Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye's Summer Awards

By Roy & Harv Schmidt

July 27, 2015

6:00 P.M. CST

The time has come to once again open the envelope and unveil the winners of Illinois Prep Bulls-eye's Summer Awards, where we highlight everything of note from the not only the July Evaluation Period but the past couple of months as it pertains to Illinois-based basketball recruits.

We lead off with our Player Of The Summer and will keep adding a new award each day until we have run out of winners.  So therefore without further adieu, we now salute all of the players who enhanced their stock, showed improvement or are simply deserving of extra recognition based on their Summer performance.

Player Of The Summer

  • Charlie Moore          5'11   2016   PG   Chicago (Morgan Park)   Mac Irvin Fire 17-U

The winner of this award was not as obvious as it has been in previous years when you had the likes of Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Jalen Brunson.  Nevertheless, our choice goes to the player who we believe most consistently performed at the highest level throughout the entire course of the summer.  And when taking that into account, there is no one else who fits the bill more than Moore.

Moore was nothing short of brilliant at every event he participated in on the travel team circuit with the Mac Irvin Fire. Although the Fire team struggled at the prestigious EYBL Finals of the NIKE Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC, Moore was a model of consistency.  He averaged 20 ppg and proved that he could get it done against the best point guards the EYBL had to offer.

Moore then turned it up another notch at the NIKE Global Challenge in Chicago.  He led his USA Midwest Team to the consolation championship including a 25 point outburst in the final game.  But Moore saved his best for last, as he was absolutely spectacular at the Bigfoot Classic in Las Vegas.  He lead the Fire to the championship games in both The 8 Tournament as well as the platinum division of the 17-Under bracket.  Perhaps his greatest individual accomplishment was a 31 point performance in a win over CP3 in the semifinals of The 8 Tournament.

It is actually humorous to see all of the others who have finally begun to jump on Moore's bandwagon seeing as though Illinois Prep Bulls-eye was singing Moore's praises dating as far back as last January (and even before then) when we were the first to call him a high major prospect (http://ilprepbullseye.com/Moore_Disrespect.html).  The bottom line is that Moore does whatever you ask him to do.  If you need him to score, he will score.  If you need him to distribute, he will distribute.  When you need to force a turnover, he will come up with a big defensive play.  And most importantly, Moore wins.  He has great composure on the court and never seems to get rattled.

While it took a while for them to finally come around, several high major recruiters have now seen the light with respect to how good Moore really is.  As a result, he currently sports scholarship offers from high major programs in the Big Ten, ACC and Big East among others.  At the present time we believe the frontrunners are Illinois, Iowa and Georgia Tech but we also believe that his recruitment will continue to play itself out over the next couple of months as he prepares to take some official visits and narrow things down.  There is no question that Moore has continued to ascend the ranks as far as the top prospects in Illinois from the 2016 class go and could ultimately end up being #1 when it is all said and done.

17-U AAU Teams Of The Summer

  • St. Louis Eagles

          Coach: Corey Frazier

It is impossible to argue against the Eagles' resume when it comes to all that they accomplished this Summer.  In week 1 of the July Evaluation Period they reached the championship game at the event which arguably features the best overall competition on the travel team circuit--the EYBL Finals of the NIKE Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC.  Week two gets erased, as the team was without the services of two of their best players--6'7 2016 wing forward and Duke commit Jayson Tatum and 6'10 2017 center Jeremiah Tilmon.  With the Eagles at full strength in week 3 they came roaring back to win the championship of the Jayhawk Classic in Lawrence, KS.

When comparing the three winners of our 17-U Teams Of The Summer, there is no question that the Eagles sport the most talent from top to bottom.  They have as many as 8 D1 caliber recruits on their roster.  It includes Tatum, Tilmon and two of the top prospects in Illinois' talented 2017 class in 6'3 point guard Alonzo Verge Jr. and 6'3 2017 2-guard Jordan Goodwin.  All are being recruited by high major programs.

