The Chicago area is stacked with nationally-ranked players, and it should make for a very interesting race to ESPNChicago.com’s Player of the Year award.
Here’s a look at the early front-runners:
1. Morgan Park senior guard Wayne Blackshear
Blackshear may no longer be the highest ranked prospect in the state, with the arrival of Kentucky recruit Anthony Davis to the scene, but he still is the front-runner for the player of the year award. Unlike Davis’ Perspectives team, Morgan Park is a state contender, and that makes Blackshear more relevant. Blackshear can score, and there may not be a more clutch player in Illinois. He’s signed with Louisville.
2. Orr senior forward Mycheal Henry
Of all the candidates, Henry is the most gifted shooter. He’s drawn comparisons to former Public League star Bobby Simmons with his ability. Henry is going to put up numbers, and that will keep him among the race leaders. He had 30 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and two blocks in his season opener last week. Even with foul trouble on Sunday, he dropped 21 points on T.F. North. He’s signed with Illinois.
3. East Aurora senior guard Ryan Boatright
Boatright is the most exciting player to watch. He not only scores, but he scores in dramatic fashion. He not only passes, but he makes those passes look pretty. He not only drives to the lane, but he gets there after crossing over his opponent, spinning past another and acrobatically laying the ball into the net. He’s already dropped 55 points in a game this season, which some other basketball minds have raved about. He’s signed with Connecticut.
4. Perspectives senior forward Anthony Davis
While Davis is considered the No. 2 prospect in the country by ESPN, he is No. 4 on this list simply because of the school he plays for. Perspectives is a tiny school and has an even smaller basketball program. Davis is like a whale in fish bowl there. His team can’t compete with the rest of the area’s powers, and it’ll likely affect Davis’ player of the year stock. Of course, if he averages 30-plus points and 20-plus rebounds, which he is almost doing now, he’ll be hard to ignore. He’s signed with Kentucky.
5. Benet senior guard David Sobolewski
Sobolewski isn’t as highly regarded nationally as some of the players on this list, but locally there’s few better at doing whatever his team needs to win. He can score in bunches when asked to, but he can also dish it. Benet is the No. 3 team in the area because of him. He’s signed with Northwestern.
6. Simeon sophomore forward Jabari Parker
Parker is considered one of the top sophomores in the country. The son of former NBA player Sonny Parker, he’s the perfect mixture of size, skill and intelligence. Simeon is the area’s top team, and Parker is its star player. What may hold him back are his numbers. The Wolverines are more balanced than any team around, and Parker’s numbers aren’t flashy due to that. He’s uncommitted and is being recruited by nearly every top program.
7. Whitney Young senior guard Sam Thompson
Thompson is the jack of all trades. He isn’t going to put up gaudy scoring numbers, like Boatright, or rebounding ones, like Davis, but he’s going to fill up the whole stat sheet with points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He’s long and one of the area’s best defenders. Like Jabari Parker, Thompson plays for a very balanced team. He is signed with Ohio State.
8. Mount Carmel senior guard Tracy Abrams
Abrams was once considered the top player in Illinois’ loaded Class of 2011, but an early commitment and injuries knocked him off the map for a bit. Now with one last season, he’ll be looking to place himself back up there. He has the skill set to do so. He’s an all-around point guard and is considered to be the successor to Demetri McCamey at Illinois. He is signed with the Illini.
9. Glenbard East senior guard Jon Hill
Hill is the one mid-major player on this list. Hill is a versatile guard for one of the top teams in the state. He can fill it up, especially from deep. In an early win over Glenbard North, he scored 28 points on 9-of-10 shooting and added five assists and four steals. He had a game-high 25 points in a recent win over Wheaton Warrenville South. He’s signed with Illinois State.
10. De La Salle senior forward Mike Shaw
Shaw has been one of the area’s top big men throughout his career. He can score, rebound and alter shots, and he’s done it pretty consistently. What people expect out of him this year, though, is for him to begin dominating. He’ll be looked to take over games with his versatile ability. If he can do that, he’ll move up these rankings. He is signed with Illinois.
Others to watch: Hales senior guard Aaron Armstead (Wisconsin-Green Bay), Hillcrest senior guard Julius Brown (Toledo), Rich South senior guard Macari Brooks (DePaul), Proviso East junior guard Keith Carter (uncommitted), Notre Dame senior forward Quinton Chievious (uncommitted), St. Ignatius senior center Nnana Egwu (Illinois), Brooks senior guard George Marshall (Wisconsin), Niles North senior forward Abdel Nader (New Mexico), Homewood-Flossmoor junior forward Delvon Rencher (uncommitted), York senior guard Will Sullivan (uncommitted).