By Joe Henricksen
As the school year is set to start and the beginning of the 2010-2011 basketball season is now less than three months away, the commitments will soon be flowing for the many uncommitted prospects in the Class of 2011. Of the top 50 players in the Hoops Report’s top 2011 rankings, just 14 of them have committed up to this point. A feeding frenzy is set to begin, with dozens of verbal commitments on the horizon and some official visits to campuses in the next couple of months to help sort out the minds of these talented prospects.
The ballyhooed and deep Class of 2011 could have as many as four dozen Division I commitments, an impressive number that could come close to the nearly 60 Division I players the heralded Class of 1998 produced. This is the calm before the storm, with the Hoops Report taking a snapshot of the current recruitments of several of the uncommitted prospects as we head into the school year. As is the case with the recruitment of high school players, the recruiting race is fluid with changes taking place from week to week and even on a daily basis.
• Chasson Randle, Rock Island
The recruitment of the talented combo guard has been talked about and dissected to endless degrees. There really isn’t a whole lot more to discuss as a trio of schools have made it to the stretch run, with Illinois, Purdue and Stanford all scheduled to receive official visits and hoping to hit a home run late in the recruiting season. This remains a tough call in terms of projecting just how this one plays out for the sharp and wise-beyond-his-years Randle.
• Mike Shaw, Chicago (De La Salle)
This is another recruitment that has gone the distance, with heavy hitters involved early on and a decision looming from the top 100 national prospect. While the Hoops Report does believe Illinois is the program to beat for Shaw, both DePaul and Marquette have made pushes that have at least put themselves in play.
• Ryan Boatright, East Aurora
The electric talent and scorer still has the door wide open, with more schools getting involved. The latest school to jump into the mix for the 5-11 point guard is Connecticut, which those close to Boatright admit has changed the landscape a bit in his recruitment. There is mutual interest between Boatright and West Virginia, Tennessee and Miami-Florida. Locally, DePaul hopes to stay in the hunt and is line to get Boatright on campus for a visit. Boatright and his family plan on sitting down in the next week to figure out a plan going forward and decide on what schools on the list to visit. “We aren’t closing the door on any school at this point,” said Boatight’s dad, Mike McCallister.
• Sam Thompson, Chicago (Whitney Young)
The highly-regarded Thompson, a 6-6 athletic gazelle, is set to take some official visits this fall. With Ohio State receiving a commitment from 6-8 small forward LaQuinton Ross out of New Jersey, it would appear the Buckeyes may have lost some steam with Thompson. The top 100 national talent appears to have three serious players, with official visits to come in Oregon State, Florida and Georgetown. Marquette, however, is trying to make a strong late push as well.
• Julius “Juice” Brown, Hillcrest
Who wouldn’t want a talented point guard who helped lead his team to a state championship last March as a junior? Another Hoops Report favorite, Brown’s development has continued this summer and the interest has increased. Tennessee State was the first school to offer Brown, with Loyola, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Texas Christian all following up with offers. Armon Gates, an assistant coach at TCU, is a Hillcrest graduate. There are a few Missouri Valley Conference schools that have also shown interest in the 5-8 point guard. Brown has already been to UW-Green Bay and is planning on setting up visits to a few others on the list.
• Aaron Armstead, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
The Hoops Report envisions a breakout season this winter for Armstead, who has been a mainstay in the Hoops Report’s top 25 prospects over the past couple of years. The 6-3 Armstead has offers from the likes of Loyola, Valparaiso, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wright State, Fairfield, Morehead State, SMU and North Carolina-Wilmington. While still in the process of setting up a few more visits, he has visited Valpo, Loyola and, most recently, Wisconsin-Green Bay. While there is still some sorting out to do on the recruiting front, UW-Green Bay and Valpo may be the two schools that currently stand out for Armstead.
