Anthony Davis making big impression on Illini - and many others

John Supinie

Nobody knew much about slender forward Anthony Davis before the April AAU circuit.

After back-to-back tournaments in the state of Indiana at Merrillville and Fort Wayne, Davis is the fastest-rising player in the country. He played in anonymity at a Chicago charter school, but he's quickly gone from "who's he?'' to Who's Who among college basketball recruits in the class of 2011.

"In this modern era of recruiting gurus and AAU coaches and media covering high school basketball, the Internet and message boards, this is a rare occurrence that boggles the mind,'' said Chicago-based recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen of City/Suburban Hoops Report. "He's clearly one of the most intriguing guys in the country right now and one of the top two prospects in the state.

"It's a bizarre recruiting story that might be unprecedented in the Chicago Public League or the Chicago area -- going from an unknown to one of the top-ranked players in Chicago.''

Illinois is among the growing list of high major programs that offered a scholarship, Henricksen said, but the recruiting process has just begun for the 6-foot-10 Davis, the lanky forward who put up solid numbers under the radar while playing for Chicago Perspectives in the public league's unheralded blue division. He's playing AAU basketball for the first time during his high school career.

High profile programs across the country are scrambling to get a feel for mobile Davis, whose arm span of 7 feet allows him to finish around the basket and alter things defensively, Henricksen said. Apparently, Davis has also shown preliminary interest in Memphis and Kentucky.

Although college coaches are rushing to get him on campus for an unofficial visit this weekend in a lull in AAU action, Davis faces a big month in July when recruiters will get their first real look at him.

College coaches were unable to attend the April tournaments because of NCAA recruiting rules. Nonetheless, Davis' play on AAU's Mean Streets grabbed everyone's attention, and college coaches heard about it.

"This poor kid doesn't have any idea what's going to hit him over the next two months,'' Henricksen said. "He's two years behind in the process. He's learning about his fit with systems, personnel, all the stuff everyone else has been doing for the last two years. He still has to build relationships with the coaches. Anthony is just barely beginning the process.''

The state's loaded class of 2011 just got better. Chicago Morgan Park forward Wayne Blackshear is considered the top prospect, but Henricksen is ready to put Davis at No. 2 in a deep class that includes Chicago Whitney Young forward Sam Thompson, Rock Island guard Chasson Randle, Chicago De La Salle forward Mike Shaw, Chicago St. Ignatius center Nnanna Egwu and Chicago Mount Carmel point guard Tracy Abrams.

Egwu and Abrams have committed to Illinois. The Illini likely have to more spots, perhaps three, in that recruiting class. Apparently, Egwu is a pure center while Davis is a power forward, so they would fit in the same class.

IN OTHER NEWS: Illinois football coach Ron Zook will join four other coaches on a eight-stop, nine-day tour to visit U.S. troops in Germany and Southwest Asia later this month. Army's Rich Ellerson, Oregon's Chip Kelly, Harvard's Tim Murphy and Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville will also make the trip.  

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.

On the radar

Add these names to the list of rising juniors this spring.

Mychael Henry, Chicago Orr. The 6-5 guard is a shooter who enjoyed a very productive high school season and now plays AAU ball for Mac Irvin Fire. Illinois and Wisconsin appear as the leaders, according to recruiting analyst Joe Henricksen.

Jarrod Uthoff, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Jefferson. It might be a good time to cross into Iowa. The 6-foot-8 Uthoff was a Class 4A all-stater. He visited the Illini last week and received a scholarship offer.

Frank Kaminsky, Lisle Benet. The skilled 6-10 center has solid interest from Bradley and Northern Illinois. Power conference schools, such as Illinois, will take a another look this summer.