When the bar is set by Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, the expectations in Chicago are a little higher than most places when it comes to roundball. The Windy City is getting back to what it has been in terms of producing a number of college ready players. Chicago is our next stop on the City Search trail.
Guard play. It's been a staple of the city at nearly every level. While there will never be another guy like Jordan, the class of 2006 and 2007 is well represented with some of the best guards in the nation. Kansas bound Sherron Collins, Duke bound Jon Scheyer and five-star junior Derrick Rose are three of the best prospects in the city.
"The guard play is pretty good there lately. You got Dee Brown, Shannon Brown, the Scheyer kid, the kid going to Kansas (Collins) and Derrick Rose," says one Big Ten assistant. "You could say it's a guard heaven."
When you talk about guys like Collins, Scheyer and Rose, that's down right celestial. There is a great debate in the city on who is the best guard in the city and everyone seems to have a different answer.
"Boy, that's a tough question," says on Big 12 assistant. "If you look at how well a guy like Scheyer is in a good system, he's the most productive. But Rose and Collins are both better athletes that can score the ball. Each one of them has their own strength."
Scheyer and Collins have been battling each other in the stat column this season. Eight games into the year, Scheyer is putting in 34.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.4 steals a contest. Collins is averaging 35 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3.8 steals. Call it a push?
Larry Butler coached both players on the AAU circuit with the Illinois Warriors. He says the answer is easy on who is the best between the two.
"The best is Scheyer," Butler said. "Right now it is. He's the one player with that state championship already. He knows how to win. Plain and simple. Rose is talented and he's next in line but Jon is more of a team guy and wins. Sherron tries to do too much. He needs to learn that everything doesn't need to be a highlight reel."
Either way you cut it, all three players are going to bring in the crowd. Kobe Bryant even stopped by Simeon High School to see Rose play.
As a whole, the city is solid but not what it has been in year's past but the senior class still has some substance to it. Bruce Weber and his staff have a promising big man in Brian Carlwell. The 6-foot-10 post player from Proviso East High School was a huge get for the Illini.
Will Walker is a major coup for Jerry Wainwright and the DePaul Blue Demons. A number of high-majors, including Illinois, passed on Walker, a skilled scoring point guard. Walker has channeled his frustrations on the recruiting front to the hardwood. He could be a tough player to stop by the team he gets into Big East play.
While Weber and Wainwright were both able to snatch up two of the top players in the city, several other Chicago kids are going west.
Jerome Randle, a crafty point guard with incredible quickness and great court vision, will suit up for Ben Braun and the Cal Bears next year. His Hales Franciscan teammate JaVale McGee, a 6-foot-11 player with small forward skills, is the latest sleeper to commit to Mark Fox and the Nevada program.
Oregon snatched Joevan Catron, a bully of a forward, away from the Midwest and the 6-foot-6 bruiser will be a fan favorite at Mac Court.
The class of 2007 is Rose and everyone else. At least that is what everyone in Chi-Town will have you believe. Evan Turner and Demetri McCamey might have something to say about that. The St. Joseph's duo are both high-major players that many Division I coaches hope stay under the radar for as long as they can.
On the big man front, the place to look is Boys to Men Academy. Lorne Jackson left Julian High School to start the school and he took with him the best Chicago big man in the junior class in Nayal Koshwal. The four-star stud is a strong-bodied forward that has Big Ten/Big 12 written all over him.
Also at Boys to Men is Craig Brackins, a California transplant, who is as good as anyone in the Midwest or West Coast in the big men department. The 6-foot-10 forward is athletic, has great post moves and a go-to left hand to boot.
They got next
Guard play has been the staple of Chicago hoops but the class of 2008 is shaking that mold at the top with talented players that stand over 6-feet-8. Some locals are excited about the potential of a trio of sophomores.
Mike Dunigan, a 6-foot-9 forward from Farragut Academy, is raw and getting a lot of attention in Chi-Town but his breakout moment has yet to happen according to some.
At Timothy Christian, Josh Crittle, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound power forward, passes the look test for a sophomore and like Dunigan, he's still waiting to show he's got the high-major package.
Angel Garcia, a 6-foot-10 forward from Lake Forest Academy just north of Chi-town, has the skills that make high-major coaches look long and hard. The Puerto Rico transplant is primarily a wing forward and with his size and ability to shoot the ball, he'll be a guy that the big-timers chase around this spring and summer.
One of the most versatile players in Chi-Town is 2008 prospect DeAndre Liggins, a 6-foot-5 wing Washington High School, can do just about everything. Don't be surprised to hear more about him as the year goes along. He'll be a surefire high-major prospect and might just be the best sophomore in Chicago.
Continuing the guard tradition is Jeremiah Kelly, a 6-foot-2 reclassified sophomore point guard from Boys to Men, Jeremy Montgomery, a 6-foot-1 shooting from Lincoln Park, Michael Thompson a junior from Lincoln Park and Marcus Jordan, a 6-foot-2 freshman from Loyola Academy.
Kelly has good size, a knack for making the right pass and a good feel for the game. Montgomery is a terrific southpaw shooter while Thompson is a lot like Randle in the sense he always gives the crowd something to talk about.
Does the name Jordan sound familiar in Chicago? Marcus is MJ's second oldest son on the hoops scene. Word is, the 2009 prospect has a chance to be pretty special.
Chicago is close to being a dried up well for prospects in the class of 2006. That being said, there are a handful of players that are still being recruited by the mid-majors or higher.
Perhaps the best player still available is Jonathan Peoples, a 6-foot-3 guard from St. Joseph High School. He's a big body guard that powers his way to the bucket and plays within himself.
Tracy Thomas, a bouncy 6-foot-4 Atlanta transplant, is not a guy that many know about in the Windy City but he's got some funk to his game. Now at North Chicago High, Thomas could be a heck of a get for a MAC school or better.
Homewood-Flossmoor seems to always produce players on a yearly basis. Most recently, Julian Wright to Kansas and Cyrus Tate to Iowa via junior college. In 2006, Andre Walker is next in line. The 6-foot-5 wing is a great student who would be a nice get for a mid-major school.
Billy Rush, a 6-foot-5 wing from Thornridge, could be a nice get for a mid-major plus squad. He's an athletic scorer that will qualify.
DeAngelo McIntosh, a 6-foot-4 guard from Julian High School, is a bouncy forward that will likely end up at a junior college. Same goes for Mario Little, a 6-foot-5 guard from Washington. After two years of JUCO ball, these guys could be major gets for a high-major school.
"It seems to be more publicity about the players more so than the teams. There are some really good high-major players with Derrick Rose, Sherron Collins, Jon Scheyer, Brian Carlwell. It's probably one of the best years we've had in a long time. There is a lot of excitement. I don't know if the teams are as good but the players are really good this year." - Glenbrook North head coach Dave Weber
"I think all of the guards from Chicago are aggressive. Sherron, Derrick and myself. We're not going to back down to anyone. That's something that we take pride in. We love to play that tough defense. It's all a generalization obviously." - Jon Scheyer
"I don't think people know just how good guys like Evan Turner and Dametri McCamey are. Both of these guys are going to be really good players for somebody. They know how to play." - a Big Ten assistant
Thanks to Brian Stinnette and Ryan Christie for their help on the city of Chicago.