Ray Hamilton, who scouts for me in the Chicago area, recommended that I see wide receiver Kyle Prater of Proviso West. I got an eyeful last Saturday when Prater competed against Illinois-bound defensive back Corey Cooper and his Proviso East teammates.
Prater, a 6-5, 185-pounder, is the real deal. He is the best wide receiver I have seen in Illinois since former Thornton star Tai Streets. He has a shot at emerging as the No. 1 player in the class of 2010 in Illinois. He ranks with Fremd lineman Christian Lombard and Johnsburg wide receiver C.J. Fiedorowicz.
I will promote him for the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Game. He has legitimate size, a great pair of hands, runs the slant pattern to perfection and catches the ball away from his body. If he was playing on a team with Maine South's Charlie Goro or Hinsdale Central's John Whitelaw, he would be the best receiver in the country next year.
The only thing that Prater lacks is pure speed. He is listed at 4.5 but I think he is closer to 4.6. Against Proviso East, he wasn't bothered by Cooper or a double team. He used his height and leaping ability and great hands to his advantage.
He plans to give up basketball to concentrate on track next spring. That should put him among the elite receivers in the nation as a senior. Illinois State was smart enough to get on him early. In fact, ISU is the only school to offer to date. But he will be a major name in the recruiting process when everyone sees him.
Prater is the kind of player who jumps out at you even before the kickoff. In the pregame drills, I noticed how methodical he was, how serious he was, how he caught the ball away from his body. What separates him from other receivers is his height, hands and body control. All he lacks is pure speed.
Proviso West coach Famous Hulbert said Prater had seven receptions for 263 yards and two touchdowns against highly rated Hinsdale Central. When college coaches see that film, I'm sure Prater will leap up the charts.
Proviso West has another Division I prospect in wide receiver Julius Shelby, a 6-3, 180-pound junior who is a good complement for Prater. If they have a quarterback who can get the ball to them, they will be another version of East St. Louis' Terry Hawthorne and Kraig Appleton.
Shelby doesn't have quite the talent that Prater has. He isn't as tall and his hands aren't as good. But he has good body control and mobility. He works hard to get open.
Cooper, a 6-1, 190-pound junior who has committed to Illinois, returned a punt for a touchdown against Proviso West. But the safety didn't exhibit the physical skills he needs to have at that position. He went up against Prater but couldn't stop him.
He is a good athlete with a big-time body and he has another year to get better. It is said he has been timed in 10.7 seconds for 100 meters. I didn't see that kind of speed. He didn't run away from people. What I did see was a good athlete. If he plays hard on every down, he can be an All-American. But he must be more physical and more intimidating. He must be a difference-maker.