By Joe Henricksen

September 2012 Archives

Valpo lands standout in Alec Peters

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Through a whirlwind of a year that saw his recruiting stock skyrocket, Washington's Alec Peters ended up choosing the program that personally fit him in all aspects -- athletically, academically and socially.

The sweet shooting 6-7 Peters committed to Valparaiso on Sunday, choosing coach Bryce Drew's program over 20-plus schools that offered over the past 12 months. Drew and his staff held off a few programs in high-major conferences, including finalist Boston College.

Valparaiso, with up-and-coming assistant Roger Powell playing an instrumental role, now has three Illinois prospects locked up in the Class of 2013. Peters, along with Andrew standout Jubril Adekoya and Marist point guard Lexus Williams, join what is shaping up to be a bumper crop of incoming freshmen next season for the Crusaders.

The decision was a difficult one and even stressful, Peters admits, but in the end he felt "relieved" and "excited" with his choice.

"The relationship I had with the coaching staff there is what put it over the top," Peters says of his final decision. "We connected and talked about everything. It wasn't just basketball but life in general. Coach Drew and coach Powell had so much to do with my final decision. Plus, I like the environment, the atmosphere there as a smaller school."

Peters, who was down to a final three of Illinois State, Boston College and Valparaiso, has been a Hoops Report favorite and among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2013 for some time. As a junior last season he averaged 17.9 points and 6.4 rebounds a game in leading Washington to 26 wins and a berth in the sectional championship.

The Hoops Report has labeled Peters the best pure shooter in the senior class. He shoots with range, has terrific mechanics and with his size is able to get his shot off when he wants. With a season still to play at Washington, Peters has made 121 3-pointers while shooting over 43 percent from beyond the arc in his career. Last season he shot 87 percent from the free-throw line.

Although challenged a bit athletically, Peters makes up for any deficiency with his high basketball I.Q., craftiness and willingness to compete at a high level. Plus, he will come prepared having played for one of the top high school coaches in the state in Kevin Brown.

Peters is expected to come in and help ease the loss of all-Horizon League selection Ryan Broekhoff, a carbon copy of Peters who graduated after averaging 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds a game last season.

"The staff thinks I can come in and contribute as a freshman," says Peters. "There are some big shoes to fill with Ryan Broekhoff graduating, but I want to come in, work hard and try to make an impact."

Over the course of the past year, Peters evolved into one of those elite, must-get type of recruits for any mid-major program. And Valpo landed him, joining a program that has positioned itself nicely after winning the Horizon League regular-season championship a year ago.

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Then and now for a few select hot seniors

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Go ahead and call them Hoops Report favorites, a select few seniors who were poised to raise their stock and showcase to college coaches they were better than the early interest they were receiving. The Hoops Report profiled those seniors in a blog back in early July -- a July forecast blog of players that would be hot during the three evaluation weekends that coming month.

Here is a look at that blog entry from early July, with an "And Now" added for each player highlighting where their recruitment currently stands.

Hoops Report's July forecast
These players probably aren't going to enhance their stock in the eyes of the City/Suburban Hoops Report -- they are already pretty highly regarded and a few very highly ranked in the class-- but they will among college coaches. These are the players the Hoops Report believes will increase their options the most (i.e. more scholarship offers) over the course of these next three weekends during the July evaluation period -- and likely receive interest from higher programs than they currently are.

• Kendall Pollard, Chicago (Simeon)
THEN (from Hoops Report's "July Forecast" blog): There isn't a player in the senior class who has raised his stock in the eyes of the Hoops Report more since the conclusion of the regular season than Pollard. In the last four or five months he's made a huge jump. There has been a transformation for the 6-5 wing, who has climbed his way into the Hoops Report's top 10 players in the class. But he's yet to grab much attention from college programs in the way of official offers. That will change. When it's all said and done and August rolls around, we'll look back and say Kendall Pollard was the hottest new name in the Class of 2013 in Illinois.

Of all the players on this list, Pollard probably does have the most interest surrounding him, even after playing with Simeon, Meanstreets and his rise profiled in a Hoops Report blog this past June. But he's going to be hit a lot harder and by some bigger programs, including maybe a few in high-major leagues, after coaches get a look of his reshaped body and how his skill level further along. Plus Pollard has something to hang his hat on: He just goes out and plays, defends and competes. He brings his lunch bucket and goes to work every day.

AND NOW: Pollard's recruitment clearly picked up. He's sorting out his final list that includes Dayton, where he visited this past weekend, Virginia Tech, Colorado State and Rhode Island.

• Paris Lee, Proviso East
THEN (from Hoops Report's "July Forecast" blog): Come on all you mid-major programs in need of a point guard! Where are you? When the Hoops Report looks at this 5-9 pint-sized whiz who puts constant pressure on opponents, it can't figure out why he's sitting there with two offers heading into July. Two?!?!?! Right now it's Loyola and Western Michigan who have extended offers, with both Illinois State, Ball State and Wyoming picking up its interest of late. Expect a slew of mid-major and mid-major plus type programs to be on the list at the end of this month. Lee's speed, quickness, charisma and know-how just terrorizes opponents. Plus, he has a little of that "it" factor you love.

AND NOW: Illinois State did offer Lee shortly after this July forecast blog and, to its credit, locked up Lee quickly before the interest among schools went to a new level.

• Ben Moore, Bolingbrook
THEN (from Hoops Report's "July Forecast" blog): It's not as if Moore hasn't drawn some interest and received offers. The likes of Loyola, Detroit, Toledo, SIUE, IPFW and UC-Irvine have offered Moore. But this active 6-7 senior brings bounce, length and a bit of athleticism while adding to his developing skill level. This past season he had a breakout year, going from an unknown to a potential mid-major prospect. Now he's a no-brainer mid-major and inching his way up to the mid-major plus level. He has the coveted "upside" so many coaches try to land and has an opportunity to raise his stock this month. If his motor is running full throttle throughout July, he's going to pick up more interest as he impresses with his ability to beat defenders at his position off the bounce.

AND NOW: Whoa! No player has seen his recruitment explode since this July Forecast blog more than Moore. September, not July, proved to be the big month for Moore, which was highlighted in a blog on Moore earlier this month. He's grown to 6-8 and impressed the masses in open gyms all month. Several high-majors offered, including Missouri, DePaul, Illinois, Northwestern, SMU and Minnesota. Now he has a final four of Missouri, Illinois, SMU and Colorado State. He's visited both Colorado State and SMU, with October visits set with Missouri (Oct. 12) and Illinois (Oct. 26).

• Alec Peters, Washington
THEN (from Hoops Report's "July Forecast" blog): The offer list is getting pretty lengthy for a player the Hoops Report has been gushing about for 12 months. After July plays out, it will be a matter of how long the 6-7 shooter wants the list to get. He will be that valuable to a number of college programs due to his sweet shooting stroke and the ability to stretch a defense. Peters is the best pure shooter in the state of Illinois. The Hoops Report has viewed Peters as one of those elite, must-get mid-major-plus type recruits as plenty of coaches will be checking in on the Peoria Irish this July.

AND NOW: There were a few high-majors that got on board and offered Peters, including Washington State and Boston College. With 20 offers on the table and a surplus of mid-major and mid-major plus programs courting him, Peters narrowed his list down to Boston College, Illinois State and Valparaiso.

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Proviso East headlines solid Hoops for Healing field

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Are we really less than eight weeks away?

When Thanksgiving tournament time rolls around -- yes, in less than eight weeks -- the Hoops for Healing Tournament, a joint venture between Oswego and Naperville North, will be high on the must-see list the opening week of the season -- and for more than just a field of promising teams.

Proviso East, which will certainly be a top five team in the Chicago area when the preseason polls come out in November, has signed on to fill out the eight-team field. Coach Donnie Boyce's club, last year's state runner-up in 4A with a record of 32-1, returns highly-regarded Sterling Brown. The 6-5 senior is a coveted high-major prospect and among the top five prospects in the state. Paris Lee, a dynamic point guard and Illinois State recruit, also returns.

