Summer’s Big Winners

By Joe Henricksen

With July coming to an end and a time of rest (August) upon high school basketball followers, it’s time to take a look back at what has transpired over the last few months. The City/Suburban Hoops Report already broke down the Class of 2011 in the previous blog, with an updated Class of 2009 and Class of 2010 rankings to follow in the coming week. Here is a look at the Hoops Report’s summer winners.

Biggest Winner

Matt Vogrich, Lake Forest

The sweet shooting guard went from a mid-major prospect and ranked in the mid-teens in the last Hoops Report Class of 2009 rankings to a high-major player that has vaulted himself to the No. 5 spot in the senior class in Illinois. While his shooting ability has always been his biggest strength, he continued to show time and time again that he’s a better athlete than people give him credit for. As a result, he showed the ability to get shots off and score in bunches against top-quality players and superb athletes. Now he’s one of the most coveted uncommitted players in the state of Illinois.

Other Big Winners

D.J. Richardson, Peoria Central

He began the summer as the Hoops Report’s No. 2 player and remains there, just behind Warren’s Brandon Paul. But Richardson elevated himself in the eyes of the national gurus with his play this spring and summer with Larry Butler’s Illinois Warriors. It will be interesting where Richardson lands in the national rankings (a likely consensus top 30-40 player) after a stellar summer, which saw him really smooth out some of the rough edges to his game.

Marcus Jordan, Chicago (Whitney Young)

While the Hoops Report still has doubts as to how high of a level Jordan can play and succeed at due to some of his limitations, there is no question he erased some of those doubts among college coaches after standing out in July. But getting a grasp of just where he stands on the recruiting front is as difficult to do as any player in Illinois.

Tony Nixon, South Holland (Seton Academy)

This 6-5 sharpshooter went from being a mid-major prospect to an absolute “must have” mid-major recruit. Now it’s a question of whether a bigger school has a need for a shooter that can really extend defenses. He can put on a shooting exhibition and, slowly but surely, is getting a little more comfortable putting the ball on the floor.

Drew Crawford, Naperville (Central)

After the Hoops Report did all it could in hyping the talented and versatile 6-5 perimeter threat for the past 12 months, it’s good to see he’s getting the notoriety from others as well, including more and more college interest. Crawford was sensational in what was an obscure junior year and continued to get better and better over the course of the spring and summer. The old cliché “his best basketball is ahead of him” clearly fits Crawford.

And the biggest underclassmen winners are….

If Meyers Leonard played 20 or 25 years ago people may not have known of the Robinson big man until he was a senior–if they were lucky. He may have been a classic slip-through-the-cracks type that would have possibly ended up being a steal for a local college program due to where he played. Fast-forward to 2008 and no player with size and talent can go too long without being noticed, not in this day of constant AAU action, an obscene amount of “talent evaluators” and the internet. While Leonard still ended up staying close to home in the end, committing to the major state university, his stock was just beginning to go through the roof before coach Bruce Weber nabbed a commitment. In six months this kid went from no one knowing who he was to being a top 50 player nationally in his class, according to one national recruiting service…. While state evaluators, including the City/Suburban Hoops Report, have praised the impact Zion-Benton star Lenzelle Smith has on a team and game, the 6-3 junior and No. 3 rated player in the Class of 2010 now has national admirers–from high-major college coaches to national recruiting analysts. His stock soared over the past couple of months…. A couple of other juniors that made big names for themselves over the past few months playing with the Rising Stars and moved up in terms of what level college coaches viewed they could play at include Mundelein guard Ben Brust and DeKalb big man Jordan Threloff. Brust, with his great scoring ability and surprising bounce to his game, and Threloff, with tremendous size to go with a true interior player’s build and mindset, will now both likely land in high-major conferences when it’s all said and done …. In the Class of 2011, Rock Island star Chasson Randle, the talented sophomore who spent the offseason playing with the Illinois Wolves, put his name on the national map.

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