Plenty of 2011 stars make jump

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By Joe Henricksen

This past season again showed what a huge jump players make between their sophomore and junior year in high school. While not always the case, the Hoops Report still believes this is the time frame where players either blossom or start to plateau.

Those players that do hit that wall, stagnate a bit, are the ones who become a bit of a scary proposition when it comes to college recruiting. Did they max out early? After showing so much promise and potential as freshmen and sophomores, how high is their ceiling? They had the name early on, but do they have the game later on?

Those that are just beginning to flourish as players, show the still raw but improving abilities and emerging productivity, those are the players that excite the Hoops Report as prospects. You can’t hold on to the past too long when it comes to the young players that received so much attention early on. These players are often starting to tread water while others are just beginning to swim with ease.

Orr’s Mycheal Henry has certainly been on the Hoops Report radar with a precipitous rise. After an inconsistent and somewhat suspect summer where he was still trying to figure it all out, the upside he possessed still landed Henry among the top 15 prospects in the junior class last fall. He checked in at No. 14 in the Hoops Report’s Class of 2011 player rankings in September. Henry absolutely bloomed in December. After watching him three times in December, it was clear he had climbed a huge hurdle. By Jan. 1 Henry made the jump into the top five in the Hoops Report rankings. He continued his consistency and production throughout the remaining months of the season.

The interest in Henry, while increasing, remained on the backburner. In mid-February Henry nabbed his first high-major offer from Wisconsin. A few weeks later Illinois came through with an offer the first week of March. Now other high-majors are involved, with his national reputation (he’s basically unknown by national evaluators) set to spark this spring and summer.

Now, when looking at Henry’s abilities in combination with his productivity and upside as a college prospect, he’s surpassed the majority of his peers. He is now just growing into his body and into his potential as a player. He is a bit over 6-5 with a frame to add even more weight and strength. He’s an above-average athlete who is able to get things done around the rim and finish with his athleticism, strength and feel. And he can really shoot the basketball, with the elevation and high release on his jumper that makes him such a perimeter threat. The biggest hurdles remaining is a better feel on the perimeter, a willingness to be a defender and improving his ballhandling.

While Henry has made a considerable jump, there are plenty of others that have as well and will continue to rise above some of the names fans are currently more familiar with. The biggest debate is where players No. 4 through No. 8 fall. There is a mix of seven players that, depending on who you talk with and what they see, could be No. 4, No. 7 or No. 8. The fact is all seven of these players are high-major prospects with a different upside and ceiling. And with several of them there is very little difference between them as prospects in the eyes of the Hoops Report and could be interchangeable.

Here is a snapshot of the top ranked players in the Class of 2011 as they head into the spring and summer.

NOTE: These rankings were modified after getting a look at Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives, who climbed rapidly in the rankings, and after a busy couple of weeks of AAU basketball. These rankings were updated May 3, 2010.

1. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park) … Has raised his game to another level with more consistency and production. He is head and shoulders above the rest of the class. His body is college ready with strength and athleticism, while his perimeter jumper is very much improved. There is certainly some fine tuning necessary, including getting more and more consistent, but he’s an enormous talent who is a national type of recruit for Louisville.

2. Anthony Davis, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Perspectives) … Ridiculously long 4-man with skill who will remind you of JaVale McGee as far as a player and development. Fluid when running the floor, alters and blocks shots with his length and has a soft touch out to 15 feet. Add another high-major prospect to the Class of 2011 as he creeps into the national spotlight and has eyes on the top spot in the Illinois player rankings.

3. Mycheal Henry, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr) … The promise and potential has matured into true talent and production. He’s still in the process of blooming as a player, but he has certain attributes he can depend and rely on, which some in this class don’t have just yet. He must get more comfortable with the dribble and creating offense for himself, while also figuring out how important defense is. Those are weaknesses that can be worked on.

4. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) … Of all the top prospects in the class he may be the furthest from reaching his ceiling — partly due to being a late developer and partly due to having such a high ceiling that hasn’t been reached. Suspect handle is a weakness right now and overall production has to get better. Long, agile, effortless athlete with versatility; think a young Stacey Augmon, who — like Augmon was – will be a pretty special player defensively on the perimeter with his size, length and athleticism.

5. Tracy Abrams, 6-1, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) … Many don’t appreciate all that he brings to the table, including toughness, maturity and presence. You win with players like Abrams. His explosiveness at the guard spot is coveted. A scorer who is evolving into a point guard and understanding how to be a true playmaker. Still needs to get stronger with the left and become a more consistent shooter, but he could be anywhere between No. 2 and No. 4 on this list.

6. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island … He doesn’t possess the wow factor, which sometimes people get too caught up in. Calm, cool, collected combo guard who has matured and grown as a player, both physically and with his versatility. Players love playing with him as he’s unselfish and a team-first type. Again, won’t wow you in any one area, but he’s awfully good in a lot of different areas. He will knock down a shot, get to the rim, handle it, pass it and give you some defense.

7. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East) … An absolute blur up and down the floor with the ball in his hands. Extremely quick, explosive player with a cockiness and confidence necessary to play at a high level. He’s blessed with a big-time scoring burst and just has a natural feel for the game that constantly puts pressure on opponents. Lacks ideal weight and strength but is so difficult to defend and stay in front of. If he can stay composed, play within himself and control his emotions, the sky is the limit. Here is a player that could easily slide three or four spots higher.

8. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius) … Slowly but surely getting better. Like Randle, Egwu won’t be an eye-opener with one quick look. You have to think down the road. Still a bit of a work in progress, particularly offensively and in the strength department, but he’s coming fast as he gets more comfortable with the speed of the game. His face-up 10-15 foot jumper and jump-hook have evolved, and he’s a presence defensively. In 2-3 years Egwu could surprise people with his combination of body, strength (yes, he’s going to fill out and be big down the road) and agility.

9. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle) … Really put together a nice junior year. He is accepting who and what he is as a player, which has helped his development. Now I wish others would accept who he is and let him play. He was more active in the second half of the season and became more consistent. Great body, runs the floor well for his size and solid character kid. He certainly has his limitations but has a pretty good motor and will battle on the boards.

10. Phillip Greene, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Julian) … Yes, he can be a little wild and erratic offensively, but he’s extremely quick off the dribble, plays at full throttle and can put points on the board in bunches with a three, getting to the basket or mid-range game. Slight frame gives defenders the advantage of bodying him and taking away his driving lanes.

11. Bruce Baron, 6-2, PG/2G, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) … Stock is rising for this power-packed combo guard who is still a bit streaky with his shot but who takes contact and uses body well. He brings toughness. Good strength that allows him to get where he needs to. The question is he a natural distributor and playmaker?

12. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks) … Will knock down shots. Has good vision and feel. Solid basketball I.Q. who understands the game. He does lack ideal size and is not a top-level athlete, but he is simply a rock solid player. For comparison sake, Marshall has some Eric Maynor in him if anyone remembers the former VCU point guard. Has battled through some injuries over the past 12 months that have hindered his production, but look for a big spring and summer for the Wisconsin commit.

13. Dre Henley, 6-6, WF, Carbondale (Brehm Prep) … An extremely skilled and versatile wing with a nice physical package. He can do a little of everything – pass a little, handle it and knock down a shot — but what does he hang his hat on? A bit heavy legged which limits his first step, his overall athleticism and lateral quickness defensively.

14. Abdel Nader, 6-6, WF/PF, Skokie (Niles North) … Long, athletic combo forward who is still in the process of figuring it all out. Runs the floor well, active and is becoming more productive. He has shown an ability to knock down shots. Still not as fluid of a player as you would like and needs to establish toughness, an on-court presence more consistently and against top competition.

15. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G/WF, Lombard (Glenbard East) … A blossoming, under-the-radar talent who is just scratching the surface as a player. Very active on both ends of the floor and productive. He gets to the basket, has a mid-range game and can knock down threes on the catch-and-shoot. Thrives in the open court and glides to the basket. Release point is a little low and needs to speed up his release, but he shoots it very effectively. Needs to add weight and strength.

16. Derrick Marks, 6-2, 2G, Plainfield (Central) … Has a bit of an old school game with different dimensions, including a very developed mid-range game and a body that is strong and can take some contact. Although he may not be an elite athlete, finds ways to separate from defender with his first step and strength and can score in a variety of ways. He is always attacking the basket. Committed to Albany.

17. Jamie Crockett, 6-4, WF, Crete-Monee … A physical marvel who is very developed for his age and blessed with big-time athleticism but still a bit of a ‘tweener. A solid finisher around the basket. If his motor and energy improve he could be a big factor on the glass. He is still in the process of finding a consistent outside shot and understanding the game.

18. Luke Hager, 6-7, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young) … Role has been limited on loaded Whitney Young team, but his ceiling and upside is very high. A long, bouncy, versatile and promising talent who still has a lot to prove this spring and summer. He handles it well for his size and makes plays, but he must improve his range and mechanics on his jump shot.

19. David Sobolewski, 6-1, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy) … Solid and consistent and took his game to another level over the second half of the season and in March when he put his team on his back. Handled constant pressure from opponents very well, stayed cool, composed and ran his team well. Has the ability to make those around him better and score. Will need to prove himself this spring and summer against elite level athletes and quickness.

20. Macari Brooks, 6-1, 2G/WF, Richton Park (Rich South) … One of those rare jaw-dropping athletes who will make plays around the rim, finish with impressive athletic plays and dunks. Plays with some enthusiasm. He is still evolving, however, into a basketball player, with a lot of room for growth in the skills areas and decision-making on the floor. Progress as a prospect will hinge on his developing jumper.

21. Jamari Traylor, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Julian) … Still a long way to go but you just can’t ignore the body and athleticism this raw athlete possesses. A physical specimen. Runs the floor, mobile, blocks shots but doesn’t have much of an offensive game.

22. Ryan Sawvell, 6-7, PF, Mundelein … A kid with the great combination of size and a motor. Hoops Report favorite for awhile now, Sawvell is mobile, active, competes and finishes. Runs the floor very well, rebounds and is capable of knocking down a three-pointer or finishing with an alley-oop. True back-to-the-basket moves still a work in progress.

23. Frank Kaminsky, 6-10, C, Lisle (Benet Academy) … While his post-up game and presence on the block isn’t there just yet, this rising big man can run the floor and is skilled. Since the high school season has ended Kaminsky has made strides that have intrigued all that have watched him.

24. Roosevelt Jones, 6-3, WF, O’Fallon … Really can’t label this high energy player whose motor is always running. He can be a rebounding force and he finishes, especially for a player his size. That intuition on the glass and high motor produces results. He’s getting more comfortable on the perimeter but has a long way to go in terms of developing a shooting stroke that is pretty non-existent right now.

25. Donivine Stewart, 5-10, PG, Bartonville (Limestone) … Classic gym rat who, despite a lack of elite athleticism and quickness, finds ways to draw contact and get to the line where he knocks down free throws. He may not be a natural point guard, as he’s certainly more of a scorer than a distributor, but the Bradley commit is a player.

26. Julius Brown, 5-8, PG, Country Club Hills (Hillcrest) … There is not enough appreciation for Brown, who was the floor general for a state title team. A competitor at a key position who is exceptional at getting into the lane or pulling up with a very effective pull-up, mid-range jumper. He’s small but has a rare combination of having long arms and a nice frame to add strength and muscle.