However, what we believe is most impressive is that the Eagles never had to rely on one player to carry them at any of the events in which they participated.  They got key contributions from virtually everyone at various points in time.  And that is the mark of a true championship team.

  • Mac Irvin Fire

          Coach: Mike Irvin

We have to admit that heading into the final week of the evaluation period it did not look as though the Fire would even be in contention for this award.  They only won one game at the EYBL Finals of the NIKE Peach Jam and like the Eagles, there roster was depleted in week 2 with their top two players--5'11 2016 point guard Charlie Moore and 6'5 2-guard Zach Norvell away at the NIKE Global Challenge in Chicago.

As it turns out, all of that goes out the window, as the Fire saved their best efforts for last.  That is because once they took the court for action in Las Vegas during week 3 it truly became as their coach Mike Irvin likes to say, "show time."  And that is what the Fire did--put on a show.  Yes, adding 6'6 wing forward and top five 2016 prospect Miles Bridges to their roster greatly helped their cause, but you still can't take away from what the Fire accomplished.  They reached the championship games in both The 8 Tournament and the 17-Under Platinum division of the Bigfoot Classic.  Their most impressive victory was a 94-73 win over CP3 in the semifinals, a game which featured a 53 point effort from Norvell.

While Moore and Norvell are undoubtedly the headliners other Fire players such as 6'0 2016 combo guard Jarrin Randall and 5'11 point guard Bryce Barnes came to the forefront during key stretches and in doing so greatly bolstered their recruiting stock.  Above all else, everyone connected with this team deserves credit for hanging tough during some adverse situations and not fizzling out.

  • Quad City Elite Orange

          Coach: Logan Wynn

We have repeatedly said that the most successful travel team programs do not necessarily need to have the highest rated players as long as they play together and play hard.  There is not another team in Illinois who exemplifies that more than the Quad City Elite Orange 17-Under squad.  For proof, all anyone has to do is look at their results throughout the month of July.

QC Elite Orange handled all comers at the Next Level Invitational presented by NY2LA Sports.  The following week, they reached the quarterfinals at NY2LA's Summer Jam, which featured virtually all of the top Illinois-based travel teams in the 17-Under division.

While there is not a high major recruit on their roster, everyone contributed and was instrumental in the team's success. Three players in particular who turned in key performances were 6'4 2016 wing forward Donovan Oliver, 6'8 2016 power forward Noah McCarty and 6'3 2016 2-guard Michael Pollack.  All of them have added scholarship offers since then as a result.  5'10 2016 point guard Jason Jones, 6'2 2016 combo guard Ethan Meeker and 6'4 2-guard Isaac Gassman also performed well in various stretches.  Head coach Logan Wynn undoubtedly deserves kudos on a job well-done and for instilling a team first concept where everyone has bought in from day one.  This team personifies old school basketball at its finest and being the basketball purists that we are, they have been a pleasure to watch.

Best Individual Performance Of The Summer

  • Zach Norvell          6'5   2016   2G   Chicago (Simeon)   Mac Irvin Fire 17-U

-53 points vs Castle Knights at Bigfoot Classic in Las Vegas

OK--we admit we were not in the building to see it when it happened.  But in this case you didn't have to be.  That is because it was a prolific performance that every basketball junkie became aware of instantly.  We are talking about the effort turned in by Zach Norvell in the Mac Irvin Fire 17-Under squad's second round win over the Castle Knights in the platinum division championship bracket of the Bigfoot Classic in Las Vegas.

Norvell simply turned in a game for the ages in that contest.  He set a tournament scoring record by netting 53 points including 14 3-point field goals.  One of his trifectas came from NBA range, as it was from behind the court's volleyball line, to which Norvell drew an outstanding ovation.  Needless to say, the Rancho High School gym was rocking throughout.

