Piper in-state rankings: 2017 class

Lead basketball reporter Derek Piper debuts his in-state 2017 rankings.


1. Jordan Goodwin -- Shooting guard (Belleville Althoff)

With five-star big man Jeremiah Tilmon playing at La Lumiere (Ind.), it's an easy choice as to who is the top player in Illinois. Goodwin has been a dominant force at the high school and AAU level. He averaged 16.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game on the EYBL circuit this spring. He should be a no-doubt top-50 player nationally. Goodwin impacts the game in so many ways with his physical brand of basketball. He steamrolls his way to the rim, rebounds with ferocity and he hounds high-level players at the defensive end.


2. Nojel Eastern -- Combo guard/forward (Evanston)

Eastern may not blow you away with his point production, but his overall versatility brings so much value to the floor. The 6-foot-6 prospect can essentially play three or four positions on the court, including the point. Some have tabbed him as 'Jalen Rose-like'. He was one of 18 finalists at the USA Basketball U17 training camp last week before being cut. Eastern averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on the EYBL circuit this spring.


3. Alonzo Verge -- Point guard (TBD)

Question marks surround his situation off the court, as Verge has yet to announce where his next high school destination will be. But his on-court ability is an entirely different story. Verge is an electric talent, who can change the dynamic of a game as soon as the ball touches his hands. He is a roadrunner in transition, and he makes good on-ball defenders look silly with his handles and elusiveness. Verge averaged 9.9 points and 2.2 assists for MeanStreets this spring, and he really turned it on during the last weekend of the EYBL regular season -- helping to vault his team to a Peach Jam berth.


4. Justin Smith - Small forward (Stevenson)

After being labelled as 'soft' and 'passive' last summer during a struggle-filled AAU season, Smith turned heads this spring with his improvements. He displayed athleticism that many had not seen, as he frequently rocked the rim for highlight slams. Smith has a nice mid-range game as well, and he has learned to play more assertive. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds on the EYBL circuit this spring.


5. Da'Monte Williams -- Combo guard (Peoria Manual)

After Tilmon's exit to Indiana last fall, Williams was considered the top 2017 prospect in the state -- and a top-50 player nationally as well. But the Illini commit has struggled to find consistency with his game in a frustrating manner. Question marks have arisen about his motor, competitive fire and determination to impact the game on a nightly basis. Critics have been tough on Williams, but the truth is that everyone sees what he can become if he puts it together. He's a top-100 talent, and he could vault all the way up to No. 2 in-state in the class before it's said and done. But he has to turn potential into production.


6. Javon Pickett -- Small forward (Belleville East)

Pickett is unquestionably a high-major talent, and he put up big-time scoring numbers as a junior at Belleville East. The Illini commit is skilled, versatile and he can score in a variety of ways. Pickett doesn't get the attention that others do on the AAU circuit, as his team plays in the Silver Division of the adidas circuit. Improvements need to be made, but he is a very solid player with significant upside in the long term.


7. Christian Negron -- Undersized four (Larkin)

Negron is one of the those players that is what he is. At 6-foot-7, he is a tweener who plays as an undersized four based on his skill set. Negron specializes in rebounding and defending, and his 7-foot wingspan enable him to do that. He also plays with an extremely high motor. But he has yet to refine his offensive game. Negron averaged 5.9 points and 5.3 rebounds on the EYBL circuit this spring. He needs to up his game in July to prove that he's a high-major player, despite already having high-major offers.


8. Elijah Joiner -- Combo guard (Curie)

Joiner is loved by mid-majors in the area, and for good reason. The 6-foot-3 combo guard is physical, tough and he is always in attack mode. Joiner averaged around 11 points and three assists per game on the way to winning the 4A state title with Curie last season. He was strong this spring, and he'll be watched by handfuls of schools next month with Team Rose.


9. Evan Gilyard - Point guard (Simeon)

Gilyard was a standout last season at Simeon, as he averaged more than 13 points per game and shot around 50 percent from beyond the arc. Many around the state wondered if he'd have a Charlie Moore-like blowup this spring on the EYBL circuit, but it didn't come. Gilyard averaged 6.6 points and 3.6 assists during the EYBL regular season, but he shot just 24.5 percent from deep. That being said, he is lightning quick, tough and he has a good stroke.


10. Cameron Krutwig -- Power forward/Center (Jacobs)

The 6-foot-9, 270-pound big man really impressed during the last high school season. Krutwig averaged 17.9 points and 12.7 rebounds per game during his junior campaign, while shooting around 66 percent from the floor. He is a skilled big, who is also known as a really good passer. Krutwig has plenty of D-1 offers on his plate, and more could come next month.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories