Fifty to watch in ’08-'09

By Joe Henricksen

Prep basketball fans in Illinois have plenty to look forward to in coming years, thanks to the abundance of young, individual talent in the current sophomore and freshmen classes in the state. College coaches around the country have certainly taken an early notice of these young prospects in Illinois. And now even the juniors — the players in the Class of 2009 — have blossomed into what looks to be a very solid class.

In fact, this particular group of players in the junior class has made quite a leap. Typically today, individual players and classes as a whole are hyped up early and often, whether it’s deserved or not. If you would have asked me two years ago if this Class of 2009 would be as strong as it is following the completion of their junior year, I would have said absolutely not. I thought this class lacked depth and star power at the top. Now there is quality depth with several still under-appreciated players that are genuine low Division I to mid-major prospects and as many as seven or eight players that have or could crack someone’s top 100 national rankings.

Although it’s certainly not a spectacular group, it’s one that has made tremendous strides, maybe bigger strides than any class I’ve seen over a two-year period in quite some time. That’s a credit to the individuals in this class and an example of how it’s still too early to label a certain class “strong” or “weak” when they are freshmen and sophomores. While there are some groups that are clearly special and jump out at you, so much can happen in 24 months as a prep player develops physically and psychologically.

Here is a list of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 50 college prospects to watch heading into the summer.

1. Brandon Paul, 6-3, 2G, Gurnee (Warren) …. Has separated himself from the rest of the pack, combining potential with productivity.

2. D.J. Richardson, 6-3, PG/2G, Peoria (Central) …. As versatile of a guard as there is in the class.

3. Jack Cooley, 6-8, PF, Glenview (Glenbrook South) …. Absolutely love his toughness. No player has risen more quickly than Notre Dame commit.

4. Diamond Taylor, 6-3, 2G, Westchester (St. Joseph) …. Needs strength but as potent of a scorer as there is in ’09.

5. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) …. Strong, confident, breaks people down and has improved perimeter jumper.

6. Joseph Bertrand, 6-5, PG/2G, Sterling …. Ability, potential is scary; still needs to play with more assertiveness and consistency.

7. Jordan Prosser, 6-8, PF, Eureka …. Sound fundamentally, limited athletically; a highly-coveted four-man.

8. Dyricus Simms-Edwards, 6-1, PG, Washington …. Big-bodied lead guard coveted by mid-majors but can play at a higher level.

9. Darius Smith, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Marshall) …. Always around the ball, makes plays on both ends and wins games.

10. Kyle Rowley, 6-10, C, Lake Forest (Academy) …. The classic big-man project but getting better (and losing weight) by the week.

11. Marcus Jordan, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) …. Strength, athleticism there; still much to prove with decision-making.

12. Michael Haynes, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Washington) …. Looks the part with body and length but has a lot of holes in overall game.

13. Cully Payne, 6-1, PG, Schaumburg …. Limited quickness and size but makes good decisions, competes and can shoot it

14. Nik Garcia, 6-5, 2G/WF, Skokie (Niles West) …. Consistency an issue but a big-time scorer when focused.

15. Terry Johnson, 6-0, PG/2G, Chicago (St. Rita) …. Combo guard can score in bunches and in a variety of ways.

16. David Brown, 6-2, 2G, Rockton-Hononegah …. Multi-dimensional guard just gets after it.

17. Malcolm Herron, 6-3, 2G, Downers Grove (South) …. The most overlooked player right now in Illinois.

18. Matt Vogrich, 6-3, 2G, Lake Forest …. One of the top two or three shooters in the class and could flourish in right system.

19. Eriq Harris, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Marshall) …. Capable of putting it all together and having monster senior year.

20. Drew Crawford, 6-5, 2G/WF, Naperville (Central) …. As versatile as they get; makes those around him better.

21. Jonathan Mills, 6-4, PF, Chicago (North Lawndale) …. Undersized but pound-for-pound, best rebounder in the state.

22. Tony Nixon, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Seton Academy) …. Long athlete really starting to shoot it from perimeter and a legit Division I prospect.

23. Jordan Walker, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) …. How will long layoff impact his progress?

24. Shaun Pratl, 6-8, PF, Oak Lawn (Richards) …. If he was hoops only his upside would be scary. Rugged and athletic.

25. Cortney Bell, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Lincoln Park) …. Tremendous athlete still figuring out how to play.

26. John Taylor, 5-11, 2G, Chicago (North Lawndale) …. Pounds it on the floor too much, but he’s always in attack mode.

27. James Kinney, 6-0, PG, Champaign (Centennial) …. Evolving into a steady, bonafide floor general.

28. Brian Conway, 6-3, WF, Chicago Heights (Bloom) …. Athletic, long, active, runs like a deer — but limited shooting and ball skills.

29. D.J. Cooper, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Hales Franciscan) …. A tempo-changer with the ball in his hands.

30. D’Mitri Riggs, 6-3, WF, Bloomington …. Stock has fallen dramatically but still an athletic, talented presence.

31. Stanford Brown, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young) …. Inside player with size and a nice developing face-up game.

32. Marcus Rodgers, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park) …. Body and size is there but hasn’t played in quite some time.

33. Danhi Wilson, 6-3, WF, Skokie (Maine East) …. Extreme toughness and strength; still lacks a defined position.

34. Brandon Orange, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Simeon) …. Body jumps out at you and oozes with athletic ability.

35. Zeke Upshaw, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Lab School) …. Interesting and unknown talent. Needs strength but a silky smooth scorer.

36. Malcolm Griffin, 6-2, 2G, Chicago (Hyde Park) …. Capable of putting points up in a hurry.

37. Seth Evans, 6-0, PG, Seneca …. UW-Green Bay commit often forgotten about. Can shoot, knows how to play.

38. Jelani Johnson, 6-4, WF, Aurora (Waubonsie Valley) …. Under-the-radar talent just scratching the surface.

39. David Smith, 6-2, PG/2G, Lake Forest (Academy) …. Doesn’t do anything flashy but everything pretty well.

40. Luke Scarlata, 6-8, PF, Berwyn-Cicero (Morton) …. Big body, plays hard, skill level decent for big man.

41. Markus Yarbrough, 6-7, PF, Zion-Benton …. Big body, nice shooting touch but needs strength and conditioning.

42. Xavier Humphrey, 6-3, 2G, Oak Park (Fenwick) …. Still trying to figure out exactly what he is.

43. Conrad Krutwig, 6-5, PF, Algonquin (Jacobs) …. Lack of a true position hurts him, but does have a nice face-up game.

44. Rajsaun Thompson, 6-3, WF, Chicago Heights (Bloom) …. Long, wiry, gets to the hoop. Needs to improve perimeter skills.

45. Troynell Adams, 6-5, PF, Chicago (Farragut) …. Freakish athleticism but still an undersized inside player.

46. Kendrick Morse, 5-6, PG, Richton Park (Rich South) …. Really played well in opening week of AAU play.

47. Derek Needham, 6-0, PG, Chicago (DeLaSalle) …. Sound, capable, steady, all-around point.

48. Ronald Steward, 5-9, PG, Zion-Benton …. Tough, gets after it and more under control.

49. James Pointer, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Leo) …. Lead guard with a scorer’s mentality.

50. Jeremy Jones, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Simeon) …. Will knock down shots and poised for breakout year.

NOTE: While Zeke Schneider of Metamora is a highly-regarded player and considered a Division I prospect, he is one player the Hoops Report has not seen play. Thus, the 6-9 Schneider is not included the rankings at this time.

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