Henricksen: July’s stock boosters, winners and losers

SHARE Henricksen: July’s stock boosters, winners and losers

Oswego East’s Raymond Dennis (10) works to get around an Aurora Christian defender. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

The month of July will often allow the unknowns to become known. But with that comes a few stars who fade.

With July in the books, it’s time to recap a month with the City/Suburban Hoop Reports’ July stock boosters, winners and losers.

Biggest July winner

◼︎ Marquise Kennedy, Brother Rice

For Kennedy, the summer began in June by putting in work with his high school team and coach, Bobby Frasor. The summer also began without a single scholarship offer.

That’s right, the athletic 6-1 point guard, ranked among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 15 prospects in the senior class, was without a scholarship offer in early June.

And now? There are a dozen-plus offers, including several Missouri Valley Conference programs (Bradley, Loyola, Illinois State), St. Bonaventure, Tulsa and Wichita State.

From a recruiting standpoint, Kennedy put together a more productive July than anyone while playing with his Illinois Wolves team. Each weekend he opened more eyes.

Mid-major college coaches fell in love with his explosiveness to the rim and speed in the open court. They became enamored with his competitiveness and respected how much he had improved as a point guard.

[Read about Marquise Kennedy’s rise HERE]

Biggest senior stock riser

◼︎ Tujautae Williams, Orr

The City/Suburban Hoops Report was on a bit of a mission to get this name out there, billing Williams as the “super sleeper” in the senior class heading into July. It was just a matter of getting some college coaching eyes on Williams, who played out the month of July with the Chicago Demons. His upside, athleticism and raw talent would take over from there.

Although the recruitment is still just starting to brew, it’s clearly on the rise and will only heat up more.

When asked where is the interest coming from after playing out the month of July with the Chicago Demons, Williams responded with “everywhere.”

While that hasn’t matriculated into a whole bunch of offers just yet, the word is out on a player with an enormously high ceiling. He was hearing from virtually no one a month ago. In the last couple of weeks Williams has heard from Florida Atlantic, SIUE, Northern Kentucky, Utah State, Portland State, Wright State, Butler, Buffalo, Ole Miss, Valparaiso, Kansas State and Drake.

There is now a plethora of Division I coaching staffs doing their homework on Williams after being so intrigued by the 6-5 guard throughout the month. And there is so much to like from a player with his type of length, athleticism and potential.

Other July winners

◼︎ Ray J Dennis, Oswego East

The interest picked up for the 6-2 senior in the spring with a surplus of offers coming in April, May and June. But it intensified in July as Dennis now sports 20-plus offers from different levels and from all parts of the country.

The smooth combo guard, who can shoot and pass at a high level, continued to show he was undervalued for too long.

With his July play he added Lehigh, Purdue-Fort Wayne, Colorado State, South Dakota, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Holy Cross, Loyola-Maryland, Elon, Wright State and Florida Atlantic to a list that already included Bradley, Southern Illinois, Ball State, Boston, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Toledo, Vermont, Cleveland State and Northern Illinois.

◼︎ DaJuan Gordon, Curie

The rising senior made a name for himself this past spring while playing with Team Rose on the club circuit. The 6-4 Gordon, a late-blooming prospect with length and outstanding scoring potential, is poised for a breakout senior season this winter for the Condors.

He added a boatload of offers and interest in April and May, including Ole Miss, Saint Louis, UAB, Colorado State, Loyola, DePaul, New Mexico and several others.

But the level of his recruitment took a step forward in July. Gordon added offers from Nebraska, Xavier and SMU in the past two weeks.

◼︎ D.J. Steward

Morgan Park’s Adam Miller may be ranked higher and Young’s Tyler Beard was certainly a stock riser this summer, but Steward solidified himself as a high-major prospect with a rock solid July.

Although his next high school destination remains up in the air, the 6-2 guard picked up offers from Creighton and Marquette and now has more high-profile programs seriously interested. He already had the locals –– DePaul, Illinois and Northwestern involved with early offers –– but this past July he showed a more consistent perimeter jumper and steady production to go along with his enticing versatility.

◼︎ Ryland Holt, Gibson City

Who? The little-known –– no, make that complete unknown –– 6-5 forward from the small central Illinois town of Gibson City came out in July and simply balled. While playing with the Illinois Irish this July, he showed he’s no longer just a run, jump, dunk athlete. Long, wiry and athletic, Holt showed an improved jumper and range while continuing a high level of activity and nifty footwork around the basket.

Holt has become the obsession of Division II programs across the Midwest, while lower level Division I programs are starting to poke around. It will be interesting to see where his recruitment goes from here as he’s also a solid student academically.

◼︎ Max Christie, Rolling Meadows

All the 6-4 point guard did was substantiate the early buzz surrounding him. But that’s saying a lot.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report hyped up Christie to the extreme during his freshman season, and he backed it up with a splendid spring on the club circuit. Christie picked up high-major offers and showed the potential to be a consensus top 20 layer in the country in his class in July.

◼︎ Bryce Hopkins, Fenwick

Maybe there wasn’t a jaw-dropping performance or a heavy dose of offers rolling in, but the 6-5 sophomore put in some outstanding work and put himself on the radar of college coaches going forward. That’s what July is there for.

With a lot of eyes on the talented Illinois Wolves 15U team to watch bigger names (Max Christie of Rolling Meadows, Chris Hodges of Schaumburg and Anthony Sayles of Niles Notre Dame), Hopkins performed well and even added his first offer, courtesy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Biggest July losers

◼︎ Class of 2020

By the time July rolls around for college coaches, yes, they are locked in on either babysitting senior prospects they covet and have offered or are re-evaluating seniors to see if a few more are worthy of offers.

