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July rewind: Players who increased their stock and the most overlooked

A busy June and July included heavy evaluations by college coaches of talent from across the state.

Notre Dame’s Anthony Sayles (10) looks over the Maine West defense.
Notre Dame’s Anthony Sayles (10) looks over the Maine West defense.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

A busy June and July included heavy evaluations by college coaches of prep talent from across the state. Here is a summer rewind of the players who raised their stock the most, including some still overlooked players in the senior class.

Summer’s biggest stock-riser: DJ Steward, Young

Steward’s national reputation has soared. In addition to vaulting up the national rankings and putting himself in the McDonald’s All-American Game conversation, the sharp and affable Young is now writing a blog for USA Today.

He not only added headline offers from Duke and North Carolina, along with heavy interest from Kentucky where an offer could be coming, but the 6-3 combo guard also added summer offers from Maryland, North Carolina State, Oregon, Arizona and Arkansas.

Plus, the likes of Louisville, Texas, Indiana and Illinois had nice head starts in their interest and offers heading into the summer.

While Steward will sit down and come up with a shorter list and figure out upcoming visits, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the blue bloods and those that have been on him for a while breaking through.

With the addition of the blue bloods, this recruitment goes to another level and becomes one of those high-profile recruitments to watch over the next couple of months.

Biggest June stock-riser: Connor Kochera, St. Viator

Before summer, Kochera was sitting on spring offers from Cleveland State, Lafayette and Western Illinois. Then the June live period hit and Kochera shined with his St. Viator team. He made shot after shot from the perimeter while showcasing his uncanny finishing ability at the basket.

St. Viator’s Connor Kochera (23) scores against Oswego East’s Demari Grant. Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

As a result, the offers came in bunches. The 6-4 shooter added June and July offers from Wright State, Siena, Brown, Wofford, Furman, Illinois State, South Dakota, William & Mary, Penn, Dartmouth, Lipscomb, UC-Davis and UW-Milwaukee.

That’s a pretty eclectic group of schools ranging in level, academics and geography.

Biggest July stock-riser: Martice Mitchell, Bloom

It’s always been about the pure upside and potential when it comes to Mitchell. And based on sheer upside, he has been a longtime City/Suburban Hoops Report top five prospect in the Class of 2020 while so many put into question past and current production rate and consistency.

But few if any bigs can run the floor like Mitchell, who has endless length and, as a 4-man with 6-9 size, more skill than people realize. He has the capability to face up, knock a shot down out to the three-point line and impact the game with his length and agility.

Bloom’s Martice Mitchell (2) looks for an open teammate.
Bloom’s Martice Mitchell (2) looks for an open player.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

The level of recruitment Mitchell should have been receiving took some time to develop. It’s here now. He had a lengthy list of offers heading into the month of July and had taken a visit to Rutgers. But he added offers from Xavier, Minnesota, Maryland, New Mexico and South Florida to close out the month.

Other Summer stock-risers in Class of 2020

◼︎ Aquan Smart, Niles North

There was always an abundance of talent and intrigue with Smart, who quite simply has shown that he’s made big strides with his perimeter jumper. The shot has gone from questionable and borderline broken early in his career to being respectable. Add in the physical gifts with his size, length and athleticism in the backcourt, along with the glide and pace he plays at with the ball in his hands, and Smart has been very impressive this summer.

Smart has shot up the Hoops Report player rankings as much as anyone in the class over the past two months. He’s also added a bunch of college interest, including July offers from Illinois State, East Tennessee State, Florida International, UAB and Chicago State.

Southeast Missouri State offered in April while UW-Milwaukee and UIC offered in June.

◼︎ Frank Jakubicek, Cary-Grove

The only committed prospect among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 30 players in the Class of 2020, Jakubicek saw his stock rise considerably during the month of June. He added eight mid-major offers in June but pulled the trigger quickly, finding the right level and ideal fit in Belmont.

◼︎ Dante Maddox, Bloom

Another player whose strengths were taken for granted and overlooked for quite some time. Before the summer the 6-2 scoring guard lacked the college interest he deserved for a strong-bodied guard who can shoot it and really get out and defend. The latter is what kept college coaches coming back to see him.

Now Maddox has a surplus of offers after having just UW-Milwaukee and UIC for so long. Toledo, Missouri State, Loyola-Maryland, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Indiana State, Akron, Cal-State Fullerton, Kent State and SEMO all offered Maddox in the past two months.

Still Overlooked Prospects in Class of 2020

◼︎ Ahron Ulis, Marian Catholic

Yes, he has offers. Good offers. Even a Big Ten offer from Iowa. But it’s taken too long for too many to get on board with the 6-2 point guard.

Ulis will continue to shoot it better going forward while being a true point guard with some size and strength for the position. He has a great way about him and a focus that translates as a productive winner.

◼︎ Bennett and Jordan Kwiecinski, Loyola

As has been mentioned a number of times this summer in this very space, a pair of skilled 6-8 players who can dribble, pass and shoot to some degree at their size are difficult to come by. Throw in the fact they can run and more and it’s always been a wonder why the two haven’t been recruited more heavily.

The recruitment of twin brothers Bennett and Jordan Kwiecinski, while picking up some steam this summer, has been too slow.

Yale was in a very good position early on with Bennett Kwiecinski and remains a viable option. Bennett Kwiecinski has been on the Yale campus and will return there soon. The academic opportunities match up well. But the likes of Illinois State, Siena, Lipscomb and Air Force have extended offers this summer, while the passing interest of some mid-plus and even high-major programs continues.

Jordan Kwiecinski has also received offers from Siena and Air Force. Now Drake and UIC have stepped up and jumped in on the skilled 4-man with late July offers.

Both are clear-cut mid-major prospects who don’t have enough mid-major interest when you start considering their upside and projecting them two and three years down the road.

If a higher level program were to redshirt either one for a year, develop them physically and let them naturally mature and progress as players?

◼︎ Jackson Connor, Marion

It’s difficult not to like Connor. He’s so strong and plays so hard and is a bit of a physical specimen for a kid in high school. The 6-5 Connor impressed when getting to see him at NY2LA’s Next Level Invitational earlier in July. This is a scholarship player at the Division II or low-Division I level.

Biggest stock-riser in Class of 2021: Bryce Hopkins, Fenwick

The City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 2 ranked prospect in the Class of 2021 was already on the radar heading into the summer. The big-bodied and skilled 6-5 wing did enough during his sophomore season to warrant high-major interest and offers.

However, by the time the summer basketball evaluation periods concluded Hopkins was a top 100 prospect in the country with a bevy of high-major offers and interest.

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

Joining a previous pre-summer list of offers that included Illinois, Nebraska, Loyola, Xavier and Northwestern, Hopkins now sports offers from Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Cal, Texas, Creighton, Missouri and Iowa.

There was no player in the Class of 2021 who enhanced their reputation and added more offers at the level he did more than Hopkins.

Other Summer stock-risers in Class of 2020

◼︎ John Poulakidas, Neuqua Valley

There is no question the shot-making 6-5 wing did his job this summer. He needed to show he could make shots at a high rate. He did just that –– in a variety of ways –– garnering attention from mid-major and high-major programs.

When the summer began he had offers from UIC and the former Southern Illinois coaching staff. By the time June had ended Poulakidas welcomed offers from Butler, TCU, Bradley, Saint Louis, Rutgers, Loyola, Brown and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Plus, a boatload of interest from mid-major plus and high-major programs who will continue to monitor his progression over the next 12 months.

◼︎ Louis Lesmond, Notre Dame

While playing with Notre Dame in the month of June, where college coaches were able to see prospects play with their high school teams, Lesmond picked up three big offers. Nebraska, Illinois and Dayton all offered the 6-5 wing in June.

◼︎ Hillcrest’s juniors

They are long, active and still coming into their own but the junior trio of 6-5 Julius Rollins, 6-5 Hamahrie Bowers and 6-5 Jakobi Heady opened eyes. In the case of Rollins, it was a carryover from a productive sophomore campaign. For Bowers and Heady it was a mass introduction to their talents and potential.

Still Overlooked Prospects in Class of 2021

◼︎ Anthony Sayles, Notre Dame

This will certainly change in the coming months and year, but you do have to scratch your head as to why this 6-2 point guard doesn’t have more offers coming out of the summer.

Sayles is a strong, athletic guard who has been very productive in his two years of high school basketball at the varsity level. Plus, he plays the game the right way and offers leadership and poise at the position you desire those intangibles to shine through.

Coach Porter Moser and his staff saw it early and pounced with an offer in June. That and an offer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee remain the only offers for Sayles.

As noted, the interest is only going to pick up and the offers will come. But at this stage in the game he still fits into the “overlooked” categor because this talent is too obvious.

◼︎ Ben Schwieger, Waubonsie Valley

A total unknown to most, the 6-4 Schweiger has put his name on the map with a solid summer playing with his high school team. As a result the sneaky athlete with a smooth shooting stroke picked up offers from Robert Morris and IUPUI. But this is more of a matter of having not been seen enough by college programs. There will be more eyes on Schwieger going forward.