By Joe Henricksen
Yet another busy weekend on the high school basketball schedule, with the highlight being the loaded Northern Illinois team camp at Moody Bible Institute. Add in high school shootouts at Oswego East, York and Buffalo Grove over the weekend and there was plenty of action.
There are several individual teams, players and league races that should definitely take a step up next year, a few of those which came to the forefront after watching the action at various events this past weekend.
But first a few notes...
• According to George Marshall, Sr., the father of star junior guard George Marshall of Brooks, his son's trip to the Xavier Elite Camp went extremely well and he was offered by the coaching staff. Marshall is currently the No. 10 ranked player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 player rankings and the second best point guard prospect in the class.
• The rumors continue to fly regarding the De La Salle program as many believe 2011 star Dre Henley is on his way out and classmate Mike Shaw may be following. However, these rumors have persisted since the two entered the South Side Catholic League school but these just may have more validity to them. De La Salle is expected to play at the Illinois Team Camp at Moody Bible on Monday and Tuesday.
• Oak Park standout Jeff Dirkin, who plays with the Illinois Kings AAU team, spent this past weekend at the Penn Elite Camp, where he was named a camp all-star. He will be on unofficial visits to Yale, Princeton and Fairfield this coming week. William & Mary has also shown heavy interest. AAU teammate Nick Kladis of Hinsdale Central also attended both the Yale and Penn Elite Camps.
Fenger, Lemon soaring
If Fenger can find some rebounding and an inside presence, watch out as coach Loren Jackson has some dynamic talent on the perimeter. The Hoops Report has talked extensively about Phillip Greene, a 6-2 junior guard who is among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2011 Hoops Report rankings. But in the senior class it's Walter Lemon who continues to be the emerging talent.
Lemon, a 6-1 lefty, is as explosive off the dribble in the halfcourt as you will find. You won't find many players better at getting to the basket and finishing. He can be scary in the open court in transition, is always on the attack and unafraid to go up in traffic. He's a big-time athlete with a killer crossover and burst who still must show he's capable of knocking down perimeter shots on a consistent basis. Lemon must become better at handling ball pressure and improve his body strength.
He was terrific at the Reebok Headliner Camp in May and earned an invitation to the Reebok All-American Camp in July. He has shot up the Hoops Report Class of 2010 rankings more than any player in his class as he's now among the top 25 prospects in the state. With opportunities at the Reebok All-American Camp, along with his Boys To Men AAU team playing in both the Chicago Summer Classic, a loaded event in July, and the ChicagoHoops End-of-the-Season Showdown in Merrillville, Lemon will be one of the freshest faces for college programs during the July evaluation period.
Hales brimming with talent
Hales Franciscan should be one of the most improved teams in Illinois after finishing last season well below the .500 mark last season. Coach Gary London's club was awfully young a year ago. The Spartans are a year older and London should have enough individual talent to challenge in the Chicago Catholic League this winter.
Patrick Miller is a strong point guard in the mold of 2009 Chicago Catholic League Player of the Year Derek Needham of De La Salle. Miller may not be at the level of Needham as an all-around player, but he's a force in the open court and in using his strength to get to the basket and finish. Miller combines with tiny, jet-quick Jamie Adams to form a solid backcourt. Big man Ricardo Martin, a 6-6 senior, gets better and better.
The players, though, with the biggest upside are the Armstead brothers -- Aaron Armstead, a 6-4 junior, and Aaric Armstead, a 6-4 sophomore. Aaron Armstead has been on the Hoops Report radar for quite some time as he's among the top 30 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011. In his opening game at the NIU Team Camp he showed such a wide variety of talent and versatility. He has a terrific stroke from beyond the arc with the size, release and touch to become a big weapon on the perimeter. Plus, he has a very good handle. Aaric is still developing but has great length and upside as well.
Watch out for Orr
Orr hovered around or just below the .500 mark all of last season. This year Orr will be shooting for 15-plus wins as coach Lou Adams has some quality young talent, headed by Curtis Jones, a 6-1 sophomore guard who projects as one of the better prospects in the Class of 2012, and 6-5 Mycheal Henry on the wing. Henry, who played at the Illinois State Elite Camp a week ago, sat out play Friday at Moody Bible with an injury. Jones, though, glides up and down the court with the ball in his hands. Another young guard, 5-10 Travell Cockbay, also caught the Hoops Report's eye with his handle and ability to distribute. Throw in 6-4 sophomore big man Malik Logan and Orr will be an interesting team to watch over the next two years.
Yet another Chicago Public League team that will be very competitive is Von Steuben. Coach Vince Carter's team, which won seven of its last 10 games a year ago down the stretch, always plays a rugged schedule. Jamal Dantzler, a 6-4 senior, is one of the unsung players in the Public League, while point guard Jermaine Hiller is a glue guy at the right position. The Foreman-Von Steuben battles in the Red-North should be entertaining as always this winter.
So much Young talent
Whitney Young, the defending the Class 4A state champions, is ridiculously loaded with talent up and down its program. There are already a pair of seniors -- point guard Ahmad Starks (Oregon State) and Anthony Johnson (Purdue) -- committed to high-major programs. Sam Thompson, a 6-6 junior wing, is a high-major college player. The player who has perhaps made the biggest strides this spring and early summer is 6-6 sophomore Jermaine Morgan. He just gets a little better and better, particularly on the offensive end, and is one of the top five or six prospects in the Class of 2012. There is also 6-7 junior Luke Hager and 5-6 sophomore point guard Derrick Randolph. Throw in 6-8 freshman phenom Tommy Hamilton and you're talking seven Division I prospects. That doesn't even include promising incoming freshman guard Keith Langston.
Stars missing at Oswego East Shootout
The bigger names were missing at the Oswego East Shootout. Peoria was without Bobo Drummond, Romeoville played Saturday without Wisconsin commit Devon Hodges and Bolingbrook, the shootout champs, were without Antoine Cox.
The DuPage Valley, which was dominated by Drew Crawford and Naperville Central last season when the Redhawks went 14-0, should be a much-improved league this season as a whole. While the defending champs will take a dip with the loss of Crawford, the other seven teams should all be better than a year ago. Glenbard East, which recently went 9-0 and won the Illinois State Team Camp, and West Aurora will be the favorites. But Naperville North, under first-year coach Jeff Powers, will be absolutely huge along the frontline. If North, which will rely on 6-9 Matt Hasse, 6-6 Joe McNicholas, 6-4 James O'Shaughnessy and 6-6 junior Matt LaCosse can get solid guard play and find a perimeter shooter or two, the Huskies could challenge in the DVC. Naperville North played well at Oswego East, even without a few of its key players. Wheaton-Warrenville South has also showed promise this summer with its play.
The Hoops Report took in a couple of nice Naperville North wins as they beat Plainfield Central, a team featuring 6-6 senior Winston Williams and 6-2 talented junior Derrick Marks, and knocked off East Aurora and Ryan Boatright. Speaking of Boatright, the family was still awaiting word from USC and newly hired Kevin O'Neill. In the meantime, the interest has picked up considerably for Boatright as the family and East Aurora coaches have heard from several schools.
H-F reloading in big way
Coach Jim McLaughlin did a terrific job last season with his Homewood-Flossmoor team in winning the Southwest Suburban Red and winning 20-plus games with a rather inexperienced team. There will be plenty of youth on the 2009-2010 H-F team as well, but it will be talented and boast a little experience as well. H-F, arguably the best team at the York Shootout, could very well be the best team in the south suburbs.
The Vikings welcome back senior guard Tyrone Allen and a whole group of big and long athletes. Senior Ladon Singleton, a talented 6-4 wing, will bring experience after a solid junior year, while 6-4 wing Julian Lewis and 6-5 Courtney Jones also return. But it's the Class of 2012 that is so promising. Last year 6-5 Delvon Rencher and 5-10 guard Tyrone Sherman grabbed the most attention as freshmen, but the Hoops Report believes 6-6 Tim Williams will be the best of the bunch when it's all said and done.
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