When it comes to freshmen there is talent and potential, and then there is production. When you combine all three, there have been several first-year players around the Chicago area who have made a big varsity impact, including Solorio Academy’s Khalil Whitney, Hillcrest’s Isaac Stanback, St. Joseph’s Marquise Walker, Romeoville’s Mike Salter, Bolingbrook’s Joseph Yesufu and Waukegan’s Bryant Brown.
But the most impressive freshman whose presence has been the most impactful is DePaul College Prep’s Perry Cowan.
The 6-4 Cowan has emerged as one of the elite young players in the state this season. Highly versatile and poised for such a young player, Cowan is averaging 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and and 3 steals a game.
Cowan, along with Whitney and Simeon’s Kejuan Clements, is among the top three prospects in the Class of 2019 in the Chicago area and will surely raise his reputation and stock this spring and summer nationally.
A big win over rival Naperville Central last Friday night didn’t just help Naperville North’s cause in the DuPage Valley Conference race, where North is currently tied for the top spot with Lake Park; the victory also put the Huskies a little closer to securing a top four seed in the East Aurora Sectional.
It’s important for Naperville North, now 12-3 on the season, to put itself in the best position possible prior to seeding time, because March has been a bit of a bugaboo for the Huskies in recent years.
Naperville North hasn’t won a regional title since 2006 and has made only one regional championship game appearance over the past six years, despite two 20-win seasons, a conference title in 2012 and averaging 18 wins a year during that span.
While there isn’t a go-to star on this team, coach Jeff Powers has balance and a few more offensive weapons than in recent years. Plus, while the top talent in the program, 6-5 junior Mitch Lewis, missed extensive time with injuries in the first half of the season, it allowed others to play more prominent roles and gain experience.
With Lewis back, along with the veteran leadership of senior guard Jelani McClain and the emergence three juniors, 5-9 guard Winston Elston, Cam Hardy and shooter Tyler Carlson, and a sophomore, 6-5 Chris Johnson, this team has the makeup to end that regional drought this March.
In the previous 38 years of the McDonald’s All-American Game there were just two years –– 2009 and 2012 –– where the state of Illinois didn’t have a player selected to play in the game.
Make that three years.
While the game will once again be played in the United Center this spring, there won’t be an Illinois player playing in 2016 after rosters were announced on Monday.
So after having a player representing the state for 31 straight years, Illinois hasn’t had a McDonald’s All-American in three of the past eight years. In any of the three years, however, there really wasn’t even much debate or controversy of a player being left off the McDonald’s team.
In 2009 the Hoops Report’s top three Illinois prospects were Warren’s Brandon Paul, Naperville Central’s Drew Crawford and Glenbrook South’s Jack Cooley. The 2012 class, one of the weakest in recent memory, had Simeon’s Steve Taylor, Farragut’s Rashaun Stimage and Rockford Auburn’s Fred Van Vleet at the top of the class.
And while a few of this year’s seniors have sprinkled various national top 100 lists over the course of their careers, including Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore, St. Joseph’s Nick Rakocevic, Dixon’s Isaiah Roby, Hinsdale South’s Barret Benson and Simeon’s Zach Norvell, there wasn’t a true Burger Boy among the group.
Looking ahead, there are a couple of players on the cusp, but there is certainly no sure McDonald’s All-American in the Class of 2017. Being shut out for a second year in a row for the first time in history next year would be even more alarming.
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