By Joe Henricksen
While it’s hardly fair, a small portion of their prep basketball career — in this case, a couple of weeks in July — can make all the difference for a high school senior-to-be in the eyes of college coaches and national talent evaluators. After watching the Class of 2009 the last few years and throughout the spring and early summer, here is how the City/Suburban Hoops Report sees the class stacking up prior to the pivotal July evaluation period.
1. Brandon Paul, 6-3, 2G, Gurnee (Warren) …. Has held the top spot for quite some time and that won’t change. He has the most upside of any player in the class with scoring and athletic abilities second to none in the Class of 2009.
2. D.J. Richardson, 6-3, 2G, Peoria (Central) …. A versatile guard who makes plays when needed and has the ability to raise the level of the players around him.
3. Jack Cooley, 6-8, PF, Glenview (Glenbrook South) …. May not have the pure upside of some of the players behind him on this list, but finding productive big men willing to do what it takes to succeed, win, make teams better are hard to find. Absolutely love his work ethic and potential strength.
4. Chris Colvin, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Whitney Young) …. The best point guard prospect in Illinois. While he’s always been able to break anyone down off the dribble, his shooting and decision-making have both improved. He’s a high-major talent.
5. Diamond Taylor, 6-3, 2G, Bolingbrook …. The Wisconsin recruit is a versatile scoring 2-guard that must find a way to add weight and strength before the battles of the Big Ten.
6. Joseph Bertrand, 6-5, PG/2G, Sterling …. Probably the biggest enigma in the class. You catch Bertrand on the right day and he will “wow” you. But there are still too many times for a player his age (seniors typically bring it more often than not as opposed to young players) where he leaves you wanting more. Still a terrific prospect — if he can ever reach that consistency.
7. David Brown, 6-2, 2G, Rockton-Hononegah …. Although the Hoops Report has seen Brown less than many others in this class, he has yet to disappoint. Love his toughness and his improved scoring capabilities.
8. Darius Smith, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Marshall) …. Just an absolute winner who makes plays and finds a way to get things done on both ends. The only knock is his lack of a consistent jump shot and just what position he plays at the next level.
9. Nik Garcia, 6-5, 2G, Evanston …. Some national evaluators are going ga-ga over Garcia (as well as some high-major programs). Hoops Report loves his shooting stroke and ability to stretch defenses, but he does have his limitations as a natural 2-guard playing at the highest level.
10. Terry Johnson, 5-11, PG/2G, Chicago (St. Rita) …. Has steadily climbed the Hoops Report’s rankings while he remains underrated elsewhere. Love players who can put it in the hole and Johnson does it in a variety of ways.
11. Dyricus Simms-Edwards, 6-1, PG, Washington …. He’s still in the learning mode. Great body and getting better as a shooter, but still may lack that extra gear and ability to separate. Now he’s suffers a stress fracture and will be out all of July. Horrible break for an absolutely terrific kid.
12. D.J. Cooper, 5-9, PG, South Holland (Seton Academy) …. He has played terrific this spring and summmer. He’s a competitor, a true point guard who will compete and can score a little as well. Can he be as good as Jerome Randle? Yes, he’s 5-9 but he’s as long as you can be for 5-9.
13. Jordan Prosser, 6-8, PF, Eureka …. Has stock fallen a bit for the central Illinois big man? Probably so, but he’s still coveted due to his size and decent skill level. Another player whose month of July could be huge.
14. Shaun Pratl, 6-8, PF, Oak Lawn (Richards) …. What’s not to like? He runs the floor with ease, finishes around the basket, plays tough and physical. And he’s big! All he is lacking is 100% dedication to basketball.
15. Matt Vogrich, 6-3, 2G, Lake Forest …. Has been slightly under the radar after getting some hype some time ago. But he remains one of the best shooters in the state. In the right college system he could really flourish.
16. MIchael Haynes, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Washington) …. Still not sure where he will play prep ball next year. However, this once top 10 prospect has two things going against him: no position and not showing signs of progressing as a player. Still a great body and athleticism.
