The following is my scouting report from the Best Buy Classic and Chicagohoops Memorial Day Classic.
Class of 2012
Fred Van Vleet, 5'-10", point guard, Rockford Auburn, Illinois (Pryme Tyme)
Van Vleet was the talk of the Chicagohoops tournament with his stellar play in leading Pryme Tyme to the 17U championship. He has a thick body, which allows him to absorb contact. Time after time, he would crossover or blow past his defender to finish at the hoop through contact. He made it look easy each and every time.
His combination of strength and a nice first step allowed him to consistently get in the paint. He distributed the ball well and made winning plays for his team. His most impressive pass was a cross-court pass that went the length of the floor for an assist.
His vision is good, but he does have a tendency to force tight passes which become turnovers. Van Vleet is by no means an elite athlete, but he is good enough to get the job done. He rebounds at a high level for a guard. Overall, he is a leader who does whatever it takes to win.
Sanjay Lumpkin, 6'-6", combo guard St. Louis Park, Minnesota (Minnesota Pump N Run)
Lumpkin is a prospect who jumped out on Friday night at the Best Buy Classic. He has excellent size and strength for a guard. He is explosive off the dribble and showed nice speed in transition.
The aspect that stood out most was his ability to shoot the ball. He was deadly in the catch-and-shoot on his way to racking up 17 points in his opening game. Lumpkin showed off nice vision and a feel for the game.
Many of the schools recruiting him are looking at him as a combo guard. Illinois has visited him in Minnesota.
Keith Carter, 6'-0", point guard, Proviso East (NLP)
Carter is a thick power guard who can score and dish to others. In his team's playoff game against TP Elite, he kept them in it by driving through the defense and scoring on the interior or getting to the foul line. He also likes to use the floater when in the paint.
Carter is a quick ball handler and used that when he got in the lane, did a spin move, and dished off to an open teammate for an easy two points. Carter plays off-guard most of the time for NLP, but he's a scoring point who can distribute when needed.
Aaron Simpson, 5'-11", point guard, North Chicago (NLP)
Simpson is a smaller point guard who showed he is continuing to improve his skills running a team. He is quick off the bounce and shot the ball well from the perimeter for NLP.
Jerron Wilbut, 6'-3", shooting guard (Illinois Wolves)
Wilbut is a smooth two-guard with a high level of athleticism. His strength is shooting the ball. He is continuing to improve his overall game to prepare for his senior year and college. He has multiple high majors interested including contact from Illinois.
Marlon Johnson, 6'-8", combo forward, Joliet West (Illinois T-Wolves)
Johnson led his team to an extremely successful weekend at the Best Buy Classic. He has grown six inches over the last year and is starting to hear from colleges. The forward is a bouncy athlete who makes plays in transition and is a highlight machine. Johnson was one player who had some buzz going around the gym in Deerfield.
Class of 2013
Lance Whitaker, 6'-3", combo guard, Bartlett (Illinois Wolves)
Whitaker was extremely impressive with his mid-range shooting over the weekend. His stroke is smooth and fluid. In the games I viewed, he consistently knocked down jumpers. He also showed his assertiveness by driving the ball hard to the hoop. The versatile athlete brings much to his team on both ends of the floor. He can handle the ball when asked or play the two. Whitaker is a winner and the type of player every winning team needs to have.
Jalen James, 6'-3", point guard, Hope Academy (Illinois Wolves)
James continued his impressive spring by showing off his explosive speed in transition. He is continuing to gain an understanding of how to run a team in the half court and has made great strides since the beginning of the spring.
Each time I see him, he continues to improve. His defense really stood out to me this past weekend. He gets in passing lanes and uses his length when defending the opposing guard.
During one of their Saturday games, he stripped his man at the top of the key and took the ball down to the other end where he converted an and-1. James is without doubt one of the top 5 prospects in the class of 2013 in Illinois.
Nate Taphorn, 6'-6", small forward, Pekin (Illinois Wolves)
Taphorn first came on the scene when he hit six three pointers with lots of onlookers at Spiece a few weeks ago. His perimeter shooting is his strength. His shot has good form and balance, with a nice release. When I saw him, his shot tended to be streaky.
