By Joe Henricksen
The City/Suburban Hoops Report checked out action at the Chicago Summer Challenge at Riverside-Brookfield, the King James Summer Classic in Waukegan and the D1 Elite Event in Wisconsin. Here are a whole bunch of Hoops Report points in an encore presentation of the first weekend of the July evaluation period ...
☛ KENDALL POLLARD, PARIS LEE, ALEC PETERS -- and a few other players -- were highlighted in this blog a week ago as ones who will grab the attention of college coaches the most this July. They would open eyes, add more offers -- and bigger offers than they had previously received. They didn't disappoint in the opening weekend of the evaluation period, with those three and others finally earning the accolades and respect the Hoops Report has been preaching.
Peters, the Washington star who already sported a number of low-major and mid-major offers, added the likes of Saint Louis, Rice and Boston College to his list, with heavy interest from Butler and a few others. From all reports, Simeon's Pollard was terrific at the Nike Skills U in Virginia, as proven by the number of calls the Hoops Report took in from college coaches regarding Pollard. La Salle and North Texas had been the two schools on Pollard the longest and the hardest prior to July. But Dayton, Southern Illinois and Illinois State have jumped on board for the 6-5 wing, with plenty more expected to follow in the coming two weeks. And Lee, the Proviso East point guard, is going to have a surplus of mid-major programs knocking on his door.
☛ THE BEST PROSPECT IN ILLINOIS not named Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander -- three players all ranked among the top 10 players nationally in their respective classes -- is Normal U-High's Keita Bates-Diop. More on the 6-8 junior later this week ...
☛ THE HOOPS REPORT WILL GIVE ALEC PETERS THE NOD as the best pure shooter in the state of Illinois. With his size at 6-7 and feathery touch and picture-perfect release, the Washington star is the ideal fill-it-up shooter from the perimeter. But right behind him is Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge. The 6-1 senior had moments this past weekend with the Illinois Wolves where he was on auto-pilot from beyond the arc. Plus, slowly but surely he's starting to put it on the floor better. It seems the entire Missouri Valley is on Brownridge, with Creighton and Illinois State right near the top. But both Saint Louis and Dayton from the Atlantic 10 are both showing heavy interest.
☛ SPEAKING OF SHOOTERS, GO AHEAD AND PUT THIS DOWN: As of July 17, 2012, the best shooter in the sophomore class is Bolingbrook's Prentiss Nixon. The 6-0 guard needs to further develop his playmaking and ball skills, but Nixon went stretches this past weekend with the Illinois Wolves where his 3-point makes didn't touch the rim. It comes out of his hand quick and pure and he shoots it with range. Right now he's an undersized 2-guard looking to show improved ball skills and playmaking ability over the next couple of years.
☛ AND ANOTHER SHOOTER ... There is Washington's Alec Peters and Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge when discussing the top two shooters in the Class of 2013. And then there is little-known Capel Henshaw from downstate Harrisburg. He caught the Hoops Report's eye last April in Merrillville, but he hasn't stopped knocking down jumpers. His smooth, pure, effortless, left-handed shooting stroke extends to 22-23 feet and was on display all weekend at the Summer Showcase at R-B. The 2-guard has some strength and size at 6-3 and is clearly a scholarship player as a bubble Division I/Division II prospect.
☛ ONE OF THE MOST INTRIGUING MATCHUPS OF THE WEEKEND took place at the King James Summer Showcase, where a pair of underclass big men went at it. Benet Academy's Sean O'Mara, one of the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's 2014 player rankings, squared off with Diamond Stone, a 6-10, 245-pounder from Milwaukee (Dominican). Stone is already regarded as one of the top big men nationally in the Class of 2015. O'Mara held his own as half the Big Ten schools took in the matchup. Stone's size and length definitely caused problems for O'Mara, which is a concern, but there were moments where the Benet junior looked the part of a high-major big man. He has the tools to work with as a low-post player. The true, on-the-block big man is a thing of the past, so it's refreshing to see a player like O'Mara relish in the fact of who he is as a player. And college coaches take notice as well. The 6-9 O'Mara will garner high-major offers before it's all said and done.
☛ HOW ABOUT SEAN O'BRIEN? Over the past six months, every single time the Hoops Report re-evaluates the player rankings and gets ready to update them and solidify just what level each prospect can play at, Mundelein's Sean O'Brien climbs higher and higher. The Fundamental U standout is now among the top 30 prospects in the senior class. The 6-6 wing was impressive again and has shown he's a mid-major prospect. The interest has picked up and will continue to do so as he plays out the next two weekends. The list of offers O'Brien has secured this spring and summer: Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, SIUE, Florida Gulf Coast, Eastern Kentucky, Elon and Keneshaw State.
