First impressions from Riverside-Brookfield Shootout

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The annual Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, where 40 teams converge and compete over two days during the first week of June, is always the first glimpse into the next high school basketball season.

The first rule of thumb when taking in the annual event is realizing it’s summer. There are players missing here and there. The teams haven’t gone through their summer camps, so there is certainly plenty of rust to shake off. And on the final day the teams are playing multiple games, sometimes back-to-back, and clearly show some wear and tear.

But what the 16th annual Riverside-Brookfield Shootout did do is provide a bunch of first impressions.

While the City/Suburban Hoops Report didn’t see all 40 teams play over the two days –– and saw just a little of a few teams –– there was plenty to take in. Here are the first impressions that were left from the teams and players that were seen, with apologies to those teams that weren’t seen or saw very little of …

Bloom: You can’t say enough about the potential of this team. The Blazing Trojans finished just 3-2 but had the look of a preseason top five team after playing St. Louis Vashon, the shootout’s most talented team, very tough in a loss and then walloping Simeon.

This group of juniors, led by the perimeter trio of Donovan Newby, Keshawn Williams and Dante Maddox, is primed for a big two-year run. These three can all put the ball in the basket, with the athletic Williams possessing untapped upside. If the positive progression of 6-9 junior Martice Mitchell continues, it’s a team that can play with and beat anyone in Illinois over the next two seasons.

Bogan: There simply isn’t a coach with more players at his disposal than Bengals coach Arthur Goodwin. The depth, along with the speed and quickness Bogan throws at you, is about as good as it gets.

The Bengals will come at you in waves with so many returning players. This is one of the best top-to-bottom rosters in the state. But the addition of Antoine Bloxton only adds to that depth and bolsters Goodwin’s attack.

Bloxton, a 6-2 junior guard, has transferred from Julian after putting up big numbers last season. As a sophomore, Bloxton was named to the all-tournament team at the Centralia Thanksgiving Tournament, where he scored 18 points against Belleville East and 26 against Centralia.

With what looks like a natural feel for scoring and an overall smooth game, Bloxton made his presence felt at R-B in pool play on Saturday.

Also, the City/Suburban Hoops Report continues to be a huge fan of point guard Jeremiah Washington. The 5-8 mighty mite is a true difference-maker.

Curie:Coach Mike Oliver’s team then beat Bogan, Loyola and West Aurora to win the second-place tournament pool on Sunday.

So, yes, Curie will be a factor again this winter after heavy losses, losing Maurice Commander, Marquise Walker, Jayden Gasby, Demarco Graham, Treavon Martin and Tyree Martin.

DaJuan Gordon, the rising prospect in the Class of 2019, is the centerpiece. This is a talented 6-4 wing who is poised to truly break out this season after showing glimpses this past season. He’s a late bloomer physically and as a prospect.

DePaul Prep: Perry Cowan remained his steady, consistent, productive self. The senior wing has put together an outstanding three seasons for the Rams and will keep coach Tom Kleinschmidt’s team in the Catholic League mix this winter. Cowan had games of 18, 21 and 28 over the course of the weekend.

Downers Grove North: The Trojans won’t be favored to win what will be a tough and deep West Suburban Silver. But coach Jim Thomas has weapons to make a run, including seniors Sema’j Henderson, who has received Division I interest and offers, and the overlooked Eddie Boston. As a 6-1 guard, Boston has some natural scoring and playmaking ability to go along with some difference-making athleticism when he chooses to use it.

Evanston: There were going to be two big question marks concerning a team that will be among the top five in the state next season.

The first question is a glaring lack of size. There just isn’t any.

The second question is how will Evanston respond from such a terrific –– and somewhat out of the blue –– season? Will this returning group read their own headlines and be satisfied with what it accomplished last year? Will there be a hangover?

It’s June, but the Wildkits did not look like a team that will surely be among the state’s best next season. This past weekend may just be what coach Mike Ellis needed to get his team’s attention in summer camp and shootouts this coming month.

Fenwick: The big news is the loss of junior star D.J. Steward, a top 50 talent nationally, and senior Damari Nixon. Both have left and that undoubtedly a monstrous hit to the immediate basketball fortunes for the Friars.

But Solomon Oraegbu, a 6-3 senior wing, showed some flashes at R-B, and the City/Suburban Hoops Report loves the continued development and upside of 6-5 sophomore Bryce Hopkins. Look for the big-bodied and versatile Hopkins to have a breakout season.

Glenbard East: The Rams will have a couple of junior perimeter scorers in Alijah Nelson and DaRon Hall to lean on over the next two seasons. The 6-1 Nelson will be a three-year starter as a junior and is a weapon with his shooting ability. He had games of 19, 20 and 24 points at R-B last weekend.

Hillcrest: Coach Don Houston doesn’t have a big name, has very little size and will miss graduated senior Bobby Harvey, yet the Hawks were one of the bigger stories at R-B on the first day of play.

