Henricksen: Downstaters highlight top 10 in 2019

Glenbard West's Evan Taylor runs under St. Charles East's Justin Hardy (32). Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

This much we know about the Class of 2019 in Illinois:

Although the class lacks a high number of high-major prospects, there is more Division I depth than the Class of 2018.

There are three players in the junior class –– Normal’s Francis Okoro, Belleville West’s E.J. Liddell and Uplift’s Markese Jacobs –– ranked among the top 100 prospects in the country.

For the first time in years, four of the top five prospects hail from schools in central and southern Illinois.

There is just one Chicago Public League player ranked among the top 10 prospects.

Here is a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects, with the rankings going against the grain and giving Liddell the slight edge over Okoro at the top.

1. E.J. Liddell, 6-7, Belleville West

Nationally, the highly-productive and physical four-man is vastly underrated. There isn’t a player in the state who produces more in the junior class. Liddell rebounds everything, cleans up around the basket and the foundation is there for an ever-improving face-up game with shooting ability. Plus, he plays with a tenacity and toughness.

2. Francis Okoro, 6-9, Normal

A physical specimen who’s coveted as a player with prototype size for an interior player at the next level. Okoro will head to the next level with a college-ready body. Big, strong, runs the floor and plays with a motor. He’s an anchor defensively. Offensively he remains raw and his skills are minimal, but he keeps improving.

3. Markese Jacobs, 5-11, Uplift

The Kansas commit is a force in the open court and a constant threat to blow by defenders off the dribble with his explosiveness and high-level athleticism. Jacobs is an excellent finisher and streaky shooter from the perimeter.

4. Terrance Hargrove, 6-3, East St. Louis

There is so much to like with his length, versatility, talent and great deal of upside. Ferguson is a smooth athlete and is already showing a vast array of offensive abilities as a slasher, scorer and capable shooter. He shows the potential of a player who will be able to do some special things at both ends of the floor. Ferguson remains one of the few high-major prospects in the class.

5. Chris Payton, 6-6, Bloomington

Illinois State was able to nab an early commitment from its local star. Payton averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game for a team that finished third in the state in Class 3A last season. An effective and productive 4-man around the basket who is getting more comfortable stepping away from the rim.

6. Bryant Brown, 6-4, Waukegan

The long, active Brown has already produced at a high rate in two years of varsity action, including a sophomore campaign where he put up 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. While still battling the ’tweener label as he continues to try and polish his skill level, Brown can fill a stat sheet and beat you in different ways.

7. Ciaran Brayboy, 6-9, New Trier

A true big man with a bunch of promise as a prospect. He brings strength and a presence with his interior body. While he’s still figuring out how to create his own offense, Brayboy plays hard, rebounds and runs the floor.

8. Joseph Yesufu, 5-10, Bolingbrook

Boasting sneaky power and superior athleticism off the floor, Yesufu is a weapon in the open court and as a finisher –– even at this size. This point guard also brings highly coveted intangibles with his team-first attitude, work ethic and character.

9. Lance Jones, 6-1, Evanston

Jones becomes the focal point with the departure of Nojel Eastern. An extremely talented player set to blossom as a junior if he can learn the nuances of the point guard position. He attacks the basket and is difficult to stay in front of in the open court.

10. Evan Taylor, 6-5, Glenbard West

Taylor screamed potential 12 months ago when the Hoops Report vaulted him up the class rankings. He didn’t disappoint as a sophomore. The long, rangy lefty is filling out physically, continues to add to his game and continues to possess a big upside. Taylor has offers from Illinois State, Southern Illinois, UIC and UAB after a terrific sophomore season.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport


  • Big Picture

    If your Kid is in the gym and putting in the work, they are going to be recognized. Probably first by their Coach and Team and he or she will be a critical piece to the success that really matters. After that, if they are being recruited and get a scholarship, who cares about a list or rankings? Only 1 writer/scouts opinion. Most people that are mad, don’t have either scenario working for them. Just saying.

  • JohnH

    Who is Ferguson in the write-up about Hargrove?

  • Fan

    How could Jacobs be up there when he came home because he couldn’t make it in prep school. Then Joseph from Bolingbrook don’t play anybody out there come on. Stop going off word of mouth and go see kids who really can play. Thank You

  • ChicagoBillionaire

    All I know is my kid Body bagged everybody on this list so its just a list. See yall in 4 years and then do the list

  • BBall mom

    @Black the usual suspects, define what you mean by that. I’m sure the list is just one writers opinion, I’m also quite sure there are enough scholarships to go around for everyone deserving, including the usual suspects you mentioned.

  • Black

    Looking forward to the season. I have a request. It would be refreshing to have you and all the other scouts in the area, talk about some other kids for once. We all know about the usual suspects. Let’s hear about some other players who can play for once.

    • Ketoe

      My point exactly. Every time you pick up the Sun Times prep Sports, its like, let me see what i didnt write about the same schools or same players, and put it in this peice. Illinois is a big state, cant see everybody, but I am sure there are more than 12 schools and 12 players from those same schools.

      Secondly, with so many who work just as hard and many schools and tourneys who draw bigger crowds, how do the sun times prep editor gets away with telling every female high school athlete you dont matter. Simply no coverage of girls sports is insane.

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