By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Whether you like it or whether you don't, the bottom line is that in today's world of college basketball recruiting, a player's reputation is either made or destroyed on the basis of how well he plays during the critical April and July evaluation periods. With that in mind, in this blog we are going to take a look at six players who we think stand a good chance of putting themselves on the map based on how they perform on the travel team circuit over the course of the next four months.
Before we begin, let us offer a couple of classic examples which personify how a prospect can go from rags to riches on the basis of one outstanding performance during the spring or summer. The first one involves Bobby Frasor, who was competing with the Illinois Wolves at the Kingwood Classic in Houston. In one of the Wolves' early round contests, Frasor was on fire, as he put on a three-point shooting clinic. It just so happened that one of the coaches who caught Frasor's performance was North Carolina's Roy Williams, who up until that point had never seen Frasor play. As they say, the rest is history, as ultimately Frasor would end up accepting a scholarship to North Carolina. It was a classic case of a coach being in the right place at the right time.
The second case is more recent and involves Oak Park's Iman Shumpert. While Shumpert had already established himself in the eyes of local scouts and media with a strong junior season at Oak Park, he had gone virtually undetected on the national radar until last spring. Then all of a sudden it happened. Playing for Full Package Athletics at the King James Classic in Akron, OH, Shumpert went off and totally dominated every game. From that point on, one national guru proceeded in touting (or do we dare say overtouting?) Shumpert to where high major programs were all over him. The end result? Shumpert was named a McDonald's All-American and ended up signing with Georgia Tech.
So there you have it. Players come out of the woodwork during the spring and summer, and we are willing to bet that there is a good chance that it could happen again this year. Therefore, we now take a look at six players who we think are on the verge of breaking out and could really enhance their reputations between now and the end of July. We ask that everyone keep an open mind about this, as this is only a preliminary list, meaning that more players could easily be added once we get an opportunity to see them.
Seth Evans 6'1 PG Seneca (H.S.) Illinois Stars
Evans was very much the glue to his team when we watched the Stars at the 17-under state AAU competition at East Aurora High School a week ago. He is a smart and heady point guard who when he plays under control can prove to be quite effective. Not only does Evans see the floor well and do a good job of pushing the ball up the court, but he can also keep defenses honest from 3-point land. Evans has already committed to Wisconsin-Green Bay, where we think he will prove to be a most serviceable point guard.
Connor Mooney 5'10 PG Lake Zurich (H.S.) Team NLP
While both NLP teams that competed at the 17-under state AAU competition were loaded, Mooney may have turned in the best performance of any player on either team when we watched him on the second day of action. Mooney plays with a high level of confidence and is much quicker than people give him credit for. He showed us that he can get to the basket vs. quality competition and is effective at either converting or drawing contact and getting to the free throw line. Not only that, but if you back off of him, he is capable of burning you from downtown. Mooney definitely warrants close monitoring, and some D1s have already begun to take notice.
John Taylor 5'11 PG Chicago (North Lawndale) Mac Irvin Fire
We will stand by the comments that we have made all along when it comes to Taylor's game--he has as much offensive versatility as any other guard in the 2009 class from Illinois and based on sheer talent alone ranks among the top five players in the class. The problem is that not too many others know it because Taylor missed a huge chunk of North Lawndale's contests down the stretch (he sat out the entire state tournament) because he was academically ineligible. However, he plays on a traveling team which might sport more talent from top to bottom than any other in the state, which is why we believe that it is now his time to shine.
Drew Crawford 6'4 2G Naperville (Central) Illinois Warriors
While others are much higher on Crawford than we are at this point, that does not mean that we think that Crawford isn't capable of being a terrific college player. He is long and athletic, plays with a high degree of energy, is an outstanding mid-range scorer and while he is streaky from beyond the arc, he undoubtedly has range. To top everything off, he plays for a traveling team that will fully maximize all of his strengths. Crawford is already drawing a wide range of recruiting interest from a number of D1 programs.
D.J. Cooper 5'9 PG Chicago (Hales Franciscan) Mean Streets
Although both Matt Humphrey and Josh Crittle were more highly publicized, we thought that Cooper was unquestionably Hales Franciscan's MVP this past season and proved so in a number of high-profile contests. It appears as if Cooper is picking right up where he left off, as reports are that he has performed extremely well at this weekend's Boo Williams Invitational in Hampton, VA. Cooper has tremendous court savvy and is capable of controlling the game despite being only 5'9. We continue to be amazed at how a player can be so quick and yet consistently play under control, but Cooper manages to do it repeatedly. We see him as an ideal mid-major prospect.
Ben Brust 6'2 2G Mundelein (H.S.) Rising Stars 16-Under
Forget about the fact that Brust is only a sophomore--he is one of the best shooters in the state regardless of class. Not only does Brust have textbook form, but he also has a quick release and is capable of getting his shot from virtually anywhere on the floor. He is also effective in the open court, as he is adept at getting out on the break and scoring in transition. We would still like to see him continue to improve his ball handling and diversify his game even more, but overall the skill set is definitely there. Programs such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Virginia and Illinois State have already been in contact.