A little over a year ago there were very few projecting a monster breakout season from Tavari Johnson of Lyons. Even in a Covid-shortened season he shined and parlayed it into a big offseason where he became a must-have mid-major prospect.
Players like Ben Vander Wal of Timothy Christian, Justin Mullins of Oak Park and Jackson Munro of New Trier were barely a blip on the radar heading into their junior seasons. They opened eyes and earned multiple Division I offers.
Brother Rice’s Ahmad Henderson and Mount Carmel’s DeAndre Craig made a name for themselves as sophomores last year by putting up significant numbers and playing in the Catholic League. Now they’re household names in high school basketball.
What juniors and sophomores are poised and ready to make a significant jump? The jump will be different for each player as each opportunity and team need will vary. Some will be more gradual and others more substantial.
From the Rubin twins at Simeon to little-known sophomore Andre Blakley, Jr. at Larkin, here are several players to keep an eye on in coming months based on talent, potential and the production they’ve provided early this season.
Miles and Wesley Rubin, Simeon
These two juniors made the move from Homewood-Flossmoor to Simeon just as they were starting to come into their own. The 6-8 bigs are still a work in progress –– in a very good way with upside and physical development still to come. But they have quickly acclimated themselves well at their new Public League home.
The strides the two have made since June, with their individual games and comfort level, have been impressive. As a result, their impact has been felt this season. The Rubin brothers have added a presence the guard-heavy Wolverines needed.
Jaedin Reyna, St. Rita
The obscurity is more about where he plays and who he plays with because Reyna is already a known college prospect.
Teammates Morez Johnson and James Brown are at the top of the sophomore class and gobble up a lot of the headlines. But don’t discount Reyna, a smooth operating point guard with poise and feel for the position.
The 6-0 Reyna has that sought-after blend of shooting and playmaking with the ball in his hands. Blessed with the handle, vision and slickness to manipulate defenders, Reyna, unbeknownst to most, is the best point guard prospect in the sophomore class.
Mekhi Lowery, Oswego East
There is a lot of appeal as this versatile forward brings the playmaking ability of a guard, though the development of his jumper will be the key to his success and growth as a player.
But make no mistake about it: Lowery is a player. And he’s one who is just beginning to tap into his vast potential and high ceiling. The long, rangy wing has become a more prominent part in helping Oswego East to a perfect 10-0 start as he understands his role and excels within it. The 6-5 junior is on the Division I radar.
Jake Fiegen, New Trier
The 6-3 guard made a name for himself with a monumental AAU performance this past summer when he went for 51 points on 13 of 16 from the three-point line. Simply put, he’s one of the state’s best pure shooters and possesses a flamethrower jump shot. Plus, he makes tough, contested shots.
As he plays out his junior season for one of the state’s top teams, Fiegen will continue to show he’s more than just a shooter. Despite some physical limitations, he’s tough, competitive, plays with an edge and complements his shooting with straight-line drives to the rim.
Ryan Cohen, Glenbrook North
The little-known, underappreciated junior guard put up some whopping numbers a year ago in a shortened sophomore season. The 6-2 Cohen averaged 20 points a game and has picked up right where he left off.
Cohen, a deadly catch-and-shoot threat from the three-point line who is shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc (22 of 40) this season, is averaging 19 points a game for the 6-1 Spartans. More importantly, his game continues to be more and more well-rounded.
Andre Blakley, Jr., Larkin
The smooth guard is only a sophomore, but he’s an exciting talent. Blakley is a natural with the ball in his hands and projects to be a big-time scorer with his soft touch and sound shooting stroke. For a young player he’s already an effective marksman off the dribble.
Blakley drained seven three-pointers Tuesday night in Larkin’s win over Fenton and has been highly impactful to start the season. Blakley, who the Hoops Report believes is one of the more underrated prospects in the Class of 2024, is averaging 15 points, three rebounds and two assists a game.
Payton Kamin, DePaul Prep
Without a single starter returning for a program that is now at the point where reloading has become the norm, Kamin is one of the cornerstones of this current reload –– even as a sophomore. He jumped out of the gate quickly this year and is averaging 10 points a game for the unbeaten Rams.
With the shooting touch and range, along with the size and length he plays with at 6-6, Kamin is already on the radar of college coaches. Plus, he’s now showing more of a penchant to get where he needs to off the dribble, though that will improve as he adds more weight and strength.