For many reasons, this shapes up as one of the most exciting and competitive high school basketball seasons that Illinois has experienced in recent memory.
1. Simeon and Whitney Young could emerge as two of the best teams ever produced in Illinois. They have what it takes to rank in a class with the best of all time...Thornridge 1972, Quincy 1981, Marshall 1958, Collinsville 1961, Evanston 1968, Simeon 2007, Peoria Manual 1997, Lyons 1953, Taylorville 1945, Mount Vernon 1950, King 1986 and Whitney Young 1998.
2. Nine Illinois products rank among the top 100 players in the nation in the class of 2011--Kentucky-bound Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives (1), Louisville-bound Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park (18), Ohio State-bound Sam Thompson of Whitney Young (45), Illinois-bound Mike Shaw of De La Salle (53), Illinois-bound Tracy Abrams of Mount Carmel (55), Illinois-bound Mychael Henry of Orr (62), Stanford-bound Chasson Randle of Rock Island (76), Connecticut-bound Ryan Boatright of East Aurora (83) and Illinois-bound Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius (100). The class compares to 1979 and 1998 as the best ever produced in Illinois.
3. The Illinois class--Shaw, Abrams, Henry and Egwu--ranks No. 8 in the nation according to recruiting analyst Van Coleman of Hoopmasters.com. Kentucky's class, led by Davis, second-rated Michael Gilchrist and seven-rated Marquise Teague, ranks No. 1.
4. The 6-10 Davis is rated as the No. 1 player in the nation by Coleman. But he is rated No. 2 by ESPN, No. 4 by Scout.com and recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons and No. 6 by Rivals.com. The consensus choice is 6-4 point guard Austin Rivers of Winter Park, Fla., who is committed to Duke and is the son of former Proviso East, Marquette and NBA star Doc Rivers, now coach of the Boston Celtics. Rivers is rated No. 1 by Rivals.com and ESPN, No. 2 by Gibbons and Scout.com and No. 3 by Coleman.
5. Simeon and Whitney Young may command most attention in the preseason but several other teams boast enough talent to contend for state championships, including Morgan Park, De La Salle, Evanston, Benet, Hillcrest, Crete-Monee, Glenbard East and East Aurora.
6. While the class of 2012 doesn't compare to 2011 in any way, shape or form, recruiting analysts and college coaches already are looking ahead to 2013, which includes 6-6 Jabari Parker of Simeon, 6-9 Thomas Hamilton of Whitney Young, 6-8 Alex Foster of De La Salle and 6-4 guard Keith Langston of Whitney Young. Parker is rated as the No. 5 player in the nation in his class, Hamilton No. 11. And 6-8 Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young ranks No. 2 in the class of 2014.
Gibbons said Davis compares to former Farragut star Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh and former Manley star Russell Cross as "one of the most athletic 6-10 players" he has seen since he began evaluating high school players in 1978.
He ranks Davis No. 4 behind Gilchrist, Rivers and North Carolina-bound James McAdoo because, while Davis is at a different level athletically, the others have higher skill levels. He rates Gilchrist No. 1 because he is better coached and can play all positions on the floor, even point guard at 6-7.
"Davis could be a better pro but in high school Gilchrist has benefitted by playing for four years at one of the nation's top schools. He has a better basketball IQ," Gibbons said. "The class of 2011 isn't exceptional--it is similar to 2009 and 2010--and won't be remembered for its depth of talent. But Davis could make it a big name."
In all of his years of evaluating high school talent, Gibbons can recall only two other players who came from nowhere to national stardom in such a short period of time as Davis, who plays at an obscure school in Chicago and wasn't known by hardly anyone as recently as last April.
"Davis reminds me of Stacy Augmon, who wasn't well-known in 1986 but came on to be ranked No. 8 in the country and go on to a good career at Nevada-Las Vegas and the NBA, and Chase Budinger, who was better known as a volleyball player before he became the MVP at the McDonald's All-America Game and was ranked No. 6 in the nation," Gibbons said.