By Roy & Harv Schmidt
As we have said numerous times, one event does not determine a player's ranking or evaluation. At the same time, when you have an event as prestigious as last weekend's Assembly Hall Shootout in Champaign, it can have a huge degree of influence with respect to either raising or lowering a player's stock. Such was the case with Rich South sophomore Crandall Head and Sterling junior Joe Bertrand.
Make no mistake about it, this past Saturday's event at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall was an opportunity for all of the recruits who have already pledged their commitments to the Illini, as well as several underclass prospects who Illini head coach Bruce Weber and his coaching staff are targeting heavily, to perform on center stage. Not only that, but it offered all of them the chance to show that they belong--that they deserve to be mentioned among the elite prospects in the state of Illinois.
No two players enhanced their stock more at the Assembly Hall Shootout than Head and Bertrand. Head in particular had everyone in attendance buzzing, finishing with 34 points on 14-21 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds and 3 steals in a 62-60 loss to Champaign Centennial. Simply put, he did a little bit of everything. He drilled threes, converted turnovers, showed his utter explosiveness in terms of getting to the basket, and wowed the crowd with his athleticism.
Those who think that Head is now the #1 player in the class of 2010 or that he is better than his brother Luther at the same stage are getting a little carried away. We do find the resemblance between Crandall and Luther to be a striking one, as they have similar overall skill sets. While Crandall may be a better shooter than Luther was as a sophomore in high school, we still have vivid memories of Luther as a sophomore at Manley and the bottom line is that he was pretty darned good. At the present time, we do not think that Head is the #1 sophomore in Illinois, as we rank him just behind Waukegan's Jereme Richmond and Whitney Young's Anthony Johnson. However, there is no question that he has closed the gap significantly.
What adds to the excitement surrounding Crandall Head is that a future commitment to the University of Illinois is imminent and may in fact already be a done deal. The current word is that he will make a formal announcement some time in January. All the more reason to be on cloud nine if you are a charter member of the Illini Nation.
Moving to Bertrand, the Illini class of 2009 commit made quite a statement as well, as he ended up with 28 points on 11-18 shooting in Sterling's 57-51 win over Peoria Central. At the present time Bertrand clearly ranks among the top 2 or 3 prospects in the state from the 2009 class. He may have the most versatility, as he is capable of playing as many as three positions on the floor. All three of the current Illini commitments from the class of 2009 (Bertrand, Peoria Central's D.J. Richardson and Warren's Brandon Paul) have been mentioned as candidates for the point guard spot once the 2009-10 season begins. However, Bertrand may be the one who is most ready to assume that position right now.
Based on his performance in Champaign, Bertrand showed that he is a great slasher and mid-range player, as he consistently gets into the lane and can hit short floaters or dish to an open teammate. He also has the ability to drill shots from downtown and has a good feel and understanding of the game. Above everything else he is smooth. There is no question that any Illini fan who sees Bertrand for the first time will take an immediate liking to him.
While Head and Bertrand have made significant moves in our rankings and evaluations, we once again emphasize that one event doesn't automatically change things. Classic examples of this are two other players who participated in the Assembly Hall Shootout who have already committed to the Illini, those being Paul and Richmond. Although neither Paul or Richmond were as dominant as Head or Bertrand, we also don't think that either player did anything to signify that their stock has fallen. As a result, Paul and Richmond remain our top ranked players in Illinois from the classes of 2009 and 2010 respectively.
We have several thoughts on some other players who we have seen recently as well. However, we believe that we would be better served to offer those upon the conclusion of the holiday tournaments, most of which are only a week away, with the exception of those that start as early as this weekend. On that note, we wish everyone a joyous holiday season.