Hillcrest went 3-0 in pool play, including a win over Simeon. The Hawks also had St. Louis Vashon on the ropes before losing on Sunday. A pair of sophomores, point guard Kenton Wright and 6-0 Mar’Keise Irving, fueled its success at R-B. The 5-9 Wright is a seasoned young player while Irving, who transferred in from Morgan Park, had a 24-point outburst in a win.

The key, however, could be 6-5 senior Dylan West, who put together a solid junior year and offers the only size for a team that will rely heavily on quickness and how hard it plays.

Homewood-Flossmoor: People forget that coach Marc Condotti’s team won a tough Southwest Suburban Blue Conference last season. H-F returns the bulk of that team and will surely be a preseason top 25 team when the season tips in November.

The Vikings showed flashes at R-B of what it can become while going 3-2 over two days. There are wings and bigs, size and length –– 6-4 Maurion Scott, 6-4 Isaac Stanback, 6-5 R.J. Ogom and 6-5 Chad Readey come to mind –– so it will come down to the guard play as to just how good this team can be in 2018-2019.

Joliet West: This is a young team with emerging players, so this was one of the surprises at R-B in terms of the potential with this group. There may not be a bonafide star in that group yet, but coach Nick DiForti has pieces to work with. If they come together quickly, the Tigers could be a threat to Oswego East and Plainfield East in the Southwest Prairie.

Kenwood: This is going to be an interesting season at Kenwood as the Broncos were a basket away from going 3-0 in pool play. Artese Stapleton is a true, steady point guard, and the Broncos were clearly better when he was healthy last season.

Lamond “L.J.” Johnson, a big, physical guard who played at Morgan Park early in his career, has transferred to Kenwood. He brings some energy and athleticism this team needs.

But the key just might be how quickly junior big man Seryee Lewis can become a factor. The 6-8 post player shows promise and continues to make strides. If Lewis becomes a consistent presence sooner than later, Kenwood could be a sleeper in the city.

Loyola: The Ramblers continue to play without 6-3 Connor Barrett, a sharpshooting perimeter player with size and who averaged 13 points a game and made 91 three-pointers last season as a junior. He’s still recovering from a patella injury.

The Kwiecinski twins, Jordan and Bennett, both continue to improve. They are 6-7 and have the type of length and versatility you covet and can be creative with as a coach. Jordan Kwiecinski, who is shooting it better and better, has become stronger, more vocal and, in spurts, showed some take-over ability over the weekend.

Keep an eye on Quinn Pemberton, a senior point guard who could prove to be a real key as to whether this team can be better than last year’s 24-win regional championship team.

Marian Catholic: The good news for a team that won 26 games and finished third in the state in Class 3A this past season is junior guard Ahron Ulis and 6-6 senior Chris White continue to get bigger and better. When you add senior scoring guard Malik Tidwell, it’s a trio ready to roll in 2018-2019. Long, 6-3 junior Elijah Jones is an intriguing player to keep an eye on.

The Spartans made it into the first-place bracket on Sunday and beat Providence St. Mel and Oak Park before losing to St. Viator in the semifinals. That battle with St. Viator is a precursor of what we will see in the East Suburban Catholic Conference this season.

Benet will always have a say in the East Suburban Catholic Conference race. But St. Viator, the defending champs and favorite, and Marian Catholic, are primed to make a run this winter.

Morgan Park: Trying to figure anything out about coach Nick Irvin’s team was going to be difficult this past weekend. Adam Miller, the state’s top prospect in the Class of 2020, wasn’t playing, and the combination of players on the floor simply isn’t what we will see this winter from the Mustangs.

Nonetheless, the City/Suburban Hoops Report continues to rave about the scoring and playmaking abilities of junior guard Marcus Watson. The Miller-Watson duo is going to be a dynamic one.

Oak Park: The Huskies have lost significant pieces in recent years, yet coach Matt Maloney’s cupboard never seems bare. OPRF, who went unbeaten in conference play and won 23 games last season, showed at Riverside-Brookfield that they will once again be the team to beat in the West Suburban Silver Conference.

The Huskies went 3-0 in pool play on Saturday, beating Andrew, Loyola and Uplift, before falling to Marian Catholic in first-place bracket tournament play.

The senior foursome of guards Dashon Enoch and Chase Robinson, 6-6 Charlie Hoehne and athletic wing Anthony Roberts is an outstanding foundation for the 2018-2019 season, while the addition of Isaiah Barnes, a transfer from Romeoville, could prove to be a big plus. Barnes is an emerging prospect in the Class of 2021.

Enoch, however, appears to be ready to take a big step forward and could emerge as one of the top guards in the Chicago area.

Plainfield East: This team was dangerous this past season. They will be a dangerous team again this winter. Can the Bengals become more than just dangerous?

Plainfield East went 2-1 on Saturday, including a win over Bogan. There is some athleticism and shooting, and there are a host of capable players who will push the Bengals towards the top of the Suburban Prairie.

