By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Let us cut through the chase and make one thing abundantly clear right now. Mt. Carmel freshman Tracy Abrams is as good as any other guard in the state of Illinois from the class of 2011. You name 'em--Donivine Stewart, Jay Parker, Ryan Boatright--after watching Abrams turn in a terrific performance in the Class 4A Sectional at Proviso East, there is no doubt in our mind that he can play with any of them. With Abrams' arrival, the class of 2011 is shaping up to be as good as any class in recent memory from the state of Illinois.
It is rare when a freshman leads his team to the state finals and ends up being the most dominant player on the floor throughout the course of a sectional, especially one that was as loaded as the one at Proviso East. But that is the case with Abrams, who was absolutely sensational in his team's sectional victories over De LaSalle and Whitney Young. And when one considers the fact that Mt. Carmel has defeated four higher-seeded teams (as they upset St. Ignatius and Farragut in the regionals) to reach the Class 4A supersectional at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates next Tuesday night, it makes Abrams' efforts even more impressive.
First of all, Mt. Carmel was a very good team to start the season, as they were ranked among the top 20 teams in the Chicago area in several preseason polls and have the best coach in the state in Mike Flaherty. However, for whatever reason, Abrams did not log much playing time earlier in the season. The bottom line is that with Abrams in the lineup, Mt. Carmel can play with any team in the state and Abrams' performance throughout the state tournament thus far is proof of that. At this point Mt. Carmel is one game away from a trip to Peoria for the state finals and considering that virtually all of the pre-tourney favorites have now bitten the dust, we wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Mt. Carmel win the whole thing.
After observing Abrams for a mere couple of minutes vs. De LaSalle in the sectional semifinal at Proviso East, our immediate reaction was that we can't believe that he is only a freshman in high school. Simply put, Abrams doesn't have the demeanor of a high school freshman, has more of a demeanor resembling a college senior. He plays with an extremely high level of confidence, has no fear and is as tough as nails. He is an outstanding ballhandler with blazing quickness which allows him to get to the goal with ease. In addition, he plays under control, makes good decisions and has a nice medium-range jumpshot. To top everything off, he is also a good perimeter defender.
Now that Abrams has burst onto the scene, he adds further depth to the class of 2011 in Illinois and is yet another reason why this class is capable of ranking with the best in the state's recent history. There is enormous talent at almost every position. The state's top two prospects from this class--De La Salle's 6'8 Mike Shaw and Curie's 6'5 Wayne Blackshear-- are both skilled wing players. The point guard position is absolutely stacked, as it includes Abrams, Stewart, Parker and Boatright. There are several other talented wing prospects in the class of 2011 who haven't quite carved out the reputation that these players have just yet, but are certainly capable of doing so before it is all over. Right now the only thing that might be lacking is a true post player, but it is still early enough in the game that we aren't going to quibble about that right now.
In time the class of 2011 will continue to sort itself out. However, one thing that we can now say without hesitation is that Abrams is clearly among the top five prospects in the state from the 2011 class and as we previously mentioned, is just as good as any of the other highly-touted guards in this class. With that in mind, as the regular season winds down and we get set to turn our attention to the AAU circuit, we look forward to watching Abrams over the course of this spring and summer.