Players poised to jump through window of opportunity

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Here’s your big window of opportunity, Class of 2014. It’s July.

No, the window won’t completely shut when the calendar turns to August and all the AAU lights are turned off for the summer. But with this many eyes watching and this many coaches in need of players, it’s the opportune time to showcase what you’ve got and why, up to this point, many have missed the boat.

The pecking order has been established. College coaching staffs have their big boards set when it comes to the seniors-to-be. It’s your job, Class of 2014, to make those coaches change them, pull out the wite-out or wipe down the white board in their basketball offices.

With three big evaluation weekends headed our way this month, college coaches will have three separate 96-hour windows to babysit the players they really want and to evaluate one last time those they may still be on the bubble about or have yet to really see.

Here are six seniors in Illinois who the Hoops Report believes will make the most of that opportunity. At different levels and for different reasons, these six will raise their stock in the month of July. It may simply be way more offers than they currently have or maybe offers at a higher level, but these six

▪ Josh Cunningham, 6-6½, WF/PF, Chicago (Morgan Park)

It would be quite easy to argue Cunningham already broke out following multiple high-major offers from his performance this past spring. The Hoops Report just believes Cunningham’s stock among high-major programs will soar even more after three weekends in July.

Why they’ll be excited: Coaches will continue to be enamored with his combination of athleticism, length and motor, while being satisfied with his improved perimeter jumper that extends to the three-point line.

What coaches will be watching for: How far have his perimeter skills improved, particularly his ability to handle the ball? That area is of concern for some.

▪ Donte Thomas, 6-5, WF, South Holland (Thornwood)

Here’s your no-namer. Fans outside the south suburbs are unaware of the rising senior forward and have no clue he’s among the Hoops Report’s Top 25 prospects in the class. A few low-Division I offers are on the table for the senior who put up 15 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks a game as a junior. But plenty more will come for this underrated player.

Why they’ll be excited: Thomas is a player who finds different ways to impact games. He will post up on the block, block a shot, get on the glass for second-chance scoring opportunities, get to the rim in the open court and is a capable passer.

What coaches will be watching for: The mid-range jumper has improved, but how is the consistency and the range?

▪ JayQuan McCloud, 6-2, 2G, North Chicago

What would a Hoops Report breakout/under-the-radar/overlooked story be without McCloud? There is plenty of interest and even offers out there for McCloud at the mid-major level, but he should be coveted and courted by a multitude of mid-major plus programs.

Why they’ll be excited: The easy offensive flow to his game and shooting ability is so easily recognizable. McCloud is a cure for offensive doldrums. He shoots it with range, a high release point, mid-range and can slice to the basket.

What coaches will be watching for: Is McCloud a true combo guard or strictly a scoring 2-guard?

▪ Tai Odiase, 6-8, PF, Homewood-Flossmoor

Another player the Hoops Report has been high on since coming on late in the year for the Vikings. The calendar turned to the month of July and Odiase says he has offers from four schools: Ball State, UIC, UMKC and Valparaiso. This much the Hoops Report promises: the number of offers will grow immensely in the next month.

Why they’ll be excited: Because big men are a premium, especially ones who are light on their feet, can run rim to rim and impact games defensively. Yes, he’s raw offensively, but he’s far from reaching his ceiling.

What coaches will be watching for: How much has Odiase caught up to the speed of the game and does his rebounding and defense offset his raw offensive game?

▪ Lamont Walker, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)

Playing for a winner and with big names sometimes has its consequences. Last year Walker wasn’t asked to do a whole lot with Billy Garrett, Jr., Kyle Davis and Josh Cunningham doing all the heavy lifting. And playing on a loaded Mac Irvin Fire team with names like Jahlil Okafor, Jalen Brunson and Cliff Alexander? Well, Walker, to his credit, accepts his role and does his thing.

Why they’ll be excited: Anyone aware of Walker knows this: He registers high on the toughness meter, plays with a motor and will guard anyone effectively. What they don’t realize is, as an overall player, he’s shown improvement in many areas.

What coaches will be watching for: Walker can impact games without running a single play for him, but coaches will still be keeping tabs on his offensive and skill development.

▪ Gage Davis, 6-2, 2G, Bolingbrook

He’s come a long way from being a bit player off the bench for Bolingbrook this past season, maturing into a scholarship prospect. The Division II and low-Division I interest has started to trickle in with offers from Northern Colorado, Chicago State and Division II Minnesota State.

Why they’ll be excited: Davis will get on a little role, do his thing with a few three-pointers here, a couple more there, and coaches in the stands will ask, “Who’s the slender kid knocking down those 3s?”

What coaches will be watching for: We’ll they’ll be watching Davis –many for the first time. He’s an unknown to most. But, specifically, coaches will be curious as to what he can offer as an overall player aside from his perimeter shooting ability?

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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