Every NY2LA event in Mequon, Wis., which is located just north of Milwaukee, brings together a surplus of Illinois club teams. This past weekend’s NY2LA Invitational did just that, with a dozen-plus programs from Illinois competing, including two of the top seniors-to-be in the state.
Those two top seniors, Barrington’s Rapolas Ivanauskas and Dixon’s Isaiah Roby, were two of the highlights from the event this past weekend. Those two top seniors also happen to be two committed prospects headed to Big Ten schools –– Ivanauskas to Northwestern and Roby to Nebraska.
Both Ivanauskas and Roby are making a strong push for the top spot in the Class of 2016, a class that’s not as strong at the top as we’ve seen in past years and where the top handful of spots in the class appear to be very fluid.
Ivanauskas and Roby again showed why they are high-major recruits. While they are clearly different types of players, these two are similar in that both were late bloomers, both are still growing into their bodies and maturing physically, both committed early before their individual recruitments really heated up, and both, in their own way, showcase a surplus of versatility.
The 6-8 Ivanauskas was outstanding this past Friday night while playing with his Full Package team, scoring in a variety of skilled ways, utilizing terrific footwork and using both hands around the basket and playing off the dribble.
Roby, meanwhile, continues his progression as a player, gaining more confidence and assertiveness every time you see him play. With his high-level passing ability, along with tremendous length and height for a point-forward, Roby is becoming more aggressive in getting to the basket. Roby may have as much upside as anyone in the Class of 2016 in Illinois.
These likely aren’t impact players initially in the Big Ten, though there are still 18 months before either play in a college game, but both offer up a lot of promise and should be quality high-major players in time.
Cushing up next for Neuqua: Over the past decade the Neuqua Valley basketball program has churned out a whole lot of wins and players. With junior Jacob Cushing next in line, the wins should keep coming.
Cushing grabbed the eyes of the Hoops Report last summer while playing with Neuqua Valley. But it’s remarkable how far he’s come since that time, both during his high school season and now in the spring while playing with his Mercury Elite club team.
He’s now pushing close to 6-7 and has that “I’m-just-starting-to-come-into-my-own” look to him. This talented lefty wing is a late bloomer but is blossoming quickly. As a result, Cushing has picked up offers from both Western Illinois and Mercer. But there will be more to come as he has an advanced mid-range jumper and can stretch the floor as a shooter. Throw in some solid court imagination, look for Cushing to be one of the real breakout players in the Class of 2016.
Another rising in 2016: When you have some legitimate size at 6-7, pushing close to 6-8, you’re able to get a little done around the basket and have the ability to step out and knock a shot down, you’re going to grab people’s attention. Noah McCarty of Sterling Newman Catholic has done that this spring.
McCarty again showed well at the NY2LA event while playing with his Quad City Elite team. After averaging 18.9 points and 10 rebounds a game as a junior this past season, McCarty has established himself as a bonafide scholarship player, most likely at the Division I level. McCarty is unique in that he has a solid frame to battle around the basket, while possessing shooting range out to the three-point line.
Marian Central Catholic duo impress: After finishing in the middle of the pack of the East Suburban Catholic Conference this past season, Woodstock Marian Central Catholic has a couple of pieces to continue its upward climb. High-scoring guard Adam Pischke and up-and-coming big man Sam Ohlrich makes this team intriguing.
Both Pischke and the little-known Ohlrich had their moments while playing with Kessel Heat and Illinois Stars, respectively, this past weekend.
Pischke, a 5-9 junior, is a flat-out scorer with a quick trigger. He averaged 19 points a game as a junior with 65 three-pointers. Plus, he plays hard and competes. Ohlrich is an intriguing sophomore with size at 6-8 and an ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting.
Odds & Ends
■ While Peoria Manual’s DaMonte Williams has been one of the breakout players this spring in the Class of 2017, another Manual sophomore has impressed as well –– Romon Douglas-Watkins. The 6-5 wing is as active as they come, whether he’s disrupting defensively with his length and quickness or finishing at the rim with his high-level athleticism. With a vastly improved Williams, Douglas-Watkins and 6-4 sophomore A.J. Youngman, Manual appears loaded for the next two years.
■ He’s been a bit under the radar, but there will be more and more talk centering around Lemont’s P.J. Pipes, a 6-0 scoring point guard, over the next two years. Pipes showcased his scoring acumen, which includes a pretty nifty stop-and-pop game.
■ Loyola Academy has had some quality backcourts of late, and coach Tom Livatino will have another one solid one this season with current junior Brandon Danowski and sophomore Ramar Evans returning. Evans, a strong, put together, tough 6-0 combo guard, showed his overall game is improving and coming along nicely with a solid weekend while playing with Chicago Lockdown.
■ Another Chicago Lockdown guard who is a fun one to watch is Joey Coffaro of Hersey. He’s little, but the 5-9 point guard plays with energy, competes and has scoring ability. He was a double-figure scorer for a 21-win, MSL East title team this past season and will be an even bigger factor next season as a junior.
■ Mitch Lewis, a versatile 6-5 threat who is a relative unknown, played a valuable role for Naperville North this past season as a sophomore. Another strong effort this past weekend –– handling the ball, rebounding, competing, getting to the basket –– showed once again he will be one of the top players in the DuPage Valley Conference next season.
■ This weekend was the first close look at West Chicago guard Tai Bibbs. The 5-11 sophomore is smooth and skilled with the ball and is yet another name to add to the never-ending Class of 2017 list.
■ Oswego’s Brice Robinson, a rangy and active 6-7 junior, again showed why he will be a pretty coveted small college prospect over the next year while playing with Chicago Lockdown.
■ Junior Lou Griffith of downstate Washington is tiny, but he is about as scrappy and tough as they come. Plus, he plays with some basketball smarts at the point guard position and is a solid Division III prospect.
■ Another player in the Peoria area, 6-3 Dakota Bennington of Peoria Christian, is an intriguing talent in the senior class with his wiry length and athleticism.
■ The young Class of 2018 is still emerging but one player who shined at times at the varsity level this past season, West Aurora’s Cameron Donatlan, continues to impress. Now playing with Illinois Rise, Donatlan is an athletic guard with size who can get to the rim and score.
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