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Joe Henricksen: August 2010 Archives

Biancalana leaves York for UIC staff

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By Joe Henricksen

Al Biancalana, one of the more respected and successful coaches in Illinois high school basketball, has officially joined head coach Howard Moore's staff at UIC. The veteran high school coach, who officially resigned and met with his York team on Monday, brings a tremendous reputation to UIC and has previous college coaching experience.

"This decision comes with a heavy heart," said Biancalana. "This was a much tougher decision than most people realize."

Biancalana helped re-energize the basketball program at York. The Dukes won their first West Suburban Silver conference championship since 1968 and captured a regional title in 2006. In 2009 the Dukes, as a No. 12 seed, stunned highly-regarded Foreman in the regional.

"I am very proud of the fact that kids are excited about basketball here at York," Biancalana said in looking back. "I also am proud to have watched kids in this program grow as young men. These are great kids and great people at York. I can't say enough about our principal, Diana Smith, who has been so good to me and my family."

Although Biancalana stated he "loved his time at York," the idea of joining Moore and building the UIC program from the ground level was too enticing to pass up.

"This works for me because I believe in Howard [Moore]," says Biancalana. "I believe in the vision he has, the approach he's taking, and I believe in the values that he holds true. This is exciting to be a part of building a basketball tradition at UIC."

Biancalana, who spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Bradley prior to his recent run at York, brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and has established connections throughout the state. The veteran coach has always been regarded by the Hoops Report and among his coaching peers as one of the best in the business, typically one or two steps ahead of his counterpart on the opposite bench. He's a task-master, extremely organized, a X's and O's guru and one who instills discipline in his programs.

The reputation Biancalana earned while coaching in the high school ranks was one of turning programs around and into winners. He did just that in three high school head coaching jobs in Illinois, including his most recent stop at York. In addition, Biancalana helped turn around the Downers Grove North and Stagg high school programs. Prior to Biancalana taking over at Stagg, the program went just 7-68 in the three years before his arrival. He instantly led Stagg to a 70-45 record from 1995-1999, including the program's first-ever 20-win season and back-to-back regional titles.

In addition to his high school coaching in Illinois, Biancalana had a terrific run coaching at a pair of high schools in California. While in California he compiled a 57-8 record from 1987-1989 at Washington Union in Fresno, winning the California Division IV state championship and earning state Coach of the Year honors. He compiled a 67-44 record at Clovis High School, including a school record 23-game winning streak.

York, which will welcome back talented Will Sullivan this season, will take its time in filling Biancalana's position, keeping all options open at this time.

Add Hyde Park to coveted job openings

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By Joe Henricksen

In comparison to a year ago, there have been far fewer basketball coaching openings on the high school front heading into this season. However, with the late movement of some key head coaching figures in August, three prime positions uncharacteristically opened up just prior to the start of the school year.

The Brooks job, one of the up-and-coming programs in the Chicago Public League (as the Hoops Report described in the Aug. 16 blog) was filled by Bobby Locke, which opened up one of the better jobs in the entire state of Illinois at Evanston. The Evanston search is still in the works, with highly-successful Rick Malnati, the former New Trier coach, still in the discussion. Now, with coach Donnie Kirksey's move from Hyde Park to join Howard Moore's staff at UIC, yet another alluring basketball job is open. And some big names are interested.

Hyde Park may not be as established or hold as much basketball tradition as Evanston, but it's an underrated program in the Chicago Public League. The school is in an advantageous location at Stoney Island and 63rd Street, where there are a ton of young kids in the neighborhood with solid feeder schools. And with the right academics in place, Hyde Park has an open enrollment within the attendance boundaries. Plus, Hyde Park principal Thomas Trotter is a former Division I head basketball coach with a vision. In fact, Trotter has been a key figure in helping improve the culture of not only basketball at Hyde Park but the school climate and reputation.

"When we hired Donnie [Kirksey] we were interested in developing a program that we could sustain while doing it the right way," says Trotter, who has a long history of coaching in the Division I ranks. "Donnie did a lot of things away from basketball in the building for our students and staff. He really stepped up to the challenge, holding kids accountable, taking care of responsibility and improving the image. He played a huge and important role here for us."

Although Hyde Park had been a reputable program with some success, Kirksey elevated the program to a new level in his three years at the school. In addition to an overall record of 71-18, which included sharing Red-Central titles in both 2009 and 2010, Kirksey led the Thunderbirds to a city title game appearance and supersectional berth in 2009. Hyde Park reached the city semis a year ago.

Now, with a bit of success in the bank and a roster highlighted with talent, including 6-5 Aqui Shareef, talented junior guard Treyshawn Jones and a host of promising young players in the program, Hyde Park is poised to stay in the thick of the Red-Central and continue to be a player in the Chicago Public League. Any coach with a desire to coach in the Public League, in a program with talent and one that has shown it can even be a stepping stone to a college job, would scratch and claw for the opportunity to be on the bench at Hyde Park.

Trotter admits there is way more interest in the job than he imagined, but he wouldn't divulge any information regarding rumored or potential candidates.

"The person we hire must be able to handle the expectations that I have, which is to continue to instill discipline, integrity and academics into the program -- and then worry about the X's and the O's," says Trotter.

There are several big coaching names being floated around, including former Brooks coach Chris Head and South Shore coach Lamont Bryant, who previously led Marshall to a 108-23 record and two trips to the Elite Eight in four seasons.

Perhaps the most intriguing and interesting name is a Red-Central rival coach -- Curie's Mike Oliver. The veteran coach, who has ruled the very same conference Hyde Park plays in over the past decade, is enamored with the idea of taking over a budding Hyde Park program. The highly-successful and well respected Oliver, who has led Curie to prominence, would be more than a worthy candidate and a potential ideal fit. All Oliver has done over the past 20 years is win games and conference titles but without the fanfare or controversy that surrounds so many other coaches.

Another possibility is Harper head coach Narvel Newson, who has strong Hyde Park ties. Newson is a Hyde Park graduate and at one time coached at the school and has since done a nice job in guiding the Harper program. Hyde Park could hire from within and go with assistant coach Jason Maclin, who is also considered to be a strong candidate.

How about Simeon sophomore coach Leonard Thomas, who was on the short list at Brooks? Thomas has had a terrific three-year run as Rob Smith's sophomore coach, reaching the city title game all three years and winning back-to-back sophomore titles. Marlo Finner, another assistant for Simeon with a terrific reputation in the city, could also be a quality candidate.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, set to begin its 16th year of publication, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

The Calm before the Storm

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By Joe Henricksen

As the school year is set to start and the beginning of the 2010-2011 basketball season is now less than three months away, the commitments will soon be flowing for the many uncommitted prospects in the Class of 2011. Of the top 50 players in the Hoops Report's top 2011 rankings, just 14 of them have committed up to this point. A feeding frenzy is set to begin, with dozens of verbal commitments on the horizon and some official visits to campuses in the next couple of months to help sort out the minds of these talented prospects.

The ballyhooed and deep Class of 2011 could have as many as four dozen Division I commitments, an impressive number that could come close to the nearly 60 Division I players the heralded Class of 1998 produced. This is the calm before the storm, with the Hoops Report taking a snapshot of the current recruitments of several of the uncommitted prospects as we head into the school year. As is the case with the recruitment of high school players, the recruiting race is fluid with changes taking place from week to week and even on a daily basis.

Chasson Randle, Rock Island
The recruitment of the talented combo guard has been talked about and dissected to endless degrees. There really isn't a whole lot more to discuss as a trio of schools have made it to the stretch run, with Illinois, Purdue and Stanford all scheduled to receive official visits and hoping to hit a home run late in the recruiting season. This remains a tough call in terms of projecting just how this one plays out for the sharp and wise-beyond-his-years Randle.

Mike Shaw, Chicago (De La Salle)
This is another recruitment that has gone the distance, with heavy hitters involved early on and a decision looming from the top 100 national prospect. While the Hoops Report does believe Illinois is the program to beat for Shaw, both DePaul and Marquette have made pushes that have at least put themselves in play.

Ryan Boatright, East Aurora
The electric talent and scorer still has the door wide open, with more schools getting involved. The latest school to jump into the mix for the 5-11 point guard is Connecticut, which those close to Boatright admit has changed the landscape a bit in his recruitment. There is mutual interest between Boatright and West Virginia, Tennessee and Miami-Florida. Locally, DePaul hopes to stay in the hunt and is line to get Boatright on campus for a visit. Boatright and his family plan on sitting down in the next week to figure out a plan going forward and decide on what schools on the list to visit. "We aren't closing the door on any school at this point," said Boatight's dad, Mike McCallister.

Sam Thompson, Chicago (Whitney Young)
The highly-regarded Thompson, a 6-6 athletic gazelle, is set to take some official visits this fall. With Ohio State receiving a commitment from 6-8 small forward LaQuinton Ross out of New Jersey, it would appear the Buckeyes may have lost some steam with Thompson. The top 100 national talent appears to have three serious players, with official visits to come in Oregon State, Florida and Georgetown. Marquette, however, is trying to make a strong late push as well.

Julius "Juice" Brown, Hillcrest
Who wouldn't want a talented point guard who helped lead his team to a state championship last March as a junior? Another Hoops Report favorite, Brown's development has continued this summer and the interest has increased. Tennessee State was the first school to offer Brown, with Loyola, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Texas Christian all following up with offers. Armon Gates, an assistant coach at TCU, is a Hillcrest graduate. There are a few Missouri Valley Conference schools that have also shown interest in the 5-8 point guard. Brown has already been to UW-Green Bay and is planning on setting up visits to a few others on the list.

Aaron Armstead, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
The Hoops Report envisions a breakout season this winter for Armstead, who has been a mainstay in the Hoops Report's top 25 prospects over the past couple of years. The 6-3 Armstead has offers from the likes of Loyola, Valparaiso, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wright State, Fairfield, Morehead State, SMU and North Carolina-Wilmington. While still in the process of setting up a few more visits, he has visited Valpo, Loyola and, most recently, Wisconsin-Green Bay. While there is still some sorting out to do on the recruiting front, UW-Green Bay and Valpo may be the two schools that currently stand out for Armstead.

Deji Ibitayo, Rich Central
The Hoops Report's projected breakout player when the summer began has done just that. Ibitayo has gone from an absolute unknown to a Division I player with multiple offers. Northern Illinois and Eastern Illinois were the first two schools in on Ibitayo and offered the up-and-coming prospect. And while Northern Illinois made a great early impression, the 6-3 athletic Ibitayo has offers from Wisconsin-Green Bay, Akron, Chicago State and Army. Ibitayo just recently had impressive visits to both Wisconsin-Green Bay and Akron.

Greg Mays, Crete-Monee
The rapidly rising big man was an eye-opener this summer and will be a centerpiece for Crete-Monee this winter. There weren't many players in the Class of 2011 that raised their stock more than Mays. The recruitment of Mays has Wisconsin-Green Bay, Southern Illinois, Bradley, Miami-Ohio and Boise State all being involved, with the new UIC staff ready to make a push as well.

