse than skeptical) following the Eric Gordon saga, Derrick Rose fiasco and a couple of other recruiting misses, including the gut-wrenching loss of Evan Turner to Ohio State. A good friend of mine, a diehard Illini fan and Illinois graduate, told me he wouldn't bother getting excited until signing day. Even I had a timetable in place where Illinois had to have certain recruits in place by a certain time before things could have gotten ugly. Ironically, that timetable was the fall of 2007 and the dominoes started to fall (and they haven't stopped) with the commitments of D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul joining the already committed Jereme Richmond.

Now, after back-to-back terrific recruiting classes, it's time to get excited. And time to credit the man in charge.

The highly-regarded Richmond will sign this week with Illinois. While Tracy Webster, the former Illinois assistant coach, should get plenty of credit for helping secure the commitment three years ago, and current assistant Jerrance Howard should be applauded for helping keep Richmond committed, the bottom line is Weber has maintained his and the program's integrity, done things the right way, changed a few philosophies up and has hit it big.

In addition to Richmond, Weber found Robinson big man Meyers Leonard early on and locked up a player virtually few people in the business knew about before he became what he is today -- a top 50 player nationally with tremendous upside. Rich South's Crandall Head will also sign with Illinois. Though his star has faded somewhat, he's still an intriguing prospect with limitless physical abilities. And this class comes on the heels of last year's class of Richardson, Paul, Tyler Griffey and Joseph Bertrand.

There was certainly a point where there was some deserved pessimism by those who follow Illinois closely. No, they didn't truly capitalize as much they should have following the magical Final Four run during the 2004-2005 season. But that is now so Jon and Kate Gosselin -- old and done with. The program is on solid ground with a very bright future.

And much-deserved credit needs to go to Weber, who doesn't always get it -- mostly because he doesn't appear to be as hip or savvy as some others in the business. He's a blue-collar workhorse. While he lets his assistants do their jobs, he also has enough CEO in him to keep a pulse on things throughout the program.

The guy has won over 72 percent of his games at Illinois, with a Final Four appearance, two Big Ten titles and two runner-up finishes in his six years. He owns the highest winning percentage of any coach in Big Ten history who has coached at least six years in the conference. Plus, one of his great underrated abilities that often goes unnoticed is his knack for developing players, making them better and preparing them. By and large, the players that come into Illinois are taught and clearly get better during their careers. That can often get lost in the recruiting battles and conversations.

But the doubt surrounding him was always centered on his recruiting efforts and potential, with the perception being he just doesn't have the natural ability to recruit. But those on the outside are missing something.

"He is so honest and genuine," says Illini assistant coach Jerrance Howard of his boss. "He doesn't play games. The players and their families appreciate that. When he sits down in front of those kids and their parents, they see his sincerity. He's a man of his word."

And he works at it. Hard.

First, there may not be a high-major Division I head coach who puts in more time and effort into recruiting than Weber. No high-major head coach, at least here in the Midwest, is out and about more than Weber. He sees players, even cross-checking prospects much like a Major League Baseball scout would. While a few other high-major coaches are flying private jets and have personal drivers during the July evaluation period, Weber is taking red-eye commercial flights and punching in to the GPS in the rental car.

I remember the last day in Las Vegas in July. Most everyone had fled, especially the head coaches, by that point. But in a 14-and-under tournament game, involving prized Class of 2013 prospects Jabari Parker and Tommy Hamilton, there were only three coaches in the entire gym -- a couple of assistants and Bruce Weber, the only head coach in the building.

It's not as if Weber is this young pup, fresh and eager and just getting into the recruiting rat race. He's going on three decades of what really is the grunt work of a college coach -- evaluating and recruiting. Believe it or not, there truly are some coaches who don't put the time into it and generally have a distaste for it. But Weber is just a blue collar coach when it comes to recruiting.

Now he has built recruiting momentum. He has a pair of impressive back-to-back classes in the fold, plus Class of 2011 star Tracy Abrams of Mt. Carmel, the Hoops Report's No. 2 prospect in the class, and 6-9 Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius already committed. He's now knocking on the door with one of the nation's best players in the Class of 2011, Bradley Beal out of St. Louis. Where just two or three years ago when a top player was mentioned with Illinois it was an afterthought. Now there is a belief that, yes, they just might land him.

Kudos, Bruce Weber. Enjoy the week.

No myth about it, Adonis can play

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By Joe Henricksen

Adonis is a complex figure of Greek mythology. This fall Adonis Bailey of Richards began as a myth, almost a tale with no proven factual basis. But there is no fiction or half-truth about Bailey's talents.

It's not very often a player makes a name for himself in a high school fall league, but that's exactly what the unheralded Bailey has done throughout the South Suburban Fall League the last couple of months. Although there are a few more well known and bigger names, Bailey has been the eye-opener and arguably the best player in the league. He's averaged over 21 points a game and nearly five assists in seven weeks of fall league play.

The 6-3 Bailey isn't a relative unknown. He's completely unknown. He began high school attending Shepard as a freshman and sophomore. While he did play lower-level basketball there, an injury cut short his sophomore season. He transferred to Richards and sat out his junior year due to eligibility issues. And he didn't play AAU ball in the spring or summer. He's now poised for a breakout year for coach John Chappetto and the Bulldogs this winter after word began to spread this fall of his vast potential and talent.

