The Irony Involving The Class Of 2011

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By Roy & Harv Schmidt

We still believe that from an overall talent standpoint the class of 2011 in Illinois is absolutely loaded. However, after seeing more than our share of holiday tournaments throughout the state last month, we are not ready to say that the 2011 class deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with the two best basketball recruiting classes in recent memory--the class of 1979 and the class of 1998. The biggest reason for this is simple. A recruiting class can't be considered the best of all-time if it doesn't have a bona fide #1 player. And at the present time we believe that is the case when it comes to the 2011 class.

While the classes of 1979 and 1998 both sported enormous depth, anyone who has followed high school basketball in Illinois during that time would tell you that there was never any doubt as to who the top player in either class was. The unanimous choice as the top player in the 1979 class was St. Joseph's Isiah Thomas. In the 1998 class one could have actually made an argument for any of the following three players and not gone wrong--Whitney Young's Quentin Richardson, Fenwick's Corey Maggette or Peoria Manual's Frank Williams.

We truly believe that in order for any recruiting class to be considered a great class, it needs to be defined by a signature player--a player whose skills clearly stand out above the rest and has a certain aura or presence about him that separates himself from the rest of the pack. Both the classes of 1979 and 1998 had those players. The 2006 class had a player of that caliber in Jon Scheyer. In 2007 it was unquestionably Derrick Rose. At the present time, we are not sure we can say that about any of the top players in the class of 2011.

Therefore, we are in agreement with those that are now saying that perhaps the 2011 class in Illinois has been overhyped. However, most others are saying this without telling you why this is the case, either because they are afraid to take a stand, or because they simply don't have the insight with respect to the players in this class to be able to offer an explanation. Not only are we willing to take a stand, but after seeing virtually all of the top players in Illinois from the class of 2011 at various holiday tournaments last month, we are going to analyze each player's game and tell you why we don't believe any of them can be considered as the #1 player in the class at this time.

But before we do that, allow us to first offer some general thoughts as to why we believe the class of 2011 has been overhyped. First of all, there is the local phenomenon known as the "Chicago hype machine", of which some of our competitors who run other internet recruiting sites are charter members. To them everyone is a can't miss prospect, has superstar status written all over them and is headed to the NBA. And the worst part is that being young and vulnerable, the players buy into this hype to the point that they listen to these people even more than their high school coach or their parents.

And then there are the self-proclaimed national gurus. We are not talking about established national analysts such as Bob Gibbons and Van Coleman, who are well-respected talent evaluators who we consider to be the best in the business. Instead we are referring to the mopes who run internet recruiting sites and think that their credibility as well as their career depends on discovering the next Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or any other name you care to throw in. They build recruits up to the point where the only place they can go is down. Never mind the fact that most of them have no idea how to run a scouting service and can't evaluate talent any better than the guy next door.

Now it is time to examine several of the state's top players in the 2011 class and offer our analysis as to why we don't believe they are #1. We begin with 6'7 Mike Shaw from De LaSalle. As most everyone knows, until now Shaw has been our #1 ranked player in the class and we have been extremely patient with him despite numerous inconsistencies. However, upon the conclusion of holiday tournament play we can no longer justify Shaw's #1 ranking. Simply put, he does not play agressively all of the time and does not fully utilize all of the talent that he has. Rather than post up and go to war inside, he would rather shoot the fade away jump shot from the baseline and the wings to the point where he has fallen in love with it. When Shaw was in eighth grade a long-time follower of high school basketball in Chicago told us that Shaw was the next Lebron James, a comparison which is just ludicrous. Instead, we see Shaw actually being more comparable to Antoine Walker at the same stage.

The two players considered by most analysts to be among the top three prospects in the class along with Shaw--Curie's 6'5 Wayne Blackshear and Mt. Carmel's 6'0 Tracy Abrams, also did nothing in our minds during the holidays to lay claim to the #1 ranking. Simply put, neither showed the leadership that we had hoped to see from them. While Blackshear shows flashes of brilliance and his overall skill set has improved tremendously from a year ago, there are still too many times where he tends to disappear. Abrams is without a doubt a prolific scorer, but his decision-making in the game in which we watched him at the Pekin Holiday Tournament left a lot to be desired and Mt. Carmel head coach Mike Flaherty has also been critical of his defense.

