Chicago Sun-Times

City/Suburban Hoops Report

By Joe Henricksen

Plainfield East's Aaron Jordan commits to Illinois

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Illinois coach John Groce secured his second top five in-state recruit in the Class of 2015 as Plainfield East star Aaron Jordan committed to the Fighting Illini on Saturday.


Jordan, a talented junior guard averaging just over 20 points a game on the year, will join Simeon's D.J. Williams in Illinois' Class of 2015 recruiting class. Currently, Jordan is ranked as the 60th best prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com, and No. 77 by Scout.com.


Jordan and his family were as thorough as they could be throughout the recruiting process. It was more about investing time to secure the best decision rather than enjoying the ride.


"We wanted to take that time, look at things together, because my family and their input is a big part of helping me make my decision, so it was important to have them around on all the visits I took," says Jordan. "But at the end it just felt right. Illinois felt like home."


The homework put in by the Jordan camp has been ongoing over the past 12 months, with multiple visits to schools in attempt to get familiar and close with the coaching staff, the players, campus and community. Finding the right fit from a basketball standpoint was important, but so too was finding the ideal situation academically and socially.


All along, Jordan envisioned playing for his home state school and was always able to check off each box in every one of the three categories -- basketball, academics and the social aspect -- when it came to Illinois.


"Illinois has everything I could ask for as far as a school and with the basketball part of it," says Jordan. "And being from Illinois, growing up in this state, it's all I've ever really known. I'm excited to be able to play for my home state."


With offers from the likes of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Creighton, Xavier, Georgia Tech, Illinois State and Butler, it certainly wasn't a cliché when Jordan stated he was trying to find "the perfect fit." He made a number of trips to Illinois before pulling the trigger on Saturday while taking in Illinois' win over Penn State.


What Jordan will instantly bring to the Illinois program is a consistent, high-level perimeter shooter with size at 6-4 and a quick trigger. He's an efficient shot-maker with range out to the three-point line and a very advanced pull-up game that is smooth and fluid.


Plus, Jordan is about as low maintenance as they come with tremendous character and outstanding academics.

Holiday stock report

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So many games, so many players, so many opportunities.


The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a quick look at a few prospects that really impressed over the past week in holiday tournament play.


CLASS OF 2014 HOLIDAY STOCK RISER: PEYTON ALLEN
Peyton Allen of Chatham-Glenwood, located 15 minutes south of Springfield, is a perfect example of why basketball evaluators and college coaches continue to watch and monitor a prospect dozens of times throughout their entire four-year high school career. You can't afford to just write off a prospect.


The 6-5 senior guard received early attention and hype as a youngster, drawing plenty of college interest and even some high-major offers. Last season at the midway point, Allen contracted a serious case of mononucleosis that required him to be hospitalized.


Although he returned later in the season for Chatham-Glenwood, Allen was never himself on the floor. Even this past summer, Allen was a step slow and a little less than impressive. Allen opted not to sign a letter-of-intent in November and play out his senior year after so many college coaches were unable to see him play at his healthy, high-level self.


But after watching Allen over the holidays at the State Farm Classic in Bloomington-Normal, it's clearly evident that outside influences -- in this case, a serious illness that lingered and zapped a lot out of Allen -- was something outsiders never could properly gauge.


Allen, who leads Chatham-Glenwood into the State Farm Classic title game Monday night against North Chicago, has been terrific in tournament play. He was particularly outstanding when the Hoops Report took in his action.


He looks healthy and says it's the first time he's been at 100 percent since last season. He has more bounce in his step and has showcased improved athleticism off the floor. More importantly, he's simply been a catalyst for the Titans, averaging 26.3 points in the three wins this past weekend.

Allen, a solid perimeter shooter and good rebounding guard, appears much more comfortable in attacking the basket and is playing with such confidence.


He plays in the heart of the Missouri Valley Conference and would be an outstanding late MVC recruit in April -- or in a comparable mid-major plus league -- if he doesn't find a high-major fit. And that's a completely different impression of Allen than the Hoops Report had coming out of the summer.


CLASS OF 2015 HOLIDAY STOCK RISER: ROLAND GRIFFIN
There isn't a player in the Class of 2015 who will skyrocket up the Hoops Report's player rankings list more than Griffin, the 6-4 junior from West Aurora. It says an awful lot for Griffin and his development over the past 12 months.


A role player a year ago for Gordie Kerkman's sectional title team as a sophomore, Griffin has molded himself into a true versatile weapon. He's put in the work and matured physically and mentally as a player. He was impressive at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, showcasing his size, power, strength, improved shooting and the ability to impact games in a variety of ways.


