When it comes to the many rankings of individual high school basketball prospects, it’s the offseason where those players make their mark, especially at the national level.
The summer months are where they are seen. They play on the same court with other top prospects in the country and with a lot of eyes from around the country watching.
The national top 100 lists –– and even selections for the McDonald’s All-American game –– are often determined based on what transpired in the summer, during the shoe-sponsored grassroots basketball events.
With an evaluation already made by the end of July, particularly for rising seniors who are set to sign in November, the high school season can often be an afterthought in the minds of some national decision-makers. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes a hinderance for certain players who develop late, played with nagging injuries or may have had a bad club basketball fit in the summer. At times it’s just hard to make up that ground during the actual high school basketball season.
But a monster senior season right here in Illinois, however, can still matter. Those in-state players are watched closely by those of us here in Illinois. Thus, impressions can be made and minds changed locally over the course of the high school basketball season.
Which brings us to this: Unlike many past years, this year’s high school basketball season will determine the top-ranked college prospect in the Class of 2022.
Remember, this isn’t about being a Player of the Year candidate; the top prospects generally are POY candidates by the time they are seniors. But every year so many fans miss or don’t understand the difference between “top prospect” and Player of the Year.
Sure, they can at times be one and the same. But when you look into the lens of each, we’re talking two completely different prerequisites. There are different evaluation objectives when choosing Player of the Year vs. state’s top college prospect.
For the first time in a long time, the spot at the top of the class is up for grabs with multiple prospects in the discussion. Summer play left us ready to evaluate some more and see which player rises to the top of the prospect rankings in the coming year.
This year’s senior class features four top prospects –– Young’s AJ Casey, Buffalo Grove’s Kam Craft, Glenbard West’s Braden Huff and Yorkville Christian’s Jaden Schutt –– and then everyone else. There is a significant drop in the level of college prospect after those four.
Here is a closer look at the four highly-regarded prospects, who the City/Suburban Hoops Report believes are all top 100 prospects in the country. They will all be vying to be the No. 1 ranked prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2022.
AJ Casey, Young
The player: A little of the unknown remains in a player who still has untapped, long-term potential but has battled some consistency issues over the course of his heavily hyped career. The physical attributes as a 6-8 skilled 4-man have always stood out. Now consistent production is the next big step.
The summer: As noted, it was a bit of an up-and-down summer for the promising and talented Casey, who fought through July playing with an severely injured finger.
The recruitment: Currently Casey doesn’t have any official visits set up. He’s been hearing the most from Memphis, DePaul, Gonzaga, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Florida and Marquette.
Kam Craft, Buffalo Grove
The player: There is a track record of premier production since the day the 6-4 spark-plug scorer entered high school. And it’s continued throughout his career. Craft is what you call a “bucket-getter” who scores in bunches and in a variety of ways, starting as a sniper from the perimeter.
The summer: After missing out on the live high school events in June with Buffalo Grove not playing in either the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout or Ridgewood Shootout, Craft picked up right where he left off in the spring with a resounding notice-me July. He led his Meanstreets club team in scoring and to the semifinals of the prestigious Peach Jam.
The recruitment: After picking up offers and generating a buzz in the spring and visiting Marquette, Iowa and Xavier, Craft committed to the Musketeers on July 1.
Braden Huff, Glenbard West
The player: As versatile and as skilled of a big man as you will find. Huff is a 6-10 prospect who any team can legitimately run its offense through. Huff can handle, pass and shoot while still boasting the upside you covet in a prospect.
The summer: There were moments this summer when Huff absolutely dazzled, whether it was with his high school team in June or with the Illinois Wolves in their run to an Under Armour Association title in July. As a result, his stock soared.
The recruitment: Huff took official visits to Northwestern, Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt in June and unofficial visits to Illinois and Wisconsin. The offers and interest haven’t slowed down with a July offer from Michigan State, where he will take an unofficial visit Thursday of this week, and Gonzaga showing significant interest.
Jaden Schutt, Yorkville Christian
The player: The 6-4 guard has lived up to the hype of state’s best shooter. But he continues to show he’s more than just an elite, fundamentally sound marksman. He’s a player with a competitive edge, sneaky athleticism and a player who opposing defenses must account for with how he shoots and moves off the ball.
The summer: As the leading scorer of an Illinois Wolves team that captured an Under Armour Association title and went 16-1 along the way, Schutt was able to open even more eyes. He showed over and over again the ability to make next-level shots. Look for Schutt to skyrocket up national player rankings.
The recruitment: This one will be a hotly contested recruitment with some big players involved. Schutt took an official visit to Michigan State in June and unofficial visits to Illinois and Iowa. He picked up several other high-major offers this summer, including ones from Florida and Duke.
Schutt is set to visit Duke later this month where the Blue Devils’ coach-in-waiting, Jon Scheyer, is in the process of putting together a monster recruiting class. A possible trip to Florida could follow. Schutt hopes to have a decision sometime in September.