Posted On: 03/1/18 6:00 AM
The Class of 2018 is wrapping up their high school careers and are about to head off to college. We thought it would be fun to look back at the first time we evaluated some of the best players in the class. Here is a look at the first time we saw the current top 10 ranked players in the 2018 PrepHoopsIllinois Rankings.
Ayo Dosunmu (Morgan Park)
We attended the Team Rose Classic and I had heard some buzz heading into the event about this point guard at Westinghouse in the freshman class that had the “it” factor. He was a player that guys wanted to follow. My guy Scott Comeau said he had a chance to be the guy! Trust “BallisLife Scott” on incoming freshman!
In my first time seeing the Westinghouse freshman point guard I came away extremely impressed. The 5’11” lead guard is strong and a solid athlete. First and foremost Dosunmu plays with a lot of poise for a true freshman competing in a big tournament environment. It was also evident that despite being a freshman his older teammates listened to him and took direction from the young guard. He did a great job of pushing it in transition with speed and keeping his head up looking for his running mates. Dosunmu showed an advanced feel for the game and being a plus passer. The freshman also knocked down several shots throughout the game. He opened up with a wing three which was followed by a stop and pop mid-range jumper. Defensively he moves his feet and proved to be a pesky on ball defender. Dosunmu is definitely one to watch as the season goes on.
I remembered thinking after the first time I saw him that he was going to be one of the top prospects in the class. I didn’t know if he was going to be an elite national player at the time yet, but he had something about him that was special. Even at an early age you could tell he had the “it” factor.
Talen Horton-Tucker (Simeon)
The first time we saw THT play was at the Fab Frosh Camp in Atlanta, Georgia before his freshman year of high school. This camp features the best prospects in the country heading into high school. There were only two prospects from Illinois at the camp that year.
Horton-Tucker struggled with injuries throughout the camp, but this big bodied guard showed some tools to work with. He is a solid perimeter shooter that can get his shot off with ease. The 6’0” guard is also a good rebounder for his position.
What I remember about that camp was thinking that he could play, but would have to grow height wise, slim down his body, and improve as an athlete. Check off all of those. Now he is headed to Iowa State! I remember THT asking me about the rankings early in his career not in a bad way, but if he had the chance to be a top 10 player one day. He wasn’t one of the top guys at after his freshman season. I told him do the work and you will get there. He did! His work ethic will define his career in my eyes.
Zion Griffin (Hinsdale South)
This Hinsdale South forward was a prospect that was under the radar until his junior year in high school even for those that cover recruiting in Illinois. Our first chance to see him was at the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament midway through his junior season.
Griffin is a new name to our radar and wow was he impressive at the Tosh Classic. He stands at 6’5” with a broad frame that he should be able to add strength onto. The lefty works best of out of the high and mid-post area. Griffin has the ability to face up and take his man off the bounce with an explosive first step. Potential on shot as he shoots a good ball, but it is inconsistent falling. Griffin flashes skill in the post with a turnaround fadeaway and quick moves inside. Needs to continue to add strength so he can finish better through contact. Struggles shooting free throws. Quick second jump to the offensive glass where he gets put backs. Shot blocking presence coming from the weakside. Griffin had 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He should be on the low-major radar in 2018.
He was impressive with his raw athleticism from the jump. What I didn’t see was his perimeter skill. Looking back on the first time that is what stands out the most. We came away thinking he was a four or even undersized five man. In high school he played on the interior which limited his upside as a prospect. On the circuit with the Hoopers Basketball Club the following summer he blew up with his ability to shoot, drive, and finish in transition.
Tim Finke (Champaign Central)
Finke was one of the more hyped prospects coming into high school. He had an older brother that had just enrolled at Illinois and many thought he had the chance to be even better. Our first look at him was when he was still at Champaign Centennial High School where they opened the season at the Lincoln Thanksgiving Tournament. I believe this was his second or third high school game.
The youngest Finke is a 6’5” shooting guard for Champaign Centennial that is regarded among the elite prospects in the state’s 2018 group. Finke is a wiry strong wing that has great strength in his legs for a freshman guard. He is a big time athlete that can get up in the air and make plays. Finke is a plus plus shooter with picture perfect mechanics which makes every shot he takes look like it is going in. He makes crisp cuts and does everything on the floor with a purpose. He has a mature understanding of the game for a freshman which comes from being around basketball his entire life. Defensively he has potential to be very good displaying good lateral mobility and his long arms allow him to get his hands on the basketball. He finished with 23 points in a win over Morton.
Finke was definitely mature for his age at the time both on and off the court. He had a ready-made game to make an impact right away. The thing that I came away from that event thinking was that this is a mature young man that is going to help a college program out and do whatever they need him to do.
George Conditt (Corliss)
Conditt might have been one of the latest finds of a top 10 player in recent memory. He was hidden at Corliss playing 2A basketball at an unknown high school. There was some buzz at the end of the season and his travel team coaches kept telling us he was the next big thing. We had to see if for ourselves. The first chance was at the Baylor Youth event in Indianapolis during the second live period. We made a special trip over to it after EYBL was over to see him play one game. The squad his Team RWA was going to play didn’t show up. Another team was ready to go, but they didn’t look like much competition. Then Hoopers Basketball Club showed up. With a handful of coaches in the audience it was show time!
