Take a good look at the front line for the 2000 Tribune All-State Basketball Team, because within three years Darius Miles, Eddy Curry and Andre Brown all could be playing in the NBA.
Miles is a wondrously gifted, 6-foot-8-inch athlete who excelled at all five positions in leading East St. Louis to third place in the Class AA state tournament this season and an Elite Eight berth last year. There's a good chance Miles will jump straight from high school to the pros if he believes he will be selected in the NBA draft lottery, bypassing a scholarship to St. John's.
Next year, it could be Curry's turn. At 6-10, 275 pounds, the Thornwood center already has the physique to withstand pro basketball's rigors. A number of pro and college scouts attending his games have come away impressed with his inside power moves and his feathery outside shooting touch.
By 2002, Brown will have spent two years refining his game at DePaul and might be ready for his breakout move. Blue Demons coach Pat Kennedy has speculated among his coaching staff that Brown could be his first $100 million player.
Of course, this scenario hinges upon the reality that all three high school heroes live up to their enormous potential.
Even so, it's rare for so many All-Staters to emerge as legitimate pro prospects in the same season. This threesome might surpass the 1998 trio of Quentin Richardson, Corey Maggette and Michael Wright. Maggette is a rookie with the Orlando Magic, while Richardson and Wright could enter the NBA draft sometime in the next two years.
Rounding out the 2000 All-State team are a pair of explosive guards, 6-3 Cedrick Banks of Class AA runner-up Westinghouse and 6-3 Dwyane Wade of Richards. Banks needs to improve his academic standing to qualify for a Division I scholarship; Wade is headed to Marquette.
"Cedrick Banks epitomizes what a high school coach wants in a ballplayer," said Westinghouse coach Chris Head. "He brings such tremendous enthusiasm and energy to the way he approaches every game. There isn't another player as competitive as Cedrick in the state."
Banks averaged 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals per game, and it wasn't uncommon for this quick-draw artist to score 10 points in a 2-minute span.
Wade made the biggest improvement among the first-team All-Staters.
"I credit much of that to his AAU basketball experience last summer," said Richards coach Jack Fitzgerald. Wade played on a team with Miles and New Trier's Matt Lottich, yet, Fitzgerald said, "Dwyane emerged as the team's best player by the end of the summer.
"I've never had a player who excelled at scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots like he did. Dwyane was a tenacious offensive rebounder and a great anticipator on defense. He played post defense against [Thornridge's 6-9] James Moore and [Hillcrest's 6-10] Reo Logan, yet he had the quickness to stick to a standout guard such as [Brother Rice's] Mark Telander."
Nobody could stop Curry in the post. Richards used all five players to defend him, and the Thornwood junior still came away with 30 points and 16 rebounds.
"He's a bionic man out there, and it's not humanly possible to shut him down with just one or even two guys," said Thornton coach Rocky Hill, who watched Curry overpower his 7-1 center Chris Alexander and 6-7 power forward Jonathan Woods. "What's scary is, he is only a junior and could wind up being a bigger, stronger 7-footer by the time he graduates.
"If Eddy Curry played a whole game with the Bulls today, he would probably score in double figures. He consistently hits the 15- to 18-foot jumper and has range out to the three-point circle. Oh, my goodness, that's the stuff legends are made of. I'll be so glad when this legend finally moves on."
Hill pointed out that besides the requisite physical skills, Curry also has the aptitude to successfully make the jump from the preps to the pros.
"He comes from such a wonderful family, and his feet are firmly planted on the ground with that proper upbringing," Hill said. "[Lakers star] Kobe Bryant made the jump with help from his parents, and Eddy comes from the same kind of family. Underneath all that scowling and those menacing looks on the court, Eddy's just a sweetheart of a kid."
Miles said he has consulted Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan about going straight to the NBA. Both told him to carefully assess how high he would be picked before making a decision. "If I'm one of the first 13 [lottery] picks, I would probably turn pro," Miles said.
Coach Gordie Kerkman of Class AA state champion West Aurora has no doubt about Miles' future after watching him nearly defeat his team in last Saturday's semifinals.
"He is very definitely an NBA prospect," Kerkman said. "It seems like the pro teams have him rated very high in the draft, and now I can see why."
After Miles almost single-handedly beat New Trier in the quarterfinals with 26 points, 20 rebounds, nine blocks and six assists, Trevians coach Rick Malnati said: "I wish he had turned pro yesterday."