• Deji Ibitayo, Rich Central
The Hoops Report’s projected breakout player when the summer began has done just that. Ibitayo has gone from an absolute unknown to a Division I player with multiple offers. Northern Illinois and Eastern Illinois were the first two schools in on Ibitayo and offered the up-and-coming prospect. And while Northern Illinois made a great early impression, the 6-3 athletic Ibitayo has offers from Wisconsin-Green Bay, Akron, Chicago State and Army. Ibitayo just recently had impressive visits to both Wisconsin-Green Bay and Akron.
• Greg Mays, Crete-Monee
The rapidly rising big man was an eye-opener this summer and will be a centerpiece for Crete-Monee this winter. There weren’t many players in the Class of 2011 that raised their stock more than Mays. The recruitment of Mays has Wisconsin-Green Bay, Southern Illinois, Bradley, Miami-Ohio and Boise State all being involved, with the new UIC staff ready to make a push as well.
• Will Sullivan, Elmhurst (York)
The hard-nosed 6-2 guard is still in the process of garnering interest, with Eastern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky in pursuit. Loyola is in the picture and Sullivan will be taking an unofficial visit to Miami-Ohio, which could be a fit based on Sullivan’s importance on academics.
• Keifer Sykes, Chicago (Marshall)
This little warrior, who is a solid student in the classroom, was a monster for Marshall down the stretch last March in helping lead the Commandos to Peoria. Sykes told the Hoops Report Eastern Illinois continues to show the most interest and that the idea of playing with his former Marshall teammate, current freshman Alfonzo McKinnie, is intriguing. Sykes has also received heavy interest from Chicago Sate and Eastern Kentucky, along with Wisconsin-Green Bay and Loyola.
• Jacob Williams, Chicago (St. Patrick)
The long, athletic 6-5 Williams just recently visited SMU and is currently setting up visits to Loyola and Indiana State. According to Mike Mullins of the Illinois Wolves, Colorado State and UAB remain interested. Williams could also be in a position of playing out his senior year and being a late signee next spring.
• Darien Walker, Chicago (Simeon)
After a strong July the 6-2 tough-as-nails guard solidified himself as a Division I talent with the interest rising in this Hoops Report sleeper. Now Walker, who helped lead Simeon to a state championship last season as a junior, has offers from Northern Illinois, Indiana State, Chicago State and Eastern Kentucky. Walker will be visiting NIU this week. Texas Christian has also expressed an interest and remains involved.
• Garrett Jones, Evanston
After opening eyes early last season Jones received offers from both Loyola and Wisconsin-Green Bay last December, with Toledo also involved. The powerpacked 5-10 scorer is on the cusp of being a hot commodity for Ivy League and Patriot League schools. If things materialize as hoped, Jones will have Cornell, Holy Cross and Lehigh at the top of a short list.
• Jack Ryan, Glenview (Glenbrook South)
The versatile 6-5 wing is a high academic student-athlete with his sights set on Ivy League and Patriot League program. Lehigh has offered Ryan, who recently visited Columbia and has or will visit the likes of Penn, Cornell, Yale and Dartmouth.
• Jerome Brown, 6-5, 2G, Chicago (Morgan Park)
Another player the Hoops Report has touted and believes is a better prospect than a lot of people have given him credit for as the offers have not been free-flowing at this point. There are several mid-major programs, ranging from the Missouri Valley to the MAC to the Horizon League, poking around with no one willing to pull the trigger just yet. Look for the new UIC staff to get immediately involved with the local sharpshooter.
•Ryan Jackson, Riverside-Brookfield
The 6-1 combo guard had a terrific summer with both his high school team and his club team, Old Gold. Jackson, who has a heavy interest in Lewis University, a solid Division II program, has offers from Chicago State, South Dakota State and Army. Wofford has shown interest and will be in to see him this fall, while Wisconsin-Green Bay is keeping tabs. Jackson will visit South Dakota State Sept. 17-19 and is setting up a visit to Army.