Illinois product encounter early obstacles

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
9:45
PM CT

llinois’ Class of 2011 basketball recruits were praised by local and national scouts for much of their high school careers.

The state’s 2011 class placed nine players in ESPNU’s top 100 and had a couple more that weren’t too far off. It was considered one of Illinois’ deepest and most talented classes.

Now that the class has moved on to the college level, it’s time for those players to prove whether they actually deserved all of the attention -- or if it was just hype. Although it’s only been a few weeks into the season, the state’s class hasn’t had the smoothest of transitions into college hoops.

• Louisville freshman and McDonald’s All-American guard Wayne Blackshear, who starred at Morgan Park, had eligibility issues at first and then suffered a season-ending injury.

• Macari Brooks, a Rich South product, left DePaul after his own eligibility issues.

• Dre Henley, a former De La Salle player, departed Northern Illinois due to an off-the-court incident.

• On Wednesday, Connecticut announced freshman guard Ryan Boatright, last year’s ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year from East Aurora, would sit out of competition until the NCAA ruled on his eligibility.

Long-time Chicago-area basketball scout Larry Butler wasn’t shocked to hear what happened to any of those four players. Blackshear had fought through a handful of injuries the last few seasons. Boatright, Brooks and Henley went through their ups and downs in high school.

Even beyond those four players, Butler is worried the rest of the class won’t pan out for other reasons.

“Nothing has surprised me about this class because of their attitudes,” said Butler, who publishes Illinois Spot-Lite. “I used to say I can’t wait for this class to get out of high school to see how good they really are. They’ve been hyped for so long. They came into the season after they left high school bracing themselves for stardom.”

Butler doesn’t necessarily blame the players for that.

“We blew these cats up,” Butler said. “They walked in thinking they would be stars already. Quite a few of them had this sense of entitlement.”

So who should be blamed? Butler said the high school coaches.

“They don’t coach them,” Butler said. “They don’t develop them and get them to where they need to be. They recruit these guys, but they don’t develop them. They’re too scared of them transferring. In the end, they don’t have the ingredients to be ready for the next level. That’s the biggest problem we have in this state.

“The college coaches see the circuit, and they’re not the typical Chicago kids. They’re not playing hard. [Duke assistant] Chris Collins and I were talking about this the other day.”

Butler has been making calls all around the country to college coaches and has heard similar grips about Illinois’ current freshman crop.

“A lot of these guys are struggling,” Butler said.

Butler doesn’t think everyone in the class will be a bust. He has received a lot of positive feedback on Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis and Illinois freshman center Nnanna Egwu.


Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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