By Joe Henricksen
A lot has been discussed in the City/Suburban Hoops Report blog in regard to the talent-filled Summer Jam just outside Milwaukee last weekend, including ...
• The runs both the Illinois Wolves 17s and Chicago Lockdown 15s enjoyed, with both playing in the title game in their respective age groups.
• The increased recruiting attention paid to a pair of 2014 big men: Benet Academy junior Sean O'Mara and the arrival of 2014 big man Michael Finke of Champaign Centennial.
• A look at the 2015 prospect who probably deserves more pub than he receives -- Roosevelt Smart of Palatine.
• The eye-popping potential of Keita Bates-Diop as a bonafide national prospect in a blog last week, profiling the U-High junior and all that he offers as a player and prospect.
But here are several other observations and tidbits from a first-class event that included our Illinois club programs battling Midwest and national power programs like D.C. Assault, Utah Reign, Sports U, Atlanta Celtics, Wisconsin Swing, Iowa Barnstormers and the Houston Defenders among others.
➥ While the Hoops Report stated Palatine's Roosevelt Smart needs to be included in the upper echelon of prospects in the Class of 2015, Joshua Stamps of Curie does as well. He's a smooth scorer with terrific length and size as he is closing in on being the prototypical 2-guard. He's all of 6-3, probably closer to 6-4, has shooting range and just that natural ability to score the basketball. And he's going to have plenty of opportunities to score this winter with opposing teams so focused on the big fella inside, 6-9 Cliff Alexander.
➥ Lets reiterate what the Hoops Report tweeted from Milwaukee last weekend: If Darreon Reddick of Belleville East played north of Interstate 80, the 6-3 guard would get a whole lot more love. It's quite simple, Reddick is better than many of the more heralded guards in the Chicago area in the Class of 2014. As his jumper continues to get better and more consistent, his stock among college coaches will increase. He's big, strong, has a good feel, can play both guard positions effectively and uses his strengths to his advantage.
➥ In regard to prospects, recruiting and college fits, the Nate Taphorn to Northwestern pairing is a really nice match when it comes to the package he will offer Bill Carmody and his style of play. Whether it's his continued development as a player or the idea his college recruitment is closed with his commitment to NU, the 6-7 senior from Pekin played free and easy in Milwaukee. He looked loose and was more aggressive, showcasing his ability to stretch a defense and knock down shots from the perimeter in a variety of ways. Taphorn had a solid showing at the Summer Jam as the Wolves 17s made a run and reached the title game, where it fell to Sports U out of New Jersey.
➥ Speaking of commitments, Valpo secured themselves a rock solid point guard in Lexus Williams of Marist, who has both playmaking and scoring abilities. Williams is just steady and consistent with a D Rose team that struggled in Milwaukee.
➥ Larry Austin is a high-major player. But the Hoops Report doesn't view the Springfield Lanphier standout as a top 50 talent in the country, which both Rivals.com and Scout.com currently have the 6-1 guard. Austin plays hard and will get after it defensively about as well as any high school guard that you will see. He finishes at the rim well. And he plays unselfish, often going stretches where he doesn't even look to score. While his jumper has been worked on, it's still very much a work in progress. In addition, he's yet to lock into being a natural at either one of the guard positions.
➥ Ben Moore is going to be good. And at the right level, Moore has a chance to be really good down the road. It's not as if the Bolingbrook prospect isn't a productive talent right now, but the 6-7 senior gets the all-too-often-mentioned "best basketball is ahead of him" tag. It's the truth. Moore, who made nearly as much progress from November to July as any player in the Class of 2013, is just beginning to figure it out. He's long, bouncy, active and, just as he should be, is a coveted mid-major prospect. He's an ideal Horizon League-like 4-man right now, with a weekend in Las Vegas with the D Rose All-Stars to try and show schools in the Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10 that he can play at that mid-major plus level.
➥ Cahokia's Darius Austin looks the part. He's athletic with a great body and a motor, thus the 6-5 junior is intriguing. But the 2014 prospect is a major work in progress when it comes to his skill level and refinement as a player.
➥ This just in: Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge can shoot. Really shoot. And when you can shoot like that, you're going to be coveted. Brownridge is a mid-major priority for programs in desperate need of a perimeter shooter with his consistency and range. People can say all they want about a lack of true size and athleticism for a true 2-guard, but Brownridge walks into a gym and makes shots. It's as simple as that.
➥ Illinois Old School 16s have flown under the radar most of the summer, but this group is one to watch next year during the club circuit. The Hoops Report really likes the trio of Taft's John Joyce, who is among the top 30 prospects in the Class of 2014, St. Charles East guard Dom Adduci and unknown Scott Lindsey of Fenwick.
