By Roy & Harv Schmidt
Most top-tier high school basketball teams usually have at least one player who is a relative unknown in recruiting circles, one who has been under the radar but more often than not is instrumental in helping his team win games. This season's varsity boy's basketball team at Bloom Township High School, however, is blessed with two such players, "hidden gems" if you will. History has shown that these are often the type of players that can propel a team to huge success in the state tournament, which is why opponents could be quite leery about facing a team such as Bloom when March Madness rolls around.
The two players that we are talking about are 6'7 senior Giovanni Coleman and 6'6 junior Aaron Nelson. Both of them played well when we watched them against Homewood-Flossmoor at the Chicago Heights Thanksgiving Classic this past week. Based on what we have seen, we believe that both Coleman and Nelson have the ability to end up as D1 recruits.
Coleman could very well be one of the biggest sleepers in Illinois from the class of 2008. He is extremely long and athletic and has excellent ball skills for a player his size. Not only that, but Coleman is also a tremendous passer and has a solid mid-range game. He runs the floor and can finish on the break with consistency.
The biggest reason why Coleman is a relative unknown outside of Chicago's south suburbs is because up until now he has consistently battled problems with respect to his eligibility. In fact, prior to this year there were several people who thought that Coleman might be uncoachable. However, after seeing Coleman in open gyms during the fall and watching him during the first week of the season, there is no question that Coleman has turned things around and appears more focused than ever. Credit the entire Bloom coaching staff with helping to make that happen.
Coleman still has business to tend to in the classroom and because he got such a late start academically he will in all likelihood have to enroll at a junior college next season. From a basketball standpoint, we believe that he has the ability to be a JUCO All-American provided he continues to put in the work. Therefore, it is a no-brainer when we say that Coleman is a player that D1 college coaches should not be sleeping on.
While we rarely label underclassmen as hidden gems, we believe that is the category that Aaron Nelson currently falls into, especially considering the fact that he has received very little publicity in local circles. He is the younger brother of 6'8 Bloom senior Jawan Nelson, who accepted a scholarship to Texas A&M Corpus Christi. What is scary is that Aaron might be more advanced than Jawan at the same stage, as he has good post skills, great hands and protects the ball well.
Bloom is loaded with at least three other players who have D1 ability and at the present time rank just behind H-F as the best team in Chicago's south suburbs. When it is all said and done, we think that how far Bloom goes come state tournament time could depend largely on the play of both Coleman and Aaron Nelson.
Meanwhile, another player that we saw this past week who we would clearly put in the hidden gem category is 6'2 senior guard Rodney Clinkscales from Zion-Benton. Clinkscales scored 18 points in Zion-Benton's victory over Oak Park at the Lane Tech Thanksgiving Tournament and was especially tough in crunch time. He has also begun to attract D1 recruiting attention, as an assistant coach from Loyola-Chicago was on hand to watch Clinkscale's performance vs. Oak Park.