By Roy & Harv Schmidt
As we have indicated before, it is a common tendency for plenty of others who evaluate high school basketball players to fall in love with a player on the basis of a single game performance. All too often the mentality is one which consists of "what have you done for me lately?" That mentality may be suitable for talk radio and the tabloids, but not for anyone who wants to operate a legitimate scouting service. Anyone who needs to see examples of what we are talking about needs to look no further than others' current evaluations of the class of 2011 in Illinois.
First of all, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the 2011 class in Illinois is an extremely talented class. As we have indicated on numerous occassions, it has a chance to ultimately rank as one of the best classes in Illinois high school basketball history. That in itself is fine. The problem is that whenever you have a class that is this talented, there is a huge tendency for evaluators to go out on the limb on certain players in order to be able to say that their evaluations are the most accurate. It looks as though that is the case yet again.
The best example of what we are talking about involves Chasson Randle, a 6'1 point guard from Rock Island. Let us begin by saying that Randle is a very good player and certainly one of the top prospects in the state from the class of 2011. That is the good news. The bad news is that other evaluators are getting carried away with their evaluation of Randle. Another internet service now has Randle ranked as the second best player in the class of 2011 and there is no question that it is solely because Randle plays for the Illinois Wolves traveling team and the Wolves' coach is the personal benefactor of the person who runs that site. In other words, the ranking has absolutely nothing to do with Randle's actual ability. Since then others have followed suit, as they have also moved Randle up in their rankings and continued to heap praise despite the fact that they haven't seen Randle play on more than a couple of occassions at best.
But the latest example is the one that really has us scratching our head. As it turns out, there is now one evaluator who believes that Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams is the #1 player in Illinois from the 2011 class. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, we can't help but wonder what the basis for this ranking is, especially seeing as though just yesterday this same evaluator told us that he believed that De LaSalle's Mike Shaw was the #1 player in the class. In other words, was it a single game performance from Abrams at the Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout this past weekend that got this evaluator to change his mind? It certainly seems that way, and offers a perfect illustration of the "flavor of the month" mentality.
With all of this being said, let's be clear about one thing right now-- Mike Shaw was the state's #1 player from the class of 2011 yesterday, he still is today, he will be tomorrow and we are willing to bet that he will be for a very long time. Simply put, at 6'7 Shaw has an overall skill set that is unmatched by any other player in the class and is capable of doing things that the rest simply can't do. Okay, maybe Shaw wasn't able to lead his high school team on a deep run through the state tournament the way Abrams was this past March. We say "so what?" Shaw has proven himself time and time again against quality competition. Furthermore, if you were to ask at least ten D1 college coaches who they believe is a better college prospect between Shaw and Abrams we are willing to bet that the majority (if not all) of them would say Shaw.
Please understand that none of this is intended to be a knock on Abrams. Anyone who has read our blogs on a regular basis knows that we are among Abrams' biggest fans. We believe that Abrams has now firmly established himself as the second best player in Illinois from the class of 2011. Simply put, there is nothing wrong with being #2, especially when one examines the enormous degree of talent existing amongst the top players in this class.
One argument that is being made in support of Abrams being the top player in the class is that he is "fearless." While we certainly agree with that assessment, fearlessness is an intangible and is not something which sets Abrams apart from the rest as a player. The same thing can be said about Bartonville Limestone's Donivine Stewart. In fact, every time we have watched Stewart we have come away saying that he is fearless. Therefore, we once again get back to overall skill set, and our nod undoubtedly goes to Shaw.
The other thing that gets us is the tendency for other evaluators to get overly enamored with athleticism, as Abrams is now being called "the most athletic guard in the class of 2011." While that may be true, Shaw is also pretty darned athletic, plus he is at least 7 inches taller than Abrams.
So the only questions that now beckon pertain to what lies ahead this month. Come the end of June, will these same evaluators have a new #1 player should he turn in an outstanding performance at any upcoming events? Again, when one looks at their method of talent evaluation, it certainly makes one wonder. People may remember us saying in a previous blog that Abrams and Stewart could possibly get a chance to go head to head at the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament next December. We now only wish that game was being played tomorrow.
With all of this in mind, here are Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye's rankings of the top ten players in Illinois from the Class Of 2011:
1) Mike Shaw 6'7 WF Chicago (De LaSalle)
2) Tracy Abrams 6'0 PG Chicago (Mt. Carmel)
3) Donivine Stewart 5'10 PG Bartonville (Limestone)
4) Wayne Blackshear 6'5 WF Chicago (Curie)
5) Sam Thompson 6'4 2G Chicago (Whitney Young)
6) Jay Parker 5'9 PG Harvey (Thornton)
7) Chasson Randle 6'1 PG Rock Island (H.S.)
8) Andre Henley 6'5 PF Chicago (De LaSalle)
9) George Marshall 5'9 PG Chicago (Brooks)
10) DeShawn Greer 6'5 WF Chicago (Simeon)
10) Andrew Jordan 6'5 WF Peoria (Woodruff)