skip navigation
Home Regional Publications Football Basketball Baseball Softball More Sports Search Results Watch Live Buy Photos Sign up School Finder

Chicago-West All American Jabari Parker is defended by Easts Andrew Wiggins during the McDonalds All American Games at the United Center. Stacia Timonere/For Sun Times Media

Shame on you, Anthony Davis. And you, too, Jabari Parker.

While we're casting blame on kids, Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander are guilty as charged.

You've all ruined it for the next wave of prep stars coming through Chicago and how we look at them -- at least for the foreseeable future.

When you add Derrick Rose to this list, we're talking five players since 2007 ranked among the top five players in the country in their respective class and have been, or are projected to be, near the top of a NBA Draft class soon after high school. It's an unprecedented run of rare talent.

Rose and Davis were the No. 1 picks in the NBA Draft in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Parker isn't expected to last at Duke for more than a year before he declares for the NBA Draft and becomes a top five pick. Okafor and Alexander are currently projected to be among the top five picks in virtually everyone's 2015 mock NBA Drafts.

Again, rare, striking talent we shouldn't get used to in Chicago on such a regular basis. They are players who, while maybe not guaranteed, were/are at least primed and preparing for big things beyond high school and college.

I received a phone call recently from Chicago Magazine, which does a magnificent job of bringing readers the very best the City of Chicago has to offer. The writer wanted to know who was next? Who is the next Jabari? The next Jahlil? Who is the next "big thing" in high school hoops? I mean REALLY "big thing" and not just your regular high school hotshot.

There isn't one. There isn't one in Garfield Park, Beverly or Englewood. You're not going to find one playing in any of the SICAs, the western suburbs or Lake County.

There. Just. Isn't. One. So quit trying.

Simply because a player is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in his respective class, whether it be in 2015, 2016 or 2017, doesn't mean they should get the Jabari/Jahlil/Cliff treatment. Despite the natural hype machine in prep hoops that has evolved, players can't be anointed as the "next great phenom," nor should we expect them to be.

This isn't to say the top players in the younger classes in Illinois aren't outstanding, high-level prospects. There are several high-major prospects, a few who are capable of playing just about anywhere they want collegiately. But they aren't what we've been spoiled with. And that's OK.

Think back to what Derrick Rose was as a young player in the Chicago Public League, with his breath-taking athleticism and explosiveness to go along with an unmatched obsession for winning, an ability to make those around him better and a special upside. You remember thinking back in those early years, "What kind of basketball monster will we have when his jumper becomes consistent?" There isn't a young Derrick Rose anywhere in Illinois.

And aside from Rose, the other four -- Davis, Parker, Alexander and Okafor -- are all at least 6-8 in height. The NBA is a superman's league, where, barring a few rare examples, size and athleticism have become prerequisites at every position on the floor. You won't find any player in the junior, sophomore or freshman class in Illinois taller than 6-7 with the type of pure size/athleticism/agility/skill combination as Davis, Parker, Alexander and Okafor.

Does the possibility exist another player could rise out of nowhere like Anthony Davis, growing seven inches in a year and going from an absolute unknown to the top high school basketball prospect in the country in a matter of months? Uhhhhhh, yeah. Sure, that could happen again.

While Okafor and Alexander are still so young, have a lot of work to put in and plenty to prove, they've certainly set themselves up to join the pantheon of all-time great preps in the player/prospect category. There is a distinction between the list of greatest players and greatest player/prospects.

Former Glenbrook North star Jon Scheyer will forever be one of the all-time great high school players in state history, but he was never the prospect Rose, Davis and Parker were. Again, this is a special tier of players we're talking about with unique talents and far-reaching ceilings.

These were/are players any high school basketball fan will remember watching and talk about 20 years from now in any prep hoops historical conversation. These were/are players with unparalleled peers as teen hoopers but are still far from peaking. At the high school level, their games were/are transcendent.

I will still enjoy watching young players in the upcoming classes and their individual development as prospects. But the reality is this little magical run of unique local talent, players you can be assured will be talked about on the national level for many years and we've been fortunate to watch, is coming to an end. And we shouldn't expect it to come around again anytime soon.

Block, alley oop by Cliff Alexander

Related Stories

Tag(s): Curie  Perspectives-Technology  Simeon  Whitney Young  Featured  Boys Basketball  Featured  Top News  Joe Henricksen  Conferences  Chicago Public  Red  Central  Curie  South  Simeon  West  Whitney Young