Will Sullivan, Elmhurst (York)
The hard-nosed 6-2 guard is still in the process of garnering interest, with Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky in pursuit. Loyola is in the picture and Sullivan will be taking an unofficial visit to Miami-Ohio, which could be a fit based on Sullivan's importance on academics.

Keifer Sykes, Chicago (Marshall)
This little warrior, who is a solid student in the classroom, was a monster for Marshall down the stretch last March in helping lead the Commandos to Peoria. Sykes told the Hoops Report Eastern Illinois continues to show the most interest and that the idea of playing with his former Marshall teammate, current freshman Alfonzo McKinnie, is intriguing. Sykes has also received heavy interest from Chicago Sate and Eastern Kentucky, along with Wisconsin-Green Bay and Loyola.

Jacob Williams, Chicago (St. Patrick)
The long, athletic 6-5 Williams just recently visited SMU and is currently setting up visits to Loyola and Indiana State. According to Mike Mullins of the Illinois Wolves, Colorado State and UAB remain interested. Williams could also be in a position of playing out his senior year and being a late signee next spring.

Darien Walker, Chicago (Simeon)
After a strong July the 6-2 tough-as-nails guard solidified himself as a Division I talent with the interest rising in this Hoops Report sleeper. Now Walker, who helped lead Simeon to a state championship last season as a junior, has offers from Northern Illinois, Indiana State, Chicago State and Eastern Kentucky. Walker will be visiting NIU this week. Texas Christian has also expressed an interest and remains involved.

Garrett Jones, Evanston
After opening eyes early last season Jones received offers from both Loyola and Wisconsin-Green Bay last December, with Toledo also involved. The powerpacked 5-10 scorer is on the cusp of being a hot commodity for Ivy League and Patriot League schools. If things materialize as hoped, Jones will have Cornell, Holy Cross and Lehigh at the top of a short list.

Jack Ryan, Glenview (Glenbrook South)
The versatile 6-5 wing is a high academic student-athlete with his sights set on Ivy League and Patriot League program. Lehigh has offered Ryan, who recently visited Columbia and has or will visit the likes of Penn, Cornell, Yale and Dartmouth.

Jerome Brown, 6-5, 2G, Chicago (Morgan Park)
Another player the Hoops Report has touted and believes is a better prospect than a lot of people have given him credit for as the offers have not been free-flowing at this point. There are several mid-major programs, ranging from the Missouri Valley to the MAC to the Horizon League, poking around with no one willing to pull the trigger just yet. Look for the new UIC staff to get immediately involved with the local sharpshooter.

• Ryan Jackson, Riverside-Brookfield
The 6-1 combo guard had a terrific summer with both his high school team and his club team, Old Gold. Jackson, who has a heavy interest in Lewis University, a solid Division II program, has offers from Chicago State, South Dakota State and Army. Wofford has shown interest and will be in to see him this fall, while Wisconsin-Green Bay is keeping tabs. Jackson will visit South Dakota State Sept. 17-19 and is setting up a visit to Army.

Plum of a job open at Evanston; Locke to Brooks

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By Joe Henricksen

The news of Bobby Locke resigning as head coach at Evanston has been in the rumor mill for a few weeks, with the idea floating around that Locke would be leaving Evanston and headed to the Chicago Public League as the new head coach at Brooks. Now both the Brooks and Evanston coaching jobs -- a pair of quality high school coaching positions -- are in the headlines late in the summer.

Locke is reportedly headed to Brooks. There are many in the Chicago Public League who have felt the Brooks coaching job is one of the more underrated jobs in the city. With the new facilities, good academics and a talent base on the South Side -- not to mention a strong nucleus coming back this year -- Brooks is a rising program. And now Locke has the chance to take the program to the next level.

Former Brooks coach Chris Head, who was dismissed in early June, helped put the program on the map. Head's teams won 20-plus games in each of the four seasons he was at the helm, including a 27-win season that included Class 3A regional and sectional championships in 2009. With a senior-dominated group, headed by Wisconsin recruit George Marshall, guard Michael Powell and 6-7 twins Keith and Kevin Gray, Locke hopes to challenge for a Class 3A state title this winter. Locke may also have the luxury of having a talented incoming freshman -- his son, 6-0 guard Erick Locke, one of the better prospects in the Class of 2014.

Locke, who felt it was in his best interest to step down as coach for various reasons, leaves an Evanston program that is brimming with talent. The tandem of guard Garrett Jones and 6-7 James Farr are a pair of Division I talents who return from last year's team. The Wildkits went 29-26 with some young teams the past two years, with plenty of promise ahead this winter. Locke led Evanston to back-to-back sectional championships and Central Suburban League South titles in 2007 and 2008, with the Wildkits finishing third in state with a 30-4 record in 2008.

Now the Evanston job, which has always been recognized as one of the top basketball coaching jobs in the Chicago area, is open. While there is pressure and scrutiny that can come with the Evanston basketball job, the talent and history in place goes a long way. The Evanston basketball program has made nine trips to the State Finals since 1950, with a state title in 1968, a runner-up finish in 1984, a fourth-place finish in 2003 and Locke's third-place finish in 2008. The program has won 18 regional championships and eight sectional titles since 1980 and averaged just over 20 wins a season over the past 25 years.

The timing of the opening is certainly a little different with the start of school just around the corner. Plus, Locke was not a certified teacher working in the building, which means the opening for a teacher/coach this late in the summer may not be a need in the district.