It's an impressive, balanced field as far as Thanksgiving Tournaments go with a blend of talented teams and individual players. While Proviso East is the headliner, the field will also include highly-regarded Andrew. The Thunderbolts are coming off a terrific 24-3 campaign, going 24-3 and will be ranked among the top 25 teams in the preseason. Andrew returns Valpo recruit Jubril Adekoya, a 6-6 ½ forward who is among the top 20 prospects in the Class of 2013 in Illinois.

The other six teams include Oswego, Oswego East, Naperville North, Naperville Central, Metea Valley and Benet Academy.

Under coach Gene Heidkamp, Benet has established itself as one of the top programs in the western suburbs over the past three seasons. Benet has won 20-plus games in each of the past three seasons, averaging 25 wins a year, and returns 6-9 Sean O'Mara, one of the top junior prospects in the state of Illinois.

Despite serious injury issues a year ago, Oswego won 18 games and will be a favorite in the Southwest Prairie behind Division I recruit Miles Simelton. The senior guard returns for his fourth varsity season.

Naperville North is the defending DuPage Valley Conference champions. Metea Valley is fresh off a 25-win season, while Naperville Central returns a solid junior group, led by 6-7 Nick Czarnowski, that won the Wheeling Hardwood Classic last December and should be one of the favorites in the DuPage Valley Conference this season. Oswego East, which returns veteran guard C.J. Vaughn, will be under a new head coach in Ron Murphy.

In addition to the basketball, this Thanksgiving tournament helps raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Since 2005, the tournament has raised a whopping $125,000 for Cancer Research at Edward Cancer Center in Naperville. Funds for the tournament now go towards Camp Hope, a unique support program at Edward Cancer Center.

An opening week of basketball with top teams, talent and a tremendous cause. And just eight weeks away.

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Jaylon Tate, Ricky Norris getting to strut their stuff

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There may not have been a city hooper more relieved when the Chicago teacher's strike was over than Simeon's Jaylon Tate. Well, maybe Ricky Norris, Tate's teammate and backup.

Tate, a 6-2 senior point guard, and Norris, a completely unknown 6-3 senior point guard, had plenty to show college coaches. They just didn't have the avenue to show it as the first week of open gyms was wiped out due to the teacher's strike. Last week, however, Tate and Norris got their chance and stood out during the first night of a talent-laden open gym at Simeon.

Now, it's not as if Tate's name wasn't out there. He's not this unknown prospect, hidden under a rock and in desperate need of being found. He opened eyes early in his prep career as a freshman at De La Salle and followed it up with a solid sophomore campaign. Then he transferred to Simeon, where he became a valuable role player for a state championship team last season. But he's always been among the top 20 prospects in the Class of 2013 in Illinois, even among the top five or six prospects in the class early in his career. He's just taken a backseat of late during his transition to Simeon.

After playing a smaller role than he was accustomed to as a junior for Simeon, and then playing off the ball quite a bit for Meanstreets this past summer on the AAU circuit, the recruiting interest was tempered a bit. Tate was anxious to get back to showing just what he is (a true point guard) and what he can do when he's comfortable.

Last year was an adjustment period for Tate, learning a new system and a new way of going about things at Simeon. Now he's carrying a quiet confidence while still possessing the point guard essentials. Although his shooting is still a bit inconsistent and he's not a true, blow-by athlete, he handles it, passes it and plays like an ideal point guard with a little size for the position.

"I'm a lot more comfortable and confident now after spending a year at Simeon," says Tate, who provided a few big moments during Simeon's state title run a year ago. "It takes time to get used to a new system, get used to playing with new players and different coaches. Coach Rob [Smith] is a lot different than what I was used to at De La Salle. Now I'm more familiar with it all. And I'm the lead guard now."

Simeon coach Robert Smith sees the difference and is ready to put the ball in his hands as his starting point guard.

"He knows and understands the system now," says Smith, who last year put his trust in veteran senior point guard Jaleni Neely. "To his credit, he came in last year and took a back seat to some others. Now it's his team. He's running the show at the point guard position."

With a year of experience playing at Simeon and back running a team that is loaded with talent, Tate is poised to showcase all he has to offer. Tate has made a nice jump forward this fall, impressing the Hoops Report to the point where he will certainly inch his way back up the 2013 player rankings.

"I'm just going out and playing my game, help my team win any way I can," says Tate. "Everyone knows me as a point guard, setting up my teammates, running a team. But this past summer, and at the Peach Jam, I was playing off the ball. I showed I can score, come off screens. I wanted to show I was a complete guard, but I am a point guard."

The recruiting interest is picking up, especially as other point guard prospects commit to other schools. A surplus of mid-major programs are chomping at the bit now to try and steal Tate. Western Kentucky and Ohio have visits lined up with Tate. He will head to Ohio this weekend and then visit Western Kentucky Oct. 21, while several schools in the Horizon League and Missouri Valley are trying to get in the mix and get him on campus. If Tate were to play the year out, it wouldn't be a shock to see high-major programs get on board during the late signing period.

As for Norris, here is the classic program-first kid who plays in the shadows of all the big names at Simeon. And it's easy to be in the shadows in this Simeon senior class with the likes of Jabari Parker, Kendrick Nunn, Kendall Pollard, Russell Woods and Jaylon Tate.

When you watched Simeon in a summer league game or at a team camp or in an open gym, Norris was always the player you casually mentioned after talking about Parker, Nunn, Tate, Pollard, state titles, the young talent in the program, the newcomers, what the schedule looks like for next year ...

He's the player you would say to Robert Smith in passing, "Hey, that kid's not bad." And then go back to talking Parker, Nunn, Tate, Pollard, state titles, the young talent in the ... Well, you get the picture.

And Smith would always respond, "I know! I told you he could play!"

It's time to take notice of this big-bodied point guard who has been vastly overlooked by just about everyone. Yes, he's a backup at Simeon. But the kid can play. He shined last week in Simeon's open gym in front of 15-plus college programs. Chicago State extended an offer and others are starting to take an interest. Norris is a player who could see his stock significantly rise over the course of the season and be an intriguing late signing in April.

"He didn't play much at all, waited his turn and didn't jump ship," says Smith of Norris. "We moved him over to point guard and he's been solid there. He gives us a big body in the backcourt. He can rebound, brings some athleticism to the guard position. We can move him around with his size. He gives us another dimension."

Even with all the star power the program features in the likes of Parker and Nunn, Smith is especially comfortable being set at the all-important point guard position. Tate will start and Norris will be a valuable piece off the bench in Smith's two-headed point guard monster.

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Bradley hires familiar face in Chin Coleman

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A familiar face in the city of Chicago will be back -- and recruiting the city of Chicago and suburbs.

Bradley head coach Geno Ford took a positive step forward in the rebuilding of the once very proud basketball program by hiring Ronald "Chin" Coleman as an assistant. Coleman replaces former Bradley assistant Willie Scott, who resigned to become a head high school coach at Dyett in Chicago.

Coleman spent the 2011-2012 season as an assistant at Colorado State. When CSU head coach Tim Miles took the Cornhuskers job, Coleman came to Lincoln with Miles and was most recently Nebraska's Director of Player Development. Now he will have a chance to be back out on the road recruiting as an assistant, gaining valuable experience as he continues to climb the coaching ladder.

The up-and-coming assistant was anxious to get back on the road, utilizing the connections he's established.

"For me, it was a no-brainer when this opportunity arrived," Coleman said of the job at Bradley. "I'm from Chicago and there is a history there between Bradley and Chicago. And being from here I know that history and tradition. It's such a great history and they have unbelievable support there."

With strong ties to both the Mac Irvin Fire club program and the Chicago Public League, Coleman will bring an instant present day tie between Bradley and basketball in the city of Chicago. Coleman graduated from South Shore 20 years ago and coached at Whitney Young, where he was part of the staff that won a state title in 2009.

Now it will be part of Coleman's job to help re-energize Bradley basketball as one of Ford's assistants. He wants to get the word out.

"I see it as like a street pastor on corner preaching," says Coleman. "I want to preach the gospel of Bradley basketball. I want to help make everyone aware of what Bradley has to offer and do whatever coach Ford needs in doing that."

