Recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye recalls Lakeith Henderson, a highly hyped high school basketball player, whose greatest claim to fame was dunking on Roy in a pickup game at the Lombard Commons.
Remember Lakeith Henderson? He was a product of the city playgrounds who arrived on the scene about the same time as Ronnie Fields. When they were in eighth grade, Henderson and Fields were touted as the next great stars in the Public League. Fields made it, Henderson didn't.
"My point is if dunking on me was Henderson's most notable accomplishment on a basketball court in his four years of high school, which it was, then it's safe to say that he was massively over-hyped," Schmidt said.
Henderson spent more time on the playground than he did in school, which explains why he attended three different schools -- Hales Franciscan, King and Farragut.
But he isn't the only Chicago area product who failed to live up to expectations and media hype. The list is long and filled with disappointments, including Adam Shafer, Bill Heppner, Leonard Myles, Crandall Head, Mike Shaw, Michael Hermon and Tunji Thurman.
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It could be argued that Raymond McCoy, Leon Smith, Imari Sawyer and Jereme Richmond also belong on that list even though they enjoyed very successful high school careers. But, for one reason or another, they were huge disappointments afterward.
Raymond McCoy was a two-time All-Stater in 1978 and 1979. He was a McDonald's All-American and often was compared to St. Joseph's Isiah Thomas, who was making his reputation at the same time. Many said McCoy was better than Thomas.
But I began to wonder how good McCoy really was after Bloom coach Wes Mason asked North Carolina's Dean Smith to evaluate McCoy to see if he wanted to offer him a scholarship. Afterward, Smith told me: "He is a good player but we have a lot of players in our area who are like him and I'd rather recruit them because they are closer to home," Smith said.
McCoy committed to San Francisco, then transferred to DePaul, sat out one year, then lost the starting point guard job to freshman Kenny Patterson and never regained the magic that made him a high school legend.
Perhaps it is unfair to put Richmond, Sawyer and Smith in this dubious category. At best, they were among the best high school players of their era. At worst, they were colossal underachievers who peaked as high school seniors and never achieved the future stardom projected for them.
Same goes for Tunji Thurman, who was a child prodigy from the time he was a sixth grader but never got any better. His father placed him on a pedestal that was completely unrealistic.
Downers Grove South's Adam Shafer was hyped from the time he was in eighth grade. His reputation spiraled after his spectacular performance in a spring tournament before he enrolled in high school. He never achieved stardom in high school and played only sparingly at Wisconsin and Villanova.
Like Shafer, Crystal Lake Central's Bill Heppner made a big reputation for himself in the summer. In fact, longtime recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports rated him as the No. 34 player in the nation. At the same time, Roy and Harv Schmidt rated him as the No. 34 player in Illinois.
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The Schmidts were right. DePaul assistant coach Jim Molinari, who recruited Heppner, was livid when the Schmidts' evaluation became public. A year later, however, he told them that their assessment was correct. Even though Heppner was a McDonald's All-America selection in 1987 with Marcus Liberty, he battled injuries and never was a factor at DePaul.
The jury still is out on Mike Shaw. But he is showing signs of being another Raymond McCoy. Shaw was an eighth grade phenom and great things were predicted when he enrolled at De La Salle, where he was a major underachiever. His potential was good enough to earn him a scholarship to Illinois, where he is underachieving on the bench.
Speaking of over-hype and potential and underachieving, Michael Hermon never played up to expectations at Hales Franciscan, King and Westinghouse but his reputation landed him at Indiana as coach Bob Knight's first recruit from the Chicago Public League. But even Knight couldn't light a fire under Hermon.
How about Crandall Head? One of the top prospects in the class of 2010 after playing at Rich South and Crane, he went to Illinois, then transferred to Southern Methodist. He still has time to turn his career around but he has done nothing in the past to suggest that he is willing to do what it takes to play up to his potential.
Finally, there is the case of Thomas Hamilton Sr. and his son, Tommy Jr. Enormous potential, massive underachievement. Thomas Sr. starred with Rashard Griffith on King's 1993 state championship team.
The 7-foot-2, 330-pounder had an outstanding three-point shot from the corner that impressed scouts. But he never was in shape. Coach Landon Cox frequently had to give him rest because he couldn't get up and down the court. He signed with Illinois but was academically ineligible. Later, he had several cups of coffee with NBA teams. But injuries, often related to weight issues, prevented him from landing steady employment.
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His son Tommy Jr., a 6-foot-9 forward, was rated with Simeon's Jabari Parker and Seton's Alex Foster as one of the leaders of the class of 2013 when they were eighth graders. Only Parker has lived up to expectations. Tommy Jr. underachieved at Whitney Young, playing in the shadow of Jahlil Okafor and Paul White, and transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, as a senior.