Five breakout juniors in the midst of big seasons

A look at Hyde Park’s Jurrell Baldwin, Downers Grove North’s Jack Stanton, Stefan Cicic of Riverside-Brookfield and Palatine’s Connor May.

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Hyde Park’s Jurell Baldwin (5) reacts during the game against Farragut.

Hyde Park’s Jurell Baldwin (5) reacts during the game against Farragut.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Hyde Park coach Jerrel Oliver thought the new player in the program, Homewood-Flossmoor transfer Jurrell Baldwin, would be a “glue guy.”

Even after watching Baldwin in fall open gyms, the first-year coach says he had no idea or expected the 6-5 junior to be doing the things he’s doing for the Thunderbirds this season.

“I did not expect this,” Oliver admits. “I saw some things in the fall, but I did not see it trending this way.”

What Baldwin has done after playing on the sophomore team last year at Homewood-Flossmoor is become the go-to player for a top 25 team. The do-it-all threat who can play any perimeter position is averaging 18.1 points a game while hitting 57 three-pointers on the year and regularly posting double-doubles.

“To do what he’s done while playing in the league we play in?” Oliver said. “It’s mind-boggling. And his upside is just huge.”

Baldwin has a vintage offensive game. Whether it’s showcasing a soft jumper, facilitating with outstanding passing skills or turning into an isolation scorer, Baldwin has a knack for impacting in a big way on the offensive end.

Baldwin is one of several breakout players in the Class of 2024. Here are four other juniors who are in the midst of big, breakout seasons.

Jack Stanton, Downers Grove North

The 6-1 combo guard has proven to be a spark-plug scorer, thanks in large part to his perimeter shooting and his ability to get his shot off. He thrives both off the dribble with pull-up jumpers, in transition and with catch-and-shoot threes in the halfcourt.

Stanton, who remains widely under-the-radar, has been terrific. He’s putting up a team-high 15.9 points a game for a team that’s 23-3. A deadly sniper, Stanton is shooting an impressive 46 percent from beyond the arc while making a heavy dose of them with 79 threes made on the season.

Luke Williams, Naperville North

There are very few players who are more important and do more for their team than what Williams does for coach Gene Nolan’s Huskies. He’s a tone-setting player.

The numbers are impressive for the 6-1 guard –– 21 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 3.1 steals a game –– but more importantly he’s an energizer at both ends of the floor.

A top-flight football prospect as a wide receiver, Williams is not only a strong, compact guard who is an absolute load when attacking downhill in the open court, but he’s a threat shooting the basketball as well.

Connor May, Palatine

An argument could be made that May “broke out” a year ago when he averaged 11 points and 4.8 rebounds. Those are impressive numbers for a sophomore.

But the 6-6 swing forward has put a charge into those numbers this season to the tune of 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game. May scores in a variety of ways, whether it’s at the basket, with mid-range jumpers or knocking down one of his 32 three-pointers on the year.

May has been instrumental in leading Palatine to 20 wins and to the top of the Mid-Suburban League West.

Stefan Cicic, Riverside-Brookfield

Big men come along slowly. Nearly every single one of them. Yet there is always the danger of heaping too much responsibility or expectations on young, promising big men.

But Cicic, the quintessential developmental big man, has taken a big step forward in his junior season. Cicic, who is pushing towards a legit 6-11, has seen his production skyrocket. He’s averaging 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and two assists a game while blocking 29 shots.

Cicic, a mountain of a presence inside, is converting 66 percent from the field and with his mechanics and touch shows plenty of promise shooting the basketball for a 5-man.

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