By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Bruce Weber has received considerable credit (and rightfully so) for being able to wrap up early commitments from three of the top prospects in Illinois from the class of 2009. However, when it is all said and done, Weber's greatest recruiting catch over the past year (not counting class of 2010 commits Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head) just might prove to be his lone recruit from the class of 2008, that being 6'9 Stan Simpson from Simeon.
Those who subscribe to our scouting service and read our web site know that we were the first ones to tout Simpson as a possible top five player in the state from the 2008 class right around this time last year, while he was still playing at Leo (prior to him transferring to Simeon). At that time we described how we really liked Simpson's up side and how we thought that he was as offensively skilled and coordinated as any other big man in Illinois.
One only needed to take in Simpson's performance last night at Batavia's Night Of Hoops to see that our assessment was right on the money. In an absolutely electric atmosphere, Simpson notched a double-double, scoring 23 points to go along with 14 rebounds in Simeon's 68-65 double overtime win over Batavia, which was hands down the best high school basketball game that we have seen this season. Not only that, but Simpson also tallied six blocks in the contest, with the biggest one coming toward the end of the second overtime to help preserve the victory.
What we like about Simpson first and foremost is that he knows what he is, which is a true post player. In today's day and age where the majority of big man want to drift outside and show off their face-up game by trying to knock down three-pointers, Simpson is content to play with his back to the basket, and there is no question that is where he can be dominating. Not only does Simpson have great hands and run the court exceptionally well, but he also possesses a nice soft shooting touch in the paint area, protects the ball well, and controls the backboards.
The only real knock on Simpson is that he doesn't always play with intensity, a complaint which is a legitimate one. However, when he does he can prove to be unstoppable. Therefore, we once again repeat what we said earlier--we believe that Simpson is as offensively skilled as any post player in Illinois regardless of class.
There has been considerable talk that Simpson could end up redshirting at Illinois next season. This would be a move that could be in his best interests, as it would allow him to concentrate on his academics and continue to work on improving his game on his own with individual instruction. One thing that we know for certain is that Bruce Weber will undoubtedly get the most out of Simpson during his entire time at Illinois. After all of the praises that we have already sung concerning Simpson, just imagine how much better he is capable of becoming under Weber.
With all of this having been said, we need to point out one more scenario. When one considers the present makeup of the Big Ten, most would probably agree that the conference is currently devoid of quality big men. Whether it will stay that way in two years is anybody's guess. After all, the overall talent level in almost any conference tends to go in cycles.
Nevertheless, we believe that with a year of seasoning under his belt and a continued willingness to listen to instruction and play with passion at all times, that Simpson is more than capable of emerging as one of the premier post players in the Big Ten down the road. If and when it happens, remember where you heard it first.