With college coaches now evaluating younger players than ever before, it is a useful exercise to find out about the most promising players in each age group from junior high school on up. The class that is in its first semester of high school this fall could be one of the truly great classes to come along in Illinois in a long time.
Joe Henricksen, the basketball talent evaluator who writes the City/Suburban Hoops Report, says the graduating class of 2013 is the best he's seen in a long time and is led by three potential superstars.
"Alex Foster, Jabari Parker and Tommy Hamilton, Jr. are as good as it gets at that age. We haven't seen anything like that from a trio of players that age in a long, long, long time. When Quenton Richardson and Corey Maggette were that age, they had the physical bodies that are reminiscent with what we see with these guys. That's what jumps out at you.
"Those guys are extremely skilled for their age and also have the size that you covet that translates to that next level as they mature and get better as players."
Parker played with his Chicago Simeon team and Hamilton with Whitney Young at the June Illinois team camp. They were role players for their high school teams as they were playing with older players. But when the two played together on a 14 and Under team in Las Vegas in July, they dominated according to Henricksen.
"When I was out in Las Vegas, I watched the championship game with Jabari and Tommy. Bruce (Weber) was in the gym, Purdue was in the gym with a few coaches. It was a joke. It was laughable to see Jabari and Tommy play with their own age group."
Parker is the son of former NBA star Sonny Parker. He is intelligent and fluid with outstanding skills and court awareness. Hamilton, who's father grew to 7'-3" and played pro ball also, is a high post player with excellent mobility for his size and a sweet shooting stroke.
"They're so far ahead of those kids it's not even funny," Henricksen states. "They're bigger than your normal incoming freshmen. Tommy is 6'-7" to 6'-8", Foster is 6'-7", Parker is about 6'-4." All three of them right now have a pretty good head on their shoulders. It's just a matter of who gets ahold of them and talks to them. Hopefully, it stays that way."
Henricksen expanded on Foster's game.
"Foster is a four man. He's really long and is the most athletic of the three of them. He kind of has a Chris Webber type of game, meaning he runs the floor extremely well and is active. He's not as skilled as those other two kids right now.
"Jabari and Tommy's skill level for that age is off the charts. Alex is still a little more raw, but he's a little more athletic than those other guys. He's good around the rim with his size and athleticism.
"He's still learning the game offensively, but he's so young. Alex has to learn how to play and how to play his role. Right now, he's playing at DeLaSalle, which will be interesting playing with (Mike) Shaw and how they use him.
"He's about 6'-7" now. If he grows to 6'-9", he'll have his choice of schools. He's a big, long, athletic four man."
Henricksen says a number of other freshmen have a chance to garner Division I scholarship offers with continued development.
"There are others in the class, but not in the same group as those guys. The whole class is loaded. Jubril Adekoya (Tinley Park Andrew) is a 6'-4" kid, big-bodied. Another one is Lorenzo Dillard, a 6'-2" point guard from Evanston. Keith Langston, a 6'-3" guard for Whitney Young. David McCoy from Loyola Academy. There's a ton of players that are gonna be high school freshmen."
Illinois has received multiple unofficial visits from Parker, Hamilton and Foster already. They will be national recruits before it is all said and done, but the Illini are in on the ground floor with three potential supers.