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.