High School: Northwestern Wildcats
The struggles of DePaul and Illinois in recent years have been largely blamed on their in-state recruiting. While both programs have attracted some Illinois players, they’ve struggled to sway the most significant ones and in some cases failed to project players who became stars.
Here are my top 100 players the state has produced since 2003, which spans Illinois coach Bruce Weber’s career and that of three DePaul coaches. The criteria for this list included success in college and the pros for the older players and ability and potential for the younger ones.
1. Derrick Rose (Memphis, Class of 2007): DePaul and Illinois were said to be in the mix, but neither seemed to have a real chance. Rose wanted a shot at a national championship in his one year in college. Memphis lost in the national championship game in that one season, and the Tigers later had to vacate the season due to NCAA violations -- some of which had to do with Rose. He was the No. 1 pick by the Chicago Bulls in 2008 and is the reigning NBA MVP.
3. Evan Turner (Ohio State, 2007): DePaul and Illinois offered Turner, but Ohio State won out. Turner was undervalued nationally coming out of high school, but he was the second-best player in the state’s Class of 2007 next to Rose. After being named the Big Ten player of the year as a junior, Turner was drafted No. 2 in the 2010 draft and averages 8.4 points and 5.7 rebounds for the Philadelphia 76ers.
4. Shaun Livingston (Duke, 2004): Livingston chose Duke over Illinois and Arizona, but ended up entering the NBA draft instead. He was taken No. 4 overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. He suffered a career-changing knee injury in 2007 and is now a role player for the Milwaukee Bucks.
5. Shannon Brown (Michigan State, 2003): Brown was already committed to Tom Izzo by the time Weber took over at Illinois. Brown started nearly every game of his three-year career at Michigan State. He was taken in the first round of the 2006 NBA draft. He averages 8.7 points for the Phoenix Suns.
6. JaVale McGee (Nevada, 2006): McGee played his senior year in Chicago and didn’t receive a whole lot of interest. Northwestern recruited him, and he signed with Nevada. He spent two years at Nevada and was selected in the 2008 NBA draft. He now starts for the Washington Wizards and is averaging 12.0 points, 8.8 points and 2.7 blocks.
7. Julian Wright (Kansas, 2005): Bill Self swooped in and convinced Wright to commit to Kansas during a home visit. Wright was thought to be heavily considering DePaul and Illinois. He spent two years at Kansas before being picked No. 13 in the 2007 NBA draft. He last played in the NBA in 2011.
8. Wayne Blackshear (Louisville, 2011): Blackshear included DePaul and Illinois on his list, but Louisville was the team to beat after he visited there. He just recently began playing for Louisville after suffering an injury prior to the season. He’s expected to be a future NBA player.
9. Iman Shumpert (Georgia Tech, 2008): Shumpert eliminated Illinois before his final list. He chose Georgia Tech over Marquette and North Carolina. Shumpert led Georgia Tech in scoring, rebounding and assists his junior season. He left school early and was drafted No. 17 in the 2011 NBA draft. He’s started 17 games in his rookie season for the New York Knicks.
11. Sherron Collins (Kansas, 2006): Collins chose Kansas and former Illinois coach Self over the Illini. Collins’ class won 130 games and a national championship in his four years at Kansas. Collins was among the top guards in the country his last two seasons and is now playing overseas.
12. Meyers Leonard (Illinois, 2010): The Illini were on Leonard as early as anyone, and he awarded them with his commitment. He was ranked No. 47 overall in the Class of 2010 by ESPN. He’s blossomed as a sophomore for Illinois and is expected to be a future lottery pick. He could be among the nation’s premier college players if he stays for another season.
13. Jereme Richmond (Illinois, 2010): Richmond committed to the Illini as a freshman. He wavered in his commitment at times, but remained loyal to the Illini. He showed glimpses of his potential as a freshman, but his first year at Illinois was defined by its rockiness. He entered the NBA draft after one year and was not selected. He was later arrested for gun charges. Richmond is now playing for the Sauk Valley Predators of the Premier Basketball League.
