During the action at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, and in the hours and days following, so many coaches were upbeat and expressed that to the Hoops Report in regard to what they saw from their respective teams over two days of action.
Whether they won four games, three or were winless, coaches came away from the event finding positives. Some saw improvement in their team from a year ago, while others saw last year's role players step up or returning starters already taking their game to another level.
Yes, many individual players stood out, but this event is about high school basketball and the chance for a coach to get his first true look at his 2013-2014 team
At R-B, you're going to see quality teams throughout the weekend and coaches are going to learn a whole lot about their team and players as they match up against the type of competition they see at this event.
THE R-B SURPRISE: When a team loses a player the caliber of David Cohn, a four-year varsity guard at York who is off to Colorado State, you expect some growing pains the following year. York, however, has a wealth of experience returning and was the surprise of the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. The Dukes' run to the title was highlighted earlier this week in a previous Hoops Report blog.
YOUR SPOT AT THE HIGH-MAJOR TABLE IS READY: There isn't a player in the Class of 2014 -- at least not a high-profile player -- who has improved more over the past 12 months than Morgan Park's Josh Cunningham. The 6-6½ senior not only utilizes his length and athleticism to his advantage -- defensive disruptions, transition baskets, offensive putbacks, living up at the rim -- but he's made strides with his jumper and perimeter game. He's turned the promise and potential he displayed last summer and all winter into consistent productivity. It's no wonder he's added so much high-major interest this spring.
Speaking of high-major prospects, add St. Joseph point guard Glynn Watson to the list. The biggest attribute the 5-11 junior has going for him is he's a pure point guard. He has the feel, he handles it, gets in the lane, has some gitty-up in him and will stick that 14-16 foot jumper. Look around -- locally, regionally, nationally -- there just aren't a whole lot of run-your-team point guards in the Class of 2015.
No, he's not an Andrew Harrison (Kentucky) or Kasey Hill (Florida) in 2013 or a Tyus Jones or Emmanuel Mudlay in 2014 type point guard prospect. But it may be time for schools to start accepting Watson for who he is rather than what he's not.
AND YOUR 2013-2014 SLEEPER IS ... : You want your sleeper heading into the 2013-2014 season? Give Loyola Academy a look. The Ramblers fell to Niles North in the regional championship in March after capturing the Catholic League North title, but coach Tom Livatino has one ingredient that translates to success: quality senior guards.
Jack Morrissey, the 6-1 sharpshooter, has been a big offensive weapon since his freshman year and remains one of the elite three-point shooters in the state (he knocked down a whopping 112 from beyond the arc as a junior). While Morrissey is the familiar name, the combination of James Clarke and Kevin Kucera, a pair of tough, composed and experienced guards, were eye-opening this past weekend at R-B. Clarke was sensational in a win over Simeon, pumping in 32 points. And Kucera, a gritty, competitive point guard, is a very improved player.
MORE LOVE FOR BRUNSON: OK, the Hoops Report threw out superlatives regarding Stevenson's Jalen Brunson all winter long -- here in December, here again in April and will continue to do so. He captured the eye of fans across the state in March and of national evaluators and college coaches in April.
Watch a little of Brunson and you see a pure basketball sense and feel, terrific vision, a high-level shooter and scorer. But watch him a little more and you see something that's difficult to find these days: an absolute will to win and finding any avenue to do so. That's something you're born with.
CUPBOARD FAR FROM BARE AT PROVISO EAST: On paper Proviso East may not have as many talented pieces as it's had the past two years when the Pirates won 61 games and reached Peoria twice. But coach Donnie Boyce's cupboard is far from bare.
Jevon Carter, a coveted mid-major prospect who led the Pirates in scoring last year, returns. And junior guard Kalin Fisher is on the verge of breaking out after contributing last year as a sophomore. Fisher has a natural ability to score.
In addition, Boyce will welcome one of the better -- if not the best -- incoming freshmen groups in the Chicago area.
ADDITIONAL HOOPS REPORT THOUGHTS FROM R-B:
■ With Tyler Ulis out of the Marian Catholic lineup this past weekend with a shoulder injury, it was an opportunity for Ki-Jana Crawford to show a little more of what he could do with the ball in his hands. Crawford played well and should be a recruiting target among small college coaches.
■ What an impressive tandem Jalen Brunson and Connor Cashaw are going to be over the next two years for Stevenson. They are so poised, which was one big benefit of the run the Patriots went on this past March. They already have a terrific feel and sense for one another on the court and play off each other so well.
■ Cliff Alexander? Mercy! As the Hoops Report indicated in this blog last month, over the past six to eight months the 6-9 Curie star has gone from a no-brainer, must-have high-major recruit to one of those program-changing, alpha dog-type players. He's such an enormous presence and absolutely dominant -- and, now, consistently dominant.
■ West Aurora will battle Naperville Central for the top spot in the DuPage Valley Conference this winter, thanks to the return of Jontrell Walker. The four-year varsity guard put up some numbers at R-B for the Blackhawks, with games of 30, 27 and 26 points.
■ A young, inexperienced Glenbard East team is going to take a step back in the DuPage Valley Conference this season after going 13-1 this past year. But senior JaRon Hall is going to be a big-time scorer for the Rams. The high-scoring guard put up offensive numbers for the Rams as a junior, but this past weekend he went for 28, 22, 20 and 21 in four games at R-B.
■ Morgan Park's Lamont Walker remains undervalued. You can't just create or hope for that type of toughness.
■ The Hoops Report has said it before and will say it again: the key to Curie's hopes of taking the next step as a program is sophomore guard Devin Gage.
■ Forget the talk of best player and best prospect for a moment in the Class of 2014. When talking best, pure scorer it's impossible to leave Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough out of the conversation. Maybe the conversation should start with Yarbrough, who shoots with range, uses his big 6-5 frame well around the basket and has that knack for scoring -- Carmelo-style. He remains trigger-happy, but the kid -- just as he has since the day he entered high school as a freshman -- can score in bunches.
■ The defending state champions were missing their nucleus, but the weekend gave Simeon coach Robert Smith a chance to watch from the sideline a host of players who will be fighting for roles and minutes. One of those was transfer Isaiah Moss, a 6-5 junior-to-be who played this past year at Lincoln-Way East and who is officially enrolled at Simeon.
A bright spot for the Wolverines this past weekend at R-B? Jaycee Hillsman, a big-bodied 6-5 wing who played well after seeing limited action a year ago.
■ Another first-class summer event was put on by Riverside-Brookfield and the basketball staff. The event does receive a lot of hype, but it's also deserving when it comes to the big-named programs in the event and how well the event is run.
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