City/Suburban Hoops Report Three-Pointer: Kenwood’s claim for No. 1, transfer drama and live period changes

Kenwood is very likely to be the No. 1 ranked team in the preseason.

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Kenwood’s Davion Hannah (25) shoots the ball against Evanston at the 2023 Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.

Kenwood’s Davion Hannah (25) shoots the ball against Evanston at the 2023 Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Kenwood is very likely to be the No. 1 ranked team in the preseason.

The Broncos return the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2025 in 6-9 Aleks Alston, Division I talents in seniors Jaden Smith, Chris Riddle and Calvin Robins, and some promising young players from a team that won the program’s first-ever sectional championship last season.

But if coach Mike Irvin and the Broncos actually add Davion Hannah to the mix?

When preseason rankings are done before games are actually played it’s about projections and what’s on paper. Kenwood is ahead of everyone else if it adds a top 50 national talent to the existing group of returning players.

Hannah, who played this past season at Nicolet High School, just outside Milwaukee, was in action with Kenwood this past weekend at Riverside-Brookfield. He’s an ultra-talented 6-5 force in the backcourt with high-major offers.

Hannah, who plays with Mac Irvin Fire in the offseason, would be the top prospect in the state in the Class of 2025 if he does end up at Kenwood.

The transfer issue

Transfers, transfers, transfers. It’s really the biggest topic discussed from May through August.

No, not just in college basketball but in Illinois prep hoops as well. The transfer is really at a whole other level right now in the sport in comparison to what we’ve ever seen, spearheaded this offseason by the implosion of the St. Rita basketball program and the scattering of so many high-level players.

But anyone who gets all bent out of shape that it happens only in the Chicago area, particularly in the Chicago Public League and Chicago Catholic League, needs a very recent history lesson.

EJ Liddell was the catalyst behind Belleville West winning back-to-back state championships. But the first of those two state title runs was aided by the arrival of transfer Malachi Smith. The 6-3 guard transferred in from Belleville East, played out his senior year at Belleville West and embarked on a brilliant college career, which ended this past season at Gonzaga.

Last year Moline featured Iowa recruit and Mr. Basketball winner Brock Harding at point guard. But it’s unlikely Moline wins a state championship without 6-10 Owen Freeman, an all-stater and Big Ten recruit headed to Iowa. Freeman transferred with his talented younger brother, Braden Freeman, from Bradley-Bourbonnais to Moline for his senior season.

There are also strong rumors that one of the top players in central Illinois, a rising senior, is on the move this summer.

Revamped recruiting calendar?

The live period in June, where prospects can display their worth in front of college coaches while playing with their high school teams for two weekends, is a fresh nuance in the recruiting cycle.

Many years ago it was the norm. In Illinois, all you have to do is think back to the old Morris Shootout days in the 1980s and 1990s. The Morris Shootout was one of the elite events in the entire country that college coaches flocked to for 15 years. Old-timers still talk about the classic matchups and star-studded talent that played in the field house during the heyday of the Morris Shootout.

But for nearly two decades the offseason, at least in terms of scouting and evaluating talent, was solely about AAU and the club basketball scene.

However, scholastic basketball (traditional high school basketball) has shared “live” evaluation periods with the grassroots circuit over the past three summers. And it’s been a smashing success, particularly for low-major and mid-major prospects and college programs.

The NCAA’s proposed recruiting calendar, which was shared with college coaches recently but is not official just yet, is completely revamped.

Currently, there are two April “live” weekends; those two weekends have disappeared from the proposed calendar, replaced by one “live” three-day weekend in May. The change is obviously to help alleviate the time constraints college coaches have had in recent years while engaging in a relentless pursuit of players from the transfer portal during the month of April.

But another change is eliminating one of the two “live” weekends in June.

If the proposed recruiting calendar is approved, the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association needs to seriously consider what’s best for that one “live” weekend here in Illinois next June.

The IBCA has tried to share the wealth, attempting to allow different schools and areas of the state to host. The reason is to try and cut down on travel for some teams with limitations by having different geographical locations.

Normal West has hosted “live” events. The Rockford area has been a geographical location in the northern part of the state. Ridgewood in the Chicago area has hosted twice. Edwardsville and Romeoville have been added to the mix.

But the one constant through it all has been the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, an event that had previously established itself as the premier summer event in Illinois years.

The reason R-B became the premier event every offseason over the past dozen or so years is why the IBCA should consider keeping the “live” event there going forward.

For starters, there is familiarity for everyone involved, whether it be the college coaches or the high school programs that attend. They all know what to expect. They all know how it runs, understand the logistics and how to navigate it from both a scheduling and travel standpoint.

Most importantly, they know the three-day event is going to be run in as flawless of a way as a fluid, less structured summer event can be run. That’s a credit to Riverside-Brookfield coach Mike Reingruber and his R-B staff.

There is no reason to try and change, alter, or fix something that is working so well for everyone involved and has a long history of success to back it up.

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