Sure, these guys are good. But they want to get better. They have to get better. That's usually how this whole thing works.
Take Mt. Carmel's Antoine Walker. Since his sophomore year, the 6-foot-8-inch Caravan star has been one of the country's top high school basketball players. But he had to change his mentality from a scorer to more of a team player.
Now comes the next step for the Kentucky-bound Walker.
"Antoine's got to go into Kentucky with an open mind," said Mt. Carmel coach Mike Curta. "Not as some hotshot from a winning program thinking he's going to go in and play right away. It's a lot different playing against some of the best players in the country as opposed to some of the best players in the state."
Walker, who averaged 28 points and 10 rebounds his senior season, does happen to be one of the best players in the state and the country. Walker joins St. Martin de Porres' Jerry Gee, Peoria Manual's Brandon Hughes, Rockford Boylan's Lee Lampley and Springfield's Tyron Lee in forming the first five of the Tribune's 1994 Boys All-State Basketball Team.
Westinghouse's Mark Miller, King's Michael Hermon, Libertyville's Matt Heldman, Simeon's Bryant Notree and Carbondale's Troy Hudson make up the guard-laden second team. Joliet's Gary Bell, East St. Louis Senior's Tyrone Caswell, Mundelein's Kyle Kessel, Cairo's Tyrone Nesby and Brother Rice's Jimmy Sexton round out the third team.
They already have made names for themselves. Now the question is: Where do they go from here?
"In high school," said Peoria Manual coach Dick Van Scyoc, "kids don't play defense like they'd like you to play in college. I don't believe there's a high school player who wouldn't have to improve on his defense."
That includes Hughes, who led Manual to the Class AA state title. Hughes isn't a bad defensive player right now. That's just part of the package. Hughes, who hasn't picked a college yet, averaged 20 points, four rebounds and three assists for the Rams his senior season.
"But he came on strong the last half of the season, by leaps and bounds," Van Scyoc said. "He just improved with every game."
Lampley already was one of the best outside shooters in state history.
"But Lee's gotten physically stronger," said Boylan coach Steve Goers. "He never even had a dunk his senior year and he finished with 12. Plus, his all-around play outside of the scoring has improved."
Still, everything starts with Lampley's scoring. He led the state with a 29.9 scoring average and ended his high school career as the Northern Illinois Conference-9's all-time leading scorer with 2,419 points.
What's next for Lampley, who like Hughes is undecided about college?
"He still needs to get stronger," Goers said. "He has to pick up his intensity one more level; get a little meaner. He's too nice of a kid."
Maybe Lampley just needs to have a chat with Gee, one of the state's most physical players. Gee averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots for the Silver Eagles, who finished third in the Class A tournament.
St. Martin coach Mike Manderino said Gee, who is likely to choose either Duke, Wisconsin or Minnesota, also needs to improve on the defensive end.
"Especially his perimeter defense," Manderino said. "He'll be guarding a lot of quick 6-5 or 6-6 kids who can put the ball on the floor. He hasn't had to do that so far. He needs to improve on his footspeed."
The Illinois-bound Lee was more of an inside player as a junior, but Springfield coach Clark Barnes had to move the talented 6-5 Lee to the backcourt as a senior.