20 years later, a look back at the star-studded Class of 1998

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Three freshman recruits for DePaul. From Left: Bobby Simmons, Quentin Richardson and Lance Williams. Sun-Times file photo.

There is always a healthy discussion when debating the best group of players from an individual class in state basketball history. The debate always includes the Class of 1979, headed by Isiah Thomas and Terry Cummings, who went on to become NBA first-round draft picks, and the Class of 1998.

Sadly, years pass and the number of Illinois prep basketball diehards with a terrific grasp of historical perspective diminishes.

But as this school year comes to a close, it marks 20 years since a special group of players shined in this state and went on to stardom in college and the professionally. It’s time to look back at this memorable group.

The 2017-2018 season is the 20th anniversary of the Class of 1998. It’s one of the state’s most talented classes and the best in the 24-year history of the City/Suburban Hoops Report. The class not only featured star talent at the top –– there were three McDonald’s All-Americans and eight players ranked among the top 100 in the country, including six players among the nation’s top 30 –– there was great Division I depth with 50-plus Division I players.

Here is a look at that class –– where they were ranked by the Hoops Report and what they accomplished.

1. Quentin Richardson, 6-5, Young

National Rank: No. 9

College: DePaul

All Richardson did as a senior as lead his team to a state championship while averaging 24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds a game while shooting 60 percent from the field.

The McDonald’s All-American went on to DePaul, where he was a star for two seasons, averaging a whopping 18.9 points and 10.5 rebounds a game as a freshman and 17 points and 9.8 rebounds as a sophomore. He helped lead the Blue Demons to a NCAA Tournament berth before being the 18th pick in the 2000 NBA Draft pick after two seasons at DePaul. Richardson played 12 seasons in the NBA.

2. Corey Maggette, 6-6, Fenwick

National Rank: No. 16

College: Duke

Another McDonald’s All-American in the Class of 1998, Maggette led the Friars to the Elite Eight, averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds a game as a senior. He played just one season at Duke, where he averaged 10.6 points and 3.9 rebounds a game. Maggette was drafted No. 13 in the NBA Draft and enjoyed a 14-year NBA career and score 13,198 career points.

3. Frank Williams, 6-3, Peoria Manual

National Rank: No. 21

College: Illinois

A third McDonald’s All-American who dazzled as a senior, averaging 23 points a game after winning state titles as a sophomore and junior at Manual. Williams, a NBA first-round draft pick, was Big Ten MVP his junior year at Illinois and averaged 18 points and 5.4 assists in his three-year career. Played parts of three seasons in the NBA after being the 25h pick in the 2002 NBA draft.

4. Bobby Simmons, 6-7, Simeon

National Rank: No. 26

College: DePaul

After a standout career at Simeon, the versatile forward headed to DePaul and put together three terrific seasons. In three seasons he scored 1,263 points, pulled down 700 rebounds and had 207 assists. Simmons put together a lengthy 10-year NBA career as a role player.

5. Michael Wright, 6-8, Farragut

National Rank: No. 29

College: Arizona

As a freshman at Farragut, Wright was part of a team that included Kevin Garnett and Ronnie Fields and was an all-stater by his senior year when he put up whopping numbers (29 ppg, 16 rpg).

At Arizona, Wright was ultra-productive in three seasons. He was part of Arizona’s national runner-up team in 2001 as he averaged 15.6 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. He scored 1,491 points and pulled down 832 rebounds while winning 77 games in three years.

Sadly, Wright, who put together a long career overseas, was killed in New York City in 2016 at the age of 35.

6. Lance Williams, 6-9, Julian

National Rank: No. 24

College: DePaul

Often overlooked in this class due to all the star power, but Williams was a load in high school with a soft touch shooting the basketball. Then the big-bodied Williams put up solid, consistent numbers throughout his four-year DePaul career. He scored 1,170 career points at DePaul and grabbed 680 rebounds.

7. Joey Range, 6-5, Galesburg

National Rank: No. 45

College: Iowa

He was a prep legend in high school with eye-opening moments throughout his high school career and a dynamic player. People still remember Range putting up 55 points against Glenbrook North in a January game. But he played just one season at Iowa, averaging 7.8 points a game as a freshman.

8. Kevin Frey, 6-8, Maine West

College: Xavier

A real underrated player in the class as the physical and athletic big man led Maine West to the Elite Eight as a senior. Frey, who transferred in from Mt. Carmel, put up 17.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a game. He put together a solid career in college with 1,100 career points and 700-plus rebounds in his four seasons.

