Henricksen: The new Red-West, Bartlett’s future fortunes, re-charged Bolingbrook and more …

SHARE Henricksen: The new Red-West, Bartlett’s future fortunes, re-charged Bolingbrook and more …

The recruitment of the state’s best uncommitted prospect, Morgan Park’s Marcus LoVett, is beginning to heat up. “Bright Lights” took an unofficial visit to Illinois on Sunday to catch the Fighting Illini’s game with Indiana.

LoVett, who is averaging 24 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 steals a game, has had Illinois, Kansas, St. John’s and Iowa hot on his trail, but after his senior surge in Chicago it will be interesting to see how many more jump on board.

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Heading into this season, the Chicago Public League’s Red-West was missing what it’s had in the past: a city and state power.

Think about this historically rich-in-talent conference and what it’s produced in the past 10 years alone.

Since 2009 Young has won a pair of state championships and has one state runner-up finish, while also producing the nation’s best player last year, Jahlil Okafor.

Orr has been a major player in Class 3A, reaching Peoria the past two years while finishing fourth in the state in 2013 and third in 2014.

North Lawndale averaged 27 wins a year from 2004 to 2009, with a state title in 2008, runner-up finish in 2007 and third-place finish in 2009, while Marshall made four trips to Peoria, winning a state championship in 2008.

And don’t forget about the impact both Crane and Farragut have had on a league that has long been considered the best in the state over the past couple of decades.

However, right now there’s not a single team from the Red-West ranked.

The league isn’t anywhere close to being what it’s been, but it’s competitive and wide open after Orr upset Young this past weekend. And it might even provide a 3A sleeper in March: Urban Prep West.

Urban Prep West is a program that’s in the building stage under coach La-Troy Farrow. But in addition to playing its Red-West schedule, Urban Prep West has gone outside the city and played competitive basketball with Neuqua Valley, Geneva and Lake Zurich, three suburban teams with a combined record of 45-8.

That type of schedule should prepare Farrow’s team well for a Class 3A sectional that has one heavyweight, St. Joseph, and a host of other unranked teams fighting for a No. 2 seed.

While Urban Prep West is a 3A sleeper in its sectional this March, its star player is one of the best kept secrets in the city. Senior Jaquan Johnson, a 5-11 combo guard, is an elite shooter who has averaged 23 points a game in Red-West play.

“He can flat-out shoot it,” says Farrow. “But he’s also become a more conscious defender and is more aware of everything –– from the personnel on the floor, to the nuances of the offense, to the time and place in a game. He’s never rushed and plays at his own pace.”

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Bartlett’s shot at an Upstate Eight Valley title took a hit with a loss to West Aurora Friday night, but it’s a team to watch when March rolls around.

The Hawks (13-5) will host a regional and have the type of player in 6-1 guard Ryan DiCanio who is capable of carrying a team on any given night. DiCanio, who averages 18 points a game, popped off a school record 43 points earlier this month.

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The Public League’s Red-South and North Suburban Lake are the Chicago areas top two conferences, but each of the league’s powers, Stevenson and Simeon, are in clear control leaving very little drama.

Where you will find perhaps the deepest, most competitive league race this winter is the Southwest Suburban Red. Thornton, Bradley-Bourbonnais and Lincoln-Way West –– a combined 34-6 on the year –– are all 4-1 in conference play, while Thornwood appears ready to make a push. The Thunderbirds, behind guards Kaliph Fagan and Chelby Frazier, beat Bradley this past weekend to improve to 3-2 and have won six straight.

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Bolingbrook entered the year highly ranked and regarded with a pair of Division I players in Prentiss Nixon (Colorado State) and big man Julian Torres (Wisconsin-Green Bay), along with blossoming senior guard Broderic Thomas. But after a 6-5 start to the season the Raiders fell off the radar.

So was this past weekend’s sweep of Homewood-Flossmoor, which was a must-win for Bolingbrook in the SouthWest Suburban Blue, and talented Hillcrest a sign of righting the ship?

An even better sign for coach Rob Brost is the added production of three players in support of the aforementioned trio of seniors.

Junior guard Devon Sams is finally healthy after missing time with a knee injury. Sams had 12 points in the win over H-F and 8 points and 8 rebounds against Hillcrest, while 6-4 senior Dimitri Akenten (9 points, 7 rebounds vs. H-F) and 6-5 junior Zach Grady (15 points and 16 rebounds in the two wins) provided some needed punch as well.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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