Joe Henricksen, editor/publisher of City/Suburban Hoops Report, is the fifth and last analyst to offer his observations on the top high school basketball players he has seen. It has been only 16 years since he began evaluating high school players but he insists he saw enough of King's Jamie Brandon to include him in his top five.
"I saw enough of Brandon prior to the Hoops Report to know he was one of the most dynamic high school basketball players in state history," Henricksen said. "He was a man among boys as a pure scorer, strength in getting to the basket and simply knowing how to put the ball in the hole. He was about as unstoppable as it gets at the high school level."
With that said, here are Henricksen's top five: Brandon, Kevin Garnett, Derrick Rose, Quentin Richardson and Jon Scheyer.
Garnett simply did things we haven't seen or have seen since from a player in Illinois, especially considering his size, skill level and passion. He may have been a transplant and just a one-year guy but he was the quintessential difference-maker, impacting games in so many different ways and was such an intimidating figure at the high school level.
Rose was the ultimate winner with the rare combination of off-the-charts talent and intangibles. His strength, speed and athleticism from the point guard position are unmatched.
Richardson? There are three superstars that played harder at the high school level than anyone else I have seen--Dwyane Wade, Dee Brown and Quentin Richardson. Q left everything on the floor, battled and was an absolute dominating force around the basket, both finishing and rebounding. And he was so strong. He was the player that would always break the spirit of opposing teams and players with his relentlessness. He was the leader and dominating figure on one of the great teams in state history.
Scheyer possessed quite possibly the highest basketball IQ I have ever seen in a high school player and is arguably the best pure scorer we've seen. Even without the great athleticism others have, he toyed with high school players on the offensive end, whether it was with head-and-shoulder fakes, getting opponents off balance, utilizing screens and the offense to his advantage. Plus, look what he did in his four years with three trips to the Elite Eight, including one state championship.
If Brandon isn't included on my list, if I only consider five players during my 16 years with Hoops Report, my fifth player would be Shaun Livingston. It would be tough to find a player who had a better feel for the game and who made those around him better. He was not an explosive scorer but he was the best passer we've seen in decades. He had that great height, length, ball-handling skill and vision at the point guard position that is so rare. And all he did as a junior and senior was lead his teams to a 62-3 record and back-to-back state titles.
Three other players who deserve props are Dwyane Wade, Darius Miles and Ronnie Fields.
I still think Wade was vastly underrated and underappreciated as a high school player. Miles? I just never have been enamored with players that can't shoot at all. I always felt Miles was too raw and too unreliable to be included among the all-time greats. Some say that Fields had it all but, for me, there just always seemed to be something missing. He was quite possibly the greatest athlete we've ever seen at the high school level but he wasn't a great shooter, great ball-handler or passer and he didn't have the same mindset, mentality and approach as past and future superstars in Illinois.