Top-of-the-line talent exodus has hurt Illinois prep hoops

The City/Suburban Hoops Report begins its 24th year of covering high school basketball in Illinois.

Throughout those two-plus decades of basketball there are a ton of individual players and historical classes to look back on, discuss and evaluate. This is what basketball junkies do.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk and discerning debate over the recent decline in high school basketball talent in Illinois. It’s been more about missing stars than shining ones. The absence of high-end talent and even Division I prospect depth has been glaring.

The downward cycle began with the Class of 2016 and the drought seems to be extending into the Class of 2020, which includes next season’s junior class. The five-year stretch (from 2016 through 2020) will have produced four of the weakest overall classes (2016, 2018, 2019, 2020) this state has seen in the last 25 years.

This really isn’t debatable; it’s factual. Overall, there have been fewer players signing with Division I programs. There have been fewer players ranked among the top 100 in the country, particularly among the top 20 or 30 prospects. And there is the lack of representation in the McDonald’s All-American Game.

The state has failed to produce a single McDonald’s All-American since the Class of 2015, and there doesn’t appear to be one in the upcoming Class of 2019. That would extend the streak to four years, something that’s unheard of considering Illinois had a player in the game for the first 31 years it was played. Now it’s been five of the last 10 years that Illinois hasn’t had a McDonald’s All-American.

There are a mixture of theories and reasons why the talent has dipped. But one simple one is attrition. There has been a steady exodus of top players leaving the state.

Here is a list of high-profile players, many of which are nationally-ranked, who have left Illinois in recent years. You add all of these players to the mix in their respective classes and it certainly props up the state a little better.

Khalil Whitney • Class of 2019

Former school: Solorio (Chicago, Ill.)

Current school: Roselle Catholic (Roselle, NJ)

This one was a killer. Whitney was the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 1 ranked prospect as a freshman while playing at Solorio. Watching him play on the club circuit with the Mac Irvin Fire this spring, it’s clear the 6-6 Whitney would still be the top-ranked player in Illinois in the Class of 2019.

Whitney has had a monster spring and is a coveted high-major prospect. As a result, his national ranking has and will continue to climb as new rankings are released. Whitney has shot up to No. 28 nationally in the 247Sports most recent rankings, while Rivals has Whitney at No. 72 but will certainly rise when updated.

The Class of 2019 would look a whole lot better with Whitney at the top with Belleville West’s E.J. Liddell and Uplift’s Markese Jacobs.

Nimari Burnett • Class of 2020

Former school: Morgan Park (Chicago, Ill.)

Current school: Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.)

The ballyhooed Burnett was a key player for a talented Morgan Park team as a freshman. He was heralded as one of the top three prospects in the state in his class, a high-major prospect and nationally ranked. Then he bolted for California.

The talented sophomore would still be among the top prospects in the state, regardless of class, and add a whole lot to the Class of 2020 in Illinois. The 6-3 guard is the No. 64 ranked player in the country, according to Rivals, and is 247Sport’s 53rd ranked player.

Malik Hall • Class of 2019

Former school: Metea Valley (Aurora, Ill.)

Current school: Sunrise Christian (Wichita, Kan.)

From the summer of 2015 through the start of his sophomore year at Metea Valley, Hall grew four inches –– from 6-1 to 6-5. He averaged 10.2 points and 4.3 rebounds a game during his promising sophomore season. Then he and his family made the decision to transfer to a prep school and reclassify, moving from the Class of 2018 to the Class of 2019.

The extra year –– and two more inches –– have done wonders for Hall. He’s now a versatile 6-7 wing and top 50 player in the country in the Class of 2019. He sports an endless list of high-major offers.

Shon Robinson • Class of 2020

Former school: Morgan Park (Chicago, Ill.)

Current school: Higley (GIlbert, Ariz.)

After finishing off his freshman year as one of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five prospects in the Class of 2020, the 6-8 Robinson left Chicago and headed to Arizona for his sophomore year.

This past season he averaged 17 points and seven rebounds a game as a sophomore and currently has several high-major offers.

Alan Griffin • Class of 2018

Former school: Oak Park

Current school: Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, NY)

The 6-5 shooting guard impressed in his short stint at Oak Park as a freshman. He provided an offensive boost in the second half of the season and then shined at the Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout immediately after his freshman year. He was already among the Hoops Report’s top half dozen prospects in the Class of 2018.

But with a father, Adrian Griffin, who was a former NBA player and current NBA assistant coach, moving has been the norm for the Griffin family. Griffin left Oak Park after just one season.

This past season he averaged 18 points a game and shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc as a senior while leading Stepinac to city and state championships.

Griffin signed with Illinois in the spring.

Landers Nolley • Class of 2018

Former school: Curie

Current school: Langston Hughes (Fairburn, Ga.)

