Saturday, April 25, 2015

Top 40 2016 Prospects In Illinois

Top 40 2016 Prospects In Illinois

We can debate all we want about who the top players are in this class, but across the board the consensus is that this a down year in Illinois and its crystal clear during the club team play.

1. Nick Rakocevic    6-9    F    HM    St. Joseph/Mac Irvin Fire
Still developing physically, but at times lacks maturity, but he’s versatile scorer who can take on defenders on the perimeter and shoot over the top of them.  Finished up the season on a good note.  Not that it matters much, he is the highest ranking prospect nationally among the state’s juniors.

2. Rapolas Ivanauskas    6-9    F    HM    Barrington/Full Package
Recently gave Northwestern a verbal.  Once he strengthens that frame of his, we would have witnessed the growth of a high-scoring multi-talented European star.

3. Barret Benson    6-10    C    HM    Hinsdale South/Illinois Wolves
The big fella with a feathery touch, more of a face-up threat now; Big 10 schools, Stanford & Georgetown in pursuit.  He should be a priority for Illinois as well.

4. Isaiah Roby    6-8    SF    HM-MM+    Dixon/Quad City Elite
Had a superb season, the Nebraska recruit and his mates have revitalized the small farming town.  Isaiah is developing into one of those players that impact a game with a double digit stat line in various categories.  “Nebraska landed a gem!”

5. Jerry Myles    6-5    WF    MM+-MM        East Moline/Net Gain Sports (MN)
South paw very talented has versatile scoring ability capable of knocking down jumpers on the perimeter but he has some layers of off the court stuff he needs to clean up we just hope he can surface after high school.

6. Devin Gage    6-3    G    MM+-MM    Chicago Curie/Mean Streets
Very talented combo, consistency continues to be the key ingredient to his growth as a player; just coming back off of injury he may suit-up in Kentucky during the weekend.  DePaul could be at the top of his list.

7. Charlie Moore    5-10    PG    MM+-MM    Chicago Morgan Park/Mac Irvin Fire
Brings winning intangibles to any team.  He’s tough as nails and possess a knack for making huge shots in big game settings.  “Our state colleges can’t allow him to leave the state.”  Recently received an offer from Iowa.

8. Zach Norvell    6-4    G/F    MM+-MM    Chicago Simeon/Mac Irvin Fire
Received an offer from University Illinois a couple months ago, he combines a package of versatility, toughness & defensive tools to impact a game.  Lacks consistency on the perimeter; can be a productive player even when he’s not scoring.  Struggled with his shooting in Virginia.

9. Brandon Johnson    6-7    F    MM+-MM    T.F. South/Mac Irvin Fire
In most years he won’t he wouldn’t be considered a top 10 nominee, but with a class that lacks depth and no budding NBA lottery pick, he has a golden opportunity to enhance his stock.  Has to improve his understanding of the game; plays on sheer athleticism; off to a slow start on the club team circuit. 

10 Darias Oliver    6-5    WF    MM+-MM    Chicago Leo/Illinois Express
Based on his stat’s he’s deserving of a top 10 recognition; perhaps one of the top scorers in the junior class; he can get you buckets; 2nd leading scorer in the Catholic League.  “Oliver’s recruiting is starting to heat-up but he is going to have to pick his game up because he’s off to a slow start thus far this spring.”  In Vegas this weekend.

11. Lorenzo Edwards    6-7    SF    MM+-MM    Lake Forest/Mean Streets
“Great hands; very good length; feathery shooting touch; huge upside; best days ahead; excellent shot-blocker; limited ball-handler now; he will eventually be a top 10 player in the 2016 class.

12. Micah Bradford        6-2    PG    MM    Bradley Bourbonnais/Example Sports
Scratch all of the malarkey about “is he tough or is he soft?”  What Micah demonstrates is shrewd heady play!  He’s a slick ball-handling guard, makes good reads when doubled & tripled teamed and he has a torch on his J from long range.  “One of the top point-guards in the state regardless of class.”

