Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye’s Summer Awards

Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye's Summer Awards

Another July Evaluation Period has come and gone which means that now is the time for Illinois Prep Bulls-eye to beginning sorting through everything that was taken in this month as it relates to Illinois-based high school basketball prospects.  Who were the best of the best?  Who made the most lasting impressions?  Who were the stock-raisers?  Who is still undervalued?

After spanning the country during July to watch recruits in locations including Waukegan,IL; Oak Brook,IL; Romeoville, IL; North Augusta, SC; Suwanee, GA and Louisville, KY we once again provide answers to those questions by presenting our annual Summer Awards.  As is customary, we begin with our Player Of The Summer and will add an award winner each day until we have reached the end of our extensive list.

Player Of The Summer/Best Player In Illinois

  • Jalen Brunson              
  • 6’2   2015   PG   Lincolnshire (Stevenson)   Mac Irvin Fire

OK–perhaps this choice is not as clear-cut as a year ago when picking Cliff Alexander was an absolute no-brainer. However, by the time the 2014 July Evaluation Period had concluded it was obvious that the only player who was truly deserving of being called the Player Of The Summer in Illinois was Brunson.

Brunson was good at the EYBL Finals/NIKE Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC, including a 34 point, 6 assist performance in a pool play win over Houston Hoops.  But he was even better at the Bigfoot Classic in Las Vegas, leading his Mac Irvin Fire 17-Under travel team to the championship in the platinum division, defeating Houston Hoops yet again in the title game.

Make no mistake about it–throughout the course of his run with the Fire, Brunson was the one the team consistently looked to provide scoring and make the big plays in crunch time.  And more often than not Brunson responded.  In fact, as far as we are concerned Brunson has proven that there is no other guard in the nation with his scoring ability.  That is because Brunson can get by anyone en route to the basket when isolated one-on-one and can also be deadly from behind the 3-point line, where he has made the “stop and pop” on the break an art form.  As a result, we believe that Brunson has also clearly separated from the rest of the pack in Illinois’ 2015 class and has truly earned the honor of being ranked as the #1 player in the state.

Critics will question if Brunson makes his teammates better, saying that he shoots too much or doesn’t get others involved nearly enough.  We will counter that by pointing out that the bottom line is that Brunson wins–he had done so consistently both with his high school team and on the traveling team circuit.  And that, above all else, is what makes him the best from the Land Of Lincoln.  Brunson will begin taking official visits in the fall from amongst a list of 8 finalists which include (in alphabetical order) Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Temple, UConn and Villanova, all of which should lead to him announcing his college choice before the start of the high school season in November.

Best Underclassman

  • Nojel Eastern              
  • 6’3   2017   PG   Evanston (Township)   Meanstreets

From a talent evaluation standpoint few things are more satisfying to Illinois Prep Bulls-eye than a talented underclass prospect who shows maturity well beyond his years.  As far as underclassmen in Illinois go, nobody exemplifies that more than Eastern.  That is because he sports considerable toughness, is a leader on the floor and his mental approach to the game is second to none.

All of these traits were indicative of Eastern throughout the July Evaluation Period, beginning with the Elite Academic Athletes Showcase in Waukegan.  Eastern was playing like one of the best players at that event until he pulled up with a leg cramp that sidelined him the rest of the way.  However, Eastern returned to action a week later at the Sweet Sixteen of the EYBL Finals/NIKE Peach Jam and was even better, leading his talented Meanstreets 16-Under squad to the final four.

What is ironic is that Eastern has not even played the point guard position for his high school team at Evanston as of yet.  We guarantee everyone that will change beginning on the first day of practice in November.  That is because Eastern has a tremendous feel for the point guard spot and with the exception of occasionally forcing some shots is a tremendous decision-maker.  And he has the ability to make all of his teammates better.  The lefty has legitimate 3-point range, consistently gets to the basket and breaks down defenses and is an in-your-face defender.  And he is just as mature and focused off the court as he is on it.

