By Joe Henricksen
The busy summer months of prep basketball have come to a close, with the high school basketball season starting in roughly three short months. But here is a quick look back at a summer that included the continued success and rise of Simeon's Jabari Parker, more success from Chicago's top club teams, big man Cliff Alexander of Curie gaining national recognition, and plenty of others making a name for themselves. Here is a Hoops Report look back.
AAU Team of the Year (17s)
• Mac Irvin Fire
With a couple of juniors leading the way in Simeon's Jabari Parker and Morgan Park's Billy Garrett, Jr., the Mac Irvin Fire 17s enjoyed a heck of a July playing in some of the premier events in the country. After going unbeaten in the D-1 Elite Event at York High School in Elmhurst, the Fire went a combined 15-4 at the Nike Peach Jam, Nike Fab 48 in Las Vegas and Desert Duel in Arizona. The Fire finished 5-2 at the prestigious Nike Peach Jam and reached the playoffs. After compiling a 6-1 record in Vegas, the Fire reached the title game at the Desert Duel, where it fell 71-62 to the Playaz Basketball Club.
AAU Team of the Year (16s)
• Illinois Wolves
The young Wolves had a very impressive July, especially considering Illinois commit Jalen James of Chicago Hope Academy and highly-regarded David Cohn of York missed the month with injuries. Overall this spring and summer, the Wolves 16s finished 45-8 (33-4 vs. 16-and-under teams and 12-4 vs. 17-and-under teams).
The highlight of the summer was a St. Louis Summer Classic tournament title. The Wolves reached the title game of three straight July events. With James and St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens (Purdue) already committed to high-major programs, six other Wolves players added Division I offers.
Huge summer ahead -- in 2013
Summer basketball 2012 is in the rearview mirror. Fast-forward to next spring -- and next July, for that matter -- and it's easy to get excited about the possibilities of watching three Illinois club teams. Next year's Mac Irvin Fire, Illinois Wolves and Meanstreets 17-and-under teams, as currently constructed, figure to be three of the elite teams in the country next spring and summer. The Fire, Wolves and Meanstreets will be stocked with talent up and down the rosters. How loaded? Of the top 10 players in the current Hoops Reports's Class of 2013 player rankings, nine of the 10 -- and, impressively, 21 of the top 25 -- play for either the Fire, Wolves or Meanstreets.
• Jabari Parker, Chicago (Simeon)
First, Parker was the best player on the U.S. National Team that brought home gold in June. He starred at the LeBron James Skills Academy. And he played up an age group and dominated at times on the club circuit, leading the Mac Irvin Fire 17s to an impressive July run. In pool play at the Nike Peach Jam, Parker was among the top five scorers and rebounders in a field loaded with talent. After an eye-opening summer, Parker is now considered by some to be the best basketball prospect in the country -- regardless of class.
Hoops Report's All-Summer Team
• Jabari Parker, Chicago (Simeon) ... Best player in the country lived up to the hype, which is why he's coveted by everyone in the college game. Parker, a 6-8 junior, will lead the state's No. 1 team again this winter.
• Billy Garrett, Jr., Chicago (Morgan Park) ... The 6-4 point guard and DePaul commitment put together as solid of a summer as anyone in Illinois not named Jabari Parker. Smart, calm, cool and an ability to make the right decisions and knock down shots.
• Fred Van Vleet, Rockford (Auburn) ... The Wichita State commit just kept plugging along, consistently performing at a high level and showing why he's the best pure point guard in the state of Illinois. Van Vleet is the lone senior on the Hoops Report's All-Summer Team.
• Malcolm Hill, Belleville (East) ... The long, 6-5 slashing junior wing continues to blossom. He received a lot of hype from talent evaluators in the spring and impressed college coaches in July. Now some consider him among the top 50 players in the country.
• Kendrick Nunn, Chicago (Simeon) ... There weren't many players in the state who added more high-major offers this summer than Nunn, a talented 6-1 junior guard.