While the job will be coveted, the hiring process could be tricky. Evanston could fill the position on an interim basis with what is left over from the Locke coaching staff. But there is, however, another intriguing possibility. There is a highly-regarded coach who is not currently on the bench in the north suburbs and is itching to get back into coaching. While he is a former coach of Evanston's biggest rival -- New Trier -- the successful Rick Malnati may be the perfect fit for the Evanston program.

Malnati, a former City/Suburban Hoops Report Coach of the Year in 2002, has the experience, credentials and name-recognition a program like Evanston will be seeking and satisfy its loyal following. In Malnati's first big run at New Trier he went 26-5 and led the Trevians to the Elite Eight in Peoria after taking over for the successful Mel Sheets. In 2002 New Trier went 25-8 and finished fourth in the state and won another sectional championship in 2005. Might Malnati be the fit to take over a talented Evanston team and add to the program's legacy?

Best Seasons in Evanston Basketball History
1956-57 .... Led by 6-1 Dave Tremaine, coach Jack Burmaster's Wildkits finished 21-4 and reached the Elite Eight, falling to Quincy Notre Dame.

1963-64 .... Evanston headed into the postseason unranked in the final AP Poll but managed to upset Chicago (Crane) in a memorable double overtime win in the supersectional. Burmaster's club lost in the state quarterfinals to to Decatur (Stephen Decatur)

1967-68 .... The size of 6-4 Bob Lackey, who scored 80 points in four state tournament games, and 6-6 Farrel Jones helped lead Evanston to a 30-1 record and the school's first state basketball title. Evanston dominated in Champaign, winning its three games by a total of 57 points.

1971-72 .... Another surprise run in March for an Evanston team that finished the season 17-9. Burmaster guided his fourth team to Champaign, where Evanston was crushed by Peoria Manual in the state quarterfinals.

1983-84 .... One of the more memorable Evanston teams in history finished second in state. The Wildkits, led by the great Everette Stephens, wrapped up the regular season ranked No. 1 in the state with a perfect 25-0 record. Coach Herb Williams' team, however, fell to Simeon and the late Ben Wilson in the state championship after two thrilling wins in Champaign -- beating Benton in overtime in the quarterfinals and knocking off St. Joseph 58-56 in the semis.

1985-86 .... Evanston nearly pulled off an upset in the Elite Eight, but the Wildkits fell to mighty Chicago King, the eventual state champion, 64-62. Coach Mike Hart's Wildkits finished the season 23-9.

1987-88 .... Hart guided Evanston to a return trip to Champaign just two seasons later but the results were the same -- a state quarterfinal loss to the eventual state champion. Evanston fell to LaPhonso Ellis and East St. Louis Lincoln to finish 25-6.

2002-03 .... After beating Belleville (West) in the state quarterfinals behind Mike McKinney's 15 points, Evanston dropped its next two games (to Peoria Central and Glenbrook North) to finish fourth in the state with a 22-9 record.

2007-2008 .... In the Class 4A semifinals in Peoria, Evanston fell in a heartbreaker to Zion-Benton when Ronald Steward drilled a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. An unselfish, balanced Evanston team that featured five players averaging between 7-10 points a game, bounced back to beat Lockport to finish third in Class 4A with a 30-4 record.

By Joe Henricksen

We -- recruiting analysts, the media, fans and college coaches -- have been raving about the Class of 2011 since it stepped foot into high school. We have pronounced it's a class for the ages, comparable to the great Class of 1998 and debating whether the class has lived up to the hype and whether or not the individual players have justified their early reputation for the past three years.

The thing is, this chatter was in full debate and discussion mode well before the arrival of Anthony Davis. The 6-10 Chicago Perspectives super talent arrived on the scene this spring, opening eyes and leaving a few jaws dropped following his performance at the Chicago Hoops Nike Spring Showdown in Merrillville.

As we watched his first game together in Merrillville I remember Brian Stinnette of Chicagohoops.com making the statement, "He just may be the No. 1 player in the class." He was right. The Hoops Report took a more cautious approach, trying to avoid going overboard after one sampling of the tantalizing talent. After one day of watching he was certainly a no-brainer high-major prospect and one of the top 10 players in the class here in Illinois. But that first day should have been enough. That's when you know a special talent when you see one.

While the event in Merrillville was his coming-out party, Davis wasn't done. A week later he began to wow national scouts with his play at the Spiece Run 'N Slam Tournament in Fort Wayne, where he was equally impressive and where the Hoops Report had officially seen enough. He was that good. And the great story of Anthony Davis, a sharp, articulate kid who came out of nowhere, had officially taken off.

What the presence of Davis does is elevate the Class of 2011 into a stratosphere that can be compared to the Class of 1998 and even begin the argument that it could be better. But is it better?

Obviously, the final product and verdict won't be known until we see what type of college careers and potential pro careers (and even senior years in high school) the players in this class will have going forward. The City/Suburban Hoops Report figured some class would come along that would be as good or better than the Class of 1998, but we must remember all that the Class of 1998 had to offer.

For starters, that 1998 class was highlighted by a foursome of Whitney Young's Quentin Richardson, Fenwick's Corey Maggette, Simeon's Bobby Simmons and Peoria Manual's Frank Williams. All four ended up being first-round NBA Draft picks, with Richardson, Maggette and Simmons all enjoying long NBA careers with varying degrees of success.

Farragut's Michael Wright (Arizona), Julian's Lance Williams (DePaul), Galesburg's Joey Range (Iowa), Rockford Boylan's Damir Krupalija (Illinois), Maine West's Lucas Johnson (Illinois) and Kevin Frey (Xavier), Whitney Young's Dennis Gates (Cal) and Cordell Henry (Marquette) were some of the other big names in the class. But there were lesser-known players in the class that made it special as well.

