By Joe Henricksen

Eight young pups to watch this winter

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How many puppies are in the average litter? I looked it up and it depends on the breed of dog, ranging from 8 (German Shepherd) to 7.8 (Labrador Retriever) to 5.9 (Bulldog) to 4.8 (Cocker Spaniel).

So with that meaningless bit of trivia out of the way and in mind, the City/Suburban Hoops Report will stay in that range in putting together this list: The top young prospects to watch in the Class of 2016 and 2017 in Illinois.

Remember, it's early. They are still just pups, with names we haven't heard of still yet to develop and, potentially, any one of these names slipping as their development stalls over the course of the next three or four years.

But here are eight of the top young prospects, listed alphabetically, who will all make various impacts at the varsity level this upcoming season and have opened the eyes of the Hoops Report already.

Barrett Benson, 6-9, C, Hinsdale South (Class of 2016)
As is the case with any true big, you're going to have to be patient with his development. But he has true, legit size that makes him an immediate attraction among college coaches at all levels. And although he lacks ideal athleticism, he has soft hands, touch around the basket and a budding set of skills in the post. It's a wait-and-see as to how quickly and how much he develops.

Nojel Eastern, 6-1, PG, Evanston (Class of 2017)
Of all the player on this list, Eastern has the best feel and acumen -- and he's yet to play a high school basketball game. But the Hoops Report loves the way this kid plays the game. Eastern is an unselfish, pass-first point guard with natural instincts. Already seems to have that team-oriented, winner's mentality that anyone who watches will appreciate.

Devin Gage, 6-1, PG/2G, Curie (Class of 2016)
While Cliff Alexander is the aircraft carrier for a state title contender, Gage will be shouldering a lot of responsibility. As a result, we will see how high a level of prospect he is in a hurry. He's strong, possesses a little explosiveness off the dribble and uses both in getting to the basket and finishing.

Skyler Nash, 6-4, 2G/WF, Whitney Young (Class of 2016)
Powerfully built perimeter player with size and an ability to knock down shots with range. As he continues to develop his overall skills, add polish and become more of a true 2-guard, Nash will ultimately evolve into a pretty high-level scorer in time. For now, Nash simply has to serve as an ideal complementary player for a senior-dominated, star-laden team.

Zach Norvell, 6-4, PG/2G, Simeon (Class of 2016)
The City/Suburban Hoops Report believes Norvell is, without question, the top prospect in the state in the Class of 2016. Right now he's arguably the best pure basketball "player" in the entire Simeon program. Norvell has terrific size as a combo guard who has the vision and shooting ability to play both guard spots. He seems to always be a step ahead of his competition.

Manny Patterson, 6-7, PF, North Lawndale (Class of 2017)
He's very young and still very raw but advanced physically and athletically. Those last two attributes will be enough to get him on the floor early in his career and make an impact as a rebounder and presence around the basket.

Nick Robinson, 6-5½, WF, Kenwood (Class of 2016)
Without question Robinson has the least recognizable name on the list, but the Hoops Report has been very high on him for quite some time. He's just a fawn, still looking to put together his game and consistency at a higher level. But he's an exciting "prospect" who could be on the verge of breaking out sooner than later.

Jeremiah Tillman, 6-8, PF, East St. Louis (Class of 2017)
He's last alphabetically but is probably at the top of the list when it comes to projecting the very best prospect among all freshmen and sophomores in Illinois. His upside is higher than anyone in the younger classes. Tillman was so impressive this summer when combining his advance skill level for a big man at his size and age. He runs the floor, nimble, touch around the basket and can already find ways to score for a young player.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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Don't forget Christian Negron, 6-5, WF, Larkin HS (Class of 2017). His athleticism is outstanding for someone who will still develop, and is extremely long. He can handle the ball in the half court and transition, and has great instincts around the hoop. Also has great defensive instincts.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on October 27, 2013 8:45 PM.

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