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Basketball notebook: Louis Lesmond transfers to Notre Dame, shootout takeaways and more

Summer shootouts, camps and leagues are in full force throughout the state.

Evanston’s Louis Lesmond (13) drives on Oak Park’s Charlie Hoehne (14).
Evanston’s Louis Lesmond (13) drives on Oak Park’s Charlie Hoehne (14).
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

The summer shootouts, camps and leagues are in full force throughout the state. This past weekend the City/Suburban Hoops Report took in the Hoop Mountain Shootout at Batavia and then caught a glimpse of a dandy new Don at Notre Dame — Louis Lesmond.

Here are some notes from Hoop Mountain, the Loyola Academy Super Shootout and from around Illinois, starting with the rise of Lesmond, who has transferred from Evanston to Niles Notre Dame.

While it may not open eyes immediately, Lesmond’s move in the north suburbs is a big one.

For one, while he’s been talked about very little up to this point, he’s been among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects in the Class of 2021.

Second, he leaves a highly successful program where he played a key role in helping Evanston to a state runner-up finish in Class 4A to another program stocked with talent. Lesmond joins a Notre Dame team that already features guard Anthony Sayles, one of the top 10 junior prospects in the state, and 6-6 Troy D’Amico, who is among the top 15 prospects in the Class of 2021.

The highly versatile Lesmond offers physical tools, an appealing skill set and is clearly a rising talent. He’s a player who couples outside shooting with some legitimate and exciting long-term upside.

Lesmond is gaining comfort and confidence since moving to the United States a year ago from France. At a shade over 6-5, Lesmond’s shooting touch and skill level is tangible. He can handle it and really shoot it with smooth, natural shooting mechanics, both with his pull-up mid-range game and three-point shooting.

He showcased it all in three games at the Loyola Academy Super Shootout Tuesday night, including a rim-rattling dunk where his underrated athleticism and pop off the floor showed.

Lesmond, who plays with the Illinois Wolves on the club circuit, is set to enhance his reputation with a big summer as one of the top half dozen 2021 prospects in the state in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s class rankings. Look for the skilled wing to establish himself, open more eyes and garner high-major attention sooner than later.

Stevenson looks the part

No shocker here but coach Pat Ambrose’s Stevenson team is really good.

After winning a sectional title last year with a junior-dominated team, the Patriots were expected to be a preseason top 10 team when the season began in November. Stevenson looked the part this past weekend.

St. Charles East’s Tommy Craven (1) tries to stop Stevenson’s Evan Ambrose (5).
St, Charles East’s Tommy Craven (1) tries to stop Stevenson’s Evan Ambrose (5).
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

Summer basketball is hardly a predictor as there are so many different factors and variables involved. There are players who are absent or sit out, more players are given time and opportunities, some teams are without a coach, a busy week can lead to tired legs for some teams on weekends. Thus, trying to gauge success can be difficult.

But strictly from the “look test,” Stevenson is a team that will be in the thick of everything next winter.

The cohesiveness of a well coached, experienced group easily shows. Matt Ambrose is a flat-out scoring weapon on the perimeter, younger brother Evan Ambrose is a prototype point guard, and 6-4 senior Robert Holmes is such a factor inside with his athleticism.

Plus, John Ittounas, Bernard Cameron and Matt Kaznikov are three returning starters who complement each other well.

Stevenson, which lost 43-40 to Columbus North out of Indiana in the semifinals of the Hoop Mountain Shootout, is a rock solid high school basketball team with big expectations this coming season.

Little Rock plays big

The hero of the day was Jordan Rice, a 5-8 point guard with a lot of sizzle for Rock Island. The Rocks beat Columbus North in the title game with Rice hitting a step-back three at the buzzer for the win.

Thom Sigel, who has won state titles at both Rock Falls and Rock Island in his nearly three decades as a head coach, has a young, talented team.

While a pair of seniors, 6-4 wing Taurean Holton and 6-8 Solomon Gustafson, will be keys, the young perimeter talent, led by Rice, could be potent. In addition to Rice, junior Colton Sigel and sophomores Amarion Nimmers and Eli Reese are all talented guards.

Rice, however, is the catalyst. The slender point guard has a feel and an extra gear with the ball in his hands.

New, big offers for Max Christie

While Rolling Meadows star Max Christie held many high-major offers heading into the summer, the 6-6 junior guard has picked up some big ones over the past week.

The state’s top prospect, who just recently helped USA Basketball to a FIBA Americas U16 championship, added offers from the last two national champions, Virginia and Villanova, along with Big Ten heavyweights Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana.

Rolling Meadows’ Max Christie (12) jumps up to make a pass.
Rolling Meadows’ Max Christie (12) jumps up to make a pass.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

The offer list is lengthy, including Iowa, Illinois, Ohio State, Oregon, Purdue, Northwestern and Stanford among others.

In six games for USA Basketball, Christie averaged 9.5 points and 3.3 rebounds while knocking down 13 three-pointers.

