Early returns on Class of 2011

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By Joe Henricksen

The Class of 2011 produced one of the higher number of Division I recruits we’ve seen in recent years and a dozen-plus high-major players, highlighted by the nation’s top-ranked prospect in Anthony Davis of Perspectives. While the majority of these players will progress over time and become bigger factors with more experience, here is a quick look at what last year’s seniors from Illinois are doing this year as college freshmen.

The following is a look at the Hoops Report’s final ranking of the top 25 prospects in the class last May, with the comments on each player remaining from that late May blog.

1. Anthony Davis, 6-10, PF, Chicago (Perspectives)

The nation’s top player brings so much talent and upside to the table as he possesses the things you can’t teach: size at 6-10 with ridiculous, never-ending length. He’s extremely active, especially on the defensive end, and boasts a skill level you typically don’t see in a player with his height. His slender frame and lack of strength will be issues initially. He may not be as athletic or ferocious as Kevin Garnett, but he has many of the same talents at KG.

So far: Has lived up to the hype, averaging 12.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.6 blocks a game while shooting over 63 percent from the field for one of the nation’s top teams. Projected as the No. 1 pick in next June’s NBA Draft.

2. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)

This is a player who came into high school with a ton of hype and lived up to it. He did get better each season. A big, strong, athletic wing whose skills have improved every year. He’s a strong finisher whose jumper has improved and will only get better. Blackshear will be a major factor for the Cardinals and coach Rich Pitino.

So far: Redshirting at Louisville after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

3. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius)

When it’s all said and done, the Hoops Report believes Egwu is a better college prospect than many players in Illinois currently ranked ahead of him by others. He’s big, agile, runs the floor, can really shoot it, plays hard and is a sponge with more to learn and improve on. Unfortunately, national analysts watched Egwu when he was injured last summer and don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the high school season. But like in his high school career, it’s going to take time.

So far: Playing 11 minutes a game backing up Meyers Leonard with pedestrian numbers of 2.4 ppg and 1.9 rpg. Remains about projection with Egwu, who will be just fine down the road.

4. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East)

Put together the most dominating high school season in the state of Illinois and was co-Mr. Basketball. An electric talent who averaged over 30 points a game. He’s jet-quick, athletic and can put the ball in the hole in bunches and is a blur from end to end and in open court. How will his individual game — and lack of size — translate to the next level? His explosiveness with the ball in his hands sets him apart.

So far: Was not appreciated enough by fans in Chicago and around the state. Has been a big boost for the Huskies, playing 26 minutes a night while putting up super freshman numbers: 10.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg and 3.5 apg and shooting 47% from three.

5. Mycheal Henry, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr)

A disappointing season for Orr took some of the fanfare away from Henry this past winter. But Henry, who bloomed a little later than some, has terrific size and shooting ability to score at the high-major level. As Henry’s ball skills and willingness to defend improve, he will evolve into a big weapon for coach Bruce Weber at Illinois.

So far: Has battled injuries and his defensive deficiencies but is seeing his role beginning to expand after very limited action the first two months of the season. Averaging 3.8 ppg in 8 minutes of action.

6. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island

Rock solid and steady throughout his career, which culminated with a Class 3A state championship and sharing the Mr. Basketball award. Randle, who could slide anywhere on this list from No. 4 to No. 6, may not wow you, but he is polished, does so many things well and is one of the more college-ready players in the class. He brings an overall game and intangibles that will get him on the floor right away at Stanford.

So far: Has been terrific for the Cardinal, playing 30 minutes a night and averaging 12 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals a game.

7. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)

A bouncy, athletic wing with a long wingspan who moves fluidly up and down the floor and is a highlight waiting to happen. At the very least, Thompson can become a big-time perimeter defender in the Big Ten for Ohio State. Both his handle and shot have improved, but he must continue to make strides in those areas, which will lead to more productivity on the offensive end.

So far: Has played in every game, averaging 10 minutes and 3 points a game for one of the top teams in the country.

8. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel)

With a solid make-up, toughness and contagious positive attitude, Abrams has molded himself into a scoring point guard who is still learning the nuances of the position. Will prove to be a physical guard who will defend and find ways to make plays but must tighten up his ballhandling. While he may not have a whole lot of upside, he’s a program kid who will be coachable and be a valuable role guy at the very minimum.

So far: Has seen extensive time (18 mpg) in the backcourt but averages just 2.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game. But his impact is and will be felt beyond statistics.

9. Abdel Nader, 6-7, PF, Skokie (Niles North)

Put together a monster year (24 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg) in leading Niles North to its best season in school history. An intriguing face-up 4-man who has very good shooting ability and range. Plus, he has some athleticism to get quite a bit done around the basket. He has to get tougher and stronger and more focused. Of all the recruits in the Class of 2011, Northern Illinois nabbing Nader this late in the process is the biggest recruiting steal in the class.

So far: In 22 minutes of action for a struggling NIU team, Nader is averaging 9.2 points and 3 rebounds a game.

10. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)

Likely a little overrated by some, but if he can find his niche at the high-major level, Shaw can have a very productive career at Illinois. A mobile, put-together 4-man who will rebound and compete at his position. Offensively, he has a long way to go and is still trying to become more consistent. This 6-8, 225-pounder will get bigger, stronger and can be the ideal blue-collar workhorse with just enough skill to make him a threat. Hopefully Illinois fans won’t have unrealistic expectations as he’s a role player at the high-major level.

So far: Very little time for Shaw who has looked a little out of his element in his 8 minutes a game. Averaging 1.1 ppg and 2.3 rpg.

11. Frank Kaminsky, 6-10, PF/C, Lisle (Benet Academy)

There weren’t many players who improved more over the course of their career — and the last 12 months — than the Wisconsin-bound big man. The skilled Kaminsky, who handles it and shoots it well for a player with size, found the perfect fit at Wisconsin. Look for Kaminsky’s improvement to continue under Bo Ryan and become a factor down the road.

