There will be no Jabari Parker or Jahlil Okafor in high school basketball this season, or for the foreseeable future. There isn’t even a Tyler Ulis or Jalen Brunson to gawk at for the next couple of years.
But there will be plenty of players across the Chicago area breaking out this season and, along the way, capable of helping their teams to some kind of championship contention.
Here is a short list of breakout performers this season.
■ Lorenzo Edwards, Lake Forest
After showing flashes a year ago playing in a supportive role to star Evan Boudreaux, the 6-6 Edwards will have the opportunity to fully display his skill level and talent as the go-to player. And the Scouts will need high impact from the promising Edwards, a top 20 prospect in the senior class who is still uncommitted. His all-around game includes a soft mid-range jumper and craftiness around the basket, while also being able to face up, put it on the floor and get to the basket.
■ Evan Gilyard, Simeon
Last season he was a spark as a sophomore. Don’t be surprised if the 5-9 point guard emerges as the catalyst for the Wolverines. He put together an impressive offseason where he showed explosiveness with the ball in his hands and a toughness and tenacity on the defensive end. Gilyard constantly puts pressure on opposing teams.
■ Justin Pierce, Glenbard West
While he did put up impressive numbers as a junior, averaging 16 points a game, he was more or less kept under wraps playing for a team that went just 12-16. A breakout spring and summer on the AAU circuit brought him attention. The 6-5 William & Mary recruit is poised for a big senior year and is capable of putting a team on his back, along with some big numbers along the way.
■ Jeameril Wilson, Niles Notre Dame
Fits into that category of being “one of the best players no one knows” and is one of the best-kept secrets in the Class of 2017. His versatility for a highly-ranked Dons team will be indispensable. The 6-5 Wilson can put it on the floor, finish at the rim, pass and can guard and play multiple positions.
■ Nana Akenton, Bolingbrook
He was a quality prospect “waiting in the wings’ a year ago, but the still developing and improving 6-5 athletic wing will open eyes this season. You won’t find any reputable evaluator or fan of basketball talent who will dispute that he has immense upside. He’ll get to showcase it this winter.
■ Demarius Jacobs, Uplift
You would be hard pressed to find a player who has improved and raised his stock more in the junior class since last season ended than this 6-3 guard. Jacobs has become a City/Suburban Hoops Report favorite due to his huge upside, offensive potential and still materializing game. He will be the driving force for an Uplift team that hopes to repeat in the Red-North and do some damage in March as the defending Class 2A state champs.
■ Dwayne Rose, Crete-Monee
After getting a big taste of varsity action last year and showing great promise, the 6-2 junior will be among the best guards in the south suburbs. Rose, the nephew of Derrick Rose, is able to combine poise on the floor and explosiveness in attacking the basket.
■ Jameel Alausa, U-High
The 6-7 skilled 4-man will go from being a no-namer to one of the best players in Class 2A. This rapidly rising junior’s name will grow as he will be a dominating force in the Independent School League at both ends of the floor. Alausa’s emerging face-up game, along with his terrific academics, makes him extremely intriguing.
■ Denis Alibegovic and T.J. Clifford, Downers Grove South
A double-shot of breakout espresso here from this DGS duo as these two juniors are ready to shine. Clifford is a 6-6 forward who can combine some ruggedness with a hint of finesse as he’s capable of knocking down a jumper or using his strength and athleticism around the basket. Alibegovic is one of the real standout perimeter shooters in the class, while he continues to develop his all-around offensive game.
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