At first glance this past summer, from a basketball evaluator’s perspective, Glenbard West sophomore Braden Huff was instantly a no-doubt-about-it Division I prospect. It took about eight trips down the floor to figure out the thin, gangly kid out of Glen Ellyn was legit.
Again, this was strictly from an evaluator’s eye, projecting the future and believing what you see to be true after doing this for 20-plus years. Huff immediately was among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects in the Class of 2022 coming out of the summer.
Fast-forward seven months later and Huff has lived up to that early promise and first impression. When you consider you are never sure what to expect from such a young player at the varsity level, particularly one who is so far away from being physically developed, Huff has even surpassed expectations.
The highly skilled 6-8 forward is doing it all for a 12-3 team. He’s averaging 17.3 points along with eight rebounds, 2.7 assists and three blocks a game. He recently went for 26 points in a two-point loss to Oak Park and is averaging just over 20 points in his last eight games.
“His production has been even more than I had hoped,” says first-year Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka, who spent the last seven years as the Hilltoppers sophomore head coach.
Huff is still an unknown prospect. There’s been no hype, no scholarship offers and though he plays at a school that has produced Division I players in John Shurna, Justin Pierce and Evan Taylor in the past 15 years, Glenbard West hasn’t exactly been a basketball hotbed.
But this much is true: Huff is the best young prospect in Illinois no one knows anything about.
That’s all changing very soon. Huff is among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five prospects in the class. He may just be the next best college prospect in the Class of 2022 behind the No. 1 player in the class, Tinley Park’s AJ Casey.
“His ceiling is as high as it gets,” says Oak Park coach Matt Maloney, who played Glenbard West last week. “He does so much more than you realize, and he’s such a tough guard for us. He shoots over defenders, scores at the rim and is so skilled.”
With continued progression as a player, along with all the tools he’s blessed with at his size, Huff is currently on the fast track to being a high-major prospect. He checks off so many boxes, starting with the fact there just aren’t many players at his size and age with his offensive skill set.
The lefty is a threat beyond the three-point line where he’s shooting 42 percent (23 of 54) on the year. Projecting his ability to stretch the floor at his position is already an attractive part of his game as a prospect.
He can play with his back to the basket with feel and touch around the rim. He can handle the ball on the perimeter and has natural instincts for passing. Defensively, he uses his length to alter and block shots.
There is work to be done. There always is for a player so young. But what’s most enticing about Huff as a prospect is what’s still to come. Long and agile, Huff is still a baby physically and is only scratching the surface of what he will become. His game is advanced but it will only get better as he gains weight and strength.
Huff’s emergence, along with the impact of two other sophomores at the varsity level, guards Cade Pierce and Paxton Warden, makes Glenbard West an intriguing team now and in the future.
After playing varsity minutes last year as a freshman, Opoka didn’t shy away from placing some big expectations on Huff. Opoka didn’t care if Huff was only a sophomore. He told his prized young talent he had to be an immediate leader.
“We had to hold him accountable, because he was the only player returning with varsity experience,” says Opoka.
The versatility he brings to the floor makes Huff a nightmare for opposing coaches trying to match up with his size and unique skill set, particularly his passing ability that has led to nearly three assists a game. As a result, the Hilltoppers lean heavily on Huff.
“Because he’s so skilled, we had to create our offense through him,” says Opoka. “He’s super skilled and knows how to play basketball. He scores but he also creates for others with his passing and is able to facilitate. You can put him anywhere on the floor.”