Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor (22), pictured here at the 2014 McDonald's All-American Game, is the City/Suburban Hoops Report's No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2014. | AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
(This is the third in a series of stories taking a final look at the Class of 2014 in Illinois.)
In a final good-bye to one of the most talented and accomplished classes to come through this state in quite some time, the City/Suburban Hoops Report has broken down the Class of 2014 over the past week.
Last week, the focus was on how the Class of 2014 compares to the all-time great classes and how the recruiting shook out among all Division I prospects. Today, it’s a final look at the top prospects in what is a deep, talented class.
Now it's a chance to look at the final list of top players in the class, one that is deep with Division I talent (already 40-plus Division signings and commitments), especially when you consider how much talent there is in the 16-30 group that would be higher most any other year.
1. Jahlil Okafor, 6-10, C, Chicago (Whitney Young)
When it comes to true, legit, back-to-the-basket big men at the high school level, we’re talking one of those once-in-a-generation type talents. They just don’t come along often. From the day he entered high school, the Duke-bound Okafor did everything possible to live up to the ridiculous hype. He leaves as one of the most decorated prep players in state history. Then there is his talent. He’s a polished and advanced player with nimble feet, soft hands and unique feel in the post.
2. Cliff Alexander, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Curie)
Physically, he’s off the charts. This big man made a leap in every phase of his game and has come so far, so fast. His power/athleticism/agility combination is striking. Big, strong, explosive and now, more than ever before, a dominating presence on both ends of the floor. Plays with a chip on his shoulder. Just needs to continue to progress offensively. A top five player in the country who’s headed to Kansas.
3. Tyler Ulis, 5-8, PG, Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)
A longtime Hoops Report favorite who will force his way onto the floor at Kentucky one way or another. Once you get past his size (and most people have by now) there is so much to like and enjoy about his game and talents that you forget he's a tad bit taller than 5-8. Yes, he’s the ideal table-setter with scoring and take-over ability as the purest of pure point guards. But don’t discount these three true advantages Ulis has over just about everyone he plays: heart, confidence and competitiveness.
4. Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7½, WF/PF, Normal (U-High)
The versatile forward is part of a loaded Ohio State recruiting class in 2014. The athletic Bates-Diop impacts games with his length and wingspan, bounce and instincts, while he continues to make strides with his skill set. The future will be bright as his face-up jumper gets more consistent and his ability to put it on the floor further develops.
5. Paul White, 6-8½, WF/PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
The Georgetown recruit put together a terrific senior year, helping lead Young to a state championship as an unselfish and productive sidekick to Jahlil Okafor. For a player his size, White handles it, passes it and shoots it well. But more importantly, he came a long way this year in showing an ability to impact games on a more consistent level and in important moments.
6. Malek Harris, 6-7, WF/PF, Orland Park (Sandburg)
Unfortunately, off-the-court issues ended his senior year before it started. But the blue-collar workhorse has learned and grown from it. Harris is a stat sheet stuffer with many positive attributes. He plays hard and competes. He can guard multiple positions. He can put it on the floor and get on the glass. Kansas State nabbed a good one late with this multi-faceted forward.
7. Ethan Happ, 6-7½, WF/PF, Rockridge (Taylor Ridge)
Blessed with plenty of tools to work with and sneaky athleticism, showing both in a variety of ways. A very capable face-up player who puts it on the floor well for his size, can get to the rim and occasionally drop in a perimeter jumper. If he can show a certain level of toughness and competitiveness at the next level, Happ will be another very productive forward for the Badgers down the road.
8. Michael Finke, 6-9½, PF, Champaign (Centennial)
He was a bit of a late bloomer in comparison to other top prospects in the class and made a huge 12-month jump during his junior year. Although he will need time adjusting to the college game and is limited athletically, Finke brings legit size and skill with his passing ability and face-up shooting touch from 12-20 feet. Finke is blessed with real offensive potential as he continues to develop physically.
9. Josh Cunningham, 6-7, Chicago (Morgan Park)
Arguably the biggest recruiting steal in the class as Bradley secured a late commitment from a player ranked among the top 100 in the country by some national recruiting services. Athletic, long, quick off the floor, Cunningham won back-to-back state championships. He plays with a high motor, rebounds and finishes at the rim.
10. Larry Austin, 6-1½, PG, Springfield (Lanphier)
Your first reaction when watching Austin is how hard he plays. Then you watch and become enamored with his in-your-face/get-in-the-passing-lanes defense. He’s one of the rare players in high school who makes things happen on the defensive end. He’s still in the process of developing true point guard skills and his perimeter jumper must improve. Now headed to Xavier after originally signing with Tennessee.
11. Vic Law, 6-7, WF/PF, Chicago (St. Rita)
The biggest name and highest ranked player in Northwestern’s recruiting class, Law is an active and athletic forward who is solid on the glass and plays up at the rim. Law should become an effective defender with his length and athleticism. Law’s impact will be based on how much his offensive game evolves once in college, including an improving his handle and shooting consistency.
12. Sean O’Mara, 6-9, C, Lisle (Benet Academy)
The Xavier recruit put together an outstanding, highly-productive season while leading his team to a state runner-up finish in Class 4A. Knows exactly who he is as an on-the-block, back-to-the-basket big man. Although not overly athletic, he’s a terrific passer who has a solid, strong base and enjoys contact.
13. Milik Yarbrough, 6-5, WF, Zion-Benton
Big-bodied wing who has always shown an ability to put the ball in the basket at a consistent, high level. An aggressive and relentless scorer who does it in a variety of ways. Must continue to work towards playing full-throttle every time he hits the floor. Saint Louis recruit finished as one of the top 20 scorers in state history with well over 2,000 career points.
14. Peyton Allen, 6-5, 2G, Chatham-Glenwood
Put together a terrific senior year and, along the way, his recruitment skyrocketed over the course of the season before committing to Texas A&M. When completely healthy, Allen showed to be a better athlete than people gave him credit for. Shoots it well from the perimeter and has the size and instincts to get his shot off and score.
15. Scott Lindsey, 6-6, WF, Oak Park (Fenwick)
The Northwestern recruit has some very appealing aspects to his game that could translate nicely to the next level once he fully blossoms mentally and physically. After a terrific July on the AAU circuit, a fall injury derailed his senior year as he really never was 100 percent. Blessed with size and skill on the perimeter, Lindsey has that ability to make plays in an easy manner.
16. Mangisto Deng, 6-7, WF, Mooseheart
This is about upside. Blossomed over the course of the year as he led Mooseheart to a Class 1A state championship. Although very thin and physically undeveloped, Deng has tremendous size, wingspan and length for a perimeter player. His shot, playmaking and decision-making all continue to improve but must become more fluid and consistent. For a player with as little basketball playing time as Deng has had, the ceiling is extremely high and intriguing as he heads to a junior college for two years.
17. Marlon Jones, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Orr)
A late spring commitment for Loyola, Jones is blessed with a bundle of upside that translates with the athleticism and quickness he has for a player his size. Runs the floor, will block a shot and showcases offensive potential. Right now his game needs refinement, which he will receive at the college If focus and drive are there, Jones could be a recruiting gem for the Ramblers.
18. JayQuan McCloud, 6-2, 2G, North Chicago
He’s been a Hoops Report favorite and a player that should prove to be a huge and valuable piece for Murray State going forward. A smooth scoring guard with an ability to get his shot off. Elevates on his jumper and shoots it with range. An underrated passer who, in time, may be able to slide into a more true combo guard role.
19. Ore Arogundade, 6-2, 2G, Arlington Heights (St. Viator)
A jack-of-all-trades who is a stat filler in virtually every category, putting up big numbers across the board throughout his career. Finds different ways to impact games on both ends of the floor. An efficient player who does what it takes to help his team win. Drake recruit is already a solid defender who has decent strength, versatility and lateral quickness which gives him “lockdown defender” potential.
20. Marcus Bartley, 6-4, PG, Decatur (MacArthur)
Pure point guard with the right instincts and ability to play the position. Although physically he’s extremely thin, his height and length are an advantage as he sees the floor so well. Perimeter jumper continues to improve. Body type at next level will be biggest obstacle for Saint Louis recruit, but he has the make-up and poise to succeed.
21. Jevon Carter, 6-1½, 2G, Maywood (Proviso East)
West Virginia-bound Carter has been a highly productive player for Proviso East for the past three seasons. A dynamite scorer who, when in rhythm and using good shot selection, can fill it up from beyond the arc. He also can use a little bit of his blow-by speed and scoring instincts to get to the rim. Must continue to evolve as a better decision-maker with the ball in his hands and playmaker for others in order to become a traditional combo guard.
22. Donte Thomas, 6-5½, WF/PF, South Holland (Thornwood)
A bit of an under-the-radar junior a year ago who bloomed last summer. He was then poised for a breakout senior year before a season-ending injury cut his season in half. Bound for Bradley, Thomas has underrated skill set and, with more experience, enough versatility to play both forward spots.
23. Donte Ingram, 6-5, 2G/WF, Chicago (Simeon)
Big perimeter wing who can defend multiple positions with his build, wingspan and athleticism. Offensively, a capable spot-up shooter on the perimeter and an impact rebounder at his position. Will need to become more comfortable creating offense for himself and teammates.
24. Makur Puou, 6-10, C, Mooseheart
A “project” when projecting big men as he’s raw and still undeveloped, but Puou continues to show improvement and the ability to impact games with his size and length on the defensive end. Runs the floor with speed and ease for a 6-10 player. His offense is a ways away from being college ready, but his awareness, timing and comfort level are beginning to come along. So much remains to be seen where this prospect will be after two years of junior college.
25. C.J. Rivers, 6-2, PG/2G, Cahokia
Intriguing and versatile combo guard with size. Does a lot of different things, from handling the ball and defending to filling up a stat sheet (12.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3 apg and 1.8 spg). The unselfish Rivers is a capable shooter, connecting on 49 three-pointers this season. Headed to Drake next year.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport
Isaiah Stafford, a 6-2 guard out of Bolingbrook, picks up an offer from Division II power Ferris State.
Division II Illinois-Springfield lands a good one in Rock Island point guard Jordan Rice.
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