OTHERS WHO ELEVATED THEIR STOCK
■ Kain Harris, Morgan Park
The 6-3 guard displayed his all-around upside and potential as a scorer in a Proviso West breakout performance in a win over Maine South. He poured in 33 points while knocking down 9-of-13 from beyond the arc in the victory. The Hoops Report highlighted Harris in a column earlier this month.


■ Tyler Hall, Rock Island
Although the Hoops Report became a fan of Hall this past summer, the 6-3 shooting guard has solidified himself as one of the top 25 prospects in the Class of 2015 with his play at the start of this season. The smooth perimeter shooter is always a threat to knock down shots, and he continues to become a more diverse scorer.


■ Weisner Perez, Morton
Instrumental in leading Morton to the Proviso West tournament quarterfinals, the 6-6 junior remains an undersized 4-man but an extremely productive one. Perez stepped out and knocked down a couple of three-pointers in three games, while recording three double-doubles in putting up impressive three-game totals of 17.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks a game.


■ Joseph Stamps, Curie
While the 6-4 guard may still be a bit one-dimensional, it's the right dimension to have. Stamps is a high-level shooter who is gaining more and more consistency with it. He can put points on the board and space the floor with his range and shooting ability. In the final three games at Pontiac, the sweet-shooting wing shot 8-of-12 from three-point range and averaged 12 points a game as Cliff Alexander's sidekick.


■ Cliff Alexander, Curie
What? The nation's No. 2 ranked player in the country can't raise his stock? He did in the eyes of the Hoops Report, which continues to be amazed by his sheer dominance, along with his physical and athletic presence. Alexander's performance against West Aurora in the semifinals -- 37 points, 26 rebounds, six blocks and double-digit dunks -- was one for the ages. He led Curie to a tournament title while averaging 27 points and 17 rebounds a game while shooting 69 percent from the field.

Kain Harris switch has been turned on for Morgan Park

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The name first popped up nearly three years ago in one of those common but casual basketball conversations that take place on a regular basis -- this one, at that particular time, the talk was about the then crop of 8th graders.


Morgan Park assistant coach Terry Johnson, who works with the younger players in the Mac Irvin Fire club program in the offeseason, answered rather emphatically when asked his opinion of the top 8th graders he's seen. He gave one name: "Kain. ... Harris."


Boom. Harris was on the City/Suburban Hoops Report radar.


It's not always easy evaluating or even getting excited about most 8th graders or freshmen. The prospect clock has barely started ticking. Even the early rankings of players that young are typically premature. But while Harris didn't make much of a dent on the varsity level for two years, he remained a player full of potential and one to keep an eye on, floating in that 10-20 ranking range as we waited for someone to turn the switch on.


Last year as a sophomore, Harris was one of those players too good for JV/sophomore ball but stuck on a loaded state championship roster, including a backcourt that featured both Billy Garrett, Jr. (DePaul) and Kyle Davis (Dayton), along with freshman Charlie Moore, who received more notoriety and minutes than Harris. Meanwhile, Harris averaged a modest five points a game playing minimal minutes as a role player off the bench.


After a summer and fall where he again showed flashes of the promising prospect he's always been, Harris has taken the opportunity given to him by coach Nick Irvin. The switch has been turned on. He's run with it and has turned the corner -- from prospect to player -- at the start of this 2013-2014 season.


Harris has had multiple 20-plus point games and pumped in an impressive 17 points in the win over Simeon Thursday night. More eye-opening was the fact he was at his best when it mattered most, scoring six points down the stretch of a tight 58-55 road win.


Harris might just be one of those significant counterpoints to the early-hyped, productive freshmen and sophomores that has swept high school basketball over the past decade. Harris has waited his turn and, while far from fully blooming, just might be the player that rises past all the more-talked-about players in his class very quickly.

It's not as if Harris is a mystery -- he's among the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2015 player rankings -- but he's inching his way towards top five status in the class in a hurry. Yes, that's how high the City/Suburban Hoops Report is on this big-bodied 2-guard, who needs to be on high-major radars yesterday.


As Harris pushes 6-4 with a strong, put-together athletic body, what impresses you immediately is how he's wired to score. He's a shot creator and a shot maker. Not only does Harris score, but he scores efficiently. He doesn't need a high volume of shots, because Harris will get baskets in multiple ways.


Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin commonly refers to Harris as "Baby Kobe," but the Hoops Report likens him to more of a high school version of James Harden.


For starters, he's a tremendous finisher out on the wing in transition and in the halfcourt. With his strength and athleticism, he attacks the basket like few players can in this class, getting to the rim with force and aggression. He's a capable shooter who will become more consistent with his shot over time with the very suitable mechanics he possesses. There aren't very many true offensive forces; Harris is one with that type of capability.