13. James Jones    6-3    WG    MM    Chicago Bogan/Mean Streets
A high-flyer who lost some zip during the high school season after lofty preseason expectations.  Jones is off to a good start on the club team circuit and has a chance to redeem himself immediately.  Jump shot looks good now.

14. Nick Robinson    6-5    WF    MM    Chicago Kenwood/Mac Irvin Fire
Sparkled in Virginia a few weeks ago, was one of the Fire’s top players, his offensive game has started to take shape the last month or so.  In Kentucky this weekend.  Stock could rise!

15. Keymonta Johnson    6-4    WF    MM    Decatur MacArthur/Illinois Express
This long-armed lefty is one of my favorites in the 2016 class; he brings all-around intangibles to the court that is so essential in winning; Keymonte is a productive performer even when he isn’t scoring in double digits.  “Vastly under-rated now, by spring that will change.”  He’s in Vegas this weekend.

16. Zion Morgan    6-1    G    MM    Chicago Kenwood/All-In Athletics
He’s more comfortable playing off-the-ball; a potential 2-way player who would probably excel in more of a system environment (Northern Iowa quickly comes to mind); limited offensively now, but he’s got a promising future & superb attitude.

17. Tarkus Ferguson    6-4    WG    MM    Belleville Althoff/Southwest Jets
Athletic wing with some 3 point shooting ability; can handle adequately; built a rep for himself during the 3A state tournament; he could be a diamond in the rough in this class.  Now consistency will be the key for him.

18. Terrell Phipps    6-8    SF    MM    Chicago Al Raby/All-In Athletics
Promising prospect; has started to add some perimeter tools to his offensive game; I may have evaluated him a tad below where he could be; Phipps is a defensive swatter, once he adds some strength to his frame, things could spin upward.

19. Mike Smith    5-10    PG    MM    Fenwick/D’Rose
He’s proving to have the patience & intelligence; he’s capable of running a team; he will probably be more successful in a system type environment; he really improved his speed and quickness during the course of the season; in Indy this weekend.

20. A. J. Beckett    6-8    WF    MM    Champaign Central/B&B Elite
Still unproven.  Sat out this past season after transferring over from Centennial, A.J. could be one of the more talented players in the class; he’s thin now, but possess guard skills and the ability to knock-down shots on the perimeter.  “Big spring & summer await.”

21. Elyjah Goss    6-7    SF    MM    Plainfield East/Illinois Celtics
Very good athlete; has improved his ball-handling and shooting from the perimeter; now just refining his understanding of the game will only enhance is stock.  “Dynamite frame with a wealth of potential; he’s one of the more talented prospects in the class.”

22. Brendon Gooch    6-6    WF    MM    Belleville Althoff/Southwest Jets
Teases you with his length & versatility; has the ability to drain jumpers on the perimeter, but then tends to drift during stretches of a game, he’s a capable ball-handler.  One of the bright spots in his teams 3A state tournament runner-up finish.

23. Xavier Bishop    5-7    PG    MM    Springfield Lanphier/St. Louis Eagles
Exciting little lefty; settles for a lot of jump shots even though he can drain them which he proved in Virginia; now his emphasis has to turn towards being a play-maker and showing he can run a team.  In Kentucky this weekend.

24. Travon Bell    6-2    WG    MM    Chicago Mather/D’Rose
A 3 year starter, came into his own this past season with some stellar performances; a pure jump-shooter with limited ball-handling ability; now we need to see if he can get through some layers of deficiencies centered around him.

25. Tawone Keith    6-9    C    MM    Chicago Farragut/Chicago Admirals
A rising prospect has slowly come along in his development after playing his first 2 years at Marshall.  Has done a transformation with his body as well as his game, now we are starting to see the fruits of his labor; he possess a feathery touch and his post-game is starting to take shape.  If he continues to improve he could become the best front court player in the class.  A hidden gem.

26. Kevin Kreiger    6-5    WG    MM    Plainfield North/TAW
Impressive athlete, he’s long bouncy with a nice shooting stroke, ball-handling better than adequate, a good passer who sees the floor well; he’s been a hidden all season.  “His stock could soar this spring, this kid is vastly underrated.”

