Joe Henricksen, author of the City/Suburban Hoops Report and outstanding talent evaluator, offered his assessment recently of Chicago Orr's Mycheal Henry and Niles North's Abdel Nader. Henry is projected as a shooting guard and Nader a small forward in college and are being actively recruited by Illinois.
"I like them both. I really like Mycheal Henry. I think he's a high major, a no-doubt-about-it high major. He has come into his own this year as far as being a consistent, productive player. He showed flashes his freshman and sophomore years.
"He's got a nice body, 6'-5" to 6'-6". He's got some bounce to him. And what people didn't realize is how good of a shooter he is. He has a really high release point, and he can knock down shots. He has great elevation on his jumper. I'm not saying he's Rudy Gay, but his style of play, the look to his game is like Rudy Gay. The perimeter shot with high elevation. Plus, he's an above-average athlete.
"I really like Mycheal Henry. When my new rankings come out, he will be among my top ten players and probably in the top seven in that class. I think the world of Mycheal Henry. I think he's terrific."
The Illini like Henry also, and they are on the verge of offering him a scholarship. With other top Illinois junior wings either showing more interest in other schools or delaying their college decisions, Henry may become a focal point for the Illini. He hasn't begun to tap his full potential, and he may eventually outshine those other players.
Abdel Nader is also just beginning to self-actualize according to Henricksen.
"I think Abdel Nader is just barely a notch below Mycheal Henry. He's also very very long and bouncy. He can shoot it, although he's looking for more consistency with his overall game. He needs to show he has some strength and physical toughness to him, show he can really battle and compete at an extremely high level.
"He's 6'-7" with length and nice skills. I've got him right now at a midmajor + type of guy who with a big summer could very well end up a high major kid.
"He's not an unbelieveably smooth player. He's still learning the game, still growing into his body, growing as a player. There's definitely work to do. Is he quick enough to defend an athletic, quick perimeter player? Or, is he strong enough to defend a strong four man at the high major level? Those are legitimate questions."
Chicago DeLaSalle forward Mike Shaw has suffered from excessive publicity at an early age and is finally beginning to merge potential with talent.
"He came into high school with so much hype, so much potential," Henricksen remembers. "A lot of people had him in the top 10 in his class nationally. Ranking kids as 8th graders and freshmen is fun and gets people talking, but I think it's premature.
"You don't know all the people who are out there. There's just so many things that are unknown. They get a little older and you see more kids and how they progress, you can rate them a little more fairly."
The muscular 6'-8" Shaw had trouble living up to the hype. He needed to defer to three upperclassmen guards on his high school team, and his AAU team lacked the structure that could bring out his best talents. He would get lost on the floor at times, causing some to downgrade him. As a junior he is emerging as a team leader, and with that comes more focus on getting things done on the court.
"With him, he definitely has made strides. His problem has been playing at a consistent level. Now he's really starting to find himself in terms of what type of player he is and what type of player he can be.
"He's not a three man, and a lot of people envision him as a three man. He's an ideal face-up four man who can do some dirty work for you, stick his nose in there, do a little rebounding, compete, be coached, listen to the people around him. He's not a head case, he's not a problem at all. He's just a really nice high major player.
"Do I think he's a McDonald's All-American? I don't. He has some limitations. But who cares? You don't have to worry about your ranking nationally. Can he come in and help a high major program? Yeah. What's wrong with that?
"Do I think he'll be an absolute superstar? No, but you don't know how kids are gonna react once they sign their scholarship and get on campus. How will they work? How much more is left in the tank? Even college coaches aren't sure when they step on campus.
"Mike has the physical abilities and the body you can't find or teach. That's why he's projected as a high major player. Compared to a year ago, he's a little bit better than I thought he would be. He's made some real positive strides.
"And he's a terrific kid. He cares about winning and doesn't care about some of the things other guys get into. That's good. I really like him as a kid and his mindset of accepting the things he can and can't do."
Illinois understands that and wants Shaw to join what they believe can be a championship caliber team. According to Henricksen, there is compatability.
"He'd be an ideal guy for Illinois if it were to come down to that. He fits in with what they need. I think that'd be a great recruit for them. A nice piece to the puzzle."