There is always a new wave of players set to raise their impact and level of play in high school basketball. Their responsibilities increase and their confidence rises.
Here are seven players who, through the combination of their productivity and promise this past year during the high school season and their strong play this spring on the club circuit, are ready to take a big step forward.
■ Quinlan Bennett, Proviso East
The junior combo guard’s production this past season –– Bennett put up 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists a game –– went largely unnoticed due to Proviso East’s uncharacteristic 15-13 season. But the exciting 6-2 junior is only getting better.
Bennett, whose jumper is improving but still needs more consistency, plays well in isolation, thrives in transition with his athleticism and will be the next Division I player out of this perennial basketball power.
■ Branden Ellis, Warren
The unsung Ellis is coming into his own and becoming a Hoops Report favorite after a broken finger slowed the start to his junior season. But Ellis became a major weapon for Warren over the second half of the season.
While the 6-3 guard continues to make strides this spring, showcasing an ease in scoring and shooting the basketball, he remains one of the overlooked players in the class. That’s beginning to change.
Ellis plays under control and with poise. The smooth, talented shooting guard with sneaky athleticism is set to be one of the breakout players in the Class of 2018.
■ Ryan Davis, Conant
Davis has been a fixture at Conant in three years at the varsity level. He became a known commodity after a junior season in which he averaged 14.5 points and 9.5 rebounds a game as a junior while following it up with a solid spring on the club circuit.
However, after playing second fiddle to senior star Jimmy Sotos this past season, look for the big-bodied 6-8 Davis to emerge as one of the true difference-makers in the state in 2017-2018.
■ Morgan Taylor, Marist
Teammate Maurice Commander was the East Suburban Catholic Conference Player of the year, but it’s time to sing the praises of Taylor.
Taylor, who is a scholarship-type player, simply makes plays. The 6-2 junior is a jack-of-all-trades guard who fills a stat sheet and has shown constant improvement over the past two years. This past season he averaged 12 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
■ Zach Toussaint, Johnsburg
There aren’t many players in the state who shoot it better than Toussaint. The ultra-skilled scoring lead guard knocked down 96 three-pointers as a sophomore . After putting together a monster season from a production standpoint, averaging 22 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game, the slender 5-11 mighty mite is poised to become a bigger name next season as a junior.
■ Charles Hoehne, Oak Park
With the graduation of mainstays Jared Scott and Cam Gross from a team that won 24 games and conference and regional championships, expect Hoehne to emerge in 2017-2018. The 6-6
Hoehne is an overlooked and intriguing talent in the Class of 2019 who plays with energy and consistent effort. The sophomore, who brings visions of former OPRF star Gabe Levin, has size, skill and an enormous upside.
■ Nate Ferguson, Lemont
An unknown in the Class of 2019, the 6-7 sophomore’s 16-point performance in the regional final this past season against Bolingbrook was a sign of things to come. Ferguson is opening eyes as a fluid and coordinated 4-man with a projectable body. The up-and-coming Ferguson is a versatile offensive weapon who exploits mismatches on offense with the ability to play both inside and out.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport