By Joe Henricksen
Another busy weekend of prep hoops, which included college team camps, high school shootouts and Team USA tryouts, concluded with a bevy of odds and ends. Here is a quick Hoops Report weekend wrap-up.
As mentioned in the previous Hoops Report blog, the young talent in the state of Illinois will be showcased this summer on a national stage. Simeon's Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn, two of the top prospects in the loaded Class of 2013 in Illinois, and Class of 2014 stars Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young and Larry Austin of Springfield Lanphier, all made the U.S. U16 National Team.
While it's a tremendous honor for the four standouts from the state of Illinois and the experience will be invaluable, what may be most significant in making any national team is the opportunity to get better and grow individually. Look for these four players, with the national team experience under their belt, to make big strides between now and the start of the next basketball season.
UIC doing it right
The UIC basketball coaching staff put together a two-day team camp on campus this past weekend, featuring 24 teams on Saturday and 24 different teams on Sunday. This is new to the UIC program but an absolute no-brainer event that will only help in the rebuilding of the basketball program.
Coach Howard Moore and his staff were able to get some of the elite basketball programs, players and coaches on campus and evaluate prospects along the way. There were 90 games played over the two days, with Orr capturing the Gold Division title on Saturday and Oak Park winning the Gold Division title on Sunday.
While this past weekend won't generate any more wins next season for the Flames, it's a big step toward establishing relationships and helping put the UIC basketball pieces back together. The two-day camp was an opportunity to get the UIC basketball name brand out among the players and coaches in the city and suburbs. This is a program that seems to understand the nuances of building a program and is taking advantage of having the facilities and talent base in its back yard.
York combo guard David Cohn, a rising Class of 2013 prospect, and unknown John Jones, a 6-8 Class of 2012 power forward from Powerhouse Charter in Chicago, who moved to Chicago from Barbados, picked up scholarship offers from UIC over the weekend.
Brunson a real eye-opener in 2015
There may not be an incoming freshman who will have a bigger impact on his varsity team this winter than Stevenson Class of 2015 star Jalen Brunson. That's because it's been awhile since the Hoops Report has seen a player this young who is that poised, composed and has this high of a basketball I.Q. Brunson, a 5-9 lefty who already is capable of knocking down shots with range, just has a unique, natural feel for the game that allows him to see plays and make reads before they materialize, keeping him one step ahead of the opposition.
Unfortunately today, it's very rare that a high school player just gets it and understands the game. And for Brunson to have that at this age says an awful lot and a fun player to watch -- even as an incoming freshman.
The son of former Temple star, NBA player and current Chicago Bulls assistant coach Rick Brunson, the freshman-to-be has been the most impressive player in his class to date that the Hoops Report has watched this spring and summer.
Oak Park looking good
A year ago coach Matt Maloney relied heavily on underclassmen. As a result the Huskies finished under the .500 mark at 10-13. However, with the return of highly-regarded athletic guard Ka'Darryl Bell, along with several others who saw significant time a year ago, Oak Park has the look of one of the most improved teams in the Chicago area next season.
With Lyons Township finally coming back to the pack in the West Suburban Silver after a sensational two-year run -- the Lions went 23-1 and claimed back-to-back titles -- Oak Park will be favored to win the league. The Huskies won the UIC Team Camp title on Sunday, with Bell and Gabe Levin leading the way. Levin, a versatile 6-6 senior, is one of the real underrated players in the Chicago area.
If a good, young group of players in the Class of 2013 can make significant strides this offseason, Maloney's club could return to the 20-plus win mark as it did in 2009-2010 when the Huskies finished 22-6.
Some love for Stimage
Farragut's Rashaun Stimage is talented and should be talked about more when the discussion turns to the top 10 or 12 prospects in the Class of 2012. The 6-7 Stimage is athletic, active and knows what he is as a player -- a 4-man who gets after it, rebounds and is adding to his overall skill level. The injury last year that forced him to miss a large chunk of the season certainly hurt his development, but Stimage is one of the top dozen prospects in the class.
Warren wins Oswego East Shootout
While Warren still has some issues heading into next season, most notably an ability to consistently score and avoiding complacency after making a run to the state title game a year ago, coach Chuck Ramsey's club won the Oswego East Shootout over the weekend.
Plain and simple, Warren is bigger than virtually every team it will face this season, led by the inside tandem of 6-8 Darius Paul and 6-8 Nathan Boothe. But Jovaughn Gaines, a 6-3 athletic wing, is Warren's biggest weapon at this point. When Gaines is playing well and consistently producing on both ends of the floor, Warren is a different team.
In a shootout field that included Downers Grove South, Glenbard East, Oswego, Plainfield South and Neuqua Valley among others, it was Warren, Hinsdale Central, Bolingbrook and Glenbard West in the semifinals. Warren knocked off both Hinsdale Central and Glenbard West to claim the title.
A few other thoughts from the Oswego East Shootout ...
• Keep an eye on Oswego junior Elliot McGaughy, a 6-1 combo guard who again showed his ability to impact a game in a number of ways with his play at both the Oswego East Shootout and the UIC Team Camp on Sunday. McGaughy is a talent with an ability to put the ball in the hole. He continues to get better as his understanding of the game and approach improves.
• Plainfield South has a couple of very solid small college prospects in seniors Eddie Presniakovas and 6-6 Will Nixon. Presniakovas is a terrific shooter and scorer, while Nixon is a blue-collar workhorse around the basket. Plainfield South, which won a conference title a year ago and finished 20-8, Oswego and Plainfield East will be the three teams to watch next season in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
• He is tiny -- probably all of 5-4, maybe 5-5 -- but it's impossible not to like the way South Elgin's Jake Maestranzi plays the game and competes. The Class of 2013 point guard plays like a seasoned veteran, probably due to playing at the varsity level as a freshman and sophomore and playing with the Illinois Wolves this past spring. He directs South Elgin's dribble-drive offense, takes care of the ball, plays unselfishly, knocks down free throws (85 percent last season) and is getting better and better with his perimeter shot.
Iggy continues to surprise
After a solid showing at the Riverside-Brookfield the first weekend of June, St. Ignatius continued its strong summer showing by claiming the Runnin' Rebel Shootout title at Ridgewood over the weekend. St. Ignatius knocked off Elgin in the semifinals and beat Niles North in the championship game.
There were many who could have written the Wolfpack off after losing 6-10 all-stater Nnanna Egwu and mainstay Tyrone Staggers to graduation. St. Ignatius, playing a very difficult schedule this past season, finished 20-8 behind Egwu and Staggers. But a non-descript nucleus, led by senior guards Brian Howard and Jack Crepeau, returns for coach Rich Kehoe. Big man Peter Ryckbosch, a 6-7 senior, has been a factor in the opening two weeks of summer play. The Wolfpack look as if they can be a bigger factor than anticipated in the Catholic League.