By Roy & Harv Schmidt
There was plenty of talent on display in both the class 3A and 4A supersectional games that were played at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb last night. Coming in, most everyone thought that the most entertaining matchup would be the battle between Indiana University recruit Matt Roth of Washington and University of Illinois class of 2009 commit Joe Bertrand of Sterling. In the end however, it was a pair of other talented underclassmen and an unheralded senior who turned in the top three performances of the evening.
There may not be another underclass player in the state who has helped his cause more throughout the course of the state tournament than 6'3 sophomore Lenzelle Smith from Zion-Benton. Smith was spectacular in Zion Benton's 64-50 win over Elgin, as he nearly recorded a triple-double, finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. What makes Smith a terrific college prospect above everything else is his offensive versatility. Not only is he highly athletic, but he is also a good shooter to 3-point land, can handle the ball and is a tremendous passer from the wings and on the break. And he goes to war on the glass, as his rebounding totals attest to. In our minds there is now no question that Smith can lay claim to being the #3 ranked prospect in Illinois from the class of 2010 behind Jereme Richmond and Crandall Head.
Recruiting-wise, while the scholarship offers have not come Smith's way just yet, we are willing to bet that is going to change very soon. University of Illinois head coach Bruce Weber, Southern Illinois University head coach Chris Lowery and Illinois State University assistant coach Rob Judson were all front and center in DeKalb watching Smith intently. Southern Illinois was among the first schools to show recruiting interest in Smith, while Illinois has had a coach at Smith's last two state tournament contests. Judson, meanwhile, is a Zion-Benton alum and therefore has an obvious connection. Moral to the story? Don't be surprised if Smith were to receive offers from all three of these schools before it is all over.
We are beginning to think that Dyricus Simms-Edwards may end up being Washington's best college prospect, as he has outperformed his more heralded teammate Roth on both occassions in which we have watched him this season. Simply put, Simms-Edwards has a tremendous feel for the game and does a lot of things quite well. He is a good ballhandler who plays under control, has a great nose for the ball, defends and has an outstanding mid-range game. Should Simms-Edwards improve his range on his jumpshot, you are looking at a potential high major player. With that being said, Simms-Edwards could very well end up being the player whose recruiting stock goes through the roof more than any other this summer. He is a high priority for both Illinois State and Bradley, while both Illinois and Southern Illinois are showing substantial interest.
In a previous blog we told everyone who would listen that Jeremy Granger is one of the most underrated back court performers in the state and he only confirmed that belief with his effort vs. Zion-Benton, as he finished with 21 points to go along with 8 rebounds. The bottom line is that we think that a lot of low major D1 programs may have missed the boat on Granger, as he is every bit as good as many of the in-state guards who have signed with schools at that level. At this point it looks like Eastern Illinois University is the current leader for Granger's services, as he has already taken an unofficial visit to the Charleston campus. Granger has indicated, however, that he might take a couple of other visits before making a decision.
Needless to say, both Smith and Simms-Edwards look to be among the star attractions this coming weekend as their respective teams take center stage at the state finals in Peoria, as Zion-Benton faces Evanston in a Class 4A semifinal, while Washington battles Marshall in a Class 3A semifinal. Zion-Benton has now suddenly emerged as the favorite to win the Class 4A championship, while Washington will certainly have its hands full against a Marshall team that may be playing better than any team in the state right now. It just goes to show how nothing can be taken for granted with the new four class system, as coming into the tournament most people thought that Class 4A would offer a more talented field than Class 3A. Now as we head into the final weekend of the high school basketball season in Illinois, it clearly looks to be the other way around.
Other players who figure to be among the headliners and could end up being the difference with respect to their team's quest to win a state championship include 6'9 Stan Simpson and 6'0 Kenyon Smith from Simeon, 6'4 Ryan Hare and 6'2 junior Darius Smith from Marshall, 6'3 Verdell Jones and 6'4 Donald Stewart from Champaign Central in Class 3A; and 6'3 Steven Rudnicki from Evanston, 6'5 Carl Richard and 6'7 junior Shaun Pratl from Richards and 6'2 Brian Bradley and 6'6 Justin Jarosz from Lockport in Class 4A.
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