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Juniors that opened eyes at Riverside-Brookfield

Bryce Hopkins and Louis Lesmond headline a group of juniors that wowed at the R-B Shootout.

Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins (23) dribbles toward the basket against Leo.
Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins (23) dribbles toward the basket against Leo.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

The Class of 2021 in Illinois has opened eyes. The junior group took full advantage of the opportunity to be seen at Riverside-Brookfield last weekend.

A pair of City/Suburban Hoops Report top five prospects in the Class of 2021 –– one who enhanced his already established stock and another who officially arrived –– made the biggest news at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.

Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins and Niles Notre Dame’s Louis Lesmond grabbed the attention of high-major college coaches.

Hopkins, the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 2 ranked prospect in Illinois in the junior class, was dominant at times and showcased his wide-ranging skill set.

The big-bodied 6-5 wing is a mismatch problem. He will bang against bigger players and play through contact on the way to the rim. He will overpower smaller defenders. He can use his skill level and create for others with strong passing skills. And he continues to show improvement with his jumper.

Hopkins shined with the Friars at Christmas at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and added offers from Xavier and Illinois. Following his play this past weekend, Hopkins added Texas, Wisconsin, Iowa State and Indiana to a list that already includes Northwestern, Minnesota and Nebraska.

For two years the City/Suburban Hoops Report preached that Young’s D.J. Steward was vastly overlooked nationally. While he could be found in that 70-100 range, Steward, in my eyes, had the look of a player who should clearly be in the 25-50 range. Now? He’s a consensus top 35 prospect in the country.

Now it’s Hopkins turn as the player the City/Suburban Hoops Report expects to jump in the national rankings –– eventually. This is a top 100 player who can’t be found in top 100 lists and has been overlooked on a national level.

Then there is the intriguing Lesmond, who just so happens to be a player whose first Division I offer came from a high-major program.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report provided a heads-up last week regarding the arrival of Lesmond, who transferred from Evanston to Niles Notre Dame a few weeks back. He screamed high-major prospect when I took in action at the Loyola Academy Super Shootout last week.

College coaches were able to get a glimpse of Lesmond at R-B and loved what they saw. He added offers from Nebraska, Illinois and Dayton with other high-major programs diving in with their own research and interest.

City/Suburban Hoops Report’s hot names in Class of 2021

Here are five players who helped themselves with their play at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this past weekend.

Isaiah Barnes, Oak Park

Barnes is the perfect example of why there has to be patience in evaluating prospects. They all mature and develop at different rates. Their confidence and comfort levels arrive at different times.

Barnes has been a hot shot name on prospect lists since the day he entered high school. While the physical tools and upside have been there, the overall production and impact has taken time. And that’s fine. We’re still talking about a player who has yet to begin his junior year of high school.

Oak Park’s Isaiah Barnes (33) shoots.
Oak Park’s Isaiah Barnes (33) shoots.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

Over the weekend at Riverside-Brookfield that talent and offensive arsenal was on full display. As a 6-6 perimeter player who can handle the ball, get to the basket and showcase range with a nice looking jumper out to the three-point line, Barnes seemed to attack when needed while letting the game come to him.

Now it’s a matter of continuing to progress and doing it all on a more consistent basis. But Barnes, who received his first high-major offer from Illinois following the weekend, has taken a considerable step forward in his development.

John Poulakidas, Neuqua Valley

The 6-5 shot-making junior put some serious work in at Riverside-Brookfield. As a result, the recruitment of Poulakidas has heated up tremendously.

Name the shot and Poulakidas dropped one of them in over the course of the shootout: pull-ups from beyond the three-point line and mid-range jumpers, step-back jumpers and scoring off catch-and-shoot opportunities. And in today’s college game, coaches covet shooters to space and spread the floor.

Poulakidas may not be blessed with ideal athleticism, but he uses shot fakes, jab steps, basketball smarts and length to get shots off. Plus, he has an uncanny ability to make tough, off-balanced shots without getting the cleanest looks at the basket.

Throw in the fact he’s an outstanding student academically and Poulakidas will be in high demand going forward as one of the City/Suburban Hoops Reports top 10 prospects in the Class of 2021.

Poulakidas, who averaged 15 points a game as a sophomore, was one of the biggest winners of the first live evaluation period. He has gained a ton of traction from mid-major programs and high-major interest.

The offer list includes TCU and Rutgers, which offered on Tuesday while on an unofficial visit. Butler, Princeton, Saint Louis, Loyola, Brown, UIC, Southern Illinois, Miami-Ohio and UW-Milwaukee have also offered the 6-5 scoring wing.

There is also interest from the likes of Northwestern, Purdue, Wake Forest, Yale and Temple.

Julius Rollins, Hillcrest

The lively 6-5 Rollins burst on the scene during his sophomore season and continues to impress. The activity level he plays with, along with his length and athleticism, impacts games naturally.

The skill level is still coming along. He can put it on the floor, get to the rim and finish while showing a hint of face-up shooting ability.

Rollins, who received an offer from UIC following his play at Riverside-Brookfield, has the look of an emerging mid-major prospect. Now it’s a matter of developing more attention to detail in his game, but the promise and upside is there.

Conor Enright, Mundelein

Forget the physical profile for Enright as it relates to projecting Division I players. Yes, Enright is small and slender. But his toughness, scrappiness and competitiveness helps overcome those deficiencies.

Enright’s overall play over the course of the weekend, including a couple of very impressive games, has pushed him up the Hoops Report player rankings in the Class of 2021 and generated more interest among Division I coaches.

The 6-0 point guard is comfortable scoring off the dribble with pull-ups and shooting range out to the three-point line. He’s a capable catch-and-shoot player off the ball and he sees the floor well.

Regardless of his strengths or weaknesses, you always come back to his hustle and competitive nature. That’s what will ultimately win over coaches who struggle with his size and physical stature.

Troy D’Amico, Notre Dame

What a consistent weekend of shooting the basketball the 6-6 D’Amico had at Riverside-Brookfield. And as mentioned, college coaches are all in desperate need of shooters, players who can spread the floor at each position.

Notre Dame’s Troy D’Amico (0) steps behind the three-point line to attempt a shot.
Notre Dame’s Troy D’Amico (0) steps behind the three-point line to attempt a shot.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

D’Amico is a legitimate stretch 4-man threat on the perimeter with his catch-and-shoot ability. He runs hard in transition to open spots for threes and is showing more and more that he can come off a screen and knock down shots.

UW-Milwaukee and Saint Louis extended offers for a player who will be gaining a lot more interest in the coming year.