Tony Nixon, D.J. Cooper and the 2A state champs?

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By Joe Henricksen

While taking in action at the DeLaSalle Summer League and watching a loaded Seton Academy play, you ask yourself this: “Seton is going to be Class 2A?” This team, with the addition of point guard D.J. Cooper (and possibly Jordan Walker?), is absolutely loaded.

Coach Kenny Stevenson already welcomes back the talented Tony Nixon on the wing and his son, junior Kenny Stevenson, Jr. But the addition of Cooper, a transfer from Hales Franciscan and one of the top players in the Class of 2009, puts them at another level. With North Lawndale moving up to Class 3A, Seton becomes an overwhelming favorite to win the Class 2A state title. Cooper has been terrific this offseason, proving he is a legitimate mid-major prospect.

While Cooper is in the fold, another potential transfer to Seton is Jordan Walker, who transferred to Hales last year from Champaign and sat out the entire season. While Walker, who plays with Meanstreets in club ball, has not played with Seton, he has been present for each of the last two Seton games at DeLaSalle and is trying to gain eligibility to play there. And add senior Corbin Thomas, an athletic 6-5 inside presence who has opened eyes this spring and summer, and Seton will likely be a top 10 team in Illinois regardless of class.

Nixon continues to showcase his terrific shooting ability. Monday night he promptly dropped in his first four shots from beyond the arc in Seton’s lopsided win. He has the body, 6-5 size and shooting ability to be a perfect mid-major prospect, yet he is still reluctant to do much off the dribble. In fact, he doesn’t even look comfortable handling the ball, which is no doubt a concern when evaluating his game. But with his size and release point, he is a deadly weapon out and around the three-point line.

DeLaSalle star shines

DeLaSalle, which also figures to be a top 10 team when next season rolls around, was led by its star. No, not Mike Shaw, but Derek Needham, an overlooked player in the Chicago area when talk of top guards is discussed. While Shaw was a non-factor with little interest in both DeLaSalle games, it was Needham who stole the show.

In DeLaSalle’s matchup with Leo, Needham shot the heck out of the ball. He showed what an offensive weapon he is, knocking down threes, a pull-up jumper off the glass and a variety of takes to the basket. In the nightcap against St. Rita, Needham struggled with his shot but took over the game in the second half by getting to the basket and finishing. That is the one area that is of concern due to his size. He often gets caught up in the air, unable to finish around the basket. In my mind Needham is a no-doubt-about-it low-Division I prospect. He’s physically put together, a strong athletic type who can score.

Big-time backcourt

While the Hoops Report has been singing the praises of St. Rita guard Terry Johnson for the past 12 months, it was his future backcourt mate, Pat Miller, who was impressive at DeLaSalle. Miller, yet another transfer from Hales Franciscan, is a junior guard to keep an eye on. Johnson and Miller should form one of the top backcourts in the state this coming season.

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