By Joe Henricksen
Prep basketball -- of the summer variety -- is back with a bang. There is no better way to kickstart a summer of hoops than with the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this weekend. While the surplus of high school shootouts are endless throughout the month of June, R-B packs a punch right out of the gate with a loaded field of 36 teams. This has become the marquee summer shootout in Illlinois.
A year ago Glenbard East, behind shootout MVP Johnny Hill, captured the R-B Shootout title and, just nine months later, won regional and sectional titles before finishing third in the state in Class 4A. There will be several teams with similar aspirations playing at R-B this weekend. Here is a rundown of what to look for this weekend.
Top 10 Teams at R-B
Whitney Young. The always strong and talented Dolphins will feature the best inside combination in the state in 6-9 freshman Jahlil Okafor and 6-9 sophomore Tommy Hamilton. Okafor is among the top dozen players in the country in the Class of 2014, while Hamilton is one of the top 25 players nationally in the Class of 2013.
Homewood-Flossmoor. This is the team the H-F fanbase has been waiting for as the talented and much talked about foursome of Tim Williams, Delvon Rencher, Tyrone Sherman and Antonio Bishop will be seniors. The Vikings figure to be the top team in the south suburbs.
De La Salle. Yes, Mike Shaw and Dre Henley have graduated. However, the sophomore trio of Jaylon Tate, Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster are talented (all three are among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2013) and experienced (all three have played significant varsity minutes as underclassmen).
Warren. The Blue Devils lost to Simeon in the Class 4A state championship in March and return the nucleus of that team. Look for junior big man Darius Paul to make significant strides this summer and into next season.
Downers Grove South. With the return of Jerron Wilbut, the No. 3 ranked junior in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings, along with Jamal Millison, the Mustangs figure to be among the top dozen teams in the Chicago area next season.
Morgan Park. Replacing McDonald's All-American Wayne Blackshear will be impossible, but there aren't many backcourts better than Billy Garrett and Markee Williams. The sophomore pair have been instrumental in Morgan Park's success the past two years.
Proviso East. The Pirates are loaded, led by junior guard Keith Carter and talented sophomore Sterling Brown, one of the top prospects in the Class of 2013. Rugged Trashaun Carroll and sophomore guard Paris Lee are two other key pieces for a team that will be a preseason top 10 team next season.
St. Rita. Look for the Mustangs to make a significant jump this season as coach Gary DeCesare continues to build this Catholic League program. A healthy A.J. Avery -- the 6-7 forward missed the majority of his junior year with an injury -- makes a huge difference.
New Trier. Aside from Warren, the Trevians may be the next best thing in the north suburbs. Juniors Connor Boehm and Austin Angel, along with promising freshman guard Jordan Thomas, make New Trier the favorite in the Central Suburban League South.
Curie. The emergence of 6-8 Cliff Alexander, one of the top prospects in the state of Illinois regardless of class, gives coach Mike Oliver something other high school teams just don't have -- a dominating big man. Athlete Maurice Fleming, versatile Devin Foster, Dantrell Tankson, Paris Burns and Lavonte Jones all return.
Other teams in the field: Hillcrest, Benet Academy, Von Steuben, Morton, Evanston, Neuqua Valley, Lincoln-Way East, York, Providence St. Mel, Brooks, Glenbard East, St. Ignatius, St. Joseph, Thornton, Ridgewood, Riverside-Brookfield, Mt. Carmel, Eisenhower, St. Patrick, Hinsdale South, Andrew, Bloom, Alton, King, Loyola Academy and South Elgin.
Ready to break out?
These players are either a year older and better or will simply become the focal point for their respective teams this season. As a result, a big offseason is in store for these players as they gear up for next winter.
• David Cohn, York ... The sophomore guard has put together a solid spring with the Illinois Wolves and is ready to blossom this season. The 6-2 Cohn is skilled, can score and distribute.
• Tim Williams, Homewood-Flossmoor ... The talented 6-8 junior is aching to be back as a key figure after missing nearly all of last season with an injury. He still remains one of the better college prospects in the Class of 2012.
• Ismar Seferagic, St. Patrick ... Who? Keep an eye on this unheralded 6-7 junior as he escapes the shadows of some big-named players who were a year older and have graduated.
• Donald Moore, Bloom ... The 5-11 point guard put together a solid junior year in leading Bloom to a 16-win season. Look for Moore to improve on his 2010-2011 numbers of 12.5 points and 6 assists a game.
• Alex Austin, Mt. Carmel ... Tracy Abrams has moved on and teammate Malcolm Hill-Bey still gets more pub, but the Hoops Report believes Austin is a very undervalued prospect. The son of former Indiana Mr. Basketball and Purdue player Woody Austin, the 6-3 junior put up solid numbers this past winter -- 12.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.5 assists per game.
• Jubril Adekoya, Andrew ... This talented sophomore quietly put up 17 points and 10 rebounds a game as a sophomore. After a solid spring on the AAU circuit -- and showing visions and style of former Thornton star Joevan Catron -- this 6-5 undersized 4-man is poised for a monster two years.
• Damonta Henry, Riverside-Brookfield ... The sophomore guard may be next in line after Sean McGonagill and Ryan Jackson starred at R-B the past two seasons.
Other odds and ends to watch for at R-B
• Brooks, fresh off finishing third in Class 3A, will begin its second season under coach Bobby Locke and welcome the addition of talented Class of 2014 star Erick Locke. The talented guard is Bobbly Locke's son and should help ease the loss of standout guards George Marshall and Mike Powell.
• While it won't happen in pool play on Saturday, if a matchup between Whitney Young and Curie materializes -- specifically 6-9 Jahlil Okafor vs. 6-8 Cliff Alexander, two of the elite prospects in the state -- it will be a summer treat.
• St. Joseph will be a young, fun and interesting team to watch this season as freshman Paul Turner, a prized prospect in the Class of 2014, is a year older and will be joined by incoming freshman Jordan Ash. The 5-11 8th grader is one of the top incoming players in the Class of 2015 and will be playing for legendary coach Gene Pingatore. However, St. Joe's could bring Ash along slowly as it has done with other young, talented players, including Turner last season.
• Loyola Academy remains an up-and-coming program with some quality young players in the program. Unfortunately, the best of the bunch, freshman Jack Morrissey, is out of action with a stress fracture in his shin. Morrissey is one of the top perimeter shooters in the state regardless of class.
• Although Glenbard East graduated Illinois State recruit Johnny Hill and Northern Illinois-bound Zach Miller, the Rams may very well be favored to win a third straight title in the DuPage Valley -- and add to their 28-game DVC win streak -- with the return of several key players. Dante Bailey, a 6-6 junior, blossomed late in the year as the Rams made their run to Peoria. This will be an important weekend for several newcomers to get a little seasoning.
• This is a big summer for Homewood-Flossmoor. The Vikings were never able to put their ideal team on the floor together at full strength last season due to the injury to Tim Williams. With a healthy Williams, and a core group of talented players all with a boatload of experience, coach Jim McLaughlin's club hopes for a productive offseason.
• We'll see just how talented the cupboard really is at Thornton this upcoming season. The Wildcats, who will be paired up with St. Joseph, New Trier and Ridgewood in pool play, were decimated by the graduation of seven key seniors. There is always talent in Harvey, but there hasn't been this much lack of experience at Thornton in quite some time.
• Everyone will be talking about Downers Grove South and Proviso East in the West Suburban Gold. Morton, always a gutty and stubborn team, returns some talent as well. But don't forget about Hinsdale South, which won 17 games and returns top players Brock Benson, a 6-7 junior, and scorer Phil George. The West Suburban Gold will be one of the top basketball conferences in the state this upcoming season.
Here is a complete schedule of Saturday action at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. Tournament play, based on pool play results from Saturday, will tip off Sunday.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m.
Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Benet Academy
Von Steuben vs. Morton
De La Salle vs. Evanston
Lincoln-Way East vs. Neuqua Valley
St. Rita vs. Curie
Providence St. Mel vs. York
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Von Steuben
Benet Academy vs. Morton
De La Salle vs. Neuqua Valley
Evanston vs. Lincoln-Way East
St. Rita vs. York
Curie vs. St. Mel
Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
Warren vs. Brooks
Glenbard East vs. St. Ignatius
St. Joseph vs. Thornton
New Trier vs. Ridgewood
Whitney Young vs. Hillcrest
South Elgin vs. Loyola Academy
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Morton
Benet Academy vs. Von Steuben
De La Salle vs. Lincoln-Way East
Evanston vs. Neuqua Valley
St. Rita vs. Providence St. Mel
Curie vs. York
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Warren vs. St. Ignatius
Brooks vs. Glenbard East
St. Joseph vs. Ridgewood
Thornton vs. New Trier
Whitney Young vs. Loyola
Hillcrest vs. South Elgin
Saturday, 2:40 p.m.
Downers Grove South vs. Bloom
Alton vs. King
Morgan Park vs. Andrew
Hinsdale South vs. St. Patrick
Mt. Carmel vs. Eisenhower
Proviso East vs. Riverside-Brookfield
Saturday, 3:40 p.m.
Warren vs. Glenbard East
Brooks vs. St. Ignatius
St. Joseph vs. New Trier
Ridgewood vs. Thornton
Whitney Young vs. South Elgin
Hillcrest vs. Loyola
Saturday, 4:40 p.m.
Downers Grove South vs. King
Bloom vs. Alton
Morgan Park vs. St. Patrick
Andrew vs. Hinsdale South
Proviso East vs. Eisenhower
Riverside-Brookfield vs. Mt. Carmel
Saturday, 5:40 p.m.
Downers Grove South vs. Alton
Bloom vs. King
Morgan Park vs. Hinsdale South
Andrew vs. St. Patrick
Proviso East vs. Mt. Carmel
Riverside-Brookfield vs. Eisenhower