Norvell was also a strong contender for our Player Of The Summer honors and here's the thing--his outing in Vegas should come as no surprise to those who have watched him on a consistent basis.  After all, Norvell has become a completely different player this Spring and Summer in comparison with a year ago.  Above all else, he has been more aggressive at both ends of the floor and has demonstrated far better shot selection and decision-making.  

As a result, Norvell has gone from a player who at one time we regarded as a mid-major prospect to one who can undoubtedly play at the high major level.  This is reflected in Norvell's recruitment, as he currently holds scholarship offers from Illinois, Purdue, Oklahoma, Memphis, DePaul, Florida State, Georgetown and Oregon among others.  His performance in Vegas will remain memorable for quite some time and is simply one that summers are made of. 

#1 2017 Prospect In Illinois

  • Jeremiah Tilmon          6'10   C   East St. Louis (Senior)   St. Louis Eagles 17-U

As we have said before, no player in Illinois from the loaded 2017 class has received more hype from day one than Jeremiah Tilmon.  That is why Tilmon's status as the state's top player in that class has been based mostly on potential, upside and whatever other synonymous scouting term one wants to throw in.  But make no mistake about it--after a spectacular July Evaluation Period, there is now no question that Tilmon has earned his ranking and has left no doubt.

Without trying to be overly redundant, Tilmon played the best that we have ever seen from him at the EYBL Finals of the NIKE Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC while playing for the St. Louis Eagles.  He was not even their best player from start to finish, but there were several key stretches where he was dominant and a difference maker.  While Tilmon's primary strength remains on the defensive interior with his shot blocking and ability to control the glass, he also continues to make huge strides offensively.  Tilmon has added a jump hook to his arsenal, can face up and knock down shots consistently within the paint area and is a tremendous passer on the break and from the high post.

Should Tilmon ultimately learn to play with energy at all times as opposed to doing it in spurts, then that is truly when you can say that the sky is the limit.  While he contiues to receive heavy recruiting attention from the likes of schools such as Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Kansas, Missouri and NC State among others, in many ways his recruitment is just getting started.  This much is indisputable--Tilmon has proven to be the top college prospect in Illinois regardless of class and will go down as the best big man to come out of East St. Louis since Darius Miles and Laphonso Ellis.

Dow Jones Award

  • Tarkus Ferguson          6'4   2016   WF   Belleville (Althoff)   SW IL Jets 17-U

When Illinois Prep Bulls-eye first watched Ferguson in the Class 3A state finals last March we regarded him as a player who is extremely talented but still had some question marks.  Ferguson responded to those questions in a big way during the spring and has been even better throughout the summer while playing for the Southwest Illinois Jets.  As a result, he has taken his game to another level.

Ferguson was absolutely dominant at Summer Jam presented by NY2LA Sports in Mequon, WI during the second week of the evaluation period, where he was one of the top five players from Illinois based on performance.  We have not seen another player in the state with a higher motor.  Not only is Ferguson like a tank going to the basket but he is an assassin from mid-range, as he converts almost every shot he takes in the paint area.  Because of his tremendous athleticism he is also an avid shot blocker and has a great nose for the ball.

While Ferguson still lacks a true position he is yet another one of those players where it doesn't matter when you consider the results that he consistently provides.  It is therefore no surprise that Ferguson's recruitment has gone through the roof.  Before the second week of July he had scholarship offers from UIC and Southern Illinois and since that time he has acquired additional ones from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Tennessee State, Evansville, Western Kentucky and Missouri-Kansas City.  Perhaps the biggest fear among all of these schools at the moment is that if Ferguson continues to progress at the rate he has, he could end up getting recruited at an even higher level.

Biggest 2017 Stockraiser In Illinois

  • Evan Gilyard          5'10   PG   Chicago (Simeon)   Mean Streets 16-U

While the Mean Streets 17-Under team never seemed to be at full strength throughout the July Evaluation Period, whether it was due to a player being injured or simply not being in attendance, Gilyard was a model of consistency during the entire month for the Mean Streets 16-Under group.  As a result, no other player in Illinois from the 2017 class saw their stock increase more as a result of their performance in July.

