The City/Suburban Hoops Report breaks down the All-Illinois Invitational, a 32-team event boasting all Illinois club teams.
Tuesday: Five takeaways from the All-Illinois Invite, from getting to know Example Sports and hidden talent Logan Wendeler of Manteno, the Illinois Irish, Ayo Dosunmu of Morgan Park, the continued rise of Conant’s Jimmy Sotos and an improved Meanstreets 16U.
Today: Individual storylines, performances and thoughts from the All-Illinois Invite.
➤ Connor Niego of Lyons Twp. is Chicago Lockdown’s best college prospect. The 6-8 junior played well in a 66-61 loss to the Mac Irvin Fire, playing aggressive and scoring 20 points. But the Hoops Report gets excited about the backcourt combo of Mike Shepski of Brother Rice and Joey Coffaro of Hersey. These two compete, can score and are poised for big senior seasons for their respective high school teams. Shepski and Coffaro complemented each other well in the Fire game, creating and finding one another.
➤ Speaking of Connor Niego and, specifically, Lyons Twp., this should be one improved team next winter after going 9-18 a year ago. A pair of freshmen guards, Connor’s brother Nolan Niego and freshman Tyrese Shines, will provide ample support to Connor Niego. In a Lockdown win over the Mac Irvin Fire 15s, Shines scored 22 points and Nolan Niego 19.
➤ Hoop Avenue Elite played the Illinois Irish, Young & Reckless and a depleted Meanstreets team and went 2-1, led by the play of Loyola Academy’s Ramar Evans. The strong, physical junior guard scored 20 in the win over Meanstreets and 13 in beating the Illinois Irish. While it’s not a household name on the club circuit, Hoop Avenue Elite’s 17U team was impressive.
While Evans may not do anything at a spectacular level, the 6-1 guard produces, plays tough and physical. He averaged 15 points in three games, but more impressively he provided a terrific court presence.
➤ The Illinois Stars were without Mitch Lewis of Naperville North, who is recovering from an injury, but P.J. Pipes of Lemont again showed his value as a well-rounded scorer. The junior guard has shooting range, both off the dribble and as a catch-and-shoot perimeter threat. With a bigger body, Pipes is also able to take some contact when he gets to the basket, rendering him a player who needs to be guarded from different areas of the floor.
➤ Kenwood’s Nas Turner is an up-and-coming prospect in the Class of 2018. With graduation hitting a talented Kenwood team pretty hard, look for the 6-5 sophomore to become one of the real focal points of coach Marlo Finner’s team. In three games at the All-Illinois Invite he scored 19, 16 and 13 points for the Demons 16U team.
➤ Demons guard Jason Towers, a highly athletic 6-2 junior, has picked up right where he left off in helping St. Joseph to Peoria this past March. The perimeter jumper is clearly a work in progress, but when he showcases that open floor burst and athleticism he can look impressive.
➤ Speaking of the Demons, Von Steuben veteran coach Vince Carter, who has been a central figure in the Demons program for a lot of years, is easy to appreciate. Carter is in it for all the right reasons: basketball and the kids.
➤ And more Demons … Keep an eye on junior Marvin Nesbitt, Jr., a 6-3 guard who plays at Butler College Prep. He impressed in a 14-point performance against the Mac Irvin Fire Orange.
➤ While playing with the Mac Irvin Fire Orange, it’s apparent both Stone Parker of De La Salle, a 5-9 point guard, and 6-4 Jakari Smith of Marshall, will be playing much more prominent, impactful roles with their high school teams this winter as seniors. Both of these players put up some numbers this weekend.
➤ Jacobs will likely be a preseason top 25 team next year due in large part to Cameron Krutwig, a bonafide prep star and Division I prospect as a multi-faceted 6-8 big man. But Ryan Phillips, a 6-3 sophomore who came on strong towards the end of the season –– he scored 32 points in two regional wins with several key three-pointers –– continues to show he’s ready to take another step forward while playing with Fundamental U.
➤ Whether you watched him at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament in December, in a matchup with Bolingbrook in January, in state tournament games in March, at the Swish ‘N Dish in Milwaukee in April or the All-Illinois Invite in May, what jumps out at you about Teyvion Kirk of Joliet West is his improvement. Every month or so it seems the 6-2 point guard, who plays with All-In Athletics’ Young & Reckless team, continues to get better.
➤ What a nice jump Normal U-High’s Keondre Schumacher has made since last summer. The 5-10 junior has put together a nice spring while playing with the All-In Athletics’ Young & Reckless team, showing an ability to get his shot off and score. When Schumacher is in control and not rushing things, he becomes a real offensive weapon.
➤ Keep an eye on the junior tandem of Cortez Sawyer and Treymayne Martin of Zion-Benton, who both played well for B&B Elite.
➤ After watching Evanston’s Elyjah Williams play with Hoop Avenue Elite once again, there is no questioning the large impact his injury last season had on Evanston in the second half of the season. This big, burly 6-5 junior has some basketball gifts in that he can do multiple things on the floor at his size. When healthy and in playing shape, Williams brings a different dimension.
➤ The Celtics/Hoopers team features Bolingbrook’s rising junior Nana Akenton, a Hoops Report top 12 prospect in the Class of 2017. Akenton again displayed, in spurts, why he’s such a coveted mid-major prospect.
St. Ignatius guard Trey Mack also had a productive day, while the addition of Riverside-Brookfield guard Jalen Clanton boosts this team’s potential.
➤ The final take from the day’s action at the All-Illinois Invite is on a player from outside the state. One Storm Murphy was a revelation for a Mac Irvin Fire 17U team. While Michigan recruit Jordan Poole and high-major prospect Justin Smith of Stevenson had their moments, it was Murphy who opened the eyes of small college coaches in attendance. The 5-10 scoring guard from Madison, Wis., (Middleton) plays hard, with a little bit of swagger and can score.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport