Mount Carmel’s Angelo Ciaravino is the breakout star of the summer

The 6-6 senior has turned heads and is now the hottest name in Illinois high school basketball recruiting.

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Mount Carmel’s Angelo Ciaravino (33) hits a jumper in the lane against Hyde Park.

Mount Carmel’s Angelo Ciaravino (33) hits a jumper in the lane against Hyde Park.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

The breakout player. It happens every summer.

There are times when it’s subtle. The attention and college interest trickles in at a pace not really noticed.

Then there is the breakout with the exclamation point and the proverbial — and often overused — “blowing up” description attached to the player. It’s the player who goes to a level not expected.

Mount Carmel’s red-hot Angelo Ciaravino is the latter.

The 6-6 senior has turned heads and is now the hottest name in Illinois high school basketball recruiting. Ciaravino is this summer’s breakout player.

For Ciaravino, the breakout summer has been an intersection of talent meeting commitment with a large dose of confidence bursting through. There has been a pronounced leap, both in his game, approach and, now, with his recruiting.

“I am thankful and grateful for people saying those things,” Ciaravino said of the recent attention. “It means a lot to be called the breakout player. I really feel like a lot my hard work and sacrifice is paying off.”

Ciaravino had established himself as a Division I prospect throughout his junior season. He put up 16 points, six rebounds and three assists a game. As all-stater DeAndre Craig’s sidekick, Ciaravino helped the Caravan to 27 wins and a sectional title game appearance.

But as we head into late July with the high school live periods and the club circuit in the rearview mirror, the dozen or so mid-major programs that were courting Ciaravino are now holding on for dear life.

Ciaravino may say he’s “never cared about the level” of Division I basketball, but the high-major programs are starting to line up. There are offers from Northwestern, DePaul, Nebraska and Stanford, and there are other high-major programs very close to pulling the trigger.

“I have some downtime now, so I am going to look into a bunch of these schools with my family,” Ciaravino said of the upcoming recruiting process. “It’s going to be very hard. I am going to take as long as I need with this.

“I’m looking for somewhere that feels like home, no matter where it is, whether it’s across the country or right here at home. I think I’m going to know right away whether it feels like home and then I will trust my senses.”

But before he has to make that next big decision of where he will play his college basketball, the question for many is how did Ciaravino get to this point? The player who had just a handful of offers heading into the summer, from the likes of Radford, St. Thomas, Southern Illinois and Miami-Ohio, now has 20-plus offers since the calendar turned to June, several of which have come from the highest level of college basketball.

Ciaravino, whose dad Tony was a high school star at De La Salle in the 1980s and played four years for coach Dick Bennett at Wisconsin-Green Bay, has shined all summer. He became a catalyst for Mount Carmel in June and opened eyes while playing with the Illinois Wolves in July.

While his body won’t immediately wow you physically, Ciaravino plays with terrific basketball strength. He’s a tough competitor who with that tenacity finds so many ways to impact winning.

Mount Carmel’s Angelo Ciaravino (33) throws down a shot late against Hyde Park.

Mount Carmel’s Angelo Ciaravino (33) throws down a shot late against Hyde Park.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

“I’ve told a lot coaches that rather than playing in air-conditioned gyms, Angelo has played more games on concrete than any player we’ve had in recent history,” Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins said. “He has a certain level of toughness in him that’s refreshing when it comes to today’s athletes. There’s no entitlement. There’s no self-serving part of his game.”

Yes, Ciaravino has grown and appears to be more athletic by the week. He is shooting it better, particularly from the three-point line, the handle has tightened up and he’s now finishing above the rim with resounding dunks. But there hasn’t been one single significant jump in something he does as a player that has led to Ciaravino’s transformation — at least not one that’s tangible.

Ciaravino, though, credits his confidence for his rise as a player. He said he gained quite a bit of confidence and started dreaming of playing Division I basketball as a 15-year-old while playing and practicing with the Illinois Wolves. He states the dream of playing Division I basketball began for him when he realized what it would take from playing in those early days with the Wolves.

“It was a side of basketball I’ve never seen before,” Ciaravino said of playing with the Illinois Wolves 15U team a few years ago. “It changed my perception of what it would take to get there, to be a Division I player, and what I need to improve on individually.”

But the player’s realization didn’t quite match up with the commitment right away.

Ciaravino says he’s had a lot of different talks with his dad, a former Division I player, along with his travel basketball team coach Mullins, that focused on getting him to believe in himself.

“Talks with my dad and coach Mullins have been about how they look at me and how they see a better player and see more value in my game than I saw in myself,” Ciaravino said. “After all those conversations, and with just working and playing, it’s now at the point where I see it as well and my confidence is up.”

Mullins thinks back to over a year ago when trying to raise Ciaravino’s overall level of play became a personal project. The veteran coach saw a few electric glimpses in Ciaravino’s game that stood out, glimpses he didn’t see a year earlier when he was playing with the 15U group. But he also saw a whole lot more in him that needed to come out.

“I made an emphasis when he was playing with the 16s to really be on him,” Mullins said. “I would go over to 16U games and pull him out of games, and he remembers that. I don’t think he realized how much more he had to give, how to work harder, how he needed to be in better shape physically and to mentally keep focus for an entirety of a game.”

Mullins calls the next 12 months “a year of raising the bar in every way” for his star player. Ciaravino took it to heart, made a serious commitment and came back to the Illinois Wolves this past spring as a different player — physically and mentally. With that came an entirely new level of confidence.

“He was in unbelievable shape to manically play harder and longer than anyone else this year,” Mullins said. “With that hunger to win, the conditioning and mental aspect being a game-changer for him, he’s impacting the game in every single area. And that’s what all the college coaches are telling me they like the most about him.”

There is a definite trust Ciaravino has in his game, and it shows in the way he plays and approaches games and attacks situations on the floor. The confidence has changed how he goes about playing the game.

“I’ve now heard it a lot from people who will say to me that every time they watch me that I’ve gotten better, or they say they see something different about my game,” Ciaravino said. “That confidence piece is there and with that I think you see a different player. Something this summer has clicked.”

Instead of laying in the ball on drives to the basket or in practice, Ciaravino says he wants to dunk. Rather than forcing the issue and taking a defender off the dribble, the versatile wing says he feels more confident with his jumper when the situation calls for it.

Mount Carmel coach Phil Segroves sees a difference. Segroves has watched how leading a team has translated into confidence as a player.

“I think confidence is an easy word to use, but I think it’s true in Angelo’s case,” Segroves said. “But what I would say in relation to confidence with him is in his ability to now lead a basketball team, the confidence to put a team on his shoulders. He knows he can play that role now, and I don’t think he’s felt that way until now. He feels he can do this, that it’s his team now.”

Ciaravino will be leading a Mount Carmel team that will undoubtedly be among the top 10 in the Chicago area when the season tips off in November. In addition to having a bonafide star in Ciaravino, the Caravan welcome back double-figure scorer Tre Marks, who has received Division I offers this summer, and up-and-coming junior Grant Best.

There are two newcomers in Christian Uremovich, a 6-7 transfer from Stevenson, and guard Cameron Thomas, who started out at Mount Carmel before leaving for his sophomore year and returning.

“We have had great teams the last two years, but we have a group this year that is strong, together,” Ciaravino said. “Our team this summer worked hard and had a lot of fun. Even right now we want to get in the gym together and work, together as a team. I feel like it’s going to be a very special year.”

Which follows up on what has been a very special summer for Ciaravino.

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