Gilyard was spectacular when we watched him at Summer Jam presented by NY2LA Sports.  Simply put, he did a little bit of everything--scoring, playmaking and above all else leading as his team reached the championship game in the 16-Under platinum bracket.  It was more of the same the following week at the Bigfoot Classic in Las Vegas, as Gilyard was the catalyst in directing the Mean Streets 16-Under squad to the 16-Under platinum championship.

The best adjective that can be used to describe Gilyard is "steady."  He plays under control, can consistently make shots with range that extends beyond the 3-point line and his decision-making is superb.   There may be other guards at Simeon who sport more natural talent, but Gilyard has clearly been their most reliable point guard dating all the way back to the state tournament last March.  At the present time Gilyard has scholarship offers from UIC and Dayton and quite frankly we are surprised that list isn't even more extensive.  Gilyard may not quite be in the same category with the "elite" prospects in Illinois' 2017 class, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more solid floor general.

Top 2018 Prospect(s) In Illinois

  • Tim Finke          6'5   2G   Champaign (Central)   Peoria Irish

Finke was very much in the running for our Player Of The Summer honors, as he was simply outstanding throughout the entire July Evaluation Period.  No other player in Illinois from the 2018 class has seen their stock increase so rapidly in such a short period of time.  As a result, there is no question that Finke now ranks as one of the top 2 prospects in the state from that class.

Finke was a workhorse all summer long for the Peoria Irish on the travel team circuit, as he did double duty playing for both their 16-Under and 17-Under squads.  Moreover, he performed in spectacular fashion at both levels.  This was especially evident when we watched him at Summer Jam presented by NY2LA Sports.

Above all else, Finke has tremendous versatility and there may not be another 2018 prospect in Illinois who has a more diverse skill set.  A more detailed scouting report on everything Finke brings to the table can be found at http://ilprepbullseye.com/Eval_Period_Wk1_Review.html.

As a result of his progress, Finke's recruitment has begun to take off.  He currently sports scholarship offers from the likes of UIC, Illinois, DePaul, Creighton and St. Louis.  There is no doubt in our minds that he projects as a high major recruit all the way.

  • Kezo Brown          6'2   PG   Chicago (Simeon)   Mac Irvin Fire 15-U 

We have talked continuously about how much hype Brown has received going back to when he was in 7th grade, but what has probably gone underemphasized is that he has consistently lived up to it.  This was certainly the case once again when we watched Brown with the Mac Irvin Fire 15-Under team at Summer Jam.

As good as Brown is skill-wise, what impressed us even more at Summer Jam was his mental toughness.  Brown played through pain throughout the playoffs in the 15-Under Platinum division and in reality probably shouldn't have been on the court.  However, Brown was instrumental in helping the Fire advance all the way to the championship game, showing his burning desire to win above all else.

In many ways, Brown sports many of the same characteristics as the best guard to come out of Simeon in recent memory--Derrick Rose.  Although he has not achieved Rose's level of dominance just yet, he is quite similar in terms of explosiveness, decision-making and open court ability.  Brown still needs to become a more consistent shooter, but despite that he is cable of converting shots off the dribble and has 3-point range.

The bottom line is that Brown sports a level of maturity (both physically and mentally) that extends well beyond his age. And that is why he unquestionably ranks as one of the top five prospects in Illinois regardless of class. 

Ready For Prime Time Award

  • Justin Pierce          6'6   2016   2G   Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West)   Mercury Elite Thomas 17-U

Illinois Prep Bulls-eye was the first to identify Pierce as a hidden gem in Illinois' 2016 class dating back to last January after we watched him in a non-conference battle versus Wheaton-Warrenville South.  Since that time, Pierce has shown us a little something extra every time we have seen him play.  As a result, he is no longer a hidden gem.  In fact, he has become a household name among D1 recruiters in the most elite academic conferences in college basketball.