There is no question that Eastern has firmly elevated himself into the position of ranking as the clearcut #1 player in Illinois in 2017 and one of the top five players in the state overall regardless of class.  It therefore comes as no surprise that Eastern received his first high major offer courtesy of John Groce and the University of Illinois upon the conclusion of Peach Jam to go along with a previous offer from Bradley.  Michigan State is also very heavily involved as Spartans head coach Tom Izzo and his entire staff watched Eastern endlessly throughout week 2 of the evaluation period.  We expect several others to jump into the recruiting picture for Eastern as well before too long.

Ready For Prime Time Award

  • Isaiah Moss              
  • 6’5   2015   2G   Chicago (Simeon)   Wisconsin Playground Elite

It is one thing to simply be a Summer stock raiser, but it is quite another to perform at a level which legitimizes your recruitment reaching new heights.  Yet that is exactly what Moss has done based on his play since the beginning of June. As a result, he has gone from being a solid mid-major recruit to a player who can undoubtedly play at a high major school.

Moss has been a model of consistency throughout the summer on the traveling team spending most of his time playing for Wisconsin Playground Elite.  He was spectacular at the Next Level Invitational in Mequon, WI and followed that up with another worthy performance at the Elite Youth Invitational in Augusta, GA where he led the Playground Elite squad to the championship in the 17-under division.  Moss then switched to the Mac Irvin Fire during the final week of the evaluation period and was instrumental in leading them to the 17-under platinum championship at the Bigfoot Classic in Las Vegas.

Above all else, Moss is a high-flyer and a scoring machine who can do so in a variety of ways.  It includes consistently getting to the rim, battling inside for boards, finishing on the break and being able to nail pullup j’s out to 3-point territory. What is equally impressive is that despite his tremendous scoring ability, Moss plays unselfishly, as he takes high percentage shots, is a good passer and simply does whatever it takes to win games as evidenced by the above results.

It is therefore no surprise that Moss’ recruitment has catapulted during July.  Since the start of the evaluation period he has added scholarship offers from the likes of Auburn, LaSalle, Loyola-Chicago, Northern Illinois, Rhode Island, San Jose State, SMU, Temple and UTEP.  He also remains a high priority for DePaul and head coach Oliver Purnell. Needless to say, Moss has come to the forefront in a big way and will undoubtedly be one of the main cogs in the wheel for a Simeon team that figures to start the 2014-15 season as the favorite in the Chicago Public League and among the top two teams in the state. 

Dow Jones Award (Biggest Stock Raiser)

  • Admiral Schofield              
  • 6’5   2015   WF   Zion (Zion-Benton)   Team NLP

We find it laughable that once again as is his nature, a local mediahead is trying to take credit for the discovery of yet another high school basketball player, in this case Schofield, going as far as to call all other recent chatter regarding him “long overdue.”  Excuse us?  We were first singing Schofield’s praises well over a year and a half ago, going back to the 2012 Jacobs Holiday Tournament when he was only a sophomore.  

Since that time we have continued to follow Schofield’s progress on a regular basis, including during the past high school regular season as well as Zion-Benton’s 4A regional final contest at Rolling Meadows versus St. Viator.  We said on all of those occasions how intrigued we were with Schofield and that he would be a good one.  And we will continue to say it now.

OK–maybe we didn’t know at the time that Schofield would improve as quickly as he has and begin turning the heads of college coaches in such a short period.  But did anybody?  The answer to that is a resounding “NO” and that is why Schofield is hands down the winner of our Dow Jones Award.  He was nothing short of outstanding throughout July while playing for Team NLP on the travel team circuit.  This was especially true at the 17-Under AAU Nationals in Louisville, where he helped lead NLP to the quarterfinals.

Schofield is a thick-framed and wide-bodied athlete in the same mold as his former high school teammate Milik Yarbrough who is now at St. Louis.  However, here is positive #1 with respect to Schofield–he is Yarbrough without the attitude.  Schofield has multi-dimensional skills offensively–he is a strong rebounder and interior scorer, is an excellent ball-handler and passer and can also consistently keep defenses honest from beyond the 3-point stripe.  This skill set was on full display throughout every game Schofield played in Louisville.

