By Roy & Harv Schmidt
The Illinois high school basketball season is now in full swing, but it is still early and nothing has really stood out just yet. Therefore, in this blog we offer up small portions of everything, some Thanksgiving leftovers if you will. Included on the plate are our comments on what is happening off the court, observations on what we have seen in the way of Thanksgiving tournaments thus far, as well as a couple of recruiting notes.
We begin with off the court activity:
... While it has been reported that the eligibility status of 6'5 class of 2011 prospect Jacob Williams at Bartlett is still up in the air, most reliable sources are telling us that it doesn't look good. In fact, not only did Williams not play in Bartlett's opening game at the Waukegan Thanksgiving Tournament, but at the present time he isn't even listed on their roster. Which brings us back to something we predicted not long ago--we still believe that there is a possibility that Williams will be back at St. Patrick next season. Not only is that where Williams really wants to be, but we have been told that St. Patrick would welcome him back next year provided he gets into no further trouble between now and then. And for those who believe that Williams did nothing wrong (we have heard that in some quarters) and that he can't be denied the opportunity to play basketball at Bartlett, we say this: while public education is a right, participation in athletics is a privilege. It is our opinion that Williams forfeited that privilege as a result of his incident at St. Patrick. Add in the fact that St. Patrick operates under a "zero tolerance policy" when it comes to disciplinary matters involving their students, and that explains why we believe they have justifiable reason to try to block his eligibility at Bartlett, thus allowing him to be able to come back to St. Patrick next year. And NO, it is not a case of being punished twice for the same thing--it is all part of the consequence of the poor decision that he chose to exercise. At the time of his expulsion Williams also discussed the possibility of sitting out this season and working privately with Chicago Bulls trainer Tim Grover, and in our opinion he would be even better off if he were to go that route.
... Assuming that Williams is ruled ineligible at Bartlett barring an appeal process (and we have to ask does Williams really want to waste additional time going through that?) and knowing that all of the boy's basketball players who attempted to transfer from Washington to Fenger have been declared ineligible by Chicago Public League Sports Director Calvin Davis (although the names haven't been disclosed), it looks like Illinois Prep Bulls-eye will end up batting 1.000 on the predictions we made regarding the eligibility status of all of these young men.
... Another trend that is rapidly developing in Illinois high school basketball is the increasing number of AAU coaches who have become high school coaches. While we have no problem with this and don't see anything immediately wrong with it, we do have to voice a potential concern. As any astute high school basketball fan should know, in today's day and age a player's recruiting process (especially a player with high major D1 ability) is largely controlled by his AAU coach. With that in mind, we can only hope that we don't see massive numbers of players attempting to transfer to the school where their former AAU coach is in charge. Even if a high school coach relinquishes all of his involvement with AAU, there is still a tremendous temptation for others connected with that particular AAU program to "funnel" players to that respective high school. That is something that both the IHSA and the Chicago Public League need to monitor closely and prevent.
And now to Thanksgiving Tournament action thus far:
... We have watched a number of intriguing post prospects this week, including Glenbrook South's 6'9 Jack Cooley, South Elgin's 6'9 Daniel Lopez and DeKalb's 6'10 Jordan Threloff, all of whom are different in terms of of their strengths and weaknesses. Cooley recorded a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds when we watched him at the Fenton Thanksgiving Tournament and there is no question that he sets the bar by which every post prospect in Illinois should be measured by. Simply put, Cooley goes to war every time he hits the floor and controls the paint like no other player in the state can. His only true weakness is that he is actually overly-aggressive at times, which explains why he gets in foul trouble. But make no mistake about it, Fighting Irish fans are going to love him from the moment the Notre Dame signee sets foot on campus in South Bend.
Lopez was not even his team's best player when we watched him, as that honor instead belonged to 5'8 junior sharpshooting guard Tommy Childs. Nevertheless, Lopez has a superb attitude and work ethic and at 6'9 and 275 pounds could eventually develop into a legitimate low post threat, which is why we believe that he will be a contributor at Sacramento State.
Threloff is a year behind Cooley and Lopez as he is a class of 2010 prospect, but has a huge up side. He has great hands, does a good job of establishing post position and finishes most everything. However, he gets frustrated when things aren't going his way, which may explain why he missed the entire second quarter when we watched him at the Hoops For Healing Tournament at Naperville North. Threloff already has several scholarship offers from schools in the Missouri Valley, MAC and Horizon League as well as interest from Big Ten and Atlantic Ten programs, so it will be interesting to see how his recruitment continues to unfold.
... We have said it all along, but we are even more emphatic about it now after watching Zion-Benton defeat Mt. Carmel at the Lane Tech Thanksgiving Tournament-- a lot of D1 programs are missing the boat on both 5'9 point guard Ronald Steward and 6'3 Quintrell Love. Forget about Steward's size. The bottom line is that he is as tough as nails, makes plays and consistently gets in done in crunch time. Love's perimeter game may still be suspect, but he is a terrific garbage player who crashes the glass, scores consistently around the basket and is his team's best defender, as he is capable of guarding an opponent in the post or on the wing. And to top everything off, he plays with a high level of energy.
... 5'8 class of 2012 guard Malcolm Hill-Bey from Mt. Carmel has already begun to receive considerable hype and while he has been inconsistent at Lane Tech, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that he is going to be a good one. Hill-Bey already has legitimate 3-point shooting range and isn't bashful about putting it up. Like many young guards his age, Hill-Bey still needs to refine his point guard skills, but there is no question that he has the ability to be special.
And finally, a few recruiting notes:
... We don't know whether or not the University of Illinois will end up landing class of 2011 point guard Tracy Abrams from Mt. Carmel, but one thing is for certain--the Illini coaching staff will not get outworked. If one needs any additional evidence of this, look no further than the fact that head coach Bruce Weber and assistant coaches Jay Price and Jerrance Howard were all in attendance at Lane Tech this week to watch one of Abrams' games. Once again, we can't possibly overemphasize how instrumental this aggressive recruiting approach has been with respect to explaining the Illini's recent recruiting success.
... Class of 2009 point guard Dyricus Simms-Edwards from Washington High School watched Missouri State's victory over Arkansas, a game which marked the official opening of the Bears' new arena, otherwise known as JQH Arena. Edwards remains a 2009 recruiting target for Missouri State head coach Cuonzo Martin. Word has it that Edwards has grown and is now up to 6'3, which will make him an even more attractive recruiting option between now and the time the spring signing period comes around.
... Things have been really quiet on the Darius Smith recruiting front of late, but seeing as though Southern Illinois University has another scholarship to give with respect to their 2009 recruiting class, don't be surprised if Salukis head coach Chris Lowery gives Smith a long hard look between now and March. After all, Smith's former high school teammate Ryan Hare is already in the fold at SIU, plus Smith is the best defensive player in the state and employs the type of playing philosophy that Lowery absolutely loves.
That's it. Bon appetite!
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