27. Bryce Barnes    5-10    PG    MM    Chicago Bogan/Mac Irvin Fire
Stock to a dip in recent months.  His biggest problem we see is his indecisiveness on the floor; things weren’t always smooth & flowing for him now he’s on the circuit and looking like himself again.  He could be successful in the right environment; Horizon League, MAC, OVC could be a good fit.  A10 could be a stretch.

28. Josh Thomas    6-3    G/F    MM-LM+    Chicago Simeon/Mean Streets
A fearless competitor opened some eyes with his play in Virginia a few weeks ago now he needs to keep that momentum going in Lexington this weekend.  He’s widely been recognized as a defensive specialist.

29. Chris Duff    6-1    G    MM-LM+    Carmel/NLP
“Combo with the ability to score; he’s already committed to Western Illinois; C.J. may be zeroing in on some scoring records at the north suburban schools.

30. Nate Kennell    6-5    WG    MM-LM+    Metamora/Illinois Wolves
This sharp shooter had 52 versus Westinghouse during the season, then shot it pretty well in New Orleans a few weeks ago.  There will always be questions about his lateral move and his quickness but he can flat-out stroke it. He should be a prime target for Northern Illinois and SIU-E.  He’s already bagged several Div I mid-major offers.

31. George Wilbourn    6-2    G    MM-LM+    De LaSalle/D’Rose
Has offensive ability, but tends to be lax during stretches of a game which has consequently hurt his recruitment; he’s a silk-smooth talent, us observers would like to see more from him.

32. Matty Smith    5-9    PG    MM-LM+    South-Elgin/Illinois Wolves
He could be a lethal jump-shooter or a threat attacking the rim, in fact he’s made a strong case for himself as PG, but for some odd reason things have tailed-off for him rather he realizes or not this is a big spring and summer for him.

33. Ben Coupet    6-6    WF    MM-LM+    Chicago Simeon/Mean Streets
Struggled cracking the rotation on consistent basics this past season; he has some potential with his versatility, he could be an asset on the defensive end; but now he has to figure out how to be productive during games.  Rumors have swirled of him transferring to rival Bogan

34. Chris Harris    6-3    G    MM-LM+    Lake Forest Academy/Illinois Wolves
Strong bodied athletic combo; has played in obscurity after leaving Loyola Academy; he’s a prospect to watch; capable of being explosive; perimeter shooting may need some work; he will be a player on our must watch list.

35. Jarrin Randle    5-10    G    LM+    Chicago Morgan Park/Mac Irvin Fire
Has big game experience and has shown the ability to make huge shots; displays a sense of toughness & confidence; we’d like to see him handle the ball more.  Right now he’s utilized as a specialist.

36. Rodney Herenton    6-1    PG    LM+    Chicago Young/Mean Streets?
Capable of playing on both sides of the ball; a system type, versatile enough to play a variety of roles for his team.  “A winner with a great attitude & high academic kid, but his game has taken a huge dip recently.  The last we heard he left Mean Streets.”

37. Jacob Cushing        6-5    WG    LM+    Neuqua Valley/?
Liked him during the season, the south paw has excellent length and a nice stroke with accuracy from three, now he has to prove himself in a big game setting along the circuit. 

38. Donovan Oliver    6-3    WG/WF    LM+    Kewanee/Quad City Elite
I’m sure someone in his camp will be heckling me soon about his evaluation or ranking, but he’s a good player from a small town setting and we want to see him make good.  Everyone knows how I pull for our central Illinois kids, he does have a great motor and capable of being productive during stretches of a game.  The knock on him has always been his outside shooting and his limited ball-handling skills.  Hopefully he’s improved in those areas, we will find out this weekend in Minnesota.  He received an offer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee a few months ago.

39. Justin Pierce    6-5    WF    LM+    Glenbard West/Mercury Elite
Has created some buzz for himself this spring and has had some viewings from several Missouri schools as well as a few locals; has a 30 on his ACT and just may be suited for an Ivy League situation such as Yale.  I’m not falling from the okie doke, he’s still unproven, he did average close to 17 a game this past season.

