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Posted On: 11/19/17 1:00 PM
The season is here! PrepHoopsIllinois is ready to roll for coverage from all across the state. We thought we would open things up by diving in into 10 Storylines Heading into Season.
2018s That Raise Recruiting Stock
Every year there are two or three players that significantly raise their recruiting stock with their play during the high school season. Last year it was Mark Smith and Taylor Bruninga who took off on the court and in turn saw their recruitments take huge leaps. There will be two or three guys that fit this mold as the first half of the season progresses. A few guys that could do it in our eyes include Drew Peterson (Libertyville), Gabe Bergeron (Dundee Crown), Isaiah Saulsberry (Harrisburg), Isaiah Fuller (OPRF), and Dannie Smith (Orr).
2019s That Break Out and Produce
The 2019 class at this point is pretty top heavy with the star power and then there is a large cluster of prospects that haven’t really separated themselves from one another. There are a lot of guys in this class who have D1 ability, but have lacked production at a high rate. This will be a big season for their developments and recruitment. Some of the guys that fit this mold include Martin Macenis (Stagg), Ethan Helwig (Metea Valley), Ciaran Brayboy (New Trier), Myles Baker (Whitney Young), Artese Stapleton (Kenwood), Bryce Bultman (Nashville), and Dajuan Gordon (Curie).
2020s That Put Their Name on the Map
The sophomore class is primed for a big year. There is star power at the top with Adam Miller (Morgan Park) and DJ Steward (Fenwick) leading the way as potential five star national recruits. What we like about this group is they have depth at a variety of positions especially at the point guard and big man spots. Some of the point guards that will emerge as major players on the high school level are Tyler Beard (Whitney Young), Reggie Strong (Farragut), PJ Edwards (Springfield Lanphier), and Donovan Newby (Bloom). Some of the bigs to track closely this year are Kee Hargrow (Joliet Central), Nate Seputis (Lincoln Way East), Martice Mitchell (Bloom), Devon House (Sterling Newman), and Yves Nkomba (La Salette Academy).
2021s That Emerge as D1 Targets
We don’t watch much middle school basketball on the travel team circuit so this season will be our first extensive look at many of the best incoming freshman in the state. There are a few that are worth tracking early in the process. Right now the battle for the top spot early on is between Tevin Smith (Danville) who is an explosive slashing wing, Ahamad Bynum (Simeon) who is a big time scorer that plays with power along with skill, and Chris Hodges (Shaumburg) who is a big bodied post that can score and rebound at a high rate. We always enjoy seeing what freshman jump off the floor during the season and there will be new names emerging on a weekly basis.
Mr. Basketball Race
The race for Mr. Basketball is always a fun aspect to follow throughout the season. The clear leader coming into the year is Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu. The Illinois commit is an explosive scoring point guard that is going to put up stupid numbers as a senior. His closest competitor is his rival at Simeon Talen Horton-Tucker. The Iowa State signee has a versatile game and will be a stat sheet stuffer for one of the best teams in the state. Each year we preview 15 candidates for the award. Last year the player that won it Mark Smith from Edwardsville wasn’t even on the preseason list. Could that happen again?
Battle for CPS Supremacy
The Chicago Public League has mixed up their format this season with super conferences. You could technically make a five team super conference between Simeon, Whitney Young, Orr, Curie, and Morgan Park because those five are head and shoulders above not only the rest of the CPL, but the entire state. These five teams have depth and upperclassmen that should allow all of them to have monster seasons.
What Sleeper Teams Will Emerge?
Let’s look at some of the sleeper teams that could emerge this season. Bloom is a young team that we think could make some noise. They have a core of sophomores that could have three or four D1 players down the line. Lincoln Way East is intriguing with their star senior Sam Shafer and one of the top young bigs in Nate Seputis. St. Joseph’s is a team that not many are talking about, but they have a core group of solid small college prospects and one of the best coaches in state history. Salem in Southern Illinois has the best team it has had in years with a trio of seniors in Damond Crosby, Cord Brown, and Dawson Linder ready to rack up wins. La Salette Academy is a new school that is getting overseas talent. They have a pair of senior small college players, but their big sophomore Yves Nkomba could be the story. St. Charles North is a veteran group led by Kyle King who might be the most underrated post in the state, Cade Callaghan, and Zach Ludwig. They won on the circuit with Tri City and have great chemistry. Lake Zurich is a sleeper squad with a core of Ryan Kutsor, Peter Dicerbo, and JR Cison on the perimeter. Nashville is a team that is flying under the radar, but has a nice group of juniors and sophomores pushed by jumbo point guard Bryce Bultman.
Battle for Central Illinois Supremacy
What teams in central Illinois will shine this year? Most of the traditional powers are back. Bloomington is loaded despite the injury to Colton Sandage. They have guard depth and a beast on the interior in Chris Payton. Danville has the best lead guard in the area in Drake commit Kendle Moore who will push tempo and score. Sean Houpt and freshman Tevin Smith will help him out on the wings along with Day’len Williams inside. Champaign Central might be the Tim Finke show this year, but he is one of the few players in the state that can carry a team on his back. Springfield Lanphier lost a pair of great guards last year, but reloads with Cardell McGee, Karl Wright, and PJ Edwards leading the way. Normal West has the best 2019 prospect in the state in Francis Okoro, but do they have the supporting cast? Decatur MacArthur and Springfield Southeast are a pair of sleepers to watch!
Can Anyone Stop Belleville West in the Metro East?
The short answer here is no. Belleville West takes over this year as the beast in the metro east! They have EJ Liddell who is the #2 junior in Illinois. He has gotten more athletic and improved his skill since last season where he knocked out some powerhouse players and teams to end the year. He will be joined by Malachi Smith who is one of the best scorers in the southern Illinois along with tough man Keith Randolph inside. Who can give them a run? East St. Louis has the athleticism with #3 junior Terrence Hargrove and if he is cleared transfer Joe Reece. Kevin Caldwell (Alton) and Jalen Hodge (O’Fallon) both should have strong years, but probably don’t have the firepower around them. Edwardsville, Belleville East, and Belleville Althoff all lost a ton of talent from last year as each had a top 5 player in the senior class.
Summer Standouts Time to Shine for High Schools
We cover these players year round and many times prospects emerge during the spring and summer when your casual high school fan or writer isn’t watching. A lot of times guys go from a name that might have been on the radar to a big time player over the course of the summer and people are anticipating if it will translate over to the high school season. Who are guys that fit that mold this season? George Conditt (Corliss) and Zion Griffin (Hinsdale South) are the two primary ones. They went from low-major recruits to coveted Midwest high major targets and eventually Iowa State commits in the span of a few months. Other players that fit the bill are Tamell Pearson (Morgan Park), Ryan Davis (Conant), and Tyronn Mosely (Orr).