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Henricksen: Where the top prospects in Illinois rank nationally

07/03/2014, 1:00pm CDT
By Joe Henricksen | @joehoopsreport

There are currently five Illinois prospects in the Class of 2015 ranked among the top 100 prospects in the country, headed by Stevenson's Jalen Brunson. A look at where each top prospect stacks up nationally heading into July.

If you’re one who’s into rankings (Who are we kidding? People just love anything that’s ranked!) and you closely follow high school and college basketball, then the national rankings displayed by all the websites and national evaluators are a necessary evil for you.

All you avid followers also know –– or should at least be aware by now –– the rankings are far from a sure thing, especially once you start getting out of those top 20 and top 30-type talents. There’s a somewhat decent chance that No. 74 ranked player your favorite college basketball program signed and you’re so excited about is nowhere near the 74th best player in the country.

But the national rankings are a discussion point and, to an extent, a somewhat decent measurement for future success. After all, if you nab four top 100 players they’re aren’t all going to be busts. 

The rankings are there to examine, digest and dissect, even if many players and their people are far too hung up on them.

The recently graduated Class of 2014, headed by the nation’s No. 1 player, Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor, boasted six Illinois products in the final top 100 rankings. 

The RSCI rankings, which take into account six different national rankings and combine them into one “consensus” top 100, included Curie’s Cliff Alexander (No. 4), Marian Catholic’s Tyler Ulis (No. 18), Normal U-High’s Keita Bates-Diop (#29), Whitney Young’s Paul White (No. 51) and St. Rita’s Vic Law (No. 90).

In addition, both Morgan Park’s Josh Cunningham and Sandburg’s Malek Harris, two other Illinois prep prospects in the Class of 2014, were ranked in at least one final top 100 ranking, though not in the final RSCI top 100 rankings.

The Class of 2013 had four in the final top 100 from Illinois: Simeon’s Jabari Parker (No. 3) and Kendrick Nunn (No. 57), St. Charles East’s Kendall Stephens (No. 63) and Belleville East’s Malcolm Hill (No. 70), while the Class of 2012 had just a single Illinois player –– Simeon’s Steve Taylor (No. 82).

Here is where various national rankings have Illinois prospects in the Class of 2015 heading into a pivotal stretch –– the July evaluation period. 

JALEN BRUNSON, 6-2, PG, Stevenson
#15 Rivals
#17 Scout
#22 ESPN
#29 247sports
#38 future150

Ranking overview: It took some time for a player who accomplished so much so early in his career for national evaluators to realize just how good he was and who and what he was as a player and prospect. He’s moved up considerably to where he should be and is now a bonafide McDonald’s All-American prospect.

CHARLES MATTHEWS, 6-6, WF, St. Rita
#30 Rivals
#48 Scout
#30 ESPN
#52 247sports
#35 future150

Ranking overview: Yes, he’s fallen from his early top 10 and top 15 days in national rankings. He also was banged up a bit this past spring on the AAU circuit. But he’s still a high-major heading to Kentucky and a top 50 prospect in the country. This is another one of those “early player ranking warnings” that should be attached to all rankings of prospects who are just freshmen and sophomores in high school.

D.J. WILLIAMS, 6-7, WF, Simeon
#58 Rivals
#38 Scout
#39 ESPN
#82 247sports
#54 future150

Ranking overview: He remains that player with talent and remaining upside to go with versatility and size. That’s enticing. Williams should be a consensus top 50 player nationally, and that’s about where he sits heading into his final AAU grassroots run this July.

AARON JORDAN, 6-4, 2G, Plainfield East
#65 Rivals
#79 ESPN
#75 247sports
#82 future150

Ranking overview: An anomaly in that Jordan is one of those prospects the “national experts” never see play –– at least from the months of August through March. (Imagine ranking prospects who haven’t been seen for eight months of their junior year and during the heart of basketball season? ... Ugh! Rankings!). Nonetheless, Jordan’s size, shooting and value of putting the ball in the basket has shown enough in AAU play and kept him in the top 100.

GLYNN WATSON, 5-11, PG, St. Joseph
#85 Rivals
#62 Scout
#98 ESPN
#81 247sports
#94 future150

Ranking overview: It’s easy to find wings. It’s not so easy to find bigs and point guards. That’s why Watson is valued as a top 100 player by the national experts –– he’s a true point guard and there aren’t many out there. While the likes of Nebraska, Purdue and Creighton have been hot and heavy for Watson, he will be closely watched this July by a host of high-major programs in need of a point guard. 

On the outside looking in ...

• Ed Morrow, 6-6, PF, Simeon
With a big July there is a real possibility Morrow could climb into top 100 national rankings. Rivals.com currently has Morrow ranked No. 104 in the country in the senior class. 

• Joseph Toye, 6-7, WF, Whitney Young
After spending a year in prep school, Toye has returned to Chicago for his senior year. He's ranked No. 102 by Rivals.com and is committed to Vanderbilt. 

• Luwane Pipkins, 5-9, PG, Bogan
The UMass commit, who is ranked by Rivals as the No. 129 prospect in the country, will be showcased again with the Mac Irvin Fire throughout July.

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