Henricksen: A bevy of hot holiday tournament performers

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Brother Rice’s Josh Niego (24) hauls in a rebound against Marist. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

With virtually every team in the state playing anywhere from three to five games in a four or five day period, it’s as busy of a time as there is in high school basketball. In Wednesday’s column the City/Suburban Hoops Report looked at the odds, ends and storylines that developed over holiday tournament play. Today it’s about the individual players –– 20 in all –– who stood out over the holidays.

We start with our two biggest stock risers in the senior class –– Edwardsville’s Mark Smith and Zion-Benton’s Rod Henry-Hayes –– and we work our way through a lengthy list of players who impressed with their production and play over the holidays, ranging from overlooked Division I prospects to red-hot small college prospects.


Mark Smith, Edwardsville

By now any avid basketball fan is aware of the exploits of the 6-4 guard and what he’s done on the high school basketball scene. He’s led Edwardsville to a 12-1 start. He’s blossomed as a senior, putting up monster numbers and producing in his team’s biggest games and moments.

Smith averaged 22.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in leading his team to a Collinsville Holiday Tournament title, which included a 35-point performance and win over Belleville Althoff and Jordan Goodwin. He followed that up with 25 points and 5 assists in a win over Jeremiah Tilmon and East St. Louis earlier this week.

He’s vaulted from being merely a Division I prospect with a mid-major ceiling coming out of July to a full-fledged high-major prospect. Smith has added offers from Kansas State, Illinois, Northwestern and Missouri in the past week to a list that includes DePaul and a host of mid-major programs.

[For more on Smith’s arrival as a red-hot prospect, read HERE.]

▪ Rod Henry-Hayes, Zion-Benton

Aside from Smith, there is no player who has raised their individual stock more than Henry-Hayes. Even with a City/Suburban Hoops Report vote of confidence, Henry-Hayes is still probably the best-kept secret in the senior class. In a 9:30 a.m. holiday tournament game last week, Henry-Hayes was lively and awake, connecting on five three-pointers and ripping off 34 points in a win.

The 6-4 guard, who is averaging close to 20 points a game on the season, didn’t play on the summer circuit in July. Henry-Hayes worked on his individual game and has blossomed as a gifted offensive talent on the perimeter who is multi-positional. Henry-Hayes is a shot-maker with a handle. He’s a versatile playmaker with the ball in his hands and has so many ways to create offense. Plus, he’s an absolute sniper from beyond the three-point line.

Henry-Hayes is a Division I prospect without a Division I offer as we head into the second half of the season. Hopefully now the secret is out.


Lucas Williamson, Young

What more does this uncommitted 6-4 senior have to do? Williamson was MVP of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament while leading his team to a tournament title. He scored 25 points in the semifinal win and 27 in the championship game win over Morgan Park. Maybe he doesn’t jump out of the gym or play with flash, but Williamson produces and wins.

Williamson, who averaged 21 points a game and made 10 or 21 three-pointers in four tournament wins, has offers from Northern Illinois, UIC and Hofstra, while Indiana State and Miami-Ohio have picked up their interest.

Demarius Jacobs, Uplift

Although the 6-3 guard has signed with Southern Illinois, Jacobs is still in the midst of raising his game to new levels. That happens when you possess the gifts and upside of Jacobs. His off-the-charts effort against Larkin in the second round of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament –– Jacobs scored 37 points in every way imaginable –– was one of the elite holiday tournament performances in December.

When Jacobs decides to bring it and play hard consistently, he’s a force at both ends of the floor with his endless length and athleticism.

▪ Jacob Keller, Fenwick

Another under-recruited, uncommitted player in the senior class who played well over the holidays at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. A big, strong, athletic guard who should have more going on the recruiting front than he does.

▪ Jack Nolan, Benet

Over the past eight months there hasn’t been a more coveted, high-level Division III prospect out there. Might Nolan’s performance at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament intrigue the Ivy League and Patriot League?

The 6-0 senior guard put on a three-day shooting exhibition while making big shots in key moments in leading the Redwings to a second-place finish. Nolan averaged 23.2 points a game at Pontiac. But even more impressive was his shooting from beyond the arc with defenses focused on stopping him. Nolan was a remarkable 21 of 36 from the three-point line, including several game-changing and winning shots.

▪ Josh Niego, Brother Rice

The 6-4 senior is one of the most improved players in the class and under-valued. He’s also another small college “must-have” prospect. Steady, consistent and reliable as a perimeter scorer –– he scored 23, 18, 16 and 16 in four tournament games –– Niego isn’t an over-the-top athlete by any means. But he’s a player who just figures it out and knocks down shots from all over the floor.

▪ Alton Thompson, St. Patrick

New to the scene after transferring in from California, the 6-4 senior has provided a major boost to the Shamrocks. A highly-athletic wing who plays above the rim and can step out and knock down a three-pointer, Thompson is without question a scholarship-type player. He’s been productive and turned some heads in helping St. Pat’s to a runner-up finish at the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament.

