I made the drive up to Champaign on a cold winter day to scout several Illini commitments and targets. Let's take a look at the future of Illinois basketball!
Class of 2011
Mycheal Henry, 6'-6", small forward (Orr Academy, IL – Illinois)
The star of the 2010 Shootout at the Hall was Chicago Orr wing Mycheal Henry. He simply put on a show in the second half of his team's game against Devin Langford and Lee High School out of Huntsville, Alabama.
This was my first opportunity to see Henry in person. The first aspect that stands out is how strong his body is for a high school small forward. He has the type of body that will allow him to contribute right away for the Illini next year.
Consistently throughout the game he attacked the hoop with authority from the wing and in transition. He had several impressive dunks including a baseline drive where he blew past his defender and finished at the rim. He opened his stellar second half with back-to-back dunks that got the crowd into the game and from then on it was the Mycheal Henry show. He did what ever he wanted offensively the rest of the game.
In this particular game the future Illini did not show off his jump shot very much, but you can tell he has good mechanics on his stroke. Henry also rebounded at a high level and should be able to contribute there on the college level.
His final stat line was 32 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 2 assists in Orr's win.
Devin Langford, 6'-6", shooting guard (Lee HS, AL)
While Henry was the star of this event on the court, Langford had all the buzz off the court. Rumors had been circulating he might give the Illini a verbal commitment while on campus. That didn't happen, likely because he had to commit formally to coach Bruce Weber and couldn't speak with him while on campus.
Langford's play on the court was slowed due to sickness, but he wanted to play this weekend in the two showcase events in Illinois. You could tell he wasn't himself on the court.
He did have a couple of nice moves including one where he grabbed a defensive rebound, took a couple dribbles, and threw a cross court bounce pass the length of the floor for a layup. The other move that had the crowd cheering was when he caught a long pass in transition, big jump stop, spin move in the paint, and finished off with a powerful dunk. He used his length on the defensive end to record five blocks.
Overall he was passive in the game, which could be attributed to his illness. His stat line was 7 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks, 1 assist, and 1 steal.
Tracy Abrams, 6'-1", point guard (Mt. Carmel HS, IL – Illinois)
The future Illini floor general led his team to a victory over Gary Bowman in his final game in the Shootout at the Hall. Abrams has a strong upper body and has good quickness at the guard position.
I thought his ball handling has improved over past years. His pull up jump shot is a thing of beauty as it has excellent form with good elevation off the floor. He struggled from the perimeter early in the game, but then went to the interior to score.
One play he found a hole in the middle of Bowman's zone and went up strong for a bucket. Another time he grabbed a long offensive board in traffic, drove the baseline, and finished with a reverse lay-up. Tracy finished with 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals including the steal that clinched his team's 63-60 victory.
Nnanna Egwu, 6'-9", center (Chicago St. Ignatius HS, IL – Illinois)
This was my second opportunity to see Egwu play this year coming back from his injury over the summer. In this game, he was slowed by some questionable foul calls which caused him to spend major minutes on the bench.
When in the game he was consistently the first man down the court, running very hard in transition until he started to get a little fatigued. Although still raw offensively, there is a lot to like with Egwu.
He showed some nice footwork including one play where he opened up with a wide frame, quick spin move, followed by a thunderous two handed slam. The future Illini center also showed he has plus vision for a big man.
Defensively he is a man among boys. His length and anticipation on the interior give opponents fits. He swatted 6 blocks in his game against Peoria Notre Dame. Egwu's final stat line was 6 points, 4 rebounds, 6 blocks, and 2 assists.
Max Bielfeldt, 6'-6", power forward (Peoria Notre Dame HS, IL)
Bielfeldt started off the game drifting toward the perimeter to avoid Egwu's length. While Egwu was sitting with foul trouble, Bielfeldt went to work against non-Nnanna defenders! He fights hard in the paint and out-works his opponent. Getting deep post positioning and finishing by creating space with his body is when he is at his best.