Maybe it's because he hasn't played varsity basketball, missed out on the AAU scene or simply hasn't played the game much, but what jumps out at you when watching Bailey, aside from his physical abilities, is the high energy and relentlessness he plays with. He's full throttle and would absolutely thrive in an up-tempo, ball-trapping, get-up-and-down full-court style.

Chappetto, who led his program to a state championship in 2008, sees the same from Bailey.

"It appears to me when I watch Adonis play that he is trying to make up for all the lost time in each and every single game he is playing," says Chappetto. "He plays with a desire to be the best player on the floor. As a player he wills himself to run faster, jump higher, and play without fear. He is an incredible athlete who plays the game with an energy I haven't seen before."

While he's still learning exactly how to play defense, he still manages to get his hands on so many balls with his quickness and length. His quick leaping ability and energy translates to being a terrific offensive rebounder, particularly on his own misses, as he's always around the rim.

Offensively his shot is far from pure and his mechanics and release point need a little work, but he is capable of knocking down shots from the perimeter. But he's an absolute force in the open court, on the wing off the dribble and getting to the basket. He's a decent ballhandler who is an excellent finisher as his athleticism allows him to finish at the rim with ease. While still very much a work in progress, he's far from raw and is filled with untapped potential. With a little individual desire, work ethic and two years at a junior college program, Bailey, who has shot up the rankings this fall and is now among the Hoops Report's top 25 prospects in the Class of 2010, can be as good as he wants to be. He's no myth.

Harris comes up big
Oswego East's Jay Harris has been solid in the South Suburban Fall League and was a difference-maker in his team's semifinal win in the league playoffs. At certain times Harris can look effortless on the offensive end and be a real force with his perimeter shooting ability. The 6-0 combo guard was lights out in his team's semifinal win with a game-high 27 points. He also came up big at the end. With his team down by one point, Harris knocked down two game-winning free throws in the closing seconds.

South Suburban Fall League Observations
A junior who has opened eyes this fall is Tevin Harris of Providence St. Mel. The 6-4 undersized 4-man possesses great athleticism and a terrific body and frame for a player his age. He has a ways to go in terms of skills and knowing how to play, but he is a physical and athletic specimen... A couple of other juniors who have played well in the South Suburban Fall League are 6-2 Wes Koral of Joliet Catholic and 6-3 Demetrius Mobley of Immaculate Conception. Koral, who put together a nice season a year ago as a sophomore, can really shoot the basketball. While he's not real fluid he does have a nice feel for the game. Mobley is a versatile threat on the wing with some scoring ability.... Evergreen Park's Darius Welch, a 6-1 senior guard with some length, can look impressive and should be one of the better players this winter in the South Suburban Red.... While Argo figures to challenge for the top spot in the South Suburban Red, the trio of Bailey, underappreciated 6-0 senior Brandon Snowden and sophomore shooter Dean Danos keeps Richards as the team to beat until further notice. Snowden, who did just about anything and everything for Richards last season, is a competitor and intangibles guy who has really made strides with his perimeter shot.... Marian Catholic's Dominic Jackson is a talented guard who would be an ideal fit at the Division III level or the junior college route. He has some room to grow as a shooter, but he can slash, get to the basket, has a mid-range game and plays hard.... Marist shooter Kyle Maggio, who hit a huge shot for his team down the stretch in semifinal action, is another nice Division III prospect.... The Hoops Report has been a fan of St. Rita guard Lane Barlow. He brings some strength and size to the point guard position and has improved his ability to knock down shots. He is a player first-year coach Gary DeCesare can lean on this season in Catholic League play.

Finally, a huge tip-of-the-cap goes out to Kevin Devitt, the organizer of the South Suburban Fall League. All fall long Devitt's South Suburban League has made it easy for those in attendance, whether it be college coaches, scouts or fans, to watch and evaluate the players and games in this extremely organized league. It would be wise for other spring and summer leagues and tournaments to take a page out of Devitt's book in terms of running and doing things the right way and the passion he brings to prep hoops.

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, which is now beginning its 15th year of publication, is due out in two weeks. To subscribe or for more information email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709.

Underrated big man commits to Holy Cross

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By Joe Henricksen

Slowly but surely Kaneland big man Dave Dudzinski has opened the eyes of college coaches and moved up the City/Suburban Hoops Report's player rankings over the past two years. The fast-improving and often overlooked 6-9 face-up 4-man committed to Holy Cross late Monday night after several Division I schools picked up their interest in recent months.

Dudzinski, who is ranked among the top 35 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 player rankings, is an agile and mobile player for his size with the ability to get up and down the floor. While he's a bit thin and is still very much in the process of developing physically, he's coordinated and has become much more productive. He can spot up on the perimeter, trail on the break and knock down shots from beyond the arc. With additional weight gain and added strength he could become a terrific pick-and-pop threat as he continues to develop his back-to-the-basket skills.

In addition to Rusthoven and Dudzinski, a third Velocity big man, 6-9 Matt Hasse of Naperville North, will be signing in November. Hasse committed to Austin Peay early Monday.

About this Archive

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

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