There is a caveat with this one –– Nolley initially transferred in to Illinois, landing at Curie in the summer of 2015, before transferring back to the Atlanta area following his sophomore season. But before he left, Nolley was an instrumental part of Curie’s state championship run in March of 2016.

Nolley would have been one of the top prospects in Illinois in this senior class had he stayed. The 6-6 shooting wing ultimately became one of the top 75 prospects in the country and a high-major recruit. He narrowed a lengthy list of schools down to three and chose Virginia Tech over Georgia and Illinois last fall.

Donovan Moore • Class of 2019

Former school: Hillsboro

Current school: West Bloomfield (Mich.)

Even as a downstate prospect the athletic 6-3 guard was making a name for himself in Illinois and attracting Division I interest early in his career. He moved into the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five prospects in the Class of 2019 as a sophomore.

Moore, however, transferred to West Bloomfield in Michigan and has continued to attract mid-major interest and offers. Moore, who had a high-game of 40 points this past season, would still be among the top 10 prospects in the class had he stayed in Illinois.

Lamontay Daugherty • Class of 2020

Former school: DuQuion

New school: Mehlville (Missouri)

The 6-4 wing had quickly established himself as one of the top five prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2020. But after a productive two years and plenty of Division I interest, Daugherty will be transferring to Mehlville in the St. Louis area.

Patrick Baldwin • Class of 2021

Former school: Loyola Academy

Current school: Hamilton (Sussex, Wisc.)

Technically, the ultra-talented Baldwin did not officially attend classes at Loyola. But he did play with the Ramblers for a minute last June as a freshman-to-be. There are few young prospects who have excited the Hoops Report as much as Baldwin did last spring, which was highlighted HERE.

Pat Baldwin, Sr., formerly an assistant coach at Northwestern, was named the new head coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee last summer. The son made the move to Wisconsin and is now among the top young prospects in the country after a breakout freshman season.

Quincy Ademokoya • Class of 2020

Former school: Normal West

Current school: Dacula (Georgia)

After playing his freshman season at Normal West, the long, rangy 6-5 wing, who had already established himself as one of the more promising prospects in the class, moved to Georgia. He’s receiving varying degrees of Division I interest as he heads into his junior year and is playing with the Georgia Stars on the EYBL circuit.

Brandon McCoy • Class of 2017

This is a little bit of a reach as he never made it to a Chicago area high school. However, McCoy was in Chicago up until his middle school years and, when playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game at the United Center last year, called Chicago “my home city.” He grew up on Chicago’s West Side and was set to attend Fenwick out of 8th grade.

McCoy, however, moved to San Diego, attended Cathedral Catholic and turned into a 6-11, five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American. He was MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic a year ago. He played his freshman season at UNLV.

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

11 comments

  • Duke Carnoustie

    Bitcoin

  • Jay Nich

    There are some kids who don’t get what they deserve due to politics within the school they attend! Illinois bball is bad for numerous reasons but we shld all get back to having fun! maybe?

    • chris

      You said “get what they deserve” and “just have fun” in the same comment. The “get what they deserve” is one of the issues. Children told how great they are at a young age become entitled…feeling they deserve much more than they actually do deserve.

      • Jay Nich

        In some cases your right but that is “usually” the parents fault for not keeping a level head themselves! What I was speaking on was the kids who don’t get a real chance due to circumstances beyond their control! (politics, boosters, bad coaching, environment,etc.)

  • Jay Nich

    Well said Norm! Almost😂…but I agree the city definitely has a bad rap right now while the opportunities in other places are way better at this point…also the city has bad politics!🙊

  • tim of mullenjucocamp

    k.c.mo. i watch juco games inmidwest, and rosters have prep schoolplayers on them ..strongbkb. factories prep or high school tell kid or parent what to do unless a real family move such as coach pat baldwin and son!

  • reason

    my take on this is that these kids are promised the moon at PREP schools these PREP schools are basketball factories that travel everywhere check there enrollments how in the hell can they get on a plane on a friday and get back in school on a monday who is paying for this if these kids are from the CITY and are crying poor then who is picking up the tab these schools are just loop holed glorified AAU teams not all these kids go big time what happens when most of them crash and burn without an education at these PREP SCHOOL PREP then for what???

  • Norm

    It’s not just top level high school athletes that are leaving this horrible, corrupt, violent, broke, high-tax state. Throw in bad weather as well. Everything is on it’s way out including the pensions people are counting on. This state is about as bad as it gets at this point and athletes leaving is a microcosm of the situation.

  • unknown

    2018 PG Devon Dotson out of North Carolina, who is headed to Kansas in the fall is also from the south suburbs.

  • Jay Nich

    N just why do you think all this talent is leaving Illinois? It’s not by coincedence!

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