High school basketball notebook: Jeremiah Fears leaves, new coaches at West Aurora, Lockport, Stevenson

Jeremiah Fears has joined what is becoming a lengthy list of high-level basketball prospects from Illinois who have left the state.

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Joliet West’s Jeremiah Fears (2) goes to the net over Rolling Meadows.

Joliet West’s Jeremiah Fears (2) goes to the net over Rolling Meadows.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Jeremiah Fears has joined what is becoming a lengthy list of high-level basketball prospects from Illinois who have left the state.

The Joliet native, who starred for Joliet West this past season as a sophomore, announced last week he is headed to Sunrise Christian, a prep school in Kansas.

The 6-1 point guard has been the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2025. Fears already sports offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Georgia, Gonzaga, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Oregon, Xavier and others.

Before returning to Joliet West for his senior year this past season, Jeremy Fears, Jr., Jeremiah’s older brother and Michigan State recruit, left after his freshman year to play two years at La Lumiere in Indiana. The two teamed up this past season to help the Tigers to a 28-6 record.

The list of stars who have left the state in recent weeks includes the St. Rita tandem of James Brown and Melvin Bell. Brown, a North Carolina recruit, is headed to Link Academy in Missouri for his senior year, while Bell, another bright, young prospect in the Class of 2025, is off to La Lumiere.

The growing trend has included several highly-ranked prospects in recent years. JJ Taylor and Bryce Heard both left Kenwood. Taylor is headed to Memphis next year after moving from Chicago to California, while Heard is among the top 50 prospects in the country in the Class of 2025 and attends Montverde Academy in Florida.

The biggest departure, however, was Matas Buzelis. The versatile 6-10 Buzelis left Hinsdale Central for prep school following his freshman year and quickly emerged as a top five prospect in the country.

West Aurora coaching hire with strong roots

Michael Fowler, a starter on West Aurora’s only state championship team in 2000, is returning to his alma mater. The Blackhawks will welcome back the former guard as their next head coach.

Fowler has deep roots with West Aurora. He was born and raised on the west side of Aurora, where both he and his father played.

Fowler, who was out of coaching this past year, has spent his entire coaching career at Plainfield East. He was an assistant with the Bengals from 2008 to 2017. Fowler was then named the head coach and compiled a record 57-69 in five seasons.

Lockport hires Andrew’s Dave Wilson

Lockport, a program with a long basketball history, hasn’t won 20 games or a regional championship since 2011.

Dave Wilson has done both at Andrew, a program with zero basketball history, since taking over as head coach at the Tinley Park school in 2014.

Andrew has always been one of the more challenging basketball coaching jobs in the Chicago area.

The Thunderbolts, however, have often overachieved under Wilson. He’s put together six winning seasons in the last seven years in a job where there’s been marginal basketball talent and little to no basketball tradition. He guided Andrew to a 20-win regional championship season –– only the third in school history –– just two years ago.

Wilson returned just one starter from a year ago and found a way to guide the Thunderbolts to an 18-13 mark this past season.

Stevenson finds replacement for Ambrose

The shoes are big. But Will Benson will be the one to fill them.

Benson, the veteran head coach with stops at Harvard, Marengo and Huntley, will replace Pat Ambrose at Stevenson, pending approval of the District 125 school board at its next meeting.

Ambrose, who turned the Patriots into one of the best, most consistent programs in the Chicago area, resigned last month as head coach. He guided Stevenson to four IHSA State Finals appearances, including a Class 4A state championship in 2015. In 24 years at the school, Ambrose compiled an impressive 505-191 record.

Benson has spent the last nine years at Huntley. While just 136-128 in nine seasons, Benson’s Red Raiders have gone 86-28 in the last four. That included a pair of 27-win seasons and two regional championships.

This past season Benson led Huntley to 22 wins and a regional title.

Benson spent one season at Marengo, where his 2013-14 team won 20 games, and three years at Harvard prior to that.

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