Fitzgerald might have paid Miles the ultimate compliment.
"From what I saw last weekend, I think Darius Miles is even better than Kevin Garnett was in high school," the Richards coach said. "Garnett was known for his spectacular passing, rebounding and scoring, but Miles does all that and handles the ball like a point guard."
Miles and Brown will be the Illinois representatives at Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Game in Boston.
"I'm glad to be getting all this recognition," Brown said of the McDonald's game and All-State honor. "It feels real good. Did I live up to all the preseason expectations? Yes and no. No, because my team didn't do what it was supposed to do. Yes, because I feel I did my part and gave it my all."
FIRST TEAMDwyane Wade, Richards
Year: Senior, Height: 6-3, Position: Guard
The numbers: Fastest-rising player this season, averaged 27 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 4.4 steals and 3 blocks. Totaled 89 points in back-to-back games at St. Xavier's holiday tournament.
College choices: Marquette.
THE WORD: "I went to see him play for the first time this year and came away shaking my head. He just might be the best player in the state."
-DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno.
Cedric Banks, Westinghouse
Year: Senior, Height: 6-3, Position: Guard
The numbers: One of the most explosive scorers in the state, he averaged 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals and was MVP of the Proviso West and Public League holiday tournaments.
College choice: Undecided
THE WORD: "He has gone against the likes of T.J. Cummings, Matt Lottich and Darius Miles and in my opinion, Cedrick Banks is the Mr. Basketball of Illinois."
-Westinghouse coach Chris Head.
Andre Brown, Leo
Year: Senior, Height: 6-9, Position: Forward
The numbers: McDonald's All-American averaged 23 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks and is rated among the top 10 players in the country.
College choice: DePaul
THE WORD: "Andre had such a presence inside that he made it a lot easier for our outside shooters. Once he got the ball down low, he was unstoppable."
-Leo coach Mike Manderino.
Eddy Curry, Thornwood
Year: Junior, Height: 6-10, Position: Center
The numbers: The 275-pound intimidator, considered the No. 1 junior in the country, averaged 25 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks.
College choice: Underclassman
THE WORD: "If he improves like he did from his sophomore to junior year, he might be the best player of all time in the state of Illinois."
-Thornton coach Rocky Hill.
Darius Miles, East St. Louis
Year: Senior, Height: 6-8, Position: Forward
The numbers: National player-of-the-year candidate and McDonald's All-American was versatile enough to play all five positions while averaging 22.3 points, 13 rebounds and 7.5 blocks.
College choice: St. John's or NBA draft.
THE WORD: "D. Miles can do anything he wants on the court. I call him KG Jr., because he is the next Kevin Garnett."
-De Paul star Quentin Richardson.
SECOND TEAMPlayer, school Year Ht. Pos.
Martell Bailey, Westinghouse Sr 5-10 Guard
Imari Sawyer, King Sr 6-2 Guard
Pierre Pierce, Westmont Jr 6-3 G/F
Matt Lottich, New Trier Sr 6-4 Forward
Cameron Echols, Simeon Sr. 6-7 Center
SPECIAL MENTIONCenters: Jamar Avant, Murphysboro; John Bellich, Thomson; T.J. Cummings, Homewood-Flossmoor; Reo Logan, Hillcrest; James Moore, Thornwood; James Peters, Julian; Marcellus Sommerville, Peoria Central; Steve Strickland, Mt.Vernon; Marcus White, Young; Dirk Williams, Pekin.
Forwards: Dusty Bensko, Pleasant Plains; Clint Cuffle, Riverton; Najeeb Echols, Young; Brad Novak, Rock Island; Roger Powell Jr., Joliet; T.J. Silas, Carbondale; Marcus Smallwood, Elgin; J.D. Summers, Quincy; Todd Townsend, NewTrier; Jonathan Woods, Thornton.
Guards: Gregg Alexander, Lincoln; Odartey Blankson, Hillcrest; Will Bynum, Crane; Aaron Carr, Lincoln Park; Drew Carstens, Downers Grove North; Sean Dockery, Julian; Vince Greene, Brother Rice; Ronald Howard, Young; Mike Krga,St. Ignatius; Brett Melton, Mahomet-Seymour; Pete Schmit, St. Charles; LeVar Seals, Providence-St. Mel; Louis Smith, West Aurora; Mark Telander, Brother Rice; Steve Turner, Peoria Richwoods; Barry Welsh, Abingdon; Jitim Young,Gordon Tech.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times