The top five Illinois 2012 prospects listed in Joe Henricksen's City/Suburban Hoops Report are all guards. Keith Carter, the point guard from Proviso East, is the tallest at 6'-1". Chicago Orr's Curtis (C.J.) Jones is listed at 6'-0", Jelani Neely from Chicago Simeon and Peoria Central's Antonio "Bobo" Drummond are generously listed at 5'-10" each, and Malcolm Hill-Bey, Tracy Abrams' teammate at Chicago Mt. Carmel, is pushing 5'-9".
Other top players from 2010 include 5'-10" Aaron Simpson from North Chicago, 5'-7" Derrick Randolph from Chicago Whitney Young, 5'-10" Tyrone Sherman from Homewood-Flossmoor, Rockford's Fred Van Fleet and Peoria Manual's Landis Farmer, both in the 5'-9" range. Henricksen has some difficulty distinguishing between them, and he realizes bigger players may need time to develop.
"There are a lot of guards, and a lot of them are point guards. Unfortunately, a lot of them are small. It's a good class, but I don't think it's gonna be as strong as 2011, and it's gonna be nowhere near as good as 2013.
"For one, there's very little size at all in the class. There's an abundance of guards. But it's still early. They don't match up right now with the 2011 kids at this point in their development. But that doesn't mean one, two or three of these guys can't really blossom and be high major kids. Smaller perimeter kids always tend to develop quicker than guys with size. A couple of the bigger guys in the class have a ways to go."
Henricksen has three small guards at the top of his 2012 list, but he points out several larger players with promise.
"I kind of have three guys that are lumped in at the number one spot. Keith Carter, C.J. Jones and Jelani Neely are all vying for that top spot. But the guys behind them aren't too far behind either. Bobo is in that next group. I really like Jermaine Morgan from Whitney Young, a 6'-7" to 6'-8" kid.
"I like Charles Harris, a 6'-4" wing from Lake Forest Academy. He's got a lot of upside. Cameron Harvey from St. Joe's is a big-bodied 6'-3" 2-guard who has a lot of upside and physical strength to him. So there's definitely some guys who will progress. And there are probably some guys we haven't talked about who will end up being there. Guys who now are ranked 20th to 25th."
Champaign Central boasts a 6'-8" sophomore named Jay Simpson. He is not yet among Henricksen's top 16 prospects, but he has potential to improve.
"What I like about Jay Simpson is he's bigger. He's got that body, and he's really come a long way. He's progressing quicker than the first time I saw him. I thought he was really raw, but he has come on. He's a little less mechanical than he used to be and is a little more fluid. He has an opportunity to add weight to his frame.
"He's just got to figure some things out to be the kind of player you figure a guy that size to be like. That means be more aggressive rebounding, more physical and use that size body to his advantage. They don't know how to do that yet with their lack of experience and lack of playing time at a high level. It usually takes awhile to develop that kind of mentality and become a player."
Perhaps it is fortunate that Illinois may have only 1 or 2 scholarships available for the 2012 class. At this point in time, there are no superstars with can't-miss college potential. Of course, it is still early since the 2012 class still has three years of high school ball ahead of it.
"It'll play itself out," Henricksen surmises. "There aren't gonna be any high major offers at this point as some of the other kids have in the past. I don't think there's a clear-cut number one player in the class. I don't see any difference between a kid who is number 5 and one who is number 10 or 11, so there is some balance. But there's not that one guy that has jumped out, that's head and shoulders above everybody else.
"And there's no size that would project as high major kids. I don't want to say that little guys are a dime a dozen, but you can find a lot of 5'-10" guys around the country and the Midwest. You've got to be pretty special to get an offer that early if you are that size. Coaches usually wait it out with kids that size."