If there is one question concerning Schofield’s game as of now it probably lies at the defensive end but make no mistake about it–Schofield is the quintessential mid-major recruit.  Need proof?  Well, Schofield may have set a record (we need to check on that) for total number of scholarship offers accumulated in one day, receiving five just a couple of days ago. They included Western Kentucky, Quinnipiac, Bowling Green and Toledo.  These are in addition to previous offers from Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UIC, Long Island, Niagara, Ohio U, Fairfield and North Dakota.  And actually, if Schofield keeps progressing at the rate he has it is not out of the question that high majors will come calling.

Most Underappreciated

  • Harrison Niego          
  • Lockdown    
  • 6’2   2015   PG   Lagrange (Lyons Township) IL     Chicago

We have been on Niego’s bandwagon from the very beginning and to this day we still don’t understand why he doesn’t get the respect that he has earned and truly deserves.  Why do we say that?  Simple–because Niego has been a model of consistency at every event he has participated in with his Chicago Lockdown traveling team.  In fact, there have been other guards in the 2015 class from Illinois who have received considerably more hype.  But the bottom line is that we are convinced that with a couple of exceptions Niego is every bit as good as all of them.

To begin with, Niego has traits that virtually any mid-major D1 coach would relish, the biggest one being that he is equally adept at either guard position.  That is because although Niego is a natural point guard he has great combo guard skills. He handles the ball well, does a great job of pushing the ball up the floor and is a consistent 3-point shooter who can nail shots either set or off the dribble.  To top everything off, Niego has great composure and simply does not get rattled.

Oh yeah, there’s one other thing–Niego knows how to win.  He has done so during his entire tenure with Lockdown.  This past July he led them to a first place finish in their pool at the loaded NY2LA Sports Summer Jam in Mequon, WI and a berth in the quarterfinals of the 17-under platinum tournament bracket.  Earlier in the month, Niego led Lockdown to the quarterfinals at the Adidas Invitational in Fishers, IN.

We therefore continue to be amazed that at the present time Niego only sports a handful of D1 scholarship offers.  The majority of them have come from schools in the Ivy League and perhaps that is where Niego will ultimately end up. Nevertheless, every college coach we have talked with who has watched Niego play (yet hasn’t offered) has said that they would take him in a heart beat.  With that in mind, we must once again ask, “what are they waiting for?”

Most Widely Debated/Misunderstood

  • Connor Cashaw              
  • 6’4   2015   2G   Lincolnshire (Stevenson) IL   Mac Irvin Fire

Forget about this Summer–Cashaw may be the most widely debated and misunderstood recruit the state of Illinois has seen since the turn of this century.  And there are a multitude of reasons for it.  But before we get into that we will say this–we still have no doubt that Cashaw can be a high major player in college.  That is because he has proven his overall worth to us every time we have watched him.

After turning in an outstanding performance earlier in the summer at the prestigious Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout we predicted that Cashaw would turn in a banner July.  That in itself has been the subject of considerable debate amongst evaluators and college coaches, as there were mixed reviews on how well he performed throughout the evaluation period.  In our view, Cashaw was outstanding during the first week at the Chicago Summer Jam in Romeoville.  However, he was rather inconsistent at the EYBL Finals/NIKE Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC, where the level of competition was definitely raised.  Thus, questions continue to abound as to exactly what college level Cashaw is best suited for.  The high major offers that we thought would start arriving by now have still not come, as high major coaches appear to still have reservations.

As we have said, we have no reservations whatsoever.  That is because Cashaw has proven how much he means to his high school team at Stevenson time and time again as well as being able to further showcase and develop his skills on the travel team circuit with the Mac Irvin Fire.  And in both instances, he has come to the forefront when his teammate and the #1 prospect in Illinois from the 2015 class–Jalen Brunson–has been absent.  In doing so, Cashaw has shown leadership that has gone above and beyond the call of duty.  Not only that, but he has demonstrated how multi-dimensional he is.  He has the ability to convert shots from 3-point range, has a non-stop motor that allows him to consistently get out on the break, drive and convert baskets in transition and handles the ball well enough to be a point guard.

