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Chicago prep hoops prospects among nation's best

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Chicago prep hoops prospects among nation's best

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011Posted: 12:30 p.m.

By AggreySam
CSNChicago.com BullsInsider Follow@CSNBullsInsider
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Jabari Parker was the headliner, the main reason coaches from Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State and local programs Illinois and DePaul were in Chicago last week for an open gym at Simeon Career Academy. However, he wasn't the only reason.

Parker, the consensus top-ranked junior prospect in the nation--and arguably the best high school player, regardless of class--is being pursued heavily by the aforementioned college basketball powerhouses and in-state programs, but many of his teammates in attendance were also worthy of the attention.

After a successful July on the camp and AAU circuit, senior forward Steve Taylor pledged to attend Marquette and junior guard Kendrick Nunn gave an early commitment to Texas A&M, but junior point guard Jaylon Tate, a transfer from fellow prep power De La Salle, is also a coveted recruit and Simeon reportedly has a pair of potential star incoming freshmen entering the program, in addition to several other mid-major recruits on the prospects.

Derrick Rose's alma mater isn't the only high school in the city that's been a hot spot at the beginning of the fall recruiting period--but it's doubtful any approached the multitude of coaches represented at Simeon--as Chicago boasts a boatload of talented underclassmen, although the aforementioned Taylor is the lone senior in Illinois to be considered a top-100 prospect nationally.

While the Bulls aren't likely to be playing any time soon, basketball fans in the Windy City will have an opportunity to see some players who could be taking the floor against (or even with) Rose in the future.

After all, just a few short years ago, the league's MVP was participating in an open gym on Vincennes Avenue himself. They're still just kids, so none of them are guaranteed to be NBA superstars, but here's a look at 15 prospects worth checking out this upcoming season:

Cliff Alexander, 6-8 sophomore power forward, Curie: A sleeper nationally before the summer, the rugged rebounder with a nice shooting touch is now considered a top-10 prospect in his class nationally.

Larry Austin, 6-1 sophomore point guard, Lanphier (Springfield): Hailing from Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala's alma mater, the true floor general, who played on the gold medal-winning USA Basketball Under-16 team, might be the best prospect in Central Illinois.

Billy Garrett, 6-3 junior point guard, Morgan Park: The son of a DePaul assistant coach, Louisville freshman Wayne Blackshear's former running mate is a future Blue Demon with size, scoring ability and a high basketball I.Q.

Thomas Hamilton, 6-8 junior power forward, Whitney Young: A wide-bodied big man with perimeter skills that belie his frame, he's half of one of the best high school post tandems this city--or country--will see, and a top-25 player nationally on his own merits.

Malcolm Hill, 6-5 junior small forward, Belleville East: A recent commit to Illinois, the swingman isn't a household name in Chicago yet due to being closer to St. Louis than the Windy City, but national pundits believe he's a top-50 recruit in the junior class.

Jalen James, 6-3 junior point guard, Hope: Another future Fighting Illini player, even attending a small charter school hasn't been able to prevent this playmaker's rise in status, similar to Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, the nation's top prospect a year ago.

Kendrick Nunn, 6-2 junior shooting guard, Simeon: An athletic slasher with deep shooting range, this southpaw Texas A&M commit may be underrated locally because of the star power he plays with in high school, but made a name for himself nationally this summer.
Jahlil Okafor, 6-9 sophomore center, Whitney Young: Regarded as a top-five prospect nationally and the top big man in his class, with continued improvement, there's a chance he can be the best post player to come out of Chicago since Kevin Garnett.

Jabari Parker, 6-8 junior small forward, Simeon: Arguably the top prospect nationally regardless of class, this smooth, old-school type can dominate a game with his scoring, but his all-around game, unselfishness and maturity are what make him special.

Kendall Stephens, 6-4 junior shooting guard, St. Charles East: An early Purdue commit (he made a pledge to the Boilermakers as a sophomore) and son of former Evanston High School and Purdue star Everette Stephens, this wing is one of the best shooters in the area.

Jaylon Tate, 6-2 junior point guard, Simeon: The De La Salle transfer, a highly-regarded prospect nationally, steps in at point guard while injured senior Jelani Neely is on the mend and adds to an embarrassment of riches.

Steve Taylor, 6-8 senior power forward, Simeon: The versatile, Marquette-bound forward is the consensus top senior in the state for his ability to combine three-point range with inside scoring and rebounding.

