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Henricksen: Lengthy list of talented, productive sophomores keeps growing

Without a Chicago area mega-star and top-ranked player nationally in the Class of 2017, such as an Anthony Davis, Jahlil Okafor or Jabari Parker, the pace of rising sophomore prospects may be more minivan than Ferrari. But this class is nonetheless motoring right along very nicely.

There has been an abundance of sophomores from around the city and suburbs impacting the high school basketball landscape in the opening few weeks of the season.

Willowbrook’s Alonzo Verge, Jr., is certainly one of them.

Already ranked as the No. 6 prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2017 prior to the start of the season and bookmarked as one of the breakout performers for this winter, Verge is living up to the City/Suburban Hoops Report hype. The 6-3 guard is fresh off an eye-popping performance last Friday, scoring 31 points in every way imaginable while dishing out six assists in a loss to Hinsdale South.

Verge has flourished as a featured performer, averaging over 20 points a game on the season. The son of former Proviso West star Alonzo Verge, who was an electric high school talent and all-stater in the 1980s, Alonzo, Jr., has been one of the most productive sophomores in the Chicago area. Things just come easily for the younger Verge with the ball in his hands –– as a passer, creator and scorer.

Verge is far from the only impact player in the Class of 2017. Here are just a few of the productive, up-and-coming sophomores to keep an eye on as they continue to progress as players and prospects.

▪ Nojel Eastern, Evanston

Already one of the biggest names and highest profile players in the class, the 6-4 point guard is a high-major talent. Eastern impacts the game a number of ways and is already a stat-sheet stuffer, averaging 14 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game on the young season.

▪ Justin Smith, Stevenson

Even with veteran, Division I talent on the roster, including Player of the Year favorite Jalen Brunson and Rice-bound guard Connor Cashaw, Smith is making his presence felt. The 6-5 talent with an enormous upside has made a significant jump and is averaging 10 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks a game.

▪ Christian Negron, Larkin

Having already made an impact as a freshman last season, the athletic 6-6 forward with endless length is becoming an even more versatile weapon. Negron is averaging a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds a game, while chipping in 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals a game. A top five prospect in the class, Negron gives the impression he’s just scratching the surface as a player.

▪ Elijah Joiner, Curie

While senior Joshua Stamps and junior Devin Gage are the experienced, go-to players for coach Mike Oliver, Joiner has been a big addition. The 6-2 sophomore guard is a calm and composed threat on the perimeter, averaging 11.5 points a game.

▪ Jamal Nixon, Fenwick

In a win over Seton last week, the 6-5 Nixon showed his versatility and how coach Rick Malnati can use him in multiple ways as he finished with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. He’s averaging 11 points and 8 rebounds on the year.

▪ Joey St. Pierre, Richmond-Burton

This massive sophomore who is pushing 6-9 and 265 pounds is still in the development stage, but he’s intriguing and one of the top 10 prospects in the class. In his last two games, St. Pierre has averaged 19 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks a game. On the year he’s putting up 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks a game.

▪ Manny Patterson, Kenwood

The 6-7 sophomore is part of a young, talented, balanced nucleus for coach Marlo Finner and is averaging 8 points and 6 rebounds a game after transferring in from North Lawndale.

▪ Craig Beaudion, Foreman

One of the real unheralded prospects in the sophomore class and big-time scorer for his age. And he has an easy game to like. Beaudion can knock down perimeter jumpers with range and find his way to the basket off the dribble. The 6-3 shooting guard is putting up big numbers (24 ppg, 6 apg) while enjoying a breakout season.

▪ Carson Newsome, Waukegan

After some seasoning last year as a freshman, the 6-3 Newsome has become one of the focal points for the Bulldogs this year, averaging an impressive 17.5 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds a game while making the move to point guard. He’s already had four games of 15-plus points, including a high of 27 in a win over North Chicago.

▪ Willie Herenton, Whitney Young

It didn’t take long for this 6-1 combo guard to be inserted in the starting lineup for the Dolphins. He delivered in his first start, scoring 12 points this past Sunday in a win over Orr. Herenton, who is one of several talented young players in coach Tyrone Slaughter’s program,

▪ Cameron Krutwig, Jacobs

The little-known big man is still coming back from a broken foot, but he’s off to a strong start. The 6-8 Krutwig is averaging 9 points, 11 rebounds and over 2 blocks a game.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport