By Joe Henricksen
Whether people like it or not, the high school shootouts have taken a back seat to the constant AAU events that run throughout the spring and July. Every year, however, the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout is one of the best events of the summer as it's a chance for high school teams to finally get back together after a few months off.
Plus, Riverside-Brookfield Shootout coordinator Mike Reingruber does a wonderful job of bringing in top teams, putting together a competitive field and running the event flawlessly.
In the two previous blogs the focus was on Proviso East freshman Keith Carter, the continued great play of Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill and the rise of the Riverside-Brookfield and Glenbard East basketball programs. Here are some other thoughts from the Hoops Report after watching shootout action on Saturday and the championship rounds on Sunday.
The games on Sunday took a step up from the action on Saturday. There was probably no better game on Sunday than the New Trier-Mt. Carmel matchup. And in arguably the best single performance this side of R-B's Sean McGonagill, the Caravan's Adonis Filer turned in a dominating and impressive effort.
The 6-1 Filer, who will be a junior next season, is at another level defensively when he wants to be. He's as physical, quick and athletic of a perimeter defender as you will find anywhere at the high school level. He dominated on the defensive end in a stunning come-from-behind win over New Trier, while also scoring a game-high 28 points. Filer is a legit Division I prospect with a phenomenal body and is in another league with his combination of strength and athleticism. As he refines his skill level, Filer is certainly one to watch grow as a player in the Class of 2011.
New Trier's Alex Rossi, after an inconsistent high school season, continues to impress this spring. The kid can flat-out shoot the basketball, both from beyond the arc and with a highly-developed mid-range game. Plus, he has the basketball smarts and just enough athleticism to go with his shooting ability. Rossi, the No. 10 ranked player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 player rankings, played well against Mt. Carmel, scoring 21 points, but did struggle taking care of the ball and doing anything off the dribble when the athletic Caravan turned it up a notch defensively.
However, getting things done off the bounce is not Rossi's game. He will excel in the right system at the high-major level, where he can play off the ball, come off screens and spot-up on the perimeter. He thrives in this role when playing with his Rising Stars club team and, with a perfect fit at the college level, can showcase his talents in a similar role.
While New Trier does have Rossi, big man Fred Heldring and promising 6-6 sophomore-to-be Connor Boehm, the Trevians will have to find a way to get better guard play and take better care of the ball if it wants to have a special season in 2009-2010. Boehm, already at 6-6, looks like he could grow to be much bigger than his brothers, who played at New Trier two years ago, and is awfully impressive with his strength and tenacity.
Abrams taking everything in stride
The Hoops Report's top-rated player in the Class of 2011, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, appeared much more interested on Sunday than he did in Saturday's action when he seemed to be going through the motions a bit in pool play.
He knows a lot of eyes are on him, but he says all he's concerned with is getting better as a player.
"Sure, the rankings and all that stuff is a little bit of a motivation," Abrams admits, "but I'm motivated in trying to get better. I want to become a better ballhandler and play with more consistency. Those are two areas I'm really focusing on."
The Illinois commit says he hears quite a bit how he is out "recruiting" fellow players for the Illini. He knows being one of the "lead recruiters" is just part of the job description as an early commit.
"I talk with them [high school prospects], tell them what a great situation it is there," says Abrams of his future home, "but I don't try to persuade them or talk them into it."
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Neuqua Valley, with the solid trio of Dwayne Evans, Rahjan Muhammad and Kareem Amedu all returning, will once again be one of the top teams in the Chicago area next season after a stellar 31-win season ended in a supersectional loss to Dundee-Crown last March. A key could be 6-3 junior Sam Johnson, who showed some flashes with his play at the R-B Shootout. Michigan is the latest school to show some interest in the highly-recruited Evans, while both Amedu and Muhammad are solid Division II prospects.
Duje and Deerfield
While Glenbrook North and Maine East will remain the favorites in the Central Suburban League North, keep an eye on a much-improved Deerfield team. Although Deerfield has won just a total of 20 games the last two seasons, coach Brett Just has a group that could surprise. At 6-7 and one of the better shooters in the state of Illinois, Duje Dukan is the catalyst, but Ryan Davis has made some really nice strides and provides leadership and a steady influence in the backcourt.
Dukan is a specialist, one that already has a role at the Division I level -- a designated shooter who can stretch defenses. He has a beautiful stroke, shoots it with range and has the size to get his shot off. The questions are who will he guard and will he be able to get better off the dribble?
Oak Park is another team that should be much-improved over last season's .500 record. The Huskies feature the much-improved Jeff Dirken, a 6-7 face-up 4-man, but also have senior Antonio Foster, promising sophomore Jordan Foster in the backcourt and a scorer in senior Jeff Stanciel-Wynn, who can really fill it up.