As the cousin of former Crane star and current NBA player Tony Allen, you get excited thinking that maybe Harris has some of that Tony Allen ultra-toughness and competitiveness in his DNA. If you add that to the mix, his ceiling goes a whole lot higher.


With the state's top uncommitted senior, 6-7 Josh Cunningham -- who, by the way, was terrific in the win over Simeon -- along with UMKC recruit Lamont Walker and a host of talented young players in the program, Morgan Park was expected to be a top 10 team and capable of repeating in Class 3A. But the Mustangs are better than people think, and it's because of the development and difference one name has made: Kain Harris.

Too early to seed? ... Nah

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With the Illinois High School Association's release of the sectional assignments last week, the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a very early look at how the seeds may look two-plus months from now.


Sure, there's a whole lot of basketball left to be played between now and seeding time in February -- teams will rise, surprise and fall --  but lets crystal ball it, shall we? A look at the Class 4A sectionals and their seeds.


EAST AURORA SECTIONAL
1. Benet Academy
2. West Aurora
3. Hinsdale Central
4. Bolingbrook
▪ This sectional, which West Aurora has won the past two years, is always full of energy and very competitive. Benet's rugged schedule will have it plenty prepared for March. Can one of the Plainfield schools -- East or North -- make a push towards the top four?


BARTLETT SECTIONAL
1. Proviso East
2. Oak Park-River Forest
3. York
4. Morton
▪ Yes, Proviso East is still the team to beat in this sectional until someone proves it can do it. Morton's strength of schedule gives them the edge over Glenbard North, while we will wait and see how potentially dangerous North Lawndale transforms itself over the next couple of months.


MARIST SECTIONAL
1. Curie
2. Whitney Young
3. Simeon
4. St. Rita
▪ A lot to be decided among these four teams before March rolls around. Regardless, a rugged two games await these four powerhouses just to get to the super-sectional. But how would you like to be the teams seeded 5-8 in this sectional? You have to feel for the likes of De La Salle, St. Ignatius, Richards, Stagg and Mt. Carmel in having to beat one of those top four teams just to win a regional.


MAINE SOUTH SECTIONAL
1. Loyola Academy
2. Maine South
3. Evanston
4. Niles North
▪ Maine South is a little better than anticipated (Do we say that every year?), but only four weeks into the season it's Loyola Academy that's been playing at the highest level and projects well with such terrific guard play.


THORNTON SECTIONAL
1. Marian Catholic
2. Bloom
3. Homewood-Flossmoor
4. Thornwood
▪ What's happened to this once-mighty sectional? With the south suburbs a little down and Marian Catholic way up, a repeat sectional title for the Spartans more than just a possibility.


LAKE ZURICH SECTIONAL
1. Stevenson
2. St. Viator
3. Zion-Benton
4. Lake Forest
▪ It's not out of the question the top three teams in this sectional are all ranked among the top 10 teams heading into state tournament play. Right now, though, there is a pretty intriguing list of teams just outside that top four -- unbeaten Fremd, a couple of teams out of the CSL North who are off to strong starts in Deerfield and Highland Park, along with a host of teams out of the battle-tested North Suburban Lake.

Holiday hoops primer: McDipper Tournament

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(This is one of several City/Suburban Hoops Report holiday tournament previews)


McDIPPER
Where: Rich South High School
When: Dec. 26, 27, 28, 30


NEED TO KNOW: In 39 years of this tournament, Marian Catholic had never won the Dipper until last season. In fact, the Spartans had never even played in the championship and had just one semifinal appearance -- all the way back in 1978. So you'll have to excuse the euphoria sweeping over Marian's fan base as their Spartans are the defending champs and favored to repeat.


BUZZ WORD: Ulis. You may have heard of him -- Tyler Ulis. The Marian Catholic point guard and Kentucky-bound recruit is arguably the most exciting player to watch in the state of Illinois right now. And over the holidays you'll only see this special and dynamic talent at the McDipper.


THE FAVORITE: There is a big favorite: Marian Catholic. Yes, coach Mike Taylor has 2012 tournament MVP and all-stater Tyler Ulis leading the way, but the Spartans just fit together like a hand in a glove. Even with a high-scoring star, this team fits together like a hand in a glove. The likes of John Oliver, Ki-Jana Crawford, T.J. Parham, Josh Cohn and others give this team experience and parts that complement each other well.