14. Jerel McNeal (Marquette, 2005): McNeal chose Marquette over Dayton and Purdue. Despite being one of top players in the Chicago area, McNeal wasn’t highly touted nationally. He is Marquette’s career leader in points and steals. He is now playing overseas.
15. Jacob Pullen (Kansas State, 2007): Pullen had considered Illinois, but decided on Kansas State. Pullen was a star in the Big 12 during his final seasons at Kansas State. He averaged 19.2 and 20.2 points in his last two years. He is now playing overseas.
16. Ryan Boatright (Connecticut, 2011): Boatright committed to USC as a freshman, later committed West Virginia and finally ended up at Connecticut. He wasn’t given much national respect out of high school, but he was the best high school player in the Chicago area last season. He’s now starting as a freshman for the Huskies.
17. Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga, 2005): Pargo also considered Illinois during his recruiting process. He had a memorable career at Gonzaga and is now a backup guard for the Memphis Grizzlies.
18. Demetri McCamey (Illinois, 2007): McCamey was outshined by high school teammate Evan Turner his senior season, but was still among the state’s top players. McCamey was a four-year starter for the Illini and earned all-conference honors his final three seasons. He is now playing overseas.
19. Patrick Beverley (Arkansas, 2006): Illinois was in the mix for Beverley. He starred at Arkansas for two seasons before being suspended and then leaving the team. He was selected in the 2009 NBA draft and is now playing overseas.
20. DeAndre Liggins (Kentucky, 2008): Liggins played his final high school season at an out-of-state prep school. Liggins started for Kentucky his junior year and helped the Wildcats to the Final Four. He entered the draft early and was taken in the second round in 2011. He plays for the Orlando Magic.
22. Brandon Paul (Illinois, 2009): Paul was the state’s top high school player in 2009, but didn’t receive a lot of national recruitment. Paul was erratic his first two years at Illinois, but has taken strides to becoming a star this year. He has NBA potential.
23. Michael Dunigan (Oregon, 2008): Dunigan, a McDonald’s All-American, and his AAU teammate Matt Humphrey were considering Illinois, but opted to attend Oregon together. Dunigan left Oregon after two seasons and has been playing overseas since.
24. Mac Koshwal (DePaul, 2007): Koshwal was ranked as high as No. 18 in the Class of 2007 by one scouting service. Koshwal was near a double-double throughout his career at DePaul. He left after his junior season and was not drafted.
25. Bobby Frasor (North Carolina, 2005): Frasor, a McDonald’s All-American, picked North Carolina over Stanford. Injuries derailed his career, but Frasor was still a role player for the Tar Heels and helped them to a national championship. He recently retired from playing overseas to pursue a coaching career.
