Chicago prep hoops prospects among nation's best

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Chicago prep hoops prospects among nation's best

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011Posted: 12:30 p.m.

By AggreySam
CSNChicago.com BullsInsider Follow@CSNBullsInsider
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Jabari Parker was the headliner, the main reason coaches from Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State and local programs Illinois and DePaul were in Chicago last week for an open gym at Simeon Career Academy. However, he wasn't the only reason.

Parker, the consensus top-ranked junior prospect in the nation--and arguably the best high school player, regardless of class--is being pursued heavily by the aforementioned college basketball powerhouses and in-state programs, but many of his teammates in attendance were also worthy of the attention.

After a successful July on the camp and AAU circuit, senior forward Steve Taylor pledged to attend Marquette and junior guard Kendrick Nunn gave an early commitment to Texas A&M, but junior point guard Jaylon Tate, a transfer from fellow prep power De La Salle, is also a coveted recruit and Simeon reportedly has a pair of potential star incoming freshmen entering the program, in addition to several other mid-major recruits on the prospects.

Derrick Rose's alma mater isn't the only high school in the city that's been a hot spot at the beginning of the fall recruiting period--but it's doubtful any approached the multitude of coaches represented at Simeon--as Chicago boasts a boatload of talented underclassmen, although the aforementioned Taylor is the lone senior in Illinois to be considered a top-100 prospect nationally.

While the Bulls aren't likely to be playing any time soon, basketball fans in the Windy City will have an opportunity to see some players who could be taking the floor against (or even with) Rose in the future.

After all, just a few short years ago, the league's MVP was participating in an open gym on Vincennes Avenue himself. They're still just kids, so none of them are guaranteed to be NBA superstars, but here's a look at 15 prospects worth checking out this upcoming season:

Cliff Alexander, 6-8 sophomore power forward, Curie: A sleeper nationally before the summer, the rugged rebounder with a nice shooting touch is now considered a top-10 prospect in his class nationally.

Larry Austin, 6-1 sophomore point guard, Lanphier (Springfield): Hailing from Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala's alma mater, the true floor general, who played on the gold medal-winning USA Basketball Under-16 team, might be the best prospect in Central Illinois.

Billy Garrett, 6-3 junior point guard, Morgan Park: The son of a DePaul assistant coach, Louisville freshman Wayne Blackshear's former running mate is a future Blue Demon with size, scoring ability and a high basketball I.Q.

Thomas Hamilton, 6-8 junior power forward, Whitney Young: A wide-bodied big man with perimeter skills that belie his frame, he's half of one of the best high school post tandems this city--or country--will see, and a top-25 player nationally on his own merits.

Malcolm Hill, 6-5 junior small forward, Belleville East: A recent commit to Illinois, the swingman isn't a household name in Chicago yet due to being closer to St. Louis than the Windy City, but national pundits believe he's a top-50 recruit in the junior class.

Jalen James, 6-3 junior point guard, Hope: Another future Fighting Illini player, even attending a small charter school hasn't been able to prevent this playmaker's rise in status, similar to Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, the nation's top prospect a year ago.

Kendrick Nunn, 6-2 junior shooting guard, Simeon: An athletic slasher with deep shooting range, this southpaw Texas A&M commit may be underrated locally because of the star power he plays with in high school, but made a name for himself nationally this summer.
Jahlil Okafor, 6-9 sophomore center, Whitney Young: Regarded as a top-five prospect nationally and the top big man in his class, with continued improvement, there's a chance he can be the best post player to come out of Chicago since Kevin Garnett.

Jabari Parker, 6-8 junior small forward, Simeon: Arguably the top prospect nationally regardless of class, this smooth, old-school type can dominate a game with his scoring, but his all-around game, unselfishness and maturity are what make him special.

Kendall Stephens, 6-4 junior shooting guard, St. Charles East: An early Purdue commit (he made a pledge to the Boilermakers as a sophomore) and son of former Evanston High School and Purdue star Everette Stephens, this wing is one of the best shooters in the area.

Jaylon Tate, 6-2 junior point guard, Simeon: The De La Salle transfer, a highly-regarded prospect nationally, steps in at point guard while injured senior Jelani Neely is on the mend and adds to an embarrassment of riches.

Steve Taylor, 6-8 senior power forward, Simeon: The versatile, Marquette-bound forward is the consensus top senior in the state for his ability to combine three-point range with inside scoring and rebounding.

Fred Van Vleet, 6-0 senior point guard, Auburn (Rockford): In a down year for the state's senior class, the Wichita State commit earned respect nationally over the summer for his ability to run the show with the best of them.

Paul White, 6-8 sophomore small forward, Whitney Young: Possessing point-forward skills, White, one of the top recruits in his class nationally even after an injury-plagued summer, may actually see some action as the floor general for the perennial powerhouse.
Milik Yarbrough, 6-4 sophomore small forward, Zion-Benton: Following in the footsteps of former Zion-Benton star Lenzelle Smith, now at Ohio State, this tough and versatile swingman from the northern suburbs is a bit under the radar.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Will Perdue break down the Bulls' upcoming schedule in the latest edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

TNT Bulls are back this week as the team heads into a crucial stretch. 

Currently, the Bulls sit half a game back of the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and with just eight games remaining on the schedule, each contest is essentially a must-win. 

So, yes, Thursday would be a great time for Jimmy Butler and company to summon their TNT alter ego. The Bulls have sealed 18 straight victories when playing on TNT Thursday, an improbable feat considering those games are usually reserved for two of the NBA's best. 

To continue that run, they'll have to down Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are also fighting for playoff positioning -- albeit at the top of the conference. Good thing the Bulls have a tendency to get up for big games. 

"The Bulls play up and down to their competition," Bulls Pregame and Postgame analyst Kendall Gill said. "They've been doing that the whole season." 

After Cleveland, the Bulls get set to battle another playoff squad, the Atlanta Hawks. 

Watch the video above to see Schanowski, Gill and Perdue break down the matchups.