TOP CONTENDER: Bolingbrook, led by scoring guard Prentiss Nixon, has talent and boasts a 6-1 record. Plus, the Raiders have something Marian Catholic doesn't -- size. The trio of 6-8 junior Julian Torres, 6-6 Kenny Williams and 6-6 Shakur Triplett would be a nice test for an undersized Marian Catholic team if the two teams were to meet.


SLEEPERS: Very few people have noticed but both Rich South and Joliet Central jumped off to solid 6-2 starts. ... It's still not the Thornton of old, but it's an improved Wildcats team over the past couple of years with depth and experience -- and a dangerous one at the McDipper.


CHANCE TO BREAK OUT: Has Thornton really failed to reach the semifinals in each of the past two years? Here's a chance for the Wildcats, who have been a Dipper semifinal regular over the past few decades, to reclaim a little of that south suburban respect.


STORYLINES TO FOLLOW: Any Tyler Ulis heroics at the Dipper will only enhance his reputation and odds of making a run at any end-of-the-year POY awards. ... There are many teams around the Chicago area looking to make a statement over the holidays. Bolingbrook is that team at the McDipper. ... The best opening-round game at the McDipper is the Rich South-University High battle. The winner could give highly-regarded Bolingbrook issues in the second round.


MATCHUP YOU HOPE MATERIALIZES: With no hope of another all-Chicago Heights matchup between Marian Catholic and Bloom (Bloom has moved on to the Pontiac Holiday Tournament), the most enticing matchup from a talent perspective and rankings is Marian Catholic-Bolingbrook.


TOP FIVE PROSPECTS: Tyler Ulis, 5-9, Sr., Marian Catholic; Prentiss Nixon, 6-0, Jr., Bolingbrook; Julian Torres, 6-8, Jr., Bolingbrook; Zion Morgan, 6-2, So., King; Max Rothschild, 6-8, University High.


UNDERRATED PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bolingbrook's shooting guard Gage Davis is an IPFW recruit. ... Unheralded Jonah Cable of Joliet Central, a 6-0 senior guard, was an all-tournament selection here last December. ... Keep an eye on up-and-coming U-High junior Jordan Moran, a big-bodied perimeter talent at 6-3. ... When T.J. Parham, a 6-6 senior who is committed to Army, is playing consistently and at a high level, Marian Catholic is so much more dangerous. ... Rich East 6-5 senior Don Henderson will showcase his athleticism. Can he lead the Rockets past out-of-state foe Barron Collier (Fla.)?


HOOPS REPORT PICK: Marian Catholic

Holiday hoops primer: Pontiac Tournament

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(This is one of several City/Suburban Hoops Report holiday tournament previews)


PONTIAC HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
Where: Pontiac High School
When: Dec. 26, 27, 28


NEED TO KNOW: For pure holiday tournament atmosphere and hospitality, along with a different feel in comparison to any of the Chicago area tournaments -- and, oh, some terrific basketball -- Pontiac is the complete package and place to be after Christmas for high school basketball fans.

BUZZ WORD: Starpower. When you have the four-time defending state champs and the nation's No. 2 ranked player in the country coming to town, there's going to be a buzz. The locals can only hope and keep their fingers crossed that Simeon and Curie's Cliff Alexander are playing in the final against one another.

THE FAVORITE: Curie looked very impressive in knocking off national power Bishop Gorman out of Las Vegas in the Chicago Elite Classic. The top-seeded team at Pontiac has an absolute manchild inside with 6-9 Cliff Alexander, a difference-maker on both ends of the floor. Alexander's dominance and physical presence seems to grow by the week. Plus, both Joseph Stamps and Joshua Stamps have been consistent, double-figure scorers for coach Mike Oliver.

TOP CONTENDER: Simeon is champ until someone knocks them off, even if the Wolverines do have five new starters. But this is a home away from home for the Simeon program. The Pontiac faithful have always had an appreciation for the powerhouse program, and Simeon's comfort level here is one no other top team experiences on the road.

SLEEPERS: Everyone will be surprised if it's not Curie and Simeon in the final. However, the list of teams battling for third is lengthy, balanced and competitive. ... Although Oak Park-River Forest suffered its first loss of the season last weekend to Hinsdale Central, the Huskies are deep, athletic and talented. ... West Aurora, led by guard Jontrel Walker and emerging junior Roland Griffin, Peoria Manual and Bloom are next in line.

CHANCE TO BREAK OUT: Plainfield North's Trevor Stumpe. The 6-4 junior has put up some whopping offensive numbers so far this season. He doesn't have to go for 42 or 32 as he has already in the first month, but anything close to that in this field of teams and on this stage at Pontiac will draw a whole lot more attention.

