Five observations from the final weekend of summer club basketball

Momentum builds for Kenwood’s Jaden Smith, a pair of Mac Irvin Fire players impress and more.

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Kenwood’s Jaden Smith (1) blocks a shot by Curie’s Sherod Dent Jr (25).

Kenwood’s Jaden Smith (1) blocks a shot by Curie’s Sherod Dent Jr (25).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The name of the NY2LA Sports event this past weekend in Wisconsin was fitting. NY2LA’s “Final Chapter” put the finishing touches on both the NY2LA Basketball Association, where it wrapped up its grassroots season with tournament play, and the annual summer club circuit, which included two “live period” days for college coaches to attend.

Here are five thoughts from the weekend.

Momentum builds for Kenwood big man

Kenwood’s Jaden Smith has been a name high on prospect lists since he began his freshman year at Lincoln Park.

As is the case with most big men, the development of Smith has crept along at a slow pace. Following a transfer to Kenwood, the overall production has been tepid. But when you’re a player pushing close to 6-11 with an easy-to-see upside, patience is a must in the evaluation process.

Smith has put together what is probably the best and longest stretch of production he’s had as a prospect. He followed up a productive opening July “live” period weekend with another one at NY2LA’s Final Chapter this past weekend.

The hope has always been for Smith to turn into a rim-running, rim-protecting big man who can play with some of the modern-day big-man skills he possesses. The simple plays are coming more easily for Smith, who has good hands and a body and frame to work with on the block.

Smith has re-energized his stock with his play and climbed back up the state player rankings after dropping a bit over the past two years. He should be in more college coaching staff discussions — from mid-major to high-major programs — following his play in recent weeks.

Mac Irvin Fire 2026 group has a chance

The Mac Irvin Fire 15U team showed a whole lot of promise this past weekend at NY2LA’s Final Chapter, even while playing without Marist’s Stephen Brown, the highly-regarded 6-7 rising sophomore.

The biggest name of the group, Jamson Coulter, is fresh off a big, productive freshman year that garnered attention while playing at Rich last season. The 6-2 guard impressed this past weekend. The physically strong guard used his physical attributes to his advantage but also hit an array of perimeter jumpers.

More importantly, Coulter is a gamer. He competes and makes winning plays.

Kankakee’s long and wiry 6-4 Lincoln Williams is a rising prospect in the class who has been making a name for himself this summer.

The Hoops Report is high on unheralded Jaden Schilb of Urbana. The smooth, slender 6-3 guard again showed off his shooting ability and didn’t disappoint.

And although he plays his basketball out of state at a prep school in Florida, south suburban native Johnnie Jones is an intriguing 6-7 big man for the Fire. Big-bodied with skill, Jones showcased passing ability you don’t typically see in young big men.

When you add Brown to the mix, and if this team stays together — never a certainty in club basketball — this is an exciting group with a chance to perform at a high level in the next couple of years on the AAU scene.

Mid-Pro Academy rising juniors win big

The Class of 2025 remains a little bit in limbo. With top players departing for prep schools, including the state’s best prospect, Joliet West’s Jeremiah Fears, there is still quite a bit to learn from this class.

But Gavin Sullivan’s Mid-Pro Academy U16 team captured the NY2LA Association championship over the weekend behind the play of five prospects ranked among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 25 in the class.

Even better news for high school basketball fans, there is a bit of a rebirth in Peoria basketball. Dietrich Richardson of Peoria Manual, who is related to former Peoria great and Illinois player DJ Richardson, is the headliner for Mid-Pro. Plus, 6-3 guard LeShawn Stowers of Peoria High is another standout.

There are a couple of young players on defending state championship teams that are also rising prospects in the class. Braden Freeman of Moline, the younger brother of all-stater Owen Freeman, who is off to Iowa after helping the Maroons to a state title in March, is an emerging prospect in the Class of 2025. The 6-5 Freeman is extremely versatile with athleticism off the floor.

Matthew Zobrist of defending 3A state champ Metamora put together a very good weekend for Mid-Pro and is in the midst of establishing himself as a Division I prospect.

Unknown Calvin Worsham earns praise

There are players you evaluate who you gravitate to the more you watch them play. Calvin Worsham, who plays his high school basketball for Christ the King, is one of those players.

His sense of purpose and the engagement he plays with is what grabs your attention. He’s into the game, talking and directing while playing with energy.

Worsham is a 6-5 hybrid forward who plays with strength and finesse. While playing with Denard Brothers on the travel basketball scene, Worsham has shown to be a throwback-type who utilizes his footwork, size and strength to generate space for layups. But he will turn into a playmaker and can be used as a passing hub.

This is a scholarship player who has earned the respect of the City/Suburban Hoops Report.

Team Rose duo sits, Baldwin leaves state

The Team Rose 17U team is filled with Chicago area prospects, including several who have generated some Division I interest, including Mount Carmel’s Tre Marks, Riverside-Brookfield big man Stefan Cicic and Homewood-Flossmoor guard Gianni Cobb.

However, the news out of the NY2LA weekend when it came to the Team Rose roster was the absence of Hyde Park’s Jurrell Baldwin and St. Laurence’s Josh Pickett. Neither played in the final live travel basketball weekend.

Pickett sat out to rest a wrist injury. Baldwin, meanwhile, announced he’s leaving Hyde Park — and the state — while reclassifying to the Class of 2025. Baldwin, who has had a rough, inconsistent offseason following a junior year where he was a Sun-Times All-Area selection, is headed to PHH Prep in Arizona.

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