Pierce has been the driving force for one of the more unheralded 17-Under travel teams in the state--Mercury Elite Thomas.  He performed extremely well throughout July including at Summer Jam presented by NY2LA Sports.  Above all else, Pierce has continued to diversify his game and has a work ethic that is second to none.

Not only is Pierce a good shooter with legit 3-point range, but he is also athletic enough to battle inside for rebounds, handles the ball reasonably well and is a consistent finisher on the break.  Should he ultimately add strength he could become an even more dangerous offensive weapon.

Pierce has simply proven that he can get it done versus quality competition which was evidenced by the numbers that he put up on the travel team circuit during the July Evaluation Period.  In doing so, he has attracted a plethora of recruiting attention from schools in the Colonial Athletic Association, Patriot League, Ohio Valley Conference and Ivy League among others.  Pierce is in the process of narrowing down his list and planning official visits.  No matter what happens, there is no question that he has a great future ahead of him.

Blood And Guts Award

  • Brendon Gooch          6'7   2016   WF   Belleville (Althoff)   SW Illinois Jets 17-U 

In all our years of presenting our Summer Awards, we have never seen so many worthy candidates for our Blood And Guts Award from the same travel team program.  That was certainly the case this time around, with as many as three players from the Southwest Illinois Jets being among our finalists.  In the end, we felt that Gooch was the most worthy choice.

Gooch played with non-stop energy when we watched him during the second week of the July Evaluation Period at Summer Jam presented by NY2LA Sports.  He has a non-stop motor and possesses all of the traits which are representative of this award.

To begin with, Gooch sports considerable toughness.  That, above all else, is what enables him to consistently get after it on the glass despite the fact that he could still stand to gain strength.  He also defends extremely well in the open court, where he takes advantage of his long wing span to be highly disruptive and force turnovers.  In addition, Gooch displays a high degree of leadership every second he is on the court.

Simply put, there are few wings in Illinois from the 2016 class who can match Gooch's versatility.  Gooch committed to Southern Illinois University and head coach Barry Hinson toward the end of the July Evaluation Period and should be an impact player for the Salukis from the get-go.  Folks can read about Gooch's commitment and get a more detailed breakdown of his game at http://ilprepbullseye.com/Gooch_SIU.html.  

Taken For Granted Award

  • Brandon Johnson          6'7   2016   PF   Lansing (T.F. South)   Young & Reckless/Brim 17-U

Maybe it's because he has bounced around from one travel team to another during the past couple of years.  Or perhaps it's due to his coaches not knowing whether to play him down on the block or on the perimeter.  But whatever the case, this much is certain--when Johnson is on the court he produces more often than not.

Not only is Johnson highly athletic, but he plays with a high level of energy and with passion.  This was plainly evident when we watched him during the July Evaluation Period, where he very much factored in to his Young & Reckless/Brim 17-Under squad's success.

While the debate still goes on regarding if Johnson has a natural position, we believe he is best suited at the 4.  That is because he is a rebounder extraordinaire and a strong interior defender.  He also finishes with regularity on the break.  At the same time, Johnson also has some 3-like skills, as his handle is above average and he is a good mid-range shooter.  

Despite the fact that sometimes Johnson's own teammates don't get him involved enough offensively, the bottom line is that he gets results.  On the recruiting front, Johnson currently holds scholarship offers from the likes of Illinois State, Bradley, Chicago St, Loyola, UIC, Robert Morris, SIU-Edwardsville and Bethune Cookman.  There is no question that Johnson still has some business to tend to, but we see him projecting as an ideal mid-major prospect. 

Most Misunderstood/Widely Debated

  • Jordan Goodwin          6'3   2017   2G   Belleville (Althoff)   St. Louis Eagles 17-U

There may never again be another player who fit the description of this award more perfectly than Connor Cashaw, who was last year's winner.  However, as far as this Summer goes, we believe that Goodwin is a runaway choice for many reasons.  Hopefully by the time folks are done readnig this we will have provided some clarity.

