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Shootout at the Hall thoughts

By Joe Henricksen

First and foremost, the Shootout at the Hall basketball event is an absolute must-have and must-continue for Illinois

coach Bruce Weber and the Illini coaching staff. While the one-day prep basketball smorgasbord is put together by

a combination of WDWS/News-Gazette and the Champaign County Sports Commission, the big winner is Fighting

Illini basketball.

A big step was made this year as top-flight teams and players were added to the shootout mix in comparison to a

year ago.This is a great way to get prospects on campus, to play in Assembly Hall and, more than likely, in front of

Illinois basketball fans. If I’m Weber, I am doing all I can behind the scenes to encourage the organizers of the event

to keep this running in Champaign.

Here are City/Suburban Hoops Report thoughts from what went down at Assembly Hall on Saturday….

TOP PERFORMANCE

Without a doubt Rich South’s Crandall Head was the most impressive player on the day. The sophomore was

dazzling in a matchup against Champaign Centennial. In the loss, Head scored a game-high 34 points. But it was

more than just the point production. Head again showed his freakish athleticism. But he also showed more

assertiveness, which often comes with age and experience, and also a much higher overall skill level with his

shooting, ballhandling and feel for the game.

Head admitted himself it was the best game he’s played, and the Illini staff concurred as they watched the 6-3

wing. But the Hoops Report absolutely loves the progression he’s made since this past summer. Luther’s little

brother is far from polished or a finished product. When watching Head, though, he has an intangible really no other

prospect in the loaded Class of 2010 has—an unlimited ceiling. Yes, it can be argued his ceiling is higher than even

Waukegan’s Jereme Richmond. If there is one player in Illinois that will surely grab national attention this offseason,

it’s Head. I would be shocked if he’s not among the nation’s top 50 players in his class (maybe top 30) when all is

said and done two years from now. Of all the underclassmen in the state, I think it will be Head that will be the most

fun to watch in terms of how he evolves and develops as a player.

Here is a sneak peak at the Hoops Report Top 10 prospects in the Class of 2010. The complete list will be released in this week’s City/Suburban Hoops Report issue that comes out Tuesday, Dec. 18.

1. Jereme Richmond, 6-6, WF, Waukegan

2. Crandall Head, 6-3, 2G/WF, Rich South

3. Anthony Johnson, 6-3, PG/2G, Whitney Young

4. Alex Rossi, 6-5, 2G, New Trier

5. DeAndre McCamey, 6-1, PG, St. Joseph

6. Lenzelle Smith, 6-3, WF, Zion-Benton

7. Mike McCall, 6-0, PG/2G, Foreman

8. Lavonte Dority, 5-11, PG, Foreman

9. Paul Bunch, 6-10, C, North Lawndale

10. Reggie Smith, 6-0, 2G, Thornton

STARS ALLIGNED IN CLASS OF 20009

It could be argued the five top prospects in the Class of 2009–Whitney Young’s Chris Colvin and Marcus Jordan,

Sterling’s Joseph Bertrand, Warren’s Brandon Paul and Peoria Central’s D.J. Richardson–were on display Saturday

in Assembly Hall. Depending on the individual observer or college coach you talk to, the thoughts on the five, and a

few others in the class, vary, sometimes from week to week.

On this day, it can’t be argued that Sterling’s Joseph Bertrand was the top performer of the juniors. He brings so

much versatility to the floor, with the ability to play three different positions. He reminds the Hoops Report of former

Illini player Stephen Bardo with his long length, athleticism and versatile abilities. He projects to be a better shooter

than Bardo. I have always worried about him being so passive and if he would have that overall toughness.

Although it was just one day, Bertrand showed flashes of both in Assembly Hall, although it was against a poor

Peoria Central team. He’s added a little weight and is stronger than a year ago, but he still has a ways to go in that

department as well.

While all these young players that have committed to Illinois–Jereme Richmond, D.J. Richardson, Brandon Paul and

Joseph Bertrand–combine skills, size and athleticism on the perimeter that the current Illinois team simply doesn’t

have, they all need to mature as players. By that, I mean, bringing it every time out on the floor, not taking off

minutes at a time, competing for 32 minutes and playing with consistency. A lot of that comes with experience, so

we will see how that part of their game transpires over the next two years.

The Hoops Report will feature the updated Class of 2009 rankings in the Christmas Tournament Preview Issue, due

out this week. Here is a look at how the top 10 will look.

1. Brandon Paul, 6-3, 2G, Warren

2. Joseph Bertrand, 6-5, PG/2G/WF, Sterling

3. Diamond Taylor, 6-3, 2G, St. Joseph

4. D.J. Richardson, 6-3, 2G, Peoria Central

5. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Whitney Young

6. Marcus Jordan, 6-2, PG/2G, Whitney Young

7. Jordan Prosser, 6-8, PF, Eureka

8. Darius Smith, 6-2, PG, Marshall

9. Michael Haynes, 6-6, WF/PF, Washington

10. Nik Garcia, 6-5, 2G/WG, Niles West

For questions or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 13th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or e-mail hoopsreport@yahoo.com