Illinois recruit Ty Rodgers leads Thornton to dominant win against Larkin
Ty Rodgers is a true point forward. The high school game has slowed to a crawl for him. He’s a step ahead of everyone with his court vision and defense.
Ty Rodgers arrived at Thornton in October on a wave of hype. The 6-6 forward is one of the top 100 players in the country and led Grand Blanc (Michigan) to a state title last season. He committed to Illinois in November and seemed destined to be the area’s biggest star this season.
That didn’t happen. The season started well, but then Rodgers picked up a hamstring injury. He missed two games at the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament. Thornton lost both.
The Wildcats started winning again when Rodgers returned in January, but a 66-49 loss to Kankakee on Jan. 18 brought out the doubters again.
Rodgers is a dominant high school player. There are no doubts about him. He can do everything on the court and seems a full level above his teammates and most competitors.
That was evident in the Wildcats’ 70-47 thrashing of Larkin on Saturday at Orr’s Breast Cancer Shootout. Rodgers had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but the numbers don’t tell the story.
“He does everything,” Thornton coach Tai Streets said. “He’s a pass-first guy, but we want him to shoot more. He’s always trying to make his teammates better. That’s his mindset.”
Rodgers is a true point forward. The high school game has slowed to a crawl for him. He’s a step ahead of everyone with his court vision and defense.
“Nobody can stay in front of me, and nobody can stop me from being me,” Rodgers said. “So I don’t have to go full speed. I can control the pace of the games. It’s feeling really good.”
Thornton jumped out to a 17-5 lead, and the outcome was never in question. Larkin (22-3) is one of the state’s best teams. Top-ranked Glenbard West is the only other team that has handled the Royals with ease.
“They came out with more energy and beat us in every facet of the game,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “They’re really good, and you let a team like that get downhill, and it is over with.”
North Dakota State recruit Damari Wheeler-Thomas led Larkin with 22 points, and sophomore Jakob Blakley added 10 points. Dontrell Maxie, a 6-2 senior, battled valiantly in the post and finished with four points and 11 rebounds.
“This is a good learning experience for us,” Carter said. “We probably needed a wake-up call.”
Thornton (15-5) had a balanced scoring attack. Montreal McCullough led the way with 13 points, Vincent Rainey added 12 and Ariohn Herring finished with 11 points and four rebounds. Mark Williams, a 6-6 senior, had nine points and nine rebounds.
Streets doesn’t have another star to pair with Rodgers, but he has shooters, some size and dependable guards. It’s easy to dream of Thornton’s playoff potential. Anything seems possible with Rodgers on the court.
“The sky is the limit for this team,” Streets said. “I really believe that. I’m not going to put any limitations on this team. I think we have a chance. It’s a long way down the road, but we are playing a lot better. Hopefully, we have turned the corner. But you never know with high school kids. It could all fall apart tomorrow.”