Secure our border!
That should be the mantra of college coaching staffs across the state.
The well-known names of Perspectives’ Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Simeon’s Jabari Parker (Duke), Young’s Jahlil Okafor (Duke) and Curie’s Cliff Alexander (Kansas) –– and their departures –– are well documented. Sure, go ahead and add them to the “recruiting losses” side of the ledger.
But those type of everyone-in-the-world-wants talents are far from being the reason for the recent college basketball doldrums in this state, which was highlighted in yesterday’s column.
What has most prominently led to the paltry won-loss numbers are the many other players who either escaped the grasp of college programs and coaches in this state or were ignored altogether on the recruiting trail.
There is a very lengthy list of recent Illinois products who certainly could have helped an Illinois college program, whether it be at the low-major, mid-major or high-major level.
Aside from the aforementioned big names, here are 30 other players, some well known and recognizable, others who have flown under the radar while putting together impressive college résumés. These are the 30 that have left the state since the Class of 2010 graduated and have become impact college players at their respective Division I level.
■ Chasson Randle, Rock Island (Class of 2011). The leading scorer of a Sweet 16 team a year ago, the senior-to-be has already scored over 1,600 career points and is an All-American candidate heading into the 2014-2015 season at Stanford. When it comes to Illinois and Northwestern, Randle is probably the most underrated “one who got away” prospect out of this state in recent years.
■ Fred Van Vleet, Rockford Auburn (Class of 2012). The poster child for Illinois college basketball programs when it comes to “the one who got away” –– or the one everyone overlooked. Has been a part of two Wichita State teams that have gone 65-10 in two years. He was part of a Final Four team as a freshman and was the Missouri Valley Player of the Year as a sophomore. And just this week was one of five players tabbed as an AP preseason All-American.
■ Ryan Boatright, East Aurora (Class of 2011). Has averaged 10, 15 and 12 points a game over the past three years at UConn, where he won a national championship last season and will be the go-to-guy this coming year. DePaul was in there for a minute, while Illinois didn’t spend a second.
■ Frank Kaminsky, Benet Academy (Class of 2011). Although no one quite expected Kaminsky to do what he did last season, the fact is he will be one of the premier college players in the country over his final two years at Wisconsin –– last year in leading the Badgers to a Final Four and this year as a preseason All-American.
■ Keifer Sykes, Marshall (Class of 2011). The 5-11 point guard was lightly recruited out of high school but has been a dynamic talent at Wisconsin-Green Bay. He’s shown he can play at any level in college after averaging over 20 points a game last season. He already has over 1,600 points and 400 assists in his career with a season left to play.
■ Derrick Marks, Plainfield Central (Class of 2011). Out of sight, out of mind now, but Marks has played remarkably well since the day he walked on the Boise State campus. After averaging 9.4 points a game as a freshman, Marks put up 16.3 points as a sophomore and 14.9 points a game as a junior. Expect a big senior year from the big-bodied 6-3 guard, who really only had Southern Illinois recruiting him from Illinois.
■ Lawrence Alexander, Peoria Manual (Class of 2010). He took his high school team to Peoria but was hardly recruited and he ended up at a prep school. Now he’s fresh off leading North Dakota State to a NCAA Tournament appearance and a potential Player of the Year in the Summit League this season. Has already scored 1,300 career points.
■ Lee Skinner, Glenbard East (Class of 2010). A little-known prospect who was left alone by local college programs. But after a year of prep school he’s been an anchor of a Wofford team that wins big, reaching the NCAA Tournament a year ago and expected to return this season. Averaged 11 points and 8.5 rebounds a game last season as a junior.
■ Phil Greene, Julian (Class of 2010). After leaving Julian for IMG Academy in Florida, the scoring guard signed with St. John’s and has put together a solid career as heads into his senior season.
■ Lenzelle Smith, Zion-Benton (Class of 2010). He wasn’t a program-changer, but he was a gamer and a player who scored over 1,000 career points and pulled down 500-plus rebounds. Plus, he was an outstanding student academically who Northwestern, which did try, just couldn’t reel in.
■ Ben Brust, Mundelein (Class of 2010). Another local player Northwestern could have really used to help turn the tide, with a chance to get the 6-2 guard during the recruiting process and again after he was released from Iowa (he visited NU before settling on Wisconsin).
■ Julius Brown, Hillcrest (Class of 2011). Toledo swooped in and landed a stud in 2011. Brown led the Rockets in scoring last year as a junior and has averaged over 12 points a game in each of his three seasons. He will likely graduate with over 1,800 points and over 750 assists.
■ Roosevelt Jones, O’Fallon (Class of 2011). Although he redshirted all last season with an injury, the rugged 6-4 Jones is set for a big two years ahead of him at Butler. Prior to his injury, Jones averaged 10 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a sophomore.
■ Alec Peters, Washington (Class of 2013). A longtime Hoops Report favorite, Peters was a steal for coach Bryce Drew as Valpo slipped across the state line and stole the 6-8 forward from the grasp of Missouri Valley programs. Peters averaged 12.7 points and 4.8 rebounds a game as a freshman last season.
