Spring basketball notebook: Meanstreets, Illinois Wolves make good impressions

The club basketball circuits are off and running.

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Bloomington Central Catholic’s Cole Certa (5) takes the ball to the rim against Rockridge.

Bloomington Central Catholic’s Cole Certa (5) takes the ball to the rim against Rockridge.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

The club basketball circuits are off and running. Here is a grassroots basketball notebook from a big weekend, particularly from the state’s top teams.

Pair of club programs stand out

Meanstreets and the Illinois Wolves have been fixtures on the club basketball scene for decades. The two Illinois-based programs kickstarted their respective circuit schedules during last weekend’s first “live” evaluation period of the spring in fashion.

With college coaches out evaluating, the Wolves and Meanstreets 17U teams were the two most impressive teams from Illinois last weekend.

Meanstreets began its quest to qualify for the famed Nike Peach Jam in July by going 3-1 in the opening Nike EYBL weekend, while the Illinois Wolves were an impressive 4-1 in Under Armour Association play.

Meanstreets 1-2 punch

The state’s top prospect in the Class of 2024, St. Rita’s Morez Johson, anchors the interior for Meanstreets. The 6-8 Illinois commit is a physical force. Johnson, showcasing his brute strength and college-ready body, averaged 11.5 points and 6.7 rebounds a game last weekend.

However, the most talented and potent player on this team is actually one in the Class of 2025.

Trey McKenney, an old school 6-5 scoring guard from Flint, Mich., is one of the top 50 sophomores in the country and is playing one age group up. McKenney, who led the team with 17 points a game, sports a long list of high-major offers already, including ones from Illinois and DePaul.

St. Rita’s Nojus Indrusaitis (13.5 ppg) and Lindblom’s Jeshawn Stevenson (12 ppg) took turns impressing as well. While Indrusaitis is already committed to Iowa State, look for Stevenson, a 6-3 guard who put up significant numbers this past season as a junior, to continue opening eyes and adding college interest.

Certa on fire

If the talk following the opening weekend of the evaluation period is any indication, the state’s best shooter is in for a bump, both in his national ranking and in college interest.

Bloomington Central Catholic’s Cole Certa, who helped the Saints to a Class 2A state runner-up finish and made a whopping 118 three-pointers on the season, led the Illinois Wolves to four wins.

The 6-4 guard already has shot past the many mid-major offers he received early on. He now has Butler, Illinois, Notre Dame and Northwestern hot after his services. But expect more high-major programs to be involved going forward.

If you throw out one lemon of a game where he was just 1 for 10 from the field, Certa was terrific. In the other four games he averaged 22.2 points a game while making 17 three-pointers.

Daniel Johnson still top uncommitted senior

Young senior Daniel Johnson was MVP of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and a Sun-Times All-Area selection while averaging 19 points a game this past season. And he remains the top uncommitted senior in the state.

As the 6-6 Johnson remains on the board, he’s keeping his options open while still playing on the club circuit this spring with the Illinois Wolves. This past weekend he continued to grab the interest of college coaches, regularly scoring in double figures with his pull-up, mid-range jumper while dropping in the occasional three.

Johnson will have another “live” weekend in front of college coaches this weekend and see what materializes.

Recruiting tidbits

St. Thomas in Minnesota, an up-and-coming Division I program, has made Illinois a priority in recruiting. Coach Johnny Tauer and his staff have scoured the Chicago area in recent years and continue to with recent offers to Mt. Carmel’s Angelo Ciaravino, Downers Grove North’s Jack Stanton, Yorkville’s Jason Jakstys and Peoria Notre Dame’s Eion Dillon.

Stanton’s play last weekend on the club circuit with Breakaway helped net offers from not only St. Thomas but Fordham and Columbia as well.

Rumor mill

While the college basketball transfer portal is very public, the high school version of it isn’t quite as much — at least not in April and May as players are finishing up their school year.

However, the rumors are rampant. And they aren’t good for Illinois high school basketball.

James Brown, a North Carolina commit who played the past three years at St. Rita, has already announced he’s leaving the state for his senior year to attend Link Academy in Missouri. But there are a number of high-profile players in the state, both in the Class of 2024 and Class of 2025, who appear set to leave for out-of-state prep schools as well this spring.

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