The Class of 2018 will never be confused with one of the “heralded” classes this state has produced. But it also turned out better than many expected, thanks to the late-blooming talents of Hinsdale South’s Zion Griffin, the rise of Corliss big man George Conditt and Lincoln Park’s Terrence Shannon, a late arrival to the scene.
Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker’s ascent into national top 100 status and high-major talent also helped, while star Ayo Dosunmu made a huge first impression as a freshman at Westinghouse and maintained his lofty ranking and standing throughout his three years at Morgan Park.
While it’s true the class may be lacking overall Division I talent and depth, that it may not boast as many high-major players as in the past, the class will be remembered for those players who came on later in the process.
Here’s a baker’s dozen of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2018.
1. Talen Horton-Tucker, 6-4, Simeon (Iowa State)
The polished Horton-Tucker elevated his game, production and status each step of the way throughout his high school career, highlighted by a terrific senior season. College coaches took notice as well. With THT, it’s about the total package and the versatility as a player who, in a pinch, can play four different positions. He brings a highly-advanced skill set –– one of the few players in the class who can dribble, pass and shoot –– along with a big body and rangy wingspan on the wing. Plus, he will showcases better athleticism off the floor than people realize.
2. Ayo Dosunmu, 6-4, Morgan Park (Illinois)
Living up to lofty expectations is never easy. Dosunmu was able to do so, both with his play, productivity and winning at a high level. The injuries curtailed his senior season and his progression, yet the smooth point guard won a pair of state championships the past two seasons. Long, wiry and with great height and instincts for the position, Dosunmu can pass, get to the rim, finish and push in the open floor. He’s so efficient in transition and is a creative finisher without being overly athletic.
3. Zion Griffin, 6-6, Hinsdale South (Iowa State)
There wasn’t a player who raised his stock more last summer than Griffin. Ultra-athletic off the floor with a body that’s as close to college-ready as anyone in the class, this lefty can play above the rim and step out to the three-point line. While the overall skill level must improve, the ceiling remains high for a player who at this time a year ago was struggling to attract mid-major offers.
4. George Conditt, 6-10, Corliss (Iowa State)
The rise of Conditt was quick and swift last spring and summer. That’s what happens when you have a 6-10 player who can run the floor, boasts tremendous length and has generous tools to work with going forward. Now it’s all about developing his body and competing at the highest level.
5. Terrence Shannon, 6-6, Lincoln Park (Uncommitted)
It really has taken a long time for college programs to wake up and see the upside and talent of Shannon. This is the quintessential “prospect” and late bloomer, and it’s about where he’s headed because the springy 6-6 senior is coming fast. Long and super athletic with a growing offensive game, this lefty put together a solid senior season. He opens eyes with his high ceiling. If he doesn’t secure a mid-major plus or high-major offer this spring, he certainly will after a year of prep school.
6. Javon Freeman, 6-4, Whitney Young (Valparaiso)
Valpo nabbed an ideal Missouri Valley Conference recruit. Long, active and bouncy, Freeman is a slasher who is a devastating finisher in the open court. The perimeter jumper remains a work in progress, but he can impact the game in a variety of ways. His overall feel for the game has improved. Plus, he’s a proven winner after having won a state championship as a junior and finishing second in the state as a senior.
7. Drew Peterson, 6-7, Libertyville (Rice)
He’s a modern day player with his versatility at his size who will be capable of playing both forward positions in time. The body needs work as Peterson remains rail thin, but he has length and height. Peterson is a threat with the ball as a shooter, driver and passer.
8. Xavier Castaneda, 5-11, Whitney Young (South Florida)
The point guard of a state championship team last year and one that finished as a state runner-up this past season. That says something. This is a true floor general who can push tempo and get others involved as a pass-first lead guard who plays with a calm demeanor. As the perimeter shot becomes more consistent, Castaneda will become more dangerous offensively.
9. Xavier Pinson, 6-3, Simeon (Missouri)
Another player who was a bit of a late bloomer in the class. An elite passer with outstanding vision, Pinson thrives in transition pushing the basketball and with his pinpoint passing. While the body is far from filled out and could take some immediate abuse at the next level, he does have some nice length, speed and athleticism to help offset that. The perimeter jumper has improved but it remains a work in progress.
10. Darius Beane, 6-3, Carbondale (Southern Illinois)
Overlooked due to playing in the southern part of the state, Beane has a rock solid combination of size, length and athleticism for the position –– and considerable upside remaining. He can score, set up a teammate and with a little more polish at the next level, Beane screams Missouri Valley translation from an athletic and size standpoint alone for the point guard position.
11. Tim Finke, 6-6, Champaign Central (Grand Canyon)
He’s been an impact player at the high school level throughout his career with his strength, grit and competitiveness. He scored 2,000-plus career points and finished as the all-time leading scorer in Champaign-Urbana area history. Unfortunately, Finke battled nagging injuries during key evaluation periods, but he’s a player who can finish at the rim and can step out and shoot the three.
12. Ryan Davis, 6-8, Conant (Vermont)
Is there a bigger recruiting steal in the class out of Illinois than this skilled and productive big man heading to Vermont? Davis put up monster numbers this past season, averaging 25 points an 11 rebounds a game. He’s limited athletically, but he’s a big-bodied player who can work in the post and stretch a defense with his shooting. Plus, he has soft hands and can pass. That’s a lot to work with for any college coach.
13. Kendle Moore, 5-11, Danville (Colorado State)
Moore can go get a basket and possesses some dynamic scoring ability and game-changing offense. Although he’s undersized physically, Moore is blessed with speed and aggression in the open court and a stop-on-a-dime pull-up game. He is still learning to become a better facilitator, but you get the feeling his offense is going to translate.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport