Other looks at the stars of 2013, 2014

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Other looks at the stars of 2013, 2014

Sometimes we can't see the forest through the trees, right? Sometimes we get too comfortable by accepting evaluations from basketball recruiting analysts we know and trust, old standbys such as Bob Gibbons, Van Coleman, Bill Flanagan and Roy and Harv Schmidt.

So, at a time when the classes of 2013 and 2014 in the Chicago area are being touted to be among the best talent in the country, perhaps it is wise to acknowledge what other evaluators have to say about them.

Are they as good as we think they are? Or are they overrated? Do they rank with the Isiah ThomasTerry CummingsTeddy Grubbs class of 1979? Or the Quentin RichardsonCorey MaggetteJoey Range class of 1998?

The Illinois crop got plenty of exposure in recent tournaments in Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, Akron and elsewhere. And judging from the reviews, they played up to their clippings.

Here is a sampling of what the critics saw:

N.D. Kendrick of NBE Basketball Report on Simeon's Jabari Parker: "He showed throughout the tournament against some of the best players in the Midwest that he was the best of the elite."

Kendrick on Proviso East's Sterling Brown: "He is one of the most physically gifted players in the 2013 class. What sets him apart from others is his combination of power and athleticism which makes him a difficult match-up for opponents."

Eric Bossi of Rivals.com on St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens: "It's hard not to be impressed with the development of Purdue commitment Kendall Stephens over the last year. While he's still slender, he's gotten much stronger, grown to a legit 6-foot-4 and boosted his athleticism."

Bossi on Normal University High's Keita Bates-Diop: "He showed plenty of what got him ranked No. 39 in the country. The 6-foot-7 forward has length, ball skills and is a graceful athlete who is light on his feet and plays with a high level of intelligence."

Bossi on Morgan Park's Kyle Davis: "One of the most athletic playmakers in the country, he plays with attitude, swagger and never stops attacking. Previously viewed as a bit of an undersized shooting guard, Davis is proving that he's a point guard and with his performance this spring he has built a pretty strong case to be included in the Rivals 150 the next time the class is updated."

Bossi on Jordan Ash, St. Joseph's freshman guard: "He didn't really get a chance to show off his entire arsenal because he was playing for the Illinois Wolves' 16 and 15-and-under squads. But it's easy to see what has drawn early offers from Purdue and DePaul to go along with lots of Big Ten interest."

Bossi on 6-foot-7 sophomore Amanze Egezeke of Huntley: "He is a lunch pailbig-time effort guy who plays physically and gets on the glass. He is a potential high major Division I recruit."

Jim Comparoni of Yahoo Sports on Whitney Young's 6-foot-11 Jahlil Okafor: "He was dominant inside, utilizing his substantial width and showing excellent ability to elevate quickly and finish with power. Inside, he is patient, powerful and improving rapidly with his post game."

Bossi on Okafor: "Already ranked No. 3 overall in the class of 2014, there isn't exactly a lot of room for Okafor to move up in the rankings. However, that doesn't mean that there's not room for him to get a lot better. That's exactly what he's been doing. He's expanded his game and can face up and attack from the high post thanks to excellent hands, nimble feet and a surprisingly tight handle."

Bossi on Orr's Tyquone Greer: "There will be several more opportunities to watch Greer to confirm this--but all the information we have leads us to believe that he's a no-brainer as a four-star prospect. The 6-foot-5 small forward is a big-time athlete with a big-time penchant for getting to the rim and he's got significant upside."

Jeff Borello of Eye on College Basketball Recruiting on Okafor: "He has tremendous hands and is adept at finishing down low. He does need to become more aggressive with his back to the basket but he has a good set of post moves and simply overpowers many defenders."

Jason Pratt of Future150 on Okafor: "He is the nation's No. 1 player in the class of 2014. He has a body that absolutely pounds you on the low block and is a force on the defensive end of the floor. He is being compared to Ohio State star Jared Sullinger. He has the size and skill to dominate the game whenever he chooses."