STORYLINES TO FOLLOW: It's Curie's time. At least the Condors believe it is. A tournament title at Pontiac would be one major step for coach Mike Oliver and his program in its quest to win something -- anything -- big. ... Simeon has played in the championship four straight years, including three consecutive titles. A title here would make it four in a row and put them in position next year to tie Quincy and Peoria Manual for a record fifth straight title at Pontiac. ... How good is West Aurora? The Blackhawks and coach Gordie Kerkman always find out so much about their team in the three days at Pontiac.

MATCHUP YOU HOPE MATERIALIZES: Uh, duh! Everyone is hoping for and anticipating a Curie-Simeon showdown in the final. A pair of city powers with big-named talent and state title aspirations meet in a central Illinois showcase.

TOP 10 PROSPECTS: Cliff Alexander, 6-9, Sr., Curie; D.J. Williams, 6-7, Jr., Simeon; Zach Norvell, 6-4, So., Simeon; Edward Morrow, 6-6, Jr., Simeon; Donte Ingram, 6-5, Sr., Simeon; Denzel Smith, 6-6, Sr., Danville; Erick Locke, 6-0, Sr., Oak Park; Joshua Stamps, 6-4, Jr., Curie; Devin Gage, 5-11, So., Curie; Trevor Stumpe, 6-4, Jr., Plainfield North.

UNDERRATED PLAYERS TO WATCH: It's easy to appreciate Bloom's undersized but rugged 4-man James Coleman. Just watch how he plays. ... Bloomington shooting guard Brady Rose can play. ... He's not the biggest name for OPRF -- and he's a Purdue football recruit -- but 6-5 Simmie Cobbs is a presence and highly-productive. ... Warren guard Eric Gillespie jumped out of the gate quickly this season and is one to watch in arguably the best first-round matchup at Pontiac when the Blue Devils square off with Plainfield North. ... When it comes to production, you won't find many who produce more in Pontiac than Peoria Manual's Delano Jones, a 6-4 warrior. ... Speaking of Peoria Manual, check out the son of former Manual and Illinois star Frank Williams, 6-1 freshman Da'Monte Williams.

HOOPS REPORT PICK: Simeon

Holiday hoops primer: Proviso West Tournament

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(This is one of several City/Suburban Hoops Report holiday tournament previews)


PROVISO WEST HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
Where: Proviso West High School, Hillside, Ill.
When: Dec. 21, 23, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31


NEED TO KNOW: No tournament has had more different teams ranked in the top 25 this season (6) or among the top 15 (Stevenson, Morgan Park, St. Joseph, Bogan and Proviso East) than the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.


BUZZ WORD: Rematches. Several of the marquee matchups from a year ago -- Morgan Park over Stevenson in the semifinals, Morgan Park over Proviso East in the title game, Proviso East over Benet in the quarterfinals -- could (should?) materialize again this year. Could they be even more entertaining/more competitive than a year ago?


THE FAVORITE: Stevenson is a year older, a year better and more comfortable starring on the big stage of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. The Patriots have been impressive in the first few weeks and boast the tournament's best player, 6-2 junior guard Jalen Brunson. Plus, 6-4 junior Connor Cashaw continues to mold into a more complete player.


TOP CONTENDER: Morgan Park. Led by 6-7 senior Josh Cunningham and some budding young talent, the defending Class 3A state champs and 2012 Proviso West Holiday Tournament winner will challenge for another title. The speed, athleticism and depth of coach Nick Irvin's team could be the difference in a title game matchup with Stevenson.


SLEEPERS: With the junior backcourt of Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash, unbeaten St. Joseph could claim its first tournament title since 2006. ... Proviso East has compiled a 11-2 record at Proviso West over the past three years and reached the title game in each of the past two years. With the backcourt firepower the Pirates feature, led by West Virginia-bound Jevon Carter, coach Donnie Boyce's team could make another run. ... Benet Academy has a big man inside in 6-9 Sean O'Mara who demands attention, and the Redwings surround him with several solid perimeter shooters.


CHANCE TO BREAK OUT: Bogan. Led by junior guard Luwane Pipkins, the Bengals have a chance to make some real noise and grab people's attention if it can get by Hillcrest in the second round and take down Benet in the quarterfinals. That would set up an all-eyes-are-on-them tilt with fellow Public League rival Morgan Park in the semifinals.


