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Joe Henricksen: May 2011 Archives

Hoops Report spring cleaning

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By Joe Henricksen

Although the high school basketball season in Illinois ends in March, the club circuit tips off in late March with the Chicago Hoops Tip-Off Classic and rages on for two solid months. The Hoops Report does a little spring cleaning in this blog, looking back at what has transpired over the past two months as the calendar turns to June.

Race for best in 2012
When it comes to the top prospects in the Class of 2012, it just doesn't compare to the Class of 2011 -- or any average year in Illinois. The high-major programs around the midwest and the country are already looking past the Class of 2012 and to the loaded 2013 and 2014 classes in Illinois.

After all the spring basketball, not much has changed at the top. There are two players that will be vying for the top-ranked player in next year's senior class-- Champaign Central's Jay Simpson and Simeon's Steve Taylor. Simpson, who committed to Purdue in November of 2009, and Taylor are also the only two players getting any type of national love from recruiting services.

There are years the Hoops Report finds the national recruiting ranking of Illinois prospects a joke. When it comes to the Class of 2012, it's tough to disagree. The Rivals top 150 ranking for 2012 has just two Illinois players listed, which in the eyes of the Hoops Report is very fair. Simpson checks in at No. 91 and Taylor at No. 110.

Taylor made a big jump this spring in the Scout.com rankings, checking in at No. 68 nationally, while Simpson did not crack Scout's top 100 and is the No. 24 ranked power forward nationally. ESPN has just one Illinois product, Taylor, in its top 100 -- at No. 93.

Life outside Chicago
Over the years the top 25 prospects in the senior class in Illinois have been dominated by Chicago area products. This past year's senior class, the Class of 2011, had just four players outside the Chicago area among the top 25 prospects in the state. The Class of 2010 and Class of 2009 had the exact same number among the top 25, while the Class of 2008 had just three.

This year? As we head to the summer, the Hoops Report has seven players outside the Chicago area among its top 25 prospects, a number that is higher than most years. The list includes: Champaign Central's Jay Simpson, Rockford Auburn's Fred Van Vleet, Normal's Anthony Beane, Peoria Manual's Jeff White, Winnebago's Marcus Posley, Normal West's Austin Stewart and Orion's Tanner Williams. Plus, both Peoria Manual's Jacoby Roddy and Charleston's T.J. Bell are just outside the top 25.

Pryme Tyme players
The combination of Rockford Auburn's Fred Van Vleet and Winnebago's Marcus Posley have been quite a 1-2 punch for the Pryme Tyme club team this spring. As a result, both have seen their recruiting stock and reputation grow. And Pryme Tyme has been the biggest overachieving AAU program in Illinois, competing and even beating more highly-regarded and talent-filled teams. That says a lot about both Van Vleet and Posley.

Van Vleet, who struggled in a supersectional loss to Glenbard East in DeKalb in March, has put that season-ending loss in the rearview mirror. He has vaulted himself from the No. 12 ranked player in the junior class to No. 5 in the most recent Hoops Report player rankings. Posley, always a Hoops Report favorite due to how hard he competes, moved himself into the top 20.

Best prospect no one knows
Joliet West didn't have the season it wanted last winter. An injury to talented sophomore Morris Dunnigan certainly didn't help in a 9-16 campaign. But along the way, junior Marlon Johnson led the team in rebounding, impacted the game with his length and shot blocking ability and slowly improved over the course of the season.

How far has Johnson come? The 6-9 post has gone from a 6-4 freshman "B team" player to a Division I recruit -- at least when college coaches get a chance to see the long, agile big man. Although still very raw offensively, particularly in the halfcourt and playing in traffic, Johnson has continued his improvement and is so intriguing with his size, rebounding, blocking shots and ability to get up and down the floor. Look for the interest in Johnson to skyrocket going forward as he has the potential to be a mid-major recruit.

Class of 2013 just gets better
An Illinois sophomore class that features a consensus top five player in the country in Simeon's Jabari Parker, along with a host of other talented big names like Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, Simeon's Kendrick Nunn and St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens among others, continues to get better.

Emerging prospects like Belleville East's Malcolm Hill, Hope's Jalen James, Leo's Russell Woods and little-known Kyle Davis of Hyde Park adds to the high-major depth. It could be argued that as many as 12 or 13 players in the sophomore class could ultimately find themselves among the top 100 players in the country.

Spring Fling
Here is a look at the prospects, regardless of class, whose stock has risen the most this spring.
• Peyton Allen, 6-4, 2G, Fr., Chatham Glenwood ... Among the top half dozen prospects in an eye-opening Class of 2014. Versatile with a high basketball I.Q., if he grows a few inches he's Robbie Hummel.
• Cliff Alexander, 6-8, C, Fr., Chicago Curie ... With his size and early production, the Curie big man could be a national recruit before it's all said and done.
Nathan Taphorn, 6-6, WF, So., Pekin ... Has opened eyes all spring with his combination of size at 6-6 and a sweet shooting stroke. Has climbed the 2013 rankings more than anyone in the class.
Malcolm Hill, 6-4, 2G, So., Belleville East ... Emerging and quickly developing into a potential difference-maker. He's now among the top half dozen prospects in the Class of 2013.
Jalen James, 6-3, PG, So., Chicago Hope ... Smooth point guard with size who has generated a whole lot of high-major interest. A player who is just starting to realize his talent.
Brad Foster, 6-8, PF, Jr., Lincoln-Way Central ... A 6-8 kid with decent athleticism and skill will be closely watched this July by plenty of mid-major programs.
Jeff White, 6-0, PG/2G, Jr., Peoria Manual ... A "basketball player" who has probably been about as consistent this spring as any player in the Class of 2012. Tough, hard-nosed combo guard who just makes plays.
Marlon Johnson, 6-9, PF, Jr., Joliet West ... Still raw but ... (see above).
• Marcus Posley, 6-1, 2G, Jr., Winnebago ... Played in the shadow of AAU teammate Fred Van Vleet, but Posley has solidified himself as a solid mid-major prospect.

Biggest spring recruit
The nabbing of Niles North's Abdel Nader for Northern Illinois was a huge late recruiting get for first-year coach Mark Montgomery. Nader, who was potentially set to re-classify as a 2012 recruit and head off to prep school, was already ranked by Scout.com as the No. 72 ranked player in the Class of 2012. NIU secured a 6-7 face-up 4-man with loads of potential and a player who realistically is a mid-major plus/high-major bubble guy.

End of an era in north suburban hoops
When Mike Weinstein sold the Joy of the Game facility in Deerfield this spring, it ended an era of prep basketball success and individual player development in the northern suburbs. Weinstein opened the facility in 1993, along with it, the Rising Stars club basketball program emerged as one of the best in the Chicago area.

Coincidence or not, the northern suburbs -- from the high school teams having success and a larger number of Division I prospects developing -- evolved into a bigger player in prep basketball during the Joy of the Game years. Weinstein played a large role in helping a number of Chicago area prospects find their college basketball home.

Weinstein's Joy of the Game started about the same time as the City/Suburban Hoops Report, which has provided plenty of conversations and hours in gyms between myself and Weinstein. In that time, Weinstein was one of the "good guys" in the club basketball business. He helped kids, cared about them along the way and wanted what was best for the players on his Rising Stars team.

Weinstein has had a monumental impact on the AAU basketball scene over the years, ranging from developing college basketball prospects (over 200-plus in 15 years), including dozens of Division I players, to hosting high-profile tournaments and camps at the Joy of the Game facility. Overall, his presence will be missed in an AAU culture

Final look at impressive Class of 2011

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By Joe Henricksen

The Hoops Report took a look at the top 15 prospects in the state of Illinois, including the impact Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives had on the class, in the previous blog. Here the Hoops Report takes its final look at the top 40 college prospects in the state of Illinois.

The class produced one of the higher number of Division I recruits and a dozen-plus high-major players, highlighted by the nation's top-ranked prospect in Anthony Davis.