Conditt is a name we have been hearing a lot of buzz about over the last few months. The Corliss 6’10” 2018 center didn’t get much attention during the high school season despite putting up fairly productive numbers. In our first evaluation of him at Indy Live during the second live period we came away impressed and intrigued with the Chicago post. He has a long and lean frame that he will need to add significant weight on to over the next year to be ready for college. As an interior scorer he makes quick moves with the ball. Soft touch around the hoop. Lacks the strength to finish through bigger defenders at this stage. Likes to utilize a face up game. Good form on his jump shot. Connected on a one dribble pull up from mid-range along with a step back three. Shoots it with confidence. Missed a few, but they were sound shots. Showed he could put it on the deck a couple dribbles. Quality rebounder that uses his length to grab boards at the highest point. Most impressive play was an offensive rebound he grabbed out of his area and then drilled a floater. Runs the floor with ease and had a smooth transition dunk. Defensively he contests shots as he changed a couple of jumpers and blocked a shot recovering after his man beat him off the bounce. He went for 16 points and 6 boards. D1 prospect. We will need to see him again to determine level, but definitely a D1 player.
What really stood out was his athleticism, how he ran the floor, and his skill potential. I remember fielding calls from D1 coaches all the way home about Conditt. Most of them hadn’t seen him, but they saw the tweets and the buzz was building. One thing I have learned is never go too far after one game though. We saw him a couple weeks later in Minnesota at Battle at the Lakes and we were sold on him being a high-major recruit.
Drew Peterson (Libertyville)
Peterson was a relative unknown after his freshman season at Libertyville, but his older brother was making some noise as a post graduate prospect. At the time he played for Kessel Heat 15U and we saw him do work in Milwaukee. Quickly he became one of my favorite prospects to watch that summer.
Much like his brother did the day before on the 17U level Peterson put on a scoring show! The 6’4” guard has a projectable frame that he will need to add strength on. Peterson got in the lane with ease and was very effective in the transition game finishing consistently around the hoop and from within 10 feet. Likes the runner in the paint. Peterson is a good athlete that handles the ball well in traffic. Went for 20 points in an early morning game. One to watch going forward!
Many labeled Peterson as a shooter from day one, but I always thought he was an underrated athlete. I remember him being able to score in the open floor consistently for Kessel Heat all spring and summer. The jump shot consistency took his game to another level.
Kendle Moore (Danville)
The first time that we saw Tim Finke was the same day we saw Kendle Moore at the Lincoln Thanksgiving Tournament his freshman season. Danville had several prospects to watch, but Moore put himself on the map that day in one of his first high school games!
Moore is a long and wiry 5’10” freshman point guard that plays with a ton of poise for a young lead guard. The first aspect that stands out about Moore is his incredible speed in transition. He has great acceleration and beats the defense down the floor weaving in and out of defenders finishing with layups or dishing off to teammates. In the half court he is quick off the dribble and consistently gets in the lane with ease. When he is off the ball he is constantly moving, directing the offense, and looking to get open. On the defensive end he moves his feet laterally staying in front of his man and got multiple deflections in the game we saw. The biggest thing with this freshman is he is not afraid against guys several years older than him and plays with a tremendous spirit that transfers over to his teammates. Moore had 12 points in their win.
I remember being impressed with his quickness and speed with the ball in his hands. He was very athletic at a young age. Talked to him after the game and remember he had the biggest smile and you could tell he had the potential star factor early on.
Javon Freeman (Whitney Young)
The first time we saw Freeman was at the Team Rose Shootout. He was playing with Seton and I had heard he was some relation to former Illini great Marcus Liberty. He left a great first impression in that game.
This 6’4” shooting guard has long arms and a rangy frame. He can really handle the basketball getting in and out of tight spaces with ease. Freeman has an excellent feel for the game of when to score and pass. He has a mature understanding for a sophomore to go along with plus athleticism. The Seton 2018 prospect is a good passer that has some combo guard potential with his passing. Freeman had several spectacular dishes against Von Steuben in both transition and the half court. Defensively has upside as his length causes problems for opponents. He finished with 13 points in a win.
I remember his size for position and versatility jumping off the floor. He was a player that we thought might even have some potential as a big point guard with the way he dished the rock in that game.
Ryan Davis (Conant)
Davis wasn’t a prospect that we had heard much about heading into seeing him in our initial evaluation at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic his sophomore season.
Davis is a 6’9” big bodied post with solid length and a strong lower body. Moves pretty well for his size. He is raw around the hoop and doesn’t look to post up on a consistent basis. He did show a quick spin move and hit the glass for a put back. Tried to face up and hit a couple of threes which he missed. Potential is there with size, but needs to be refined.
I will admit I didn’t come away overly impressed with Davis the first time I saw him. One thing you always have to remember with big men is they take longer to develop. He has gradually risen up the rankings throughout his career.
Xavier Castaneda (Whitney Young)
This one is a little foggy as to when the first time I saw him play. The below eval was written by PrepHoopsIllinois’ Steve Parham after watching him in the CPS sophomore championship game as a freshman.
The sophomore championship game put two highly talented teams who could’ve made a run on the varsity level if they were allowed. For a game that was pretty much one sided in the first half, one player stood out in what was an epic come from behind win. Castaneda took control of the game as the Wolverines coasted while holding an 18 point lead. He created for his shooters, got to the foul line, and even made huge baskets when he was needed the “in the clutch”. Castaneda finished the game with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists. Not to mention two clutch free-throws to put his team on top for good to seal a CPS Sophomore Championship. Look for him to move up to varsity for the state playoffs with his teammate Justin Boyd in a week.
What I remember about Castaneda early in his career was being frustrated with how he was injured so often and I wasn’t able to see him at events that Meanstreets or Whitney Young was at. When I did see him later in the spring/summer he showed a high basketball IQ for a young guard and feel for the game.