➥ The Peoria Irish spring and summer season has been highlighted by the rise of Hoops Report favorite, Alec Peters of Washington. While the Hoops Report has gushed over Peters for 12 months, the 6-7 senior had perhaps his toughest couple of days of basketball, particularly shooting the basketball, at the Summer Jam. There was no way around it, he struggled. How crazy is the AAU world? A college coach asked me after watching Peters struggle in two games, "You still think Alec Peters is a sure thing for us?" There lies the problem sometimes in these mini-evaluation weekends in July. OF COURSE HE'S STILL A SURE THING FOR YOU, COACH! Peters remains an absolutely terrific mid-major plus prospect.
➥ While we are on the topic of the Peoria Irish, don't forget about Peoria Richwoods point guard Preston Wells. Albany and North Dakota have come forward for Wells, but he's been steady enough, productive enough and offers enough upside to deserve more looks than that. He gets by opposing guards with a bit of a burst off the dribble, gets to the rim and his jumper, while still not consistent, is getting more efficient.
➥ Since he suffered injury issues late in the season for his Naperville Central team, it's been a rough go of it for 6-7 junior Nick Czarnowski over the past five months. But the big post player had his moments in Milwaukee, showing some decent work in the paint and a degree of competitiveness and physical play around the basket.
➥ St. Viator sophomore Mark Falotico can run my high school team any day. The point guard was again the catalyst in leading Chicago Lockdown to a Summer Jam title last weekend. He's so calm and cool while understanding the game and situations. Falotico and junior Ore Arogundade will form one of the top backcourts in the Chicago area over the next two years and keep coach Mike Howland's club in the East Suburban Catholic mix.
➥ The Hoops Report really likes Marcus Bartley of Decatur MacArthur. He came up to the Derrick Rose Shootout in Chicago this past winter and performed well. And he's been solid all spring and summer with the Peoria Irish. The 6-3 junior will have to battle a lack of weight, strength and a very slender frame, but he is a natural point guard and bonafide Division I prospect.
➥ While the Hoops Report focuses entirely on the state of Illinois, it's great to get a look at the national talent. The player that really jumped out and impressed at the Summer Jam was Rashad Vaughn out of Minnesota, who plays with Net Gain. What a super talent. He's ranked anywhere between 15-20 nationally by most, but it's hard to imagine 10 prospects better than the 6-5 shooting guard in the Class of 2014 after what the Hoops Report took in last week.
➥ And throw 6-8 Kevon Looney out of Milwaukee Hamilton, who plays with the Milwaukee Rebels, in that no-brainer list as well in the Class of 2014.
➥ On the other end of the spectrum, Nate Britt out of Washington D.C. has generated a whole lot of buzz nationally. Although it was just a small sampling from the 2013 point guard, the Hoops Report left Milwaukee hoping for more from the North Carolina-bound senior.
➥ Is it just me or does it seem like I've been watching Marquette recruit Deonte Burton out of Milwaukee play AAU ball for 10 years? What an athletic and physical monster this 6-5, 235-pound wing is on the high school level. He will fit in perfectly at Marquette for coach Buzz Williams.
➥ The Chicago Elite Classic set for Dec. 1 in Chicago will be loaded with big-named power programs like Simeon, Whitney Young, Mater Dei, DeMatha and others, but one fun team to watch that day will be Lone Peak High School out of Utah. The Utah Reign AAU team, made up of Lone Peak players, impressed in Milwaukee. They know how to play, are fundamentally sound and play well together. Plus, they are talented, led by the duo of shooting guard Nick Emery and 6-8 Eric Mika, who have both committed to BYU. It's going to take a lot for the Illinois team matched up with Lone Peak on that December day to come out with a win.
➥ Finally, without throwing any individual players under the bus, it's still amazing the notoriety, rankings and discussion that is out there when it comes to some (many?) of the players in Illinois as they play out the club season. We've just about made it through another AAU season of constant hype. We will now let the recruiting landscape settle on so many of these players as the high-major dreams for many -- and even the notion of playing Division I basketball -- come to a slow death between now and signing day.
And just to reiterate one last time, when it comes to running events it really doesn't get any better than NY2LA's events in Mequon, Wis., particularly the Summer Jam last weekend. In addition to a loaded field, the facility is ideal with gym space, seating, parking and accessibility, especially for Chicago area based club programs. Plus, NY2LA events are always organized, which is far and few between when it comes to typical AAU events.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport