By Joe Henricksen
The Anthony Davis high school basketball era is over. It was short — hardly an era — but it’s over.
The uber-talented 6-10 Davis, who came out of absolutely nowhere nearly 12 months ago, is considered by most to be the No. 1 prospect in the country. He’s a Kentucky recruit, a likely NBA Lottery Pick in the not-so-distant future, and a story that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
While the story surrounding Davis and his rapid rise is what will be remembered, an aspect of his career that is equally shocking is the fact so few people even saw him play — at least in comparison to other top-ranked players that have come through this state.
In this day with so many shootouts, showdowns, holiday tournaments and even televised high school games, it’s amazing that Davis is the No. 1 prospect in the state of Illinois and so few people had the opportunity to take in one of his games. Yes, no one knew who he was for three years, but the Davis ascension in the last 12 months is an explosion no one has ever seen in player development. And it should have concluded with packed gyms, big-time hyped matchups and at least some hope for a run for Davis and his team when March rolled around.
This is Chicago. This is the Chicago Public League. This is the top college prospect in the state of Illinois. This is the No. 1 player in the country. Yet to this day there is a large contingent of basketball fans in the city, suburbs and around the state who have still yet to see Anthony Davis play. And many saw him for just the first time in the recently played national all-star games this past spring.
This isn’t bad, wrong and it really doesn’t even matter. It’s just strange. But such is the life of a top-ranked prospect playing at Chicago Perspectives and who wasn’t discovered until after his junior season.
There should be a certain amount of respect given to Davis for staying true to Perspectives, a school that obviously provided Davis what he and his family wanted — before and after his rise to fame. Honorably, Davis bucked the transfer trend. It certainly would have been easy, and probably even applauded by many, if Davis had left Perspectives and enrolled at a “basketball school” when classes began last September.
Selfishly, the Hoops Report, like many other basketball fans, would have loved to see Davis play with a ranked team and against a schedule befitting of the No. 1 player in the state. But there aren’t trades in the Chicago Public League and there isn’t free agency (some would maybe argue that). While his rise to basketball prominence was memorable, his senior year as the No. 1 player in the country and playing in the hotbed known as the Chicago Public League was not.
Davis, however, is clearly the No. 1 prospect in the state of Illinois and one of the better prospects the state has produced in the past few decades. Here is a look at the top 15 prospects in the Class of 2011 (with a look at the remaining top prospects in the class later this week).
1. Anthony Davis, 6-10, PF, Chicago (Perspectives)
The nation’s top player brings so much talent and upside to the table as he possesses the things you can’t teach: size at 6-10 with never-ending length. He’s extremely active, especially on the defensive end, and boasts a skill level you typically don’t see in a player with his height. His slender frame and lack of strength will be issues initially. He may not be as athletic or ferocious as Kevin Garnett, but he has many of the same talents at KG.
2. Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
This is a player who came into high school with a ton of hype and lived up to it. A big, strong, athletic wing whose skills have improved every year. He’s a strong finisher whose jumper has improved and will only get better. Blackshear will be a major factor for the Cardinals and coach Rich Pitino.
3. Nnanna Egwu, 6-10, C, Chicago (St. Ignatius)
When it’s all said and done, the Hoops Report believes Egwu is a better college prospect than many players in Illinois currently ranked ahead of him by others. He’s big, agile, runs the floor, can really shoot it, plays hard and is a sponge with more to learn and improve on. Unfortunately, national analysts watched Egwu when he was injured last summer and don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the high school season.
4. Ryan Boatright, 5-11, PG, Aurora (East)
Put together the most dominating high school season in the state of Illinois and was co-Mr. Basketball. An electric talent who averaged over 30 points a game. He’s jet-quick, athletic and can put the ball in the hole in bunches. How will his individual game — and lack of size — translate to the next level?
5. Mycheal Henry, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr)
A disappointing season for Orr took some of the fanfare away from Henry this past winter. But Henry, who bloomed a little later than some, has terrific size and shooting ability to score at the high-major level. As Henry’s ball skills and willingness to defend improve, he will evolve into a big weapon for coach Bruce Weber at Illinois.
6. Chasson Randle, 6-2, PG/2G, Rock Island
Rock solid and steady throughout his career, which culminated with a Class 3A state championship and sharing the Mr. Basketball award. Randle may not wow you, but he is polished, does so many things well and is one of the more college-ready players in the class.
7. Sam Thompson, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
A bouncy, athletic wing with a long wingspan who moves fluidly up and down the floor and is a highlight waiting to happen. At the very least, Thompson can become a big-time perimeter defender in the Big Ten for Ohio State. Both his handle and shot have improved, but he must continue to make strides in those areas, which will lead to more productivity on the offensive end.
8. Tracy Abrams, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Mt. Carmel)
With a solid make-up, toughness and contagious positive attitude, Abrams has molded himself into a scoring point guard who is still learning the nuances of the position. Will prove to be a physical guard who will defend and find ways to make plays.
9. Abdel Nader, 6-7, PF, Skokie (Niles North)
Put together a monster year (24 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg) in leading Niles North to its best season in school history. An intriguing face-up 4-man who has range and some athleticism to get quite a bit done. Of all the recruits in the Class of 2011, Northern Illinois nabbing Nader this late in the process is the biggest recruiting steal in the class.
10. David Sobolewski, 6-1, PG, Lisle (Benet Academy)
You just know what you’re going to get with the Sobo. He may not have the untapped potential and upside of others in the class, but he brings a winning attitude and security to the point guard position. Battled through a nagging back injury for a large portion of this past season. Will take care of the ball, make the right decision and knock down a shot for Northwestern.
11. Frank Kaminsky, 6-10, PF/C, Lisle (Benet Academy)
There weren’t many players who improved more over the course of their career — and the last 12 months — than the Wisconsin-bound big man. The skilled Kaminsky, who handles it and shoots it well for a player with size, found the perfect fit at Wisconsin. Look for Kaminsky’s improvement to continue under Bo Ryan.
12. Mike Shaw, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
If he can find his niche at the high-major level, Shaw can have a productive career at Illinois. A mobile, put-together 4-man who will rebound and compete. Offensively, he’s still putting it together. When his productivity becomes more consistent, Shaw can evolve into a poor man’s Carl Landry-type.
13. Johnny Hill, 6-3, 2G, Lombard (Glenbard East)
The Illinois State recruit capped off his senior year with a bang, opening eyes with high-level performances in leading his team to a third-place finish in Class 4A. Long and active, Hill’s perimeter jumper became a threat to go with his ability to flourish in getting to the rim. Plus, he just knows how to play with his natural instincts.
14. Bruce Baron, 6-3, PG, Carbondale (Brehm Prep)
While he can get a little erratic and wild, Baron is a big, strong, athletic guard who can take contact and score. Headed to Oregon, Baron’s talents and style of play simply needs to be reined in as a collegian.
15. George Marshall, 6-0, PG, Chicago (Brooks)
Battled injuries throughout his career, including a freak injury that knocked him out for seven weeks this season. Bounced back with a big second half of the season and led Eagles to city title and Peoria in Class 3A. Wisconsin-bound Marshall will knock down shots from his point guard position