Posted On: 03/23/18 6:00 AM
The high school basketball season has wrapped up and we are about to hit the road for a long spring of travel team coverage at PrepHoopsIllinois! Let’s look at 10 Storylines in the 2019 Class to track this spring!
Battle for #1
We said last fall that it was a wrap for the top spot in this class as Normal West center Francis Okoro had it on lock. The 6’10” center has done nothing to take away from his distinction as an elite prospect. He is a great athlete with off the charts strength and power. The skill level continues to improve. Belleville West power forward EJ Liddell is making a run for the top spot! He had an absolutely dominant junior season on the high school level posting huge numbers in big games all season. Scores with his athleticism and quickness. Volume rebounder and a major shot blocking presence defensively. Interesting side note is these two will be playing next to each other on Brad Beal Elite’s front line in the Nike EYBL.
Who Joins High-Major Group?
Heading into the spring we have four prospects graded out as high-major prospects in Okoro, Liddell, Terrence Hargrove (East St. Louis), and Chris Payton (Bloomington). A year ago Zion Griffin and George Conditt were not anywhere near high-major players. What prospects will make that same jump this season? There are a lot of prospect that have that capability, but it is hard to pin point which guy it will be!
How Will Circuit Teams Stack Up?
Illinois features four teams on the major shoe company circuits. Meanstreets and Mac Irvin Fire in the Nike EYBL, Illinois Wolves in Under Armour Association, and Team Rose on the Adidas Gauntlet. How will these four squads match up on the national level? It could be a rough run with the lack of high-major talent available in the state and three of the four who are play for St. Louis based Brad Beal Elite. Their success could ultimately depend on out of state additions and if teams come together to play better as a group than their individual talents.
Separation at PG Spot
Heading into the spring we have 11 point guards graded out as potential D1 prospects. They are very closely stacked at the mid-major and low-major levels as all their grades are close to one another. Currently Markese Jacobs leads the group and should remain there after the spring. With guys like Kejuan Clements (Simeon), Joseph Yesufu (Bolingbrook), Chris Roberts (Lincoln Park), Marquise Walker (Curie), and Tyler Cochran (Bolingbrook) all fighting for that next spot it should be fun to track their progress. The point guard group overall comes in all forms with tiny ones, tall floor generals, athletic lead guards, crafty point guards, scorers, and playmakers. We hope to find some separation with this group by the next rankings update in June.
Which Wings Breakout?
The wing positions are similar to the point guards with a lot of prospects with similar grades heading into April. There will be a few of these prospects who take that next step and realize their potential. A trio of shooting guards that jump off the page with this chance are Myles Baker (Whitney Young), Anthony Fairlee (Springfield Southeast), and Dajuan Gordon (Team Rose). Each will have the chance to be the go to weapons on their teams if they are ready for it. There are a ton of choices for potential breakouts at the small forward position. Some that we like include Jeremiah Hernandez (St. Viator), Evan Taylor (Glenbard West), Landon Wolfe (Effingham), and super sleeper Tujaunte Williams (Orr).
Post Players Take Next Step
It is common knowledge in the scouting and coach community you have to wait on big men. Usually the big jump for guards and wings comes between their sophomore and junior years. With post players it is the one after their junior campaigns. Which of the guys that showed potential will have started to realize that upside after putting in the work during the high school season? A few names we will be watching include Nate Ferguson (Lemont), Keenon Cole (Streamwood), Rashaun Agee (Bogan), CJ Wilbourn (Normal Community), Jermaine Hamlin (Lincoln), and Ciaran Brayboy (New Trier).
Will Illinois Wolves Duo Take Next Step?
Maybe the two prospects I am most looking forward to seeing this spring are Perry Cowan (DePaul Prep) and Bryant Brown (Waukegan). We were ready to see both of them take huge leaps last spring/summer, but it never really materialized. They each put together quality high school campaigns posting consistent production. Now it is time to do it when it matters most on the travel team circuit with the Illinois Wolves in front of tons of college coaches and scouts. Cowan is a smooth scoring two guard and Brown is a versatile small forward. They have high-major ability. This spring/summer will be the make it or break it for them at that level.
Does Chicago Public League Talent Emerge?
Right now the CPL group in 2019 might be the worst since I have been evaluating. There are only six in the top 25 and 11 in the top 50 from the Chicago Public League. For comparison in 2018 there were 13 in the top 25 and 21 in the top 50.
As we set right now there is only one prospect on the board that is committed as Markese Jacobs is a verbal to Kansas. There are always a few prospects that pop in the spring. One we are looking at is New Trier’s Spencer Boehm who told us that he is down to Columbia and Dartmouth. I think a spring decision is realistic. It is kind of hard to predict any other commitments at this point simply because there aren’t a ton of offers out there for the Illinois 2019 class at this time. We know a lot of Midwest schools would like to get Liddell and Okoro off the board before they hit the EYBL. Don’t think that will happen.
Will This Class Prove to Be Better or Worse by June?
Right now we have approximately 40 prospects with D1 projections. The majority of those are at the mid-major and low-major levels. The 2018 class had around 30 D1 prospects so it is slightly up from the previous class, but far from previous groups where we saw 60+ with more high end talent. By the end of May will we be saying this class has exceeded our expectations or make us think it is going to be another extremely down year? Only time will tell!