Nine juniors set to make a big jump this season

“We as a staff have never been more behind with a junior class,” said a high-major assistant coach in regard to evaluating the Class of 2022.

SHARE Nine juniors set to make a big jump this season
Glenbrook South’s Cooper Noard (11) shoots the ball against Evanston last season.

Glenbrook South’s Cooper Noard (11) shoots the ball against Evanston last season.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

They are aching to be seen.

The uncertainty of when they will have eyes on them still lingers; the pandemic shut down evaluation periods for college coaches and limited the showcase opportunities over the past year.

“We as a staff have never been more behind with a junior class,” said a high-major assistant coach in regard to evaluating the Class of 2022.

It’s going to take more time — the first college coaches can be out in person is the middle of April — but it’s coming. The fanfare for these players will come in due time, starting with the glimmer of hope these players recently received with the start of the high school season in Illinois now underway.

Here are a host of juniors set to make a big jump.

Dylan Arnett, DePaul Prep

There hasn’t been a player in the Class of 2022 who has made a bigger jump in the eyes of the City/Suburban Hoops Report than Arnett.

While he had some brief appearances at the varsity level as a sophomore, Arnett is a relative unknown. But he has impressed in workouts and scrimmages with the Illinois Wolves over the past several months.

As a result, the 6-9 big man has vaulted up the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s Class of 2022 rankings and is now a rock solid mid-major prospect before the start of his junior season. With Arnett pushing past 6-9, confidence growing and getting more and more comfortable playing the game, the upside is huge.

“He came here as an athlete and not a basketball player,” said DePaul Prep coach Tom Kleinschmidt of Arnett, who was a swimmer and baseball player before basketball. “But he’s now really picking up the game. He works hard. His skill level has improved so much, while he will still make an athletic play that will drop your jaw.”

Arnett boasts a big, strong body and frame but can also get off the floor and runs the court so well for a player at his size. He also can step away from the basket and spread the floor with three-point shooting range.

Timaris Brown, St. Patrick

Of all the players on this list, the 6-4 wing is the one who produced at the highest level last year as a sophomore. He averaged 12.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 blocks a game. He even knocked down 40 three-pointers last season.

However, even with being among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 15 prospects in the class, Brown is still a relative unknown. But he’s poised for a true breakout junior season as one of the elite players in the East Suburban Catholic Conference this year.

Brown, who continues to combine untapped upside with proven production, boasts athleticism, a strong body and versatile offensive efficiency.

Tavari Johnson, Lyons

Johnson is the lone player on the list who didn’t experience any varsity action a year ago.

After dominating at the sophomore level with 19 points a game, the 6-0 junior opened eyes with his play in a scattered offseason this past summer. With no returning starters back for coach Tom Sloan, expect the ball in Johnson’s hands a lot and opportunities galore for the slick point guard.

“He gets off the floor is explosive athletically and gets where he wants on the floor with the ball in his hands,” said Sloan. “He’s a scorer but sees the floor so well, which is one of his biggest and most overlooked strengths.”

Johnson can score at all levels. He’s effective in getting to the rim with his basketball speed, possesses three-point range and a pull-up game off the dribble. With the now underrated tool of vision and finding teammates, Johnson is set to emerge as one of the top guards in the class.

Xavier Amos, Young

It’s not very often you find an unknown commodity at a powerhouse like Young. But Amos is just that as a captivating prospect at 6-7 with skill, athleticism and an endless wingspan. Although unknown and virtually unseen, he’s among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects in the junior class.

Last year was a difficult one. Amos dealt with a high ankle sprain virtually all season and didn’t see action at the sophomore level until the end of the 2019-20 season, playing in five games to close out the year.

He will get a chance to shine when basketball is played again. There are opportunities galore at Young with the departure of superstar DJ Steward and Division I recruit Tyler Beard.

Cade Pierce, Glenbard West

As a sophomore last season Pierce was just a baby physically while playing at the varsity level. Nonetheless, Pierce made a significant impact with his overall production and well-rounded game. He handled point guard duties, averaging 3.5 assists a game, was the team’s best perimeter defender, led the team in charges taken and filled a stat sheet.

Pierce is a high-ceiling, jack-of-all-trades perimeter threat. The late-developing Pierce has grown to 6-5 while maintaining the versatility he showed a year ago. Look for the impact and production to increase, along with the Division I interest.

Ethan Marlowe, St. Charles North

Here is an ultra-intriguing 6-8 forward who played valuable minutes off the bench last season and showed flashes of being a Division I prospect.

While the numbers were modest, the promise and versatility at his size impressed. He continued to show improvement this offseason and is now among the top 25 prospects in the class.

Marlowe has length, agility and can play inside and outside as a 4-man who can stretch the floor. He shot 39 percent from the three-point line a year ago.

Ben Vander Wal, Timothy Christian

Before the shutdown last March, Timothy Christian was headed to Peoria for a Class 2A state semifinal showdown with Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin. And Vander Wal was a big reason why.

The sophomore averaged 10.3 points a game while leading the team in rebounding with 7.2 a game. He also knocked in 36 three-pointers.

As Vander Wal pushes towards 6-6, his overall game has expanded and his confidence has taken a step forward. As a result, he’s climbed the class rankings and become a player to watch in the Class of 2022.

Vander Wal has some athleticism off the floor, can shoot the three and is a wiry finisher around the basket. The offensive acumen, along with a penchant for hitting the offensive glass, should lead to some whopping offensive production.

Nick Martinelli and Cooper Noard, Glenbrook South

This junior tandem helped the Titans to a school record 29 wins a year ago as sophomores. They are both poised for a breakout year and will be two of the top players in the Central Suburban League South. They will emerge as scholarship-type prospects.

After playing in the shadow of his brother, Dom Martinelli, Nick Martinelli is a 6-6 junior with versatility, craftiness and production. Noard is a top-shelf, competitive guard with scoring ability (11.4 ppg) and who excels shooting the basketball. The 6-0 guard buried a whopping 84 threes while shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc.

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