Whitney Young's 6'5 Sam Thompson and Rock Island's 6'2 Chasson Randle are also interesting cases. We believe that when it is said and done Thompson may prove to be the best college prospect of the bunch out of the 2011 class. However, due to the incredible array of talent that exists at Whitney Young, Thompson has trouble even cracking the rotation. How can you rank a player #1 in his class when he can only get on the floor for 10 minutes, which was the case in Whitney Young's opening round victory over Proviso East at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament? The answer is you can't. We actually thought that Randle played well in a loser's bracket contest vs. Kankakee Bishop Mc Namara when we watched him at the State Farm Holiday Classic and from a performance standpoint could be closer to the top spot in the class than most people realize. The problem is that in this contest Randle played almost exclusively off the ball and therefore we were unable to witness all facets of his game. Thus the evaluation is incomplete and we are unable to rank him #1.

Another player who we thought might step up and earn the #1 ranking in the 2011 class after an outstanding performance at the Windy City Showdown at Loyola University last month was De LaSalle's 6'5 Dre Henley. Unfortunately, Henley did not follow up on that effort at the State Farm Holiday Classic and in reality was a disappointment. In fact, for reasons which we do not totally understand, Henley often found himself on the bench during key stretches of a couple of his team's games in Bloomington-Normal. Needless to say, no #1 ranking.

In summary, the main point to be made is that there is currently not one player in the class of 2011 out of Illinois who has a skill, an attribute or an intangible that clearly sets himself apart from the rest or makes him a true "marquee" player. Which is why while we still believe that the 2011 class has the makings of being a great one, most of the talk in that regard is strictly in regard to potential as opposed to actual performance. Therefore, for any time in the past that we have compared the class of 2011 in Illinois to either the class of 1979 or the class of 1998, all we can say for the time being is that we apologize.

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Guys, I have to agree with you. There is a lot of hype our there. Lots of folks want to be the first to proclaim a player the next great player. What I see with this class is immaturity, both in a basketball sense and a personal sense. They have great physical attributes and talent, but need to harness that to some passion/desire/work ethic combined with developing a higher basketball IQ. I see lots of "talented" guys making knuckleheaded plays. These guys should be dominating games and they are not. Mix all of that together and you don't have a clear leader in this least not yet.

Roy & Harv Respond:


Absolutely outstanding post!

Nice writeup. I didn't get to see Randle at the State Farm Holiday Classic, but I did see Shaw and Henley play in the consolation game against Lake Forest. Matt Vogrich was the story that game - Shaw and Henley were a definite disappointment. I'm sure that game isn't indicative of either of their overall ability, but what troubled me was their lack of effort in a hotly contested, closely played game. I just didn't see them turn it up like I would have hoped. They will be back at the tournament (SF Holiday Classic) again next year so perhaps a year of maturity will show something more than they displayed this year. I never want to be critical of high school kids and I'm sure they have promising careers ahead. It's just unfortunate that day they didn't show what everyone is excited about.

Roy & Harv Respond:


Well said.

Another well thought out and written piece. As far as the best in 11 class i think Shaw has the skill to make him #1. When he is playing on the block he is usually playing against a kid who is 2 years older than him which is a huge difference. I think you'll see a more aggresive kid as he becomes the upperclassman.

Right now today i would rank Abrams #1 because i think he gets the most done on the court and plays the hardest.He is lightning quick and a true pt guard.

Blackshear just never seems to play well when i see him. He is very skilled and a very good athlete but needs to learn how to score in the half court and his outside shot which is getting better has a ways to go.

I have said this for a while and said it too you both on more than 1 occasion that at the end of the day Sam Thompson is the best player in this class. His mid range game is real good his defensive pressure is excellent and his athleticism is off the charts. Needs work out at the 3 and some work on his handles (which arent bad). the only thing that can hold him back is tyrone slaughter. There is no way this kid should be playing so few minutes. I dont know if slaughter likes to be referred to as the coach who had the most talent that didnt win state or not but thats what it seems like.

Chasson Randle is a step below this 4some.

I have to say you all are right it is too quick to anoint this class one of the best ever. I saw Sam Thompson play the other day and all I saw was an athlete who can jump. I was talking to a Northwestern recruiter and he asked me about him. I said maybe part of it is he can't show much with his high school team. 1) Because of the loaded talent at Young and 2) He has to play out of postition for a 6"5 to 6"6 player with his high school team. It might be better to see him in a setting with his AAU Team the Mac Irvin Fire. The same for Mike Shaw at 6"7 or 6"8. He might be better evaluated in an AAU setting. I am not a big fan of AAU summer basketball but sometimes it's better to see these guys at 6"4 to 6"8 range because for the most part they are playing their true positions in that setting. On thier high school team they are played power forward and center. Blackshear has a lot of potential but I think he is in the wrong school at Curie. The coach does not take advantage of his talents at all. Just like the coach at Waukegan with Jereme Richmond until this year. And I have never been impressed with Abrams at all. Let's wait until their junior years, that's a better indicator for these guys. Also Henley is playing third fiddle to Shaw and Needham at DeLaSalle.