1. Anthony Davis, 6-10, PF, Chicago (Perspectives)
The nation's top player brings so much talent and upside to the table as he possesses the things you can't teach: size at 6-10 with never-ending length. He's extremely active, especially on the defensive end, and boasts a skill level you typically don't see in a player with his height. His slender frame and lack of strength will be issues initially. He may not be as athletic or ferocious as Kevin Garnett, but he has many of the same talents at KG.
2. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
This is a player who came into high school with a ton of hype and lived up to it. A big, strong, athletic wing whose skills have improved every year. He's a strong finisher whose jumper has improved and will only get better. Blackshear will be a major factor for the Cardinals and coach Rich Pitino.
3. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius)
When it's all said and done, the Hoops Report believes Egwu is a better college prospect than many players in Illinois currently ranked ahead of him by others. He's big, agile, runs the floor, can really shoot it, plays hard and is a sponge with more to learn and improve on. Unfortunately, national analysts watched Egwu when he was injured last summer and don't pay a whole lot of attention to the high school season. But like in his high school career, it's going to take time.
4. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East)
Put together the most dominating high school season in the state of Illinois and was co-Mr. Basketball. An electric talent who averaged over 30 points a game. He's jet-quick, athletic and can put the ball in the hole in bunches and is a blur from end to end and in open court. How will his individual game -- and lack of size -- translate to the next level? His explosiveness with the ball in his hands sets him apart.
5. Mycheal Henry, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr)
A disappointing season for Orr took some of the fanfare away from Henry this past winter. But Henry, who bloomed a little later than some, has terrific size and shooting ability to score at the high-major level. As Henry's ball skills and willingness to defend improve, he will evolve into a big weapon for coach Bruce Weber at Illinois. Still, there is a lot of polishing up to do with Henry and an improved motor will speed that process up.
6. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island
Rock solid and steady throughout his career, which culminated with a Class 3A state championship and sharing the Mr. Basketball award. Randle, who could slide anywhere on this list from No. 4 to No. 6, may not wow you, but he is polished, does so many things well and is one of the more college-ready players in the class. He brings an overall game and intangibles that will get him on the floor right away at Stanford and make an impact as a freshman.
7. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
A bouncy, athletic wing with a long wingspan who moves fluidly up and down the floor and is a highlight waiting to happen. At the very least, Thompson can become a big-time perimeter defender in the Big Ten for Ohio State. Both his handle and shot have improved, but he must continue to make strides in those areas, which will lead to more productivity on the offensive end.
8. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel)
With a solid make-up, toughness and contagious positive attitude, Abrams has molded himself into a scoring point guard who is still learning the nuances of the position. Will prove to be a physical guard who will defend and find ways to make plays but must tighten up his ballhandling. While he may not have a whole lot of upside, he's a program kid who will be coachable and be a valuable role guy at the very minimum.
9. Abdel Nader, 6-7, PF, Skokie (Niles North)
Put together a monster year (24 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg) in leading Niles North to its best season in school history. An intriguing face-up 4-man who has very good shooting ability and range. Plus, he has some athleticism to get quite a bit done around the basket. He has to get tougher and stronger and more focused. Of all the recruits in the Class of 2011, Northern Illinois nabbing Nader this late in the process is the biggest recruiting steal in the class.
10. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Likely a little overrated by some, both locally and nationally, but if he can find his niche at the high-major level, Shaw can have a very productive career at Illinois. A mobile, put-together 4-man who will rebound and compete at his position. Offensively, he has a long way to go and is still trying to become more consistent. This 6-8, 225-pounder will get bigger, stronger and can be the ideal blue-collar workhorse with just enough skill to make him a threat. Hopefully Illinois fans won't have unrealistic expectations as he's a role player at the high-major level.
11. Frank Kaminsky, 6-10, PF/C, Lisle (Benet Academy)
There weren't many players who improved more over the course of their career -- and the last 12 months -- than the Wisconsin-bound big man. The skilled Kaminsky, who handles it and shoots it well for a player with size, found the perfect fit at Wisconsin and the high-major level. Look for Kaminsky's improvement to continue under Bo Ryan and become a factor down the road.
12. David Sobolewski, 6-1, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy)
You just know what you're going to get with the Sobo. He may not have the untapped potential and upside of others in the class, but he brings a winning attitude and security to the point guard position. Battled through a nagging back injury for a large portion of this past season. Will take care of the ball, make the right decision and knock down a shot for Northwestern.
13. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G, Lombard (Glenbard East)
The Illinois State recruit capped off his senior year with a bang, opening eyes with high-level performances in leading his team to a third-place finish in Class 4A. Long and active, Hill's perimeter jumper became a threat to go with his ability to flourish in getting to the rim. Plus, he just knows how to play with his natural instincts and is a highly underrated passer.
14. Roosevelt Jones, 6-3, WF, O'Fallon ... Highly productive and successful high school career with numbers and wins over the past three seasons. There are certainly questions how his game will translate to the next level, but he does fit nicely into Butler's system. Jones is tough, strong and competes at an extremely high level.
15. Bruce Baron, 6-3, PG, Carbondale (Brehm Prep)
While he can get a little erratic and wild, Baron is a big, strong, athletic guard who can take contact and score. Headed to Oregon, Baron's talents and style of play simply needs to be reined in as a collegian.
16. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks)
Battled injuries throughout his career, including a freak injury that knocked him out for seven weeks this season. Bounced back with a big second half of the season and led Eagles to city title and Peoria in Class 3A. Wisconsin-bound Marshall will knock down shots from his point guard position.
17. Jamee Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee
Really put together one heck of a senior year in leading Warriors to their best season in school history. He's always been a freak athletically, but Crockett used that athleticism to become a much more efficient scorer and productive rebounder. Should fit nicely into coach Oliver Purnell's style at DePaul.
18. Derrick Marks, 6-2, 2G, Plainfield (Central)
Big, strong guard who excels in the open court and running the floor downhill towards the basket. Does a terrific job of using his body and strength in drawing contact, finishing at the rim and getting to the line. Headed to Boise State next fall.
19. Dre Henley, 6-6, WF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Another recruiting steal for Northern Illinois. The versatile Henley, who has a nice blend of size and skill, can be a factor at a few different positions in the MAC, especially if his perimeter jumper becomes more consistent. Joins Abdel Nader to form one heck of 1-2 recruiting punch for coach Mark Montgomery.
20. Ryan Sawvell, 6-7, PF, Mundelein
In the eyes of the Hoops Report, quite possibly the most underappreciated player in the Chicago area with the numbers and success he had this past season. The Evansville recruit is sneaky athletic, runs the floor and plays hard. He will need to add upper and lower body strength, but Sawvell is a worker and a kid with some size who can put the ball in the hole.
21. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest)
Yet another Hoops Report favorite as "Juice" has proved two things: he wins games and can put the ball in the hole from his point guard position. Strong, compact lead guard who, despite his small size, has length and strength. A struggling Toledo program landed a good one and added a key piece to the rebuilding project.
22. Quenton Chievous, 6-4, WF, Niles (Notre Dame)
The Hoops Report has liked Chievous and his potential a little more than others. Though he is still in the process of putting it all together, he's a big-bodied wing who has vastly improved in all areas. Both his range and efficiency with his perimeter shot are better. The Tennessee recruit still needs to get more comfortable putting it on the floor and creating for himself and others off the dribble.
23. James Farr, 6-8, PF, Evanston
Another player who wrapped up his senior year and will become a 2012 recruit with a year at prep school. Farr still possesses a great deal of upside. Recently committed to Xavier. Farr, who can face up and knock down shots with some range, will need to continue to fill out physically, improve laterally and become a bigger factor around the basket.
24. Dylan Ennis, 6-2, PG, Lake Forest (Academy)
The Rice-bound point guard has a nice blend of size, athleticism and playmaking ability as a lead guard and scorer. Although his game can be a little loose and a bit erratic, he's improved and is a rhythm scorer who can shoot it and slash.
25. Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame)
Had a monster senior year and ended up parlaying it into a Big Ten scholarship from Michigan. Strong with little athleticism, Bielfeldt showed he can step away and knock down face-up jumpers. But more than maybe any player in the class, his game does not translate to the level he will be playing at in college.
26. Aaron Armstead, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
Smooth, skilled scoring guard who should blossom in time at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Armstead, who can knock down shots from the perimeter and brings size to the perimeter, became more consistent and productive in helping lead Hales to a state championship.
27. Macari Brooks, 6-2, 2G/WF, Richton Park (Rich South)
It could be argued that Brooks is one of the top three or four athletes in the class who, despite being a little less skilled than most would like, has improved his shot and ballhandling over the past year. Shot selection and decision-making can be questionable at times, but he makes plays with this athleticism and is an above-the-rim player.
28. Greg Mays, 6-8, PF, Crete-Monee
Just may be the biggest wild card in the Class of 2011. An intriguing prospect due to his impressive combination of size, build and athleticism. Throw in the fact he has not played a ton of basketball just yet and is just beginning to evolve into the player he can be, the sky is the limit for this Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit.
29. Keifer Sykes, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Marshall)
A Hoops Report favorite due to his demeanor, the way he carries himself and an ability to play tough and rise to the occasion. Wisconsin-Green Bay has a a good one in the diminutive Sykes, who leads, makes plays and doesn't try to do too much.
30. Nick Zeisloft, 6-4, 2G, LaGrange (Lyons Twp.)
A tremendous shooter with range who can shoot off the pull-up and off the catch. While he may not move great laterally, Zeisloft is a player with surprising athleticism. An Illinois State recruit who will bring a much-needed quality to the program: shooting the basketball. Still must get more comfortable off the dribble.
31. Michael Powell, Jr., 5-10, PG, Chicago (Brooks)
There weren't many players in Illinois who raised their stock more during their senior year than Brooks, who was a catalyst in leading the Eagles to a city title and a trip to Peoria in Class 3A. Powell continued to be a big scoring threat, both with his shot and off the bounce, but he evolved into a solid point guard
32. Donivine Stewart, 5-10, PG, Bartonville (Limestone)
The Bradley-bound guard began his career among the top 10 players in his class due to putting up ridiculous numbers and production as a freshman. But his overall lack of size and athleticism ultimately prevented him from staying among the elite prospects. A scoring point guard who has a great feel for finding ways to put points on the board.
33. Keith Gray, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Brooks)
He's long, bouncy, has good size and a decent frame. Overall, Gray has big man upside as he became a much more productive, aggressive and confident player in helping lead Brooks to a city title and trip to Peoria. Signed with Northern Illinois.
34. Deji Ibitayo, 6-3, WF, Olympia Fields (Rich Central)
Broke out with an impressive summer a year ago and grabbed the attention of college coaches with his off-the-charts athleticism and big perimeter body. A big-time finisher on the break and around the rim. If he puts his mind to it, the Akron recruit can become a terrific perimeter defender with his size and athleticism. While his jump shot and skills have improved, there is still much work to be done.
35. Mike Turner, 6-7, PF, Chicago (University)
With Turner it's about potential. Northwestern hopes Turner's untapped upside and late-developing game can blossom down the road. Right now he's a pretty skilled face-up 4-man who can knock down a shot and ultimately can fit into Bill Carmody's style of play. He will certainly need to refine his game and add weight and strength.
36. Darien Walker, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
Often the forgotten man in Simeon's run to back-to-back state titles. Walker is a big, strong perimeter player who has shown an ability to be a lockdown defender. While he must polish up his overall skills and become more efficient, Walker can get to the rim and knock down a shot.
37. Jerome Brown, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Morgan Park)
The UIC-bound Brown is one of the top perimeter shooters in the senior class, with a quick release and range. He also has some size and length to become a more than adequate perimeter defender. Still must find a way to become more effective with the ball in his hands to become a bigger weapon at the mid-major level.
38. Luke Hager, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Battled injuries and some inconsistency throughout his senior year, but the UNC-Wilmington recruit has some quality physical attributes. Hager could develop into a valuable weapon with his versatility and athleticism. The perimeter jumper is certainly a work in progress, but Hager remains very intriguing.
39. Jordan Nelson, 5-11, PG/2G, Lincoln
Evansville locked up perhaps the best pure shooter in the Class of 2011 and one of the all-time leading three-point shooters in state history. Yes, he's on the small side, but Nelson possesses an ability and unique quality -- shooting the basketball -- that coaches covet.
40. D.J. Tolliver, 6-4, 2G/WF, Chicago (Farragut)
After an impressive and productive year in the Public League, Tolliver was arguably the most overlooked and underappreciated player in the Chicago area this past winter. Tolliver has one glaring weakness (perimeter shooting), but with his size, length, active style and intangibles he finds ways to do so many other things on both ends of the floor.

