The following is my scouting report on the 2011 St. Louis Summer Classic, which includes many top Illinois targets.
Class of 2012
Semaj Christon, 6'-3", point guard (Cincinnati Knights – Brewster Academy – Committed to Xavier)
Illinois pushed all their chips to the table for an all-out assault to try to get Christon, but in the end it couldn't top Chris Mack and Xavier's long-standing relationship. They are getting one heck of a player as I scouted Christon in four separate games and came away extremely impressed.
The first aspect that stands out is his ability to beat his man off the dribble every single time. Nobody could stay in front of Christon in St. Louis. He got in the lane whenever he wanted and liked to attack the rim or finish with a floater.
Christon gets to the line because of his style of going hard to the hole. His handle is good in transition, and he keeps control of it in traffic as well. His jump shot is improving, but is not where it needs to be. This is the area of his game that can be most improved.
He is a good passer who moves the ball around the perimeter and loves to drive and kick to open shooters when drawing a second defender. Christon takes risks on defense by cutting off passing lanes. At times he can get burned, but he also creates turnovers that he turns into points at the other end.
Cameron Biedscheid, 6'-7", shooting guard (St. Louis Eagles – Cardinal Ritter High School, Missouri – Committed to Notre Dame)
I have seen Biedscheid play many times over the last couple years, but he played the best I have seen him against The Family. He shot the ball well from the perimeter, showing great height off the floor and a quick release. His shot was falling off the bounce and in catch-and-shoot situations. He is a big-time scorer who is smooth with the ball in his hands and glides by his defender.
Class of 2013
Demetrius Jackson, 6'-1", point guard (MBA Select – Marian High School, Indiana)
This was my first opportunity to scout Jackson. I came away extremely impressed with what he brings to the table. He is a thick and strong point guard who consistently beat his man off the dribble and sliced through the defense.
How unguardable was he one on one? His opponent starting playing a box-and-one on him in an AAU game! When he gets to the hoop, he finishes through contact and gets to the foul line. I liked his ball handling skills, and he showed he is a solid athlete. He defended well one-on-one.
Jackson told us that Illinois is still heavily pursuing him despite already having Jalen James in the fold. Jay Price was checking out his game, along with an assistant from Indiana and Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.
Lance Whitaker, 6'-2", shooting guard (Illinois Wolves – Bartlett High School)
Whitaker is a tough combo guard who is a plus defender. He has good athleticism and is a solid passer. I like the form on his shot, and he can hit it from both levels. But is not as consistent knocking it down as he could be. Overall, Whitaker is a solid prospect and excellent team-first player.
Kendall Stephens, 6'-4", shooting guard (Illinois Wolves – St. Charles East High School – Committed to Purdue)
Stephens is a cold-blooded killer from the perimeter. His shot is silky smooth and goes down consistently. I love the way he moves without the ball and receives the ball before pulling the trigger. His handles are smooth, and he is pretty athletic. Purdue is getting a great player in Stephens. Their coaching staff was on hand to watch him throughout the weekend.
Jared Brownridge, 6'-0", combo guard (Illinois Wolves - Waubonsie Valley High School)
The St. Louis Summer Classic was an event where Brownridge truly shone. He is a thick guard who is great at knocking down set shots. The rising junior was picking defenses apart with his mid-range shooting from all overm and he even extended it to beyond the arc at times.
Another aspect that stood out was how well he rebounds for a smaller guard. He is a tough defender and a team-first player. Bradley stepped up to the table with a scholarship, and several other schools are showing heavy interest.
Nate Taphorn, 6'-7", small forward (Illinois Wolves – Pekin High School)
Taphorn is an excellent perimeter shooter and pretty athletic. His handle is becoming better the more he plays. I love his shot mechanics and his mentality for the game. At the end of the game he wants to be the one going to the line to knock down free throws to seal the victory. That is a great sign in a young player.
A.J. Riley, 6'-1", combo guard (Illinois Wolves – Peoria Manuel High School)
Riley always does a good job of defending and playing within himself. He also did a good job of distributing when asked. He drives hard to the hoop and gets to the line. He is going to be a great fit for a mid-major program looking for a guard who can be versatile and do a little bit of everything.
Jalen James, 6'-3", point guard (Illinois Wolves – Hope Academy – Committed to Illinois)
The Illinois commitment tried to give it a go in tournament play for the Wolves, but it was apparent he didn't have his usual explosion as he is trying to come back from a leg injury. He played for a few minutes and then sat out the rest of the tournament. James is a big-time prospect with great speed and athleticism when healthy. Illinois fans are going to love his game!
Jordan Martin, 6'-6", power forward (St. Louis Eagles - Hazlewood Central High School, Missouri)
Martin is a prospect that first came on my radar at the Nike Elite 100 in June. He is an undersized power forward who struggles against long athletes, but he showed why colleges covet him in the second game I scouted.
He rebounded strong and aggressive around the hoop, particularly on the offensive end. I like how he opens up wide in the post to receive the basketball and shows nice footwork on several post moves, including a sick spin move on the baseline that he finished. He runs the pick and roll well and understands the spacing part of it and finishes strong when getting the ball.
The biggest aspect holding Martin back is his height. If he was three inches taller, he would probably be a consensus high major prospect. But because he struggles against length, he is a mid-major plus prospect who local high majors will be intrigued by, including Illinois and Missouri.
Quinten Payne, 6'-4", shooting guard (Spartans – St. Charles North High School)
Payne is a deadly shooter from behind the three point arc, with flawless mechanics. He combines that with a nice dose of athleticism to make him a target many colleges are tracking. Look for Payne to put up ridiculous numbers this year at St. Charles North.
Moshawn Thomas, 6'-8", power forward (Michael Finley Bumblebees – Hyde Park High School)
Thomas is a raw athlete who is bouncy. Right now he scores on pure athleticism, and his length helps him on both ends of the floor. His shot needs to be revamped if he wants to be a perimeter player.
He also needs to continue to add strength. He is a good defender who alters shots and gets deflections. Thomas has some potential but needs to continue to improve his game.
Phil Lee, 6'-2", point guard (Michael Finley Bumblebees – Hyde Park High School)
Lee was a prospect who elevated his stock in St. Louis. He showed a nice ability to push the ball in transition and is a nice passer. His leadership skills on the court were evident, and I was impressed with his jump shot. Look for him to jump on mid-major radars.
Kyle Washington, 6'-8", power forward (Howard Pulley - Benilde-St. Margaret High School, Minnesota)
I was extremely impressed with what Washington brought to the table in St. Louis. He is a long and athletic power forward who has great footwork in the post and knows how to score.
His skill set for a big is very high. He knows how to seal his man off in the post. He can swat shots with force as well. His game is reminiscent of a Chris Bosh type. He is a long way from there, but is his style of game.