You never know who’s watching in July. Just know, kid, a college coach is somewhere looking.
Last weekend the NY2LA Summer Jam in Wisconsin provided an opportunity for a whole lot of Illinois kids from all different levels to be seen.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report highlighted the top individual performer from Illinois in each class earlier this week, including Barrington’s Rapolas Ivanauskas of Barrington in 2016. Here’s a look at the five Illinois prospects who helped themselves the most at the NY2LA Summer Jam.
➤ Tyler Hall, Rock Island (Read this ... )
➤ Tyler Seibring, Normal
Aside from Rock Island’s Tyler Hall, there wasn’t a player in the senior class who did more for himself last weekend than Seibring. The 6-8 face-up stretch 4-man did his thing but at an alarming rate, knocking down an endless number of three-pointers. While Seibring’s shooting was stuck on auto-pilot all weekend, he also showed increased overall activity and more of a presence throughout games. Bucknell, Ohio, Northern Illinois and Air Force have all followed up with offers this week for Seibring, who will continue to climb the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s player rankings in the Class of 2015.
➤ Isaiah Roby, Dixon
The Hoops Report has said it before about Roby and will say it again, this 6-6 junior forward shows improvement virtually every time he steps on the floor. When thinking back to the times watching him in December with his high school team and on the AAU circuit this past spring, the strides he’s made are pronounced. Whether it was with Dixon at the Morris Shootout in June or with Quad City Elite this July, Roby continues to show added confidence and a comfort level in asserting himself more and more. Roby, already an elite passer for his size and position, has an arrow pointing straight up. He certainly opened the eyes of college coaches at the NY2LA event.
➤ Dylan Miller, Hillsboro
You never want to get too ramped up over one July performance. But Miller did have a breakout moment, generating excitement with an ultra-impressive effort against Team Loaded, a team with multiple high-level Division I players and size. Miller was aggressive and a factor on the boards and around the rim, he stepped out and knocked down jumpers with range, and he competed. Throw in a steady, rather than spectacular, run with the Illinois Irish this past spring and this Class of 2015 prospect is a bonafide Division I big man. At a time where true bigs seem impossible to find, the 6-8 Miller, who would be a real catch for any low-Division I program, will and should be watched closely by mid-major programs in the Horizon League and Mid-American Conference.
➤ Brendon Gooch, Belleville Althoff
Between playing with the Southwest Illinois Jets 17U and 16U teams there was plenty of Gooch to see the past two weekends. Gooch is still developing physically, but the 6-6 junior wing is wired to score –– and so smooth. The release on the perimeter jumper will need to speed up a bit, but it’s an effective weapon. Right now Gooch is showing he has the ability to score in a variety of ways. He’s not as far along as former Jets product Malcolm Hill was at the same stage, but his game resembles the current University of Illinois forward. There were several college coaches impressed by his talent and intrigued by his potential.
And more ...
Another dozen-plus other prospects from Illinois that turned in enough quality performances over four days to grab the Hoops Report’s attention and, hopefully, generate interest among the 200-plus college programs that were on hand.
▪ Adam Wolfe, Lake Forest
Unfortunately, this will likely be the last mention of Wolfe in the City/Suburban Hoops Report as the 6-6 forward is transferring out of state, to a high school in Wisconsin. It’s too bad since Lake Forest would be even more loaded with him this winter as he’s had a breakout July after battling injuries the previous 12 months. Wolfe is shooting it at a very high rate right now from the three-point line.
▪ Matt Rafferty, Hinsdale Central
The 6-7 forward had a couple of really strong moments, shining moments even, this past weekend while playing for Chicago Lockdown. When it comes down to overall production, there aren’t many who produce at a more consistent rate than Rafferty, who always seems to be around the ball with a constant stat line of 17-20 points and 10-12 rebounds.