Bradley currently has one Chicago Public League prospect on the roster in former Julian star Walter Lemon, a 6-3 guard who averaged 12.6 points a game last season as a sophomore. Coleman, however, will instantly get Bradley involved with several players in the Class of 2014 as the Braves look to establish a pipeline to Chicago and suburbs.

It has been a rough go of it for Bradley the past couple of years. In the past two seasons under former coach Jim Les and one year under Ford, the Braves are a combined 19-45 and a dismal 6-30 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

"There is so much to offer at Bradley with their fan support, the new facilities it has in place and all a head coach in Geno Ford who does it the right way," says Coleman. "Bradley is a basketball school. It plays in a great basketball league in the Missouri Valley. I can't wait to get started."

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Minnesota lands De La Salle's Alvin Ellis

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When De La Salle coach Tom White talked with Minnesota coach Tubby Smith this weekend during his star player's official visit to the Big Ten school, he didn't learn anything new about Alvin Ellis. The superlatives Smith spoke of in regard to Ellis, while refreshing to hear, were what White has become accustomed to over the past three-plus years.

"Tubby says loyalty is in the heart and you either have it or you don't," White says of their conversation.

When you consider the defections that have taken place at De La Salle over the past year -- Jaylon Tate to Simeon, Gavin Schilling to Findlay Prep, Alex Foster to Seton and Demarcus Richardson to Curie -- it's easy to appreciate what seems like the lone soldier standing. Ellis, the talented 6-4 wing, stayed true to De La Salle and stayed put when everyone expected him to bolt, which was highlighted in this Hoops Report blog last month.

Smith appreciates that loyalty and will welcome it over the next four years. Ellis committed to Smith and the Golden Gophers on Sunday.

Also not surprising was the fact the Minnesota players gave Smith an Ellis endorsement while he was on the official visit, according to White. The players hit it off with Ellis, which is vitally important to Smith, the veteran head coach.

"The players loved Alvin," White says he was told. "And Tubby said he knew De La Salle prepares kids well for college."

Ellis, currently among the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2013 player rankings in Illinois, is Minnesota's first commitment in the Class of 2013. He will bring length, versatility and, with his athleticism, finishing ability to the Gophers.

"He said it just felt right," says Ellis' father, Alvin Ellis, Sr.

Ellis was especially appreciative of the interest Smith and his staff showed in the closing stages of his recruitment, including an open gym visit two weeks ago.

"They all roll the red carpet out when you visit, no matter where you go," Alvin Ellis, Sr. said of prospects on official visits. "But Alvin believed coach Smith was the guy who could help his game develop the most and the one who could help him develop as a young man. It was good to see Alvin thinking beyond basketball."

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Odds and ends from Back to School Jam

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Fall basketball leagues and exposure events don't exactly get the juices flowing, but the best of the bunch is the Mac Irvin Back to School Jam. Here is a sampling of thoughts taken from the event, which took place at Riverside-Brookfield last weekend.

SIMEON'S DEPTH: From top to bottom, Simeon will have as much depth and talent in its program as it's ever had. Ever. There are freshmen and sophomores in this program that would be starting for 90 percent of the varsity programs in Illinois.

The big transfer this offseason was Russell Woods from Leo to Simeon. He's going to provide Simeon with the one aspect it lacked heading into this seasons -- a big, athletic presence inside who will run the floor, block shots and rebound.

Speaking of Simeon, how about the support superstar Jabari Parker continues to show his teammates, even while he's out of action and focusing on his recruitment this fall. Remember, eyes are always directed towards the 6-8 All-American. Although he was sporting casual clothes and stuck in a boot -- he should be ready to go physically in the middle of October -- the always-exposed Parker was on the bench with his teammates on Saturday. That's not the norm when it comes to high-profile players with national reputations as their teams play in an offseason fall event.

SIMEON NAME TO WATCH: With all the talent running around that Simeon gym, the unknown name is Jaycee Hillsman. The lefty junior is a player. Hillsman was an all-area selection in the Champaign area last season while playing for St. Thomas More, averaging 17.5 points a game as a sophomore. Hillsman was very impressive in Saturday action at the Back to School Jam. He has a big body, a nice feel and brings a whole lot of versatility.

BETTER THAN A YEAR AGO?: Proviso East will be better than a year ago. No, they may not run the table and go unbeaten during the regular season as they did last winter, but on that floor this team will be more talented, more dangerous. Now, will they be as cohesive, unselfish and disciplined as a year ago?

The Pirates will certainly miss the steady, consistent play of point guard Keith Carter, who is off to Saint Louis. Carter provided quality decision-making and leadership. But if Sterling Brown steps up to be a consistent, dominating force as he did throughout the state tournament run last March, the Pirates will feed off that.

Coach Donnie Boyce has more explosive weapons than he did last season, including a pair of dynamic scorers on the perimeter in junior guard Jevon Carter and athletic senior Brandon Jenkins. While the focus will be on Brown and disruptive point guard Paris Lee, an Illinois State commit, the dynamite scoring tandem of Carter and Jenkins is capable of going off at any time. The 6-3 Jenkins is just a big-time finisher at the rim.

The Hoops Report fell in love with Carter this spring and summer and has him ranked ahead of many of the other more heralded players in the Class of 2014 for a reason. Despite the lack of exposure and headlines up to this point, Carter is flat-out better. As explained in that June blog on Carter, he's a big reason why this Proviso East team can be better than a year ago. He's capable of being that big of a weapon.

PEAK CAN PLAY: Whitney Young's L.J. Peak, the transfer from South Carolina who was profiled in the Hoops Report blog earlier this week, can really play. The 6-5 wing will likely be among the top five prospects in the updated Class of 2014 rankings. He does a little of everything, knows how to play and has terrific size on the perimeter.

CLASS 3A POWER AT MP: Coach Nick Irvin has the type of guard play, quickness and athleticism that is going to make Morgan Park a serious player in the Chicago Public League and, especially, in Class 3A next March. When you combine Billy Garrett, Jr. with Kyle Davis, you have one of the elite backcourt tandems in the state. Then add the likes of up-and-coming Torry Johnson, a 6-3 junior, sophomore Kain Harris and a host of other guards, it's a group that is going to thrive playing in the up-tempo, fullcourt pressure Irvin wants to play. The prospect with the biggest upside in this program, however, is 6-6 junior Josh Cunningham. He's raw and still figuring it all out, but he looks the part and is progressing.

HILL'S TURN AT H-F: Last year's senior group of Tim Williams, Delvon Rencher, Tyrone Sherman and Antonio Bishop dominated the headlines at H-F the past few seasons. But during that time the Hoops Report always had an appreciation for the unheralded Maurius Hill. Now it's Hill's time. The 6-5 senior should be grabbing more low-Division I interest than he has up to this point. He's a tough, physical rebounder who is beginning to expand his game. He plays with a motor, battles inside as the quintessential lunchbucket 4-man, while facing up and either taking bigger, slower defenders off the dribble or sticking the 12-15 foot jumper.

Another player who showed flashes this past summer and again last weekend was senior Jason Scott. Keep an eye on the active 6-4 wing, who plays hard, with a motor and is a super athlete. H-F may not have the big names it's had in the past, but the Vikings have a lot of different parts coach Jim McLaughlin will be able to piece together this winter.

BUZZ ON THE NORTH SIDE: No, coach Terry Head's Hornets at Foreman won't be as talented on paper as the team that featured Mike McCall, Lavonte Dority and Tommy Woolridge a few years back, but it's one that will be among the better teams in the city. Foreman tied Taft for the top spot in the Red-North a year ago and won 20 games and has some intriguing young talent in the program.

HILLCREST: The backcourt play is what will decide Hillcrest's fate this season. The combination of a pair of seniors, point guard Kyle Oden and scorer Jovan Mooring, will carry the Hawks to what will likely be yet another 20-win season. But the development of 6-7 sophomore Taylor Adway could be the difference between a very good and great season.

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Waubonsie's Brownridge commits to Santa Clara

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Santa Clara traveled 2,128 miles in search of a shooter and will bring a heck of a dead-eye home with them next fall as Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge committed to the Broncos on Tuesday.