■ Jared Brownridge, Waubonsie Valley (Class of 2013). After escaping Missouri Valley Conference recruiting territory, the 6-2 shooter went to Santa Clara and averaged 17.2 points a game as a freshman. The West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year made a whopping 95 of 218 three-pointers as a freshman.
■ Dwayne Evans, Neuqua Valley (Class of 2010). What a career Evans put together at Saint Louis, leading the Billikens in rebounding all four years and finishing among the top 10 scorers in school history. He was a two-time All-Atlantic 10 selection and won 81 games over his final three years.
■ Mike McCall, Foreman (Class of 2010). Finished among the top 20 scorers in school history with over 1,200 career points, fifth in steals all-time and seventh in three-pointers made. And along with Evans, helped lead the Billikens to an average of 27 wins a year and three NCAA Tournament appearances the past three seasons.
■ Patrick Miller, Hales Franciscan (Class of 2010). Finished his career last year as one of the most accomplished players in Tennessee State history. The point guard averaged 23.7 points a game as a senior, finishing as the sixth all-time leading scorer with nearly 2,000 points.
■ Tim Rusthoven, Wheaton Academy (Class of 2010). The recently graduated 6-8 forward was one of only six players in William & Mary history with 1,200 points and 600 rebounds in their career.
■ Sean McGonagill, Riverside-Brookfield (Class of 2010). A first-team All-Ivy League selection last year as a senior, the 6-1 point guard finished as Brown’s all-time leading three-point shooter and fourth all-time leading scorer with over 1,500 career points. Yet as a senior he had one scholarship offer –– from North Dakota. No school in Illinois could have used McGonagill?
■ Greg Mays, Crete-Monee (Class of 2011). Is he a star? No. But he’s a senior and potential difference-maker for a Wisconsin-Green Bay team that won 24 games a year ago and is picked to win the Horizon League this season. He averaged 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game last year as a junior.
■ Dave Dudzinski, Kaneland (Class of 2010). The 6-9 big man, who signed with an Italian pro team in August after graduating from Holy Cross last year as an All-Patriot League pick, scored 1,366 points and pulled down 698 rebounds in his career. During the recruiting process, Loyola, a Horizon League member at the time, was the local program involved with Dudzinski.
■ Sam Thompson, Whitney Young (Class of 2011). Here’s one DePaul could have used. Thompson, who slipped away, is still looking for his breakout season, but he’s been a regular contributor at Ohio State the past two years as he heads into his senior year.
■ Wayne Blackshear, Morgan Park (Class of 2011). The highly touted 6-5 wing does have a national championship at Louisville –– he was even a starter for a title team –– but like Thompson is still in search of that breakout season. All reports indicate he had a terrific offseason for coach Rick Pitino and the Cardinals as he heads into his senior year.
■ Brandon Spearman, Simeon (Class of 2010). He originally signed with Dayton and played there before transferring to Hawaii, where in the past two years he averaged 9.6 and 11.3 points a game as a junior and senior, respectively.
■ Kendall Pollard, Simeon (Class of 2013). Both Bradley and UIC recruited Pollard heavily, but the 6-5 forward ended up at Dayton, where last year he played a key role off the bench for a Flyers team that reached the Elite Eight.
■ Tim Williams, Homewood-Flossmor (Class of 2012). There wasn’t a whole lot of interest in the 6-8 forward from in-state programs. He landed at Samford, where he scored over 1,000 points in two years before transferring this past spring to New Mexico.
■ Gabe Levin, Oak Park-River Forest. Simply didn’t have a lot going after high school, so he went the prep school route and landed at Loyola-Marymount, where the 6-7 forward averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds a game as a freshman. He transferred to Marquette this past spring and has since transferred to Long Beach State.
■ Kory Brown, Elgin (Class of 2012). Clearly on a smaller scale as he averaged 7 points and 4.2 rebounds a game at North Dakota State as a sophomore. But Brown is the type of program kid you win with as NDSU loved all he brought to the table for a team that reached the NCAA Tournament this past season.
■ Kyle Anderson, Newark (Class of 2011). Someone in Illinois couldn’t have taken a flyer on the 6-2 guard who will end up scoring nearly 1,500 career points at Delaware while helping the Blue Hens to the NCAA Tournament?
■ Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic (Class of 2014). No, he hasn’t played a college game yet and has plenty to prove at Kentucky, but is there any doubt the 5-9 point guard is going to end up as a major miss. Ulis was there for the taking early on in his career before the big boys were finally sold on this small but dynamic player.
■ Keita Bates-Diop, Normal U-High (Class of 2014). A top 30 player in the country last season, the athletic 6-7 forward said no to Illinois, DePaul and Northwestern, who all offered, and signed with Ohio State.
■ Ben Moore, Bolingbrook (Class of 2013). The majority of in-state schools were late to the party to begin with. First, there were several mid-majors on the late-blooming and promising 6-8 forward –– Bradley, Illinois State, NIU and Loyola all offered –– and then the high-majors got on board. Illinois and DePaul both offered late but Moore ultimately opted for Larry Brown and SMU. Brown and the SMU coaching staff remain extremely high on Moore after he contributed 6.2 points a game last year as a freshman.
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