Wednesday, September 5, 2007

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Payne transfer big boost for Saxons, MSL

POINT #1 .... There have already been three huge transfers in Illinois hoops that will significantly change the landscape of high school basketball in Illinois. Now there is a fourth as former Burlington Central star and DePaul commit Cully Payne has decided to transfer to Schaumburg.

First, Marcus Jordan transferring from Loyola Academy to Whitney Young likely elevated the Dolphins to the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the state. Jordan Walker, a highly-regarded and fast-rising junior, transferring to Hales Franciscan likely locked that program into the No. 2 spot behind Whitney Young. The state's best sophomore, Jereme Richmond, will make Waukegan a threat in the Central Suburban South after his move to Waukegan. And now Cully Payne.

POINT #2 .... What a huge addition for coach Bob Williams and Schaumburg. This team figured to be its typical solid self but nothing sensational. Now, with Payne as the focal point, the Saxons, who have several solid role-type players, are clearly the top team in the Mid-Suburban League. This is a shot in the arm for not only the Schaumburg program for two years, but the MSL as a whole.

POINT #3 .... There had been rumors for months regarding Payne's future in regards to where he would play his final two years of high school basketball. Schaumburg was a logical choice as it's a program that has been high-profile since Williams built it into one. Plus, both of Payne's parents graduated from Schaumburg.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Has Hoops Report been too hard on Class of '09?

POINT #1 .... There is no question the City/Suburban Hoops Report has been very critical of the Class of 2009 -- this year's juniors-to-be -- over the past two years. As is usually the case, it's dangerous to project a class very early in their careers. This class was going to challenge the Illinois Class of 1999 as the weakest class we've seen in this state over the last 15-20 years. A lot has changed since the season ended in March.

POINT #2 .... The Class of 2009 still lacks the big-name, no-brainer talent at the top. There is no Top 25 national talent in this group. And the overall depth of the class once you get past the top 10 or 12 players is not very deep. But make no mistake, this class is clearly going to be better than the Class of 1999 as the players in the top dozen have really progressed nicely. The individual jumps made by Diamond Taylor of St. Joseph, Brandon Paul of Warren, Nik Garcia of Niles West and Jordan Walker of Hales Franciscan (formerly of Champaign Central) have helped elevate the status of this class.

POINT #3 .... The class remains very guard heavy, with only Eureka's Jordan Prosser being a high-major big man talent. But in the end we could end up seeing a dozen players in this class end up playing in high-major conferences before it's all said and done, something I would have never have projected a year ago at this time. So here is an updated list of how the Hoops Report sees the Class of 2009 following summer play.

1. Diamond Taylor, 6-3, 2G, Westchester (St. Joseph) .... Still needs to gain weight, strength but is the best pure scorer in the class. He has so much untapped ability, which will be showcased the more he plays and the stronger he gets.
2. Marcus Jordan, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... Hoops Report has liked Marcus a little more than others based on what he brings to the floor each time--focus, physical strength, and plays hard. All his skill levels continue to improve every time you see him play.
3. Jordan Prosser, 6-8, PF, Eureka .... The best big man in the class and size is always coveted.
4. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) .... He solidified himself this summer with his consistency. Has shown the ability to play the point and play it pretty well. Has a great knack for getting in the lane with penetration.
5. D.J. Richardson, 6-3, 2G, Peoria (Central) .... Hoops Report wish he would play hard all the time, show the passion on a consistent basis. Nonetheless, he's a talent when he wants to be.
6. Brandon Paul, 6-4, 2G/WF, Gurnee (Warren) .... A gifted athletic wing who has really only begun to blossom. Another player who needs to get after it consistently, especially on the defensive end where he can be a bit lazy. That won't fly this winter with Warren coach Chuck Ramsey.
7. Joseph Bertrand, 6-4, PG/2G, Sterling .... Hoops Report has dropped Bertrand from the top three due to his continued passive play. His upside is as high as anyone in the class, but the productivity should have shown a bit more by now.
8. Darius Smith, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Marshall) .... He's often the forgotten man in this class. But he brings so much to the table. He sees the floor well and gets after you defensively. Still needs to tighten up that perimeter shot.
9. Michael Haynes, 6-6, WF/PF, Chicago (Washington) .... If he can show the ability to play comfortably out on the wing, the sky is the limit for Haynes. He has a tremendous body and terrific athleticism but lacks the ballhandling, decision-making and shooting ability to play outside right now for 30-plus minutes.
10. Nik Garcia, 6-5, 2G/WF, Skokie (Niles West) .... Hoops Report has had this kid high for a long time and now he has shown everyone why. Plain and simple, he puts the ball in the basket. He's a terrific shooter, has size and length and is now showing the ability to put the ball on the floor and little more. Plus, he's more athletic than people give him credit for.
11. D'Mitri Riggs, 6-2, 2G, Bloomington; 12. Jordan Walker, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan); 13. Cortney Bell, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Lincoln Park); 14. D.J. Cooper, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Hales Franciscan); 15. Tramel Owens, 6-1, 2G, Maywood (Proviso East); 16. Jack Cooley, 6-8, PF/C, Glenview (Glenbrook South); 17. Marcus Rodgers, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park); 18. Xavier Humphrey, 6-4, WF, Oak Park (Fenwick); 19. Brian Conway, 6-3, WF, Chicago Heights (Bloom); 20. Anthony Ahlers, 6-6, PF, Putnam County

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Out-of-state prospects could save Illini

POINT #1 .... Do I need to even get into the recruiting history and efforts of coach Bruce Weber and the Illinois Fighting Illini basketball program? Talk about a topic that will never go away. But until the Illini can snare a commitment (or two) from a top nationally-ranked prospect(s), the naysayers will continue to have a voice. And speak loudly on the issue.

With top big man target Mike Dunigan of Farragut off to Oregon, former Washington star DeAndre Liggins off the board with a commitment to Kentucky, and the Hoops Report's top-ranked player, Iman Shumpert of Oak Park, looking elsewhere, there are still two players who could save the Illini's recruiting fortunes this fall-- Scott Suggs of Augusta, Missouri and Darius Miller of Maysville, Kentucky.

POINT #2 .... The Hoops Report has discussed the importance of this particular class for Illinois for months. After missing the chance to really capitalize -- in terms of recruiting -- on the magical Final Four run and season of three years ago, the Illini are in dire need of making a splash on the recruiting front. Top players keep slipping away, particularly those from the state of Illinois. But the out-of-staters, Suggs and Miller, are just what the doctor ordered. They are a pair of players Illinois does not currently have -- big, long, 6-6 players out on the wing that can score and currently have big-time suitors after them.

If Illinois can snare the both of them, it sends a major message in regards to recruiting and the type of national talent Weber and his staff can get on campus. With Suggs, whom the Illini have been in a great position with for some time, Illinois looks like it will have to outslug Missouri and Washington. In Miller's case there are a few more heavy hitters like Louisville, Kentucky and Tennessee. What better way to make that statement than to beat savvy recruiting hot shots like Rick Pitino, Billy Gillispie and Bruce Pearl.

POINT #3 .... Illinois has to get either Suggs or Miller -- both to make the statement it needs to make on signing day this fall. If they don't there just isn't a whole lot left out there in terms of impact players for a program that wants to get back to contending for Big Ten titles and have few impact players on its current roster. In fact, those aforementioned naysayers will be louder than ever if Illinois goes 0-for-Shumpert, Dunigan, Liggins, Miller, Suggs, and Matt Humphrey. If that's the case things could get ugly.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dunigan, Humphrey leaving Illinois

POINT #1 .... The commitments of Mike Dunigan of Farragut, the No. 2 rated player in Illinois in the most recent Hoops Report player rankings, and Matt Humphrey of Hales Franciscan to Oregon, as it relates to the University of Illinois, is twofold. Losing Dunigan to Oregon is a big blow to the Illini. You just hate to lose any top 50 nationally-ranked caliber player from your home state, especially when it comes to quality big men that are so difficult to find. Plus, it just adds fuel to the fire in terms of the out-of-control recruiting landslide against Bruce Weber.

But, if the only way you were going to get Dunigan was to take Humphrey as well? I know Illinois offered Humphrey, but I wouldn't be real excited about landing Humphrey (see Point #2) and using up one of the few scholarships I have for the Class of 2008. You could definitely argue the point by saying "yeah, I would take Humphrey if it meant getting Dunigan." I'm just not sure I would if I had confidence in going out and getting other players.

POINT #2 .... The Hoops Report has never been a big fan of Humphrey, a 6-5 wing with limited lift and athletic ability, a streaky shooter and scorer that plays soft. He definitely brings some size on the perimeter and scoring ability, something Illinois desperately needs. And he would be a fine recruit--if he's your No. 3 or No. 4 recruit in a class. When it comes right down to it, Humphrey is not the player Illinois needs--or has to get--if you're talking about getting the Illini back to the top of the Big Ten. He would be a complimentary player in the Big Ten and Illinois doesn't need any more complimentary players if it intends to get back to where they were for about a six-year period just a few seasons ago.

POINT #3 .... Illinois needs an impact recruit in the 2008 class and the numbers are dwindling in terms of who is left. There was an early report that Oak Park star Iman Shumpert, the Hoops Report's top-rated player in the Class of 2008, had eliminated Illinois from his list of schools, but the report has been disputed. Both Shumpert and Darius Miller of Maysville, Kentucky are elite prospects, difference-makers that can come in as freshmen and make an impact. Scott Suggs of Augusta, Missouri is a bigger, better version of Humphrey. The Illini are in on all three, although there are now some major players working them. I would sure hate to see what would happen to the signing class in November if Illinois missed out on all three (and 0-for-Liggins, Dunnigan and Humphrey as well?). We will have to wait and see how it plays out, but at that point Humphrey may not look so bad to me if I were evaluating the Illini recruiting situation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The most underrated player in Illinois?