40. Jordan Bell    6-7    SF    LM+    Chicago Vocational/Old Gold
Has a wealth of potential; plays within his limitation, but a very raw talent; he needs to be locked in the gym refining his fundamentals and skill work; very good athlete just doesn’t understand how to utilize it.  We will watch his progress this spring & summer.

Bleacher Shots

Rapolis Ivanaukas the six foot nine forward from Barrington H.S. a highly regarded 2016 prospect gave the Northwestern’s program a commitment recently.  These are exciting times in Evanston, nabbing the multi-skilled scorer was a signal that the Wildcats are serious about adding a nice blend of young talent to bolster their roster for long term success.  The incoming 2015 class has St. Joe’s guard Jordan Ash, highly touted Massachusetts forward Aaron Falzon and 6-8 post-man out of Cleveland Dererk Pardon.  It’s certainly a new era worth of waiting.


The Illinois State tragedy a few weeks ago was painful.  It truly illustrated things in the proper perspective.  The daily basketball grind is just a small fragment of our life despite of the monetary rewards, this was a huge reminder of how fragile everyday life can be.  Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.

New Southern Illinois Edwardsville head-coach Jon Harris hired Mount Vernon native and SIU alum Kent Williams as his top assistant.  They have their work cut-out for them but at least they understand the landscape in the area.

John A Logan Junior College Forward Russell Woods will be headed to the University Missouri.  This will be a true test to see if he is disciplined enough on and off the floor to handle the structured environment that awaits within coach Kim Anderson’s system.  The 6-8 former Leo/Simeon performer will have to prove himself this time around.

Kansas State released six foot seven forward Malik Harris after one season.  The former Carl Sandburg alum has often been plagued by suspensions and other off the court issues.  He is just coming off shoulder surgery a month ago and wouldn’t be available for live contact until August which will give him time to think about if he is really serious about cleaning up his act.  Where ever he lands he will have three years of eligibility, now the tricky part is finding the right fit for him meaning a coach who can mentor him and get him on-track off the court.  Leonard Hamilton and the Florida State program may just be the second chance Harris could survive in.

Hampton University signed high scoring guard Kalin Fisher out of Proviso East.  He was one of our areas top unsigned 2015 prospects.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

U-Haul Tid-Bits

U-Haul Tid-Bits

Antoine Pittman    6-3    G    MM    Rockford Auburn
Signed with Green-Bay last fall, now he’s looking for a situation perhaps higher than the Horizon League which we felt was a total fit for his profile.  “Very immature player, carts around bad body language, he still doesn’t understand the game yet.”

Julian Torres    6-8    F/C    MM    Bollingbrook
A likely red-shirt candidate wherever he lands.  His basketball skills and knowledge of the game is behind the eight ball right now plus he needs to get in better physical condition.   Torres has a world of potential, he just raw now.  UIC would be an ideal fit for him to reach his growth as a player.

Josh Cunningham    6-7    F    MM+    Bradley University
First year starter for the lowly Bradley University club; he has an array of miscellaneous cats in his ear.  Some destination spots we hear he’s rumored towards:  Notre Dame, Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana.

Updates 4/15/2015

The D’Rose squad showed up at the Adidas venue with top 5 2014 prospect Josh Stamps a coveted junior college recruit alongside of North-Lawndale six foot nine string bean Kenneth Perkins Jr. who’s also destined for a junior college residence.  In fact they did have 6-5 forward Dustin Barnes in the line-up a senior also who hails from Homewood-Flossmoor, he opened some eyes and elevated his recruiting.

One time Illinois State recruit and Glenbard East stand-out Johnny Hill has become a hot commodity once again.  The six foot four guard spent last season at Texas Arlington, now he has that one year window to boast some experience to someone’s roster.  Purdue, Illinois, Marquette. Loyola-Chicago seem in the picture, while Hill does have a visit set-up at Drake this coming weekend.