Pratt on Curie's Cliff Alexander: "He is quick for a 6-foot-9 post player and shows good athleticism for a player his size. He reminds me of Dennis Rodman because he is an elite rebounder. He is a game-changer because he can control the paint, not only scoring but blocking shots as well."

Bossi on Simeon's Kendrick Nunn: "There are some who have been down on his performance this spring. But, on this night, he turned it up on the defensive end where he can be one of the best in the country when locked in. Once he got going there, his jumper started dropping. Ranked No. 22 in the class of 2013 by Rivals, he played up his ranking."

Bossi on Simeon's Kendall Pollard: "At 6-foot-5, he is a big-time athlete with a nose for the rim and some scoring tools. He plays with great energy. Whether he is playing with his high school team or his club team Mean Streets, he shares the spotlight with some guys who have a lot of notoriety."

Marist 2018 DT Elijah Teague pledges to Minnesota

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Marist 2018 DT Elijah Teague pledges to Minnesota

Chicago Marist three star ranked defensive tackle Elijah Teague (6-foot-3, 292 pounds) made his first visit to the University of Minnesota this weekend and earlier this evening gave head coach PJ Fleck and the Gophers his early verbal commitment.

"I'm excited, or as Coach Fleck would say, I'm elite," he told Rivals.com's The Gopher Report. "(The coaches) were excited themselves. They really wanted me, so they were excited -- more excited than me I believe."

Teague has seen his recruiting stock soar over the past few months. Teague, who is the first known State of Illinois verbal pledge to Fleck and the Gophers in the Class of 2018 and the fourth Minnesota pledge overall chose Minnesota over 30 plus verbal offers from Power 5 schools from across the country.

"Everything made it the right place," he said. "Just looking at (Fleck's) background and what he did at Western Michigan, I think he can do the same thing (at Minnesota). I'm excited to be a part of it."

Blown out by Iowa, Maryland stumbles to third straight loss

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USA TODAY

Blown out by Iowa, Maryland stumbles to third straight loss

It's been a tough week for the teams at the top of the Big Ten standings.

Maryland and Wisconsin both lost earlier this week, and Purdue lost on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night, the horrors continued for the Terps, who suffered their third straight defeat in a blowout 83-69 loss to the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes in College Park.

Maryland's last lead came near the midway point of the first half before Iowa sprinted away on a 22-10 run to build a double-digit lead, an advantage that grew as big as 22 in the final minutes. All in all, the Hawkeyes knocked down 16 3-pointers. The Terps weren't too far behind with 11 deep balls of their own, but they shot just 40.7 percent in the second half, unable to keep up.

The high-scoring Hawkeyes were powered by freshman Jordan Bohannon, who scored 24 points on a whopping eight made 3-pointers. Fellow freshman Tyler Cook joined him with a 20-point night, finishing with 21 points, while Peter Jok and Nicholas Baer each ended with 11.

Iowa, not completely out of the NCAA tournament realm of possibility, helped its shaky case greatly with this victory.

Maryland, meanwhile, is a lock to make the field of 68 teams, but much like the other presumed conference powers, its struggles are hitting at the most inopportune time.

The Terps have lost five of their last seven and three of their last four at home. Back-to-back home losses this week against Minnesota and Iowa have featured big days for opposing offenses. Prior to the Hawkeyes' performance Saturday, the Golden Gophers dropped 89 points on 50-percent shooting.

The woes of Maryland — plus those of Purdue and Wisconsin — set up not just an interesting final week of the regular season but an interesting Big Ten Tournament that could feature a dark horse like Minnesota entering as the favorite. A surging team like Michigan might be more capable of making a deep run than the top three seeds given their recent struggles.

The Terps will have as good a chance as any to make noise in that tournament and the one that follows throughout the month of March. Winnable games against Rutgers and Michigan State remain, but they're on a bad stretch right now, one that should only elevate the panic after Saturday's defeat.