By Joe Henricksen
The Illinois Wolves 15s, which boast a terrific collection of young, talented guards, reached the semifinals at the Summer Jam in Milwaukee last week. When talk turns to the young Wolves, the conversation typically begins with St. Joseph guard Jordan Ash. Then it trickles down to the trio of St. Joseph point guard Glynn Watson, Bolingbrook shooting guard Prentiss Nixon and Palatine's versatile guard Roosevelt Smart.
Ash, who sports high-major offers from Purdue and DePaul, is among the top five prospects in the class. He's gaining a national rep as well, with national scouts checking in on the kid who has been talked about in Illinois extensively over the past 12 months. The 6-1 combo guard continues to showcase his superior athleticism and explosiveness for his age, an improving jumper and the most overall productivity of the young Wolves.
Nixon, a 6-0 shooting guard, is already among the top shooters in the state in the Class of 2015. Now he's in the process of working on diversifying his game. He has a textbook release and shooting stroke that doesn't change, whether it's from 16, 19 or 23 feet from the basket. He can catch-and-shoot and shoot off the dribble. While he still needs to work on his overall floor game and comfort level as a creator and distributor, especially at his size, there is no question about what he can become as a shooter.
And the 5-10 Watson, the younger brother of former St. Joe's star Demetri McCamey, is a player that already has a natural position as a pure point guard with some get-by speed. In Watson's mind and in his reads, the game comes slower for him as he manages his team and game situations.
But the player that continues to impress the Hoops Report every time it checks in on the young Wolves is Smart. The shooting guard, who is pushing 6-3, not only looks the part but has as much upside as any player on this Wolves team, including the highly-regarded Ash. In the eyes of the Hoops Report, Smart is one player that should be talked about more when it comes to the promising college prospects in the Class of 2015.
Smart's perimeter jumper is what is beginning to separate him from other players in his class. For a young player this past season and early in his AAU career, Smart already possessed the lost art of the mid-range game. Now his range is out to the three-point line and it looks smooth and is getting more consistent with a good release point and elevation.
Smart is clearly still learning the game, especially since he didn't play a whole lot of organized basketball from 5th to 7th grade. But he's an exciting prospect, especially if he were to get to a legit 6-4 in becoming the ideal 2-guard with size, shooting and just enough athleticism.
Very wisely, Palatine coach Eric Millstone brought Smart along slowly last season as a freshman at the varsity level. But as the year went on and the more Millstone threw at his young talent, the quicker he adapted.
"I was amazed at how quickly he picked things up," Millstone told the Hoops Report earlier this summer of his young freshman last season. "His scoring ability and willingness to take big shots were there, and we really needed that from someone on our team. Roosevelt was very comfortable with that role."
Although Palatine struggled mightily last season, the Pirates have a valuable young piece to build around over the next three years. And the Mid-Suburban League, which has had a shortage of top-level talent in recent years, could use a marquee name and player like Smart.
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