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Wednesday, February 29, 2012
POTW: Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough

By Scott Powers

Milik Yarbrough
Expect Milik Yarbrough to have a much higher profile next year.
If you don't know who Zion-Benton sophomore Milik Yarbrough is, don't worry, you will soon.

Yarbrough, a 6-6 sophomore wing, has existed under the radar for much of his prep career despite being one of the most talented prospects in the state's Class of 2014.

On the club scene, he's performed well for Ferrari, but he hasn't wowed the right people and shown up in the national rankings. On the high school scene, he's scored 20-plus points a game and toyed with every other statistical category, but his team struggled this season (lost in regional semifinals, finished with 15-15 record) and he didn't receive much local press.

A year from now, though, Yarbrough will likely be a household name when it comes to high school basketball. Nationally, he's ready for a breakout spring and summer on the club scene. Locally, Zion-Benton won't be kept down long and is expected to return among the state title contenders next season.

For now, Yarbrough will have to settle for being ESPNChicago.com's Prep Athlete of the Week.

To understand Yarbrough's game and his potential, it's important to know his family. His father Del Yarbrough was a 6-8 forward at Illinois State from 1976-1980. His brother Vincent Yarbrough, a 6-7 forward, starred at Tennessee from 1998-2002 and played in the NBA and overseas. His other brother Markus Yarbrough is a 6-8 junior forward at Fort Hays State.

They're large shadows to overcome, but Yarbrough is driven by his older brothers.

"I learned from the bad things they did and learned not to make the same mistakes," Yarbrough said. "I try to get in the gym and work harder than them. I always want to be better than them."

Of his three sons, Del thought Milik's game was closest to Vincent's. Both are athletic, can play multiple positions and know how to score. Markus, who is 290 pounds, is a post player.

"I think Vincent can probably jump higher than Milik," Dell said at a recent Zion-Benton game. "But as far as jump shot and skill work, I think they're about the same."

Against Mather in a recent game in Chicago, Yarbrough displayed his various skills.

Early, he showed off his court vision and ball handling while setting up his teammates.

Defensively, opponents had a hard time gauging Yarbrough's length. On a few occasions, Mather's player pulled up for a 3-pointer with Yarbrough standing a few feet away, and Yarbrough made up the distance with his long arms and blocked the shot. He had four blocks and two steals in the game.

But Yarbrough's greatest gift is his scoring ability. His shot can be streaky, but he's capable of making it from deep. He was 2-of-6 from 3-point range. He can also create his own shot and often did so against Mather. With his size and length, he's also difficult around the glass. Six of his eight rebounds in the game came on the offensive glass. He finished with 25 points on 9-of-22 from the field.

"He can score in a variety of ways," Zion-Benton coach Don Kloth said. "Certainly, we give him freedom because he can create on his own. I've actually been pretty happy on how he's developed throughout the year."

Yarbrough has caught the eye of college coaches. He's being recruited heavily by DePaul, Illinois, Marquette, Purdue and Tennessee, according to Del.

And those in the know in Illinois high school basketball have recognized Yarbrough's talents.

"Milik just has that unique ability that everyone loves and covets -- putting the ball in the hole," said Illinois high school basketball analyst Joe Henricksen, who publishes the City/Suburban Hoops Report. "For such a young player, he simply has a knack for scoring and doing so in a variety of ways. He's a big-bodied wing who may lack ideal athleticism and is a volume shooter, he offers both a little power and finesse in his offensive game. He's clearly one of the top seven or eight prospects in the state in a very talented Class of 2014."

It's only a matter of time before everyone gets that.