The highly-regarded Brownridge, who was down to Southern Illinois, Drake and Santa Clara after receiving double-digit mid-major offers, decided to end things after a decision-making official visit this past weekend. The work head coach Kerry Keating and assistant Dustin Kerns put in went a long way in locking up Brownridge.

"The coaching staff has been recruiting me for a long time, going to my high school games and AAU games," Brownridge pointed out. "That went a long way. My whole family loves the staff."

Waubonsie Valley coach Steve Weemer was also impressed with the work put in by Santa Clara and the interest the staff showed his star guard.

"The loyalty was definitely there," says Weemer. "I think Santa Clara recruited Jared the longest. They consistently showed such great interest throughout the process."

In addition, the Santa Clara education played a major role in Brownridge's decision. The highly-regarded academics at Santa Clara, which is located in California's Silicon Valley, was a big factor.

"What they showed us academically blew us away," says Brownridge.

Santa Clara, which finished 8-22 a year ago after winning 24 games during the 2010-2011 season, will be getting one of the premier shooters in Illinois. Brownridge, who is among the top 20 prospects in an impressive Class of 2013 in Illinois, has a simple, pure and repetitive release on his jumper. A catch-and-shoot specialist, Brownridge has become a bigger offensive weapon with his ability to get to the basket and score better in transition.

The 6-1 senior guard put up some impressive numbers as a junior, averaging 20.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.7 steals a game. He knocked down 58 from beyond the arc and scored 31 and 30 points in his final two games in the postseason last March. He is eight points shy of 1,000 career points and with a big senior year could finish as the all-time leading scorer in school history.

"In the coaching profession you don't get to coach this type of kid very often," says Weemer. "When you do get that chance, you better enjoy it. He's such a high-character kid who does things the right way. He's fun to be around and a lot of fun to coach."

Brownridge will lead a Waubonsie Valley team that figures to be among the top two teams in the Upstate Eight this season.

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Highly-regarded L.J. Peak arrives at Whitney Young

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Since arriving in Chicago he's taken in a Bears exhibition game and eaten Portillo's hot dogs. Soon, L.J. Peak will experience city basketball in the Chicago Public League.

Peak, a 6-5 junior, is officially enrolled at Whitney Young, completing a rumored transfer from Gaffney High School in South Carolina. While word spread about a potential move to Whitney Young, there was still much up in the air late in the summer with the Chicago teacher's strike and looking at other potential high school options in Chicago.

The decision to leave Gaffney had been mulled around by Peak and his family for over a year. There were two other key players who left the basketball program and recently transferred out of Gaffney for various reasons. When it came to the possibility of moving to Chicago, the family had a cousin who lived in the city and who was a Whitney Young graduate.

"We needed a change from where we were," says L.J.'s mother, Lynette Peak. "We were going through a lot and thought it would be good for the family to move at this time. We said, 'Let's do this. Let's try this and get a fresh start and experience something new."

Combine the connection with family in Chicago and the idea to start fresh somewhere new, along with all that Whitney Young offers academically, socially and culturally and the choice became clearer as to what high school to attend.

Already boasting one of the top five players nationally in the Class of 2014 in 6-11 Jahlil Okafor, along with highly-regarded 6-9 junior Paul White, Peak gives coach Tyrone Slaughter another top national talent to coach over the next two years.

"This puts us in a different category than before he arrived," says Slaughter. "It's obviously a really nice addition. He's a kid with good size, athleticism and really adds to our scoring and will help us defensively. Plus, he really knows how to play. He's going to allow us to do a lot more things on both ends of the floor."

Peak, who is ranked No. 67 in the junior class by Rivals.com, No. 49 by Scout.com and No. 55 by ESPN.com, played this past weekend in the Mac Irvin Back to School Jam. His talent and understanding of the game is clear. Peak knocked down a couple of 3-pointers and looked at ease getting to the basket off the dribble and is an exceptional finisher at the rim. When the City/Suburban Hoops Report puts together its updated Class of 2014 player rankings, Peak will likely be among the top five prospects in the junior class.

"What I do think the two years at Whitney Young will provide L.J. is an opportunity to be a student-athlete in preparation for college," says Slaughter.

With the return of Okafor, White and junior point guard Miles Reynolds, the Dolphins were already poised to be a top five team in the state this coming season. With the addition of Leak, Whitney Young now has four of the top juniors in Illinois playing together for the next two seasons.

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Illinois an old school decision for Kendrick Nunn

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As Kendrick Nunn and his dad took in the recruiting pitches and visited the campuses of the schools the Simeon star was considering, one factor stood out above all the rest when it came down to the program he would ultimately choose: Illinois is home.

Unlike so many current prospects today -- and much like players a decade or two ago -- staying home and playing for the state university meant something to Nunn. Throw in a tight relationship with the coaching staff and the athletic 6-1 guard is on board as coach John Groce's first signature recruit from Chicago. Nunn committed to Groce and the Fighting Illini Saturday afternoon at the tail end of his official visit.

"It just didn't make any sense for Kendrick to go anywhere else," says his father, Melvin Nunn, who originally had a final five of Illinois, Marquette, Memphis, Ohio State and UCLA. "Playing for the major state school absolutely played a big part in the decision. It means something for him to play at the University of Illinois."

Nunn, the No. 3 prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2013 player rankings behind Simeon teammate Jabari Parker and future Illini teammate Malcolm Hill of Belleville East, is a pivotal recruit for Groce and his staff. He opens up the pipeline for Groce to Simeon and the Chicago Public League. He brings instant name recognition and, more importantly, a competitive spirit and toughness to the program.

In addition to his high-level of athleticism, toughness and defensive presence, he's been a winner his entire career. Nunn has been a part of multiple state championships at Simeon and has won two gold medals playing for USA Men's U17 world championship teams the past two summers.

The Nunn family was impressed with the home visit from Illinois last Sunday, but the official visit to campus this weekend put Illinois over the top.

"They gave that presentation Friday night and I was all in," says Melvin. "Kendrick was on board, too, but he wanted to let it sink in for a few hours. "Their presentation gave me goose bumps. That's the best presentation anyone in the country could have given us, because they are the only school that could have given that presentation with all the ties and connections between Simeon and Illinois."

Melvin Nunn also went to Simeon, so he's more than familiar with both the present and past of Simeon basketball, which includes seven previous Wolverines. Among those are stars Nick Anderson and Deon Thomas, the school's all-time leading scorer with over 2,000 career points.

Both Kendrick and Melvin Nunn felt extremely comfortable and confident with Groce and the entire staff. Groce had a previous relationship with Nunn from recruiting him very early in his career while coaching at Ohio.

"There is nothing like being at home with your son at college and knowing they will take care of him," says Melvin. "With that staff, I can tell myself that Kendrick has a second father and three brothers that have his back."

The recruitment of Nunn was a heated battle, with Marquette considered to be the leader at one point and Ohio State closing in. Simeon coach Rob Smith felt Illinois did a terrific job in turning the tide and landing his star guard. He believes there were three factors that put the Fighting Illini over the top.

"The previous relationship Kendrick had with coach Groce and the staff at Ohio definitely helped," says Smith. "Plus, their style of play fits Kendrick perfectly. And I think [assistant coach] Paris [Parham] brought a lot and was a big key. His relationship with the Simeon program over the years, with Melvin, and the trust that there is with Paris was a big boost in this process."

Nunn, the No. 42 ranked player in the country by Rivals.com and No. 54 by Scout.com, joins a recruiting class that already boasts Malcolm Hill of Belleville East, a talented 6-6 wing, and 6-10 Maverick Morgan out of Ohio. Illinois continues to zero in on a pair of talented guards: Demetrius Jackson out of Indiana and Xavier Rathan-Mayes of Huntington Prep in West Virginia. Both are among the top 35 players in the country and have Illinois among their top three.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

The fascinating rise of Bolingbrook's Ben Moore

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: The recruiting part of this story has been updated since this blog was posted Sept. 15 to reflect the changes in Ben Moore's recruitment.)

No one -- not the high-major college coaches who are filing in Bolingbrook these days, recruiting services in Illinois and beyond, Raiders coach Rob Brost and maybe not even the kid himself -- saw this coming two years ago.