☛ AT 6-9, SKILLED AND A 34 ACT, Lake Forest's Sam Downey is sure to grab attention with those three characteristics alone. But Downey has come a long way in his development as he plays out the summer with Fundamental U. He had some very strong moments at the King James event in Waukegan, showcasing good hands, a soft touch and being a solid passing big man. He still has a ways to go but has a lot to work with. Yale, Northern Illinois and Keneshaw State are on board, with a whole bunch of high-academic schools -- Cornell, Columbia, Lehigh, Colgate and Brown -- increasing their interest.
☛ ANDREW McAULIFFE IS JUST A SOLID BIG MAN PROSPECT. The Glenbrook North senior has size at 6-8, is impressive academically, uses both hands well around the basket, plays pretty consistent when he stays healthy and has just enough skill to get mid-major college programs enamored with him. He may not be the ideal athlete, doesn't play above the rim and can be a bit mechanical at times, but with big men at such a premium the offers are nearing two dozen, with Davidson, Tulane, Rice, Bucknell, Elon, Loyola and Miami-Ohio among those who have offered.
☛ JUST WAIT FOR THE JUMP SIMEON'S D.J. WILLIAMS IS GOING TO MAKE over the next 12 months. If the work ethic is there going forward, the jump will be impressive. He showed again how talented he is at the D1 Elite Event in Wisconsin this past weekend, even as his Meanstreets team played up an age group. The 6-6 versatile wing is bustling over with skills and talent, much of which is still untapped. He will get to the rim. He will impact the game with his length. He will finish with an impressive dunk. He will bury a perimeter jumper. Williams doesn't do any one thing consistently just yet (there aren't many players his age who do), but he's on track. He's one of the top two or three prospects in the sophomore class, with the potential to be the state's best before it's all said and done in the Class of 2015.
☛ I LOVE LUWANE PIPKINS. I love how he competes. I love how he terrorizes opponents. I love how he gets his hands on more balls defensively than any guard in Illinois, regardless of class. I love how tough he is. I love how much he loves to play. I love that he can knock a shot down. Yes, the sophomore guard from Bogan is small, but he is certainly among the top prospects in the Class of 2015. The 5-8 Pipkins just needs to figure out how to play the point guard position, run a team better and avoid trying to do too much.
☛ PALATINE'S ROOSEVELT SMART IS WELL ON HIS WAY. As the Wolves 15s played up an age group this past weekend, Smart simply looked the part as a versatile 6-3 threat on the perimeter. On a very talented Wolves team, which includes St. Joseph's Jordan Ash, Smart stands out. He picked up an offer from Loyola.
☛ AN UNDER-APPRECIATED 15-AND-UNDER TEAM IS NET GAIN. The Hoops Report has said it before but the Net Gain group is a good one. The collection of central Illinois players know how to play the game and mix in some intriguing talent, led by the trio of Bloomington Central Catholic's Jake Reinhart and the Normal tandem of Tyler Seibring and Alex Peacock. The 1-2 punch of the 6-7 Seibring and the 6-5 Peacock is going to be quite at tandem for Normal over the next three years. Seibring is a dead-eye perimeter shooter with size (think high school version of Brad Lohaus), while Peacock is a crafty lefty around the basket with a great look as a player.
☛ TWO OTHER SOPHOMORES WHO REALLY IMPRESSED at the Summer Showcase at Riverside-Brookfield: St. Patrick's Nicholas Coleman and Whitney Young's Joseph Toye. Coleman can shoot it and plays with a little swagger for someone so young, while Toye is starting to figure it out. Always regarded as a smooth, fluid athlete who had some shooting ability, the 6-4 Toye is beginning to utilize his strengths to his advantage.
☛ HOW ABOUT A NO-NAMER FOR YOU? Try Jerry Davis on for size. Who? There were more than a few people, including college coaches, who asked, "Who's that kid?" Here's why you probably haven't heard of him: He plays on a nondescript AAU team and this past season was a junior guard for a team in the Catholic League that didn't win a game. Nonetheless, the Gordon Tech point guard is a player. He's put together, strong, explosive off the bounce and attacks the basket. Look for new coach Tom Kleinschmidt to get the absolute most out of Davis, a 5-10 senior who must show he can knock down shots.
☛ LOCKDOWN's 15-AND-UNDER GROUP CRUISED IN WISCONSIN. The LockDown 15U team, which was highlighted in a Hoops Report blog this past spring, rolled through the field at the D1 Elite Event over the weekend. LockDown went 5-0 behind the play of Hinsdale Central's 6-7 Matt Rafferty, St. Viator point guard Mark Falotico and Lyons Township's Harrison Niego. This LockDown team has some size and length with Rafferty, 6-5 George Kiernan of Nazareth and 6-4 Connor Raridon of Neuqua Valley.
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