9. Dennis Gates, 6-4, Young

National Rank: No. 92

College: California

He filled a stat sheet as a senior, averaging 11.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists while being the team’s best defensive player and knocking down 35 three-pointers. Starting just 18 games in his Cal career, Gates was part of two NCAA Tournament teams as a junior and senior. Gates is currently an assistant coach at Florida State.

10. Damir Krupalija, 6-8, Rockford Boylan

College: Illinois

As a junior at Boylan, Krupalija helped his team to a fourth-place finish in Illinois and was an all-stater as a senior when he averaged 19.4 points and 12 rebounds a game. While his college numbers were modest, Krupalija was a key player for some very good Illinois teams, including an Elite Eight team in 2001 and a Sweet Sixteen team in 2002. Krupalija played 13 professional seasons overseas.

11. Traves Wilson, 6-2, Moline

National Rank: No. 82

College: Arizona

After being ranked among the top 100 players in the country and heading off to Arizona, the college career was short and rather unproductive. He played in 28 games at Arizona before transferring to Illinois State and playing 18 games with the Redbirds where he averaged as modest 6.9 points a game.

12. Anthony Johnson, 6-6, King

College: Louisiana

An underrated prospect out of King, the swingman was the leading scorer for a Jaguars team that won 27 games and lost to eventual state champion Young in the city championship game. Johnson starred for the Ragin Cajuns for three years, averaging 15.5, 14.9 and 14.4 points a game in his three seasons and was an all-Sun Belt Conference selection.

13. Cordell Henry, 5-9, Whitney Young

College: Marquette

The point guard for the 1998 state champions and averaged 14.1 points and four assists a game for the Dolphins. Proved to be one of the real underrated players in the class as Henry put together an outstanding career at Marquette. In four successive years he averaged 7.2 points, 9.1 points, 12.9 points and 15.2 points a game, finishing with 1,347 career points and 430 career assists.

14. Rod Thompson, 6-5, Galesburg

College: Iowa

Transferred from Chicago Carver to Galesburg where as a senior he averaged 15 points and 9.2 rebounds a game for a team that finished second in the state and won 30 games. In four pedestrian seasons at Iowa, Thompson scored just 235 points and had 154 rebounds.

15. Lucas Johnson, 6-7, Maine West

College: Illinois

Teamed up with Kevin Frey to lead Maine West to its best season in school history as Johnson averaged 17.5 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He became one of the more popular Illinois players with his heart and hustle as a key role player. In his career, Johnson scored just 571 points in his career.

16. Waitari Marsh, 6-2, Julian

College: Tulane

A player the Hoops Report loved in high school and who went on to a solid college career. He played major minutes early and put up some outstanding numbers in four years, finishing with 1,152 points, 416 assists and 419 rebounds for career averages of 10.1 ppg, 3.6 apg and 3.7 rpg.

17. Chris Williams, 6-1, PG, Fenwick

College: Loyola

Formed quite a duo for four years at Fenwick with Corey Maggette and led the Friars to the Elite Eight in Champaign in his senior year, averaging 17.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and nearly three assists a game. Played two seasons at Loyola, where he averaged 10.6 points and 10.8 points a game.

18. Marlon London, 6-3, 2G, Westchester (St. Joseph)

College: Kansas/DePaul

Played two years at Kansas in a minimal role before transferring to DePaul. He started just 10 games in two years at DePaul, averaging 18 minutes a game and scoring a total of 405 points in his college career.

19. Michael Wilder, 6-2, Stephen Decatur

College: Louisiana Tech

A player the Hoops Report had ranked high coming out of high school. After two years of junior college, Wilder played two seasons at Louisiana Tech where he averaged 7.8 points a game as a junior and 9.4 as a senior.

20. Travon Davis, 5-10, Nazareth Academy

College: Wisconsin

Played minimal minutes early in his career and as a senior he averaged 7.8 points a game for the Badgers. He finished with just 385 career points.

21. Shawn Jeppson, 6-2, Spring Valley Hall

College: Illinois State

A storybook high school career, which included 1,829 career points, being named the Class A Player of the Year in Illinois and two state runner-up finishes. He put up a memorable 51 points in a state title game loss in 1996. He followed his prep career with a stellar college career in which he scored 1,160 career points for the Redbirds.

22. Tavaras Hardy, 6-7, PF, Providence

College: Northwestern

Averaged 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for a Northwestern team that won 16 games in 2001-2002 and finished his career with 1,122 points and 640 rebounds while starting 113 games in his career. Currently the head coach at Loyola-Maryland.