Naperville North's Henry Domercant wasn't even ranked among the top 25 players, yet he went on to become one of college basketball's leading scorers while playing at Eastern Illinois. He scored over 2,600 career points and finished second in the nation in scoring in both his junior and senior years. Domercant has enjoyed a long career in the Euro League and Italian League.

Linton Johnson of Providence St. Mel was another player left out of the top 25. Johnson went on to have a solid career at Tulane and, while his NBA experience has been limited, has been in and out of the league for the past six years.

Who out there was aware that little-known Eric Channing of Wheaton-Warrenville South, a sharpshooting guard, went on to become the all-time leading scorer at New Mexico State? Channing, who wasn't among the top 35 players in the Class of 1998, had one Division I offer -- from New Mexico State. Coach Lou Henson called Channing, an Academic All-American, "the best three-point shooter I've ever coached."

Or does anyone remember Maurice Baker? The 6-1 guard was another no-namer in the class from Madison, a school just outside St. Louis. After two years at Dixie JC in Utah, Baker went on to star at Oklahoma State (averaged 19.8 ppg as a junior and 12.9 as a senior) and even had a cup of coffee in the NBA during the 2004-2005 season. He played in five NBA games with Portland and the LA Clippers.

How about Jermaine Brown (brother of former Chicago Bulls guard Randy Brown) of Proviso West, otherwise known as "Hi Rise Brown" of the Harlem Globetrotters? Brown spent two years at Bradley before transferring to Minnesota State, where he was a Division II star. Brown then went on to play for many years with the Globetrotters.

Only hoop junkies will remember the name Mario Porter of Manley. The 6-5 wing went on to have a great career at Rider, where he averaged 18, 19 and 20 points a game his final three years playing in the Metro Athletic Athletic Conference and nearly scored 2,000 career points.

Julian's Waitari Marsh had a terrific career at Tulane, leading the Green Wave in scoring his senior year and starting 94 games in his four years in New Orleans. Shawn Jeppson of Spring Valley Hall scored over 1,100 career points at Illinois State. Ian Hanavan of Moline started at UIC before transferring to Evansville, where he averaged over 16 points and 7 rebounds a game and has enjoyed a long career overseas. Overlooked Kerwin Fleming of Hillcrest, who was not even among the top 40 players, went to Kennedy-King before having a solid two-year career at Minnesota. St. Joe's Marlon London played two years at Kansas and two years at DePaul has had a nice career overseas. Little-known Pat Harvey of Brother Rice was All-Ivy League at Harvard.

The class even produced two of the more respected assistant coaches currently in college basketball -- Whitney Young's Dennis Gates (assistant at Nevada) and Providence's Tavaras Hardy (assistant at Northwestern). Gates was the No. 9 ranked player in the class by the Hoops Report and Hardy was No. 22.

Another similarity? Coincidentally, the loaded Class of 1998 was followed up by one of the weaker classes we've seen. The Class of 1999 was brutal. In that Class of 1999 there was Lincoln's Brian Cook and ... Wow. King's Leon Smith? Elgin's Sean Harrington? Mount Vernon's Kent Williams? Peoria Central's Jerrance Howard? Peoria Manual's Marlon Brooks? St. Francis De Sales' Jerrell Parker? Those were the players vying for the top five spots. The Class of 2012 certainly looks to be better than the Class of 1999, but it's relatively weak as well in comparison to past classes that have gone through this state.

In all there were six players in the Class of 1998 ranked nationally among the top 30 and 11 different players among the top 100 in various top 100 lists. And remarkably, there were just under 60 players who either signed or went on to play Division I basketball in their career from the Class of 1998. That is big-time talent at the top, emerging college stars throughout the class and a whole lot of depth. We shall see if the Class of 2011 can equal that type of production and impact at the college level.

WIU nabs Roberts-Burnett; another Redbird lands

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By Joe Henricksen

Western Illinois coach Jim Molinari knows his way around the state of Illinois. The veteran coach has recruited the state for three decades, including head coaching stints at both Northern Illinois and Bradley. Those recruiting ties he's established as both a head coach and years as an assistant have paid off in his most recent job.

Molinari and Western Illinois secured a commitment from Joliet West's Remy Roberts-Burnett, a Class of 2011 combo guard. What Roberts-Burnett will immediately bring to WIU basketball is instant athleticism. Roberts-Burnett is an off-the-charts athlete and will give Molinari one of the better athletes in the Summit League.

"I think Western Illinois is a good fit and he's going to have a great career there," says Joliet West coach Luke Yaklich. "He's a terrific kid and is an incredible young man as a student-athlete. He's athletic and can get where he wants to get on the floor with the ball."

Remy-Roberts is about as athletic as they get in the backcourt -- explosive off the bounce and a big-time finisher at the rim. The 5-10 combo guard plays bigger than his size and helped lead Joliet to a supersectional appearance this past March, where he scored 10 points and had six assists in a loss to O'Fallon. As a junior he averaged 8.5 points and 3 assists a game as an All-Southwest Suburban Blue selection and Joliet Herald-News All Area pick. While Remy-Roberts needs to become much more consistent with his perimeter shot and extend his range, he's solid in the open court with his quickness, strength and athleticism.

WIU made a four-win improvement to 13 wins last year under Molinari and the Leathernecks return their leading scorer in Warren product Ceola Clark. The Leathernecks now have Remy-Roberts in the fold and are heavily involved with Lockport's athletic Karrington Ward, a 6-5 athletic wing.