Unfortunately, all of Cashaw’s attributes have presented just as many problems in the eyes of college recruiters as they have benefits.  They continue to ask, “what position does he play at the next level?”  Our response is simple: to quote a well-known wrestler and movie star: “IT DOESN”T MATTER!”  Cashaw is simply one of those players who you put out there and let him go to work.  And the bottom line is that more often than not he gets the job done.  Perhaps all of this explains why Cashaw’s recruitment is all over the map at this time, although he currently sports only two high major offers, which we believe needs to change.  As we hinted at a while ago, there is one particular BCS school that has tracked Cashaw heavily yet has not yet offered.  If they were to do so it could possibly change the face of his recruitment.  It will be interesting to see if that ultimately happens, things remain status quo, or if some other unforeseen development occurs.

Best Defender

  • Luwane Pipkins              
  • 5’9   2015   PG   Chicago (Bogan)   Mac Irvin Fire

Everyone who has watched Pipkins play knows that he is one of the most prolific scorers in the state as he can do so just about every way imaginable–whether it be driving past his defender, releasing in transition and on the break, or pulling up and drilling shots from 3-point territory.  In fact, if we were to present an award in that category (which we don’t) Pipkins would probably be our co-winner along with his AAU teammate Jalen Brunson.

However, we would rather focus on the other part of Pipkins’ game that often gets overlooked–namely his defense.  As we have always said, great defensive players truly enjoy playing defense and Pipkins is another one who relishes it. Throughout his tenure on the Mac Irvin Fire it has been Pipkins (not Brunson) who has drawn the assignment of guarding the opponent’s best back court performer.  And more often than not Pipkins has responded in a big way.  This was certainly the case at the EYBL Finals/NIKE Peach Jam where Pipkins repeatedly came up with key steals during crucial stretches of the game.  In fact, all of the Fire’s wins in North Augusta, SC could be largely attributed to Pipkins’ outstanding defensive effort and the argument could be made that he was the team’s best “clutch” player.

The biggest reasons why Pipkins is an outstanding defender are two-fold: 1) the tenacity that he exhibits from start to finish and 2) the fact that he displays a competitive edge which we believe is unequaled by any other player in the state. Simply put, Pipkins has the focus and the quickness to be able to play his opponent tight, consistently strip the ball and then convert buckets at the other end.  In other words, his defense often helps fuel his offense.

When we accurately projected Pipkins’ level of ability as it pertained to his recruitment there were some who thought we were hating on him.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The bottom line is that we are among Pipkins’ biggest fans and quite frankly we wish there were more out there like him because he “gets it.”  With that in mind, he is an ideal fit for head coach Derek Kellogg at the University Of Massachusetts and patterns his game after former Minuteman guard Chaz Williams.  And oh, there’s just one more thing–that is why Pipkins is not about to decommit at any point in time.

Taken For Granted Award

  • Quad City Elite Orange 16-U
  • Houston
  • Coaches–Logan Wynn, Andy Saey, Ryan McCarty, Jeff Houston

While all of our other Summer awards are individual achievements, in this case we are acknowledging what was undoubtedly a total team effort–specifically, that of the Quad City Elite Orange 16-Under traveling team throughout the July Evaluation Period.  To begin with, one of the biggest reasons why they win this award is because perhaps we are more guilty than anyone of taking their accomplishments for granted, seeing as though they were a team that we were unable to get a good look at during July (unfortunately, you can’t be everywhere!).  

Nevertheless, when looking at the resume of the QC Elite Orange team from last month it goes without question that they are deserving of the utmost praise.  That is because they succeeded in winning the championship of the 16-under Platinum Division at the NY2LA Sports Summer Jam in Mequon, WI; reached the championship game at the Next Level Invitationalalso in Mequon and advanced to the semifinals at the KC Hardwood Classic in Overland Park, KS. Simply put, coaches Logan Wynn and Andy Saey are to be commended on an outstanding job.

