High school basketball notebook: 12 takes from Joe Henricksen

The shot clock is coming, recruiting is opening up and more.

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Tuscola’s Jalen Quinn plays against Arthur-Lovingon-Atwood-Hammond.

Tuscola’s Jalen Quinn plays against Arthur-Lovingon-Atwood-Hammond.

Daniel L. Chamness/For the Sun-Times

Michael O’Brien and I have our takes. Anyone who has listened to our No Shot Clock podcast during the high school basketball season has heard our “Two Takes” segment.

We both give our opinion on a player, team, coach, story or topic as it relates to high school basketball.

Without the podcast in the off season, my takes start to pile up. So it’s time to unpack my bag of a dozen takes here.

1. The shot clock is coming. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. When that officially happens in Illinois remains to be seen.

But news last week from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) that each state association may adopt a shot clock beginning in the 2022-23 season sets the stage. The Illinois High School Association follows the rules of the NFHS.

So, yes, expect a major rule change to Illinois high school basketball in the near future, because there has already been a massive push locally in this state to add the shot clock.

Last summer the discussion of the shot clock was brought to the forefront by several prominent high school coaches throughout the state. They engaged in zoom calls and conducted a massive statewide survey among boys and girls high school coaches.

Nearly 900 coaches from across the state voted in the survey. Overall, 72 percent voted yes to adding a shot clock in Illinois, with a whopping three-fourths of boys coaches across the state in favor.

2. In a few short weeks the recruiting world opens back up. And that’s huge for everyone.

It will have been roughly 15 months since college coaches have watched a player in person or had a player and his family on campus for an official or unofficial visit. Think about that –– 15 months.

But beginning in June the recruiting will spike considerably for talented high school players. They will finally be able to get on campus for visits and, most importantly, be seen.

There will be two “live” weekends in the month of June. Finally. Followed by a still-to-be-determined July evaluation period for grassroots basketball.

But to get things started, the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, the premier summer event in Illinois, is back. The weekend of June 18-20 at R-B will be the first time college coaches will have laid eyes on a player from Illinois since March 11, 2020.

3. College coaches still aren’t after high school players. So apologies to those still uncommitted and unsigned senior prospects in the Class of 2021.

Every college player has been granted another year of eligibility due to the pandemic. Thus, the transfer portal is still overflowing, and the draw to college-ready players is the optimum choice for a majority of college coaches.

Truth to be told, chances are you probably weren’t good enough for whatever scholarship level you think you should be playing at anyway. Sorry. But go ahead, continue to use the excuse you weren’t seen for a little while longer.

4. While I don’t want to suddenly turn this into a series of negative “takes,” don’t think for a minute that all of these changes aren’t going to have an impact on the current crop of juniors. The Class of 2022 will still feel the affect of the drastic, never-seen-before changes in college basketball.

The no-brainer Division I prospects in the state are still going to be recruited, still have their options among many scholarship offers. But as you work your way down the line of players in my City/Suburban Hoops Report rankings lists, there are going to be prospects who will feel the pinch. The need for the high school player at this moment has dwindled.

The extra year of eligibility, remember, extends to everyone who played college basketball last year –– from graduating seniors to the freshmen who, more or less, were redshirted while still playing in 2020-21.

Plus, the “Wild Wild West” transfer rule will still be in full effect. Players will have that one-time transfer card to play without having to sit out, so the portal will be full again.

The good news? In staying with current lingo, while we will never fully eradicate the new transfer rule and the implications from it, we will eventually reach a little “herd immunity” from it. When massive numbers of college players immediately put themselves in the transfer portal, starting with this current spring, well, their options past that are then limited. In essence, they’re stuck at their second home. That should slow the transfer pace down at least somewhat.

5. While it will be great and advantageous to have college coaches back out again and Illinois players being seen –– not every state across the country will be as proactive with the “live” opportunity as Illinois –– there remains one pitfall.

Sorry. Another negative take.

As of now the IHSA and IDPH are continuing the miles restriction due to Covid-19, limiting team travel to within 30 miles for the foreseeable future. As a result, several prospects will not have the chance to play in events like the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout and the following weekend at the Ridgewood Shootout.

This is really too bad as a player like Tuscola’s Jalen Quinn, one of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five prospects in the state in the Class of 2022, was scheduled to make an appearance at Riverside-Brookfield.

6. I’m going to make a prediction right now. Of all the Hoops Report’s highly-ranked players in the current junior class –– we’ll say among the top 10 –– it will be Quinn, the 6-3 point guard from Tuscola in central Illinois, who will pick up the most scholarship offers in July.

That’s partly because he hasn’t been seen at all and that he currently only has a handful or so of offers that he received last year. While the Missouri Valley Conference schools will continue to hope and pray he stays at their level –– Drake, Loyola and Southern Illinois have offered –– there is no doubt this talented guard is going to generate a whole lot of interest and double-digit offers as he plays this thing out.

Locally, the Valley schools are aware. But schools in conferences like the Mountain West Conference and Atlantic 10 are going to soon lay eyes on him, and there are still several high-major programs lurking around and in contact.