Anthony Davis highlights final 2011 rankings

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By Joe Henricksen

The Anthony Davis high school basketball era is over. It was short -- hardly an era -- but it's over.

The uber-talented 6-10 Davis, who came out of absolutely nowhere nearly 12 months ago, is considered by most to be the No. 1 prospect in the country. He's a Kentucky recruit, a likely NBA Lottery Pick in the not-so-distant future, and a story that won't be forgotten anytime soon.

While the story surrounding Davis and his rapid rise is what will be remembered, an aspect of his career that is equally shocking is the fact so few people even saw him play -- at least in comparison to other top-ranked players that have come through this state.

In this day with so many shootouts, showdowns, holiday tournaments and even televised high school games, it's amazing that Davis is the No. 1 prospect in the state of Illinois and so few people had the opportunity to take in one of his games. Yes, no one knew who he was for three years, but the Davis ascension in the last 12 months is an explosion no one has ever seen in player development. And it should have concluded with packed gyms, big-time hyped matchups and at least some hope for a run for Davis and his team when March rolled around.

This is Chicago. This is the Chicago Public League. This is the top college prospect in the state of Illinois. This is the No. 1 player in the country. Yet to this day there is a large contingent of basketball fans in the city, suburbs and around the state who have still yet to see Anthony Davis play. And many saw him for just the first time in the recently played national all-star games this past spring.

This isn't bad, wrong and it really doesn't even matter. It's just strange. But such is the life of a top-ranked prospect playing at Chicago Perspectives and who wasn't discovered until after his junior season.

There should be a certain amount of respect given to Davis for staying true to Perspectives, a school that obviously provided Davis what he and his family wanted -- before and after his rise to fame. Honorably, Davis bucked the transfer trend. It certainly would have been easy, and probably even applauded by many, if Davis had left Perspectives and enrolled at a "basketball school" when classes began last September.

Selfishly, the Hoops Report, like many other basketball fans, would have loved to see Davis play with a ranked team and against a schedule befitting of the No. 1 player in the state. But there aren't trades in the Chicago Public League and there isn't free agency (some would maybe argue that). While his rise to basketball prominence was memorable, his senior year as the No. 1 player in the country and playing in the hotbed known as the Chicago Public League was not.

Davis, however, is clearly the No. 1 prospect in the state of Illinois and one of the better prospects the state has produced in the past few decades. Here is a look at the top 15 prospects in the Class of 2011 (with a look at the remaining top prospects in the class later this week).

1. Anthony Davis, 6-10, PF, Chicago (Perspectives)
The nation's top player brings so much talent and upside to the table as he possesses the things you can't teach: size at 6-10 with never-ending length. He's extremely active, especially on the defensive end, and boasts a skill level you typically don't see in a player with his height. His slender frame and lack of strength will be issues initially. He may not be as athletic or ferocious as Kevin Garnett, but he has many of the same talents at KG.
2. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
This is a player who came into high school with a ton of hype and lived up to it. A big, strong, athletic wing whose skills have improved every year. He's a strong finisher whose jumper has improved and will only get better. Blackshear will be a major factor for the Cardinals and coach Rich Pitino.
3. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius)
When it's all said and done, the Hoops Report believes Egwu is a better college prospect than many players in Illinois currently ranked ahead of him by others. He's big, agile, runs the floor, can really shoot it, plays hard and is a sponge with more to learn and improve on. Unfortunately, national analysts watched Egwu when he was injured last summer and don't pay a whole lot of attention to the high school season.
4. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East)
Put together the most dominating high school season in the state of Illinois and was co-Mr. Basketball. An electric talent who averaged over 30 points a game. He's jet-quick, athletic and can put the ball in the hole in bunches. How will his individual game -- and lack of size -- translate to the next level?
5. Mycheal Henry, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr)
A disappointing season for Orr took some of the fanfare away from Henry this past winter. But Henry, who bloomed a little later than some, has terrific size and shooting ability to score at the high-major level. As Henry's ball skills and willingness to defend improve, he will evolve into a big weapon for coach Bruce Weber at Illinois.
6. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island
Rock solid and steady throughout his career, which culminated with a Class 3A state championship and sharing the Mr. Basketball award. Randle may not wow you, but he is polished, does so many things well and is one of the more college-ready players in the class.
7. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
A bouncy, athletic wing with a long wingspan who moves fluidly up and down the floor and is a highlight waiting to happen. At the very least, Thompson can become a big-time perimeter defender in the Big Ten for Ohio State. Both his handle and shot have improved, but he must continue to make strides in those areas, which will lead to more productivity on the offensive end.
8. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel)
With a solid make-up, toughness and contagious positive attitude, Abrams has molded himself into a scoring point guard who is still learning the nuances of the position. Will prove to be a physical guard who will defend and find ways to make plays.
9. Abdel Nader, 6-7, PF, Skokie (Niles North)
Put together a monster year (24 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg) in leading Niles North to its best season in school history. An intriguing face-up 4-man who has range and some athleticism to get quite a bit done. Of all the recruits in the Class of 2011, Northern Illinois nabbing Nader this late in the process is the biggest recruiting steal in the class.
10. David Sobolewski, 6-1, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy)
You just know what you're going to get with the Sobo. He may not have the untapped potential and upside of others in the class, but he brings a winning attitude and security to the point guard position. Battled through a nagging back injury for a large portion of this past season. Will take care of the ball, make the right decision and knock down a shot for Northwestern.
11. Frank Kaminsky, 6-10, PF/C, Lisle (Benet Academy)
There weren't many players who improved more over the course of their career -- and the last 12 months -- than the Wisconsin-bound big man. The skilled Kaminsky, who handles it and shoots it well for a player with size, found the perfect fit at Wisconsin. Look for Kaminsky's improvement to continue under Bo Ryan.
12. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
If he can find his niche at the high-major level, Shaw can have a productive career at Illinois. A mobile, put-together 4-man who will rebound and compete. Offensively, he's still putting it together. When his productivity becomes more consistent, Shaw can evolve into a poor man's Carl Landry-type.
13. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G, Lombard (Glenbard East)
The Illinois State recruit capped off his senior year with a bang, opening eyes with high-level performances in leading his team to a third-place finish in Class 4A. Long and active, Hill's perimeter jumper became a threat to go with his ability to flourish in getting to the rim. Plus, he just knows how to play with his natural instincts.
14. Bruce Baron, 6-3, PG, Carbondale (Brehm Prep)
While he can get a little erratic and wild, Baron is a big, strong, athletic guard who can take contact and score. Headed to Oregon, Baron's talents and style of play simply needs to be reined in as a collegian.
15. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks)
Battled injuries throughout his career, including a freak injury that knocked him out for seven weeks this season. Bounced back with a big second half of the season and led Eagles to city title and Peoria in Class 3A. Wisconsin-bound Marshall will knock down shots from his point guard position

