In what editor Joe Henricksen of City/Suburban Hoops Report accurately describes as "the wildest high school season I can remember, with no dominant teams and 15 to 18 teams that can contend for a state championship," here are some post-holiday observations from one and all:
Warren's Brandon Paul is the kind of athletic and multi-dimensional backcourt presence that Illinois coach Bruce Weber desperately needs. Waukegan's Jereme Richmond might be the best talent in the state but he doesn't play both ends of the floor as Paul does.
Schaumburg's Cully Payne has emerged as a genuine Player of the Year candidate, a Jimmy Chitwood AKA Bobby Plump, the hero of the movie "Hoosiers." No more jokes about him making a college commitment as an eighth grader.
Toss the name of Thornton junior Reggie Smith into the hat for Player of the Year recognition.
Curie's Wayne Blackshear doesn't play like a sophomore but he sometimes acts like a sophomore.
Mount Carmel's Tracy Abrams was a disappointment at Pekin. He was only the third best guard on the floor, behind Bartonville Limestone's Donovine Stewart and Washington's Dyricus Simms-Edwards.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber came to see Stewart, a 5-11 point guard whom he offered as a freshman. Stewart also is being recruited by USC and Louisville, among others.
Abrams is quicker and more athletic but most observers insist Stewart has a stronger all-around game than Abrams, whom they argue doesn't play hard all the time.
Simms-Edwards, a 6-3 point guard, is one of the best uncommitted seniors in the state. He broke his foot last summer and didn't get much exposure. But Iowa, Kansas State, Illinois State and Southern Illinois have offered.
Richmond, criticized a year ago for his bad attitude, has done a 180-degree turn. He still displays some frustration at times but he has come a long way toward becoming a consummate team player.
"Richmond is far and away the best player in the state, regardless of class," Henricksen said. "He has an enormous skill level and a beautiful touch. He is a legitimate pro prospect."
Henricksen said former Peoria Central star D.J. Richardson, now a standout at Findlay Prep in Nevada, still might have the most impact of any player in Illinois' incoming freshman class. But he insists Brandon Paul is the best player in the senior class. "He has a great upside and will progress like (former Illini star) Luther Head," he said.
Five uncommitted seniors who deserve more than they have received--6-7 Kevin Senechalle of St. Charles East, 6-6 Jordan Harks of Glenbard South, 6-3 guard Malcolm Herron of Downers Grove South, 6-3 guard Tim Traversa of St. Patrick and 6-3 guard Malcolm Griffin of Hyde Park.