Surprise! Surprise! The Public League’s Red-South will once again offer the best of something this winter in high school basketball.
In the upcoming 2015-2016 season, the Red-South will boast the best senior guards of any conference in the state. In fact, the Red-South features the top three senior guards –– period –– in Illinois in the Class of 2016: Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore, Simeon’s Zach Norvell and Bogan’s James Jones.
While Moore and Norvell both have various high-major offers and have earned their share of headlines, Jones remains a bit under the radar. But the 6-3 athletic shooting guard was the most impressive player at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this past weekend.
Jones, who played in the shadow of star Luwane Pipkins at Bogan last season, was outstanding all weekend in leading the Bengals to a 3-0 record in pool play. Then he led Bogan to a tournament title on Sunday, which included a scintillating performance in the title game win over Kenwood.
Jones knocked down seven three-pointers and scored 33 points in beating Kenwood. In the closing seconds, with his team down by one, Jones drilled a top-of-the-key three for a 52-50 win.
A sniper from the perimeter with a quick release and terrific shooting range, Jones is becoming comfortable with his new role of go-to player for a team that will need a lot of offensive production from its star. He looked the part this past weekend after averaging 13 points a game on the EYBL circuit for Meanstreets.
A plethora of mid-major programs have either offered Jones or have shown a considerable amount of interest, while keeping their fingers crossed he doesn’t play himself out of their reach. Illinois State, Loyola, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Detroit and Saint Louis have all been extremely active with Jones, while both Arkansas and Minnesota have increased their interest.
Though it’s still in a work in progress, Bogan coach Arthur Goodwin has seen the difference in Jones as he’s watched his star guard “wait his turn.”
“It’s all been about confidence with him,” says Goodwin. “We would see it in practice, in open gyms, but then sometimes last year in the big games the light wouldn’t come on. But he’s got that torch now.”
Jones, a City/Suburban Hoops Report top 10 player in the Class of 2016 for some time, looked the part of a potential high-major prospect with his play this past weekend. He has the shooting ability from beyond the arc and athleticism in getting to the rim at the 2-guard position that translates. Now it’s a matter of adding some polish to his overall game and decision-making with the ball in his hands.
“He’s the premier 2-guard in the state with size, athleticism and with the way he shoots the ball,” says Goodwin. “He’s a better shooter than Pipkins. It’s just no one knows about it. He’s the most talented player to come through Bogan.”
Meanwhile, Bogan, fresh off its first city championship this past season, continues to make a name for itself in prep hoops. Yes, it’s only summer and the importance of a title of any kind in June is hardly significant. But it shows Bogan isn’t going anywhere.
Jones, along with veteran point guard Bryce Barnes, form a solid backcourt, and the addition of 6-6 Hales transfer Ansar Muhammad helps offset the loss of big man Antonio Thomas.
“Last year’s team was a veteran team that had played together, was tough and competitive,” says Goodwin. “This year’s team has a chance to be as good.”
Kenwood program continues to grow
As a former assistant coach under Robert Smith at Simeon, Kenwood coach Marlo Finner had an idea of the blueprint he wanted to follow in elevating his South Side program.
Last year, with a young nucleus, it was a learning and feeling-out process in Finner’s first year at Kenwood. Instilling the type of toughness Finner expected, along with a higher level of competitiveness, wasn’t going to happen overnight.
While it’s just a summer event in early June, you got the feeling this past weekend that the offseason’s biggest event –– the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout –– was a big step for the Kenwood program. Finner watched as his team dominated in pool play and then, with a buzzer-beating win over Simeon in the semifinals, reached the title game to face Bogan, where it lost 52-50 in the final seconds.
In a season that appears to be as wide open as any in recent memory, especially when talking about potential preseason No. 1 teams, Kenwood certainly showed it’s a different team than a year ago.
The Broncos finished 19-7 on the year last winter, which included an upset loss to St. Ignatius in the regional final. At R-B, the Broncos looked older, more patient and poised, better.
Nick Robinson, a 6-5 forward, and guard Zion Morgan will be seasoned seniors, while 6-7 junior-to-be Manny Patterson is healthy after missing all of last season with an injury. In addition, Kenwood looks as if it will receive a healthy dose of contributions from incoming freshman Antonio Reeves.
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