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Joe Henricksen’s 3-pointer: Evanston thrives despite departures, Adam Miller’s honor, Palatine leads MSL West

A few years ago Evanston was flooded with a remarkable collection of middle school talent.

Simeon’s Ahamad Bynum checks the clock during a stop in action.
Simeon’s Ahamad Bynum checks the clock during a stop in action.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

A few years ago Evanston was flooded with a remarkable collection of middle school talent. It was the rare type of young talent that had basketball people talking and raving about what was to come.

Currently, the driving force behind Evanston’s three-year run of high-level success has been a group of juniors, including Blake Peters, Jaylin Gibson, Elyjah Bull and Isaiah Holden.

But it’s pretty stunning when you add in the fact that Patrick Baldwin, Jr., Anthony Sayles and Ahamad Bynum also attended Evanston/Skokie School District 65 schools in their middle school years.

Baldwin, who was headed to Loyola Academy out of eighth grade before his father, Patrick Baldwin, Sr., was named head basketball coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is currently the No. 3 ranked prospect in the country. He’s playing at Sussex Hamilton just outside Milwaukee.

Sayles, now at Notre Dame, and Bynum, who is at Simeon, are bonafide backcourt stars in the junior class. They are both among the top 10 junior prospects in the state. Bynum has committed to DePaul and Sayles has mid-major offers with high-major curiosity.

In the senior class, current Niles North star Aquan Smart attended a District 65 school throughout his middle school years. Now he’s the top uncommitted senior prospect in Illinois averaging over 20 points a game.

In addition, last year Louis Lesmond moved from France to Evanston, where he was a part of Evanston’s state runner-up team last season. Lesmond transferred to Notre Dame this past offseason where he’s among the top five prospects in the junior class with high-major offers.

For all the star-studded talent that left Evanston, the players who stayed put have all accumulated more wins, championships and experienced more team success than any player that’s departed.

In two-plus seasons the junior group at Evanston has already compiled an 83-14 record while playing in countless high-profile games. They’ve won Thanksgiving and Christmas tournaments and played in big shootouts. They’ve been a part of multiple regional and sectional championships.

Most importantly, Evanston’s junior class has played on the biggest stage in the Class 4A State Finals each of the past two seasons. The group has already been a part of bringing two state trophies back from Peoria, finishing third two years ago and a state runner-up finish last season. Now the Wildkits are 23-3 with another potential postseason run on the horizon.

Adam Miller picked for Nike Hoop Summit

Adam Miller’s selection to the Nike Hoop Summit is a big deal.

Morgan Park’s senior guard, who is ranked among the top 30 players in the country in the Class of 2020, picked up a big honor Thursday. The Illinois recruit was one of 12 players named to the 2020 Nike Hoop Summit roster.

“It’s a big honor to be selected,” Miller said of being named to the team. “It also shows my perseverance as I didn’t make the USA team the first time. But I kept going to the camps. I stayed the course, and now I have that opportunity to put that USA jersey on, be coached by great USA Basketball coaches and play with my brothers one last time. I’m really excited. It’s a big game to be a part of and a great opportunity.”

Miller joins a USA roster that includes the top three players in the country: 6-7 point guard and top-ranked player Cade Cunningham of Montverde Academy in Florida; 6-5 shooting guard Jalen Green of Prolific Prep in California; and 7-foot big man Evan Mobley out of Rancho Christian in Temecula, Calif.

The 23rd annual Nike Hoop Summit will pair the USA Junior National Select Team against the World Select Team in an April matchup in Portland. The past 10 No. 1 NBA Draft picks have played in the Nike Hoop Summit.

Miller, who committed to Illinois in November, is a scoring guard averaging 26 points a game for the Mustangs. Blessed with tremendous shooting range and scoring ability, Miller, a combo guard with size, is the No. 2 ranked player in Illinois in the senior class.

Palatine leads MSL West

For all the talk in the Mid-Suburban League about the high-major junior prospects –– Max Christie of Rolling Meadows and Chris Hodges of Schaumburg –– and the scoring exploits of Buffalo Grove sophomore Kam Craft, Palatine has very quietly moved to the top of the MSL West.

The Pirates are hot, winning eight of nine and have gone an impressive 13-3 since their 4-5 start to the season. They also played highly-ranked Glenbrook South tough in a 60-54 loss in that stretch.

Big man Julian Campbell remains the focal point. The big-bodied, skilled 6-6 junior is averaging 20 points and nine rebounds a game while being surrounded by a capable three-point shooting team.