Maybe there should be a better term to use than “small college basketball” when referencing the Division II, Division III and NAIA ranks. But that’s the basketball lexicon when describing the various levels of the sport and where players fit as prospects.
There should be plenty of pride in being branded a “terrific small college player” and a “must-have recruit” for the coaches and programs at that level. This isn’t selling a player short.
The regular fan –– or high school player for that matter –– doesn’t realize the high-level of basketball that’s played in a Division III conference like the respected CCIW or that the local Division II program, Lewis University in Romeoville, can play with and beat dozens of low-Division I programs throughout the country.
While the Chicago area is a heavily recruited area with a boatload of small college prospects, here is a short list of a few that are in high demand.
■ Eddie Creal, Romeoville
The physical and athletic Creal, who transferred from Joliet West to Romeoville, did receive a Division I offer from Southern University. But the 6-3 wing is an ideal Division II prospect where in the right fit his bruising, attacking style would flourish. Lewis offered Creal early on in the recruiting process.
■ Justin Hardy, St. Charles East
A player who’s always been about production and his appreciated blue-collar approach to the game. As a junior last season he averaged 19.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Hardy is strong around the basket and boasts face-up shooting ability out to the three-point line. Division I Presbyterian, along with a host of Division II schools, have all offered.
■ Ethan Schuemer, Willowbrook
There were various Division II, NAIA and high-level Division III programs involved with Schuemer since the 6-5 forward put together an outstanding junior season. But he ended his recruitment early with a commitment to Division II St. Cloud State last week. The unheralded and crafty 4-man will only build on the consistent numbers (16.8 points and 9.4 rebounds) he put up a year ago.
■ Morgan Taylor, Marist
One of the best-kept secrets in the Chicago area, the 6-1 guard will be one of the best players in the East Suburban Catholic Conference this season and a coveted small college prospect. A steal at the Division III level and overlooked by small college scholarship programs, Taylor does have an offer from Division II Minot State in North Dakota.
■ Anthony Lynch, Larkin
Lynch, an aggressive attack-the-basket combo guard, will be the catalyst for a Larkin team that could be a preseason Top 25 team. The 6-1 Lynch filled the stat sheet as a junior, averaging 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.2 steals a game.
■ Alex Casieri, Deerfield
The tough-minded, savvy guard makes shots, including plenty of big shots, and has the ability to play both guard spots. As a result, the 6-0 senior will be a hot commodity among Division III programs after averaging 16 points a game last season.
■ Ben Wolf, Naperville Central
Big men are at a premium at all levels which is why the 6-9 Wolf has Division II offers and interest. With a big body, frame, legitimate size and a growing back-to-the-basket game, Wolf is a coveted small college prospect.
■ Paul O’Leary, Lemont
With true size at 6-9 and a projectable body that will continue to develop, O’Leary is a big man small college programs have their eye on. He’s a presence defensively, rebounds and plays with a motor while his offensive game continues to evolve.
■ Brandon Whiteside, Glenbard South
An overlooked player with the capability to knock down perimeter shots off the bounce or as a catch-and-shoot perimeter threat. Whiteside, who averaged 15 points a game a year ago, has added to his game and is a high priority among many small college basketball programs.
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