▪ Admiral Schofield, Zion-Benton
Is it crazy that this undervalued 6-5 wing has over a half-dozen offers, including a recent one from Ohio, but not a single one from an in-state college program? Yes. Foolish, probably. Physically strong with an unorthodox but very effective game, Schofield competes, brings character and should be a highly-valued mid to mid-plus prospect.
▪ Fred Sims, North Lawndale
A somewhat unknown prospect in the Chicago Public League and previously overlooked by the City/Suburban Hoops Report, Sims impressed while playing with his Full Package team. The big-bodied 6-2 senior guard has a better skill set than given credit for and has some ruggedness to his game. There are moments when he can get on an offensive role, getting to the basket with ease and showing the ability to occasionally drop in a perimeter shot.
▪ Chris Lester, Barrington
Sleeper! Long, wiry, active and showing a trajectory that’s pointing up. Lester is what seems to be yet another undersized 4-man in the class with length and skill but one who clearly has come close to tapping into all that he has to offer. Lester's upside is his strength.
▪ Christian Williams, Decatur St. Teresa
He’s a known commodity, among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2015 and has multiple mid-major offers. However, this versatile, playmaking 6-5 combo guard should be receiving a whole lot more attention. He was sensational in putting up 25 points with six 3-pointers in a win over Dream Vision and top five national talent Chase Jeter.
▪ Cole Harper, Chatham-Glenwood
A versatile perimeter player who has shown the ability to play three different positions, the 6-5 Harper came up big against a Team Loaded team featuring three Division I perimeter players. Harper was decisive, scored the ball and impacted the game throughout, though it did come in an Illinois Irish loss. Harper is a scholarship kid teetering on that Division II/low-Division I fence.
▪ Bryan Heath, Rockridge
The 6-3 senior 2-guard showed toughness, some physicality for a perimeter player and an ability to knock down tough shots. A Division II/NAIA program looking for those tough-to-find characteristics need to be paying closer attention.
▪ Josh Ruggles, Wheaton-Warrenville South
Word just recently came out the 6-1 senior guard is transferring from Wheaton Academy to Wheaton South. Coach Mike Healy is essentially adding one of the truly elite shooters in the state. Ruggles continues to impress in July with his range, sound mechanics and release on his jumper.
▪ Emondre Rickman, Edwardsville
A big man of real intrigue. There are a handful of senior big men in Illinois who have been lumped together, with coaches trying to figure out which one is the best and which one offers the most upside. Rickman’s pure size, improvement and increased production may soon put him at the top of that mid-major project big man list. He's put together back-to-back solid weekends.
▪ George Kiernan, Hinsdale Central
After breaking out in May during the Spiece Run-N-Slam in Fort Wayne, Kiernan continues to open eyes. People don’t realize his sneaky athleticism and just how good of a shooter he can be as a 6-6 face-up 4-man.
▪ Ryan Dicanio, Bartlett
After a highly-productive junior year look for a big senior year for this 6-2 shooter and scoring 2-guard. Small college programs should be all over this 6-2 shooter who has played very well with his Mercury Elite team on the club circuit.
▪ Lucas Simon, Niles Notre Dame
A young kid in the Class of 2016 with size and skill in the backcourt. Playing with Chicago Lockdown this summer, Simeon is one to watch in the junior class as he continues to develop physically.
▪ Brodric Thomas, Bolingbrook
The more and more you watch the 6-2 combo guard the more you like what he offers as a skilled player in the backcourt. Thomas received his first Division II offer following the Summer Jam
And five out-of-state beasts
The City/Suburban Hoops Report is Illinois-based and focuses on the talent this state has to offer. But it, too, enjoys the talents of the nation’s best on the club circuit. Here are five very impressive talents from around the country that jumped out and impressed the Hoops Report this past weekend.
▪ Dennis Smith, Jr., Fayetteville, NC (Trinity Christian Academy)
This is the guy! Love him! This is the player who when you’ve sat in the bleachers for hours, you’re tired and the backside is getting sore, you’re OK with staying one more game to watch. The Hoops Report sure knows how to pick’em! Smith is among the top five prospects in the country in the Class of 2016, but he’s simply the Hoops Report’s favorite out-of-state prospect from the weekend. The only way to describe this 6-2 point guard is electric. He dazzles with the ball in his hands, as a creator for himself and others, and is a high school player you can’t wait to watch.