STORYLINES TO FOLLOW: Over the course of 11 days at Proviso West, observers will see firsthand if last year's powers -- Stevenson and Morgan Park -- are as good as advertised. Both are legit state title contenders, but is this year's version clearly better than last year's? ... Prep basketball fans enjoyed their first real taste of Stevenson's Jalen Brunson last year at Proviso. This year it's a chance for Brunson to elevate his status on a stage that has seen so many all-time greats shine over the years. ... Fenwick is 6-2 WITHOUT its star player, Northwestern recruit Scott Lindsey. We won't go as far as saying it's "Malnati Magic," but can the Friars make a little more noise before they get their top player back? ... Uplift is unbeaten and ranked. Yes, we said Uplift. But it won't be easy as St. Charles East will be a difficult opening-round game. But everyone will know a little more about this upstart Uplift team a couple weeks from now.


MATCHUP YOU HOPE MATERIALIZES: Without looking too far ahead, a matchup between Stevenson and St. Joseph in the semifinals would bring a head-to-head matchup between the top two point guard prospects in the Class of 2015, Jalen Brunson vs. Glynn Watson, and pair up two unbeaten teams in a big-time matchup Dec. 30.


TOP DOZEN PROSPECTS: Jalen Brunson, 6-2, Jr., Stevenson; Connor Cashaw, 6-3, Jr., Stevenson; Josh Cunningham, 6-7, Sr., Morgan Park; Kain Harris, 6-3, Jr., Morgan Park; Sean O'Mara, 6-9, Sr., Benet; Glynn Watson, 5-11, Jr., St. Joseph; Jordan Ash, 6-2, Jr., St. Joseph; Nick Rakocevic, 6-9, So., St. Joseph; Jevon Carter, 6-1, Sr., Proviso East; Luwane Pipkins, 5-9, Jr., Bogan; Tai Odiase, 6-8, Sr., Homewood-Flossmoor; Matt Rafferty, 6-7, Jr., Hinsdale Central.


UNDERRATED PLAYERS TO WATCH: Libertyville big man Joe Borcia, an unknown 6-9 junior, is off to an impressive start and putting up big numbers. ... The young backcourt at Morgan Park, sophomore Charlie Moore and junior Kain Harris, are blossoming talents and scorers. Harris, however, is one to watch. He has the physical characteristics -- he's a big, athletic 6-3 guard -- and really seems to have turned the corner in his approach and consistency. ... Keep an eye on developing big man Joe Borcia of Libertyville, who has jumped out of the gate with some big numbers to start his junior year. Borcia will match up with H-F and 6-8 Tai Odiase, a UIC recruit, in the opening round. ... There are bigger names and bigger prospects at Hinsdale Central, but undervalued shooter Chase Hamilton has been huge for the Red Devils this season. ... Just a Hoops Report favorite for you here: St. Charles East junior point Cole Gentry.


HOOPS REPORT PICK: Morgan Park

Holiday hoops primer: Hardwood Classic

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(This is one of several City/Suburban Hoops Report holiday tournament previews)


HARDWOOD CLASSIC
Where: Wheeling High School
When: Dec. 23, 26, 27, 28


NEED TO KNOW: The loss of North Chicago, Stevenson and Loyola Academy in recent years (unbeaten Loyola is headed to Florida for a holiday tournament later this month) has really hurt this tournament's field and reputation.


BUZZ WORD: New blood. OK, it's two words. But there could very well be two teams in the championship that no one has seen in the final game in years.


THE FAVORITE: There is no question St. Viator, led by the 1-2 punch of senior guard Ore Arogundade and junior guard Roosevelt Smart, is the heavy favorite. The hope for Viator is injured point guard Mark Falotico will be back, which would make the Lions all the more dangerous.


TOP CONTENDER: Fremd boasts great size, experience and is off to a 7-0 start on the season. A potential title game matchup with St. Viator would pit Fremd's size vs. Viator's perimeter talent.


SLEEPERS: Deerfield has so much experience, chemistry and continuity. ... Naperville Central seems to always play well at Wheeling, reaching the semifinals in three of the last five years, winning the whole thing in 2008 and 2011. The Redhawks can lean heavily on the veteran senior tandem of 6-7 Nick Czarnowski and guard Ryan Antony. ... Don't forget about Niles North, which finished second in 2012 and 2010 and features high-scoring guard Duante Stephens.


CHANCE TO BREAK OUT: Deerfield. This team may not have a star -- the 1994 tournament champs featured superstar Ryan Hogan and the 2009 title team was led by MVP Duje Dukan -- but it's a rock solid team. Here's a chance to open eyes, similar to what that 2009 team did. St. Viator may be the team to beat, but the brackets didn't do any favors for the best team in the field, because a talented Deerfield team will be a tough out in the second round.


