The spring and summer club circuit has just begun with the first major event of the grassroots basketball season tipping off this past weekend.
Dozens of Illinois club teams headed to Wisconsin for the annual NY2LA Sports Swish ’N Dish.
With the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2020 and some major out-of-state talent on board, the Mac Irvin Fire 17U team is the most stacked club team in Illinois.
Morgan Park’s Adam Miller, currently the state’s top junior prospect, was participating with USA Basketball over the weekend, thus did not play with the Fire this past weekend.
But it’s the out-of-state talent that pushes the Mac Irvin Fire above everyone else, starting with Michael Foster out of Milwaukee and continuing with Amari Bailey of Sierra Canyon in California and Ryan Kalkbrenner from St. Louis.
Foster is a physically impressive 4-man at 6-9, 220 pounds. Although Foster was with USA Basketball this past weekend in Minnesota, he’s a consensus top five player in the country in the Class of 2021 and a coveted high-major prospect.
Bailey was a grammar school hotshot in Chicago who left the city before heading to California to play his high school basketball. The 6-4 guard is now among the top prospects in the country in the Class of 2022 and attends Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, Calif. Bailey verbally committed to DePaul before high school, de-committed and then committed to former UCLA coach Steve Alford.
Kalkbrenner is a 7-footer from Trinity who has offers from Kansas State, Illinois, Rice and Louisiana-Monroe. He’s still catching up to the speed of the game and is a work in progress, but he’s a clear high-major prospect whose stock will only rise going forward.
While Kalkbrenner needs to gain weight and strength, he’s mobile, blocks shots with his timing and length, possesses good hands and has a soft touch around the basket.
With the 6-9 Foster, 7-foot Kalkbrenner, 6-9 Martice Mitchell of Bloom and 6-8 Seryee Lewis, who recently transferred from Kenwood to Morgan Park, there is an abundance of size to compete in the rugged Nike EYBL circuit this spring and summer. They all bring a little something different to the table as well.
Mitchell is a long and agile big who runs the floor. He continues to show a developing face-up game with improved shooting. Mitchell possesses about as much upside as anyone in the class outside of the top two players in the Class of 2020, Adam Miller and D.J. Steward of Young.
Lewis boast a solid frame and some nice pop off the floor as he continues to figure out how to play on the block. He’s quite an addition for a Morgan Park team that will be an overwhelming favorite to win Class 3A next season.
The backcourt includes Morgan Park’s jet-quick Marcus Watson, big wing Brandon Weston, who transferred to Morgan Park this past season, and shooting guard Sincere Parker of Rockford East.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report sang the praises of Parker all winter long. There is no reason to stop now. The talented 6-3 junior guard knocked down 122 three-pointers on the year and led the E-Rabs to a fourth-place finish in Class 4A. Hopefully those who haven’t paid attention will start to now as he plays with the Mac Irvin Fire.
Weston is a player who grabbed the Hoops Report’s attention while playing with Lake Forest Academy and vaulted up the rankings. He is among the top 10 prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2021.
➤ The Mac Irvin Fire also have a heck of an import at the younger levels as Tre White, a 6-5 guard from Wisconsin, is the type of player you wish played in our state. In February, he moved from Texas to Wisconsin and now plays with Foster at Washington High School in Milwaukee.
This is a super talent in the backcourt in the Class of 2022 and is a no-brainer high-major recruit. He already boasts a half dozen high-major offers, including one from Illinois, but he’s a player who is physically put together and has an advanced feel and basketball I.Q. White plays at a great pace and patience while bringing size and athleticism to both guard spots.
The most surprising thing when watching him is simply this: White is just a freshman.
➤ It’s a little absurd the amount of high-profile, big-time talent there currently is in Milwaukee high school basketball right now.
There is Patrick Baldwin, Jr., the 6-9 sophomore from Hamilton High School who is the No. 1 ranked prospect in the country in the Class of 2021, along with the aforementioned Foster, a consensus top five prospect in the class.
In the Class of 2020, 6-8 Jalen Johnson of Nicolet High School in Glendale is a top five talent nationally, while teammate Jamari Sibley, ranked among the top 70 players in the country, is a 6-9 high-major prospect as well.
And now you add Smith to the mix in the Class of 2022? There is an abundance of big-time talent in Milwaukee.
➤ Fenwick star D.J. Steward has so much to offer and continues to polish up all of those different areas of his game. The versatility and wiggle in his game is easy to see, but he’s becoming a better shooter and impacting games in multiple ways. There is a significant drop in the level of talent and prospect after Miller and Steward in the Class of 2020 in Illinois.
➤ If you want a player who is poised to make a signifiant jump from his sophomore to junior season, Evanston’s Louis Lemond looks to be one of them.
After a slow adjustment playing at the varsity level as a sophomore following his move from France, the 6-6 Lesmond is set to take off with his length, skill and perimeter shooting ability.
Lesmond, who is playing with the Illinois Wolves this spring and summer, scored 12 points in the state championship game and offered up some of those same skills he showed late in the season while playing up an age group this past weekend.
➤ I still don’t think Marian Catholic’s Ahron Ulis receives enough attention for the player he is and for the career he’s put together thus far. Ulis, a 6-2 point guard with Meanstreets, knows how to play and impact a game while playing in control.
➤ A player in the Class of 2021 who impressed over the weekend was Young’s Grant Newell. The 6-6 sophomore plays with Meanstreets and displayed his versatility in being able to step away from the basket and make shots, while showcasing a soft touch around the basket where he uses his length and solid athleticism. There is a big upside in Newell.
➤ Keep an eye on the development of Ian Burns of New Trier. The long, 6-6 Burns is a bit of a sleeper in the Class of 2021 and is playing with the Mac Irvin Fire.
➤ The best prospect on this year’s Fundamental U team is St. Viator’s Connor Kochera. The scoring wing is a known commodity as a shooter, but the 6-4 senior-to-be continues to diversify his game. Kochera, a stellar student in the classroom, knocked down shots from the perimeter and found his way to the basket more.
➤ Uncommitted senior Jeremiah Oden of St. Rita is back on the club circuit this spring as he tries to enhance his stock. The long, athletic 6-7 forward is playing with Bradley Beal Elite.
➤ It was a bit of wash of a season for big-bodied guard Bryce Hall, who didn’t see much time at Simeon, was off the team by mideseason and ultimately transferred to Orr in January. Hall, a combo guard with great size as he’s pushing towards 6-4, showed some flashes over the weekend while playing with The Work Foundation club team. Hall was once a highly-valued prospect in the Class of 2020 and is looking to re-establish himself.
➤ Small college programs at the Division II and Division III levels should be keeping tabs on Oswego’s Connor McCance. Big, strong and a true 5-man at 6-8, McCance is a wall defensively, plays hard and competes. While the offensive game is clearly a work in progress, the 6-8 McCance continued to show improvement in his game while playing with the Breakaway club team this past weekend.