By Joe Henricksen
College coaches are scurrying around the Chicago area and peeking in gyms throughout Illinois. They are all hitting as many open gym workouts as possible in the city, suburbs and around the state. It may be a talent-filled gym at Whitney Young on the West Side of Chicago or a remote high school in the central part of the state with a sleeper.
Whether it’s getting a look at an up-and-coming youngster or getting in one last-ditched effort to secure a senior commitment before the signing period in November, coaches try to use the limited time they have wisely.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report has a select few players who coaches may just want to take another look at as November approaches.
Paris Burns, Proviso East
This 5-9 guard is without question the most talented player in Illinois who no one talks about. Burns is just a player. When the summer began, Burns, who transferred from Curie to Proviso East this year, wasn’t even among the top 75 prospects in the Hoops Report’s Class of 2012 player rankings. Oops. Burns is now a Division I talent and among the top 25 prospects in the class.
While Proviso East is loaded with a bevy of talented guards, including senior Keith Carter and junior Paris Lee, Burns offers another dimension — a combination of big-time athleticism and quickness with scoring ability. Burns should flourish this season in the system and style of play new coach Donnie Boyce wants to instill in Maywood.
Although Burns can be streaky with his jumper, he will knock down shots and, when in rhythm, is capable of putting points on the board in bunches and in a variety of ways. The speedy, athletic guard can defend on the perimeter while putting pressure on opposing defenders with his explosiveness off the dribble and shooting ability.
Jordan Smith, Whitney Young
A high-profile, high-major head coach was in the gym recently at Whitney Young checking in on the likes of uber-talented youngsters Jahlil Okafor, Tommy Hamilton and Paul White when he asked, “Who’s that kid? He’s a player.” That player was Jordan Smith.
While Smith is not a high-major talent, it’s easy to see why he would grab a college coach’s attention. The big-bodied 6-3 guard shows flashes of being a no-brainer Division I player who can find a spot at the mid-major level when he puts it all together. However, the college interest has not matched up with the player the Hoops Report envisioned Smith to be.
What Smith has battled is inconsistency, both with Whitney Young and on the club circuit. But he is big, strong, has some athleticism, shoots it pretty well with solid form and can take some contact when getting to the basket. Smith is a quality kid and an elite student who brings a lot to the table. Now all he’s looking for is a breakout season and a little more interest.
Kyle Nelson, St. Charles (North)
With big men at such a premium in college recruiting, the skilled 6-8 Nelson is certainly one to watch and a sleeper in the Class of 2012. In the eyes of the Hoops Report, Nelson is the quintessential undervalued player heading into the November signing period. He played on a low-key St. Charles North team last winter and didn’t play for a high-profile AAU program this past summer.
He is among the top 40 prospects in the Hoops Report’s Class of 2012 player rankings and is certainly better and offers more as a player and prospect than several of the more talked about names in the class.
Army has offered and Nelson did enjoy his visit to West Point last month. Nelson, who is very strong academically, has also visited Penn and Lafayette. He plans to visit both Western Michigan and South Dakota State this month. And both Lewis, a strong Division II program that has recruited the area extremely well, and Brown out of the Ivy League are also in the mix.
Nelson, who averaged 13.5 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks a game last season for coach Tom Poulin, is one of the most improved players in the class over the past couple of years. He’s become more productive and offers a blend of back-to-the-basket and face-up ability. Nelson isn’t real strong yet and lacks ideal athleticism for a Division I prospect, but he brings size and an extremely soft touch, both around the basket, from mid-range and even out to the three-point line.
Jaleni Neely, Simeon
Neely is often the forgotten man on a loaded Simeon team. While his numbers were very modest last season (4.1 points and 4.8 assists per game), Neely played a valuable role for coach Rob Smith’s state champion Wolverines. And he’s expected to be a critical piece this season–when he’s healthy–as he and his teammates go for their third straight state championship.
Just when Neely began playing the best basketball of his career this past spring and was set to blossom as a prospect, a knee injury sidelined the 5-10 point guard for 5-6 months. Neely has made great progress in his rehab and is expected to be ready to play in late November. Look for a lot of eyes to be on Neely this season as he will likely wait until April to sign. The likes of Indiana State, Colorado State, Bradley, Dayton, Iowa, Northern Illinois have been involved with Neely in some capacity.
While his scoring ability and perimeter shot both improved, his point guard abilities are what makes Neely so appealing. Neely’s ballhandling, quickness and smarts allow him to get where he needs to on the floor.
“These types of players have gone out the window — the true, pass-first point guard who distributes and runs a team,” says Simeon coach Rob Smith.
Five-Star Coaching Clinic at St. Rita
St. Rita will host the Reebok Five Star Basketball Coaches’ Clinic this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Confirmed speakers for the clinic are Loyola head coach Porter Moser, UIC head coach Howard Moore, Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff and Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins.
The cost is $75 per coach or $125 per staff (up to four coaches). Current Five-Star staff cost is $60.
For more information, call (914)-964-6540 or email firstname.lastname@example.org