17. Zeke Upshaw, 6-5, 2G, Chicago (Lab) …. The most underrated player in Illinois can shoot it, put it on the floor and has great size, length and a huge upside. His potential has barely been tapped. Must show some toughness and compete at a high level.
18. Cully Payne, 6-1, PG, Schaumburg …. A heady, smart point guard in the mold of former Barrington star (Davidson grad) Jason Richards. A good shooter with a nice feel for the game. But does he have that burst and ability to defend to play in the SEC?
19. Marcus Jordan, 6-2, PG/2G, Chicago (Whitney Young) …. Terrific athlete, great body and demands attention. But overall game still has not evolved to the point where he has a true position.
20. Jonathan Mills, 6-4, PF, Chicago (North Lawndale) …. Forget about being an undersized 4-man, he’s an absolute monster around the basket. The best rebounder in the state of Illinois. But he does have severe perimeter limitations.
21. Drew Crawford, 6-5, 2G, Naperville (Central) …. Still so much room to grow as a player with tremendous upside. He’s so versatile, great length, makes big shots and plays, tremendous character who makes players around him better.
22. Tony Nixon, 6-5, 2G/WF, South Holland (Seton Academy) …. Boy, can Nixon flat-out shoot the basketball — and with range. He has a great body to go with a beautiful shot. He’s limited somewhat, however, due to his lack of ballhandling and ability to do much off the dribble.
23. Malcolm Herron, 6-3, 2G, Downers Grove (South) …. Another vastly overlooked player in this class. He has the potential to be a dynamic scorer, combining his shooting and ability to get to the basket off the dribble. But he must find a way to play hard, compete — and consistently.
24. Jordan Walker, 6-6, PF, (???????????) …. Looks to be on the move again — now possibly moving from Hales to Seton after sitting out all last year. Still an active, athletic, undersized 4-man who can run the floor, finish in transition. Just needs to settle in one place and play.
25. James Kinney, 6-0, PG, Champaign (Centennial) …. Although a little erratic and a bit inconsistent, this lead guard can get in the lane and knows how to score.
26. Jeremy Jones, 6-1, PG/2G, Chicago (Simeon) …. Another under-the-radar type who the Hoops Report has elevated more than any other player in the class. He can knock down shots with a quick release and is doing more and more off the dribble. Another player who is just beginning to come into his own.
27. Stanford Brown, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young) …. Hoops Report was beginning to have its doubts but Brown has stepped up, made some big strides since the end of the regular season. Beginning to look much more comfortable offensively. Still needs to add weight and strength.
28. Eriq Harris, 6-5, WF/PF, Chicago (Marshall) …. Has not had the breakout offseason Hoops Report expected, but don’t write this long, athletic, combo forward off just yet.
29. Conrad Krutwig, 6-5, WF/PF, Algonquin (Jacobs) …. Absolutely love what this kid brings to the table — heart, tenacity, competitiveness. Will run the floor, face up and knock down shots. Has a good feel for the game and solid skill level. Just lacks height for a 4-man and overall quickness for a wing.
30. D’Mitri Riggs, 6-2, PG/2G, Bloomington …. Unfortunately, the light just has not gone (or stayed?) on for this player that received so much attention early in his career. Still a terrific athlete with an abundance of talent but has never learned to play hard or put it all together.
31. Seth Evans, 6-0, PG, Seneca …. What a steal for Wisconsin-Green Bay. You just win with players like Evans, a coach’s kid who is a leader on the floor, can really shoot it and run a team. He will compete.
32. John Taylor, 5-11, PG/2G, Chicago (North Lawndale) …. Eligibility is an issue. Jet-quick and can beat people off the dribble and is always in an attack mode. But still so raw, out of control and lacks any true position due to size, lack of a consistent jump shot and mentality.
33. Derek Needham, 5-10, PG, Chicago (DeLaSalle) …. He is a big-time scoring point guard. Although inconsistent with his shot, he is a capable shooter. He can get in the lane and to the basket at will but has difficulty finishing at times due to his height. He’s competitive and, despite lack of height, is strong and put together.
