By Roy & Harv Schmidt
The basketball recruiting world today is largely controlled by handlers and people who often times have nothing but their own self-serving interests at heart. As a result, they overhype recruits primarily for the purpose of feeding their own egos and trying to put additional money in their pocket. That is why it is so refreshing to see players who don't buy into the hoopla, recognize their true level of ability and turn out to be successful without the outside influences. Such is the case with Michael Black and Xavier Humphrey, who are both class of 2009 recruits from Fenwick. As a result, we believe that they made outstanding college choices.
In the five first round games that we saw yesterday at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, Black was the best player based on performance. He scored 26 points, which included a couple of three-point field goals to go along with 8 rebounds in Fenwick's win over Foreman and showed outstanding floor leadership. While we always knew that Black could score, what has made him one of the most improved players in the Chicago area is the progress that he has made in all other aspects of his game.
Not only has Black become a good shooter with range that extends beyond the 3-point line, but his ball handling and playmaking capability is much more advanced than it was a year ago. He excels in transition and when he stays focused, has also proven that he is a quality defender.
One person who deserves a vast amount of credit for aiding in Black's improvement is Orlandus Thomas, his AAU coach with the Windy City Spartans. Thomas was one of the first to recognize Black's level of ability and thus gave him the opportunity to compete on the traveling team circuit. In addition, Thomas is a coach who places emphasis on reaching out to low D1 and small college programs and is thus one of the most respected AAU coaches in Illinois among college coaches at those levels.
There is no question that Black has taken advantage of his opportunity and then some, which culminated in him signing with North Florida University, a D1 school that competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference. While Black was also recruited by a number of schools at the D2 level, he ultimately decided that North Florida was a place that met his needs academically and where he could come in an make an immediate contribution. Black is also excited about being part of a program that he believes will continue to grow and get better, as North Florida has only been a D1 school for three years. With all of this being said, we believe that he is an absolutely perfect fit.
Xavier Humphrey's story in many ways is quite different from Black's. Whereas Black very much came out of nowhere during this past spring and summer, Humphrey at one time had been touted as one of the top five players in the state from the class of 2009 before ever playing a high school game. He had attracted early recruiting interest from Big Ten and Pac Ten schools.
Unfortunately, Humphrey did not end up progressing at the rate that many people thought he would. As a result, he ended up being labeled with the "tweener" tag that so many D1 programs consider to be a red flag when it comes to recruiting. While many other players would have hung their heads and perhaps even started copping an attitude, Humphrey never once got down on himself and instead has used everything as motivation. Which explains why he is having a most productive senior year at Fenwick, including a 16 point and 9 rebound effort against Foreman at Proviso West.
Humphrey signed in the fall with Winona State, an annual D2 power which won the national championship two years ago. As is the case with North Florida and Black, we believe that Winona State is the perfect level for Humphrey and that he will prove to be a valuable contributor there from the moment he arrives.
While Fenwick's record is currently 5-3, we believe that it is a bit deceiving, as the team has faced a tough early-season schedule. Nevertheless, they have proven that they can play with any of the top teams in the Chicago area, and there is no question that Black and Humphrey are the main reasons why. Knowing how hard both Black and Humphrey have worked and the level of success that they are already enjoying, we believe that any further accomplishments that come their way are simply gravy.