7. No already established player has helped himself more this spring in elevating his own recruiting to another level than Buffalo Grove’s Kam Craft.

The 6-5 guard was already a Division I prospect. There was no question he would be playing at that level. But he added April high-major offers from Iowa, Texas Tech, North Carolina State and South Carolina.

But now consider he’s done that with what was just mentioned above in the first take: No one has seen him play live, in person. Heck in many cases, have never seen him.

It’s not as if college coaches were flocking to Buffalo Grove to see him play when he was a sophomore. The club circuit was shut down last spring and summer. No coaches were allowed to be out during the shortened high school season or this spring. So no one has truly measured him up in person.

Yet Craft, through video, streaming and, specifically, word of mouth, has opened more doors for himself at the high-major level. There isn’t a player I have taken more calls on in recent weeks than Craft.

Have I been part of the Kam Craft hype? Sure. I raved about Craft in my scouting service reports to college coaches that subscribe, and there isn’t a payer I have taken more calls on from coaches than Craft.

Simply put, the sport –– at all levels –– craves shot-makers who can spread the floor. Craft makes shots.

8. Timothy Christian’s Ben Vander Wal should certainly have more going than he does at the Division I level.

While Craft has garnered a whole lot of worthwhile attention, Vander Wal should have as well with his play over the past two months. The 6-6 junior has one offer, courtesy of Division II Wisconsin-Parkside.

Now this is no disrespect to Parkside head coach Luke Reigel, one of the most respected coaches you will find at the Division II level who has had a whole bunch of success, but Vander Wal should have at the very least a short list of offers at this point.

I don’t care if coaches haven’t been out. If Kam Craft is able to generate high-major offers with no one watching, Vander Wal should be able to do the same, garnering at least some Division I offers up to this point.

Those offers will surely come. But it just goes to show how wild, crazy and different this recruiting cycle has been.

9. Glenbard West was already likely to be a preseason top five team next season. Now the Hilltoppers add another big piece to an already loaded team that went 16-1 in this past shortened season.

Bobby Durkin, a talented 6-5 junior, is moving to Glen Ellyn with his family after playing the past three years at Hinsdale South. Durkin has put together an outstanding spring while playing with Breakaway on the club basketball circuit. He’s a high-level shooter with size who put up some significant numbers as a junior.

Glenbard West boasts a high-major talent in 6-9 Braden Huff, the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 3 ranked prospect in the Class of 2022, a Division I prospect in versatile 6-5 Cade Pierce, more size and physicality in 6-7 Ryan Renfro and a hard-nosed veteran guard in 6-3 Paxton Warden.

The addition of Durkin and his ability to space the floor with his shooting will only make the Huff and Pierce more dangerous.

10. As I piece together the lineup and matchups for next year’s When Sides Collide Shootout, which will be held in January at Benet Academy, I have to tell you it’s pretty nice to be talking about playing high-profile matchups from different conferences and geographical areas again.

11. While watching a lot of Meanstreets’ ultra-talented 17U team this spring, the high-major trio of Jalen Washington (Gary, Ind.), AJ Casey (Young) and Ty Rodgers (Grand Blanc, Mich.) have been so impressive in HOW they play.

All three are nationally-ranked; Rodgers is a top 75 talent in the country while Washington and Casey are among the top 30 players in the country. They all play along the frontline together for a loaded Meanstreets team.

Yet they all three play within themselves, go about their business in the right way, encourage each other, don’t demonstrate any bad body language or reactions when they are sharing or coming out of the game. The attitudes are exemplary for players who could be prima donnas.

These three are immensely talented in their own way. That’s obvious. But watching three high-profile players like this go about it the way they do is refreshing.

12. Anyone who pays attention to the college basketball coaching carousel, both with head coaches and even assistant coaches, knows how active and busy of a spring this has been –– locally and nationally.

So much for the pandemic’s impact on the finances of athletic programs, I guess.

“Financially strapped” and “long-lasting repercussions” and “It’s going to be quiet on the job market” is all we heard for a year in college basketball. That certainly isn’t the case at the high-major level, or even at the level just below.

Whether it’s buyouts, long-term contracts or the pool of money for assistant coaches and support staff, the amount of money being tossed around is eye-opening, particularly with that repeated financial storyline we’ve heard over the past 12 months.

You do have to love preaching “amateurism” in college while assistant coaches are now being offered $500,000 to $750,000 and $1 million in multi-year deals. We have suddenly soared past and even skipped a certain salary threshold in college basketball. It’s as if they’re making a sudden, all-out effort to try and close the gap between football coaching salaries in college.

Well, if the money is there …

But assistant coaches at the highest level are now pricing themselves out of head coaching job opportunities at the low-major and mid-major levels. Yes, it’s about opportunity, but are you going to be willing to take a significant financial hit? By that we mean anywhere from a $150,000 to $350,000 pay cut to take a low-major or mid-major head coaching job when often so many of those particular jobs are so difficult to win at?

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