Another Redbird lands
While the Hoops Report doesn't cover Indiana, it does get to see plenty of Indiana prospects through local tournaments in the spring and summer. And one prospect the Hoops Report has had a chance to watch is Nic Moore of Warsaw, who will cross the state border to play his college basketball as he committed to Illinois State on Sunday.

Illinois State, which has already locked up a top 15 prospect in the state in 6-3 guard Johnny Hill of Glenbard East, added another terrific backcourt player in the 5-9 Moore, who is a tough point guard who can shoot and score in bunches. Moore scored 28 points and dished out 6 assists in the Indiana 4A state title game a year ago (a loss to North Central of Indianapolis) in just three quarters of action. Todd Hensley of Spiece Indy Heat confirmed the Moore commitment, who was recruited by Illinois State assistant coach Rob Judson, to the Hoops Report.

Mike Shaw, Chasson Randle and the process

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By Joe Henricksen

It wasn't that long ago where the current recruitment of Rock Island's Chasson Randle and De La Salle's Mike Shaw would be just another normal recruiting storyline as we head to August -- still three months before the National Signing Day in November. The buildup to that Wednesday Signing Day in November of a player's senior year would start about right now. Instead, it seems the buildup begins the moment a player is clearly identified as a high-major talent, which can come as early as their freshman or sophomore year in high school.

But the recruiting path Randle and Shaw have chosen are no longer the norm. The offers are thrown out earlier. The players get on campus earlier. Unofficial visits become more regular than trips to the movies with the girl. Prospects play with a college program's players on campus more than ever. Again, the whole process is at warp speed in comparison to the 1980s or 1990s and, as a result, the commitment is often expected earlier.

Arguably the biggest difference in basketball recruiting today in comparison to 10 or 20 years ago, at least in terms of perception, can be summed up by the recruiting process both Randle, Shaw and a few other high-profile recruits have taken. Both Randle and Shaw are coveted prospects, ranked among the top 100 players in the country and two of the top 10 players in the state of Illinois' loaded Class of 2011. The other similarity between the two is both remain uncommitted, which brings us back to the difference in recruiting today. Uncommitted? Still? Blasphemy!

Whether it's the frustration of college coaches who are getting used to the new wave of early commitments or fans being obsessed with recruiting and conversing on message boards, the recruiting climate and attitude have significantly changed. Patience has been totally lost. The process and expectations have clearly been altered, from offers going out earlier than ever and more and more early commitments being given. What also has changed is the thought process by fans (and maybe even college coaches to a degree) that every kid, every prospect, is identical in terms of how they look at recruiting and choosing their school. Each case remains a separate identity, a story played out within itself.

The days of everyone waiting it out, playing through the summer, taking the good old-fashioned "official" visits in the fall and most all of the commitments coming in the weeks prior to signing day are over. There is a whole lot more pressure today for a kid to commit early and get it over with than 10 or 20 years ago.

A college coach can think to himself, "Hey, the kid has been on campus six, seven times, we've recruited him hard for three years, he knows what we're about, sees the make-up of the roster and exactly what we have to offer. Why is he still questioning us and so indecisive?"

The point is every recruiting scenario plays out so differently and changes abruptly -- often without notice. The Hoops Report hears different thoughts, opinions and perspectives every week. And it should be expected. The recruitment can change, including the minds of a teenager and all the people surrounding that player. And considering all the aforementioned facts, a few of these prospects have been dealing with all of this for three years. The mind can twist and turn a little in 36 months. And whether fair or not, decisions made during the recruitment and at the end of it often leave people, including college coaches, scratching their heads and saying ... "Huh?"

There are recent high-profile recruitments in the memory bank that did extend past August, including ...

Derrick Rose. The Simeon great waited it out and committed to Memphis in November of his senior year. But even that one didn't have the anticipation as most everyone knew or at least assumed it was Memphis, even after a last-minute visit to Illinois spurred conversation and hope for fans in the state of Illinois.

Julian Wright. It appeared Homewood-Flossmoor's 6-8 athlete and national top 15 talent had planned to wait it out a bit longer before abruptly committing to Kansas. Wright, who had Illinois and Arizona high on his list, committed to Kansas in September. This commitment came after an in-home visit from coach Bill Self and before having stepped foot on the Kansas campus -- and after having just completed visits to both Illinois in late August and to Arizona in early September.

Sherron Collins. The Crane star was supposedly open heading into the fall (wink, wink), but a trip to Kansas' Midnight Madness in the middle of October was enough to cancel his expected visit to Illinois.

Iman Shumpert. While not anywhere close to the degree that Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives blew up this spring and summer, the former Oak Park guard is probably the last Illinois prep player to shoot up national rankings as quickly as Davis. After a coming-out party performance at the King James Classic, Shumpert went from nowhere to a top 50 talent nationally just after his junior year. In the end the 6-4 Shumpert committed to Georgia Tech over Marquette and North Carolina in mid-October.

And others that ended before July even hit ...

Evan Turner. In this one the commitment came before the July evaluation period, surprising a lot of people by the timing and the choice. Illinois felt it was in good shape with Turner, but the future No. 2 NBA Draft Pick committed to Ohio State in late June.

Jon Scheyer. This one came much earlier -- in May of his junior year. Pretty much all along Duke was the school to beat, with Illinois making a strong push at the end and making the decision at least emotional for Scheyer.

Now the state's top prospect, Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives, has announced he's made his decision but isn't ready to announce just yet. Another new and different twist. Maybe this will lead to a new type of press conference in the future: "Thank you all for coming today. After thinking about this long and hard, I am announcing today that I know where I'm going."