I was impressed with his ability to score off the dribble. Taphorn has great size at 6'-6" to play the small forward position at the next level. He has received a lot of mail over the last several weeks, and the Illini have shown some interest.
A.J. Riley, 6-2, shooting guard, Peoria Manual (Illinois Wolves)
Riley's stock rose significantly in my eyes with his play this past weekend. With Riley, it all starts on the defensive end. He pressures the ball and can defend either guard spot. He cuts passing lanes to get his team out in transition.
He attacks the hoop hard off the bounce and does a good job scoring around the basket. His jump shot from 15 foot has continued to improve.
Andrew Zelis, 6'-10", center, Wheaton North (Illinois Wolves)
Zelis has good size and mobility for a big man. He is a face-up five with solid mobility and can also do damage on the block. I liked how he was a good screener and will be able to play the pick-and-roll at the next level. With size at a premium, this is a prospect to keep an eye on during the rest of the summer.
Zak Irvin, 6'-5", small forward, Hamilton Southeastern, Fishers, Indiana (Eric Gordon All-Stars)
This was my first opportunity to see Irvin in person. He is definitely a physical specimen, with long arms and great strength. His best offensive attribute is attacking off the dribble and getting to the hoop.
Another impressive move was when he crossed over his man and pulled up to nail a jumper over the defender. His length causes havoc on defense for his opponents. Illinois is one of six schools to offer Irvin a scholarship, and it is certainly in the mix for his services.
V.J. Beachem, 6'-6", small forward, Paul Harding, Fort Wayne, Indiana (Eric Gordon All-Stars)
Beachem is a prospect with multiple high majors around the Midwest, including Illinois, showing him love. He has great size and length, although he needs to get in the weight room to add some bulk.
His most impressive talent is his skilled perimeter game. He has an effortless release on his jump shot that is solid from mid-range to beyond the arc. Beachem has the potential to become a big-time scorer at the next level.
Deonte Burton, 6'-5", small forward, Brewster Academy, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire (Terry Porter Elite)
Burton led his team to the Best Buy Classic title with his stellar play. He is an extremely thick lefty who is super strong and knows how to use it. He is at his best attacking his man off the bounce and scoring in the paint. He did this time and time again in the championship game against Indiana Elite.
Burton is a streaky player. He will have stretches, like in the second half of the championship game, where he looks indefensible. Then at other times, he will go an entire half without scoring.
When he is on, he can hit jump shots with his sweet-looking shot from three point range. He also has a nice feel for passing the ball. Burton contributes on the boards with his explosive leaping ability and strength.
The rising junior runs the floor hard and loves the flashy dunk. He plays with the attitude no one can stop him, especially when he is on one of his hot streaks. There are numerous high majors on Burton, and he has received an offer from Illinois.
Class of 2014
Jaquan Lyle, 6'-3", combo guard, Evansville Reitz, Indiana (Eric Gordon All-Stars)
Lyle told me before the game he wanted to be a point guard at the next level. He then went out and proved it to me by dropping dime after dime in the first half of their opening win. His feel for distributing the ball is special! He knows where his teammates are before they do.
Lyle is an elite passer in both the half court and in transition. He will try to fit a pass in every once in a while in tight spaces that will get picked off because he has so much confidence in his passing. The rising sophomore proved to me, if he wants to focus on being a point guard, he could very well be the best in the nation.
He has a strong and solid body with fluid movements on the court. His jump shot was not on in the game I observed, so he attacked the hoop hard with his insane hops. The guard ran the pick-and-roll, using spacing and his passing skills to get his team points.
Overall, you can tell Lyle's understanding of the game at a young age is at another level! He looked like a 5-star prospect without a doubt.
Cliff Alexander, 6'-8", power forward, Chicago Curie (D-Rose All Stars)
I was excited to see how Alexander had progressed since the high school season. He is an athletic and physical presence in the post who has multiple qualities high majors seek.
