They play in the far western suburbs. They don’t play for a big-named high school powerhouse during the season or with the Wolves, Fire or Meanstreets on the AAU circuit.
But K.J. Santos and Aaron Jordan are coming. And they’re coming fast.
Santos, a 6-5 combo guard from Geneva, and Jordan, a 6-3 shooting guard from Plainfield East, opened the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s eyes with their play this past season as sophomores.
Santos’ impact at the varsity level was limited early on. He was promoted to the varsity in early February and made his presence felt for a Geneva team that won 21 games and upset Hinsdale Central in the regional.
Jordan blossomed a little earlier. He put together an extremely impressive sophomore campaign, averaging 15.5 points a game on the year. His most eye-opening statistic, however, is the fact he knocked down 63 three-pointers on the year while shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc. He also made just over 80 percent from the free-throw line.
Now they’re at it again this spring while playing with the Illinois Celtics, a collection of talented players in the Class of 2015. It’s an under-the-radar travel basketball team with some underrated and talented players. The Celtics, who also feature 6-6 Joseph Toye of Whitney Young and 6-8 Myles Carter of St. Rita, will be watched a lot this spring and summer by college coaches as the word gets out.
Both Santos and Jordan are among the Hoops Report’s top 15 prospects in the Class of 2015 already. While Jordan has grabbed some attention from college coaches, Santos is barely a blip on the radar. They’ve climbed fast and, because of their vast upside and physical tools and dimensions, figure to continue their ascent. They both appear to be just scratching the surface of their abilities.
“His length, size and athletic ability are one thing,” says Geneva coach Phil Ralston of Santos. “But he proved he could handle himself. He knocked down some big shots for us down the stretch.”
Geneva fans and those up and down the Fox Valley area that follow basketball closely know the Santos name as Ashley, K.J.’s sister, starred for the Lady Vikings. Although a knee injury derailed her senior year at Geneva two years ago, she still scored over 1,000 career points, was a nationally-ranked player and signed with Marquette out of high school.
Another sister, Sidney, is a star on Geneva’s girls’ basketball team. She battled back from two ACL injuries and was an honorable mention all-stater as a junior this past season.
His mother played basketball at Wichita State, while both his father and uncle played in professional leagues and Puerto Rico’s national team. Now K.J. is adding to the Santos basketball heritage and pipeline.
“He has to gain some bulk and strength, but the more confidence he gets, the more success he has,” says Ralston. “The more versatile we can make him the better opportunities he will have at the next level.”
That versatility, along with the size and length for a perimeter player, is what jumps out at you when watching Santos. He is a long, rangy, versatile, ultra-smooth combo guard who handles the ball as a point guard and knocks down shots with a pretty release and range.
Like Santos, Jordan is a burgeoning talent on the perimeter who already has a penchant for knocking down 3-pointers in bunches. He has the size and athleticism you look for in the 2-guard position, while his feel for the game and ability to create shots off the dribble is coming along.
When the latter does come along, you can easily envision a lethal capacity for scoring from Jordan. The size, length, shooting ability and improving understanding of how and when to attack the basket get you excited when projecting him. That’s why over the next year this is a player you could see emerging as a high-major college prospect.
Plainfield East coach Branden Adkins recognizes Jordan’s exploits as a shooter. When you’re connecting on nearly 50 percent of 3-point attempts as a sophomore, it’s easy to point out shooting efficiency as a strength. But it’s the drive Jordan possesses that sticks out for the coach who sees him play the most.
“Aaron’s work ethic and competitiveness is off the charts,” says Adkins. “He is constantly working on things to make himself the best he can be. He wants to be the best.”
Adkins believes with the competitive drive and work ethic his star sophomore has, along with some tantalizing physical tools, big strides are still to be made.
“His instincts and decision-making are improving, and he’s a great kid to be around and coach,” Adkins says. “I believe his ceiling as no limit.”
That ceiling for both Jordan and Santos, their individual upside and potential, makes it all the more intriguing when projecting these two under-the-radar players as college prospects.
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