34. Malcolm Griffin, 6-4, 2G, Chicago (Hyde Park) …. A very capable scorer. Would move up considerably if he were to drop weight, get in shape.
35. Brian Conway, 6-3, 2G/WF, Chicago Heights (Bloom) …. About as raw as they come from a skill level. A tremendous athlete who is at his best in transition and finishing on the break. Still learning how to play.
36. Cortney Bell, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Lincoln Park) …. A dynamite athlete with a great body but a definite ‘tweener who is going to have to show some versatility in his game.
37. Troy Snyder, 6-5, WF, Bolingbrook …. A player with a lot of upside. He can run the floor, active around the basket and on the boards, finish and shoot it with some range. Consistency continues to plague Snyder.
38. Lawrence Thomas, 5-7, PG, Springfield (Southeast) …. Has moved up considerably as he’s shown he’s a true point guard and a disruptive force defensively with his quickness and hands.
39. Nick Washburn, 6-8, PF, Mahomet-Seymour …. There aren’t many players in this class with the body Washburn has. Broken foot will slow interest a bit. While still pretty limited, he’s a rapidly improving big man whose game has really improved.
40. Zeke Schneider, 6-9, PF, Metamora …. Still a bit of a project with a very thin, weak base on his 6-9 frame. But he can face up and knock down shots. At this point gets pushed around a lot and can’t establish position.
41. James Pointer, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Leo) …. Another scoring point guard who can put points on the board in bunches. Does he have the right frame of mind for a point guard?
42. Chris Eversley, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Payton) …. Yet another player who seems to have more upside than a lot of other players in this class. He’s filling into his body and his game is smooth.
43. Kendrick Morse, 5-7, PG, Richton Park (Rich South) …. Yes, he’s tiny. But he is a talented point guard who finds ways to get things done — and score — despite his size.
44. Luke Scarlata, 6-7, PF, Berwyn-Cicero (Morton) …. Brings a lot to the floor for a big man. Hard-nosed, blue collar player who has a good skill set for his size and pretty fundamentally sound. Still needs to develop more with his back to the basket and lacks athleticism and foot speed.
45. Markus Yarbrough, 6-7, PF, Zion-Benton …. Big-bodied kid with a nice touch around the basket. Weight, stamina and playing under the rim are a concern.
46. Brandon Orange, 6-3, WF, Chicago (Simeon) …. An athletic wing who can knock down shots, although he’s a bit inconsistent.
47. Jelani Johnson, 6-4, WF, Aurora (Waubonsie Valley) …. Another player with length, athleticism and a ton of upside whose best basketball is clearly ahead of him. At this point he’s still a player without a true position.
48. David Smith, 6-2, 2G, Lake Forest (Academy) …. Does a lot of things well but doesn’t stand out in any one area. A pretty complete guard prospect with a great body.
49. Delino Dear, 6-8, C, Chicago (Mt. Carmel) …. A definite project due his lack of strength and weight. But he’s so long and runs the floor.
50. Troynell Adams, 6-5, PF, Chicago (Farragut) …. He’s limited but is a monster athlete and so tough around the basket. He has improved his face-up game.
51. Mikel Brigham, 6-5, PF, Danville …. An absolute freaky athlete who will dunk everything, rebound well. But probably a better football prospect.
52. Ronald Steward, 5-9, PG, Zion-Benton …. Had a terrific junior year. He can shoot it and handle it. Size is an issue.
53. Corbin Thomas, 6-5, PF, South Holland (Seton Academy) …. An eye-popping body and athleticism. If he realizes his potential, accepts his role, is definitely one to watch over the next nine months.
54. Tim Traversa, 6-3, PG/2G, Chicago (St. Patrick) …. Strong, tough, hard-nosed combo guard. But what position does he play at the next level?
55. David Bryant, 6-4, 2G, Batavia …. He knows how to play, can shoot it from the perimeter, has size and competes. But lack of foot speed in this case — and who he guards — is a killer.