The headliner of the 16-U Orange squad is 6’6 forward Isaiah Roby from Dixon High School in Dixon, IL.  Roby rose his stock as much as anybody in Illinois from the 2016 class during July.  As a result, he now holds scholarship offers from the likes of Nebraska, Georgia, Northern Illinois, IUPUI and Northern Iowa.  Another D1 prospect is 6’4 2016 athletic wing Donovan Oliver from Kewanee High School in Kewanee, IL, who Illinois Prep Bulls-eye first wrote about in this entry back in October, 2012.  Oliver recently landed a scholarship offer from Illinois State University and head coach Dan Muller after attending their Elite Camp.  There is also a throwback, blue-collar post player in 6’7 2016 power forward Noah McCarty from Sterling Newman High School in Sterling, IL and one of the bigger sleepers in Illinois from the 2016 class in 6’4 2-guard Isaac Gassman from Ottawa Township High School in Ottawa, IL.  

Yes, there are other travel teams in Illinois that are higher-profile and have more superstar-caliber players.  But the argument can be made that none have better team chemistry.  That is because there are no egos and each player believes in sacrificing for the good of the team over individual accolades.  Not only that, but it is also refreshing to know in this day and age that this is a bunch with a core group that plans on sticking together through thick and thin as opposed to players who are always on the move or other travel teams who always seem to restock their rosters year after year.  It is for all of these reasons that it is high time everyone give this QC Elite 16-U squad their just due.

Blood And Guts Award

  • Antoine Pittman              
  • 6’4   2015   WF   Rockford (Auburn)   Pryme Tyme

The Blood And Guts Award is always one of our favorite Summer awards to present and for the first time in quite a while, there was no obvious choice.  There were several worthy candidates, including Bogan point guard Luwane Pipkins (yes, a 5’9 PG can be eligble for this award!) and T.F. South 2016 forward Brandon Johnson.  However, in the end we decided that Pittman fits the criteria better than anyone.

Pittman simply has all of the traits that make him worthy of being called a blood and guts performer.  He has a non-stop motor, works his behind off and plays much bigger than his listed height.  While Pittman can definitely be labeled a tweener at the present time, he is another one of those players where position does not matter.  You simply put him out on the floor and let him go to work.

At the first Elite Academic Athletes Showcase in Waukegan, IL during the first week of the July Evaluation Period, no other player played harder from start to finish than Pittman.  And perhaps the most impressive thing about his performance there was that at an event where defense didn’t exactly stand out Pittman made it a point of emphasis and showed his ability to get it done at both ends of the court.  Pittman is adept at slashing to the basket, attacks the glass with a vengeance and is an aggressive open court defender.  

Pittman’s efforts have not gone unnoticed and as a result he has grabbed the attention of college coaches in the MAC, Horizon League, Ohio Valley and WAC.  At the present time Pittman sports scholarship offers from the likes of Northern Illinois, Chicago State, SIU-Edwardsville, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Tennessee State.  Pittman has become one of our favorite players to watch in the 2015 class from Illinois and whether it be getting a key rebound, battling for points in the paint or forcing an all-important turnover, Pittman makes plays that help his teams win games.

Most Unheralded/Biggest Hidden Gem

  • David Sachs              
  • 6’1   2015   PG   Highland Park (H.S.)   Rising Stars Elite

Every time we have seen Sachs we have come away convinced that he would be an ideal player for a school in either the Ivy or Patriot League.  But amazingly, Sachs did not drawn so much as a whimper from coaches in those conferences at two of the events that he participated in during the July Evaluation Period–the Elite Academic Athletes Showcase in Waukegan, IL and the 17-Under AAU Nationals in Louisville despite the fact that he was outstanding at both of them. In fact, at the present time Sachs does not sport a D1 scholarship offer, which makes him a true hidden gem and also leads us to wonder what these coaches are thinking.

Above all else, Sachs is a quintessential point guard.  That is because he plays under control, gets all of his teammates involved, makes good decisions and seldom makes mistakes.  Sachs can also consistently keep defenses honest from beyond the arc and is actually a much better 3-point shooter than people give him credit for. This was plainly evident at the AAU nationals when he scored 29 points in one contest which included 8 trifectas.Whether it be running the offense or putting points on the board Sachs simply does whatever is necessary to help his team win. 

