Henricksen: Top 10 prospects in Class of 2017

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The Class of 2017 has been a moving piece over the past six months.

The class lost its top talent earlier this school year when Jeremiah Tilmon left East St. Louis for La Lumiere in Indiana. With Tilmon’s departure, the state lost its highest ranked talent and best bet to be a McDonald’s All-American.

Another star, Alonzo Verge, left Willowbrook and enrolled at Proviso West, but then bolted for a prep school in Florida last fall. Now he’s back in Illinois and finishing up the year at Proviso West.

When Tilmon was around, it was a no-brainer. Everyone had Tilmon at the top, while the Hoops Report elevated Goodwin to No. 2 long ago, following his performance last summer.

Does the ultra-productive and talented Goodwin, who brings a variety of get-excited-about traits to the table, stay at No. 1? Of course he does.

Right now there is far too much consistent, high-level production and unique intangibles that you can rely on with Goodwin.

1. Jordan Goodwin, 6-3, 2G/WF, Belleville Althoff

Up to this point there isn’t another player in the class who has been more productive over his first three seasons. And that production, along with a fearless winning mentality, counts for an awful lot. He’s won and produced big. Oozing toughness and competitiveness, Goodwin has strength, basketball savvy, leadership and a will that translates to the next level, even if questions pop up concerning his jumper and ideal position in college. The perimeter shot is improving and he’s a player who transcends position. Goodwin has that “it” factor, which the Hoops Report highlighted HERE last month.

2. Damonte Williams, 6-3, PG/2G, Peoria Manual

Williams stays right near the top spot in the class due to his body type, athleticism and overall huge upside. He brings a little bit of the flare and easy feel for the game his dad, Frank Williams, brought when he played at Manual and Illinois. When locked in and focused, Williams can be a special talent as a big, long combo guard. He has better-than-you-think athleticism, strength and can score in multiple ways. The next step as a player is maintaining a consistent motor and production.

3. Nojel Eastern, 6-5½, PG/2G/WF, Evanston

Versatility is Eastern’s calling card as he’s as multi-dimensional as they come in this junior class. His size, basketball I.Q and ability to play so many different positions on the floor make him an attractive prospect. Plus, he plays extremely unselfish ––sometimes too unselfish. Eastern looks to pass and make those around him better, which is where his game begins. While he may not be a pure this or pure that, he makes plays with his size, length and overall versatility.

4. Justin Smith, 6-6, WF, Stevenson

This is your “high ceiling” prospect with very tantalizing upside. A bonafide high-major prospect, Smith is intriguing long-term, considering his off-the-charts physical and athletic package. His assertiveness and overall game, particularly off the dribble on the perimeter, still needs growth. But that’s coming along nicely, and he’s already a “wow” athlete with size and a sound shooting base and range out to the three-point line. Smith is still growing into the new-found role of being “the guy” and is becoming more comfortable in that capacity.

5. Alonzo Verge, 6-2½, PG/2G, Proviso West

In fairness to Verge, there probably needs to be an asterisk next to this name and ranking as he’s hardly been seen in months. And there is a little rust showing in the early spring. So we shall see where he lands on this list after playing out the spring on the club circuit. But prior to the start of this season, Verge did things from an offensive standpoint very few in this class could do. Although his high school destination for his senior year has yet to be determined, there is no questioning his talent level and ability to score the basketball. In those areas he’s pretty special.

6. Javon Pickett, 6-4, 2G/WF, Belleville East

A prospect who looks and plays better each time you see him. Long and rangy with a body that’s going to easily fill out and get stronger, Pickett brings versatility and is a solid athlete. The productive Pickett –– he averaged 23.4 points a game as a junior ––has a knack for scoring in different ways and shows underrated passing skills. While his jumper must become more efficient and a bigger part of his game, the Illinois commit finds ways to the rim and to the line (he shot 169 free throws this past season and made 78 percent).

7. Elijah Joiner, 6-2, PG/2G, Curie

A Hoops Report favorite who has been a fixture in the top 10 may be ready to blossom and impress a whole lot more people this spring and summer. He now has his chance to showcase an interesting and versatile skill set. Joiner, who has smooth mechanics and range on his jumper, has played himself into the combo guard conversation with an increased comfort level handling the ball.

8. Evan Gilyard, 5-9, PG, Simeon

A player with some dynamic playmaking ability in that he is jet-quick and has the ability to blow by most defenders, especially in the open court in transition. Even with his small stature, Gilyard is fearless in attacking. The mid-range, pull-up game is pretty developed, while the little lefty must also be accounted for on the three-point line. Still evolving into the type of floor general you look for in a point guard. Plays with a spirit and competitiveness.

9. Christian Negron, 6-6, PF, Elgin (Larkin)

A high-level athlete who, when he puts his work in as a blue-collar, lunch bucket 4-man, is an effective player on the glass, blocking a shot, defending, running the floor and finishing around the rim with his length and athleticism. There remain elements of his game he isn’t completely comfortable with yet, thus his overall handle and perimeter jumper must continue to make improvements to be an ideal wing at the next level.

10. Cameron Krutwig, 6-8½, PF/C, Jacobs

There are always going to be questions regarding Krutwig’s athleticism and pop off the floor the higher you project him. But he’s on another level for big men when it comes to his soft hands and terrific passing ability. Big and productive, Krutwig plays very hard with a polished skill set, advanced footwork and a solid understanding of the game.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report @joehoopsreport

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