Roy & Harv Respond:


We believe that in order to get a fair and accurate assessment of a player, you have to evaluate him in ALL settings, including both AAU and with his high school team and then take everything into consideration. That is exactly what we have tried to do with respect to all of the players in the 2011 class.

Wow, you completely contradicted yourself by saying a great class a clear-cut number one than saying '98 had 3 you could make a case for. And I still don't get the sheyer mention. But anyways...

Living on the South Side (and a De La Salle alum) and having seen plenty of Shaw and Henley (an absolute BEAST against that detroit team. Why didn't Coach White have the ball in his hands exclusively at the end of that game??) along with Blackshear (he disappears in the post too much) and one game of wy and Thompson, I'd have to agree with the obvious assessment.

But I still wanna do what these kids do the rest of this year and next year first.

One excuse is they were playing a bunch of games in a short time in those holiday tournaments...

Roy & Harv Respond:

Sorry, but a lot of you need to get a dictionary and look up the definition of the word "contradiction". We did not contradict ourselves in any way. We said that the class of 1998 had as many as three players who defined the class--who were worthy of being #1, who were marquee players, who stood out above all of the rest, who were game-changers, who were "elite", and any other jargon you want to use. In our minds that is all the more reason why that class is the best in Illinois during the modern era. And whether people like it or not, Jon Scheyer was a "signature" player, a game-changer, the type of player that defines what a good (or do we dare say great) recruiting class is all about. Now, how many of you still can't figure it out?

We cannot discount the effect AAU basketball has on young, impressionalbe players.
In AAU, wins and losses are devalued because there is always another game coming.

In AAU, many "coaches" sometimes have hidden agendas that do not include pushing players to their potential, working on their deficiencies, and motivating them towards playing hard.

In AAU, key fundamental concepts such as defense, defense, and defense are sometimes not taught and/or reinforced.

Could go on but you get the gist. I also understand the benefits of AAU (which I sometimes think are geared more to college coaches than to the athlete) but maybe we are seeing the cumulative effects of club ball, which has replaced Friday night performances as a proving ground for D1 readiness.

Roy & Harv Respond:

Your opinion on this topic is shared by many.

A better argument would be for you to post the statistical comparisons and/or achievements, of those from the classes of '98 and '79 at the same stage. Not the end result of those classes. Did Maggette, Richardson and Williams dominate game in and game out as sophomores? Were they never inconsistent in the their defense, scoring or intensity? You guys are looking for the end result of those great classes in these kids as sophomores.

And on another note you guys (Roy and Harv) are supposed to be journalist, constantly attacking a rival competitor (Brian Stinnette) is not the professional way to go.

Roy & Harv Respond:

Yes, we are looking for the end result with respect to these classes--you are absolutely right. And at the present time the end result as it relates to the class of 2011 is incomplete. Therefore, we can only go on the basis of what we see right now, as that is our only point of comparison. That is why we are saying what we are saying. Could our assessment change when the end result for the class of 2011 is complete? Of course!

As for your other point, we are glad to see that you and so many others clearly know who the hype artists in Chicago truly are, seeing as though we never mentioned anyone by name. And yes, we are journalists, but we are talent evaluators and recruiting analysts first and foremost. With that in mind, we can guarantee that we exhibit just as much professionalism as any of our competitors.

Inconsistency? What do you really expect from 15 year olds? Gullible, largely inflated ones at that. If teammates and opposing players with less fanfare show more hunger, heart and drive is also not surprising. This whole business about scouts, rating players, and recruiting has gotten way out of hand, especially in regard to underclassmen and pre-high school prospects. The worst thing is for these players is to be put in the spotlight with all the accolades and adulation and told they are locks for the NBA, before they have been able to prove their consistency and mettle, game in and out throughout high school. Until the end of their junior years and preferably well into their senior years, they should be left alone by coaches and scouts and allowed to grow up, earn their merit on real accomplishment and learn discipline and selfless team play.

Roy & Harv Respond:

Although your last sentence is a little extreme, we agree in premise with what you are saying. Hopefully if you have followed our work over the years you realize that we are not guilty of what you claim.

thoughts on Blackshear now going to Morgan Park?

Roy & Harv Respond:

Look for a new blog with our thoughts on this situation some time tomorrow.

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This page contains a single entry by Roy & Harv Schmidt published on January 8, 2009 6:32 PM.

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