Chicago Hoops played host to the 2011 Spring Showdown last weekend at the Merrillville Fieldhouse east of Chicago in Merrillville, Ind. Loaded with top area talent, the Spring Showdown allowed us to make some observations. Here is Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi's "What We Learned" from the Chicago event.
Chicago Spring Showdown: What We Learned
1. Illinois talent on the rebound in 2013
From year to year, the state of Illinois can be counted on to pump out more than its share of talent. However, the class of 2012 is down - way down. Currently, only three players from the state are ranked in the 2012 Rivals150 with Purdue commitment Jay Simpson checking in as the highest ranked player at No. 86 nationally. Things will be much different in 2013.
While he was in Akron and not Merrillville over the weekend, 6-foot-7 small forward Jabari Parker is in the discussion to be the top-ranked player nationally in his class. He won't be alone in the rankings when they get expanded.
At this point, there are at least 10 other prospects from the Land of Lincoln who will merit serious discussion when the class of 2013 rankings expand to 150 spots. Leading the way are 6-foot-9 big man Thomas Hamilton and 6-foot-2 shooting guard Kendrick Nunn. Purdue commitment Kendall Stephens shows plenty of promise while Jaylon Tate, Jalen James, Malcolm Hill (not in attendance), Alvin Ellis, Alex Foster, DeShawn Munson (not in attendance) and Russell Woods will all be in the discussion when it comes to sorting out the rankings in 2013.
Perhaps a better example of the state's depth in the class of 2013 is Kendall Pollard. A surefire Division I prospect, the athletic wing was instrumental in leading his D-Rose 16-and-under squad to an overtime victory over a loaded Meanstreets 16's team that features three of the guys mentioned above. The 6-foot-4 wing didn't even play varsity as a sophomore. In fact, he didn't even play on the junior varsity. Instead, he starred for the sophomore team.
2. Okafor the win
One of the more accepted rules in evaluating young prospects is that big men take a lot more time to develop. Because of that, there is a lot of guesswork and tossing around words such as "potential" and "upside" when discussing the future of bigs.
With Jahlil Okafor, there's not much guessing. The 6-foot-8 center is clearly a high-major prospect and a high level one at that. The Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young freshman is not only big, but he's strong, skilled and has a terrific feel for playing the game. He doesn't overwhelm with athleticism, but his hands are strong and his instincts top notch.
Although he isn't necessarily the same player as Kevin Love or Jared Sullinger and only time will tell if he can reach the type of levels they have, Okafor looks to be a guy who is cut out of the same mold.
3. Bell stepping up in 2012
Much has been written about the lack of legitimate high-major point guards in the class of 2012. In fact, it's almost become cliché to write about it. Enter little known Ka'Darryl Bell from Oak Park (Ill.) River Forest.
There's nothing flashy about the quick and under control 6-foot-1 floor general's game, but he sure seems to make a lot of good things happen. An alert ballhandler, his head is always up surveying the floor and he doesn't often miss on opportunities to put pressure on the defense with his ability to get into the lane and make plays for others.
According to Bell, Iowa and Ohio have already dropped offers on him and we're betting that those won't be the last. Among the others who have already shown early attention are Butler, Florida State, Drake, Nebraska and Illinois. Bell should expect that list to grow if he does what he looks to be capable of this summer.