You can argue which state produces the best basketball talent - Illinois, New York, Texas or California - but when it's all said and done, the rich state of Illinois produces some pretty good basketball players. For years the "national" media has called this state the sleeping giant of high school basketball players and the good coaches know if you are to succeed and keep your job you'd better find the best high school players around - and Illinois provides that.
Former Illini coach Bill Self said recently in a press conference, "I love the kids from that state. They are tough-nosed kids and they know how to compete." Self also made that same statement before, regarding current Illini player Luther Head.
So now this brings us to the top unsigned player in the state right now, Calvin Brock. How could this kid go unnoticed? Maybe it's because everyone was focused on Shaun Livingston or Jamarcus Ellis. All along, Brock was just working on his game hoping the big boys would take notice. So far DePaul and Illinois have offered Brock, but Oklahoma and Indiana are also very interested in him.
Brock is a great athlete that has one heck of a vertical leap. He's smooth, can shoot the three, and is very aggressive to my liking. He's the type of player that the Illini have recruited for the past four to five years to give them many Big Ten titles along with Sweet 16 and Final 8 finishes. Another strength is his ability to attack the rim. My comparison of Brock is a more energetic Brian Randle, with a better jump shot.
Rankings are important, don't get me wrong, but there're way too many kids out there who barely make the "Top 100" list that become stars in college, while some ranked in the "Top 25" become average players. Two that fit that mold to me right now are Emeka Okafor, who just made the top 100 lists and became maybe the best player in the game right now, and Chicago native Sean Dockery from Duke. This kid was a stud coming out of high school and was named a McDonald's AA. Now he is nothing more than a role player at Duke with limited minutes.
The college game has changed so much that if you don't have the athletes that can run and jump, your chances of getting to the promised land will be much more difficult. Take a close look at these programs: Uconn, Duke, G. Tech, Michigan St., Kansas, UNC, Wisconsin, Maryland, Syracuse and Arizona to mention a few. They all have the same type of athletes - just like the athletes Illinois has right now.
Many sources have said that Brock is a near lock for Bruce Weber and company. Barring a major upset that would be a great start for Weber to complete his first class.
The State of Illinois has plenty of great high school players. The ideal thing would be for the home state school to get its pick every year, but that's not going to happen (see Shaun Livingston of Peoria). But that's not all bad because in this state many players that are ranked in the 2-5 spot are better than a lot of states number #1. There was a reason Brock was named the Chicago Sun Times Player of the Year.
This weekend Brock will be in Champaign for an official visit. If things go as planned - he should be an Illini.