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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What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

What will Bulls do with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade?

The Bulls have made their biggest decision of the offseason but the future of Rajon Rondo and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade, is still in the air.

Due to the trade for Kris Dunn and the Bulls having acquired Cameron Payne at the trade deadline last season, it doesn’t appear to be much room for Rondo. Even moreso, considering Dunn and Payne’s lack of production, one would think the Bulls would easily guarantee Rondo’s $13.3 million for next season.

But with the June 30th deadline approaching, it seems more and more like the Bulls will buy Rondo out for $3 million and go with a total youth movement, despite Rondo’s success with guiding some of the young players on the roster.

If not for Rondo’s wrist injury in Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics, the Bulls could’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Instead, they’re embarking on what could be a long process that may take years to recover from.

“He’s always been a great teammate and nurturer of the young guys,” said Bill Duffy, Rondo’s agent. Duffy also serves as Zach LaVine’s agent, so he was in attendance for LaVine’s introduction at the United Center.

The handling of Rondo’s benching, re-emergence and subsequent importance to the Bulls this past season has helped Rondo, in a sense. Rondo proved to be a galvanizing force to a degree after being shuffled in and out of the starting lineup.

“I think it’s fair to say he definitely showed a different persona that what had existed but like I said, he’s always been that way, I think it’s more publicized,” Duffy said. “I think he just loves to develop people, always managing and directing. So I think that’s always the case with the younger guys.”

If Rondo is released—and it certainly appears matters are trending in that direction, the 31-year old could have suitors in the New Orleans Pelicans and Indiana Pacers, sources tell CSNChicago.com. One would think the Bulls could use Rondo’s type of straightforward but encouraging brand of leadership in the locker room, but the Bulls have yet to guarantee his contract for next season.

“That’s still to be determined,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’re going to sit down with Bill and talk it through. We do understand that veterans are important for a young basketball team, the right veterans – guys that are good teammates, are supportive of the young guys and can continue to teach them how to be pros. Those are things we’ll be addressing.”

“The proof’s always in the pudding and I think if you talk to the front office and coaches, they really love what he brought and how he handled the challenges last year,” Duffy said. “I think we all mature over time and he’s been in the league a long time. He wants to win but he loves the game. I think he appreciates it more, he’s kinda of in his twilight years or approaching it.”

As for Wade, he exercised his $23.8 million option for next season as he was expected to, but that was before the Jimmy Butler trade that ushered in a new day of change.

There’s been speculation Wade would seek a buyout from the Bulls at the start of free agency but so far, those conversations haven’t been held and Paxson intimated Wade would have to give back a significant amount of that money to become a free agent.

There’s been speculation of Wade joining LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as Carmelo Anthony getting a buyout from the Knicks and following suit.

But the Cavaliers will have very little to offer in the way of cap space, so it’s tough to see Wade giving back a large sum then going to Cleveland for the veterans’ minimum—which would not make up the difference of a “significant” amount.

“I know Gar has spoken with Leon Rose, Dwyane’s agent, As far as the buyout, that has not been broached,” Paxson said. “I would say this: In this type of scenario, it would have to benefit us. It would have to benefit us. Dwyane was a great pro last year, and he’s been around a lot of different situations.”

But with Wade’s history of giving up large sums of money in the name of team, it’s harder to predict his moves. As strong as his relationship with Butler is, the possibility of Butler being moved didn’t affect him picking up his option, so his desire to play competitive or at least meaningful basketball could be weighed against wanting to keep his family comfortable after relocating to Chicago last year and collecting every dollar of his deal.

“He was in Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years as well,” Paxson said. “So right now we’re operating under assumption that he’ll be here. But like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, it would have to be advantageous for us."