When it comes to this year’s senior class, there are plenty of skeptics, including yours truly.
After a summer of evaluating, watching them play with both their high school teams in June and on the club circuit in July, the Class of 2016 in Illinois didn’t exactly change the opinion of scouts or college coaches. The class continues to lack true, difference-making recruits at the top that we’ve grown accustomed to and, overall, there is a shortage of Division I depth.
This is the weakest class the state has produced since the Class of 2012, which at that time was regarded as the least talented class in Illinois since 1999. There is a collective sigh with even the mention of the Class of 2012 among basketball diehards in this state.
With one year left in their high school careers, will the Class of 2016 at least surpass the group from 2012? How does the current class compare to the group of players who are wrapping up their college careers?
Here is a look back at the final City/Suburban Hoops Report class rankings from 2012, along with how each of the top 20 prospects have fared in college as they enter their senior and junior years of eligibility.
1. Steve Taylor, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Simeon)
Though there were critics then and questions about Taylor’s upside when he was a high school player, he was the lone Illinois prospect ranked nationally in the top 100. After spending three years at Marquette, where he averaged 22 minutes, 5.9 points and 5 rebounds a game as a junior, Taylor has transferred to Toledo. He will sit out this coming season and have one year of eligibility remaining.
2. Rashaun Stimage, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Farragut)
The Hoops Report loved the potential of Stimage, a long, rangy, athletic and active 4-man. After two years of junior college college ball at both Blinn College (Tex.) and Daytona State College (Fla.), Stimage signed with DePaul. He put up 4.6 points a game in 14 minutes of action as a junior and is entering his senior year for first-year coach Dave Leitao.
3. Fred Van Vleet, 5-10, PG, Rockford (Auburn)
In a re-do of 2012, Van Vleet is without question the No. 1 player in the class in Illinois and a consensus top 50 player in the country by national evaluators. But he was always a bit overlooked as a prep player and, after committing to Wichita State prior to the final July evaluation period of his senior year, no one paid attention. Now he’s a college All-American for a Top 25 team in the country.
4. Marlon Johnson, 6-9, PF, Joliet (West)
The classic late bloomer in high school who projected well at the next level with continued improvement and development. His recruitment spiked late in 2012 of his senior season, but the academics forced Johnson to spend two years in the junior college ranks at Tallahassee Community College. He’s now headed to New Mexico Highlands, a Division II school.
5. Milton Doyle, 6-4, 2G/WF, Chicago (Marshall)
After falling hard for Doyle midway through his senior year, the Hoops Report elevated the athletic wing into the top 10 in the class before settling in as the No. 5 prospect in the Class of 2012. Although signing with Kansas was a stretch for Doyle at the time, he ultimately landed at Loyola and is putting together a terrific career. He was the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer and Freshman of the Year two years ago and led the Ramblers with 11.4 points and 4.2 assists per game this past season.
6. Jerron Wilbot, 6-3, 2G, Downers Grove (South)
A talent in the backcourt who had some off-the-court and academic issues that always interfered with his basketball career. Originally headed to Seton Hall before issues prevented that, Wilbut landed at Cal-State Northridge this past season to play for coach Reggie Theus. He was still just a freshman this past season at CSNU but did not play.
7. Anthony Beane, Jr., 6-2, PG, Normal
He’s putting together an outstanding career at Southern Illinois and has been the program’s best player over the past couple of seasons. Last year as a junior, Beane averaged 16.1 points a game. The second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference player will close in on 2,000 career points this season as a senior.
8. Aaron Simpson, 5-10, 2G, North Chicago
A prolific scorer during his high school career, Simpson originally signed with Illinois State but ended up at Lincoln Junior College for two years, where he was among the top 20 junior college scorers in the country. Last season as a junior at DePaul, Simpson averaged 4.8 points a game in 17 minutes of action.
9. Tim Williams, 6-7, PF, Homewood-Flossmoor
A lot of people missed the boat on Williams, partly due to the fact he split time between football and basketball in high school while also dealing with a foot injury earlier in his career. Samford landed a steal –– he averaged 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds a game as a sophomore there–– and he ultimately transferred to New Mexico. He sat out this past season and will have two years of eligibility remaining under coach Craig Neal.
10. Darius Paul, 6-8, PF, Gurnee (Warren)
The verdict is still out on the offensively talented Paul who was the MAC Freshman of the Year at Western Michigan before transferring to Illinois. After the transfer and a year of junior college, Paul had two years of eligibility remaining at Illinois before being kicked off the team earlier this month.
11. Keith Carter, 6-0, PG, Maywood (Proviso East)
After signing with and briefly playing at Saint Louis, Carter transferred to Valpo. He was part of a Horizon League title team last year, averaging 8.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game. Carter will be a big part of a team this year that is expected to repeat in the Horizon League and be ranked among the top 25 teams in the country.
12. Tony Hicks, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (St. Rita)
Somewhat unheralded coming out of high school due to signing with an Ivy League school, but he put together a terrific senior year at St. Rita. Hicks has made the most of his opportunities at Penn. As he begins his senior year, Hicks led Penn in scoring the past two years and already has scored over 1,000 career points as he heads into his final season.
13. Marcus Posley, 6-0, 2G, Rockford (Auburn)
He’s been a basketball vagabond, transferring from Winnebago to Rockford Auburn while in high school. Then after a good freshman season at Ball State, Posley left to go play a year of junior college ball at Indian Hills in Iowa. He’s blossomed at St. Bonaventure where, as a junior last season, he was an Atlantic 10 All-Conference third team selection after averaging 16.7 points a game as a junior.
14. Akeem Springs, 6-3, 2G, Waukegan
A whirlwind recruiting odyssey, which included signing with Mississippi Valley State, then landing at Northern Illinois and ultimately finding a home at UW-Milwaukee. He had a solid season a year ago, starting 22 games for the Panthers while averaging 10.3 points and 4.9 rebounds a game with two years of eligibility remaining.
15. Jeff “Keke” White, 6-0, PG, Peoria (Manual)
He’s been a three-year contributor at Loyola, with his best season coming as a sophomore (9.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3 apg in 32 minutes) before his minutes dipped to 19 a game this past season as a junior.
16. Michael Orris, 6-2, PG, Crete-Monee
The former Illinois recruit followed coach Bruce Weber to Kansas State. He transferred after one year at Kansas State and is now set to begin his junior year at Northern Illinois. Last season he played 26 minutes a game and averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 assists a game.
17. Darrell Combs, 6-2, 2G, South Holland (Thornwood)
Another player in the class who has moved around a lot, first committing to Loyola before spending time at Blinn Junior College in Texas, where he led Blinn in scoring with 17 points a game. He landed at Eastern Michigan, where he played one season (7.5 ppg in 15 minutes a game), and then transferred to IUPUI. He sat out last season and will be eligible to play this season.
18. Devin Foster, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Curie)
After a huge senior season for the Condors, Foster headed to Mott Community College in Michigan. Curie coach Mike Oliver says his former star guard has enrolled at Robert Morris, a NAIA basketball program in Chicago.
19. Eddie Alcantera, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan)
After spending his freshman year at Western Kentucky and his sophomore season at Blinn Junior College in Texas, Alcantera signed with Division II St. Cloud State in Minnesota. He played 19 minutes a game as a junior and averaged 6.5 points and 5.1 rebounds a game.
20. T.J. Bell, 6-8, PF/C, Charleston
After redshirting his freshman season at Indiana State, Bell has played a small role off the bench for the Sycamores the past two seasons and has two years of eligibility remaining.
Best Five college careers outside the Top 20
■ Nathan Boothe, 6-9, C, Gurnee (Warren) … The No. 22 ranked player in the Class of 2012, Boothe has played major minutes for the Rockets since stepping foot on campus. In his three years at Toledo he’s averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds a game.
■ Gabe Levin, 6-7, PF, Oak Park-River Forest … Based on strictly player rankings, Levin proved to be the biggest sleeper in the class, though a year of prep school out of high school certainly helped his development and progression as a player. He’s also the most traveled player in the class. After a year of prep school, Levin averaged 11.1 points and 7.2 rebounds a game at Loyola Marymount. During the following offseason he transferred to Marquette and then to Long Beach State. He sat out last season at LBSU and has three years of eligibility remaining.
■ Kory Brown, 6-4, WF, Elgin … After a stellar senior year at Elgin, Brown has proved to be a valuable all-around piece for a North Dakota State program that has had quite a bit of success in his three years, winning 73 games and reaching the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. He’s played 26 minutes a game over the course of his three years, while averaging 4.9, 7.0 and 8.3 points a game for the Bison.
■ Reggie Johnson, 6-2, 2G, St. Joseph … A player who raised his stock as much as anyone during his senior year of high school, Johnson, ranked 25th in the class, was a major player as a freshman at Miami-Ohio, where he was the second leading scorer. He transferred to Hampton, became eligible last December and averaged 11.9 points a game –– 15.2 points a game over his last 14 –– while helping Hampton to a NCAA Tournament berth.
■ Brian Bennett, 6-10, C, Plainfield East … After a breakout senior year in high school, Bennett jumped to No. 29 in the final Hoops Report player rankings. He has played a big part for Cal-Poly, which reached the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago. Last season as a junior he averaged 11.5 points and 6.3 rebounds a game in 30 minutes of action.
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