St. Rita puts on a show at Pangos

Each October in LaGrange, the Pangos All-Midwest Camp brings together many of the top freshmen and sophomores in the state and throughout the Midwest.

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St. Rita’s Morez Johnson (1) shoots the ball as DePaul’s Brian Mathews (33) blocks.

St. Rita’s Morez Johnson (1) shoots the ball as DePaul’s Brian Mathews (33) blocks.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Each October in LaGrange the Pangos All-Midwest Camp brings together many of the top freshmen and sophomores in the state and throughout the Midwest.

No, it’s not the cleanest played basketball or even all that intense. Top players are thrown together on a team –– often with others who you would not consider a “top” player –– and they go up and down against each other for a few hours. There is little to no defense played and running any hint of an offense is unthinkable. Any type of unselfish play is a bonus.

Let’s call it what it is: bad basketball.

But annually this is always an event filled with talent, all of which is young and much of which has been unseen up to this point.

Pangos is an opportunity to get eyes on the next wave of players and prospects as there are dozens of future college basketball players on display.

Here are some observations from the 2021 Pangos All-Midwest Camp.

One program’s impressive display of talent

It’s not very often a high school team makes a statement at an individual all-star type of camp, but that’s exactly what St. Rita did over the weekend, placing four players on the Pangos Top 30 all-star game on Sunday.

Watching St. Rita last year during the abbreviated season was just the appetizer of what could be a special three-year run for the Mustangs. The program is bubbling over with young, up-and-coming talent, and it was on full display at the Pangos event.

Already blessed with the top prospect in the sophomore class in 6-9 James Brown, who has a surplus of high-major offers and was named co-MVP of the top 30 game on Sunday,, teammate Morez Johnson is right there with Brown in the discussion of the top-ranked player in the Class of 2024.

Then there is freshman Melvin Bell, who will be challenging for the No. 1 spot in the Class of 2025.

The 6-8 Johnson was arguably the most impressive prospect at the Pangos event over the two days. He not only looked the part but produced, both with an overpowering ruggedness and an improving offensive skill set. Johnson toyed with opponents at times as he played against players his own age and younger.

Bell, meanwhile, showcased a smoothness and natural talent on the floor that immediately draws you to him as a bright prospect. He has opened the eyes of the Illinois coaching staff as coach Brad Underwood offered the 6-3 guard last month before he has even played a single high school game.

Sophomore point guard Jaiden Reyna is evolving into a dynamic point guard. The 6-0 lead guard gained valuable experience a year ago. He, too, has been offered by Illinois. He plays with speed and ease with the ball in his hands, and there were moments where he dazzled at Pangos.

Top player in 2025?

While it’s way too early to truly start dissecting the current freshman class in Illinois, it’s pretty clear right now there are three players who will be vying for the top spot –– at least early in their careers: Bell, Kenwood’s 6-5 Bryce Heard and Young’s 6-4 Antonio Munoz.

Remembering they have yet to play a high school basketball game, this trio were all at a different level than other prospects in the Class of 2025. They each have size, length and a wide array of scoring potential for such young players. This is an exciting trio of young prospects in the state.

It’s not easy picking who is the best player right now or who has the highest ceiling. But all three will be part of teams that will be ranked among the top teams in the state this coming season.

The state’s next sharpshooter

There are some outstanding shooters in the state. Go ahead and add Payton Kamin of DePaul Prep to the short list of elite snipers from the perimeter.

Kamin, a 6-5 sophomore, will have a big role this season for coach Tom Kleinschmidt who must replace a ton of minutes, production and overall talent from last year’s terrific team. Kamin is set to become one of the better players in the Catholic League due to his shooting ability which was on display at Pangos.

More thoughts and observations

The biggest benefit of the Pangos Camp is an opportunity to get a look at new, up-and-coming players who are set to make a name for themselves sooner than later on the high school basketball scene. The following is a whole list of freshmen and sophomores who found a way to impress.

  • There were a pair of central Illinois players who put together impressive showings at Pangos: Normal 6-8 big man Jaheem Webber and Limestone guard Dekwon Brown. Webber is a player who has been seen quite a bit early in his career playing with the Illinois Wolves on the club circuit. He’s an old school 5-man who uses his wide body well inside and boasts soft hands and touch around the rim and when facing up inside 15 feet. Brown, a super-charged scorer, was named co-MVP of the Top 30 all-star game as he constantly found ways to put the ball in the basket throughout the weekend. Brown has transferred from Peoria to Limestone for his sophomore year.
  • ︎This was a good time to see Lemont’s Nojus Indrusaitis, who is arguably the best young prospect in the sophomore class who the average fan has never seen play. Scoring comes pretty easily for the 6-4 guard who can do it in a lot of ways. It’s fun having a star player at a program like Lemont, and it’s going to be even more fun to see how high Indrusaitis can lift that program’s profile. There won’t be a young player who will mean more to his team than Indrusaitis. He’s yet another player in the Class of 2024 who Illinois has offered.
  • Leo sophomore Tavariyaun Williams, a 6-4 athletic wing with an excellent physical profile, impressed at Pangos. He’s a little-known player who transferred in from De La Salle but is one to watch this season in the Catholic League.
  • ︎Larkin has churned out several quality guards over the years, but sophomore point guard Andre Blakley, Jr. has a chance to be the best of the bunch when it’s all said and done. He has a way about him with the ball in his hands and scoring on his mind as the ball comes out of his hand effortlessly. Those are some qualities you eventually thrive with as you mature physically and as a player.
  • Rolling Meadows is set to be one of the top teams again in the Chicago area and will get a boost from freshman Ian Miletic. The intriguing 6-5 Miletic showed off an impressive skill set at his size that will warrant varsity minutes this season. He looks the part of a Division I player down the road as he adds strength and some consistency with his jumper.
  • In an event like this with very little structure on the floor and an excess of one-on-one play, it’s refreshing to see a pass-first point guard. That’s what Farragut sophomore Jonathan Calmese provided. The 5-11 Calmese surveys the floor so well and was constantly finding teammates in this me-first event. This is an elite passer who is completely under the radar.
  • A couple of other city guards who opened eyes were Carlos Harris of Curie and Quentin McCoy of Lindblom. Both are sophomores and both showed a knack for scoring the basketball. Harris is a power-packed 6-2 guard who attacks offensively and thrives in getting to the rim and has been a fixture early on in the Class of 2024. McCoy is an unknown 5-11 point guard who showed to be a willing passer and capable shooter.
  • Josh Pickett arrived on the scene last year as a freshman playing at the varsity level for St. Rita. The 6-3 guard again showed why he’s ready to help West Aurora following his transfer there as he’s a load when using his strong body and frame at the rim.
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