The next 10
26. Jamarcus Ellis: Junior college, Indiana, 2004
27. Stefhon Hannah: Junior college, finished at Missouri, 2004
28. Jerome Randle: California, 2006
29. Michael Thompson: Northwestern, 2007
30. Chasson Randle: Stanford, 2011
31. Tracy Abrams: Illinois, 2011
32. Drew Crawford: Northwestern, 2009
33. Jack Cooley: Notre Dame, 2009
34. D.J. Richardson: Illinois, 2009
35. Lenzelle Smith Jr.: Ohio State, 2010
Maurice Acker: Ball State, finished at Marquette, 2005
Joseph Bertrand: Illinois, 2009
Ben Brust: Wisconsin, 2010
Calvin Brock: Illinois, 2004
Brian Carlwell: 2006, Illinois, finished at San Diego State
Joevan Catron: 2006, Oregon
Justin Cerasoli: 2004, Seton Hall, finished at Loyola
Bill Cole: 2007, Illinois
D.J. Cooper: 2009, Ohio
Jamee Crockett: 2011, DePaul
Justin Dentmon: 2004, Washington
Kevin Dillard: 2008, Southern Illinois, now at Dayton
Dion Dixon: 2008, Cincinnati
Alex Dragicevich: 2011, Notre Dame
Osiris Eldridge: 2006, Illinois State
Brandon Ewing: 2005, Wyoming
Nnanna Egwu: 2011, Illinois
Myke Henry: 2011, Illinois
Colin Falls: 2003, Notre Dame
Carlton Fay: 2007, Southern Illinois
Tony Freeman: 2005, Iowa, finished at Southern Illinois
Reggie Hamilton: 2007, now at Oakland
Crandall Head: 2008, Illinois, now at a junior college
Matt Humphrey: 2008, Oregon, now at Boston College
Lewis Jackson: 2008, Purdue
Othyus Jeffers: 2003, junior college, finished at NAIA
Aaron Johnson: 2007, UAB
Anthony Johnson: 2010, Purdue
Jeremy Jones: 2009, junior college, now at Kansas State
Lazeric Jones: 2008, junior college, now at UCLA
Roosevelt Jones: 2011, Butler
Verdell Jones: 2008, Indiana
Frank Kaminsky: 2011, Wisconsin
Jeremiah Kelly: 2008, DePaul
Robert Kreps: 2007, UIC
Mario Little: 2006, junior college, finished at Kansas
Kevin Lisch: 2005, Saint Louis
Sam Maniscalco: 2007, Bradley, now at Illinois
Dameon Mason: 2003,Marquette, finished at LSU
Richard McBride: 2003, Illinois
Mike McCall: 2010, Saint Louis
Chas McFarland: 2006, Wake Forest
Charles McKinney: 2011, DePaul
Trent Meacham: 2004, Dayton, finished at Illinois
Nate Minnoy: 2005, Purdue, finished at NAIA
Bryan Mullins: 2005, Southern Illinois
Jeremy Nash: 2006, Northwestern
Cully Payne: 2008, Iowa, now at Loyola
Shaun Pruitt: 2004, Illinois
Jason Richards: 2004, Davidson
Brian Randle: 2003, Illinois
Rayvonte Rice: 2010, Drake
Justin Safford: 2007, Missouri
Matt Shaw: 2004, Southern Illinois
Mike Shaw: 2011, Illinois
Stan Simpson: 2008, Illinois, now at Memphis
Jamar Smith: 2005, Illinois, finished at Southern Indiana
Ahmad Starks: 2010, Oregon State
David Sobolewski: 2011, Northwestern
Mike Stovall: 2007: Oregon State, finished at DePaul
Sam Thompson: 2011, Ohio State
Mike Tisdale: 2007, Illinois
DeAndre Thomas: 2005, junior college, later at Indiana
Willie Veasley: 2006, Butler
Will Walker: 2006, DePaul
* In alphabetical order
EVANSTON, Ill. – Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald’s loyalty to his former high school football team cost him on Wednesday.
Fitzgerald had to wear a Brother Rice High School football jersey during Wednesday’s practice after his alma mater Sandburg lost to Northwestern freshman offensive lineman Alex Pietrzak’s former school in the IHSA playoffs last week. Brother Rice defeated Sandburg 35-14 in the Class 8A first round on Friday.
“I take a lot of pride in being a Carl Sandburg Eagle, and obviously we lost our first-round playoff game,” said Fitzgerald, who wore a No. 72 Brother Rice jersey. “They got us. I upheld my end of the bargain. I had my grade-school jersey ready for him. We didn’t get it done.”
Fitzgerald has been busy preparing to play at Nebraska on Saturday, but he said he still makes time to catch up on the Illinois high school football playoffs.
“It’s the best time of the year right now,” Fitzgerald said. “You’re going into November and Big Ten play, and, especially here in the state of Illinois, we’re right into the heart of playoff season, so it’s pretty special.”