How have recent No. 1 prospects out of the state of Illinois fared?
Remember, ranking “prospects,” especially at the high school level, is a tool in forecasting the future of their individual basketball careers. The evaluation process is not only an inexact science but often an exhausting process. But at the end it’s about projecting going forward and what you think and believe players can become when each player reaches their ultimate ceiling.
When it comes to the following list, it’s the best of the best. After playing out their college and professional careers would they still be considered the No. 1 player in the class? Did they live up to the ranking?
Here is a historical look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top-ranked player in each class over the past 20 years. Would they still be considered No. 1? Have others surpassed them post-high school?
▪ Brian Cook, Lincoln (1999)
The verdict: Cook
The 6-10 power forward with shooting touch and range put together a stellar college career at Illinois, where he was named Big Ten MVP in 2003 and is the third all-time leading scorer in Illinois history. The 24th overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, Cook enjoyed a nine-year NBA career and easily remains on top of a class that lacked high-profile talent.
▪ Darius Miles, East St. Louis (2000)
The verdict: Dwyane Wade, Richards
There was no bigger fan of Wade than the City/Suburban Hoops Report. Wade was a Hoops Report first-team all-stater as a junior and was the Hoops Report Player of the Year –– over Miles –– as a senior.
The bottom line is the class produced a NBA superstar in Wade. Miles, who was the No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft out of high school, was the heavily-hyped prospect at the top of the class. Wade, the future Hall of Famer, would obviously be the choice now.
▪ Eddy Curry, Thornwood (2001)
The verdict: Curry
Curry played seven full seasons in the NBA –– and parts of a few more –– after being the fourth overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2001 NBA Draft. Some would label Curry’s career a disappointment, but the 7-footer did average 12.9 points a game in his career.
▪ Dee Brown, Proviso East (2002)
The verdict: Andre Igoudala, Springfield Lanphier
The City/Suburban Hoops Report’s self-admitted biggest miss in 20-plus years is Igoudala. Looking back, he would be the top-ranked prospect. While Brown was sensational in college and an iconic figure at Illinois, Igoudala has enjoyed a long, steady NBA career. He’s played a key role during Golden State’s dominance and has scored 13,000-plus career points.
▪ Shannon Brown, Proviso East (2003)
The verdict: Brown
Early on in their high school careers there was a debate between Brown and Springfield Lanphier’s Richard McBride. Brown, the McDonald’s All-American who played at Michigan State and was a NBA first-round pick, lived up to his No. 1 billing. He just recently completed a nine-year NBA career.
▪ Shaun Livingston, Peoria Central (2004)
The verdict: Livingston
Who knows what kind of career he would have had if not for a devastating injury as a 21-year-old in his third NBA season. But he’s carved out a nice, lengthy career after being the No. 4 pick right out of high school. There are no challengers to Livingston in the class.
▪ Julian Wright, Homewood-Flossmoor (2005)
The verdict: Wright
Despite a somewhat quiet college career at Kansas –– he averaged 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game in two seasons –– and just four seasons in the NBA, Wright is still the choice as the top prospect in this class.
▪ Jon Scheyer, Glenbrook North (2006)
The verdict: Patrick Beverley, Marshall
The class was loaded. There were supporters of Crane’s Sherron Collins, the No. 2 ranked player, while Bobby Frasor of Brother Rice, Jerel McNeal of Hillcrest and Patrick Beverley of Marshall were top five prospects. But long-term, Beverley is still churning out NBA paychecks and would now move from No. 4 to No. 1, thanks to a winding road to a solid seven-year career.
▪ Derrick Rose, Simeon (2007)
The verdict: Rose
He was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft a year after he graduated from Simeon and became the youngest NBA MVP in league history. The No. 2 player in the class, St. Joseph’s Evan Turner, has turned in quite a career as well.