27. Quentin Chievous, 6-4, WF, Niles (Notre Dame) … A lot like Hill in that he’s oozing upside and is poised to really breakout as a prospect after making a huge jump from early in the season to the end of the season. Stock will soar for this long, active wing with great bloodlines (father starred at Missouri and played in the NBA). His game is tailor-made to be a scorer as he matures both physically and mentally as a player. Has made major strides with his perimeter shot. Now needs to make similar strides with his ballhandling.

28. Jacob Williams, 6-5, WF, Chicago (St. Patrick) … Long, athletic wing with a still developing offensive game. Still needs to shoot the basketball better from the perimeter and must add consistency to his all-around game. The whole package is still in the process of coming together.

29. James Farr, 6-7, PF, Evanston … Made perhaps the biggest jump in the class as he continues to show rapid improvement. A big man with an offensive game, which includes stepping out and hitting mid-range jumpers out to 17 feet with regularity and developing a nice jump-hook in the lane. A sleeper who will have a breakout summer.

30. Aaron Armstead, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) … Still developing as a player but love his skill package. He can handle it on the perimeter and has a very nice looking stroke with range. Will coast from time to time during a game and battles some inconsistency issues. First step and overall game is smooth rather than explosive.

31. Keifer Sykes, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Marshall) … The consummate point guard who is blessed with an inner-fire and intangibles you crave for as a coach. He’s a playmaker first who can get in the lane and distribute. He’s small but is capable of scoring when called upon (averaged 19 points a game in four-game state tournament stretch in March).

32. Dylan Ennis, 6-0, PG, Lake Forest (Academy) … While he can still be erratic with both his shooting and decision-making, he’s a point guard with a body and strength (and will only get bigger with his frame) who is an above-average athlete. This Akron commit has put together a terrific spring.

33. Adonis Filer, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) … Combination of power and quickness. Shows flashes of lock down, on-the-ball defense with his strength and athleticism. He’s made strides with his jumper but must become more consistent with it and tighten up his ballhandling as decision-making and playing at a fast-forward pace can be an issue.

34. Jerome Brown, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park) … This sleeper prospect is poised for breakout spring and summer as he’s one of the better shooters available in the class. He is now starting to get more done off the dribble and has shown a willingness to defend. Long, shooting wing is soaring up the charts. As he gains more consistency, Brown’s reputation among college coaches could soar as well.

35. Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, PF, Peoria (Notre Dame) … Brute strength and rock solid base is his calling card, though he is limited. Eats up space, sets a big screen. Fundamentally sound player who understands rebounding, sealing man and getting rebounds in his area despite being a below-the-rim player.

36. Jordan Nelson, 5-11, PG, Lincoln … Time to look past his physical stature. If you can there is so much to like with this pure shooter, who is arguably the best shooter in Illinois. He plays with energy, competes, has a feel for the game and continues to improve his playmaking ability.

37. Mike Turner, 6-7, PF, Chicago (University) … Skilled face-up 4-man who is still in the developing stages, both as a player and physically. A lack of strength and body mass has slowed his progress, but he has an upside that is intriguing.

38. Kyle Anderson, 6-2, 2G, Newark … A big spring and summer ahead for the bouncy shooting guard who is out to dismiss the small town, lack-of-competition stereotype. He is best at getting to the basket and finishing at the rim with his body and athleticism, but will knock down shots from the three-point line as well. Ball security and adapting to a high level of play will determine how high he can play at the next level.

39. Ryan Jackson, 6-1, PG, Riverside-Brookfield … Big-bodied lead guard who can take some contact and finish through it, knock down mid-range jumpers and see the floor well. Still needs to redefine his body, which should give him more energy and add to his quickness and athleticism.

40. Will Sullivan, 6-2, 2G, Elmhurst (York) … Has worked hard to become a better, more consistent and fundamental player. He does a lot of things well, including a solid mid-range game and improved range. May lack the smoothness you would like from a perimeter player and needs to tighten up his handle.

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