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Henricksen: Books, brains and basketball

08/24/2014, 8:00pm CDT
By Joe Henricksen | @joehoopsreport

Morton's Weisner Perez, Lake Forest's Evan Boudreaux and Lyons Township's Harrison Niego are three of the top players in the Chicago area. They are also three elite students coveted by the best academic schools in the country.

Harrison Niego, a 6-1 combo guard from Lyons Township, is very proud of the hard work he’s put in and, as a result, the accomplishments that have followed. 

“It’s awesome to see the fruits of my labor,” says Niego. “Some of it comes natural, but I’ve worked very hard, and I’ve developed skills that have helped me along the way.”

We’re not talking basketball, where Niego has been the catalyst for the LT program the last two years and a productive winner on the AAU circuit with Chicago Lockdown. We’re talking academics, where Niego sports a 31 ACT and is being recruited by a number of high-academic schools. 

“The academics have opened up opportunities for me, including the possibility of playing and going to school in the Ivy League, where some of the best academic schools are in the world,” says the sharp-shooting guard who put up nearly 16 points a game as a junior. 

While both UIC and NIU offered Niego during his junior year, several high-academic schools have turned up the heat in pursuit of Niego. He has official visits set with both Cornell and Yale, while receiving heavy interest from Dartmouth. Both Loyola and Evansville in the Missouri Valley Conference have kept in touch since the July evaluation period. 

“I’m confident I will find the right fit for me,” says Niego, who will visit Cornell Aug. 28-30 and Yale Sept. 25-27. “Academics are obviously very important, but the connection I have with the coach will be important as well, along with a family-type atmosphere and like-minded people in the program.”

Niego is one of several Chicago area basketball hotshots who have put academics at the forefront of their high school careers. Niego, Lake Forest’s Evan Boudreaux and Morton’s Weisner Perez have kept their priorities in order and made the most of the educational opportunities they’ve had. 

Now, all three have the opportunity, if they choose, to play Division I basketball at one of the great academic institutions in the country, with the idea that they may be making a 40-year decision rather than a 4-year decision.

Boudreaux, one of the top 20 prospects in the senior class, is big time on and off the court. Aside from the highly-productive and consistent numbers he put up as a junior (24.5 ppg and 14 rpg), Boudreaux’s 31 ACT and 4.7 GPA while taking AP classes made the 6-7 forward a must-get for high-academic schools. The doors to the Ivy League have been opened with visits set for Yale and Dartmouth this fall, along with an official visit to Iowa.

Cornell, Harvard, Brown, Lehigh and Princeton all covet Perez, who ranks third in his class at Morton after taking AP and honors courses this past year. He will visit Cornell this coming weekend, Harvard in September and Princeton, Brown and Lehigh in October.

On the court, the robust, physical 6-6 forward played with the Dominican National Team and participated in the FIBA Americas U-18 tournament this past June after averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds a game as a junior.

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