STORYLINES TO FOLLOW: As the prohibitive favorite, can St. Viator reach the title game for the first time since 2000 and capture its first title since 1996? It just so happens the last time St. Viator won the Hardwood Classic, current coach Mike Howland was an all-tournament selection on that 1996 tourney title team. ... If Fremd walks out of Wheeling with four wins, we have ourselves a clear-cut team to beat in the Mid-Suburban League going forward. Heck, the Vikings may be anyway.


MATCHUP YOU HOPE MATERIALIZES: St. Viator (6-1) vs. Fremd (7-0). If this matchup doesn't materialize at Wheeling, we've been shortchanged. Both have been so impressive in their quick starts.


TOP FIVE PROSPECTS: Ore Arogundade, 6-2, Sr., St. Viator; Roosevelt Smart, 6-2, Jr., St. Viator; Riley Glassman, 6-4, Sr., Fremd; Duante Stephens, 6-3, Sr., Niles North; Mark Falotico, 6-0, Jr., St. Viator.


UNDERRATED PLAYERS TO WATCH: The senior Deerfield tandem of shooter Eric Porter and blue-collar, stat-sheet stuffer Michael Alfieri are Division III prospects that play the right way and are very productive. ... Prospect's Bobby Frasco, a 6-4 senior wing, is a stat sheet stuffer. ... St. Viator has some big names, but 6-3 junior Pat McNamara is an emerging talent in the Class of 2015 and becoming a bigger weapon by the week.


HOOPS REPORT PICK: St. Viator

Holiday hoops primer: Jack Tosh Tournament

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(This is the first of several City/Suburban Hoops Report holiday tournament previews)


JACK TOSH HOLIDAY CLASSIC
Where: York High School
When: Dec. 26, 27, 28, 30, 31


NEED TO KNOW: This is the first year the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament has expanded to a 32-team field. With two gyms available, all 32 teams -- 16 total games -- will be playing on the opening day of the tournament.


BUZZ WORD: Balance. There isn't a juggernaut among the 32-team field, but the balance among the top 8-10 teams is as difficult to sort out as any tournament in Illinois.


THE FAVORITE: Take your pick among a half-dozen teams, but the Hoops Report believes the host school, led by big man Frank Toohey and underrated Charlie Rose, is the team to beat. York is off to a 6-0 start.


SLEEPERS: Take your pick from among Conant, St. Patrick, St. Ignatius, Stagg, Highland Park, Elk Grove and Lake Forest.


CHANCE TO BREAK OUT: While this tournament field lacks ranked teams, it remains a field with quality depth. This is a proving ground of sorts for so many teams. And with so many "average" to "above-average" teams, it's an opportunity for one of them to go 5-0 over the holidays in this 32-team field and gain a boatload of confidence heading into January.


STORYLINES TO FOLLOW: The host school won its own holiday tournament last year for the first time in 30 years. Now York is in position to repeat. ... Stagg is unbeaten at 8-0 and boasts underrated star Max Strus. But four or five wins at York would validate the fast start a little more. ... Everyone is talking about the top three in the tough East Suburban Catholic, but they're not talking about St. Patrick. Can the Shamrocks, off to a 5-2 start, gain a little more steam with a strong showing here? ... And just how good is Elk Grove? The Grenadiers graduated plenty of offensive punch a year and haven't played the toughest of schedules thus far, but they sit a surprising 6-1 four weeks into the season.


MATCHUP YOU HOPE MATERIALIZES: York vs. Lake Forest. Both teams play in two of the best conferences in the Chicago area -- York in the West Suburban Silver and Lake Forest in the North Suburban Lake -- and both feature Division I big men in York's 6-8 Frank Toohey and Lake Forest's 6-7 Evan Boudreaux.


TOP FIVE PROSPECTS: Harrison Niego, 6-1, Jr., Lyons Twp.; Evan Boudreaux, 6-7, Jr., Lake Forest; Frank Toohey, 6-8, Sr., York; Nick Robinson, 6-5, So., Kenwood; Max Strus, 6-4, Sr., Stagg.


UNDERRATED PLAYER TO SEE: St. Patrick's Nick Coleman. The 6-1 junior guard is off to a fast start in leading St. Patrick to a 5-2 record, averaging 24 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in the last two games.


HOOPS REPORT PICK: York

Crusade for recognition for these 10 seniors

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Right off the top of your head, even if you are an average basketball fan, you know the names of the top three seniors in the Chicago area and what blue-blood programs they're headed to: Young's Jahlil Okafor to Duke, Curie's Cliff Alexander to Kansas and Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis to Kentucky.


You may have also heard the tandem of Vic Law of St. Rita and Scott Lindsey of Fenwick have signed with Northwestern, Morgan Park's Josh Cunningham is the best uncommitted prospect left on the board and of the four-year production of Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough is off-the-charts good.


