Will Class of 2014 push all-time great classes?

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Figuring out national rankings is no easy task. There are several to choose from — ESPN.com, Rivals.com, Scout.com and other individual recruiting services — and they can really differ, particularly once you get past the top 25-35 prospects.

The number we’ve all become fixated on when it comes to national rankings is 100. Is he ranked in the top 100? Is he a a “Top 100” recruit? How in the world is he one of the top 100 players in the country? How are there 100 players in the country better? How many top 100 recruits did a school sign?

Many times we determine how solid a class is in Illinois by how many top 100 players from around Illinois can be found in the national rankings.

By all accounts, the Class of 2012 in Illinois was as weak as we’ve seen in this state in years. The consensus top 100 list helped prove that as it featured just one Illinois prospect, Simeon’s Steve Taylor, among the top 100. Taylor, who is a freshman at Marquette, was the No. 82 player in the country.

The year before, Illinois had nine players ranked among the top 100 players in the country in the Class of 2011, including the nation’s top-ranked player, Anthony Davis of Perspectives. Morgan Park’s Wayne Blackshear (No. 26) and Whitney Young’s Sam Thompson (No. 46) were among the top 50, while Rock Island’s Chasson Randle, East Aurora’s Ryan Boatright, Orr’s Mycheal Henry, Mt. Carmel’s Tracy Abrams, De La Salle’s Mike Shaw and St. Ignatius’ Nnanna Egwu rounded out the nine Illinois prospects in the top 100, who were all among the top 80.

The nine players in the Top 100 in 2011 were the most the state of Illinois has produced since 1998, the class many believe is the best and deepest class in state history. That class also had nine players among the top 100, led by the trio of Whitney Young’s Quentin Richardson, Fenwick’s Corey Maggette and Peoria Manual’s Frank Williams.

Are the national rankings always on the mark? No. National rankings are so difficult, especially knowing, from personal experience, how hard it is to keep tabs on just one state. Rankings are hardly an exact science to begin with, but putting all the players in the entire country into a single 100-player pool? Very difficult.

Locally, the Hoops Report differed quite a bit from what it saw from the national rankings in 2011. The Hoops Report would have had both Boatright (No. 64) and Egwu (No. 78) higher in the national rankings, while Shaw, who was ranked No. 65 in the country, wasn’t even among the Hoops Report’s top 10 in-state prospects.

This year’s senior class, the Class of 2013, has five players currently in the top 100, which is the average amount of Illinois players in the top 100 over the past 13 years. But the Hoops Report will be surprised if the Class of 2014 in Illinois, this year’s juniors, doesn’t approach the top 100 numbers the 2011 and 1998 classes featured.

It’s loaded. And it just gets better and deeper.

The class starts with a bang at the top. Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor is the nation’s No. 1 ranked player. Curie’s Cliff Alexander is among the top 10 and Normal U-High’s Keita Bates-Diop is a top 25 talent. Those three have received all the accolades locally and nationally.

The Whitney Young duo of Paul White and L.J. Peak are already consensus top 100 players, along with Springfield Lanphier’s Larry Austin. That makes six.

A seventh top 100 player, St. Rita’s Vic Law, who the Hoops Report believes is a clear choice as a top 100 talent, is ranked No. 59 by ESPN.com.

Then you take a look at the most recent Rivals.com top 150 in the Class of 2014 and six more Illinois prospects pop up on the list: Marian Catholic’s Tyler Ulis (No. 105), Benet’s Sean O’Mara (No. 108), Sandburg’s Malek Harris (No. 118), Rockridge’s Ethan Happ (No. 122), Morgan Park’s Josh Cunningham (No. 139) and Champaign Centennial’s Michael Finke (No. 149).

Add Orr’s Tyquone Greer and Marlon Jones, two up-and-coming, still developing unranked national prospects who could open eyes, and there is a list of 15 players who could all potentially end up as Top 150 players. Now, how many can inch their way up into the Top 100?

In addition to the current six that are already consensus top 100 players — Okafor, Alexander, Bates-Diop, Peak, White and Austin — the Hoops Report believes both Law and Finke are destined for consensus top 100 status before long. Law and Finke are too talented and offer the combination of size, skill and upside that Top 100 talents showcase.

Add two of the following four — Ulis, Cunningham, Greer or O’Mara — and it’s realistic that Illinois could boast 10 percent of the top 100 players in the Class of 2014. Now that would be a special group, one the Hoops Report believes will surpass the Class of 2011 and potentially rival the great group in 1998.

The Hoops Report’s updated Class of 2014 player rankings in Illinois can be found here.

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Want more comprehensive, in-depth high school basketball coverage on players, teams and current issues? After 17 years as the only print publication offering up high school basketball coverage throughout the city and suburbs, the City/Suburban Hoops Report is now online. The Hoops Report takes a look back at what we learned during Thanksgiving Tournament play at cshoopsreport.com. For more information go to cshoopreport.com

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