All the high school basketball recruiting storylines

A look at where recruiting stands amid COVID-19 — a month from National Signing Day.

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Westinghouse’s Martell Webb (32) tries to block Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins (23) as he shoots.

Westinghouse’s Martell Webb (32) tries to block Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins (23) as he shoots.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

While it’s been a recruiting cycle unlike any other for the Class of 2021, we are nonetheless one month away from National Signing Day.

How many will actually sign? That’s the question as the process has slowed to a crawl for a variety of reasons. The biggest being that, due to Covid-19 and all in-person evaluations being shut down, many of the players in the class simply haven’t been seen or evaluated enough for some college coaches to pull the trigger. 

Thus far there have been 13 players in Illinois commit to Division I schools. That is a minuscule number here in October in comparison to past years. Those 13, along with likely a few more, are set to sign in November.

The class wasn’t exactly loaded or super appealing before the pandemic. But there are more scholarship players in the class than the small number of Division I and Division II commitments we currently have. 

The number will grow –– eventually. But college coaches are also toiling with the idea of possibly rolling over scholarships more than they have in the past. Division II coaches are awaiting word on a season and if seniors will be granted another year of eligibility, while everyone at every level continues to be enamored with adding spring transfers. 

Here is a list of some intriguing names and storylines when it comes to seniors across the state. 

The big prize

Fenwick’s Bryce Hopkins is the biggest name on the board. The No. 2 ranked prospect in the senior class is down to nine schools following a summer de-commitment from Louisville. 

The 6-6 forward has California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Kentucky, Michigan, Providence, Oregon and Texas on his short list. Hopkins, who is among the top 35 prospects in the country, is expected to decide by the end of the month. 

The coveted mid-major target

The recruitment of Anthony Sayles, Notre Dame’s productive 6-1 point guard, is at the right level. However, the amount of schools at that level should be greater. 

But that’s good news for the schools who have been on Sayles, including Southern Illinois, which has remained steadfast in its recruitment, and now Toledo, which extended an offer on Wednesday. 

The sleeper

While Hillcrest teammate Julius Rollins has received more notoriety and attention over the past two years, Jakobi Heady has quietly emerged as a bonafide Division I prospect over the past season. 

He’s grown close to 6-7 while maintaining versatility and the ability to stretch the floor with his shooting. 

Heady is a player who may have greatly benefited from showcasing his late-blooming, budding game over the course of the spring and summer with a normal recruiting calendar. Now he could be someone’s steal. 

Ready for their chance

Young’s tandem of Grant Newell and Jaehshon Thomas played supporting roles as juniors while superstar DJ Steward and Division I guard Tyler Beard led the way for the Dolphins a year ago.

Unfortunately, neither were able to enhance their presence on the summertime circuit. Both would have showcased their expanded games and in bigger roles.

Newell is a 6-7 forward with an intriguing combination of size and face-up ability, while Thomas has a knack for scoring the basketball with his shooting.

The must-have Division II prospects

Both Downers Grove North’s Jack Mielke and Bolingbrook’s Isaiah Stafford are hot commodities among Division II programs who continue to hope they both stay within their reach. 

With size, shooting ability and strong academics, Mielke is drawing a wide-range of interest. Truman State, Hillsdale, Northwood, Northern Michigan, Lewis, Rockhurst and Indiana Tech have all offered the 6-6 stretch 4-man. But Division I programs San Diego, Brown and Lafayette are keeping close tabs. 

Stafford is set to get his due this season as he becomes a focal point for the Raiders with the departure of high-scoring Darius Burford. While the scoring guard has Division I programs poking around, he already sports offers from Illinois-Springfield, Northern Michigan, Truman State and McKendree.

Five underrated prospects

Kimahri Wilson, Carmel: The pass-first point guard has been a bit of a forgotten player in the class despite natural basketball instincts and outstanding vision. Wilson, who has scored 1,247 career points, should be attracting more interest after a highly-productive career thus far. 

Landon Moore, Bloomington: This one is a mystery. The 6-0 guard is a shot-maker and has been vastly under-recruited. He averaged 18.3 points a game as a junior and is a scholarship player, just one without any offers. 

Jordan Rice, Rock Island: He’s not uncommitted anymore, but Illinois-Springfield landed an outstanding Division II recruit last month in this talented point guard.

Gary Clay, Jr., Rich (the new combination of Rich East, Rich South and Rich Central):An under-the-radar guard with scoring and shooting ability who, quite frankly, needs to be seen. This is a potential scholarship-type player in the south suburbs. 

Hakim Williams, Round Lake:Already a 1,000-point scorer after averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds a game as a junior, the 6-3 wing is vastly overlooked. Williams should be on the radar of small college scholarship programs.

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