The major question mark with Sachs lies at the defensive end, where he still needs to show that he can consistently guard opponents man-to-man.  Sachs is a systems-oriented player first and foremost and is not the type of player who is going to single-handedly wow you.  But the bottom line is that he has proven that you can win with him, and that is the primary reason why we believe that at this time plenty of low D1s are missing the boat. 

Most Improved 2015 Prospect

  • Noah Karras              
  • 6’4   2015   2G   Lake Forest (H.S.)   Fundamental U.

A year ago Karras was merely an afterthought.  In fact, we are willing to bet that NOT ONE scouting analyst/talent evaluator in Illinois knew who he was at the time.  That is clearly no longer the case, as Karras has put himself on the map, as he has been a valuable contributor all Summer long both for his high school team at Lake Forest and on the traveling team circuit with Fundamental U.

Karras first began rising to prominence with an outstanding performance at a university team camp in early June which included converting eight 3-pointers in one game.  He has not tapered off since.  While it is a given that Karras is a terrific spotup shooter from beyond the arc, he has proven to us that he is much more than that.

Besides his long-range marksmanship, Karras is also an adequate ball handler and defender.  Not only that, but he is also quite team-oriented, as he will make the extra pass and is more athletic than people give him credit for.  And needless to say, Karras has ideal size for the 2-guard position at the next level.

In summary, there is a good deal of versatility to Karras’ game, which is why he is undoubtedly worthy of being called a D1 recruit.  At the present time Karras holds scholarship offers from the University Of Illinois at Chicago and Albany. There is no question that he will be a key piece in the puzzle for a Lake Forest squad that should rank with Stevenson as the best in Chicago’s North suburbs next season.

Most Improved 2016 Prospect

  • Barret Benson              
  • 6’9   2016   C   Darien (Hinsdale South)   Illinois Wolves

We can see it now–this will probably end up being the most debated award winner out of all the ones we have presented thus far.  That is because it is probably the least clear-cut choice from amongst our entire list of Summer awards.  In fact, legit arguments can be made for at least three other candidates–6’6 forward Isaiah Roby from Dixon High School in Dixon, IL; 6’5 2-guard Jerry Myles from United Township in East Moline, IL and 6’8 wing forward Rapolas Ivanauskas from Barrington Township High School in Barrington, IL.

Allow us to explain everything that went into consideration with this award and remember, it’s MOST IMPROVED–not necessarily the “biggest stock raiser”–in the 2016 class.  We readily admit that had we seen more of Roby during July he most likely would have been our choice.  Unfortunately we did not.  We came away extremely impressed with Roby’s ball handling and passing skills as well as his ability to cover ground defensively due to his considerable length when we watched him this past weekend at a university elite camp.  Myles is a big-bodied guard who was impressive when we watched him at the 16-Under Super Showcase in Louisville with his All Iowa Attack squad and undoubtedly ranks among the top 5 prospects in Illinois from the 2016 class.  However, despite that we believe there are still parts of Myles’ game that he can fine-tune.  As for Ivanauskas, he may have come away the winner had it not been for the fact that he chose to sit out the final week of the evaluation period.

We are looking at overall body of work here, which actually encompasses not only the entire Summer Evaluation Period, but also the better part of the entire past year.  And that is why we go with Benson, as he has progressed as much as any prospect in Illinois from 2016 during that time span as a result of his hard work and dedication.

Benson performed double-duty for both the Illinois Wolves 16-Under and 17-Under squads at the loaded Under Armour Finals in Suwanee, GA during July and we thought he was actually the best player on the 17-under team when we watched them in action there against the highly talented South Carolina Raptors.  Benson has good hands, does a good job of establishing post position and sealing off opponents for rebounds and is a consistent scorer with his back to the basket.  We believe he has unlimited potential and a great future ahead of him.

What Benson must now work on doing is becoming even more assertive and being able to maintain a consistent body weight.  However, in a 2016 class which we believe still lacks a consensus #1 prospect, Benson is a player who is quite capable of ultimately ascending to the top of that list. 