With such a busy and exhausting few weeks of basketball playing for USA Basketball and the NBA Top 100 Camp in Virginia, Christie will sit out this weekend’s Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.

John Poulakidas picks up offers

Junior John Poulakidas has put together a productive spring after averaging 15 points a game as a sophomore at Neuqua Valley. As a result, the 6-5 versatile scorer added offers this past weekend from Butler, Loyola, Miami-Ohio, Brown and UW-Milwaukee. He visited Northwestern on Wednesday.

Poulakidas, regarded as one of the better shooters in the junior class with range and efficiency, continues to add to his offensive game. This is a shot-maker with some nice size on the perimeter.

More transfers

While not as big as the AJ Casey move from Simeon to Tinley Park or Lesmond’s departure from Evanston to Notre Dame, there have been a few other transfers around the Chicago area that will have a significant impact on the high school basketball landscape.

The program that’s been hit the hardest is Aurora Christian, a team that was expected to be one of the top small schools in the state next season. But the departure of 6-5 Will Wolfe and junior guard Jaeshon Thomas is a massive hit for an Eagles team that won 25 games last season.

Wolfe is headed to Oswego East while Thomas will attend Whitney Young next year.

Wolfe is among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 25 prospects in the Class of 2020. He averaged 17.8 points a game as a junior and bolsters an Oswego East team that won 24 games last year and reached a sectional championship game.

Oswego East does lose star Ray J Dennis, who is off to Boise State, but does return 6-7 Sam Schultz, a versatile big man who put up 12.4 points and 8.4 rebounds a game.

Aurora Christian’s Will Wolfe (24) gets a shot to fall as he fouled in the first half against Oswego East.
Aurora Christian’s Will Wolfe (24) gets a shot to fall as he fouled in the first half against Oswego East.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

With Wolfe and Schultz, the Wolves now have a chance to repeat in the Southwest Prairie Conference.

Thomas averaged 16.8 points and 5.5 assists a game last season as a sophomore while knocking down 53 three-pointers. With DJ Steward and Tyler Beard in place, Young will now have a potent trio on the perimeter with the addition of Thomas.

Another transfer who will provide a lift for his new team is Paul Zilinskas, who left Richards and played with Riverside-Brookfield this past weekend at the Hoop Mountain Shootout at Batavia. The big, multi-faceted wing helped lead the Bulldogs to the semifinals at Hoop Mountain.

Hillcrest ready for run

Coach Don Houston played a very young team a year ago, finishing 21-10 and losing in a Class 3A sectional semifinal to Normal U-High.

After watching the Hawks early on this summer, Houston has the personnel to make a big two-year push beginning in 2019-2020.

The most exciting talent on the roster is Julius Rollins, a hybrid junior forward at 6-5 who arrived on the scene this past season and is blossoming into a bonafide college prospect.

Rollins is long, active at the rim, agile and has a budding skill level with the ability to put it on the deck and get to the rim. Plus, he has the capability going forward of guarding multiple positions. He moved into the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 20 prospects in the Class of 2021 in recent months.

While he’s a Power Five football recruit as a powerful, jet-quick all-purpose running back, the 5-10, 180-pound Mar’Keise Irving is the heart and soul of this basketball team right now. The junior group, led by Rollins and Irving, is only going to get better with the likes of junior guard Kenton Wright and emerging but little-known 6-4 Hamahrie Bowers.

Colin Crothers appreciation

Benet lost a ton from last year’s 24-8 team, including Indianapolis recruit Kendrick Tchoua and several other key seniors.

But back for one more season is the often under-appreciated Colin Crothers. The 6-7 senior big man was his rock solid self in helping lead Benet to three wins and a title at the Loyola Academy Super Shootout Tuesday night.

Benet’s Colin Crothers (55) scores and is fouled by Stevenson’s Luke Chieng (2).
Benet’s Colin Crothers (55) scores and is fouled by Stevenson’s Luke Chieng (2).
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Crothers is fundamentally sound, uses both hands around the basket, can step out and knock down a face-up jumper. He’s a proven high school productive big man. Last season he averaged 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. With high academics and a just-go-out-and-play attitude, Crothers should be a hot commodity among small college programs.

Junior Tyler Van Eekeren, a 6-5 wing with a a lot of promise and potential, nailed a game-winning shot at the buzzer to beat Loyola in the championship game.

Young players to watch at Naperville North

Naperville North lost a legitimate star to graduation in Tom Welch, an all-stater who is headed to Loyola.

While the loss of one of the top half dozen players in the Class of 2010 was huge, coach Gene Nolan has several players back from last season, including rising junior Grant Johnson.

Johnson, a 6-5 forward with shooting range out to the three-point line, was able to get his feet wet at the varsity level last season and showed promise throughout the year. After watching Naperville North at Hoop Mountain and throughout the spring, Johnson, whose game continues to emerge as he gains confidence and more opportunities, has the look of a potential scholarship player.

Another young player to keep tabs on is sophomore Zeke Williams. The long, lanky 6-1 guard played last year as a freshman but continues to progress as a prospect and player.