Ben Moore, a 6-8 senior from Bolingbrook, has seen his reputation soar and his recruiting stock instantly rise as a result of being the classic "late bloomer" in high school hoops. Now everyone is trying to figure out if what they are hearing is fact or fiction.

There was always one big believer in Moore: Brost.

The Bolingbrook coach believed before everyone else the lanky, talented player in his program was, at the very minimum, a mid-major who could play himself up to a mid-major plus player. He talked -- jokingly pleaded? -- to the Hoops Report last fall and throughout the winter about the level Moore could play at in college, while everyone else took a conservative wait-and-see approach.

This isn't the story of the precocious eighth-grader coming into high school with high-major programs ready to pounce. He wasn't a highly-regarded prospect in the class as a freshman or sophomore. As recently as last October, Moore was just on the outside looking in of the Hoops Report's Top 25 prospects in the Class of 2013.

By the midway point of his junior year this past season he still had just one offer at the Division I level -- from IPFW. The Hoops Report had him projected as a mid-major by the end of the season and programs at that level were involved by the time the April evaluation period rolled around.

"He was patient, worked on the things he needed to work on," says Brost of his star player who averaged 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks a game this past season. "It's really a testament to him and very refreshing to see how he's worked and handled it all. He knew he was as good or better than a lot of those kids getting the offers and ranked higher. But he also knew he had to go out and prove it."

Said one Division I coach to the Hoops Report this week, "I can't believe that's the same Ben Moore as the one I saw last spring."

The jump he's made in the past 12 months has been impressive. And if you want to really pinpoint the gigantic strides he's made, you could probably reference it in a matter of weeks, not months or years. He made heads turn a time or two during the July evaluation period and then solidified himself in the opening week of open gyms for college coaches this past week. Today, he's climbed into the Hoops Report's top 10 prospects in the Class of 2013.

"I knew he was good, but I knew he was a legit high-major when we were back to school and watching him during these fall open gyms," says Brost. "He's just gotten better and better and better. He's at a completely different level than he was even a few months ago. A lot of it is his mentality. He's a different player."

College coaches aren't stupid. A mid-major program isn't going to waste the winter of a kid's junior year recruiting and evaluating and showing face if there is absolutely no shot of getting him because he's a surefire, no-brainer high-major. That's what Moore was all winter long and throughout the spring: an impressive mid-major prospect. He was just waiting to be seen.

It's a recruiting party that has grown in waves, first from low-Division I schools last winter to a group of mid-major programs this spring and summer. Now it appears to be the high-major folks stepping in. Northwestern and SMU offered Moore. Now two more high-major programs have offered after Missouri coach Frank Haith and DePaul coach Oliver Purnell stopped in for an open gym Wednesday night. And the likes of Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois have shown more than just a courtesy look of late. Illinois head coach John Groce was in the gym Wednesday with assistant coach Paris Parham. A lot will play out with this recruitment in the coming days, but Illinois is definitely intrigued and likes Moore a lot.

And of the remaining schools currently still in the mix with the fast-rising Moore, it's been Colorado State that has been the most committed and steadfast, even getting an official visit from Moore. Coach Larry Eustachy and two assistants were on hand for Moore's open gym Wednesday night.

There is a fine line between being the bubble high-major/mid-major plus player and the no-doubt-about-it high-major player. With Moore, he's slender and without any bulk, but he grew another inch to get to 6-8. While he might not be a jaw-dropping high-major athlete, he's a very good athlete with a quick bounce off the floor and a long, 7-foot wingspan. He's an improved shooter, particularly from 12-15 feet, but still has a long way to go in that area. His skills are budding, as proven by the fact he handles the ball as comfortably as a wing. But everything is still just raw enough to make high-major programs double and triple-check when evaluating him.

The fact of the matter -- and the moral of the story, really -- is that every prospect develops, improves and grows, both physically and as a player, at a different rate. Moore wasn't one who plateaued when he was 16 or 17; he started to take off.

Here is the thing about Ben Moore: No matter how long it took him to get this good, no matter how many people looked past him his first three years of high school, no matter how much work is still to be done, he is a running, dreaming, shining example of why young high school players do not need to get caught up in all the hoopla and rankings.

The rankings? They aren't always right, that's for sure. But it's also about the timing of the rankings, the development of the player and projection. Again, if it was so clear with a player like Moore six or nine months ago, he would have been in everyone's top 10 prospects in Illinois and mid-major programs wouldn't have been wasting their time. These types of recruitments happen, just not on a normal basis.

But give the credit to Moore. It took time for him to realize his potential, to grow into his body and become the player he is right now.

And it's also about the eye of the beholder and what individual people see. The mystique a prospect generates, both early in his career and then late, adds to the recruitment puzzle.

How about this one example of how rankings and recruiting at this time can be so different.

When comparing Moore to, say, Mike Shaw of De La Salle two years ago, the Hoops Report would put Moore as the better "prospect" at the very same stage -- the fall before their senior year. The difference is there was a lot more fuss surrounding Shaw than Moore at the same stage. But what does that necessarily mean? Why was Shaw all the rage and Moore just flirted with up to this point?

While it was considered blasphemy by others that the Hoops Report did not have Shaw clearly among the top 10 prospects in Illinois prior to his senior year, his recruitment was covered and analyzed to the nth degree. Shaw was, after all, once a top 10 prospect in the country in the Class of 2011. He was a top 75 player nationally heading into his senior year and was down to three high-majors: Illinois, Marquette and West Virginia.

Then there is the late bloomer in Moore who, remember, had just one Division I offer (IPFW) when the calendar turned to 2012 last January. Now high-major coaches are checking in on to make sure he's good enough at this late stage of the recruiting calendar. And they are liking what they see. What they see is a player who is just coming into his own and has untapped potential in that long 6-8 body of his.

Ben Moore, the prospect, has one of the big and tough decisions to make for a player at his level and who has developed in the way that he has. Do you stick with the programs at the mid-major plus level that have been on you longer, that you may have a more pronounced relationship with and where you will likely be able to come in and contribute earlier and be a true difference-maker? Or do you take the high-major love you're receiving and run with it, follow the dream and try to find the right fit for you to develop into the player they hope you can become down the road?

The process is now a whirlwind, an exciting ride, with the mid-major and mid-major plus programs that have been recruiting him keeping their fingers crossed and high-majors jumping in during the final stages. And why shouldn't Moore drink every last drop of the recruiting experience? He's earned it.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Where the uncommitted stand in 2013

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Boy, thinking back to a year ago at this time we were ALREADY thinking ahead to the Class of 2013. There was just so little recruiting drama around the Chicago area in the Class of 2012 as we geared up for the stretch run.

Simeon's Steve Taylor, the state's top senior prospect, had already committed to Marquette following the July evaluation period. Top five prospect Fred Van Vleet of Rockford Auburn had already decided two months earlier, committing to Wichita State in early July. And four of the top eight players in the class were destined to go the JUCO route. The September and October recruiting buzz leading up to the November signing period last fall? Uh, there was none.

This year? Whoa. Plenty of recruiting storylines to follow that go well beyond all-everything Jabari Parker. There is plenty of intrigue, especially with several uncommitted high-major prospects -- Parker, Simeon teammate Kendrick Nunn and Proviso East's Sterling Brown to name a few -- and a couple late, fast-rising prospects who keep grabbing more and more recruiting interest.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at several of the top uncommitted prospects in the Class of 2013 and where they stand in mid-September.

• Kendrick Nunn, Simeon
This one is probably the most watched and public recruitment remaining, which naturally comes with a top 75 recruit nationally from a state powerhouse. There was an official list of five released in early August, which included Illinois, Marquette, Memphis, Ohio State and UCLA. But after receiving a commitment from Allerik Freeman, a 6-4 shooting guard from Findlay Prep this past weekend, UCLA is out. Memphis is trying to hang in while Ohio State is trying to make a late surge. At the end of the day, it appears the two that have been there the longest and most steadfast throughout the recruiting process -- Illinois and Marquette -- will be duking it out. Both Illinois and Marquette were impressive in their in-home visits earlier this week. Nunn will take his official visit to Illinois this weekend, with a trip planned to Marquette in the middle of October.

