As important as the month of July is for college coaches across the country and the high school prospects they will be evaluating over the next three weekends, it’s also a time to point out how fickle things can be.
I typically hold my breath those first 36 to 48 hours of the very first July evaluation period weekend, awaiting the texts, phone calls and conversations from my over-reacting friends in the college coaching business.
The big, right-out-of-the-box performance that first night of the July “live period” can do that to you. Those quick, out-of-the-blue eye-openers can trick just about anyone. And those coaches, who are looking for anyone new to lay eyes on or find hidden under a rock, can’t help themselves.
The player they hardly know or have seen little of wows them –– or at the very least intrigues them –– which leads to the proverbial texts, calls and lead-in conversations:
“Who is this kid?”
“Why isn’t anyone recruiting this kid?”
“Who else is recruiting this kid?”
“Is this kid really this good?”
“I LOVE this kid!”
Then they either watch the kid two more times and fall quickly out of love or, worst case scenario, the assistant brings his boss, the head coach, in to watch his new-found discovery and he’s, well, unwatchable.
But there are certainly several prospects in Illinois who the City/Suburban Hoops Report believes are ready to open eyes this month. They aren’t exactly no-namers, but they also haven’t received the amount of college interest and offers they should have received up to this point.
Here we go with a few overlooked and others who are still relatively unknown …
▪ Connor Niego, 6-8, Lyons Township
The development of Niego has been steady, the climb consistent, as the multi-faceted 4-man has really impressed the City/Suburban Hoops Report over the past couple of months. He’s made such positive strides with his game.
Niego has gained strength –– a wiry strength, which he seems to use more effectively around the basket –– and confidence.
For a player with his size and ability, along with the versatility to get a little done around the basket (the little soft jump-hook has become a weapon) and knock down a shot from mid-range to beyond the arc, the recruiting of Niego has been slow. Wisconsin-Green Bay did offer Niego last month, but there should be –– and will be –– more suitors in coming weeks.
▪ Jimmy Sotos, 6-3, Conant
The City/Suburban Hoops Report has raved about Sotos for some time, even highlighting him HERE as a breakout player before the spring evaluation period started back in April. Now, three months later, he’s right back to being profiled in another “breakout story” prior to the July evaluation period. There is the definition of “overlooked.”
While the overall interest has definitely picked up since March, the official offers are still relegated to just Winthrop, Campbell and Lafayette. Funny that the closest school to offer a player of this quality right here in the Chicago area is 800 miles away.
Here is a combo guard who can play both spots effectively as a smart distributor with the ball in his hands and a high-level shooter. Sotos is a step quicker than people give him credit for while he’s also pushing towards 6-3.
▪ Tray Buchanan, 6-1, East Moline (United)
As a sophomore he helped lead Simeon to the sophomore city title. He then moved back to the Quad Cities with his family and put together a terrific junior season, including big-time performances when it mattered most in leading the Panthers to a sectional championship.
The 6-1 combo guard was a monster in March. He went for 30 points and 10 rebounds in a sectional win over Rock Island and scored 26 in a sectional title victory over Alton. Buchanan brings explosive scoring potential, a closer at the end of games who wants the ball, and he competes and plays as hard as anyone out there.
Buchanan averaged 20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals a game as a junior this past season. He’s among the Hoops Report’s top 25 prospects in the Class of 2017. And yet he heads into July with just one offer –– from North Dakota, which offered him before his breakout junior year even began.
▪ Kawanise Wilkins, 6-4, Farragut
Quite possibly the least talked about, most under-the-radar prospect in the Class of 2017. The Hoops Report is a big fan for a kid who doesn’t sport a single offer from any school at any level. Up to this point, it’s OK; basically no one has seen Wilkins play.
With little notoriety, Wilkins had a very good junior year, putting up significant numbers and producing as a scorer and shooter on the perimeter while improving his body. But he remains a well-kept secret as he heads into the July evaluation period.
With good size on the perimeter and the type of shooting ability that can space the floor, Wilkins will have the opportunity to grab the attention of coaches this July while playing with Team Rose.
▪ Jacob Keller, 6-2, PG, Fenwick
Whatever the reason –– Keller being a two-sport star with an opportunity to play football in college? A perimeter jumper that is a work in progress? Proving himself at the point guard position? –– college coaches are missing the boat on a big, strong and athletic guard.
Keller was an integral part of Fenwick’s 28-win, Catholic League title run this past season. He’s a force with power and athleticism in the open court and as a finisher at the basket.
There isn’t a Division I program anywhere in the Midwest that couldn’t use Keller? Really?
Vermont offered a year ago, while Siena has been in hot pursuit since offering Keller in April. But this physical guard should be pursued at a higher rate than what we’ve seen up to this point.
Class of 2018
▪ Cardell McGee, 6-3, Springfield Lanphier
Why McGee hasn’t generated more interest and appreciation locally has befuddled the City/Suburban Hoops Report.
For the better part of the past year the highly-versatile perimeter player has been among the Hoops Report’s top dozen prospects in the Class of 2018. That versatility is what draws you in when watching him play, along with an unselfishness that is highlighted with his vision and passing.
McGee is another young prospect who hasn’t been seen a whole lot. But guess what happened while on campus of a couple of team camps this past June? Both Illinois State and DePaul offered McGee, who could end up playing multiple positions at the college level.
▪ Ryan Davis, 6-8, Conant
The Hoops Report has been raving about this big fella and his potential. He just hasn’t been seen by anyone. The ultra-intriguing Davis will spend July playing with a new club team, Fundamental U, while generating interest along the way.
Big and skilled with soft hands and an ability to step out and make shots with range, Davis is coming along as he begins to dedicate himself to basketball after playing baseball this past spring.
▪ Bobby Harvey, 6-3, Hillcrest
Since the completion of his sophomore season for coach Don Houston at Hillcrest, Harvey has inched his way up to 6-3 and, more importantly, raised his confidence level as a player.
Harvey may not have the name or reputation others have in this class, but this shooting guard has tremendous upside as he continues to figure it all out. With an ability to score and, particularly, shoot the basketball, Harvey will become a much bigger commodity in the Class of 2018 between now and next season. Harvey will play in July with All-In Athletics’ Young & Reckless team.
▪ Tyree Martin, 6-7, Curie
The Hoops Report has spent so much time over the past six months hyping and pumping up Curie’s Treavon Martin, a top 10 prospect in the Class of 2018, that it’s almost neglected the development and improved play of Tyree Martin.
Tryee Martin, who played a key role for the Class 4A state champions this past March, actually brings many of the same characteristics as Treavon Martin, with an ability to impact a game without a play or set running through him. Long, active and athletic, Martin already has a penchant for getting on the glass, running the floor and as an impactful defensive player.
▪ Jake Wolfe, 6-3, Aurora Christian
First, Wolfe put together a stellar sophomore season in relative obscurity while playing with Aurora Christian. Then his AAU teammate, Drew Peterson of Libertyville, garnered much of the hype and more attention on the club circuit playing with the Illinois Wolves. But the strong and savvy Wolfe is a player with a nice all-around game, size and basketball feel on the perimeter who is getting better and better.
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