Alexander showed he could score with several impressive offensive moves. On one possession, he pump-faked his defender and blew past him to bank it off the glass over another defender for two points.
He seals well and understands how to receive the ball in the post. He runs the floor and can finish in transition. He is a shot blocking machine. The big man even swatted one right to me in the first row! His shot blocking ability is helped by his length and anticipation.
I was extremely impressed with Alexander. He has certainly put himself into consideration as one of the top five players in Illinois in 2014.
Peyton Allen, 6'-5", combo guard, Chatham Glenwood (Illinois Wolves)
This weekend was Allen's first action since suffering a concussion a month ago in St. Louis. In his first game, he was slowly working his way back into his role. The second game, he went off!A
Allen has excellent size and has added strength since the end of his high school season. He sees the floor and has an extremely high basketball IQ for a player his age.
His handle is great for his size and was on display when he used a strong left handed drive from the top of the key to finish at the hoop with a tough bucket. Allen is not afraid to attack the defense on the interior and get to the foul line. He can shoot it out to the three point line with ease.
He also contributes on the boards and defensively, where he can guard the one through three positions. On Saturday night, Allen put his full offensive game on display when he went for 29 points. Illinois fans will get a chance to see Allen at the Illinois Team Camp in June. He is fun to watch for sure!
Keita Bates-Diop, 6'-6", combo forward, Normal University High (Illinois Wolves)
Bates-Diop is an active forward who makes key plays for his team. He is quick off the floor and contributes at a high level on the offensive glass. Despite his thin build, he doesn't mind drawing contact. His seven foot wingspan allows him to create problems on defense.
The most impressive part of Bates-Diop's game was his shooting. He hit several mid-range jumpers and even a three pointer. It is obvious he has been working on his shot. If he continues to develop his perimeter game and adds strength, he could be scary in a few years.
Perry Poindexter, 6'-6", power forward, Indianapolis North Central (Eric Gordon All-Stars)
First thing that stands out with Poindexter is his 7'-2" wingspan. This helps him consistently swat shots and rebound at a high rate. He is extremely quick off the floor to the offensive glass. He can finish well around the basket and can go through contact. I was also impressed with a nice jump hook he displayed. Several Big 10 schools are showing early interest.
Drake Harris, 6'-3", shooting guard, Grand Rapids Christian, Michigan (Meanstreets Wilburn)
Harris is an athletic scorer and explosive leaper. He is at his best in transition and shooting the ball from the perimeter. His shooting stoke is smooth with a high release point. Harris showed off a nice passing feel although he can be a little too flashy at times.
Defensively, he gets in passing lanes and creates turnovers. He has already received an offer from Indiana and the rest of the Big 10 are on him.
Tyler Wideman, 6'-6", center, Saint John Lake Central, Indiana (Meanstreets Wilburn)
Wideman is a big, physical presence on the interior. He is a banger down low who can score in the post while showing nimble footwork. He moves surprisingly well for his size including running the floor, and he has a soft touch around the hoop. He has a nice passing feel out of the post to find open teammates.
He is a beast on the glass! He creates a great deal of space when boxing out and snatches the boards with aggressiveness. Obviously, to play in the post for a high major, he needs to grow a few more inches. If he does, there is nothing stopping him from playing for a top college program.
Tyler Ulis, 5'-7", point guard, Chicago Heights Marian Catholic (Meanstreets Wilburn)
Ulis is a small point guard who has exceptional vision and brings a lot of energy to his team. His first step and slick ball handling skills help him blow by defenders. He is a pesky on-ball defender who gives the opposing floor general fits.
Class of 2015
Jordan Ash, 6'-0", point guard, Westchester St. Josephs (Illinois Wolves)
Ash played off the ball the majority of the time I saw him this weekend. He has excellent athleticism and can jump out of the gym! He was solid for the Wolves and is continuing to develop his game for high school next year.
He told me that he has decided to attend St. Joseph's High School, where he will team up with Paul Turner to form one of the most dynamic young backcourts in the state.