• Class of 2012
Yes, the expectations were low for next year's seniors heading into this summer. The class has been painted by many as one of the weaker classes to come through this state in a long time. Nonetheless, the lack of overall interest and scholarship offers the class generated this summer was alarming. While there were certainly a handful of players that improved their stock, there were far more that really did little of anything to generate a buzz among college coaches.
• Class of 2013
For more on the impressive summer the Class of 2013 put together, go to last week's Hoops Report blog on how the junior class provided the most July sizzle.
Biggest Senior Stock Riser
• Tony Hicks, St. Rita
If there was one player whose stock rose the most among college coaches in the Class of 2012 this July, it was probably Hicks. The 6-1 guard put up some impressive offensive performances at times and generated more and more interest as the month of July rolled on. As a result, he now sports offers from Loyola, Penn, Dayton, South Florida, George Mason, Wright State and Cleveland State.
And a couple of other seniors whose stock rose ...
• Keith Carter, Proviso East
The 6-0 point guard had a rock solid summer for NLP, solidified himself as one of the top players in the Class of 2013 in Illinois and saw the interest rise over the course of July. Carter now sports offers from Creighton, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Loyola, while Ball State and Houston continue to show interest.
• Mike LaTulip, Prospect
There are still skeptics out there due to his size, frame and the fact he's better suited as a small 2-guard, but LaTulip was a player who did everything in his power to grab the attention of college coaches. LaTulip had moments where he absolutely lit it up. He is a sharpshooter who played at a high level throughout July and is now among the top 35 prospects in the Class of 2012.
And still underrated
Yes, even after July, where college coaches gawk at prospects for 20 days, there are players that are still in that overlooked category in the eyes of the Hoops Report. Here is one of them:
• Akeem Springs, Waukegan
The Hoops Report's favorite Akeem since Eddie Murphy played Prince Akeem in 1988. And people are underestimating Springs just as Cleo McDowell underestimated King Jaffe's son. (Those of you that have never seen "Coming to America" are completely lost right now.) Springs is a big-bodied guard whose skill level has improved while still boasting upside. When you combine that with the fact he's outstanding academically, it's a wonder why more schools aren't involved a little more heavily. Several academic schools are on Springs, including Yale, Dartmouth, Boston University, Holy Cross and Lehigh. Tennessee State, where Springs was once committed, and Mississippi Valley State, where Springs' mother graduated from and both his brother and sister attend, have offered as well. Wisconsin-Green Bay has also poked around.
Biggest Junior Stock Riser
• Kendrick Nunn, Simeon
When you add the list of scholarship offers and interest the explosive 6-1 junior guard has added and generated this summer to his collection, this is an easy choice. Nunn's offers now include Arizona, Illinois, Xavier, Providence, Memphis, Texas A&M, Florida State and N.C. State. Syracuse, Pitt and Minnesota are all heavily involved. Nunn is a super talent with added playmaking ability to go with his already impressive athleticism and shooting.
"He's going to go through his junior year, play that out and then come up with a top five at the end of his junior season," says Kendrick's father, Melvin.
On another note, Kendrick Nunn's sister, Kendyl, who plays at Morgan Park, committed to Toledo last week.
And other a few other juniors whose stock rose ...
See last week's Hoops Report blog on Class of 2013 sizzle.
Biggest Sophomore Stock Riser
• Cliff Alexander, Curie
Although Alexander was the No. 2 player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2014 rankings heading into July, his national reputation -- and high-major interest -- took off. The powerful 6-8 Alexander, who is only behind Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor in sophomore class, will likely be among the top 25 players in his class nationally before it's all said and done.
And a few other sophomores whose stock rose ...
• Keita Bates-Diop, Normal (U-High) ... This versatile 6-6 wing is just in the baby steps of developing into a top-flight talent.
• Darius Austin, Cahokia ... Big, long, athletic wing is another southern Illinois prospect who gained quite a bit of attention and headlines with his play this summer.
• Tyler Ulis, Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic) ... Arguably one of the Hoops Report's favorite freshmen to watch last winter showed his lack of size (5-7) is hardly an issue. Ulis is about as poised of a point guard as you'll find.