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