• Sterling Brown, Proviso East
There are three official visits set: Miami, Memphis and Missouri. But all three are scheduled for October, so who knows what can happen and who can make some headway in the next couple of weeks. Maybe SMU? Coach Larry Brown and the Mustangs recently entrenched themselves in the Brown Derby and could very well land one of the two remaining official visits Brown plans to take. A rather lengthy list of high-major schools remain in the hunt as well, so this one is nowhere near close to a conclusion. The other caveat is just where does Michigan State stand? Sparty, where Sterling Brown's brother Shannon played, has shown increased interest but has yet to offer. Has Michigan State played around too long?

• Ben Moore, Bolingbrook
In a pre-July evaluation period blog on the Hot 10 that will open the eyes of college coaches the most, Moore was included on that list. But the Hoops Report didn't quite envision this much eye-goggling leading up to Signing Day. This is one recruitment where the list tends to get longer before it gets shorter due to the late, rising interest of higher-level programs. Plus, the 6-8 forward brings much to the table with his sound academics. Moore, the No. 10 ranked prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2013 (and climbing), just received an offer from Northwestern. Now other high-majors, including Missouri and Illinois, are taking serious looks. He took an official visit to Colorado State last weekend. Detroit has been recruiting Moore the longest, while SMU head coach Larry Brown and his staff have made a very favorable impression. Look for Moore to trim his list much sooner than later before it gets out of hand.

• Kendall Pollard, Simeon
The 6-5 senior is wide open. There is a surplus of mid-major and mid-major plus programs involved, but he has not taken any official visits and doesn't have any official visits lined up at this point. There are several in-home visits taking place, including Southern Illinois, Colorado State and Dayton.

• Alvin Ellis, De La Salle
The recruitment of the 6-4 athletic wing has always made sense, with the Ellis family doing a nice job of zeroing in on certain programs and not letting the number of schools interested get out of hand. Ellis will visit Minnesota the weekend of Sept. 22 and is trying to schedule a visit with Kansas State in October. Northwestern remains in the mix at the high-major level, with Wichita State, Illinois State and LaSalle all prominently mentioned.

• Alec Peters, Washington
The list of offers surged throughout the spring and summer for the sweet shooting Peters. While sporting more than 20 offers, it's been believed that Illinois State was the school to beat for the 6-7 senior. But both Boston College and Valparaiso have made great strides and received official visits, with a previous visit to BC and an upcoming visit to Valpo this weekend. Those three programs now stand above the rest, with a few high-majors still poking around, including Tennessee, which stopped in to check on Peters.

• Alex Foster, Seton Academy
It seems we've all followed the Alex Foster recruitment for so long. That's what happens when you're a hot shot prospect so early in a prep career. It's been a little tight-lipped, but the suitors are out there for senior big m an. Although the 6-7½ Foster remains wide open, a trio of schools have shown the most interest and were all in this week to check in on Foster. Auburn, Tennessee and Minnesota remain high on Foster's list.

• Jared Brownridge, Waubonsie Valley
And then there were three. Brownridge, one of the elite shooters in the state of Illinois, secured double-digit scholarship offers from a plethora of mid-major programs over the past 12 months. The list has been trimmed. The 6-1 guard visited Southern Illinois last weekend and will make the trek to California and visit Santa Clara this weekend. He will wrap up his third and final official visit with a trip to Drake later this month.

• Sean O'Brien, Mundelein
The 6-6 versatile O'Brien continues to impress and slide his way up the rankings and as a prospect after a solid summer playing with Fundamental U. O'Brien has four official visits and in-home visits set up, including Santa Clara, Southern Illinois, Bradley and Northern Illinois. UW-Milwaukee, Western Michigan and Florida Gulf Coast have all been involved.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport


Fill up the Hoops Report Mailbag
It's been awhile. Too long. Time for the City/Suburban Hoops Report and its loyal readers and followers to re-connect. Thus, it's time for the Hoops Report Mailbag -- Part VI.

Get creative, have fun, make it interesting as previous mailbag questions have brought out some of the best in high school hoops conversation. The Hoops Report will try to get to all your questions, with the best of the bunch addressed first in a blog later this month.

Email the Hoops Report with your question at hoopsreport@yahoo.com. Please include a name (first name, initials, nickname -- something to be recognized, along with where you're from.) Or you may leave a question here on the comments section of the blog, which won't be posted but will be included in the mailbag.

Here are the links to the previous five Hoops Report mailbags.

Hoops Report Mailbag I

Hoops Report Mailbag II

Hoops Report Mailbag III

Hoops Report Mailbag IV

Hoops Report Mailbag V

Division I backcourt tandems aplenty in prep ranks

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You win with guards. Not just any 'ol guards, obviously, but good ones. We're talking ones that can handle the ball under pressure, make the right decisions and score when needed. They provide some leadership, maybe some toughness if you've got a really good one. And, oh, hit key free throws down the stretch

Put a couple of ballhandlers out there with good court sense and scoring ability, and the wins will come and the coaching will look good.

As we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season, there are several bonafide, top-flight backcourts that will surely carry teams this winter.

With Marist senior guard L.J. McIntosh committing to Pan American on Sunday, it forms yet another Division I-bound backcourt to watch in the Chicago area this coming season. McIntosh, who quietly put together a solid junior year last season, teams up with Valpo-bound point guard Lexus Williams to give coach Gene Nolan a rock solid, dependable Division I backcourt.

The Marist duo is one of many backcourts in the Chicago area filled with either Division I commits or Division I potential. Here is a look at several of the elite guard tandems in the Chicago area this coming season.

Billy Garrett, Jr. and Kyle Davis at Morgan Park
When you think of the talent coach Nick Irvin will get to play with this winter, it doesn't end with Garrett and Davis in the backcourt. It does, however, certainly start there. There is size, experience and shooting ability with Garrett. There is electric explosiveness and scoring with Davis. The DePaul-bound Garrett, a 6-4 point guard and four-year starter, will be teamed with Davis, the recent Dayton commit, to form what is arguably the top backcourt in the state. The talented guard depth at Morgan Park also includes up-and-coming 6-3 junior guard Torry Johnson and promising sophomore guard Kain Harris, a pair of young Division I prospects. Plus, Markee Williams, who started with Garrett in the backcourt as freshmen at Morgan Park, has transferred back from Crane.

Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn at Simeon
There will be plenty of people who will make the argument this is the best backcourt in the state. It's certainly not out of the question. Tate has settled into the Simeon way after transferring in from De La Salle and playing a key role last year during a state title run as a junior. Nunn, meanwhile, remains one of the top 2-guards in the state. He's a high-major college talent with elite explosiveness, toughness and a whole lot of experience.

Lexus Williams and L.J. McIntosh at Marist
Right now there may not be a more experienced and cohesive backcourt tandem than Williams and McIntosh. These two have chemistry. In addition to both being unselfish, they have played together forever and feed off one another extremely well. That's why coach Gene Nolan's Marist team will be favored to win the East Suburban Catholic this season. Williams has evolved, becoming a playmaker with scoring ability. McIntosh, without much fanfare, averaged 15.6 points and 3.6 rebounds a game last season. These two led Marist to a sectional title game appearance last March, where it fell to eventual state champ Simeon.

Charles Matthews and Dominique Matthews at St. Rita
When you have one of the premier talents in the state -- in this case, super sophomore Charles Matthews -- you're going to have a difference-making backcourt. But then add the brother? This brother tandem is a young one but very talented, with the 6-4 Charles Matthews the top college prospect in the Class of 2015 in Illinois. He's a unique talent when you consider his size, length, ability and age. Dominique Matthews, a 6-2 junior, will already be a three-year starter this winter for coach Gary DeCesare. Without question, these two brothers form the best backcourt in the Chicago Catholic League.

Paris Lee and Jevon Carter at Proviso East
After playing off the ball last year while Keith Carter ran the point, look for Lee to be a game-changer this season with the ball in his hands. The Illinois State recruit will surely wreak havoc on both ends of the floor with his quickness and constant pressure. But the upside and scoring talent Jevon Carter brings to coach Donnie Boyce's Pirates is what may surprise opponents this season. The 6-1 junior is an outstanding shooter and scorer. He's poised for a breakout season. You better believe Lee and Carter will flourish with teams concentrating heavily on senior star Sterling Brown.