But they’re also getting a good look at the next batch of prospects. And in this case, that’s the Class of 2020.

Much has been made (plenty from yours truly) about the recent drop in talent in Illinois. But after watching the summer play out and seeing and hearing the reaction from college coaches, that trend looks to be continuing in the Class of 2020.

This year’s juniors simply didn’t elevate their status as a whole, though it does appear there will likely be three top 100 players in the class in D.J. Steward, who is still figuring out what school to attend after leaving Fenwick, Morgan Park’s Adam Miller and Young’s Tyler Beard.

It’s great to see three players ranked among the top 100 in the country at this stage, with Rivals having Miller at No. 33, Beard at No. 54 and Steward at No. 59. But there is a considerable drop after those three guards, and once again there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of Division I depth.

◼︎ The ignored and overlooked players in Illinois

Though no fault of their own, there remain some under-recruited players in Illinois in the senior class. And with July now complete, that’s a shame.

That list of players begins with the St. Viator duo of Trey Calvin and Jeremiah Hernandez. Both of these players are among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 20 prospects in the state.

At this juncture of their high school career, every top 20 senior prospect in 20-plus years of the City/Suburban Hoops Report has been a Division I player. Yes, both of these players have Division I offers. But both should have more.

Calvin has a Wright State offer and a recent offer from UIC. That’s two mid-major offers –– total. If you watch the shot-making point guard play enough, that number leaves you puzzled.

Hernandez picked up several early offers during his junior year but this summer has only added South Dakota and Canisius.

Bogan big man Rashaun Agee, who plays with the Mac Irvin Fire, put in more than enough work in July to have more than the minuscule offer list he currently sports.

A pair of point guards, Leo’s Fred Cleveland and Kenwood’s Artese Stapleton, are two more in the Class of 2019 who have been under-appreciated.

Moline’s Deonte Billlups, who will make a nice jump in the post-July Hoops Report player rankings, and Normal’s 6-7 C.J. Wilbourn had moments where they both impressed this July with Quad City Elite.

A perimeter player with length and size at 6-3 to go with his three-point shooting, Billups did pick up a Northern Illinois offer to close out July and added one from Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday. But those are his only Division I offers after receiving a few Division II offers.

Wilbourn may lack the desired athletic punch, but he has a terrific body and an ability to step away from the basket and make shots, something that’s coveted in today’s game. Plus, he’s an outstanding student academically. However, Wilbourn list includes Division II interest.

Biggest story of July

◼︎ The revamped college coaching evaluation proposal

A new NCAA recruiting rulebook and calendar will go to a vote in a week, and if passed it will change the landscape of college basketball recruiting.

The good news is the original plan and idea, which really eliminated the presence of club/AAU basketball, was tweaked.

In a nutshell, here’s what the new proposal would look like:

• There will be two “live” weekends in July instead of three. The first “live” period in July will remain the same with college coaches attending non-scholastic tournaments and events (aka club/AAU/shoe sponsored events). The second “live” weekend will consist of the proposed camp-style events that will be by invite only and run by the NCAA, USA Basketball, the NBA and the NBA Players Association.

• April will remain relatively the same. There will be two “live” weekends in April when the calendar and dates allow. In 2019 there will be one “live” weekend due to how the calendar sets up and there will be two April “live” weekends in 2020.

• Coaches will now also be allowed to go evaluate for two three-day weekends in June. These will be “scholastic-oriented” and in essence be prospects playing with their high school teams.

In essence, next year there will be two “live” weekends of club basketball for college basketball coaches to evaluate, compared to five “live” weekends this past year. That’s been replaced by the July “camp” and two “live” weekends of watching players with their high school teams.

Best story of July

◼︎ Kai Bates-Diop on the Illinois Wolves bench

Kai Bates-Diop of Normal U-High has been a part of the Illinois Wolves program for several years and watched his older brother, former Ohio State star Keita Bates-Diop, play in the program.

But a scary health issue for the younger Bates-Diop has prevented him from being a part of his Illinois Wolves team.

During a U-High practice in February of 2017, Kai Bates-Diop suffered cardiac arrest. Athletic trainers immediately performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to resuscitate Kai.

It was later determined that Kai Bates-Diop was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disorder that causes the heart muscle to thicken.

While his basketball playing career may have been prematurely cut short, Kai Bates-Diop has returned to the Wolves. The senior-to-be traveled with the Illinois Wolves, sat on the bench with his teammates and cheered, instructed and encouraged his teammates over the final two weekends of play.

“He’s shown a great deal of resiliency,” says Illinois Wolves founder and coach Mike Mullins. “He wants to be a 16-year-old kid, and he’s learning how to fill that basketball void from not being able to play. He was determined to finish out what he started with friends and teammates.”

Now Bates-Diop and his family have made it a mission to make a difference as a result of this life-changing experience.

The family has helped raise funds so that every school can purchase an AED, which ultimately saved young Bates-Diop’s life. Schools in Illinois are required to have an AED in the building. However, all schools have not been able to afford them, so the Bates-Diop family has made it a mission to make sure schools do have them. They’ve helped raised thousands of dollars to help schools purchase an AED.

Bates-Diop is the younger brother of former Ohio State star Keita Bates-Diop, who is now with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bates-Diop and his family are trying to raise awareness of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and put schools in position to purchase AEDs.

While there were a number of terrific basketball stories involving scholarship offers and such in July, this story is clearly the best of the month.

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

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