He got his team three points the old fashioned way by recording three different and-1 buckets. His anticipation and positioning are excellent on the boards, and he showed good timing, recording multiple blocks.
Bielfeldt's signature play was when he was going up for the would-be game winner at the end of the contest, he was intentionally fouled. He stepped up to the line, did what he had to do, and got his team the win.
The PND big man finished the game with 26 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 1 assist. It was another impressive performance for the underrated post man.
Andrew Jordan, 6'-5", small forward (Peoria Manuel HS, IL)
Jordan was considered a top 10 player in the state's class of 2011 early in his career. He has bounced around high schools but has found a home at Peoria Manuel.
Andrew has a strong body for a wing and showed flashes of potential from the perimeter, but most of his points came on the interior. He played strong and aggressive, showing nice footwork in the post.
Jordan was also assertive on the boards for Manuel. He is not the prospect he once was but will be a nice pickup for a mid-major. His stat line read 16 points, 6 boards, and 1 assist. Jordan showed up just minutes before tip, because he was taking his ACT test in the morning.
Class of 2012
DeJuan Marrero, 6'-5", small forward (Bowman Academy, Gary, IN)
Many Illini fans have seen Marrero as the chief target for the class of 2012. He has been on campus multiple times over the past several years and thinks highly of the program.
Like many of the seniors mentioned above, Marrero has excellent strength and is a tough player. He plays very strong around the hoop. The majority of his points came in the paint. One of his standout plays was when he grabbed a tough defensive rebound, sprinted the length of the floor for an offensive rebound and finish.
Another impressive move was a left-handed baseline drive where he went up and under for the score. He has a high release on his shot and is streaky with it. Defensively he plays hard, likes to cut off wing passing lanes and rebounds well for his size. He also notched several blocks in the game including one on Abrams in the middle of the lane.
He is a bit of a small forward/power forward tweener. He needs to improve his perimeter game and quickness if he wants to be a three and get taller to be a four, but his length makes up for some of that.
DeJuan finished the contest with an impressive 20 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. Illinois is one of the schools recruiting Marrero heavily and says they are near the top of his list. "They would be in my top six."
Curtis Jones ("CJ), 6'-1", point guard (Chicago Orr Academy, IL)
Jones did not start the game for Orr for undisclosed reasons but was slick with the ball in his hands from the point guard position. He showed good quickness and floor vision. Several times he slid his way through the middle of the defense to score or dish. His jump shot also has nice mechanics.
Travis Britt 6'-3", shooting guard (Rantoul HS, IL)
Britt was the first prospect on the floor on the day. He struggled from the field, recording only 2 points in the first half on 1-7 shooting. Previous times I have seen Britt his jump shot was his best offensive weapon, but that was not the case in Champaign. He did have a big three pointer to start the 3rd quarter for Rantoul.
The other standout moment for Britt was snatching a defensive rebound and weaving through the defense to the other end for a score. The aspect that stood out was his passing. He only had 3 assists but had about 5 passes that should have been finished for assists.
Defensively, he rebounded well and got several deflections for steals. Britt finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 5 steals.
Class of 2014
Larry Austin, 6'-1", point guard (Springfield Lanphier HS, IL)
Austin was the lone young prospect to get significant minutes at the event. There were many eyes on him as there has been talk that he could be one of the Illini's top targets in 2014. He had Jerrence Howard's attention as he was sitting front and center.
Austin is a powerful combo guard that can score. His teammates were not really looking for him, but when he had the ball in his hands he made plays. He is quick and smooth on the perimeter with the ball in his hands and showed the ability to get penetration.
The 3rd quarter was where the freshman shined. He had one moment where he crossed a Manuel defender on the opposite end of the floor, went coast to coast, and dished for an assist. Most of his passing ability was shown in the Lanphier transition game. Austin finished with 16 points (8-10 shooting), 4 assists, 2 blocks, 1 rebound, and 1 steal.