Morgan Park’s stellar play-maker Marcus LoVett’s recruiting has taken a lot of zigging & zagging.  He was hoop’n this past weekend in Dallas, TX with some miscellaneous squad.  Stay tuned in on his situation.  Pittsburgh & Memphis may be the key players.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Updates: 4/14/2015

A cautionary tale of two young Chicago phenomes, both so happen to be over six foot nine and exceptional athletes, Eddy Curry and Leon Smith. Curry leaped straight into the NBA out of Thornwood High-School and was selected by the Bulls with the overall 4th pick in 2001.  He never came remotely close to fulfilling the monumental promise many projected for him, but Curry managed to soak-in seven injury riddled seasons in the NBA.  Smith, hails from the once storied King High program, he was the Spur’s first round pick in the 1999 draft, but was sent packing immediately to the Dallas Mavericks for whom he never suited-up with.  Leon did play a grand total of 15 NBA games.  “Now comes along the Cliff Alexander saga at 6-8 he cruised through high-school at Curie as well as the club team trail.  He became a notable reputed power dunker, but lacked the obvious necessary basketball fundamentals & knowledge of the game, he just declared for the NBA draft.  Remember, Alexander sat out the last eight games at Kansas while under NCAA investigation, the irony to this whole twisted tale is that the Alexander clan probably never intended on getting cozy with the folks in Lawrence, KS for more than a season anyhow!  Their thirst for instant/immediate financial security really stifled the Jayhawk’s hopes & momentum of crashing a late party during their NCAA tournament push.  Stay tuned . . . . there are certainly more layers to this tale.

Niles Notre Dame senior Joe Mooney hit the circuit with the Illinois Wolves program over the weekend in New Orleans at the Under Armor Venue.  The six foot three sharp-shooter played some point-guard while captivating some interest from Horizon League & Missouri Valley schools.  I certainly like the idea of an over-looked senior suiting-up in the April live-period (as long as he isn’t 19) to enhance his recruitment being that the kid is an academic qualifier.
I see where my club guys are off to a rugged start on the club team circuit.  The opening of the EYBL last weekend in Virginia – the Mac Irvin Fire finished 2-2 while Mean Streets dropped to 0-4, Wolves 3-1 in New Orleans, D Rose 3-1 in Dallas; all of our significant club teams seem to lack some size.  One kid they all could use is 6-9 rising prospect Tawong King of Farragut, his feathery touch and good foot-work to go along with a new assortment of moves in the paint, makes him a must see player immediately.  King did attend Marshal High his first 2 years.  He could eventually end-up being a terrific prospect.  “Yes, most observers have been asleep on his development.  Farragut has been our capital for developing big-men.”



“Coming along after a gloomy 2016 campaign, this collection of overall talent will excite some of our local fan base.”

Jeramiah Tilmon    East St. Louis/St. Louis Eagles    6-10    C
“Playing along-side Tyler Cook will blossom his over-all game and teach him to be competitive at both ends.”

Alonzo Verge Jr.    Willowbrook/St. Louis Eagles    6-3    PG
“Worth the price of admission, he doesn’t have North Carolina native Dennis Smith athleticism but he has a special arsenal to his game, his passing has been spectacular.”

Jordan Goodwin    Belleville Althoff/St. Louis Eagles    6-4    G/F
“Versatile scorer, has been on a tear since the season ended; plays on the Eagle’s 16-U team; a terrific talent.”

Justin Smith    Stevenson/Mac Irvin Fire    6-6    WF
“Was one of the bright spots for the Fire in Virginia over the weekend; good athlete and a respected knock-down shooter from distance.”

Nojel Eastern    Evanston/Mean Streets    6-3    PG
“Now transitioning to the lead guard position; had his ups and downs on the 17-U level in Virginia this past weekend.”

Da’Monte Willians    Peoria Manuel/Mac Irvin Fire    6-3    G
“Converting over to handle some play-making duties has been rewarding after a spotty sophomore campaign, he’s looking like an exceptional prospect we all thought he once was; currently playing 16-U.”

Christian Negron    Elgin-Larkin/Mac Irvin Fire    6-7    SF
“The wiry baseliner continues to develop his game, he has stretches where he can woo you; the talent is certainly there; offensive game is in the refining stages.”

