Top Stars Fluorish In Illinois State Tourney

Chicago Whitney Young walked away with the Class 4A Illinois state championship with a 69-66 win over Waukegan Saturday night in Peoria. A star-studded team of future college players grabbed a big early lead and held on despite a valiant comeback by Waukegan. College recruiters had a field day watching all the outstanding talent on hand.

Whitney Young is absolutely loaded. Senior point guard Chris Colvin has signed with Iowa State. Marcus Jordan, younger brother of Illini guard Jeff Jordan, will have some good college offers to choose from this spring. Senior 6'-8" senior Stanford Brown will play at Lamar next year. Junior guard Anthony Johnson has committed to Purdue, and junior guard Ahmad Starks is an Oregon State commitment. Sophomore small forward Sam Thompson is a top prospect for the class of 2011.

Johnson and Starks did not start as they were recovering from injuries. Johnson is one of the sweetest shooters around. He is also smart and a good competitor. His main drawback is a lack of strength. His slender build allows defenders to bump him off his game. And he isn't extremely quick. But his shooting alone makes him a top college prospect.

The 5'-8" Starks fractured his wrist three weeks ago and played sparingly. He was barely used in the semifinal win over an explosive Thornton quintet, but his quickness, court awareness and confident shooting were needed the second half of the championship game to keep Waukegan at bay.

Chris Colvin is the consummate point guard. He dribbles like the ball is on a string, and he can penetrate at will. Chris sometimes gets out of control by penetrating too far with nowhere to go. But if he continues to work and develop, he will eventually be both an efficient scorer and distributor for Iowa State.

Marcus Jordan was the leading scorer for Whitney Young against Thornton with 22 points and 18 against Waukegan. He hit four threes on the weekend, but his game is penetrating and finishing with either hand or making free throws. He is intelligent and athletic, and his bulky build helps him keep his balance in the lane when bumped.

Marcus is like a bull in a china shop, putting his head down and driving for the goal. He can sometimes adjust and look for an open man, but his first thought is to shoot. He can put great pressure on a defense with his attacking style.

Jordan also appears to be a decent defender. He will need to work on his ball handling and outside shot to force teams to defend him on the perimeter. That would make his penetrations more successful. He also needs to learn when to shoot and when to dish off when entering the lane. But he will be able to choose between some quality scholarship offers based on his recent play.

Sophomore Sam Thompson started for Whitney Young and showed flashes of potential. He must defer to the older players on the team and play a limited role. But it was easy to see his leaping ability and overall athleticism.

He is able to create his own shot and put tremendous pressure on any defender off the wing. He can move his feet playing defense on the perimeter and can defend a guard despite his 6'-6" height. He plays the point of Whitney Young's full court press. Right now, he is just supposed to rebound and play defense. But he shows great promise for the future.

Of special interest to Illinois fans was the Waukegan team and its star Jereme Richmond. He had some tremendous highlights on the weekend but also showed some flaws. The Illini commitment had been sick earlier in the week, so that may have affected his play.

In the semifinal against Carpentersville (Dundee-Crown) Friday evening, the Bulldogs raced out to a 15-0 lead and coasted to a convincing 67-46 result that put them into Saturday evening's finale.

Richmond was on fire to begin the game. He hit a three in his first opportunity with the ball. He then blocked a shot; made a ball fake, drove and dished to a teammate who missed the layup; made another block, caught the ball out of the air, dribbled the length of the floor and made a no look pass for a layup; he then hit another 3; missed a 15 foot jumper; grabbed a rebound and threw a long outlet pass that was too long and went out of bounds; he later made a quick crossover to free himself on the baseline only to miss the 15 foot shot.

He ended the first quarter with six rebounds, 8 points and two blocks. In the second quarter, Jereme tipped in a missed shot; made another block; didn't get back on defense but made a dunk plus one free throw when a teammate stole the ball and fired it to him at the other end; and grabbed a rebound, made a quick outlet to teammate Colin Nickerson for a dunk. He later added another block to end the half with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 blocks.

Richmond added another three plus 2 free throws and a layup to finish his night with 18 points before sitting the entire fourth quarter. Jereme demonstrated quickness, ball handling and passing skills, good leaping ability and timing on blocks, and outstanding court awareness.

However, Saturday was a different story. As good as Waukegan was early Friday night, they were as bad the first quarter against Whitney Young. Everyone on the team seemed out of sorts, making one mistake after another. The Dolphins raced out to a 21-11 first quarter lead and extended it to 17 points in the middle of the second quarter, giving them the cusion they would need when the Bulldogs rallied later.

Richmond became discouraged when things didn't go his way early. His body language became worse with every problem, and he didn't always get back down the court to help his team on defense. Jereme had only three points at the half.

Whitney Young had the size and talent to neutralize some of Richmond's best offense. They could bang him down low, making him force shots that were off target. And they had the quickness and tenacity to hound him when he tried to operate on the perimeter. Jereme's slender frame was a disadvantage for him, and so was his inability to put aside his frustrations.

Richmond came out the second half with a smile on his face, and he played much better. Perhaps his coach helped him rebalance at halftime. He ended with 17 points thanks in large part to a number of free throw opportunities.

Waukegan senior teammate Colin Nickerson scored 25 points in the route of Dundee-Crown and proved how good a recruit Fairfield is getting. Some bigger schools are beginning to realize their mistake in not recruiting Colin as he showed excellent quickness, body fluidity, leaping ability and shooting touch. He prides himself on being a lockdown defender and proved it with several steals and consistent disruption of Dundee-Crown's offense. He and Whitney Young's Chris Colvin basically neutralized each other in the championship tilt.

In Class 3A, Champaign Centennial upset #1 ranked North Lawndale in the semifinal and won the championship by defeating Oswego, 61-59. Ohio recruit James Kinney and junior forward Rayvonte Rice led the way. Kinney has a small build, but he will be a crowd favorite at Ohio University. He is an excellent outside shooter, and he can manufacture a number of circus shots near the rim. He has the quickness to penetrate and the intelligence to see the floor.

Rice will most likely choose basketball for his college career. But he may not get major Division I offers because he would have to play the 3 in college. At 6'-2", he doesn't fit the normal definition of a small forward. But he is an aggressive, clutch performer with a big body he can use to advantage. He is a perfect example of someone who chooses basketball even though he might have a brighter future in football.

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