If Chicago area basketball fans haven’t paid attention or noticed yet, Morgan Park’s Adam Miller is everything he’s been billed up to be –– and then some. Yet I don’t think he’s been fully appreciated and talked about as that type of player.
Maybe Miller’s performance on a big stage –– against Fenwick and super sophomore D.J. Steward in the seventh annual “When Sides Collide” Shootout –– did the trick. Miller stole the show at the event with a scintillating 32-point performance as Morgan Park knocked off the Friars.
Miller, the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 1 ranked prospect in the Class of 2020 since the day he entered high school, was sensational. The 6-3 guard knocked down nine three-pointers, including nine in a row, from everywhere beyond the arc.
Since being named MVP of the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament in December while leading Morgan Park to a title –– and making 21 of 30 from the three-point line in four wins –– Miller has averaged 23.3 points a game in the six games since. This past week he scored 30 points against Bolingbrook and 32 against Fenwick while drilling 17 three-pointers in the two games against ranked teams.
Over the past several months I’ve hinted at the fact Miller is the best college basketball prospect in Illinois, regardless of class. Miller has terrific size for a guard, does the most difficult thing –– shooting the basketball –– at a high level and at a young age, and he can really pass. As an elite shooter with size and poise, he’s so projectable as a high-major prospect.
Miller is the best young talent in Chicago. But he may also be the best prospect in the state.
➤ If Ayo Dosunmu ever returns at 100 percent. If big man Tamell Pearson can quickly get rid of the rust when he’s back in February after missing two-plus months. If the other players whose roles have expanded due to the injuries can play off of and mesh with the two Division I seniors upon their return, Morgan Park is going to be incredibly difficult to beat in Class 3A. Morgan Park not only beat Fenwick, but coach Nick Irvin’s team looked good doing so.
➤ Morgan Park sophomore Marcus Watson has really blossomed as a scorer in the backcourt and improved his stock as a prospect over the course of the season. Watson is yet another exciting talent in the Morgan Park program. And Kenyon Duling, the a physical player with size on the perimeter, continues to be a player who accepts his role and produces when needed.
➤ Despite the loss to Morgan Park, I liked the look of Fenwick on Saturday in comparison to how the Friars looked in November and December. Fenwick played without 6-5 Mike O’Laughlin, a West Virginia football recruit and the lone player who provides size and any type of physical presence. But this team is coming along.
➤ You have to appreciate what Fenwick senior Billy Bruce brings to the table. He defends. He’s tough and competitive. And he’s willing to do the dirty work.
➤ Everyone was raving about Adam Miller, but lets not forget about Fenwick’s D.J. Steward. The silky smooth 6-3 sophomore played very well in the loss to Morgan Park, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds while doing what he does best –– scoring in a variety of ways. Steward, the No. 2 prospect in the sophomore class, is a special talent.
➤ Look at the schedule Fenwick has played up to this point. Yes, there are a number of true tests in the Chicago Catholic League with Loyola, Brother Rice and St. Rita. But the Friars have now also played Benet, Young, Oak Park, Orr, Larkin, Bogan, Simeon and Morgan Park in non-conference play. You don’t think a team with the potential of Fenwick will make significant strides playing that type of schedule over a three-month period?
➤ There are concerns over Young’s defense and its ability to shut down opposing teams. And it’s true this Young team is not the defensive team last year’s team was when it won a state championship – at least not yet. But keep this in mind: last year’s team allowed 62 points a game through the first 21 games; in the final 11 games, which included the state tournament run, the Dolphins allowed just 54 points a game.
The Dolphins, however, continue to score points.
Remember, the Dolphins have still only lost to two in-state teams, falling to No. 3 Orr and losing to Lincoln Park in double overtime. They’ve won four straight and scored 70-plus points in all four, including a win over a talented Bloomington team Saturday night.
➤ What a season Javon Freeman is putting together for Young. The 6-3 wing has played with a consistent competitiveness, his floor game and decision-making have improved and his first step off the dribble has become lethal.
Freeman, who could prove to be a real steal for Valparaiso in the Missouri Valley Conference, is the type of force you need to win a game for you in March.
➤ Bloomington started off extremely slow in the opening quarter in its matchup with Young. But behind star junior Chris Payton, who finished with 26 points, the Purple Raiders were able to hang around and had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. Payton is an enormous talent with uber-athleticism and a motor that needs to run much more consistently.
But with Payton’s physical prowess and athletic ability inside, you can’t help but wonder how much better this team would be if not for the loss of Colton Sandage, who tore his ACL in football. The senior guard who is headed to Texas-Arlington is exactly what Bloomington needs –– a dead-eye shooter capable of spreading the floor and giving Payton more opportunity to navigate inside.
➤ West Aurora has built momentum since the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. Coach Brian Johnson’s team has ripped off six straight wins since Pontiac, including a very impressive rout over Romeoville in the “When Sides Collide” event.
The Blackhawks have a group that is coming together, whether it’s the athletic Camron Donatlan playing in a starring role, the continued emergence of junior Traevon Brown or the quality role-playing of Damian Virgen and Ben Young. But 6-5 senior Jared Crutcher remains one of the unsung players for a ranked team.
Crutcher, who scored 20 points in the 75-52 blowout win over Romeoville, rebounds, defends, is a finisher around the rim and is asked to do a lot of things this team needs with his length and activity level.
➤ That was the best DePaul Prep has looked in the four games the Hoops Report has taken in this season. The Rams, led by rock solid junior Perry Cowan, played at a faster pace offensively while making things difficult for Evanston at the other end.
There is a whole lot to be excited about with DePaul Prep going forward, both this season and heading into next year. But before examining how good a young Rams team could be next season, the Class 3A sectional is winnable in March.
Orr ended DePaul Prep’s season the past two years in Class 2A sectional defeats. When the Class 3A state tournament begins in five weeks, the Rams will be favored to win.
➤ This was not Evanston’s weekend. The Wildkits managed to get by Glenbrook South in overtime on Friday night before falling to DePaul Prep on Saturday in the opening game of the “When Sides Collide” Shootout.
At this time of the season you won’t find a coach or team using the excuse of youth, but at the end of the day this is an Evanston team that will have peaks and valleys with so much of it. It’s just inevitable. At the same time, the Wildkits should continue to get better and better. How dangerous can a team be in March with multiple freshmen playing significant minutes remains to be seen.
What coach Mike Ellis and the Wildkits have accomplished through 18 games has been impressive. Ellis has nurtured a young team and kept it more than relevant. Despite the youth, the door is open to win a sectional title with juniors Lance Jones and Jaheim Holden leading the way.
➤ Downers Grove North took care of Glenbard East easily, and the darkhorse Trojans are a threat to upset just about anyone on a given night in the Glenbard East Sectional in March. But looking ahead, DGN is primed to be a bigger threat in 2018-2019.
Junior Semaj Henderson is a true difference-maker when he’s locked in and boasts Division I potential, while junior Trey Boston, who sat out the game against Glenbard East, and shooter Connor Ilyavi are key pieces for coach Jim Thomas to build around. Ilyavi connected on seven three-pointers and finished with 23 points in the win over Glenbard East.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport