The Chicago area has overflowed with nationally-ranked high school basketball players for the last decade.
Derrick Rose, Shannon Brown, Julian Wright, Jereme Richmond, Dee Brown, Sherron Collins and Jon Scheyer were among the country’s top players in their respective classes during that time. But none of them were ranked No. 1 overall.
On Thursday, Perspectives senior forward and Kentucky recruit Anthony Davis was placed where none of them ever were. Davis was given the No. 1 spot in ESPN Recruiting’s final Class of 2011 rankings.
The last Chicago-area player to sit atop the national rankings was Thornwood’s Eddy Curry in 2001. Other No. 1’s in the last decade have included LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Davis had been ranked No. 2 in ESPN’s previous rankings and jumped over Austin Rivers, a Duke recruit, following a strong week of play during the McDonald’s All-American game and its practices in Chicago.
“The big thing was everyone wanted to know what the top guy did to lose the position,” ESPN senior recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. “I don’t think that had anything to do with it. In this case, we thought that with Anthony Davis’ ceiling, his ability to maximize his ceiling, his size, his natural instincts, especially defensively, he would prove himself as the top prospect in the class.
“I think more than any time I’ve ever seen him, his basketball ego is beginning to develop. His humility is tremendous, but there is a part of him now that sees the light at the end of the tunnel and what his career could look like.”
Davis’ rise to No. 1 is one of the most unique in the history of high school basketball rankings.
A year ago, Davis was an unknown even in Chicago. He attended a small high school that played in a lower Public League division, and he hadn’t played club basketball since he was in junior high. He had also been a 6-3 guard as a sophomore and sprouted to 6-10 as a junior.
After his high school junior season, he decided to play club basketball and joined Tai Streets’ team, MeanStreets. Within a month of playing on the club circuit, Davis and his versatile game was known by nearly every scout and college coach around the country.
Davis would ultimately choose Kentucky over DePaul, North Carolina, Ohio State and Syracuse. He averaged 32 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks during his senior season and was named a McDonald’s All-American.
Davis is now being touted as the potential No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
“We live in a world that is much smaller because of the internet and television,” Telep said. “I’m not sure if we’ll ever see something like this again.”
ESPN’s final Class of 2011 rankings also included Morgan Park’s Wayne Blackshear (No. 26), Whitney Young’s Sam Thompson (No. 43), Rock Island’s Chasson Randle (No. 58), St. Ignatius’ Nnanna Egwu (No. 68), East Aurora’s Ryan Boatright (No. 72), Mount Carmel’s Tracy Abrams (No. 84), De La Salle’s Mike Shaw (No. 88) and Orr’s Mycheal Henry (No. 94).