Fred Van Vleet, 6-0 senior point guard, Auburn (Rockford): In a down year for the state's senior class, the Wichita State commit earned respect nationally over the summer for his ability to run the show with the best of them.

Paul White, 6-8 sophomore small forward, Whitney Young: Possessing point-forward skills, White, one of the top recruits in his class nationally even after an injury-plagued summer, may actually see some action as the floor general for the perennial powerhouse.
Milik Yarbrough, 6-4 sophomore small forward, Zion-Benton: Following in the footsteps of former Zion-Benton star Lenzelle Smith, now at Ohio State, this tough and versatile swingman from the northern suburbs is a bit under the radar.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

It'd be a stretch to say that any rookie is having a better or more impactful season than Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. The Sixers are 9-7, and Simmons looks like a 10-year veteran with his decision making, athleticism and all-around feel for the game. He's the frontrunner for MVP, but there are two other rookies vying to catch Simmons and win that title. And they'll face each other tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball was the second pick in June's NBA Draft, and fellow Pac-12 freshman standout Lauri Markkanen went five picks later to the Bulls, who had traded up as part of the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players were drafted to rebuilding franchises - the Lakers still working out the kinks in the post-Kobe era, and the Bulls beginning their rebuild after dealing Butler - and were expected to make immediate impacts on their franchises.

Ball's was more pronounced, as the Lakers dealt D'Angelo Russell to the Nets on draft night to free up space at the point for their prized No. 2 pick. Markkanen's came more abruptly, as the 20-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup after Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic's fight put Mirotic in the hospital and Portis on paid leave. However they got there, both players have been impressive in their early NBA careers.

Starting with Markkanen, the Bulls knew the 7-foot stretch forward was a perfect build for the modern NBA. He set freshman 3-point and rebounding records that, since 1992, only some guy named Kevin Durant had reached. After a successful summer in Eurobasket he was set for a large role with the Bulls, and he's succeeded in just about every aspect. His 15.6 points per game are third only to Simmons and the other Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, and his 8.1 rebounds are second to Simmons. And his 2.6 made 3-pointers per game are most among rookies, and well past No. 2 on the list (Utah's Donovan Mitchell, 1.9 per game).

In fact, Markkanen would become the only rookie in NBA history to average at least 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 3-pointers per game. The 2.5 3-pointers would break a rookie record currently held by Damian Lillard (2.3 per game). The closest a rookie has ever come to reaching those marks was Stephen Curry, who averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-pointers per game as a rookie. Allen Iverson also met the 4/2 threshold, but that's a far cry from Markkanen's 8/2.5 mark. Paul Pierce's rookie season saw him average 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers.

But that's not all. If he kept those averages up he would be just the fifth player EVER to accomplish those thresholds. The others are James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Antonie Walker, who naturally did it twice.

So, yeah, Markkanen is having quite a rookie year.

So, too, is Ball. While he's had some real issues with efficiency, slashing .313/.228/.462 and has committed 2.6 turnovers per game, his counting stats have been outstanding. Ball is averaging 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and that puts him in equally impressive company.

Simmons has reached those numbers this season, too, averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists. You may have heard of the other two players, named Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

The two future Hall of Famers averaged these numbers:

Robertson: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists (missing averaging a triple-double for the season by 20 assists)

Johnson: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists

Ball is also averaging 0.9 blocks, and no other rookie guard has ever accomplished that. It might not always look pretty for Markkanen and Ball as they feel their way out in the NBA, but just remember watching these two that they're in the midst of making history in the new era of the NBA.

Lauri Markkanen has career-high 26 points in loss to Suns

Lauri Markkanen has career-high 26 points in loss to Suns

Lauri Markkanen continues to impress.

The 20-year-old rookie had a career-high 26 points in the Bulls' 113-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night. He also picked up 13 rebounds.

After the game, in which the Bulls fell to 3-11 on the season, coach Fred Hoiberg had high praise for the Finnish.

"I thought Lauri was phenomenal," Hoiberg said. "But when he is open, we gotta get him the ball. When he's got it rolling like he did tonight, guys were switching and we had him a couple of times with the point guard buried in his back and we didn't get him the ball."

Watch what Hoiberg had to say about the Bulls' tight loss in the video above.