POINT #1 .... There are always differences of opinion as it relates to unheralded and underrated players. Is it the legit Division I talent that will land somewhere but should really be recruited by a high major? Is it the player getting limited Division I interest but should be more coveted? Is it the player no one knows anything about and simply needs to be evaluated more and found?
When it comes to being underrated on the national scale, there are a few players from Illinois I feel are a bit underrated as far as where their recruitment is going and where they fall on the national scale of rankings.

POINT #2 .... Yes, Washington's Matt Roth has been garnering headlines as a sharpshooter since his freshman year in high school. I believe he's the best shooter the state has seen in over 20 years. He is getting plenty of Division I interest and has basically narrowed his choices to Saint Louis and Bradley. However, he's received very little national attention. I will be interested to see if Roth puts up a big couple of weeks on the AAU circuit if a Big Ten school will come calling.

A couple of other players that have flown a bit under the radar nationally are Kenyon Smith of Simeon, who is set for a big breakout year this winter, and Carl Richard of Richards. While both Smith and Richard have received offers and will be Division I, mid-major players when it's all said and done, I can't believe the recruitment for these two players is not at a more feverish pitch among the nation's (and midwest's) mid-majors. The final player who is vastly underrated is Whitney Young's Bryan Hall, an attacking guard who flourishes in transition and just needs to tighten up his jump shot. He's a terrific kid and student and is without question a Division I talent.

POINT #3 .... When it comes to simply being the most underrated player in Illinois, the one player very few people know about, it's Matt Toth of Sandburg. The 6-8 senior does everything you would ask for a big man to do. He's strong and isn't afraid to mix it up, he provides a presence inside, passes well out of the post and from the high post, can step out and face the basket and put it on the floor if he has to, has a nice touch out to 17 feet and a great nose for the ball. So he brings all of these intangibles and skills to the table? And he's 6-8? What's the catch?

There are a few things that have prevented Toth from being a household name and more coveted on the recruiting trail. The biggest being he plays below the rim, doesn't have a lot of lift vertically and, while he does run the floor very well for his size, is limited athletically. He didn't have a monster junior year at Sandburg and he plays for a low-profile AAU program in the Illinois Machine. So while college coaches and talent evaluators spend countless hours watching the Illinois Wolves, Ferrari, Mac Irvin's Fire, Rising Stars and Illinois Warriors play in event after event, Toth continues to fly under the radar.

I have seen a lot of big men commit and sign with Division I schools that are a lot less talented than Toth, so it will be interesting to see just where his recruitment goes from here. I have Toth among the top 35 players in the senior class. We'll see if the underrated label disappears before signing day in November or in the late signing period next April.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Boatright the real deal.... for a freshman

POINT #1 .... Much has been made about the recent commitment of East Aurora freshman-to-be Ryan Boatright to coach Tim Floyd and USC. And many of the comments, some of which have been very critical of the process, are made by people that have never seen him play.

Everyone has their own perspective and what they think is the right way to handle recruiting. The majority of people out there feel its ridiculous for a kid to commit (and a major college coach to offer a scholarship) before even entering high school. A lot can obviously happen in four years, whether it be with the player's development or the program and coach the player committed to.

But if a college coach is a strong enough talent evaluator and can project a prospect's future when they have just turned 13 or 14, all the more power to him. Who are we to say they're nuts? It's their job! The problem occurs when--and if--these coaches start pulling the scholarships off the table before signing day. But until that starts happening at an alarming rate--and it probably won't because a coach never wants to establish that reputation in the recruiting world--we all need to accept this is the trend that is happening across college basketball recruiting.

POINT #2 .... The kid can flat-out play. He already has an unbelievable feel for the game, terrific ballhandling skills and is a capable shooter for a kid coming out of the 8th grade. He has plenty to work on, but after watching him play it's pretty easy to see he's a Division I prospect. Yes, even at this age. His biggest drawback is his size. He's listed at 5-10 but is probably closer to 5-8 or 5-9. And he's a very slender kid who doesn't look as if he's going to get a whole lot bigger. I remember watching his father play, Mike McAllister, an overachieving 5-8 point guard at East Aurora in the early 1990s. McAllister had a terrific March and helped lead coach Scott Martens' club to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in 1992.

POINT #3 .... My biggest concern with such an early player commitment is the pressure it places on the young player. You can already see it, where people are scurrying around the gym trying to find out who the player is that committed to USC a few weeks out of 8th grade? How will this impact young Ryan Boatright in the next couple of years as he adapts to playing varsity basketball for coach Wendell Jeffries' Tomcats? Every kid will handle it differently. It will be fun to see how Boatright handles the added pressure and watching him develop over the next four years.

What everyone needs to remember is that he is still just 14 years old and has so much room to grow as a player. He's a talented, talented kid that, with continued hard work and proper focus, could very well live up to the unbearable expectations placed upon him.