NIU lands big one in Niles North's Nader

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By Joe Henricksen

The recruiting steam Northern Illinois has built under recently hired Mark Montgomery continues as the Huskies landed a big commitment Friday. Abdel Nader, who put together an all-state season this past winter at Niles North, will be added to NIU's 2011 recruiting haul.

Nader, who was once committed to New Mexico, had been toying with the idea of re-classifying and attending a prep school this fall, thus becoming a Class of 2012 recruit. In fact, several high-majors were taking interest in Nader as a 2012 recruit.

However, the Nader recruitment to Northern Illinois has been in the works for awhile as Montgomery and his staff zeroed in on the talented 6-7 forward. Nader is now on track as a 2011 recruit and will join the Northern Illinois basketball program this fall, along with fellow in-state recruits De La Salle's Dre Henley, Glenbard East's Zach Miller and Keith and Kevin Gray of Brooks. The Huskies will also welcome Marquavis Ford, a talented combo guard out of Saginaw (MI), and DeAndre Barnette, a 6-4 guard out of Jackson (TN).

This past season, Nader led Niles North to its best season in school history. The Vikings won the school's first-ever sectional title and a school record 24 victories. Niles North fell to Warren, 56-50, in the supersectional.

Along the way, Nader put up some monster performances in key games, including the 32 point, 10 rebound, 6 block performance in a win over Evanston in the Central Suburban League title game. He scored 36 points in a regional title victory over Glenbrook North in March. And in an early-season win over Glenbrook North, Nader poured in a career-high 49 points. He finished the season averaging 23.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 blocks a game.

Nader is a versatile forward who is athletic and can face up and knock down shots with range. He's an ideal face-up 4-man who could be an impact player sooner than later in the Mid-American Conference. The opportunity to play early played a big part in Nader turning away interest from higher profile programs. Nader finished the year as the City/Suburban Hoops Report's 10th ranked player in the Class of 2011.

With the 1-2 punch of Henley and Nader leading the way, it could be argued Northern Illinois has its best recruiting class since the mid-1980s when West Aurora's Kenny Battle and East Aurora's Rodney Davis headed a terrific class hauled in by former coach John McDougal. The Class of 2011 is certainly one that could push the Huskies towards the top of the MAC in coming years.

Northern Illinois also has locked up its first 2012 recruit as Mike Davis, a shooting guard from Garfield Heights in Cleveland, committed to the Huskies on Thursday. NIU's priority recruit going forward is junior point guard Fred Van Vleet of Rockford Auburn, one of the top 10 Illinois prospects in the Class of 2012.

Proviso East, Proviso West coaching jobs open

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By Joe Henricksen

Without a lot of fanfare and very much under the radar, one of the highest profile basketball coaching positions in the state of Illinois is open. Proviso East, which figures to be among the top five teams in the preseason next November, is in the process of searching for a new head coach.

"Yes, the position is open," Proviso East athletic director Glenn Gustafson told the Hoops Report. "You can find all the information you need on the district website, but the job is open. There is no timetable for a coaching hire."

In addition, the Proviso West head basketball coaching position is also open. However, this doesn't mean that the current coaches, Proviso East's David Chatman and Proviso West's Tommie Miller, won't be retained.

Proviso Township School District 209 is in the process of making all 19 head coaches re-apply for their head coaching positions as each coaching position has been posted. Those outside the school district are also able to apply. In addition, all assistant coaching positions have been posted as well.

"Really, that's all we've been told," says Proviso West athletic director Mark Schneider. "We were told all the coaching positions are to be posted and the current coaches will need to re-apply."

Miller guided Proviso West to a regional title in 2010, finished 18-10 this past season and knocked off rival and favored Proviso East in the regional this past March.

Chatman, who led Proviso East to a 22-6 record a year ago with a young, talented team, has enjoyed success at the Maywood school. When asked if Chatman had been let go or resigned, Gustafson stated "the information can be found on the district website."

When Chatman was contacted by the Hoops Report, he stated he had "no comment at this time" on the situation.

There have been many rumors floating around the Proviso East basketball program, ranging from "a couple high-profile coaches who are interested" in the position to bringing back former Proviso East great Donnie Boyce as head coach.

Chatman took over the Proviso East basketball program in the 2004-2005 season and went 28-4 in his first year on the job. He followed it up with a 26-6 mark in his second campaign and won regional and sectional championships both years.

Proviso East has been one of the premier basketball programs in the state of Illinois for decades and boasts high-level talent returning to the program next season. Sterling Brown, a 6-4 sophomore and brother of former Proviso East star and current L.A. Lakers Shannon Brown, is one of the top prospects in the Class of 2013. Junior Keith Carter, one of the top players in the Class of 2012, will be a four-year starter next season. Plus, 6-4 Trashaun Carroll and sophomore guard Paris Lee are returning starters.

EIU lands Herron; UNI picks up Olivier

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By Joe Henricksen

The Eastern Illinois basketball program picked up another talented junior college prospect Wednesday as former Downers Grove South star Malcolm Herron, who played his JUCO ball at Western Texas, signed with the Panthers.

Meanwhile, the University of Northern Iowa landed promising big man prospect Chris Olivier. The 6-8, 240-poumd Olivier helped lead Seton Academy to a Class 2A state championship in 2009 as a junior and then put together a solid senior season. Olivier will head to the Missouri Valley Conference as a 4-man with size, bulk, skill and a craftiness around the basket.

Olivier spent this past season playing at Quakerdale Prep School in Iowa and was part of the school's first-ever prep basketball program. He averaged 15 points, 8.1 rebounds and over 3 blocks a game in 26 minutes of action this past season.

Herron joins another Chicago area product, former Marshall all-stater Darius Smith, in a recruiting class that should bolster coach Mike Miller's fortunes in Charleston. Champaign Centennial big man Josh Piper, a 6-8 face-up shooter, signed in April. The three state of Illinois products will be joined by junior college point guard Austin Akers of Olney Central College and 6-4 Trent Johnson of North Dakota State College of Science, who averaged 13.5 points a game this past season. Morris Woods, an Argo grad who played this past season at Moraine Valley Community College, signed with Eastern Illinois last fall and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-4, 205-pound Herron, who was a top 30 prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2009 rankings, will bring instant scoring ability to EIU. Herron is a big-bodied backcourt player who has the ability to knock down shots and put points on the board. As a freshman at Western Texas, Herron knocked down 45 percent of his shots from three-point range and averaged over 12 points a game. This past season Herron averaged 14 points a game.

By Joe Henricksen

The Rich Central basketball program enjoyed its greatest success in the mid-1980s. The Olympians hope a key figure from those glory days can restore a program that hasn't had a whole lot of success of late.

Bobby Smith, the Hoops Report has learned through sources, is expected to be named the next head coach at the Olympia Fields school. Smith has worked on and off at Rich Central for the past 15 years and is currently an instructional assistant in the English department and has coached AAU basketball in the south suburbs.

Smith was awarded the job after many in the south suburbs believed highly-successful Rocky Hill, the former Thornton, Julian and Crete-Monee head coach, was believed to be a frontrunner and a finalist for the job.

While Rich Central has struggled in recent years, the program has been considered one with great potential and with a solid basketball history. Coach Ron Brauer, who coached 14 seasons at Rich Central, had a great run, compiling a 202-57 record over a 10-year period (1979-1988) that included five regional championships and two sectional titles.

Both Lee Boyko, who coached in the 1990s, and Glenn Hefferman, had some success at Rich Central as well. But since winning three straight SICA South titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005, the program has had just one winning season in the past six years and finished 12-15 this past season.

