O’Brien: A sparkling debut for the Class of 2019

SHARE O’Brien: A sparkling debut for the Class of 2019
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Solorio freshman Kahlil Whitney is dripping with confidence. It’s evident on and off the court.

Whitney scored 22 points in a loss to Perspectives-MSA on Thursday. The 6-4 guard had 10 rebounds and a few highlight reel plays, including an impressive baseline drive and dunk.

Whitney is one of a few dozen freshmen starting on teams around the area. That’s significantly more than is typical in the average season. Whitney says he isn’t surprised that so many players in his class have made an instant impact on the scene, and he’s not shy about admitting which player he feels is the best.

“Me,” said Whitney, who is averaging 19 points.

It was a surprise when Whitney chose to attend Solorio, a school in the Public League Blue. Speculation has been swirling about a possible transfer next season. Whitney says he isn’t totally sure where he will be next year.

“People have been getting in my ear,” Whitney said. “My parents have my best interests at heart so we will talk about it as a group. I think I’ll be staying [at Solorio].”

At the beginning of the season I had a list of 27 freshman that were allegedly going to play significant varsity minutes. Plenty of names have been added since then, there are more than 30 names on the list now. So far I’ve managed to see 20 of them play and it is safe to say that while this class doesn’t have a surefire NBA Lottery Pick (no Jahlil Okafor or Jabari Parker), the class is incredibly talented and deep.

Here’s a look at some of the standouts (in alphabetical order):

Spencer Boehm, New Trier: The latest Boehm brother is 6-8 and has some on the North Shore raving about his bright future. He’s averaging eight points and five rebounds.

Bryant Brown, Waukegan: Three freshmen have been playing regularly for the Bulldogs and Brown is the most consistent of the bunch, averaging 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Kejuan Clements, Simeon: A regular member of the Wolverines rotation, he’s given Simeon a boost of the bench in several big games.

Fred Cleveland II, Urban Prep-Englewood: His school is far out of the limelight, but the pint-sized point guard has put up impressive numbers. He’s the Lions’ leading scorer, averaging 14 points and five assists.

Perry Cowan, DePaul Prep: Maybe the most smooth, self-assured scorer in the class. Cowan already boasts a solid three-point shot and a mid-range game. He’s been the Rams go-to scorer since the season began, averaging 13 points, five rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the field, 34 percent from three and 70 percent from the line.

Tayeon Neal, Providence-St. Mel: Big and raw, the 6-8 post player is bursting with potential. He’s been contributing solid minutes on the varsity.

Issac Stanback, Hillcrest: Possibly the best athlete in the class. The strong, 6-4 forward is already one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the area. He’s averaging eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Marquise Walker, St. Joseph: Probably the best known freshman in the area. The 5-11 point guard has been the primary ball handler for one of the state’s best teams. He’s averaging 10.5 points, four assists and shooting 40 percent from the three-point line. He will likely be the focus of the team next season.

Andre White Jr., Loyola: Another freshman starting at point guard. He looks the part of a seasoned floor general already and has sneaky athleticism. Averaging nine points, three assists and two steals.

Other freshman of note: Traevon Brown, East Aurora; Mike Salter, Romeoville; Johnny Roeser, Carmel; Collin Reed, Plainfield East; Davarion Jacobs, Uplift; Lamond Johnson, Morgan Park; Joseph Yesufu, Bolingbrook.

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