Illinois recruit Ty Rodgers helps Thornton take down St. Rita
The stage was set for a memorable clash between Illinois recruits when Thornton and St. Rita faced off at the Chicago Elite Classic on Saturday.
The stage was set for a memorable clash between Illinois recruits when Thornton and St. Rita faced off at the Chicago Elite Classic on Saturday. Thornton features Ty Rodgers, a top 100 national player that recently transferred from Michigan and committed to IIlinois.
St. Rita has a bevy of talented young players, including 6-9 sophomore Morez Johnson, who committed to Illinois last month.
Unknown junior Vincent Rainey snuck in and stole the show. Rainey scored 19 points off the bench to lead the Wildcats to a 60-51 victory at Credit Union 1 Arena.
“He can shoot the ball and he loves the lights,” Thornton coach Tai Streets said. “That was awesome.”
Rainey scored 16 in the first half as Thornton (4-1) built a 33-24 lead.
“The big game just gives me more motivation,” Rainey said. “I knew college scouts were going to be out there and that is why I started playing ball in the first place.”
St. Rita’s twin sophomore towers of 6-9 Morez Johnson and James Brown crowded the post, so Thornton shot from outside. The Wildcats were 7 for 24 from three-point range.
“Normally we don’t shoot all those but the game dictated it,” Streets said. “They were playing a lot of zone. I don’t mind them shooting it if they are open.”
It was the first game on a major local stage for Rodgers. He didn’t disappoint. The 6-7 senior is a perfect example of a point forward. He finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals while dictating the pace of the game for large chunks of time.
“I think it went pretty well,” Rodgers said. “It was a little bit sloppy but we came out here and got the win and played solid as a team so I’m happy with it.”
Johnson and Brown had relatively quiet games. Johnson opened with a dunk and finished with eight points and nine rebounds. Brown added nine points and six rebounds.
St. Rita sophomore Jaedin Reyna dazzled early in the third quarter, scoring four consecutive buckets at one point. He finished with 17 points.
Rodgers led his Michigan high school to a state championship last season. His presence immediately raised expectations at Thornton.
“He just does everything,” Streets said. “He brings the ball down the court, guards the best guy, rebounds. He does everything at a high level.”Thornton opened the season with wins against Peoria Manual and Decatur Eisenhower before losing to Bolingbrook last week.
“We aren’t where we want to be yet, no one is,” Streets said. “But I think a lot is possible with this group if we keep improving.”
Brown and Johnson play club basketball for Streets’ Meanstreets AAU team, so he was very familiar with his opponents.
“They are young but they are going to be awesome at the end of the day,” Street said. “We know that.”
St. Rita (4-2) beat De La Salle on Friday. The Mustangs other loss this season is to St. Louis Vashon.
“It was pretty cool out there,” Reyna said. “I had never played in front of a crowd like this. It was exciting but I think [Thornton] came out better as a team and we weren’t able to pull it off.”