With most schools now finalizing their recruiting classes, here’s a look at the top 10 in-state recruits who are most likely to make immediate impacts.
1. Darius Smith, combo guard, 6-2, Eastern Illinois: It’s not often you see a UConn recruit end up at Eastern Illinois. Smith was one of Chicago’s top high school players in the Class of 2009 and was highly recruited. He ended up at Connecticut, but was unhappy and left after one season. He played last season at Southern Idaho junior college and is now returning to his home state. Smith, who has two years of eligibility left, should be a game-changer for Eastern Illinois and could bring security to coach Mike Miller’s job.
2. Jon Mills, power forward, 6-6, Chicago State: Mills is one of the most tenacious rebounders to come through the Chicago Public League in the last decade. He played the last two years at Eastern Utah junior college and averaged a near double-double in that time. He’s the type of big man the Illini are still searching for in their 2011 recruiting class. If Chicago State coach Tracy Dildy continues this sort of recruiting, the Cougars will be competitive sooner than later.
3. Dre Henley, small forward, 6-6, Northern Illinois: Tennessee and a few other high-majors were giving Henley, a senior at De La Salle in Chicago, a serious look down the stretch. Playing right away was key for Henley, and it’s why he chose Northern Illinois. Henley’s game isn’t seen that often in the MAC. He has size, can handle the ball, score, pass and rebound. This was a big step forward for first-year coach Mark Montgomery.
4. Tracy Abrams, point guard, 6-1, Illinois: Abrams has kind of been the forgotten Illini recruit. Because he committed as a sophomore, he fell off a lot of people’s radars. It also didn’t help he suffered an injury during his junior year. He’s remained among the nation’s top 100 players, but probably never placed as high as he should have been. He would have been highly recruited throughout the country if he hadn’t committed so early. With his versatile offensive game and leadership skills, Abrams could be a special one for the Illini in the next four years.
5. Tre Demps, 6-2/David Sobolewski, 6-1, point guard, Northwestern: Either Demps or Sobolewski or possibly both will be asked to replace four-year starting point guard Michael Thompson next season. Neither is overly athletic, but both players have high basketball IQs, can distribute and score and know how to lead a team. Northwestern’s success next season could be determined by their play.
6. Johnny Hill, shooting guard, 6-2, Illinois State: Outside of Simeon’s Jabari Parker, Glenbard East’s Johnny Hill showed the most ability at this year’s Illinois state tournament. In the state semifinals against Simeon, Hill shot 7 of 11 from the field, 3 of 4 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 22 points. Hill has the ability to get to the rim and shoot from deep. He has a bright future in the Missouri Valley.
7. Marc Brown, shooting guard, 6-4, UIC: The Flames snagged Brown from Texas. He was previously committed to Florida State and had a number of high-major programs interested in him. UIC coach Howard Moore had been recruiting Brown while still at Wisconsin and was able to keep that relationship when he took over at UIC. Brown can get to the rim and shoot it. He’s also known for his defensive game. He should step in and contribute right away.
8. Charles McKinney, shooting guard, 6-4, DePaul: McKinney will provide the Blue Demons much-needed size at the 2-guard. Coach Oliver Purnell’s aggressive defensive style should also fit McKinney perfectly. He’s athletic and is already known as a tough defender. Almost all of DePaul’s incoming class could see substantial minutes next season just like Brandon Young, Cleveland Melvin and Moses Morgan did last season.
9. Jalen Crawford, 6-2, combo guard, Bradley: Crawford isn’t as highly-touted as his older brothers Joe, who starred at Kentucky, and Jordan, who starred at Xavier, but he does have game. Crawford can score from inside and out and has improved his point guard skills. He should compliment returning guards Dyricus Simms-Edwards and Walt Lemon.
10. Dantiel Daniels, power forward, 6-6, Southern Illinois: Daniels’ size might throw some people off as a power forward, but he plays much bigger than his frame. He’s athletic and has a high motor. He averaged 21.4 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.9 blocks this past year in the St. Louis area.