But the identity of many other talented seniors in the Chicago area is a bit more obscure. Rivals prepare for them and they're big names in their respective conferences, but these seniors are aching for a little attention, nonetheless. They deserve it. Each one could use their very own personal publicist, so the City/Suburban Hoops Report is here to help.


While Okafor, Alexander, Ulis and the other top players in this magnificent senior class hog the headlines, here are 10 players in the Class of 2014 who will have big years -- just with a little less hype.


◆ MAX STRUS, STAGG
Helped lead Stagg to a regional championship last year averaging over 13 points and nearly 3 assists a game and a 5-0 start this season. Those numbers will increase even more for the skilled 6-4 guard with length, versatility and shooting range. Strus is a hot commodity among Division II and NAIA programs and will continue to be monitored by Division I schools.


◆ JACK GEORGE, CARMEL
The 6-9 big man has improved virtually every area of his game and become a major weapon this season at both ends of the floor. George has helped his reputation as much as anyone in leading Carmel to a 6-1 start while averaging 20.4 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks a game.


◆ CONNOR VANDERBRUG, TIMOTHY CHRISTIAN
He looks the part as a big-bodied 4-man with a full arsenal offensively. The 6-7 forward is a rising, get-better-by-the-day talent who is one of the best players in the Chicago area no one knows -- even after averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds a game as a junior.


◆ DOMINIC ADDUCI, ST. CHARLES EAST
The slight and slender 5-10 Adduci brings some toughness and offensive punch to the point guard position. As a junior last season he averaged 15 points a game and knocked down 55 three-pointers. After missing the summer with a torn labrum, Adduci has been a catalyst and offensive weapon thus far this season. All Adduci has done in the first two weeks of the season is average 25 points a game.


◆ KEVIN KUCERA, LOYOLA ACADEMY
Arguably one of the most improved players in the senior class from a year ago. He's a tough, hard-nosed point guard for one of the top teams in the Chicago area. Kucera will run a team at one end and defend at the other. So far this season, Kucera is averaging 14 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds a game.


◆ KENDALE McCULLUM, LARKIN
One of the real underrated guards in the Chicago area for a team with big expectations this season. An attacking 6-1 guard with some blow-by speed and an improving perimeter jumper that makes him a difficult player to defend. Plus, he's an absolute stat sheet stuffer with points, steals, assists and rebounds.


◆ DAVID NICHOLS, MT. CARMEL
An unknown due to missing almost all of last season with a knee injury. Nichols is a versatile scoring point guard with some sneaky athleticism. He can get to the basket with some strength, features a developed mid-range game and is a three-point threat. Plus, he's a terrific student academically.


◆ JOHN KONCHAR, WEST CHICAGO
You want numbers and production? Here you go: Konchar, an ultra-versatile 6-5 wing who can shoot it and handle it, is averaging 27.5 points and 14 rebounds a game as the Wildcats are off to a 5-2 start. After averaging 19.7 points and 8.8 rebounds a game as a junior, Konchar started this season with a bang, including 37 points and 17 rebounds in a win over East Aurora and another game with 28 points and 20 rebounds.


◆ CHIP FLANIGAN, GLENBARD NORTH
A 6-5 forward who just keeps getting better. Yes, he's a no-namer outside DuPage County, but he will be fighting for DuPage Valley Conference Player of the Year honors with West Aurora's Jontrell Walker. Last year, in absolute obscurity, he averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.8 steals a game.


◆ JOHN JOYCE, TAFT
Time to take notice of the athletic 6-6 forward who missed almost all of the summer with an ankle injury. He pumped in 30 points in a win over Von Steuben and is averaging 21 points and 7 rebounds a game in the early going.

Recent Comments

  • Eric Toddler: Chip Flanigan can spread the floor, create plays, can leap, read more
  • Anonymous: Glad to see you recognize these players, especially John Konchar, read more
  • adlar richardson: Chip flanigan !!!! Definitely NBA material. read more
  • Joe Henricksen: You're talking to one of the biggest Ryan Boatright fans read more
  • Gerry: But can you also say that big Cliff is displaying read more
  • Rich Brandeis: Last week Hinsdale South knocked off two of your "sleeper" read more
  • shogun 29ppg: I'm not really excited by any of this, all I read more
  • Anonymous: All-Chicago Area All-American's Top "25" List 1.) Isiah Thomas 2.) read more
  • XPORT BASKEBALL: CURIE HAS SOME TALENT AND SOME CITY SLEEPERS WATCH OUT read more
  • Matt Bragg: You hit the nail on the head. Illini fans feel read more

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