By Joe Henricksen

Sleeper Alert: Strus, Davis and VanderBrug

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The headline of the story -- Strus, Davis and VanderBrug -- sounds like the founding partners of a law firm. But we're talking burgeoning basketball prospects here.

The big-named players and high-level college recruits are followed intently. Their development as players, from the day they enter high school, is monitored and charted closely by recruiting gurus, college coaches and avid prep basketball fans.

Then there are always those under-the-radar types, maybe a late bloomer or a player who patiently waited their turn as the individual development came a little later.

The CIty/Suburban Hoops Report has three of those for you: Stagg's Max Strus, Bolingbrook's Gage Davis and Timothy Christian's Connor VanderBrug.

These three are players who small college programs at the NAIA, Division II and high-end Division III level should be all over and who, selfishly, will hope their progress slows down just a tad and are never discovered.

➥ Max Strus, 6-3½, PG/2G, Stagg
The Hoops Report has stated in recent weeks that of all the "high-profile players" in the Chicago area, Morgan Park's Josh Cunningham has shown the most improvement over the past 12 months. Another player who has shown that type of tremendous growth, both physically and as a player, is Max Strus.

While Strus won't be courted by the likes of Oklahoma, Missouri, Northwestern, Florida State, DePaul and other high-major programs as Cunningham currently is, he's a player that should be coveted by small college scholarship programs (Division II and NAIA) and watched closely by lower-end Division I schools as his development is far from complete.

Strus put together a solid junior year, leading Stagg to a regional championship and 20 wins while averaging just over 13 points a game. But he did so as a 6-1 junior; now he's close to 6-4 and is a long, rangy, skilled, versatile weapon on the perimeter who can score in a multitude of ways.

And no disrespect to all the "Our doctor says my son's growth plates are still open" crowd of parents, the Hoops Report will take the body evidence. Marty Strus, Max's older brother, was 6-10 and had a stellar basketball career at Lewis University, while sister Maggie Strus is 5-11 and plays volleyball at UIC.

Max has grown three inches since the start of his junior basketball season and doesn't look to be anywhere near done growing. With his bloodlines and current body type, he looks as though he could easily reach 6-5, maybe even 6-6 or 6-7 with the skill package of a point guard.

He developed those skills the past two years as a player who can play with the ball or off the ball for coach John Daniels at Stagg. He can still handle it, pass it and shoot it like a guard as his body morphs more and more into a multifaceted 3-man who can slash to the basket, rebound and create. That's why the Hoops Report is so intrigued with Strus, who is also a standout baseball pitcher in the spring. He appears so far from reaching his ceiling as a player -- a player who will be able to play three different positions at the end of the day.

➥ Gage Davis, 6-2, 2G, Bolingbrook
Forget the dazzling athlete and the physical specimen, the Hoops Report has always had a thing for players who can shoot it and put the ball in the hole. And for the past two weekends, first at the Oswego East Shootout and then at the Stagg Shootout, the Hoops Report has watched the little-known Gage Davis do just that.

Last summer it was SMU recruit Ben Moore who broke out in grand fashion for Bolingbrook. This past winter, guard Prentiss Nixon broke out in a big way as the Raiders' leading scorer. Now Davis is about to have a little moment of his own.

The shooting guard has grown to 6-2 and added a world of confidence to his game, shooting mid-range, pull-up jumpers and knocking down shots from beyond the arc consistently. He's smooth, has a little length to him and has become a legit offensive weapon with a feathery touch, release and solid footwork. Right now he looks the part of a confident shooter with great shot efficiency.

Physically, Davis must develop and get stronger. He must continue to make strides with his overall floor game. But Davis has skyrocketed up the Hoops Report player rankings and, as he continues to mature physically and tighten up his floor game, look for his stock to continue to climb.

The Hoops Report views Davis as a scholarship player who picked up his first Division I offer this past weekend from Northern Colorado. He should be watched closely this July with NLP on the AAU circuit.

➥ Connor VanderBrug, 6-7, PF, Timothy Christian
It really doesn't take long to walk away impressed by Connor VanderBrug.

First, he looks the part as a big, basketball-playing bodied 4-man. Then he shows you his full arsenal offensively, dropping in a jump-hook, running the floor and dunking in transition, a turnaround jumper from 10 feet, a spin move on the block and then stepping out and knocking down a pair of three-pointers.

Where has THIS kid been?

Danny Leach was Timothy Christian's go-to player this past season as the recently graduated 1,000 career point scorer averaged 17 points a game. But VanderBrug was the rising, get-better-by-the-day talent who was poised for a breakout offseason and a big senior year.

That breakout season is coming as VanderBrug was terrific at the recent Hoop Mountain Shootout at West Aurora. He's still progressing, is still a bit of an undersized 4-man if projecting him too high, remains a little raw in his development and isn't exactly explosive, but he's 6-7, skilled with a terrific body and can really shoot the basketball.

He's another player in the Class of 2014 who should be drawing a whole lot more attention than he currently has from college coaches, especially from high-level Division III, Division II and NAIA programs.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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JH: Good call on the under the radar group. I saw the Strus kid play last year, and he's a talented player with what seems to be a good hoops IQ. John Daniels is also an under the radar coach. It'll be interesting to see how Daniels and Todd Allen of Sandburg handle their top talent (Harris & Strus) this season in the SW burbs.

Another Sleeper Alert: Malik Carter Point Guard For Proviso East Has Already Improved From Last Year Will Be One Of Top Seniors To Watch For Next Season Mark My Words

Good call on Max Strus.
He is a great kid and excellent talent.
I will also be interested to see Max play vs. a step up in competition changing conferences. No longer playing Tridge, LWW, Bradley, etc two times a year.
It will be a little different playing Sandburg, Brook, HF, etc two times a year.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on June 16, 2013 10:03 AM.

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