clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

City/Suburban Hoops Report: The search for a No. 1 in 2023, two-sport powerhouses, prep school threats

With so many elite prospects leaving the state in recent years, the search for the next elite star playing his career out in Illinois remains. 

Lake Forest’s Asa Thomas (14) dribbles around a St. Patrick defender.
Lake Forest’s Asa Thomas (14) dribbles around a St. Patrick defender.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

With so many elite prospects leaving the state in recent years, the search for the next elite star playing his career out in Illinois remains.

The nation’s very top prospects now have multiple avenues to choose from following high school, including the college route, G League Ignite platform, the fledgling Overtime Elite program and playing overseas. Thus, top prospects and their families are trying to best prepare for those immediate opportunities to cash in earlier than ever.

The hope for the college game and college programs is that the new name, image and likeness rules will be enough to entice prep stars to play college basketball as they can now land endorsement deals as amateur players.

However, the prep school route remains a serious threat to high school basketball fans enjoying marquee talent in this state. The pop-up prep schools made for basketball aren’t going away as a growing number of elite players and their families believe the prep school route is the road to take.

Kenwood junior star JJ Taylor, the latest defection, is a prime example. He joins a growing list of elite talent that has left the state. Illinois now has three players in the Class of 2023 all ranked among the nation’s top 30 prospects: Taylor, Matas Buzelis and Jeremy Fears, Jr. And none of them play their high school basketball in Illinois. All three began their high school careers in Illinois but Buzelis left Hinsdale Central for Brewster Academy in New Hampshire and Fears departed Joliet West for La Lumiere in Indiana.

Kam Craft, one of the state’s top senior prospects and top 100 talent nationally, left Buffalo Grove in August for the The-Skill-Factory Prep School in Atlanta.

Mikey Williams, one of the top juniors in the country from North Carolina, now plays at the newly formed Vertical Academy in North Carolina, a prep school founded by his father. Just last week he became the first American high school basketball player to sign an endorsement deal as he landed a shoe and apparel contract with Puma.

Who is No. 1 in 2023?

With Taylor out of the picture the top spot in the Class of 2023 has been left wide open.

Lake Forest’s Asa Thomas, who has grabbed a number of high-major offers in recent months, is the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s highest ranked player remaining in the class.

With such a premium placed on shooting in today’s game, the stock has only grown for the 6-6 Thomas. He’s an elite perimeter shooter who opened eyes while playing with Lake Forest during the high school live periods in June.

Thomas has offers from Illinois, Marquette, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and others.

Cam Christie of Rolling Meadows and Darrin Ames of Kenwood will be in the mix as well for top-ranked prospects in a class that has been hit hard at the top with the departure of star talent.

Two-sport powers

With the second round of the IHSA state football playoffs set to unfold this weekend and the basketball season tipping off in just three weeks, a host of schools can boast they have arguably the best combination of football and basketball in 2021-22?

That short list, which includes several Chicago Catholic League programs, consists of St. Rita, Loyola, St. Ignatius, Brother Rice, Mount Carmel, Glenbard West and Glenbrook South. All are either ranked in this week’s Sun-Times Super 25 football poll or still alive in the state playoffs.

In addition, each school will have high preseason expectations in basketball, including likely preseason top 10 teams Glenbard West, Glenbrook South, St. Rita and St. Ignatius.