To begin with, there have been way too many miscalculations regarding what level of play Goodwin is best suited for in college and considerable overanalysis as it pertains to him not locking into a true position.  All of that is simply hogwash. The bottom line is that when one looks at the abundance of talent that exists in Illinois from the loaded 2017 class, there may not be another player who has been more consistently productive than Goodwin, dating all the way back to last March when he led Belleville Althoff to a second place finish in the Class 3A state tournament.

Goodwin began the spring playing on the St. Louis Eagles 16-Under squad but was quickly moved up to the 17-Under team by Memorial Day weekend, where he remained throughout the summer.  During that time, Goodwin repeatedly put up impressive numbers just as he did during the past high school season and contributed greatly to the 17-Under team's success.  

Goodwin simply does a little bit of everything and does most of those things quite well.  First and foremost, he is a a great athlete with a keen nose for the ball which enables him to outrebound taller opponents and score frequently around the basket.  While he lacks a point guard mentality per se, he handles the ball well in the open court and is a good passer on the break.  And although he probably needs to become a more consistent shooter from beyond the 3-point arc, his mid-range game is as good as it gets, which is why his shooting percentages are always so high--he doesn't take bad shots.

There has also been considerable misunderstanding and misperception as it pertains to Goodwin's recruitment, especially with respect to possible favorites and a timetable regarding a possible decision.  But such is the case when you are dealing with one highly delusional fan base and other media folks/analysts who care more about justifying their existence in that school's eyes than they do about reporting facts.  At the present time Goodwin sports scholarship offers from Illinois, Missouri, Purdue, Illinois State, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Creighton and St. Louis.

Best Defender

  • Antonio Williams          6'1   2016   PG   Chicago (Bogan)   Young & Reckless/Brim 17-U 

We have always said that players who excel at the defensive end have to not only enjoy playing defense but also relish it. That is truly the case with Williams and it was plainly evident throughout the July Evaluation Period, as his defensive effort was highly instrumental in his Young & Reckless/Brim 17-Under team's success.

What makes Williams a clearcut choice for this award is that he is equally effective defending either on or off the ball.  He has the physical strength to be able to body up opponents when guarding them man-to-man, hence the definition of a true "lockdown" defender.  However, Williams also does a great job of anticipating in the open court, where he comes up with a good share of steals which usually create fast break opportunities.

Finally, Williams' defense often ends up triggering his offense and this is where a good percentage of his points come.  He plays with passion and a high level of energy which also carries over to his teammates.

Williams transferred from Proviso East to Bogan just before the start of July.  Ironically, his defensive style is quite similar to another pretty good guard who played at Bogan and just happened to be last year's winner of our Best Defender award--Luwane Pipkins.  Provided Williams doesn't encounter eligibility issues, he is capable of making the same impact in that area. 

Most Underappreciated 2016 Prospect

  • Micah Bradford          6'0   PG   Bourbonnais (Bradley-Bourbonnais)   Example Sports 17-U

Despite being a three year varsity starter at Bradley-Bourbonnais, Bradford is a player who has been way too unheralded from a talent evaluation standpoint.  That can also be explained by the fact Bradford played for a travel team that did not feature a big time player and consisted mostly of players from the Kankakee area.

By the time the July evaluation period was over, however, Bradford and his Example Sports 17-Under traveling team finally started getting the respect they have been deserving of all along.  That is because Bradford was instrumental in leading Example to a 4-1 overall record in the 17-U open division versus quality competition at the Under Armour Finals in Suwanee, GA and was as good as any point guard in attendance at the Jayhawk Invitational in Lawrence, KS.