Yamani Shareef is an unsung player as the 6-0 senior can turn the complexion of a game around with his three-point shooting. Athletic Christian Shumate and Nick Smoldt are two juniors set to take a step forward.

Providence St. Mel: The Knights were arguably the biggest surprise of the weekend. St. Mel looked terrific at times, especially when you consider this was the lone Class 1A school in the field. They reached the first-place bracket, falling to Marian Catholic in a tight one, by beating Lincoln Park and H-F on Saturday in pool play.

Point guard Tim Ervin and big man Taeyon Neal are the familiar names. But Eric Jordan was outstanding shooting the basketball from the three-point line and 6-3 wing Deion Jackson is the team’s best all-around player. Tyriel Nelson, a 6-1 senior, is unheralded and one to watch. The Knights will be a major factor this coming season.

Riverside-Brookfield: The Bulldogs went out and won the third-place bracket and have what every team needs at the point guard position. Zach Vaia is a seasoned senior and showed why he will be so dependable going forward. Vaia can score the basketball and brings some grit at a key position.

Simeon: Antonio Reeves was a big addition. The rangy wing’s body is still developing, but he’s a shot-maker and bonafide Division I prospect who will warrant mid-major interest when it’s all said and done. Reeves, who consistently shot the ball well from the three-point line at R-B, and point guard Kejuan Clements are going to be the catalysts for this Simeon team.

But there is work to be done. This could be coach Robert Smith’s biggest and most challenging coaching job since he led the 2009-2010 team to a state championship.

And, yes, there is some young talent in the pipeline in the freshman and sophomore classes, including Ahmad Bynum, Jaylen Drane and A.J. Casey, but high-level impact from them will take time.

Stevenson: The team’s fortunes really start with the combination of Matt Ambrose, a top-notch perimeter scoring threat in the Class of 2020, and senior guard Luke Cheing. They will form one of the better combos in the North Suburban Conference, and it’s going to be fun watching Ambrose’s scoring potential expand as he grows into his body and adds strength.

St. Ignatius:Christian Davis is an underrated player in the senior class. The 6-2 guard is going to be a terrific small college prospect as he plays out his senior year. Davis and junior Daniel Florey provide coach Matt Monroe with some versatile options on the perimeter with their diverse games.

St. Rita:You love the size the Mustangs bring to the floor. And it appears 6-7 Jeremiah Oden may be ready to take the next step in his development. He’s remained an intriguing prospect throughout his career and again showed why with his play at R-B.

St. Viator: The headline-making Lions won the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout as seniors Jerry Hernandez and Trey Calvin shared MVP honors. These are two Division I players who will form one of the top tandems in the state this season. And both took turns leading the Lions all weekend.

But you have to like the pieces that are forming around these two, particularly juniors Mike Huene and Connor Kochera. The 6-7 Huene and 6-4 Kochera, who provided an offensive shot in the arm at times as a sophomore, are only going to get better. These two could thrive in support roles while playing with the shot-making Calvin and versatile Hernandez.

Uplift:The Titans went 3-3 and looked wildly inconsistent at R-B, which is to be expected in June. Kansas commit Markese Jacobs was more passive than usual and seemed to play a different type of role, taking a back seat and allowing others to make plays and have opportunities.

Jacobs is going to have to be the dynamic player that he is and will need to put Uplift on his back at times if the Titans are going to compete with the upper-echelon teams. There is some talent around him, including DeAndre Vortes, Tavion Underwood and Detalian Brown, but there will have to be a mix of Jacobs domination and getting others involved.

West Aurora: It will be an ongoing experiment throughout June and into the early part of the 2018-2019 season to see how Marquise Walker gels with his teammates at West Aurora. This is a ball-dominating guard who put up some numbers in his debut with the Blackhawks this past weekend.

West Aurora lost a ton from a sectional championship team, but coach Brian Johnson does have talent to push towards a 20-win season. The Blackhawks beat both Bloom and Evanston on Sunday, a pair of teams that will be locks to be preseason top 10 teams when the season begins.

Walker, who is on his third school in three years, has legit scoring ability as a high-volume scorer, while senior Traevon Brown is another true offensive force in the backcourt. Walker had games of 17, 30 and 25 at R-B and Brown scored 20 in a game.

Young: The Dolphins were without Myles Baker, who was on a visit to Colorado State. Yes, we all know coach Tyrone Slaughter’s team will be among the state’s best teams again next season. But the Dolphins, nonetheless, opened eyes throughout the weekend.

Tyler Beard is clearly one of the top players in the Class of 2020. He attacked the basket with a vengeance and did a nice job of setting the tone by how hard he played.

In fact, it was Beard and Elliot Sieger, along with little-known guard Justin Warren and 6-5 Sangolay Njie, who impressed with how hard they played and competed, particularly in an impressive win over St. Louis Vashon. Also, consistency and production from up-and-coming Keenan Jones, a 6-5 senior, will be a key.

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