23. Pierre Greene, 6-2, PG, Simeon

College: Old Dominion

He wasn’t talked about a whole bunch in high school but Greene went on to score 919 career points and was a two-year starter at Old Dominion.

24. Corey Harris, 6-8, PF, Whitney Young

College: Ball State

Played two seasons at Ball State but played in just a total of 41 games, scoring 45 career points.

25. Henry Domercant, 6-2, 2G, Naperville (North)

College: Eastern Illinois

The most undervalued player on this list coming out of high school, Domercant was a prolific scorer at EIU and in the OVC. Domercant, who was the second leading scorer in the nation for two seasons, scored 2,602 career points and led the Panthers to the NCAA Tournament. He finished as the all-time leading scorer in EIU and OVC history and is the 16th all-time leading scorer in NCAA basketball history.

And the other top players from the Class of 1998 …

Maurice Baker, MadisonThis has been a whirlwind of a career. A point guard from the southern part of the state, Baker led Madison to the Class A Elite Eight. He then went to Dixie State Junior College in Utah and was a monster once he got to Oklahoma State for his junior and senior seasons. He averaged 19.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game as a junior. As a senior he averaged 12.9 points a game for coach Eddie Sutton.

Baker’s career took off following high school and included a cup of coffee in the NBA (OK, not a cup but rather a sip) as he played in five NBA games and a total of four minutes of action during the 2004-2005 season with the Clippers and Trailblazers. Baker was playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA Development League as recently as two years ago and was named the head basketball coach of his alma mater, Madison, in 2017.

• Jannero Pargo, Robeson

Although he didn’t get as much attention as others in the class while in high school, Pargo went on to play two years of junior college before paying his final two seasons at Arkansas. He went undrafted but carved out a niche as role player in the NBA, playing parts of 11 seasons in the league.

• Mark Treadwell, 6-5, St. Joseph

An extremely rocky high school career that started at Fenwick with Corey Maggette. But he transferred to Westinghouse, where he faced off-the-court issues as a junior, and then headed to St. Joseph for his senior year where he missed most of the season with an injury. Signed with Indiana but was released and never played there,

Linton Johnson, Providence St. Mel (Tulane)

A late bloomer who wasn’t talked about much during his high school years, the slender 6-8 forward headed to Tulane for four years –– he averaged 13.1 points as a junior and 9.0 points as a senior ––before a surprising 151-game NBA career.

• Jon Harris, Edwardsville (Marquette)

After a standout career at Edwardsville, the 6-7 forward headed to Marquette where he was a role player for four seasons. He scored 439 career points and started 15 games in his college career. Today, he’s the head coach at SIU-Edwardsville.

• Tyler Smith, Lake Forest (Penn State)

Started 60 games at Penn State during his junior (7.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and senior (12 ppg, 5.0 rpg) seasons. He started for a Nittany Lions team that reached the Sweet Sixteen and played professionally overseas for a decade. Smith has also written a book, titled “Called for Traveling: My Pro Basketball Adventures Overseas.”

• Rob Walls, St. Joseph (Butler)

The 6-5 wing was the East Suburban Catholic Conference Player of the Year as a senior for coach Gene Pingatore. He originally signed with Penn State but ended up playing his freshman year at Olney Central Junior College and went on to play three years at Butler, where he scored just 85 total points in his career.

• Eric Channing, Wheaton South (New Mexico State)

What a college career the 6-4 guard put together at New Mexico. He wasn’t even ranked among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 40 prospects in the class but went on to score 1,862 career points in college. Channing drained 283 career three-pointers and over his four years averaged 10.4, 15.6, 18.6 and 16.2 points a game.

• Chris Braun, Waterloo Gibault (Saint Louis)

The 6-10 big man stayed close to home and signed with Saint Louis, where he played a small role throughout his career. While starting just two games, Braun played in 121 career games and finished scoring 608 career points.

• Randy Rice, Springfield (Illinois State)

The jet-quick guard was a multi-sport athlete in high school and an all-conference selection in three sports. He averaged 17.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists as a senior. After two years at Wabash Valley Community College, Rice played at Illinois State. The 6-0 guard started 59 games in his two seasons.

• Ian Hanavan, Moline

After playing two years at UIC, where he played in 53 games as a freshman and sophomore but never started, the 6-5 forward transferred to Evansville. He had a productive two years as he averaged 11.1 points a game as a junior and then as a senior averaged 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game.

• Quiande Moore, 6-2, PG, Zion-Benton

After going the JUCO route, Moore was a double-figure scorer at Southwest Missouri State (currently Missouri State).

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