Smith was a star at Rich Central in the mid-1980s for Brauer. As a junior, the 6-0 guard teamed up with superstar Kendall Gill during the 1985-86 season and helped lead the Olympians to a 31-2 record and second-place finish in state. Rich Central lost to Marcus Liberty, Levertis Robinson and Chicago King, the nation's top-ranked team, in the state title game, with Smith scoring a team-high 12 points in the championship game loss.

Smith came back the next season as a senior and led Rich Central to a 23-4 record while earning all-area and all-state recognition. The Olympians, however, were upset by Homewood-Flossmoor in the regional final. In three seasons on varsity, Smith was part of a program that went 76-10.

After starting his college career at Oral Roberts, Smith transferred to Northern Illinois and played a role in helping the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament in 1991.

Chicago State putting pieces together

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By Joe Henricksen

While the 2010-2011 season ended just a little more than two months ago for Chicago State basketball, it's a distant memory for a program that suffered through a rough 6-26 season. All eyes and thoughts are on rebuilding the basketball program and looking ahead to next season.

If there is one certainty heading into next season -- Tracy Dildy's second as head coach -- it's that there will be improved talent on campus, thanks to a large recruiting class. Dildy and the Cougars have upgraded the talent by going the junior college route.

The headliner is a familiar name in the Chicago area -- former North Lawndale star Jon Mills. The 6-4 Mills, who played at Eastern Utah Junior College, will provide an instant presence around the basket and on the glass.

As a senior at North Lawndale, where he was an all-state selection, Mills averaged 13.3 points and 14.3 rebounds a game in helping lead the Phoenix to a third-place finish in Class 3A. He continued his double-double ways at Eastern Utah, putting up 13.5 points and 11 rebounds a game in 26 minutes of action. Despite being an "undersized 4-man" his entire career, Mills is tough, gobbles up rebounds and plays with a motor. He has proven time and time again that his lack of size is not a hinderance in his productivity.

In addition to Mills, Dildy locked up an impressive recruit in Iowa Western Community College's Jeremy Robinson. The 6-8 forward starred at Decatur Eisenhower before signing with Illinois State out of high school. He ultimately ended up at Iowa Western, where he averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks this past season. In addition, Robinson will bring much-needed size and length to the Cougars.

The incoming recruiting class also includes Demerius Smith, originally from Louisiana, who is a 6-1 guard that averaged 18 points a game for Kennedy King College last year. Aaron Williams, who starred at Vocational two years ago, returns to the South Side after a year at Dodge City Community College. Williams, a 6-6 forward, averaged 7.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game as a freshman at Dodge City. Chris Key, a 6-7 forward from Bevill State Community College in Alabama, will also be heading to Chicago State after putting up 15 points and 8 rebounds a game as a freshman this past season.

Chicago State could also be on the verge of adding Lee Fisher, a transfer from Northern Illinois. Fisher, a 6-5 forward, would immediately be eligible after playing 18 minutes a game last season and averaging 3.9 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. And Shaquille Hines, a promising, long and athletic 6-7 forward who completed a solid season at Harlan, could be in the Chicago State mix as well before it's all said and done.

While the incoming class will be large and will upgrade the talent level, the outgoing seniors -- seven in all -- will all graduate with a degree.

Hoops Report's Player Power Rankings: Part II

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By Joe Henricksen

Last month the City/Suburban Hoops Report released its player power rankings, a list of the top prospects in the state of Illinois regardless of class. This Player Power Rankings Part II edition adds several more names to the original list. And no, a Class of 2012 product still hasn't dented the list.

1. JABARI PARKER, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: A one-of-a-kind talent. No one playing in the state of Illinois today (well, except Derrick Rose) is wired like Jabari Parker. Parker's will to win, team-first attitude and desire to get better as a player separates him from everyone else. Plus, he's already shown the "I get better when it matters most" gene. And, oh, he's 6-8, skilled, extremely versatile and people are finally beginning to understand he's way more athletic and explosive than given credit for.
So far: Parker has accomplished what we expect great players to do. He has been a part of two state championships for the South Side power Wolverines. He's ranked among the top five players in his class nationally. And he will be a team U.S.A. basketball fixture going forward.
Needs to: Stay grounded and humble. This shouldn't be a problem as this is one of his real strengths. Parker has rare abilities for a player with his size at his age, but maybe even more rare, is how self-effacing and truly modest this kid is, which is a credit to the loved ones around him and a true plus in his favor in his development as a player.

2. Jahlil Okafor, 6-9, C, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Year: Class of 2014
What's to like: Oh, mercy! The quintessential big man doesn't come around very often, but Okafor is the type of player we haven't seen around here in a long time -- an imposing physical presence who will overwhelm high school players in time. He's huge, light on his feet, has an emerging back-to-the-basket game, soft touch around the rim and very great hands. And when you consider his age and the time he still has to develop, the future is a very similar to Parker's: unlimited.
So far: He's only played one varsity season for a loaded Whitney Young program, but he proved his worth in the small role he played as a freshman. Like Parker, Okafor is one of the top players nationally in his class and will be one of the most coveted prospects in the country over the next three years.
Needs to: With great size and good agility, Okafor is not an overwhelming athlete. We're not talking Dwight Howard here; think Brook Lopez. Going forward, he must continue to add to his game. While he will be a dominating figure on the block with his size and feel, if Okafor develops a consistent 12-15 foot jumper? ... It's over.

3. Cliff Alexander, 6-8, C, Chicago (Curie)
Year: Class of 2014
What's to like: He's huge. A true big man with legit size, girth and he moves well for his size. With an ability to finish around the basket with authority on dunks and block and alter shots defensively, Alexander is a coveted big man prospect. The state has produced very few true big men in recent years, but Alexander has a chance to be one of the best that have come through the state. Big Cliff has a chance to be a real force in the paint and a big-time prospect.
So far: A slow start for Alexander as a freshman on varsity, even missing time in December. But Alexander certainly had his moments late in the year, including a 23-point, 8 dunk performance in a Public League playoff win over Marshall. He also had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks in a regional win over Richards and 9 points, 13 rebounds in the season-ending loss to Lyons.
Needs to: The big Condor will need to continue to define and shape his body and endurance. When that happens, Alexander will offer game-changing plays on a consistent basis. The development of big men typically takes time, but Alexander is already ahead of the curve.

4. Paul White, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Year: Class of 2014
What's to like: Remember not too long ago when the "point forward" was at the tip of the tongue in the basketball lexicon? (Thank you, Scottie Pippen!). While that terminology has cooled in recent years, point forward certainly comes to mind when watching the versatile and smooth game the long and skilled White brings to the floor. He's a player with size on the perimeter who can handle it, see the floor and make plays.
So far: White was another one of those early middle school hot shot names that pops up way too early in this day of hyping young kids. But he is also one that has grabbed the attention of high-major college coaches and even been offered before he played a varsity minute of high school basketball. His role, both on the club circuit and high school team next winter, will expand greatly.
Needs to: Like so many of those great "point forwards" who have been talked about in the past, White needs to continue tightening up his perimeter jumper and become consistent with his shot. That alone will make all other parts of his game better and elevate his stock and ceiling.

5. Tommy Hamilton, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: Since a very young age it's been impossible not to be intrigued by Hamilton's combination of tremendous size and skill. The big-bodied "Big Ham" has the capability of dropping in three-pointers and look good doing it, while also having a nice feel for the game with his footwork and a no-look pass here and there. While he's not your typical big man on the block, his face-up ability for a player his age and size is impressive. He's just so big and skilled.
So far: A bit of an up-and-down first two years of high school and summer play but with some very high peaks. But that is to be expected from a player with size and who is so young. He's been a valuable figure, though not yet dominating one, for one of the most talent-filled high school programs in the state.
Needs to: Keep with the renaissance. It sounds simple, but he must keep playing, work hard, stay in shape and remain focused. If all of those fall into place, Hamilton will live up to the absurd expectations placed on the kid when he was in 7th and 8th grade.

6. Kendall Stephens, 6-4, 2G, St. Charles (East)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: The Hoops Report admits to having a thing for Stephens as a player early on and hasn't let up. The Hoops Report hype, however, is warranted. The Purdue commit is the Illinois high school version of UConn's Jeremy Lamb. He possessed a high-major quality at a young age: a silky smooth perimeter jumper with a feathery touch and range. He has that ideal height, length and wingspan of a big-time 2-guard. Plus, he's grounded, works hard on his game, has great bloodlines and is barely scratching the surface as a player.
So far: After showing flashes and promise late in his freshman year, Stephens blossomed this past season as a sophomore. He averaged 17 points a game and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. Several high-majors took notice and he committed to Purdue, where his father Everette Stephens starred in the 1980s.
Needs to: Physical development and maturity will take care of any lingering issues of how big of an impact he can make at the high-major level. He will add weight and strength in time. When he does that, along with improving his overall ballhanding, Stephens will reach the level the Hoops Report envisions down the road.

