Talk about spin. There are more than enough recruiting services and analysts to cover every high school basketball prospect from Anna to Zion. Name virtually any player and, depending on when they observed him, you can get a dozen different evaluations. So who's right? Are they better than predicting the weather or betting on the ponies?
Over the last 30 years, I've relied on the observations of Bob Gibbons and Van Coleman for a national point of view. Locally and statewide, the Schmidt brothers, Joe Henricksen and Bill Flanagan seem to have their fingers on the pulse of who's who in Illinois. But who's to say there isn't someone else who is better informed and more analytical?
I ran into another well-traveled scout the other day. Mike Mosley is a 1991 graduate of Peoria Manual, a self-described basketball junkie who coached at Bloomington Central Catholic for two years and now assists at Bloomington High School.
Here are some of his recent observations:
Jereme Richmond, Waukegan: Solid player. Surprised he only made second team at the Pontiac tournament. Handles the ball real well for his size. He is the No. 1 player in this state at this time, regardless of class. He tries to get himself involved on offense and defense. But he needs to get bigger physically to compete in the Big 10.
Brandon Paul, Warren: He had a lot of hype on his shoulders when he arrived at the Pontiac tournament. But when the big games came, he showed up big-time. He isn't just a scorer. He rebounds well. I wish he would be aggressive all the time. That's the difference between him and Richmond. He has lapses. Richmond always is in an attack mode.
Joseph Bertrand, Sterling: Good passer. Doesn't play hard. Too skinny to play in the Big 10. He also is too lazy for the Big 10. If you saw the Illinois/Michigan game, from a work ethic standpoint, I don't see him on that floor.
Dyricus Simms-Edwards, Washington: To me, he is a true point guard. He needs to develop his outside shot more. Good attitude. I'm surprised more big-time schools aren't recruiting him. He is injury prone, however. Another knock is he always seems to get to the basket but isn't a spot-up threat.
D.J. Richardson, formerly of Peoria Central, now of Findlay Prep in Nevada: Good all-around player. If he was playing in Illinois this year, he would be a Mr. Basketball contender. I think he will have the biggest impact of all the incoming freshmen at Illinois. Physically, he is ready now.
Wayne Blackshear, Curie: He is heavy but I like him a lot. He was listed at 200 pounds in the program at Pontiac but I think he is closer to 220. He is a big body. He is as good as any sophomore I have seen in a while, better than De La Salle's Dre Henley and Mike Shaw.
Crandall Head, Crane: He rates on a tier with Richardson. He's ready to play in the Big 10. He can score. He can step on the floor at Illinois and help them early.
Cully Payne, Schaumburg: He should have been the MVP at Pontiac. He can stroke it. He is a competitor. It is surprising to see him go to the SEC but he fits the mold. He is a big-gamer and fast-paced. He can create his own shot. A lot of kids can shoot or get to the basket but he can create his own shot and for others. He is the best player I have seen.
Mike Shaw, De La Salle: Expectations are high. But he might not be the best sophomore on his own team. Dre Henley is the player you walk away saying "wow" about on that team. I like Shaw's game. But he's still a sophomore. He hasn't realized how good he is yet. They are trying to make him a wing player, his position at the next level. He is pressing now. He needs to attack the basket more and establish himself. He is going backwards a little compared to last year.
According to Mosley, the best kept secret is 6-3 senior Kedric Williams of Normal Community. A former football player, he now is concentrating on basketball. He held Lake Forest's Matt Vogrich to 13 points on 2-of-11 shooting at the State Farm tournament. He was the tournament MVP. Evansville is looking at him.
Future stars? Keep an eye on Bobo Drummond, Peoria Central's 5-10 freshman point guard; Marvin Jordan, Peoria Manual's 6-2 junior; and Dre Henley, De La Salle's 6-8 sophomore.
And don't forget 6-3 senior point guard D'Mitri Riggs of Bloomington. He imploded on himself last year. He complained about calls, didn't rebound and averaged only 10 points per game. Early hype hurt him. But he is averaging 22 points this season--he had 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists against Lockport at Pontiac--and was MVP at the Springfield Shootout. Because of bad grades, he is junior college material. But if he was an academic qualifier, I'm convinced he could play in the Big 10.