Most Undervalued/Underrated 2016 Prospect

  • James Jones              
  • 6’4   2016   2G   Chicago (Bogan)   Meanstreets 

We have truly come to hate the scouting term “breakout player” as it is overused by so many “analysts” who don’t even understand its true definition.  Nevertheless, it does have its proper place from time to time and such is the case with Jones, as there was not a bigger breakout performer during the July Evaluation Period from an Illinois-based standpoint.

While Jones has gone under the radar by most everyone else up until now, Illinois Prep Bulls-eye has been on his bandwagon for quite some time.  In fact, we were among the first to start singing his praises going all the way back to the Class 3A supersectional contest at Joliet Central last March.  Jones has only continued to get better since then and was spectacular when we saw him at the EYBL Finals/NIKE Peach Jam in North Augusta, SC where he helped lead his Meanstreets 16-Under squad to the semifinals of the Sweet Sixteen tournament.

Jones is a smooth-shooting lefty who can consistently nail the 3-pointer and does a good job of moving without the ball. However, there is also a good deal of versatility to Jones’ game.  He can also go to the hole with regularity and defensively he is often his team’s “rover”because he covers considerable ground which enables him to force turnovers and generate scoring opportunities.  What he now needs to work on is tightening his handle, as he is actually even more effective in the halfcourt game than in the open floor.

Although Jones somewhat plays in the shadow of Luwane Pipkins, we believe that he will prove to play just as big of a role for a Bogan team that could start the upcoming season as the #1 ranked team in the state.  Jones currently ranks among our top 10 prospects in Illinois from the 2016 class.  His efforts have also begun to be recognized by college recruiters as Jones has received scholarship offers from Illinois State, Bradley, Murray State and Northern Illinois since the start of the month.

Fastest Rising 2017 Prospect

  • Justin Smith              
  • Elite
  • 6’5   2017   WF   Lincolnshire (Stevenson)   Wisconsin Playground

Let’s set the record straight once again–Evanston Township’s Nojel Eastern is currently the #1 prospect in Illinois from the 2017 class.  However, there is not another player in the state from 2017 who has done more to enhance his stock and raise his profile throughout the course of the summer than Smith.  As a result, he has proven that he undoubtedly ranks among the top five players in the state from that class and is actually closer to #1 than #5.

Smith was outstanding at the first session of the Elite Academic Athletes Showcase in Waukegan, IL and carried that superb effort over into the second and third weeks of the July evaluation period while on the traveling team circuit with the Wisconsin Playground Elite 16-Under squad.  It is therefore no wonder that Smith now has more than a few D1 college coaches buzzing.

Smith is a high-flying athlete who excels on the break and in transition.  He is also a superb open court defender who utilizes his length to convert numerous buckets off of turnovers.  In addition, he also possesses a strong mid-range game.

Once Smith expands his shooting range and becomes more consistent with his jumper he will become an even greater offensive threat than he is now.  But make no mistake about it–Smith’s upside is enormous and although he has not accumulated scholarship offers as of yet, that will inevitably change once coaches get an opportunity to see him in open gyms during the fall and during the upcoming high school season.

Lunchbucket Award

  • Evan Boudreaux              
  • 6’7   2015   PF   Lake Forest (H.S.) Team NLP  

Illinois Prep Bulls-eye always appreciates players who are consistent and know how to utilize their strengths to the point where you know what you are getting from them game in and game out.  And few if any players in Illinois personify this trait more than Boudreaux.  We refer to Boudreaux as “Mr. Blue Collar” and for good reason.  Although he is a couple of inches smaller, his style of play and approach to the game is quite similar to last year’s winner of this award–former Benet Academy center and 2014 Xavier University recruit Sean O’Mara.

Simply put, Boudreaux is an extremely hard worker and comes to play every game.  But beyond that, he is well-schooled and fundamentally sound.  When Boudreaux has a favorable matchup he knows how to fully take advantage of it. This is especially true with respect to his post game, as he has good hands, does a good job of establishing post position and is a consistent scorer with his back to the basket.  And while Boudreaux can be streaky from the perimeter, he is certainly capable of facing up and knocking down shots out to 3-point land.