7. Kendrick Nunn, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: An exciting talent who brings terrific athleticism and shooting ability to the 2-guard spot. He has range and a quick, fluid release when his feet are set. When Nunn is playing at a high-level, he's a game-changer with his shooting and ability to finish in transition.
So far: Burst on the scene this year with some high-level performances, including leading the Wolverines in scoring in wins over Gary Lew Wallace, Morgan Park and Hillcrest. As a sophomore, averaged just over 8 points a game for Class 4A state champions and has emerged as a consensus top five talent in the impressive sophomore class.
Needs to: Must become a bigger weapon and force off the dribble, both in creating for himself and others. Playing the point guard position for Meanstreets should enhance his ball skills development. In addition--and this should come with age and more experience--Nunn must become more consistent and get it done night after night.

8. Milik Yarbrough, 6-4, WF, Zion-Benton
Year: Class of 2014
What's to like: At first glance and against players his own age, he simply overpowers players with his combination of size and skill--in getting to the basket and around the rim. However, he's made big strides with his perimeter range, becoming a monster offensive versatile threat for such a young player. Difficult player to label due to his versatility. And what sets him apart from other young prospects is his ability to score in a variety of ways.
So far: When it comes to statistics and productivity, Yarbrough put together the most impressive season of any freshman in the state. He sports high-major interest and offers, is among the top players in his class nationally and ranked as the No. 3 freshman in the state by the Hoops Report. This spring and summer he will become a hot name on the circuit.
Needs to: Like so many young talents, coming to play every day for 32 minutes is not always a given. Yarbrough must improve the motor. In reality, his willingness to play hard has come a long way. Hopefully, Yarbrough continues to grow -- both his father, Del, and brother, Marcus, are in the 6-7 to 6-8 range -- so he can become that talented true wing with size.

9. Sterling Brown, 6-4, 2G/WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: Much like with Kendall Stephens of St. Charles East, Brown offers that look of a player who is just starting to put it together and offers so much upside and potential. He's long, rangy, athletic and has shown an ability to slash and knock down shots.
So far: Put together a very solid season, especially for a sophomore, and added bits and pieces to his game over the past 6-8 months. Brown became more assertive on both ends of the floor and showed a very respectable mid-range game. He's not yet as productive as his L.A. Lakers brother Shannon Brown was at the same stage and age, but his upside is enormous.
Needs to: He simply has to put it all together. There are definitely hurdles--added physical development is needed and consistency when it comes to overall production and shooting range--but he possesses so many impressive tools.

10. Jalen James, 6-3, PG, Chicago (Hope)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: The classic high ceiling prospect that is just starting to put it all together and join the list of elite prospects in the state of Illinois. He has terrific size for the point guard position and a good feel. But more than anything, James just has that smooth, cool look of a player as he glides up and down the floor with his size, length, skill and feel.
So far: Little-known prospect up to this point when it comes to the other names on this list. But that will change quickly. James led Hope Academy to a regional title and sectional championship game appearance in Class 1A. While doing so he rapidly developed into one of the top prospects in the heralded sophomore class.
Needs to: James, maybe more than any other player on this list, needs to take advantage of the competition offered up this spring and summer while playing with the Illinois Wolves. He must also maintain his focus and not get caught up in the attention that is--and will surely continue--coming his way.

11. Russell Woods, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Leo)
Year: Class of 2013
What's to like: He brings a lot of old fashioned 4-man qualities in that when he wants to he can rebound with just about anyone, work hard around the basket, will take a charge (he led Leo in that category as a sophomore) and is willing to get after it and defend the post. Look for Woods, who will have quite the college-ready body in a couple of years, to dominate the lane at the high school level over the next two years. He can take a little pounding and has a high-running motor. He also has a pretty good understanding of the game and finds a way to be around the ball. Woods looks the part of a typical productive college 4-man.
So far: While Leo had an uncharacteristic 15-12 season, Woods certainly had his moments where he opened eyes and gained the attention of scouts and college coaches. He may not have put up monster numbers as a sophomore, but he showed he can be a handful on the glass and one of the better prospects in the state going forward.
Needs to: Must still fully develop his game. He has some skills but many offensive subtleties are not yet second nature. Though he will surprise opponents as a lefty, he must continue to work on his off-hand to be more effective around the basket and finishing at the rim. And his mid-range, face-up game will need to continue to evolve to keep opposing defenses honest.

Class of 2013 has that look

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By Joe Henricksen

There is a whole lot to like in the Class of 2013 in Illinois. The class has star power at the top, including a player in Jabari Parker of Simeon who will be in a battle for the top spot nationally over the next two years. There is a surplus of high-major prospects and burgeoning depth with new names surfacing every month.

Here is how the Hoops Report sees the sophomore class as college prospects as it heads into the summer.

1. JABARI PARKER, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
The state's top prospect regardless of class will continue to push towards the top spot nationally in his class. Big, skilled, versatile with an unmatched basketball I.Q. and a desire to, above all else, win and succeed. You don't find this type of character, talent, size and skill in a player who has just two years of high school under his belt very often. Parker is the total package.
2. TOMMY HAMILTON, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
He's had peaks and valleys early in his career, which is common for any young player with size. Hard to ignore the abilities he possesses with that pure size. He may not be an elite athlete or a traditional on-the-block player, but the soft shooting touch, passing ability and coordination set him apart.
3. KENDALL STEPHENS, 6-4, 2G, St. Charles (East)
Hoops Report, which vaulted the smooth shooting guard into the top five players in the class nearly a year ago, has compared Stephens to a young Jeremy Lamb of UConn and isn't backing off. Stephens is silky with his jumper and adding more and more to his game. Purdue nabbed a good one who has so much more room to grow as a player.
4. KENDRICK NUNN, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
A 2-guard who brings athleticism and shooting range that are both of high-major quality. If Nunn can tighten up his handle and playmaking abilities to the point where he can be a true combo guard at the highest level, his stock will rise nationally. Still battles a little inconsistency, but he's an exciting talent who can change a game.
5. STERLING BROWN, 6-4, 2G/WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
At the same age, already taller, longer and with an equal skill level as his brother, Shannon Brown. He just isn't as physical or as productive as his brother at the same stage. But the ceiling Brown showcases seems to get higher as he keeps improving that shooting stroke and his overall game becomes more polished.
6. JALEN JAMES, 6-3, PG, Chicago (Hope)
Watch James just a few times and you see the natural look of a basketball player, gliding up and down the floor and oozing with potential. Big point guard prospect that is just beginning to scratch the surface. James first grabbed the attention of the Hoops Report at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament in December and hasn't let up in his progress.
7. RUSSELL WOODS, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Leo)
Physically, Woods is what you like in a college prospect with size, length and an impressive body and frame to build on. Plus, he's shown he plays with a motor and will get after it on the glass. Still must add to a somewhat limited offensive game.
8. MALCOLM HILL, 6-4, 2G/WF, Belleville (East)
Really blossomed during his sophomore year and put up fantastic numbers for a young player, averaging 16.7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals a game. Plus, he got to the line 132 times (shooting 74%). While his perimeter shot and range must become a bigger part of his game, he's a player with size, athleticism and a great look. Terrific looking prospect.
9. KYLE DAVIS, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (Hyde Park)
Look for Davis to put together a monster junior year next winter and emerge as one of the top players in the class. Always looking to attack, put pressure on opponents. There isn't a better player in the open court in attacking the basket, where he uses his great burst and athleticism to finish at the rim. Still a little wild and right now lacks the point guard skills and mindset to be considered an ideal combo guard.
10. ALVIN ELLIS, 6-4, WF, Chicago (De La Salle)
This is a player 12 months from now who a lot of people could be asking, "Why weren't we talking more about him for the past two years?" Hopefully with a little more refinement in his game, along with finding his true niche and position, he will be that player. Slowly making strides as one of the more athletic and active wing players in the class. Terrific running the floor and finishing on the break.
11. JAYLON TATE, 6-2, PG, Chicago (De La Salle)
He may not be a top-level athlete, but he's crafty, slithers to where he needs to be on the floor and can get to the rim and score. Pretty fearless player considering how composed he has been playing high-level basketball at a young age. His understanding of court geometry and playing the point guard position gets better and better. Still needs to show a more advanced and consistent jumper.
12. BILLY GARRETT, JR., 6-3, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
Entered high school as a smart, heady and poised player for someone so young. Extremely disciplined player. Those attributes have carried him and helped him overcome a lack of explosiveness. The DePaul commit makes good reads and has a pretty consistent perimeter jumper that extends out to the three-point line.
13. DeSHAWN MUNSON, 6-3, WF, East St. Louis, Sr.
A big, strong, athletic wing that is physically gifted and absolutely loves to attack the basket off the dribble. Averaged 15 points and 7 rebounds a game as a sophomore. He can take contact and finish. While is handle is suitable for a wing, his perimeter shot must get a whole lot better. He draws fouls, gets to the line but only shot 50 percent from the charity stripe.
14. ALEX FOSTER, 6-7, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Physically advanced and polished at an early age, Foster has evolved into a blue-collar, get-it-done type. He's not overly explosive, but he rebounds, battles and runs the floor. He's shown an ability to step away from the basket and knock down a shot.
15. NATHAN TAPHORN, 6-6, WF, Pekin
With Taphorn it's about projection. The Hoops Report raved about the upside of Taphorn earlier this spring, calling him a "super sleeper" in an earlier blog. While he's still not physically developed or imposing athletically, his size at 6-6 (and growing?) and his ability to knock down shots with range and precision is impressive. Throw in a solid basketball I.Q. and Taphorn is a prospect who could continue to rise.
16. ANDREW McAULIFFE, 6-7, PF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North)
A true big man who can get some things done on the block and with his back to the basket. He possesses a solid skill level with a unique ability to use both hands in the lane and around the basket. Limited athletically, so another inch or two would do wonders for McAuliffe, who sports an offer from Northwestern. But with big men at such a premium, McAuliffe's stock should remain very high throughout the recruiting process.
17. QUINTEN PAYNE, 6-3, PG/2G, St. Charles (North)
The brother of former Iowa guard Cully Payne (transferring to Loyola). A guard with very good size, build and smarts. Just a solid player in many different areas of the game who will make the pass, knock a shot down and make the right play. May not be as natural and fluid as a player as his brother, but he has better size and is more versatile.
18. MARKEE WILLIAMS, 5-9, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
A true point guard who makes plays, has a solid court sense for a young player and is an extremely mature and advanced player for a young lead guard. Despite his lack of size and athleticism for a high-level point guard, Williams is strong and does a great job of using that strength to convert plays under pressure. He must show the capability of consistently knocking down shots.
19. LANCE WHITAKER, 6-3, 2G/WF, Bartlett
A prospect that has made a big impact as a young player at the high school level as a strong, mature wing (played a lot of PG for his high school team). Has a developed body that he uses to his advantage. Solid mid-range game who also has good balance and body control when finishing around the basket. Marginal quickness and athleticism is a question mark.
20. MOSHAWN THOMAS, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Bogan)
Agile big man who can run the floor and, with some teaching and technique, can become a defensive presence. Raw talent who is still finding his way, but he brings legit size, a nose for the ball and can clean up on the glass. Offensively, a bit challenged, developing and not yet comfortable with the ball in his hands. But he boasts an enormous package of potential and is just starting to put it all together.