So far: Small role off the bench, averaging 8 minutes of action and scoring 2.6 points a game.

12. David Sobolewski, 6-1, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy)

You just know what you’re going to get with the Sobo. He may not have the untapped potential and upside of others in the class, but he brings a winning attitude and security to the point guard position. Battled through a nagging back injury for a large portion of this past season. Will take care of the ball, make the right decision and knock down a shot for Northwestern.

So far: Playing over 34 minutes a game as the starting point guard. Averaging 8.3 points, 3 rebounds and 3.8 assists with just 14 turnovers.

13. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G, Lombard (Glenbard East)

The Illinois State recruit capped off his senior year with a bang, opening eyes with high-level performances in leading his team to a third-place finish in Class 4A. Long and active, Hill’s perimeter jumper became a threat to go with his ability to flourish in getting to the rim. Plus, he just knows how to play with his natural instincts and is a highly underrated passer.

So far: Averaging 3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 10 minutes of action a game for vastly improved ISU team.

14. Roosevelt Jones, 6-3, WF, O’Fallon … Highly productive and successful high school career with numbers and wins over the past three seasons. There are certainly questions how his game will translate to the next level, but he does fit nicely into Butler’s system. Jones is tough, strong and competes at an extremely high level.

So far: Minutes have been there as he’s playing 26-plus a night. Had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists in loss to Xavier. Still can’t shoot (15 of 33 from the line) but productive — 6.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg. 2.1 apg.

15. Bruce Baron, 6-3, PG, Carbondale (Brehm Prep)

While he can get a little erratic and wild, Baron is a big, strong, athletic guard who can take contact and score. Headed to Oregon, Baron’s talents and style of play simply needs to be reined in as a collegian.

So far: Left the Oregon program in late November.

16. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks)

Battled injuries throughout his career, including a freak injury that knocked him out for seven weeks this season. Bounced back with a big second half of the season and led Eagles to city title and Peoria in Class 3A. Wisconsin-bound Marshall will knock down shots from his point guard position.

So far: Redshirting.

17. Jamee Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee

Really put together one heck of a senior year in leading Warriors to their best season in school history. He’s always been a freak athletically, but Crockett used that athleticism to become a much more efficient scorer and productive rebounder. Should fit nicely into coach Oliver Purnell’s style at DePaul.

So far: Minutes have increased significantly over last 9 games and averaged 7.7 ppg in that time. Season averages: 6.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg in 13 minutes.

18. Derrick Marks, 6-2, 2G, Plainfield (Central)

Big, strong guard who excels in the open court and running the floor downhill towards the basket. Does a terrific job of using his body and strength in drawing contact, finishing at the rim and getting to the line. Headed to Boise State next fall.

So far: Highly productive in 17 minutes a game, averaging 9.2 points, 2.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds a game. Scored 17 points in loss to Iowa.

19. Dre Henley, 6-6, WF, Chicago (De La Salle)

Another recruiting steal for Northern Illinois. The versatile Henley, who has a nice blend of size and skill, can be a factor at a few different positions in the MAC, especially if his perimeter jumper becomes more consistent. Joins Abdel Nader to form one heck of 1-2 recruiting punch for coach Mark Montgomery.

So far: Was removed from NIU program and has since moved on to junior college.

20. Ryan Sawvell, 6-7, PF, Mundelein

In the eyes of the Hoops Report, quite possibly the most underappreciated player in the Chicago area with the numbers and success he had this past season. The Evansville recruit is sneaky athletic, runs the floor and plays hard. He will need to add upper and lower body strength, but Sawvell is a worker and a kid with some size who can put the ball in the hole.

So far: Has played a big role for improving Purple Aces, playing 18 minutes a game and averaging 4.6 ppg and 2.6 rpg.

21. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest)

Yet another Hoops Report favorite as “Juice” has proved two things: he wins games and can put the ball in the hole from his point guard position. Strong, compact lead guard who, despite his small size, has length and strength. A struggling Toledo program landed a good one and added a key piece to the rebuilding project.

So far: A likely four-year starter for the Rockets, Brown is playing 32 minutes a game while putting up 13 points, 5.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds a night.

22. Quenton Chievous, 6-4, WF, Niles (Notre Dame)

The Hoops Report has liked Chievous and his potential a little more than others. Though he is still in the process of putting it all together, he’s a big-bodied wing who has vastly improved in all areas. Both his range and efficiency with his perimeter shot are better. The Tennessee recruit still needs to get more comfortable putting it on the floor and creating for himself and others off the dribble.

So far: Redshirting.

23. James Farr, 6-8, PF, Evanston

Another player who wrapped up his senior year and will become a 2012 recruit with a year at prep school. Farr still possesses a great deal of upside. Recently committed to Xavier. Farr, who can face up and knock down shots with some range, will need to continue to fill out physically, improve laterally and become a bigger factor around the basket.

So far: Prepping at Maine Central and signed with Xavier last fall.

24. Dylan Ennis, 6-2, PG, Lake Forest (Academy)

The Rice-bound point guard has a nice blend of size, athleticism and playmaking ability as a lead guard and scorer. Although his game can be a little loose and a bit erratic, he’s improved and is a rhythm scorer who can shoot it and slash.

So far: Been a regular for the Owls as he’s averaged 8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 23 minutes a game.

25. Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame)

Had a monster senior year and ended up parlaying it into a Big Ten scholarship from Michigan. Strong with very little athleticism, Bielfeldt showed he can step away and knock down face-up jumpers. But more than maybe any player in the class, his game does not translate to the level he will be playing at in college.

So far: Redshirting.

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