Charles Payton    Bloomington/Illinois Wolves    6-6    SF
“One of the more talked about young prospects in recent weeks; extremely good high percentage shooter 12 feet in, terrific body, excellent motor; he is a promising stud.”

Josiah Wallace    Marshall (IL)/Illinois Stars    6-3    PG
“Vastly underrated, skill performer, sure handed ball-handler, rarely makes mistakes; total grasp of the game; very good outside shooter.”

Manny Patterson    Chicago Kenwood/Mean Streets    6-8    SF
“An athletic monster; recovering from a shoulder injury; he could become the best player in the Chicago Public League by his senior year if he continues to work on his overall fundamentals and understanding of the game.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recapping a Flash-Back –April 2005 Ending Issue Jottings

Recapping a Flash-Back –April 2005 Ending Issue Jottings

“Silk-smooth Dave Leitao has moved on again after three successful seasons at DePaul, I guess he decided the show needed to be much more cultivating.  Leitao’s main audience now will be administered in Charlottesville, Virginia (University Virginia).  This is a time in college athletics where the coaching culture is definitely about securing your future financially, so this isn’t a negative reflection of Dave.  Perhaps the question raised now is, who is DePaul?  Which is so hard to determine.  Could it be a high-major national program that they claim to be, or is it just a mid-major setting, or perhaps something in between!  We are about to find out as DePaul begins its move into the Big East Conference this coming season.  DePaul’s administrative culture resembles a family owned business; in this era of time their vision of success could be just a bluff.  Stay tuned . . . . “

There are so many colorful clowns lingering in pockets of Chicago’s inner hoop circles, what’s becoming so mind boggling is kids and some families actually rely on these miscellaneous characters for advice.  Families now have sense of vulnerability these days in their quest for NBA stardom for little Johnny.  An abundance of these characters couldn’t pass an exam if you gave it to them verbally.

Newly crowned Bradley Head Coach Brian Wardle couldn’t convince the program’s blue chip freshman forward Josh Cunningham to embrace the change.  Cunningham’s departure comes as no surprise; another Morgan Park alum center Xzavier Taylor a little used sophomore also vacated the Bradley program.

Chicago Brook’s alums senior twins Keith & Kevin Gray will test the waters as fifth year players somewhere in-state, the little used six foot seven interior players spent 4 years in Mark Montgomery’s program at Northern.  The Huskers added 6-2 guard Marshawn Wilson from Hill-Murray High-School in Minneapolis.  Wilson is a 2015 recruit and he’s expected to be an immediate impact next season.  “The Huskers are moving on up.”

Barry Hinson’s Southern Illinois program continues to be a revolving exit; four freshman including shooter Deion Lavender from Alton Marquette departed as well as forward Jordan Caroline who hails from Champaign.  The Salukis had already lost Memphis, TN guard K.C. Goodwin in addition to Chaz Glotta from St. Louis.  “This spells doom.”

Reportedly the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville coaching vacancy has dwindled down to Jack Owens, Billy Taylor, Jack Brannen, Steve Lutz, Rodney Watson, Torrey Ward and Jon Harris.

St. Rita 6-8 center Myles Carter decided going out east to Seton Hall would be a comfortable fit for him.  Carter a promising prospect opened some eyes with his defensive ability during St. Rita’s late season run.  Area colleges will hope to land him back home in the near future, all this kid needs is some polish in the offensive end.  He’s an above average athlete with raw skills now and he’s still learning how to play.  We wish him the best.

Pivotal Round-Ups

Pivotal Round-Ups

The last time the DePaul Blue Demons won a conference regular season title was in 2004, Dave Leitao was the head-coach then in addition they went on to reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  That was the Blue Demon’s last NCAA trip.  Well, a decade later, Leitao has returned replacing Oliver Purnell.  Dave’s teams at DePaul during his three year stint recorded a 58-34 overall mark and 30-18 in Conference USA play.  Leitao will inherit a team that can potentially be at the top of Big East Conference next season and he seems to be a perfect fit for a squad that underachieved most of the 2014-15 campaign.  Leitao spent last season as an assistant at Tulsa after two seasons as an assistant at Missouri.