Ever since starting in the scouting business, I've always known that I can find plenty of talent in the state of Illinois. It was true when I started, and it will still be true whenever I decide to retire from the business. Because I have the opportunity to write for Inside Illini, I thought it would be fun to go ahead and take a crack at ranking the talent in the land of Lincoln.
I'll start off by ranking my personal top 12 from the class of 2010 -- where Illinois boss Bruce Weber and his staff have locked up my top three -- and then tomorrow I'll move on to my take on 2011. Perhaps most interesting to note about the class of 2010 is the general lack of big men and the strong group of point and shooting guards.
Keep in mind, this is just my opinion and I'll only rank guys who I've seen and on how they've performed when I've watched them.
Illinois High School Basketball Class of 2010 Top 12
1.Jereme Richmond- An elite level wing talent, Richmond has all of the tools to be an impact college players. He's athletic, has great length, can shoot with some range and has a dynamite mid range and back to the basket game. Love the way he buries turnaround jumpers from either baseline and the way he runs the floor. His ball handling has improved over the years and he has ideal wing size. Continued focus on keeping his calm and not being his worst enemy remains a key to his future success.
2.Meyers Leonard- Like any young big man, Leonard isn't always consistent. However, given his nearly seven foot size, advanced athleticism and good skill level it's hard not to love him as a prospect. He needs to continue to add strength, but has good hands, is agile and has seen his skill level blossom over next few years.
3.Crandall Head- A potential lockdown defender with some scoring punch on the next level, the last year has been rough for Head. He's bounced around some and then suffered a torn ACL that will cost him his senior year. With his length, athleticism and ability to score off the bounce, he's got the tools to have a huge college career once he's back to 100%.
4.Ahmad Starks- Like any little guy, this future Oregon State Beaver is always going to have to answer questions about his lack of size. But, pound for pound, this tough little shot maker is as tough a player as you will find. Not just in the state of Illinois, but nationally.
5.Brandon Spearman- Pinning down an exact description of Spearman, who has committed to Dayton, isn't always easy to do. A tough and athletic kid who can really defend, the best way to put it is to point out that he just seems to make good things happen.
6.Lenzelle Smith- Headed to Ohio State, Smith is a big bodied guard capable of playing all three perimeter spots in college. One of the top rebounding guards in the country, he's got some craftiness to his game and a great attitude that should serve him well down the road.
7.Mike McCall- McCall solidified his college future over the weekend by committing to Rick Majerus at Saint Louis University. Standing about six feet tall, McCall is a natural shooting guard with a quick release and deep range. He's improved his point guard skills and projects as a combo guard in college.
8.Alex Rossi- Headed off to the West Coast and Cal, Rossi blew up during the spring when he got hot from deep. A hard worker away from the ball, he can catch, release and sink shots quickly. He's going to have to get stronger and improve his scoring off the bounce for the Pac-10.
9.Anthony Johnson- Really, it's tough to gauge exactly where to put Johnson. Early in his career, he looked as if he'd challenge Richmond to be the top prospect in the state but got sidetracked along the way. Working in his favor is that he's got tremendous confidence and knows how to put the ball in the hoop.
10.Ben Brust- Headed off to Iowa for college, Brust is a tremendous shooter and probably doesn't get the credit he deserves as a playmaker. However, those who argue that he's more of a two than a true point guard have a pretty valid argument.
11.Alex Dragicevich- A fine shooter and skilled passer from the wing, Dragicevich is a net stripper with good size ticketed for Notre Dame. Also comfortable in the high post, he looks to be more of a combo between a face up four man and spot up wing shooter than a pure wing.
12.Reggie Smith- Likely the top athlete in his class, Smith is an electrifying leaper with outstanding quickness. He can get to the basket at will when determined but also struggles with his decision making because of his penchant for putting his head down and relying on his athleticism to make plays.
Best Of The Rest
Phillip Jackson- Athletic big man has upside if he can get consistent.
Dwayne Evans- Solid wing with good athleticism. Will join McCall at SLU.
Isiah Jones- Athletic combo who loves to attack the rim.
Lavonte Dority- Big bodied guard loves to play physical and can defend.
Rayvonte Rice- Solid wing is a shooter with a strong body.