Mark Falotico and Ore Arongundade at St. Viator
After a solid freshman season two years ago, Arongundade burst on the scene during his sophomore year. He helped lead the Lions to a school record 25 wins and their first outright East Suburban Catholic Conference title a year ago. Falotico, meanwhile, is an up-and-coming sophomore who is wise and mature for a young, pure point guard. He will be an impact player in the ESCC sooner than later after an outstanding spring and summer on the AAU circuit.

Dom Adduci and Kendall Stephens at St. Charles East
The 6-5 sweet-shooting Purdue-bound Stephens gets all the attention, but Adduci was rock solid a year ago as a sophomore and has put together an outstanding offseason. While Stephens averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds a game last season, the quick, fearless Adduci put up 14 points and over 3 assists a game. There won't be a better backcourt in the far western suburbs this winter.

Matt Mooney and Duante Stephens at Notre Dame
Coach Tom Les does a great job in developing guards and playing to their strengths. These two bring experience and size to the backcourt. The often overlooked Mooney is a hot commodity among Division II and NAIA schools, but he also picked up an offer from Air Force last month. At 6-2 he can play both guard spots effectively, shoots it with range and has a nice feel for the game. Stephens is a strong, big-bodied 6-3 guard who averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds a game as a sophomore.

Malachi Nix and Lorenzo Dillard at Niles North
While both the diminutive Nix and the power-packed Dillard try to prove their worth to college coaches, these two put together big junior years. Nix, despite his 5-6 size, played huge a year ago, averaging 19.5 points and 3.2 assists as a junior. With Nix and Dillard, who pumped in 45 points in a loss to New Trier last season, Niles North could be looking at its third straight 20-plus win season.

Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash at St. Joseph
Is it premature to put this sophomore tandem on a list of top backcourts? Maybe. But of these guards are future Division I players. And sooner or later these two, who are among the top prospects in the Class of 2015 after a stellar summer playing with the Illinois Wolves, will be mentioned in the same breath with the elite backcourts in Illinois.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Hey, these coaches can recruit, too

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$1.4 million.

That's the average salary of the 68 head coaches who led their teams to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, according to a USA Today study. The eight head coaches in the CCIW, one of the top Division III basketball conferences in the country, make roughly half that figure--combined.

There is obviously big money in big-time college basketball, with higher stakes, intensified pressure and more demands than at the Division III, Division II or NAIA levels. Nonetheless, the coaching staffs of those small college basketball programs have taken a leap forward in the amount of time and work they put in.

Over the past 10-15 years there have been many changes the Hoops Report has seen in the basketball recruiting world. One of the significant changes has been the increased workload small college basketball coaching staffs now put in on the recruiting trail. There is no comparison in the hours now spent recruiting compared to the 1980s or even 1990s.

For starters, there are so many more high school basketball events in the offseason than 10-15 years ago. AAU basketball has a busier schedule than the NBA. When it comes to the ultra-busy month of June (Thank you, AAU, for at least letting the high school coaches have June still), the traditional high school program runs full throttle for nearly 30 days.

Plus, the recruiting calendar and restrictions for small college programs, especially Division III and NAIA schools, is much more wide open than Division I. The amount of days these coaches can be out evaluating quadruples the number Division I coaches can be out. With so few recruiting restrictions, there are several Division III recruiting stories I've heard that are outrageous when it comes to how many times a particular coaching staff has watched a small college prospect play during a season.

And try being a small college basketball coach dealing with the starry-eyed, unrealistic teen--and their parents--who believe they are Division I prospects. These coaches deal with the same routine year after year. The coach makes contact in the spring or early summer of the prospect's junior year. Initially, the early sales pitch made by coaches is scoffed at, looked down on and ignored. The coaches know the drill, accept it and wait for the recruiting dust to settle six or nine months down the road.

While there seems to be 347 different players and parents who think Division I basketball is in the cards for them, they fail to realize the actual number of Division I players in Illinois per class is in the neighborhood of 35-50. In addition, the majority of people have zero idea the level of basketball that is played in some of the top small college basketball conferences around the country.

Just as there is in Division I basketball, there is good and bad when looking at the many small college programs that recruit the Chicago area and the state of Illinois. The Hoops Report hasn't put together a "Super Six" list of small college coaches as it has in the past for Division I assistant coaches, but there are many that stand out in the Division II, Division III and NAIA ranks.

Some work extremely hard, some not so much. Usually -- but not always when it comes to small college basketball -- it shows. As far as the many Division III, Division II and NAIA programs across the state of Illinois and neighboring states, there is a lengthy list of coaching staffs that do an outstanding job. But there are also a few that just get after it and push it a little more than others.

At the Division III level, head coach Chris Conger and the Lake Forest College basketball staff set the bar in terms of getting out and working and evaluating high school talent. When it comes to Conger and his assistants -- Dewayne Evans, Ken Davis and Kyle Taber -- there isn't a staff that is in high school gyms and sees and evaluates more prep and AAU players than Lake Forest.

Said one small college basketball assistant coach to me while in a gym this past summer, "If Lake Forest isn't here then why am I here?" To which I responded, "You missed them. They're over there."

While the list of scholarship programs at the Division II and NAIA level in Illinois is much shorter than the Division III list, Lewis University sets the tone. Coach Scott Trost, a veteran grinder on the recruiting trail, has put together an impressive staff in Adam DeMong and Neal Young. These three are constants when it comes to getting in gyms across the Chicago area, while also reaching heavily into Indiana and Michigan. With the time commitment put in and relationships built by this staff, Lewis continues to have a presence with Chicago area players and coaches.

When it comes time to single out individual assistants, it's not easy. There are dozens of small college basketball assistants who are the "regulars" in gyms, who scour the area 12 months a year, put in the time and surpass the recruiting and evaluating effort of the average coach. But if the Hoops Report had to single out one assistant at both the Division III and Division II levels that stands out from the rest of the pack in terms of being seen, right now those two would be Tom Jessee at Augustana and Josh Wolfe at Wisconsin-Parkside.

Jessee is everywhere on the recruiting trail, doesn't waste time and is constantly involved with the top small college talent. He is a veteran assistant coach (beginning his 17th season) for one of the top Division III programs in one of the premier Division III conferences. He's been instrumental in helping head coach Grey Giovanine land terrific recruiting classes over the years. When the right situation and fit presents itself, Jessee is more than ready to be a small college head coach.

Wolfe, who is in his sixth season under head coach Luke Reigel, is the recruiting coordinator at Parkside. He landed Homewood-Flossmoor's Jeremy Saffold, who has become one of the top players in the GLVC. Now, if only Wolfe could receive $5 bonus every time he crosses the Wisconsin-Illinois border. Wolfe and Parkside are persistent in recruiting Illinois with countless trips to Illinois gyms, no matter the month of the year.

They may not be after the McDonald's All-Americans or out recruiting the top 150 players nationally. They may be looking beyond even the top 30 players in the state of Illinois. But the fact is there will be 100-plus players from this state looking to play small college basketball somewhere, and while many of these recruitments are under the radar and aren't being tweeted or written about, they can be heated. And because these small college coaches put in the countless hours and endless drives across the city, suburbs and state -- making FAR less money than their Division I counterparts -- the recruiting losses hurt them as well. These coaches can recruit, too.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Time to fill up the Hoops Report mailbag

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It's been awhile. Too long. Time for the City/Suburban Hoops Report and its loyal readers and followers to re-connect. Thus, it's time for the Hoops Report Mailbag -- Part VI.

Get creative, have fun, make it interesting as previous mailbag questions have brought out some of the best in high school hoops conversation. The Hoops Report will try to get to all your questions, with the best of the bunch addressed first in a blog later this month.

Email the Hoops Report with your question at hoopsreport@yahoo.com. Please include a name (first name, initials, nickname -- something to be recognized, along with where you're from.) Or you may leave a question here on the comments section of the blog, which won't be posted but will be included in the mailbag.