Yes, Boudreaux has a more difficult time against highly athletic big men who can also match or exceed his physical strength.  But the bottom line is that Boudreaux plays within himself and is versatile enough to adjust when necessary. He has been a rock for a Team NLP traveling team that won the championship of the AAU 17-Under Nationals a year ago and reached the quarterfinals this past July.

Regardless of how much star power others may think he has, Boudreaux has proven to us time and again that he ranks among the top front court prospects in Illinois from the 2015 class.  Boudreaux’s recruitment is a most diverse one and is a case where he is looking for the best fit all the way around.  With that said, he has official visits scheduled for Yale, Iowaand Dartmouth in that order. 

Most Disturbing Trend Of The Summer

  • Hype Artists vs. Scouts/Talent Evaluators

OK–it is not strictly a Summer trend but it seems to be the most prevalent at this time of the year.  And while we have talked about it before and have probably browbeaten it to death, there are still far too many folks who don’t recognize the difference between mere hype and true scouting analysis/talent evaluation.  Worse yet, there are far too many who have no desire to even understand.  Therefore, we feel it necessary to address the subject yet again, because we believe that it may be the #1 thing wrong with the business today.  With that in mind, if we can educate just one person on this subject then things are better off than they were yesterday or the day before.

While we have spoken endlessly about the “Chicago hype machine” hype is not relegated solely to the Windy City when it comes to high school basketball coverage.  It exists everywhere and consists of people from all walks of life.  One faction are the overzealous parents who to this day still have no understanding of everything that goes into the recruiting process.  Instead, they are too concerned about where their son is ranked, what AAU team he will be playing for, how often he is written about on a web site or in a blog, or what event he will be playing in during the spring and summer.

Another group of hype artists that continues to grow on a daily basis are those who we refer to as “mediaheads” and the internet mopes who are involved in the business for all the wrong reasons.  They all think that they are going to become overnight sensations, are going to get rich quickly (they’re really living a myth on that one!) and know more than those who have been operating successful scouting services for years.  The fact of the matter is that most of them have no clue on how to run a scouting service and certainly have no idea on how to evaluate because all of their stories and rankings are based on politics–who they are buddies with, which school or schools they are aligned with or who else they are trying to please.  That is why in many cases their thoughts and analysis isn’t even their own and can’t be taken seriously because they are merely substantiating the opinions of someone else, whether it be a college coach, high school coach, AAU coach or parent.

All of which leads to those who we believe are the biggest culprits of all when it comes to massive overhype–those AAU coaches who are control freaks to the point where they think they can tell everybody else (namely scouting services) how to do their job.  And then when those such as ourselves don’t do so in the manner that they desire they whine and take their ball and go home like a 2-year old.  Thankfully the overall number of these type of coaches appear to be dwindling but there are some who still remain constant problems.  They actually think that the sole purpose of a scouting service is to promote their players. Worse yet, they deliberately try to hold various college programs hostage in order to get their players recruited by those schools.  Sadly enough, there are several college coaches who continue to allow that to happen if they are dealing with a high-profile AAU coach whose team consists of several D1 players because they are afraid of losing recruits from that program in the future.  As a result, recruits continue to get overhyped and oversold to the point where they are going to universities that are not suitable for their level of play.  And we wonder why the college transfer rate has grown worse each year to the point where it is now out of control. 

While too many other “analysts” will continue to cater to the demands and wishes of these vultures, most everyone who follows our work knows that we will not.  In fact we will do the exact opposite and continue to operate in the same manner that we always have during our 27 years in this business–provide thorough, comprehensive and most of all objective coverage and analysis on everything pertaining to high school basketball and recruiting in Illinois.  Which is why Illinois Prep Bulls-eye remains the premier scouting service in the Land Of Lincoln. 

Editor’s Note: This hereby concludes our Summer Awards.  We hope that everyone enjoys what is left of the summer and is ready for Fall, which is just around the corner.  We will now be focusing the bulk of our attention on upcoming official campus visits, open gyms and the rapidly approaching Fall Signing Period.  

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 [email protected]

Continue to check in with Illinois Prep Bulls-eye for all of the latest as it pertains to recruiting and high school basketball in Illinois.


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