By Joe Henricksen

Illinois has landed the "Mali Masher." But this is more about Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard than the fact the Fighting Illini have secured a commitment from Ibrahima Djimde.

The superlatives have been thrown Jerrance Howard's way. The Illinois assistant coach, in a rather short period of time, has established himself as one of the elite recruiters in the country. And his value to the Illinois basketball program is so vital and obviously immeasurable, especially at a time when certain negativity has followed coach Bruce Weber's program of late.

With the Sunday morning commitment of Djimde, a West Virginia prep school player, Howard has now been the lead recruiter for all six incoming freshmen next year -- De La Salle's Mike Shaw, Orr's Mycheal Henry, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, St. Ignatius' Nnanna Egwu and Devin Langford out of Alabama -- and a senior transfer, former Bradley point guard Sam Maniscalco. Seven recruits? In one class?

That, folks, just doesn't happen. Do you realize the time commitment that goes into recruiting, landing and signing just one or two prospects in any single class while singling out others in younger classes? And so much for Illinois not being able to recruit the city of Chicago.

While Djimde may not bring the national ranking the others in the class will be able to put in the media guide, by all accounts he will be a key and pivotal piece. The description of Djimde, a 6-9, 240-pound true power forward, is what Illinois has lacked -- big, strong, physical post who plays hard and with a ton of energy. Who cares if his offense is lacking, so say those who have watched him. The native of Mali in Africa fills a monstrous void the Illinois program has been lacking.

How soon will his impact be felt? Who knows? He will be just a freshman. But because of what he is as a player, there are those around the Illinois program who really believe he could provide valuable minutes right away and make an impact sooner than later.

With the departure of Jereme Richmond, who would have been playing a ton of minutes next season at the 4-spot if he were still a part of the program, Illinois would have been scary thin up front in terms of bodies, experience and style of play needed at the power forward and center positions. Illinois went out and tried to land the ideal fit for what it needed, regardless of stature, ranking or who was recruiting him.

Howard will now re-charge the batteries and set his sights on the young talent budding in Illinois. He's licking his chops at the thought of recruiting the likes of Simeon's Jabari Parker, the Whitney Young trio of Jahlil Okafor, Paul White and Tommy Hamilton and making more trips to Massachusetts to try and land point guard prospect Johnnie Vassar in the Class of 2014.

A lot of credit goes to Weber, who did go out on a limb when Howard was hired in 2007. Weber took some hits from critics (Weber has critics?) with his choice of Howard, who "wasn't a Chicago guy" and "didn't have the experience." Howard has more than passed the test and validated Weber's gut feeling four years ago.

There is definitely a part of Howard who is looking forward to the day when people realize and appreciate he's more than just a superstar recruiter. While still young and in need of additional seasoning in the coaching profession, he constantly is looking for ways to improve himself as a coach. Howard wants to get better, seeks feedback -- both positive and negative -- from veteran coaches who he showers with questions.

It's no wonder why Howard has been such a prized commodity and wanted by some of the elite college coaches and programs in the country -- some that have been public and some that have been behind the scenes. Howard has gone from a young, energetic, wet behind the ears assistant coach to a recruiting force and presence in the business. And his energy and passion are contagious.

He meets and exceeds so many of the standards that makes a great recruiter: tireless worker, connected, respected and as personable and easy to relate to as anyone out there. As one recruit's father recently told the Hoops Report: "He just makes you feel like you've known him for so long and are long-lost pals as soon as you meet him."

As with any business, there are some out there in the coaching profession with a bit of jealousy towards Howard. There are assistant coaches, some who have been on the job many years longer than Howard, who do get a little tired of the hype thrown his way and the attention he has received from a few of the elite college programs in the country. But those coaches also find it nearly impossible to dislike Howard. That's where the magnitude of Howard's personality -- the down-to-earth, fun-loving, lack of arrogance -- shines through.

As the whopping seven recruits in the Class of 2011 indicate, along with keeping Jereme Richmond committed (yes, we know how that worked out), landing Crandall Head and establishing strong relationships with so many young players in the state, Howard is not one of those hot flavors of the month. The résumé is slowly (well, maybe not slowly) and surely being built. And as his craft continues to emerge, Howard will make himself more marketable as a head coaching candidate sooner than later.

Open path for Pingatore in chase for record

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By Joe Henricksen

When St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore broke Dick Van Scyoc's state career record for high school victories in 2009 with his 827th win, the record was short lived. Rockford Boylan coach Steve Goers, who was also in hot pursuit of Van Scyoc's win total, soon passed Pingatore and is now currently the all-time leader in career wins.

Goers, however, announced his retirement this week. And with a solid season next winter, Pingatore will reclaim the top spot and, in all likelihood, hold one of the most prestigious state records forever.

The culture of the prep basketball coach in Illinois, both in the mindset and opportunities available, has changed dramatically. Coaches are getting their first crack at head jobs later in age in comparison to 25 or 35 years ago. Plus, the burnout rate is climbing by the year, with the demands and pressure of the job (and the little pay that goes with it) increasing. With that being said, we will be hard pressed to find the "coaching lifer"--the Gene Pingatores, the Steve Goers, the Gordie Kerkmans--in years to come.

So the idea of any coach putting together a career like Pingatore, with 40-plus years as a head coach and in all probability 900-plus wins, is highly unlikely. Repeat: 900 wins.

Goers, who is just shy of 69, finishes his career with an incredible 881 wins. In addition, he caps off an iconic coaching career that includes some mind-boggling accomplishments.

In 39 years of coaching, Goers won 28 regional and 17 sectional championships. He led eight teams to the state tournament--Oswego in 1974 and then taking Boylan to state seven different times. Boylan finished fourth in the state in 1992, 1994 and 1997. And the consistency has been remarkable, with 30 consecutive winning seasons and 20-plus wins in 26 of his final 28 seasons as coach.

Pingatore had a young and rather inexperienced team this past season, which led to a rocky start and tough first season in the Chicago Catholic League. The Chargers, who finished an uncharacteristic 10-17, have a solid nucleus returning. And Pingatore has 6-4 freshman Paul Turner to build around, one of the top young prospects in the state.

