The month of July, along with all the built-up pressures to perform in front of college coaches, has come and gone for the state’s top prep basketball players.
Here is a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s biggest winners this month.
Biggest July winner in Class of 2017
■ Jimmy Sotos, Conant
This Jimmy Sotos thing took awhile. But it’s coming fast now.
After growing physically and seeing his game mature while putting together a solid junior season for Conant, Sotos was one of the Hoops Report’s projected “breakout prospects” prior to the spring evaluation period. He soon picked up some interest, with Campbell, Lafayette and Winthrop all offering in April and others leaving the month intrigued with the 6-3 guard.
Sotos was terrific in May while playing with his club team, Fundamental U’s Young Legends. He went toe-to-toe with bigger-named players and out-performed them in the All-Illinois Invitational in May, the catalyst of a team that beat both the Mac Irvin Fire and Young & Reckless teams.
In June, with his Conant team on the summer high school scene, he dialed it up some more. In fact, Sotos put together one of the best individual summer performances the Hoops Report saw as he was absolutely brilliant –– and dominant –– in a summer win over Proviso East in June.
The recruitment of Sotos, however, remained relatively tame in the two months leading up to July.
But the 6-3 guard, who can play both guard spots effectively as a point guard who can distribute and as a shooter who can space the floor, has raised his stock among college coaches more than any senior in Illinois. He’s picked up a dozen-plus offers in the past three weeks, the most recent coming from Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Horizon League and Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference.
While he now has a surplus of offers and will need to quickly sort the list out –– don’t be surprised if others are coming –– Sotos made the most of his opportunity in July.
Others who raised their stock in the senior class
■ Justin Smith, Stevenson
Maybe it’s not so much the highly-athletic 6-7 Smith raised his stock –– he was already a top 100 player nationally and had his choice of high-major offers before July rolled around –– but he certainly played well enough to solidify his status and open more eyes. Don’t be surprised if he inches his way up a few spots in those national rankings after his play this July.
The slow, steady, positive progress Smith has showed since January (which the Hoops Report highlighted last week in THIS STORY) was seen by those that matter most throughout July. Maybe now a few more will zero in on what Smith brings to table at a high level rather focusing on the blemishes. Smith is the best senior prospect in the Chicago area heading into the 2016-2017 season and arguably the Class of 2017’s No. 2 prospect in the state.
■ Teyvion Kirk, Joliet West
The 6-2 point guard continues to climb after a breakout junior season and opening eyes during the spring on the club circuit. He had a surplus of offers coming out of the spring evaluation period, but Kirk’s stock rose in July with Young & Reckless.
Kirk, who will lead one of the top prep teams in Illinois this winter, has added another half dozen offers this month, including UTEP, Southern Illinois, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Northern Illinois.
He’s become a high priority mid-major target at the point guard position with his savvy play and overall smarts, along with the length and athleticism to be disruptive at both ends of the floor.
■ Logan Windeler, Manteno
How can you not like a kid who is 6-8 with length, shooting ability and is clearly still developing into the player he’s going to be? He’s still a bit raw and catching up to the speed of the game when the stakes and talent are raised, but he’s coming along nicely. Windeler screams upside and potential. While Windeler did make a name for himself, first by playing with his Example Sports team and then finishing off July playing with the Mac Irvin Fire, he’s still sporting just a couple of offers and remains under-recruited.
■ Marvin Nesbitt, Butler College Prep
This no-namer is still flying a under the radar. But he did enough to impress the Hoops Report and certainly enough to get people talking. The 6-4 Nesbitt is a high-level athlete with size and length on the perimeter to go with tantalizing upside.
■ P.J. Pipes, Lemont
The recruitment of the 6-0 scoring lead guard was slow prior to July. Now, three weeks later, Pipes has picked up offers from Wisconsin-Green Bay and Denver and is all the rage among Division II programs across the Midwest after his play this summer. Wisconsin-Parkside, Lewis, St. Cloud State, Central Missouri, Minnesota State, Missouri-St. Louis and Winona State are all Division II programs who have offered.
Biggest July winners in Class of 2018
■ Ayo Dosunmu, Morgan Park
It’s not very often a player from Chicago, who is already the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top-ranked prospect in the class, and who also plays with the high-profile Mac Irvin Fire on the club circuit and will get plenty of attention with his Morgan Park high school team, is the biggest winner in July. But that’s clearly the case with Dosunmu.
You could argue this is just a repeat of April. That’s when the 6-3 point guard established himself after a role-playing season as a sophomore while teaming up with Player of the Year Charlie Moore. But Dosunmu kept climbing in July, both nationally and in the eyes of college coaches, with his overall dynamic game and the creativity he plays with when the ball in his hands.
How high has Dosunmu climbed? He’s now the No. 19 ranked prospect in the sophomore class, according to scout.com, while he checks in at No. 20 with rivals.com.
Others who raised their stock in the junior class
■ Bakari Simmons, Simeon (St. Anthony’s in New Jersey)
There are bigger names at Simeon and more highly recruited prospects who play with the Mac Irvin Fire, but this 6-4 lefty’s developing smooth game is one to watch as he continues to progress. Even with a rather discreet July, Simmons did enough to get coaches to circle his name in their programs and for the Hoops Report to elevate him in the junior class.
■ DeAndre Heckard, Romeoville
This rangy 6-2 lead guard impressed throughout the summer. He’s a slasher and finisher at the rim with the capability to knock a shot down. He climbs the Hoops Report player rankings and picked up a couple of Division I offers along the way from Bethune Cookman and Coppin State. Look for a break out junior season from Heckard.
■ Cardell McGee, Springfield Lanphier
While the 6-3 McGee was a Hoops Report top 10 prospect early on in the Class of 2018, this was a well-spent summer in showcasing to others his versatility and growing game. McGee’s stock and options will only grow as he becomes an even bigger focal point at Lanphier this season.
Biggest July winner in Class of 2019
■ Markese Jacobs, Uplift
Chicago area basketball fans’ first taste of Markese Jacobs –– if they were paying attention –– came last December at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. In three games there the freshman averaged 13.7 points a game, including a 21-point performance against Proviso East.
After jumping into the Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects in the Class of 2019 following his freshman year playing at the varsity level, his name and reputation have only grown since. He’s now the Hoops Report’s No. 2 ranked prospect in the class heading into the 2016-2017 season.
There are always young players who blossom and emerge, even during this talent drought the state is currently suffering through. Jacobs, an explosive 5-10 power-packed point guard, is that player in the sophomore class. He’s quickly established himself as a legit high-major prospect in the class and will have a bountiful of suitors at that level before long.
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