Here are the links to the previous five Hoops Report mailbags.

Hoops Report Mailbag I

Hoops Report Mailbag II

Hoops Report Mailbag III

Hoops Report Mailbag IV

Hoops Report Mailbag V

Small college basketball musings and recruiting

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Where is Jabari Parker going? Will Kentucky reload with another great freshmen class? Why were there so few Illinois prospects ranked among the top 100 players nationally in the Class of 2012? How many high-major players are there in Illinois in this year's senior class? Okafor or Big Cliff in 2014? Why won't the top prospects stay home?

The majority of stories written and tweets sent out regarding recruiting in Illinois centers around Division I basketball. But there are a whole lot of successful small college basketball programs throughout the state, and there are even more Illinois prospects that go and play Division II, Division III and NAIA basketball than Division I.

With that being said and with college classes having started -- or will soon start-- across the country, college basketball programs at all levels are welcoming their freshmen talent this fall.

Here is some small college basketball conversation ...

• Under-the-radar transfer
With the 400-plus transfers around college basketball at the Division I level, it's easy for the majority to fly under the radar, particularly when the move is from Division I to Division III. The University of Chicago, however, will welcome back an area product this year in Wayne Simon, who prepped at St. Joseph and signed with American University out of high school.

Simon, a 5-10 point guard, saw limited action in two years at American, a school that competes in the Patriot League. Last year he played just 8 minutes a game as a sophomore. Following his senior year, Simon was the Hoops Report's No. 44 ranked player in the Class of 2010.

It's quite an impressive incoming class for coach Mike McGrath. Joining Simon will be a pair of Division III recruiting steals in the Whitney Young tandem of 6-3 guard Jordan Smith and 6-6 uber-athlete Nate Brooks.

• Lake Forest College star going pro
No, he's not leaving early as an early-entry into the NBA Draft, but Travis Clark is yet another small college basketball player who has shown there is a basketball life after playing at the Division III level. The Evanston product, who starred at Lake Forest College, has signed a contract with Herzoege Wolfenbuettel of the Pro B division in Germany for the 2012-2013 season.

Clark had a standout career while playing for coach Chris Conger, including a senior year in which he averaged 18 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks a game. He led the Foresters to the program's third Midwest Conference championship last year and was named the league's Player of the Year.

• Division III recruiting haul for Augie
When it comes to Division III recruiting, there wasn't a program that brought in a better in-state haul in the eyes of the Hoops Report than Augustana.

A big reason for that belief is Augustana landed the ultimate sleeper with upside and burgeoning talent in Tayvian Johnson of United Twp., who scored a game-high 28 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in the IBCA All-Star Game back in June. Johnson has the potential to be a true difference-maker in the CCIW. The wiry, athletic 6-4 Johnson averaged 17.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game for UT this past season.

In addition, Ben Ryan, a 6-5 wing from Washington, was one of the biggest Division III recruits out of Illinois. Ryan, among the Hoops Report's top 65 players in the Class of 2012 in Illinois, is a tough, hard-nosed winner who put up 17.3 points and 7.5 rebounds for a team that won 26 games last season.

Augustana coach Grey Giovanine also landed a trio of Chicago area products. Carmel big man Brandon Motzel and guards Griffin Pils of Libertyville and Jake Norcia of Highland Park are all headed to Augustana.

Pils, a 6-3 guard who scored 40 points in a regional win over Carmel last season, had a big senior year, averaging 17 points, 6.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2 steals a game. The 6-7 Motzel put up 13.2 points and 8 rebounds game, while Norcia did just about everything for coach Paul Harris at Highland Park, leading his team in scoring (14.5 ppg), assists, steals and three-pointers made.

• Lewis reloads along frontline
Go ahead and ask any college coach at any level what the toughest thing is to find to fill its roster: quality big men. While a true point guard is a demanding position to fill, big men are at such a premium. Lewis University filled that need.

The loss of four-year mainstays 6-8 Matt Toth (Sandburg) and 6-9 Marty Strus (Stagg), who both graduated this past year after solid careers, will be felt at Lewis. However, coach Scott Trost went out and filled the frontline with a host of incoming recruits for his Division II program.

Trost and his staff secured five players with size and talent, including a pair of Hoops Report top 50 prospects in the Class of 2012 in St. Charles North's Kyle Nelson and Marion's Jared Ellis. The 6-8 Nelson is a post player with size and face-up shooting ability, while Ellis is an athletic 6-7 post with enormous upside.

In addition, 6-8 Brad Foster of Lincoln-Way Central, the No. 56 ranked prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012, and a pair of out-of-state players -- 6-7 Paul Baumgart out of Michigan and David Heckman out of Indiana -- will give the Flyers size and versatility.

Lewis is putting together a young, talented group with the five-man recruiting class coming in this year, along with a pair of impressive sophomores in 6-4 Julian Lewis (Homewood-Flossmoor) and guard Ryan Jackson (Riverside-Brookfield). Last year, Jackson was named to the Division II Bulletin All-Freshman Team and was selected as the GLVC Freshman of the Year after averaging 13 points a game, while Lewis averaged 7.9 points and 5 rebounds a game.

• And more Division II recruiting ...
Quincy and Illinois-Springfield, both Division II programs in Illinois, also have in-state talent headed their way. Quincy secured several in-state prospects but the best of the bunch is a pair of talented downstate prospects in 6-6 Dalton Hoover of Pittsfield and 6-4 shooter Geoff Hartleib of Highland.

UI-Springfield, meanwhile, will get a boost from Downers Grove South guard Jamal Millison and Glenbard South's 6-6 Dusko Despot, who both signed with the PrairieStars. Millison was among the top 60 prospects in the final Hoops Report player rankings in the Class of 2012 after a standout prep career, which included averaging 14 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game as a senior. Despot is a promising, skilled player with size and versatility. He averaged 14.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game as a senior.

Speaking of the UIS basketball program, head coach Ben Wierzba took over the program a few years ago and has made his mark. Wierzba and his staff have made UIS a presence in recruiting in the Chicago area and throughout the state in a short period of time.

• Turnaround at St. Francis
Coach John Baines at St. Francis, a NAIA program in Joliet, led the Fighting Saints to the second biggest win turnaround in all of NAIA basketball last season. The 21 wins a year ago were an improvement of 13 games from the previous season and was the best record at USF in 21 years. Baines brought in several local recruits, including high-scoring shooter Eddie Presniakovas, a 6-2 guard from Plainfield South.

• Division III quick-hits ...
Ryan Coyle of Wheaton St. Francis has a chance to be a real impact player for Illinois Wesleyan and coach Ron Rose. The 6-5 Coyle is extremely versatile and was so impressive down the stretch for St. Francis last March. He put up 26 points and 12 rebounds in a sectional semifinal win over Crane, before falling to Marshall in the sectional final. He averaged 15.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game last season and leaves as the school's all-time leading scorer

➥ Look for 6-5 Mirko Grcic of Lake Zurich to be a big contributor at Loras sooner than later for coach Greg Gorton. Grcic, who averaged 18 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2 assists a game for Lake Zurich this past season, could prove to be one of the bigger Division III recruiting steals in 2012.

➥ He wasn't talked about a lot this past season but Marian Catholic's 6-6 Erik Crittenden put together a terrific year and opened eyes among small college programs. Elmhurst College landed a quality prospect with a combination of skill and size.

➥ When it came to recruiting big men in the Division III ranks, the Hoops Report believed Michael Berg of Midwest Central, a school in the central part of Illinois just southwest of Peoria, was one of the better ones. The 6-7 Berg is headed to Wheaton to play in the CCIW this year.

➥ Another sleeper: Kalmon Stokes of Oswego East. The undersized but active and athletic 4-man who plays extremely hard is headed to Aurora University.

➥ A couple of out-of-state Division III programs snuck into Illinois and stole a pair of quality small college big men in Hinsdale South's Brock Benson and Evanston's Randy Ollie. Hope College in Michigan will welcome the 6-7 Benson, who averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds this past season, while Oberlin College in Ohio is getting a late-blooming 6-8 Ollie to work with over the next four years.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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