Bradford was also quite impressive when we watched him in June with his high school team at the Joliet West Shootout. His best game there was a 29 point outburst in a overtime win over the host school.  What makes Bradford so effective is that he is an ideal combo guard who can play either spot equally well.  While Bradford sports tremendous scoring ability and can do so in a variety of ways he also plays under control and is an excellent playmaker and distributor.  

Amazingly, at this time Bradford has only 3 D1 scholarship offers to his name and actually one of them may no longer be on the table.  His most recent offer was from UIC back in May.  Despite the fact that Bradford still remains an unknown amongst many, from what we have seen we are completely sold on his ability.

Most Underappreciated 2017 Prospects

  • Javon Pickett          6'5   WF   Belleville (East)   SW Illinois Jets 16-U 
  • Maurice Edwards    6'2   2G   Alton (H.S.)   SW Illinois Jets 16-U

Illinois Prep Bulls-eye first took note of Pickett this past Spring at the NIKE Spring Showdown in Romeoville, IL, where he was one of the best players in attendance.  At the beginning of the July Evaluation Period we told several college coaches about Pickett and most of them did not know who he was.

Since that time a number of D1 scholarship offers have come Pickett's way, but amazingly enough he has only one offer from a high major program.  That is from the University Of Illinois, whose coaching staff was the first to truly recognize Pickett's talents.

With the exception of Jordan Goodwin, no other player in Illinois from the 2017 class plays with more of a non-stop motor than Pickett.  He has an extremely long wing span, is disruptive defensively and consistently converts mid-range jumpers and buckets in transition.

Edwards has fallen even more under the radar than Pickett and we find it incredible that at this time he doesn't sport a single D1 offer.  He is yet another player who simply gets results game in and game out despite not locking into a true position.  

Edwards' thick frame and strong upper body allow him to consistently power his way to the basket and score points.  In addition, Edwards can also put the ball on the floor and get out on the break.  Too much of what he does seems to be taken for granted.

Both Pickett and Edwards are seldom (if ever) mentioned in the same breath with some of the big-name prospects in the state from 2017 such as Jeremiah Tilmon, Nojel Eastern and Alonzo Verge.  However, we are thoroughly convinced that they are both among the top 10 prospects in that class.

Most Improved 2016 Prospects

  • Jarrin Randall          6'0   2G   Chicago (Morgan Park)   Mac Irvin Fire 17-U
  • Bryce Barnes          5'11   CG   Chicago (Bogan)   Mac Irvin Fire 17-U

After watching Randall drill five 3-pointers and score 19 points in the Mac Irvin Fire’s opening pool play contest versus CP3 at the EYBL Finals/NIKE Peach Jam, we immediately started thinking that he had become a scholarship player.  Since that time Randall has only reinforced that opinion with a number of solid performances. 

What has impressed us the most is that Randall is often at his best in clutch situations and is not afraid to take big shots with the game on the line.  While he is a bit undersized as far as 2-guards go, it is not a huge detriment with respect to his overall skill set.  In addition to his shooting prowess, Randall can handle the ball and is a good open court defender.  His play during July has definitely turned the heads of low major coaches, as he now sports a total of 5 D1 offers.  He is a bit of a late bloomer, but a true testament to the benefits of hard work.

The biggest reason for Barnes' improvement is that he has greatly enhanced his offensive repertoire.  He has expanded his shooting range and his ball handling as well as his decision making have gotten consistently better.  In the mold of a typical Bogan guard, Barnes also sports considerable toughness and is a tremendous on-the-ball defender. 

To top it all off, Barnes is also elite in the classroom, as he sports a 5.0 grade point average on a 5 point scale.  Yet as of this writing Illinois Prep Bulls-eye is not aware of a single scholarship offer that has come Barnes' way.  We think it is high time that schools start jumping on board.

Lunchbucket Award

  • Cameron Krutwig          6'8   PF   Algonquin (Jacobs)   Young Legends 16-U

OK--when we watched him at the Under Armour All-American Camp in Charlotte, NC Krutwig did not stand out in comparison with the elite talent that was on hand.  But that does not detract from the outstanding spring and summer that he has had on the traveling team circuit while playing for the Young Legends 16-Under squad.  And the bottom line is that Krutwig has done it in workmanlike fashion, which is what this award is all about.

Krutwig is not going to wow anyone with athleticism, but he is a consistent producer in the paint.  That is because he is a capable scorer with his back to the basket, is strong on the glass and can hold his own on the defensive interior.  We have also talked about Krutwig's tremendous passing ability out of the double team and that he can also spot up and knock down shots beyond the 3-point line (http://ilprepbullseye.com/Krutwig_Hidden_Gem.html).

Krutwig is also highly team-oriented and with that in mind we can't think of too many other other players in Illinois who will mean more to his high school team's success this season.  What it all adds up to is an extremely fundamentally sound big man who remains somewhat under the radar.  We currently see him as an ideal mid-major recruit.  Krutwig presently sports D1 scholarship offers from UAB, Vermont, Loyola, UIC, Toledo, Brown and Columbia.

Most Necessary Summer Change

  • Certify High School Team Shootouts In June

Illinois Prep Bulls-eye still remembers the days when the Morris Shootout was THE summer high school basketball event from an Illinois standpoint.  For one weekend in July, you would have overflow crowds lined up outside the door of the Morris High School Fieldhouse, with just about every big name college coach in the business in attendance.  

Unfortunately, those days are long gone and unlikely to ever return.  However, isn't it possible for the NCAA to reinvent the Summer calendar once again so that high school shootouts and summer leagues at least matter?  A good number of college coaches at all levels have told us they would like to see this happen.  They want to be able to evaluate prospective recruits in as many environments and settings as possible, including with their high school teams.  With the way the current July evaluation period is set up, D1 coaches are unable to watch a recruit with his high school team at any point during the summer unless it is at a team camp run by that particular university.

We have a simple solution--one that we think would not be as difficult to implement as people may first believe.  The premise is quite basic--let's start certifying some of these high school team shootouts that are played during the month of June as well as the summer league playoffs that are usually held that month.  

Here is how you go about doing it: the NCAA could either open up one more week for evaluation during June, which is when the majority of the high school team shootouts take place.  Or if the NCAA doesn't want to increase the number of evaluation days that college coaches get during the summer, then cut out one of the weeks for evaluation in July and move it to June.  Travel team events that normally would have been held during the week being cut would have the option of moving to one of the other weeks in July or playing during the live week in June.  It is workable.

What so many folks don't understand is that this solution would be a win-win for all parties.  Many high school coaches still complain that they don't get enough time to spend with their players during the summer (they are currently allowed 30 days under IHSA rules).  With our proposal, not only would more control be returned to them during the summer, but the events they coach in would actually mean something.  The biggest reason why too many top recruits don't show up for summer leagues and team shootouts during June is because they feel there's no real incentive for doing so because D1 (and often D2) coaches can't be in attendance.  This solution would change that, and believe us--the top players would show up.

The other thing that would need to happen for this to become a reality is that the state high school associations would need to cooperate in terms of loosening their rules which govern high school team activity during the summer.  We realize this is easier said than done, but if you give them an incentive for doing so (which we feel we do with this proposal), it is workable.  We truly believe that all sides would be satisfied--high school coaches, college coaches and travel team coaches.  And most importantly, the biggest beneficiaries would be the recruits themselves.  So c'mon NCAA and IHSA--let's make this happen!

Note: This hereby ends our Summer Awards.  Before you know it Fall will be upon us and as September approaches our focus will turn primarily to recruiting, which will include tracking campus and in-home visits as well as open gyms and of course keeping close eyes on possible commitments. 

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We welcome comments regarding this story or any other entry published by Illinois Prep Bulls-eye.  They can be made by e-mailing us at royandharv@ilprepbullseye.com.

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