▪ Thon Maker, Martinsville, Va. (Carlisle)
He’s a prodigy, for sure and a player Sports Illustrated has already profiled. But just thinking of what this 7-foot, Class of 2016 prospect could become is the scary part. I’m not quite sure I’ve seen a player impact the game on the defensive end quite the way Maker does with his enormous length, cat-like quick feet, speed and athleticism. What an enormous upside.
▪ Chase Jeter, Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman)
The fluid 6-10 forward is a bundle of talent who can run up and down the floor. He impressed with his combination of finesse and power at his size, along with an advanced ability to use both hands around the basket. It’s no wonder he’s down to Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Duke, UNLV and Kansas and is among the top 10 prospects in the country.
▪ Luke Kennard, Franklin, Ohio (Franklin)
The Hoops Report fell hard for Kennard last summer. He dazzled then and continues to show why now with a combination of athleticism, size and a sweet lefty shooting stroke on the perimeter with tremendous range. The 6-5 guard is a Duke commit and a top 25 player in the country.
▪ Kobi Simmons, 6-5, PG, Alpharetta, Ga. (St. Francis)
This rangy, long 2016 point guard is ranked among the top 25 players in the country for a reason –– he’s smooth, possesses a first-step that gets by anyone and can both score and distribute. What a talent as he already sports offers from the likes of Kansas, Ohio State, USC, Tennessee, Missouri, NC State and others.
Two worth watching and soon-to-be missed
Season after season, week after week on the club basketball circuit over the past few years, two teams from Illinois have stood out time and again: Central Illinois Net Gain and Chicago Lockdown.
It’s almost a disservice at this point to call these two teams “overachieving” and using the whole David vs. Goliath reference. At this point they’re probably tired of it, too.
But there aren’t any high-major prospects and there are a limited number of surefire Division I players on these two teams. In matchups with the big-named programs there is generally always less athleticism and a little less depth.
However, these two teams have beaten and competed against many of the elite teams and held their own. More impressively, they’ve done so by breaking the stereotype of the typical AAU basketball labels.
“I’m not recruiting a single player on either one of these teams, but I enjoy watching those two,” says a Division I head coach who sat right between the two courts as Lockdown and Net Gain played side-by-side at the NY2LA event this past weekend.
“My favorite two teams to watch on the circuit,” said a mid-major assistant coach.
Those are the type of reactions you hear in a gym when coaches take in games in which both Lockdown and Net Gain are playing with –– and beating –– teams they’re not supposed to beat on paper.
Lockdown and Net Gain do have the advantage of continuity and cohesiveness as the bulk of the rosters have played with one another throughout their entire high school careers. And it shows. They pass well, shoot well, play extremely hard, together and unselfishly. The chemistry is undeniable.
They run their stuff that 95 percent of AAU teams and coaches are unprepared for and don’t have time to adjust to, and it’s something you just don’t always see on the circuit.
It’s not very often, rare even, when a club team is going to be missed when the players all go their separate ways. But both Central Illinois Net Gain and Chicago Lockdown are two of those teams.
And finally ...
There isn’t an event that’s better run than any NY2LA event. While so many events on the club circuit get crushed by people –– fans, parents, college coaches and media –– for their lack of organization, quality teams, hospitality and even common sense, this is one event that’s always easy to praise.
The Summer Jam, as all NY2LA events seem to be, was extremely organized and punctual. With high-level talent, games always on time, officials on the right court and college coaches and media taken care of during a busy and hectic time, it’s a wonder other events don’t take a cue from Antonio Curro and his staff.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport
Isaiah Stafford, a 6-2 guard out of Bolingbrook, picks up an offer from Division II power Ferris State.
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