▪ Malik Binns, Bolingbrook

It’s been quite a high school journey for Binns. But it appears he’s found an ideal basketball fit. What a monster lift the rough-and-tumble and productive 6-5 Binns has provided the Raiders. He’s given Bolingbrook something it didn’t have with his physical presence and efficiency around the basket. With all the star power on this team, Binns actually led coach Rob Brost’s team in scoring over the holidays. In four tournament wins he averaged 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds a game while making the most of his opportunities, shooting 66 percent from the field.

▪ Dillon Durrett, Wheaton-Warrenville South

What an impressive senior season this no-namer is putting together. Durrett was an absolute unknown heading into the year but has put up numbers in leading Wheaton South to its surprising 13-1 record. In a matchup with North Lawndale, with bigger names and prospects on the floor, Durrett was the best player. He scored 25 points and made clutch plays in leading the Tigers to the win. The 6-3 Durrett, who in four tournament games scored 19, 16, 25 and 18 points, continues to get better and better. Small college basketball programs have a new player to covet over the next few months.


Jalen Shaw, Larkin

The 6-8 big man was off to a fast start to his junior campaign, averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds a game. But seeing is believing. And at Proviso West he was a different player than he showed in the summer, including a breakout effort against Uplift where he scored 27 points in a variety of ways. As a result, there isn’t a player who made a bigger jump as a prospect in the junior class. With legitimate size, a solid frame and improving skills and polish on the offensive end, Shaw has skyrocketed as a prospect in the eyes of the Hoops Report.


Kendle Moore, Danville

If there was one signature individual performance this holiday season it came from Moore, the quick and shifty 6-0 junior guard who has the ball on a string. He singlehandedly took down the No. 1 team in the state as Danville stunned Curie behind Moore’s game-high 36 points and adding five assists.

Moore turned to his inner-Isaiah Thomas (that of the Boston Celtics) and put on a 32-minute show with dazzling open court baskets and knocking down 5 of 9 three-pointers. More impressive was the composure he played with while Curie threw everything at him.

Zion Griffin, Hinsdale South

The highly-athletic 6-5 junior has been one of the Hoops Report’s biggest breakout players in the junior class this season, and he continued to shine at York. The extremely live and active Griffin averaged 17.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in four tournament games.

Xavier Castaneda, Young

Although he’s been among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five prospects in the Class of 2018 for well over a year, it’s taken some time for the 5-11 point guard to get completely healthy and show why he’s among the very best in the junior class.

Castaneda was terrific at Proviso West. He was in complete control with his floor game, set the table for teammates and constantly put pressure on defenders.

Morgan Taylor, Marist

The City/Suburban Hoops Report has viewed Taylor as one of the most overlooked players in the junior class, even valuing his talent more than others on his own team who receive more attention and buzz. That’s obviously changing after an MVP performance in leading Marist to a Centralia Holiday Tournament championship. Taylor averaged 15 points a game in helping keep the Redhawks unbeaten on the season.

Toraze Dobbs, Uplift

The Hoops Report fell for the productive services of Dobbs this past summer. Now he’s producing in a big way for arguably the best Class 2A team in Illinois. What a fantastic sidekick the 6-4 junior has been to the Jacobs brothers. All Dobbs did in four games at Proviso West was average 15.5 points and 9 rebounds a game while shooting 9 of 21 from the three-point line.


Terrence Hargrove, East St. Louis

There were a lot of big numbers and performances coming out of the Collinsville Holiday Classic. When considering his age, Hargrove’s were as good as it gets. The 6-5 sophomore, who was the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 9 ranked prospect in the Class of 2019 heading into the holidays, recorded four double-doubles in tournament play, averaging 19.5 points and 11.3 rebounds a game.

Marquis Kennedy, Crete-Monee

He’s only a sophomore and was just a blip on the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s radar as an “others to watch list” player. That was until he poured in 26 points in a loss to DePaul College Prep in the opening round of the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic. The 6-1 guard has length and, for a young player, a sense that he belongs. Kennedy averaged 13.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in four tournament games.

Elliot Sieger, DePaul Prep

While the Hoops Report highlighted Sieger earlier this season as one of the state’s breakout young players, it’s time to sing the praises of the talented freshman guard once again. With the ball in his hands it’s nearly impossible to stay in front of Sieger, who has been arguably the Chicago area’s most productive freshman. In four holiday tournament games he averaged 13.5 points a game while shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc (9 of 21).

D.J. Steward

Well, officially he didn’t raise his City/Suburban Hoops Report stock –– the 6-4 freshman is already the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2020 at this early juncture –– but he still had a breakout performance this holiday season.

Steward was outstanding in Fenwick’s third-place game at Proviso West, showing added aggressiveness and comfort while pouring in a team-high 20 points and knocking down a pair of three-pointers. While seniors Jacob Keller and Jamal Nixon are the mainstays of this team, the fact Steward led the Friars in scoring at Proviso West is quite a plus for the Friars going forward.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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