(Off topic here but ... speaking of Kentucky, imagine if Davis does commit to the Wildcats. Remember, Kentucky landed a monster 2010 class, the No. 1 class in the nation, with four players among the nation's top 25. And in 2011 they already have commitments from Michael Gilchrest, who by many is regarded as the No. 1 player in the country, and point guard Marquis Teague, who is considered by some to be one of the top five players in the country. And to add Davis to this mix? That could mean three of the top five or six players in the country in 2011. Mercy! Would this be the best collection of high-major talent in a two-year period in college basketball history?)

Yes, there are still plenty of top-rated and talented prospects on the board. In fact, of the national top 100 players nationally, fewer have committed by Aug. 1 in the Class of 2011 than in the past couple of years, which contradicts the "new wave" a bit. But in general there are still far more early commitments heading into August than we saw a decade or two ago.

Which brings us back to Shaw and Randle, two Illinois star prospects who have been in the prep basketball limelight for a few years now. These two have taken their time. And is there really anything wrong with that? In some cases there may be a need to rush, such as if a "dream school" is out there for a prospect and they don't want that scholarship snapped up by someone else. But in what is the biggest decision a kid will have to make up to this point in his life, there isn't anything wrong with playing it out, analyzing and weighing the pros and cons. It's like sitting down at a great, high-class restaurant with the ideal ambience and encouraging the chef to rush through his gourmet food preparation. Sure the chef has done it a thousand times, but he still needs to take his time. And you don't put a whole pig on a rotisserie over a fire pit and expect to feed your pig roast guests within the hour. Take time, enjoy the process.

Shaw, who recently visited DePaul and was expected to be on campus at Illinois on Wednesday, has the two in-state schools, along with Michigan State, Marquette and Notre Dame, all in the mix. Randle has made it clear it's down to Purdue, Illinois and Stanford. By all accounts, these two are great kids. And this is for sure: there aren't many players (if any) who enjoy playing, being on the floor and competing, more than these two. The recruitments of these two appear to be going down the old-fashioned way -- down to the wire with final impressions being made on late visits.

Big winners in July

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By Joe Henricksen

In July there is basketball life after the Anthony Davis hoopla, where all the high major talent is going and AAU hot spots like Las Vegas and Orlando. Here is a quick Hoops Report rundown of July basketball beyond the high-major discussion.

Best Teams
Meanstreets 17s
The arrival and emergence of Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives this spring, the state's top-rated prospect, lifted Meanstreets to another level this past July. In one of the better tournaments in the country, Meanstreets knocked off Howard Pulley in the semifinals and Dallas Showtyme in the championship of the Hoop City Classic Top 20 Championship. That came after a strong showing in Highland, Ind. Meanstreets then capped off the summer by sharing the title at the Chicago Hoops End of Season Showdown in Merrillville.

Wolves 17s
When selecting the state's premier AAU team it's difficult not to go with the Wolves. While playing one of the tougher schedules, the Illinois Wolves went 44-4 as a team and 20-2 in July. In addition, the Wolves didn't lose a single game to a team from Illinois, which included a pair of wins over Meanstreets. The Wolves are blessed with tremendous individual talent, with several high-major players, but coach Mike Mullins' club picked up win after win this past spring and summer and always do so in a respected way. Throw in the fact that Chasson Randle of Rock Island missed a large chunk of time playing with the national team, while big man Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius has battled an injury and been very limited in July, and the success they've had is all that more impressive.

Team Success
Wolves 16s
The younger Wolves team also enjoyed great success, piling up an impressive 18-0 record in July and reaching five straight championship games heading into the final tournament of the summer in Merrillville. While it's been noted the Class of 2012 is not nearly as talented as the Class of 2011 or Class of 2013, the Wolves have as much talented depth as any 16-and-under team

Young Ferrari impress
While young and still under the radar in terms of AAU fanfare, the 14-and-under Ferrari team put together a terrific July, which included a runner-up finish at nationals in Orlando. Ferrari, which boasts the 1-2 punch of 6-8 Jahlil Okafor and 6-6 Paul White, beat Team Arkansas in the quarterfinals and Spiece Indy Ice in the semifinals but fell to Houston Select 2014 in the title game, falling 64-54. In the 14-and-under Super Showcase, Ferrari reached the Silver Division semifinals.

Biggest 2011 Stock Raiser
Darien Walker, Chicago Simeon)
While he played a significant role for a state championship team as a junior, including 9 points and 5 rebounds in just 16 minutes of action in the state title game, Walker remained off the radar until this summer. Walker, always known as a tough competitor, showed an ability to not only defend on the perimeter but score in different ways on the offensive end this summer with Meanstreets. He is a complete 2-guard who will defend, rebound, finish at the basket and knock down shots. The interest in Walker has skyrocketed with his play in July.

Other players in the Class of 2011 whose stock jumped in July
Nick Zeisloft, Lyons Twp.
The 6-4 shooter played a key role in Lyons Township's successful 26-2 season this past winter, including a couple of games where Zeisloft made big plays and key shots with the Hoops Report looking on. This summer, however, Zeisloft went from unknown to a prospect with solid mid-major interest with his play this July with the Full Package club team. Talk about doing damage and shining at the right moment. The player who was projected as being on the Division II/Low-Division I bubble by the Hoops Report heading into the summer, Zeisloft put on a few shooting displays in front of college coaches that instantly earned attention and praise, including an offer from Bradley and interest from Illinois State.

Deji Ibitayo, Rich Central
As the Hoops Report expected, Ibitayo's athleticism, body and, most importantly, improved play and production opened the eyes of college coaches in Milwaukee, Orlando and Merrillville while playing with the Illinois Defenders. He scored 25 points in a near-upset over Meanstreets in Merrillville. The 6-3 über-athlete often finishes in eye-opening fashion and is capable of defending three different positions. While his skill level is a work in progress, his handle is much better and he showed a willingness to compete and get after it against top-level competition. Northern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Division II Lewis were the first to offer, with Nebraska, North Dakota and Akron showing considerable interest. Ibitayo was invited to the Indiana Elite Camp in August and several low-Division I and mid-major schools have sudden interest after a stellar July.

• Ryan Jackson, Riverside-Brookfield
The 6-1 combo guard impressed with his ability to score in a variety of ways, including a much-improved perimeter jumper, and bringing a competitive nature to the floor each time out. Jackson is not afraid and showed the type of hustle and all-out-effort coaches can easily warm up to. Both Chicago State and Army have offered, with others very interested. Division II Lewis University remains a player in the recruitment of Jackson.

• Zach Monaghan, Palatine (Fremd)
While considered a hot commodity among high-level small college programs heading into the spring and summer, Monaghan put himself into the Division I discussion with flashes of offensive productivity this July for Team NLP. The 6-1 Monaghan can still be streaky, but when his shot is falling and he has his mid-range, pull-up game going, he can be awfully tough on the offensive end.

Biggest 2012 Stock Raiser
Ka'Darryl Bell, Oak Park
After having a limited role as a sophomore for Oak Park this past season, Bell is poised to take off this winter after a strong summer with his high school team and Full Package club team. The 5-11 point guard put on some impressive displays of speed and athleticism from the lead guard position. Iowa was the first big school to jump on board with an offer for a player that is now among the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2012. Bell can break people down, get into the lane and create. As his perimeter jumper gets better and more consistent along with his decision-making, his stock will only rise.

Other players in the Class of 2012 whose stock jumped in July
Jacoby Roddy, Peoria (Manual)
There were certainly questions surrounding the 6-5 Roddy as to how effective he could be at the next level as an undersized 4-man. Those doubts were quieted, especially in the eyes of the Hoops Report. Roddy, who showed size is not a factor, will be one of a handful of players that will make a significant jump in the Hoops Report's 2012 player rankings. Southern Illinois was on this one before anyone else with an offer earlier this summer, but the interest should include a wave of mid-major and mid-major plus schools. There aren't many players who compete at a higher level than Roddy, who plays with the Illinois Wolves. Roddy's body is sculpted, particularly for a player who hasn't even played his junior year yet. He has the frame to add even more weight and strength while being an above-average athlete.

Darrell Combs, Thornwood
This smooth combo guard put together a solid season as a sophomore for Thornwood, but he's significantly added to his game since then. The smooth Combs is more than just a dead-eye perimeter shooter. The 6-1 Combs is doing a whole lot more off the bounce and slithers through defenders in getting to the rim. He has improved his stock in the Hoops Report's eyes as much as anyone in the Class of 2012.

Marcus Posley, Winnebago
It's tough to get a whole lot of attention early in a career playing outside the Chicago area, especially for a school with an enrollment of less than 600 students located southwest of Rockford. Nonetheless, Posley, who is a three-sport star in football, basketball and track, was part of a team that went 31-1 but fell to Peoria Manual in a supersectional loss as a sophomore last March. Posley impressed, scoring 20 points in the overtime defeat. Plus, Posley is often overlooked on his own Pryme Tyme AAU team with the more heralded Fred Van Fleet of Rockford Auburn running the show at point guard. But Posley has really impressed the Hoops Report. He has a burst to get in the lane and finish at the rim while also being capable of knocking down a three-pointer. Plus, he plays with energy. There is a lot to like about Posley.

Biggest 2013 Stock Raiser
• Andrew McAuliffe, Northbrook (Glenbrook North)
The big man may not be the most graceful or explosive athlete, but at 6-7 he is skilled and fundamentally sound. He gained valuable experience playing varsity as a freshman and had a terrific summer with the Rising Stars as he opened the eyes of college coaches. He uses both hands exceptionally well, especially for a player his age, while being an efficient scorer and rebounder around the basket. If McAuliffe gets to 6-9 or taller he becomes an instant high-major prospect.

Other players in the Class of 2013 whose stock jumped in July
Kendrick Nunn, Chicago (Simeon)
This impressive young player certainly wasn't a well-kept secret heading into the summer; Nunn has been a known commodity in the loaded Class of 2013 since he stepped foot in Simeon. However, Nunn sparkled at times playing with his age group, showing the potential to be the No. 2 prospect in the class before it's all said and done -- behind Simeon teammate Jabari Parker. Nunn has perimeter size, athleticism, scoring ability and a jumper with range that, in time, will be a lethal weapon.

Jabari Sandifer, Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
Thus far the ingredients for a young player to gain exposure early on in his career -- playing on the varsity as a freshman and playing with a high-profile AAU team -- have not played a part in Sandifer's reputation growing. So the Hoops Report will go ahead and do what it can. The kid can play. He will get his chance this winter with Neuqua Valley, while his stock could soar next spring and summer with Illinois Attack. But make no mistake, Sandifer is a smooth 6-1 point guard prospect and is among the top 10 players in the Class of 2013.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Joe Henricksen in August 2010.

Joe Henricksen: July 2010 is the previous archive.

Joe Henricksen: September 2010 is the next archive.

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