Will Pingatore coach forever? Well, maybe. In a conversation with the Hoops Report this winter, Pingatore indicated he's not ready to step down and hasn't given it a whole lot of thought.

Now Pingatore, who has accomplished anything and everything a coach can--building a nationally-recognized program, winning a state title, featured in the documentary film Hoop Dreams, coaching an all-time great in Isiah Thomas and a McDonald's All-American team--can lock in a legendary mark that will never be broken.

BY THE NUMBERS
(Most coaching wins in state history)
881 Steve Goers, Rockford Boylan
862 Gene Pingatore, St. Joseph
826 Dick Van Scyoc, Peoria Manual
810 Arthur Trout, Centralia
792 Vergil Fletcher, Collinsville

By Joe Henricksen

If you talk to any college basketball coach, he will tell you "something needs to be changed." And anyone listening knows exactly what he's talking about without anything else being said: recruiting.

What those "changes" are depends on what coach you talk to. They all have different opinions (those will be shared in a future blog).

The current setup of rules and practices in recruiting basketball prospects can boggle the mind. For starters, the lack of contact and the ability college coaches currently have to evaluate and, more importantly, communicate with prospects (at least legally) is ludicrous.

Coaches desperately want more direct access to prospects and their coaches, parents and guardians. The inability to truly get to know a potential player -- both his strengths and weaknesses as a player and what makes him tick -- has led to pitfalls for everyone. It's a big reason why the Division I transfer count keeps climbing after every basketball season. In many cases, there are missed evaluations when it comes to the process, whether that's how much upside the prospect has or who that player is as a person.

As it stands now, college coaches have to keep a long checklist of do's and don'ts when it comes to the rules and regulations of recruiting a student-athlete. The basics are:

... There are 130 "man days" from Sept. 9 to April 20 where coaches can be off-campus, with various "dead periods" mixed in that really squeeze the college coach's time. As an example, if a head coach and assistant coach were to both go and watch a prospect on the same day, it counts as two "man days" towards the 130.

... A coaching staff can evaluate an unsigned player seven times off campus during the "man days", three of which can be contact and four strictly for evaluation purposes.

... While a prospect or their parent can make contact with a coaching staff at any time, college coaches can't call a prospect until just after their sophomore year -- June 15 -- and can then only call once a month over the next 14 months. On Aug. 1, just prior to the player's senior year, coaches can begin calling twice a week. However, by that time many prospects have already committed and will sign in three months.

There are a number of associations and committees banging their heads in an attempt to come up with solutions. The NCAA Division I Board of Directors started up a Leadership Council to study the men's basketball recruiting practices. A recent report of the Division I Leadership Council shows some alternatives, some of which are drastically different, to the current recruiting model. Some have been done in the past but with a twist.

A big potential change would be the amount of personal contact between college coaches and prospects. Currently, the amount of contact (phone, text, etc.) is controlled and limited, which has led to several NCAA infractions by coaches in recent years (i.e. Kelvin Sampson at Oklahoma and Indiana). A new proposal would allow unlimited communication, starting August 1 just prior to a prospect's junior year in high school. The rule is intended to eliminate the go-between people, or "third parties," that are so heavily involved in a player's recruitment.

The early thought here is that, in the end, we will never get to the point of free communication between college coach and high school prospect. The negative, of course, is simple to figure out: basketball playing teen is bombarded by phone calls and texts from college coaches.

There is also a model being floated around that increases the emphasis of on-campus access with recruits. How about tryouts on campus, which would be similar to the current Division II model? There is a suggestion that would allow actual tryouts during official visits, with those official paid visits being bumped up to April 15 of the player's junior year instead of waiting until the fall of their senior year.

So in theory, a prospect or two could visit campus in the summer, play with the current players in the program with the college coaching staff looking on. The rule would be that a pre-tryout physical is required and the tryouts must be closed to the public and unpublicized. But this certainly brings a more hands-on opportunity for college coaching staffs.

Also, the proposed alternative would not only allow for a school to pay for the prospect's official visit, but also pay for two parents/legal guardians to accompany the prospect on the official visit.

And there are recommendations to alter the recruiting calendar, specifically the July evaluation period. Currently, there are two 10-day evaluation periods in July -- 10 days on, 5 days off, 10 days on. The problem, however, is that in those 20 days there are wasted evaluation opportunities.

For starters, college coaches are criss-crossing the country trying to hit as many of the events and see as many players as possible. And that includes players of all different ages, including young freshmen, which is significantly different than even 10 years ago.

Also, anyone who has really covered the July AAU circuit knows the final two or three days of the second July evaluation period can be dreadful, with players dead tired and college coaches with one eye on the clock and the other on the door waiting to get home after a grueling stretch.

When you combine the hectic travel and the poor basketball often played over the final two or three days of July, it could be argued the 20 days in July are actually 15 or 16 "true, quality evaluation days."

There are a pair of recruiting calendar alternatives that are being presented by a group of conference office administrators with NCAA rules compliance and basketball backgrounds from the ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC.

Five of the six conferences (excluding the SEC) reached a general consensus that reduces the summer evaluation while also reinstating a brief evaluation period for non-scholastic events held during two weekends in April. An April evaluation period for certified non-scholastic events would be held on Saturday and Sunday for two weeks beginning two weekends after the Final Four. If those two weekends conflict with ACT/SAT national testing dates, evaluations would be permitted during an alternate weekend in April or May.

The two 10-day evaluation periods in July would be replaced by three weekend evaluations (Friday-Sunday) in July. Limiting the summer evaluation period to weekends would allow college coaches to remain on-campus with their team members during the week and provide greater interaction between coaches and student-athletes.

The SEC proposes something entirely different, with a model that doesn't allow for any April evaluations of any kind. Instead, this model focuses on contact and opens up April as strictly a contact period for college coaches.

When it comes to the different models and suggestions, all agree that the creation of some form of evaluation camps could be a valuable tool in the recruiting process. The logistics, such as sites, total number of players and ages, format, cost and college coaches' ability to work the camps, are all to be determined. The belief is to somehow get USA Basketball-styles involved in the setup of these specific evaluation camps.

The SEC model states that after a three-year period of non-scholastic events during a nine-day period in July (i.e. AAU events), there is a transition to evaluation camps only in July. Thus, the AAU circuit would be entirely eliminated in their evaluation process.

Someone could find faults with just about any of the suggestions listed. As an example, the Hoops Report can't imagine a July evaluation period strictly made up of "evaluation camps" as the SEC model suggests. Having players go through organized drills and skill tests would be valuable, but throwing together 10 players that have never played with one another to evaluate them is never ideal.

The options are endless. Finding the one that suits everyone, players and college coaches included, is the challenge.

Orris commits to Creighton

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By Joe Henricksen

A visit to Omaha this week was apparently enough to end the recruiting surge that was hitting Crete-Monee's Michael Orris. The 6-3 junior guard, who received a high-major offer from Illinois recently, committed to coach Greg McDermott and Creighton on Sunday.

"I didn't expect the process to go this quickly, but it just hit me when I was on my visit that this was the place," said Orris. "I just felt it. You can't really explain the feeling I had while I was on my visit."

Orris said he was looking for a combination of "big-time basketball and strong academics with a small school atmosphere academically." He's certain he found both at Creighton.

"From a basketball standpoint, Creighton provides that big-time atmosphere with 17,000 fans and it just feels like a basketball school," Orris said. "The Creighton fans are passionate about their basketball. Also, academically it's strong and small, where you're not just a number. That's what I was looking for academically. It really is the best of both worlds for me when it comes to basketball and academics."

Orris, who is among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2012, led Crete-Monee to 25 wins and the school's first-ever sectional title this past season. He averaged 10.2 points and 6.2 assists a game, but his presence and overall floor game is what was so impressive. Creighton, who just recently jumped into the Orris recruitment, has locked up a pure point guard who is tough, poised, sees the floor and will run a team.

Creighton finished this past season with 23 wins, picking up four wins in the CBI postseason tournament. But the Bluejays return their top three leading scorers, including freshman Doug McDermott, the team's leading scorer and son of the head coach.

McDermott's son, in fact, played a big part in helping Orris come closer to a decision. He hit it off with both McDermotts -- both coach and player -- while on his visit.

"I absolutely hit it off with their players, especially Doug McDermott," Orris said. "And coach McDermott is a great man who has a good track record."

In addition to the Creighton and Illinois offers, Orris was recruited by the likes of Wichita State, UIC, William & Mary, Drake, Butler, Missouri State, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Minnesota.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Joe Henricksen in May 2011.

Joe Henricksen: April 2011 is the previous archive.

Joe Henricksen: June 2011 is the next archive.

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