▪ Iman Shumpert, Oak Park (2008)
The verdict: Shumpert
A little undervalued when it comes to prep stars produced in Illinois. The former McDonald’s All-American was the 17th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft after three seasons at Georgia Tech. The athletic guard, who just wrapped up his eighth season in the NBA, remains the best prospect out of Illinois in the Class of 2008.
▪ Brandon Paul, Warren (2009)
The verdict: Robert Covington, Proviso West
After starring at Illinois, Paul has been on the cusp of sticking in the NBA, including playing in 64 games for the San Antonio Spurs in 2017-2018. But here we have our biggest post-high school stock riser in Covington, who would now be considered the top prospect in the class.
Covington grew to 6-9 and has been the biggest surprise on this list. Covington, who played college basketball at Tennessee State after being the 19th ranked prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2009, has averaged 12.7 points a game in six NBA seasons.
▪ Jereme Richmond, Waukegan (2010)
The verdict: Meyers Leonard, Robinson
In hindsight, the other Illinois recruit that year, Leonard, would now be the top prospect after playing a small role the past seven seasons with the Portland Trailblazers. As for Richmond? Off-the-court issues derailed his career quickly.
▪ Anthony Davis, Perspectives (2011)
The verdict: Davis
This was an absolutely fantastic class, including four players who made it to the NBA, including Niles North’s Abdel Nader, Orr’s Myke Henry, Rock Island’s Chasson Randle and Benet’s Frank Kaminksy.
But what else is there to say when it comes to AD? Davis was not only the No. 1 player in Illinois but the consensus No. 1 player in the country as a senior. He won a national title at Kentucky, was the National Player of the Year in his one college season, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and is a six-time NBA All-Star at the age of 25.
▪ Steve Taylor, Simeon (2012)
The verdict: Fred Van Vleet, Rockford Auburn
The class was as weak as we’ve seen in Illinois, and it’s now a no-brainer who would be the top prospect. Van Vleet, who was ranked No. 3 in the class as a senior, would be No. 1 today. The point guard was a four-year star at Wichita State and All-American. He’s found a niche at the NBA level and is now playing a role with the Toronto Raptors.
▪ Jabari Parker, Simeon (2013)
The verdict: Parker
Even if he hasn’t lived up to other people’s expectations –– those expectations were always going to be a challenge to live up to –– Parker is a 15-point a game scorer in the NBA. He remains the best player and prospect produced from the Class of 2013.
▪ Jahlil Okafor, Young (2014)
The verdict: Okafor
Currently in the process of re-making himself as a player in the NBA. But there is no debating he’s still the No. 1 prospect in the class.
▪ Jalen Brunson, Stevenson (2015)
The verdict: Brunson
One of the most decorated players in Illinois basketball history when you combine his high school and college résumés. No second-guessing here for the point guard who is playing with the Dallas Mavericks.
▪ Charlie Moore, Morgan Park (2016)
The verdict: Zach Norvell, Simeon
Moore will be at his third school in four years this coming season at DePaul after spending time at Cal and Kansas. Both Norvell and Isaiah Roby of Dixon, who put together very good careers at Gonzaga and Nebraska, respectively, have declared for the NBA Draft. Both would now be ranked ahead of Moore in the post-high school class rankings.
▪ Mark Smith, Edwardsville (2017)
The verdict: Undecided
It’s still early. This would be one that is debatable going forward, just as it was when the class was still in high school with East St. Louis product Jeremiah Tilmon. If you look at the list of prospects, no one in the class has stepped up in a big way thus far in their college career.
Smith averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game while shooting 45 percent from the three-point line as a sophomore at Missouri.
▪ Talen Horton-Tucker, Simeon (2018)
The verdict: Undecided
There is time left on this top-prospect watch. It’s still early in their post-high school careers. THT is hoping to squeeze into the first round of the NBA Draft after a quick stop at Iowa State, while Ayo Dosunmu, ranked No. 2 in the class, will spend at least one more year in college at Illinois. Check back on this one.