Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sizing up Class of 2008

POINT #1 .... The Derrick Rose hysteria has moved on. The Simeon senior star will always be the centerpiece of the Class of 2007 in Illinois, with the St. Joe's duo of Evan Turner and Demetri McCamey falling in line after Rose. That leads us to next year's senior class, a much-maligned class over the last couple of years due to many players not living up to their early expectations and hype. How does the top of this class stack up as we head into the over-analyzed, nit-picky offseason of spring and summer basketball?

The Class of 2008, as the Hoops Report has repeated a number of times, simply doesn't have the poster boy, the surefire McDonald's All-American at the top--the Derrick Rose, Eddy Curry, Julian Wright or Shaun Livingston. Farragut big man Mike Dunigan puts himself at the top with his body, size, wingspan, upside and, with the right work ethic and coaching at the next level, probably boasts the most potential of any player in the class. DeAndre Liggins of Washington is a gifted, versatile player but with definite limitations. These two players will undoubtedly be the two state players ranked on all the Top 100 national rankings, with both likely being among the top 50 prospects nationally.

POINT #2 ....Then there is Iman Shumpert of Oak Park, who I absolutely love and have had ranked as the No. 3 prospect since his breakout this past season. I honestly would not be shocked if Shumpert, before it's all over with, elevated himself into the top 50 nationally. While he remains overlooked by some even here in Illinois (how is he not in everyone's top five before now?), he's without question the most overlooked player nationally from the state of Illinois. His size and length for a guard is what jumps out at you. He has incredible hands for a guard, defensive instincts that constantly put him in passing lanes, can shoot with range, has a mid-range game already and oozes scoring ability. Don't be surprised to see Shumpert skyrocket up national rankings, where he is currently barely a blip on the radar prior to the heavy portion of the AAU circuit. Shumpert can be an all-conference caliber player in a high-major conference down the road. I am going to send you way back in time for a player comparison, but if you were an avid college basketball fan in the 1980s, Shumpert's play reminds me a lot of former Georgetown star David Wingate, who teamed with Patrick Ewing and Reggie Williams on those great Hoyas teams.

The Hoops Report's Top 20 Class of 2008 prospects entering the summer: 1. Mike Dunigan, 6-10, Chicago (Farragut); 2. DeAndre Liggins, 6-5, Chicago (Washington); 3. Iman Shumpert, 6-3, Oak Park; 4. Lewis Jackson, 5-9, Decatur Eisenhower; 5. Verdell Jones, 6-4, Champaign Central; 6. Nick Fruendt, 6-5, Batavia; 7. Matt Humphrey, 6-4, Oak Park (Fenwick), 8. Ryan Hare, 6-3, Marshall; 9. Josh Crittle, 6-8, Chicago (Hales Franciscan); 10. Brett Thompson, 6-10, Vienna; 11. Jeremy Robinson, 6-8, Decatur Eisenhower; 12. Matt Roth, 6-2, Washington; 13. John Moran, 6-1, Jacobs; 14. Stanley Simpson, 6-9, Chicago (Leo); 15. Kevin Dillard, 6-0, Homewood-Flossmoor; 16. John Shurna, 6-8, Glenbard West; 17. Luke Fabrizius, 6-9, Hersey; 18. Carl Richard, 6-4, Richards; 19. Mike DiNunno, 6-0, Chicago (Von Steuben); 20. Dion Dixon, 6-2, Chicago (Crane).

POINT #3 .... While the top of this class may not have the star-studded players we've seen in the past, the Class of 2007 has a nice supply of mid-major and mid-major plus prospects. There is actually a little bit of depth to this class. And as always is the case, players emerge from relative obscurity and become bonafide Division I players. We saw that happen in the last six months with Leo big man Stan Simpson, Glenbard West's John Shurna and Richards' Carl Richard. When that happens it only elevates a particular class.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Jordan to Illini a win-win situation

POINT #1 .... The commitment of Loyola Academy product Jeff Jordan to Illinois really is a win-win situation for both Jordan and Bruce Weber's Illini. Jordan gets his shot to play at the highest level possible--in the Big Ten--and close to where he grew up. Illinois, meanwhile, gets a terrific walk-on player, noted visibility due to the Jordan name, and without a doubt opened a door for Marcus Jordan to join his brother down the road.

The Hoops Report has felt Jordan is truly one of the more underrated and underappreciated high school players in the Class of 2007. And this is coming from the same publication that didn't have Jordan among the top 20 prospects when he was a sophomore in high school. Jordan was simply the most improved player in his class over a two-year period, elevating himself among the top dozen players in the Class of 2007 in the final Hoops Report rankigns. And nationally, I believe Jeff Jordan was vastly overlooked.

Does this mean Jordan will make a major impact at Illinois? No, he likely won't. However, I could very well see Jordan continuing that improvement over the next couple of years and playing a role for this team as a high-energy player off the bench down the road.

POINT #2 .... While Division III recruiting doesn't make the headlines of Chicago newspapers or national magazines, Illinois Wesleyan is putting together one heck of a recruiting class at the Division III level. The future backcourt of Macon-Meridian's Travis Rosenkranz, who the Hoops Report labeled the most underrated player in the state back in December, and Washington scorer Sean Johnson, should be the backbone for coach Ron Rose over the next two years. You then add St. Patrick's Ed O'Callaghan, a 6-7 inside player, and 6-8 Duncan Lawson of Glenbard West, and it's clearly the best recruiting class in the ultra-competitive CCIW.

Other additional recruits include 6-4 Dan Schouten of Downers Grove South, 6-4 Matt Schick of Lincoln and 6-2 shooter Chris Stamas of Glenbrook North. And don't be surprised if Wesleyan adds one or two more players in this group.

POINT #3 .... Usually big releases from the IHSA concerning high school basketball excites the Hoops Report. The latest one -- the breakdown of how schools will fall in the upcoming four-class system -- makes me want to cry.