By Roy & Harv Schmidt
While we never base an overall scouting evaluation of a player on one game, there are some things that you can immediately conclude after watching a prospect for the first time. Such is the case with 6'10 class of 2010 center and University of Illinois commit Meyers Leonard. After taking in Leonard's performance yesterday at the Shootout At The Hall in Champaign, we believe that it is a no-brainer when we say that he is the best big man in Illinois right now regardless of class. Illinois Prep Bulls-eye offers further commentary on Leonard as well as other impressions from yesterday's event at the Assembly Hall in this blog.
Having never seen Leonard play prior to yesterday, we can honestly say that he is even better than we thought he would be. We had read and heard all of the comments from others who watched Leonard this past summer. Some national recruiting analysts have already built him up to the point of creating a level of expectation that we believe is unrealistic and unattainable. Others told us after watching him at the Reebok All-American Camp this past July that Leonard is highly athletic for a big kid and has lots of potential, but is still a project offensively.
The bottom line is that our current evaluation of Leonard probably lies somewhere in-between these two extremes. With that being said, we undoubtedly believe that Leonard has skills that far exceed any other post prospect in the state. Other than Glenbrook South's Jack Cooley, the class of 2009 in Illinois is extremely lacking when it comes to high major front court prospects. While the 2010 class does have some quality depth in this area, Leonard is far more advanced right now than almost all of the others. Therefore, we tab Leonard as the best big man in the state, a shade ahead of Cooley and Providence-St. Mel's Phillip Jackson.
To begin with, we are on record right now as saying that Leonard is certainly NOT an offensive project. In fact, his greatest attribute is that he appears to be fundamentally sound and has a great understanding of post play and half-court sets. He has great hands, is extremely mobile and has a nice shooting touch, all of which explain why he is a consistent scorer in the paint area. Defensively, Leonard controls the glass and is a very good shot-blocker (he had 5 blocks at yesterday's shootout). He also has great stamina, as he played all 32 minutes of yesterday's contest.
As is the case with a lot of big men, we would like to see Leonard add strength. However, Leonard plays strong, which is why we don't see this as being a major obstacle. With that being said, one can only imagine how much more dominating Leonard could become should he add additional beef.
The other thing about Leonard that we find most impressive is that he puts up numbers despite the fact that he sees constant double-teams and zones every time he takes the floor. Yesterday versus St. Thomas More, Leonard put up 15 points on 5-8 shooting. Needless to say, we believe that he needs to be getting far more than eight shots in a game.
Overall, we would rate Leonard as the second best player of the day at the Shootout At The Hall behind Waukegan's Jereme Richmond. As far as state rankings go in the class of 2010, Leonard is our #4 ranked player, and is probably much closer to #3 than #5. One thing is definitely for certain--after watching Leonard yesterday, University Of Illinois head coach Bruce Weber has to be elated at the player that he is getting when it comes to assessing his 2010 recruiting class.
... As we mentioned above, Illini commit and our #1 ranked player in Illinois from the class of 2010, Waukegan's 6'7 Jereme Richmond, was clearly the player of the day. Richmond totalled 18 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists in a 65-55 win over Rock Island. The bottom line is that if we were voting for the player of the year today, we believe that Richmond would have it won.
... While he may not be the best guard in Illinois (at least right now) from the loaded class of 2011, we believe that Rock Island's 6'2 Chasson Randle is the most versatile. Randle ended up with 22 points in his team's loss to Waukegan and we would rank his performance at the Assembly Hall as the third best overall behind Richmond and Leonard. At the present time Randle is the only back court prospect from the 2011 class who has shown us that he can be equally adept at either guard spot, a very important factor to consider when it comes to evaluating that class. And by the way, we have every reason to believe that the Illini coaching staff would be more than happy to take both Randle and Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams when it comes to assessing their recruiting priorities in 2011.
... While he wasn't dominating in Warren's 54-42 victory over Curie, 6'3 guard Brandon Paul was certainly good enough and remains our #1 ranked prospect in Illinois from the class of 2009. Yes, Paul can be streaky (as he was yesterday), but when he is on there may not be another player in the state from the 2009 class who can change the course of a game the way Paul can. That certainly proved to be the case yesterday at the Assembly Hall, as Paul still managed a double-double, as he wound up with 17 points and 10 rebounds. The one part of Paul's game that many people take for granted is his defense. Simply put, when Paul puts his mind to it he can defend as well as just about anybody. Look no further than the job Paul did guarding Curie's Wayne Blackshear, as he limited the prized class of 2011 prospect to 8 points on 4-13 shooting. As a result, Paul checks in as our #4 ranked player overall at this event.
... Our #5 ranked performer at the Shootout At The Hall goes to Peoria Manual's 5'11 class of 2009 guard Paris Gulley, who was absolutely spectacular in leading Manual to a 71-70 upset victory over North Lawndale, our preseason #1 ranked team in the state. Gulley finished with 22 points on 8-12 shooting, including 3-5 3-point field goals. There is no question that Gulley can score, as he is wiry strong and a good shooter with a quick release. He is also very good in transition and scrappy on defense. In our minds he has undoubtedly solidified his status as a D1 prospect.
To subscribe to Illinois Prep Bulls-eye's written reports, write us at the following address:
Illinois Prep Bulls-eye
P.O. Box 488
Downers Grove, IL 60515
e-mail us at email@example.com or call us at (630) 910-1829.