Off and running in July

By Joe Henricksen

With the two largest summer events in the Chicago area tipping off this weekend at the Baylor Youth D-1 Elite Event at York High School in Elmhurst and the King James Summer Classic throughout the north and northwest suburbs, here are a few quick observations from the first few days of the July evaluation period. The Hoops Report took in action at Mandel Oliver’s Chicago Tip-Off Classic at Riverside-Brookfield and Antonio Curro’s Next Level Invitational in Milwaukee.

Chicago Tip-Off Classic

The Hoops Report loves the upside and potential of Joliet West’s Marlon Johnson, the rising 6-9 senior who has jumped into the top 10 in the Hoops Report’s Class of 2012 rankings. He’s still very raw and is very much a “down the road” prize as a college prospect. But whether it’s the junior college route, a year of prep school or sitting out at a four-year mid-major/mid-major plus program and redshirting, Johnson would benefit greatly in developing his game and adding weight and strength over the next year or two. The Hoops Report, however, still believes his upside is enormous for a player that came on as a rebounder and defensive presence for Joliet West in the second half of the season and has taken a big step forward this spring and summer. He has a lot of tools to work with, including a fine face-up jumper.

Winnebago’s Marcus Posley, who plays with Rockford Auburn’s Fred Van Vleet on Pryme Tyme, was impressive his first day at the Chicago Tip-Off Classic. Basically, Posley did his his thing as a rugged and physical guard whose playmaking abilities and perimeter shot, while inconsistent, are getting better. Although just 6-0 (maybe 6-1 on a good day), Posley has the strength and length that allows him to play much bigger than his height. Those attributes will help him defensively at the next level and allows him to get to the basket and finish against bigger players. Posley is a solid mid-major prospect.

While big-named players like Milik Yarbrough of Zion-Benton and Paul Turner of St. Joseph were in action and played well for Ferrari at the Tip-Off Classic, sophomore guard Marcus Smith opened the eyes of the Hoops Report. The smooth 6-2 guard, who looks as if he may be transferring from Mt. Carmel to Hyde Park this coming school year, has a very versatile game for a young player. He is a player to keep an eye on in the Class of 2014.

When you add up-and-coming sophomores like Elijah Robertson of Neuqua Valley and Miles Reynolds of Whitney Young, along with the return of injured Paul White of Whitney Young, this Ferrari team is one for college coaches to keep tabs on throughout the month of July when looking at young talent.

Another player who continues to climb in the Class of 2013 is Marquise Pryor, a well built, athletic 6-6 junior out of Orr. He was again solid at the Tip-Off Classic. He simply has a great nose for the ball and uses that strength to his advantage on the glass and with put-backs and second-chance scoring opportunities. He’s active, runs the floor and brings some energy. Loyola offered Pryor last week.

The Hoops Report has noted the terrific promise of a few incoming freshmen, including Whitney Young’s 6-3 Charles Matthews and Simeon’s 6-4 wing Dennis Williams, this past spring. These two were in action while playing with the young Ferrari team and, in the eyes of the Hoops Report, are the top two prospects in the Chicago Public League in the Class of 2015 heading into their freshman year. While it’s so premature considering the age they are, these two are clearly on the right path. The Hoops Report was also impressed with incoming freshman guard Joffery Brown, who will be headed to St. Joseph, and Brandon Hutton, a big, active 6-5 forward headed to Simeon.

The only committed prospects in the event, Van Vleet (committed to Wichita State) and Whitney Young’s Gabe Snider (committed to UIC), were watched closely by their future coaches throughout the first day of action. Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall and assistant Dana Ford made the trip in for the first day of evaluations to watch newly-committed Van Vleet. The two were all smiles as the Hoops Report watched Van Vleet shine. And head coach Howard Moore of UIC kept tabs on Snider, who was playing with the Illinois Warriors. The 6-1 shooting guard committed to the Flames back in February.

Next Level Invitational

A pair of players who have been highly under-recruited as July rolled around were Proviso East’s Keith Carter (see Hoops Report blog earlier this week) and Waukegan’s Akeem Springs. Both were in action with their respective AAU teams in Milwaukee — Carter with NLP and Springs with Rising Stars — and had their moments in showing they are two players more deserving of scholarship offers.

Springs immediately passes the look test and continues to offer a dimension that sometimes can get lost — playing with a motor and being a potential lockdown perimeter defender at the next level with his length and body. His skill level continues to round into shape as his handle and jumper still needs to be refined. However, when you compare his shooting and ballhandling from three years ago when he played on the varsity level for coach Ron Ashlaw as a freshman to today? It’s like night and day. Plus, he’s terrific academically.

Carter isn’t a jet-quick, athletic point guard. And he’s not a knockdown shooter. College coaches will certainly have their reservations over those issues as they evaluate Carter throughout July. But the kid finds ways to impact games. He makes plays — tips, rebounds, steals, assists, boxes out, finds a loose ball. And he has the ability to score and is very savvy on the floor. Any program in the Mid-American Conference in need of a point guard should have already offered Carter by now. And those in the Horizon League, Missouri Valley and comparable leagues should be watching Carter throughout July.

Glenbrook North’s Andrew McAuliffe remains a below-the-rim but skilled 4-man and a top 20 prospect in the Class of 2013. While he does lack athleticism, he’s now 6-8 and continues to finish around the basket with both hands very efficiently. Drake head coach Mark Phelps has offered McAuliffe.

Cameron Harvey, who once was committed to Wyoming but has been out of the limelight for some time, played well in spurts in Milwaukee. The power-packed 6-3 wing shot it better and opened some eyes. Harvey will be heading to Wheaton Academy this fall.

Orion’s Tanner Williams is hobbling. The 6-6 senior’s biggest strength is his athleticism, yet an ankle injury suffered late last week looks as if it has zapped his bounce and athleticism while playing in Milwaukee with the Peoria Irish. For a player who is just getting his name out there, it’s an inopportune time to have to deal with any type of injury that limits his athleticism.

Promising point guards

As noted on numerous occasions, the Class of 2012 is lacking in surefire, head-turning prospects. Nonetheless, the point guard position offers up an interesting collection of players.

1. Fred Van Vleet, 5-10, Rockford Auburn … Wichita State commit is the best and most pure point guard in the class. His jumper has improved and his value as a lead guard can’t be undervalued.

2. Anthony Beane, Jr., 6-1, Normal … A long, terrific athlete who has made a considerable jump with his overall play in the last 12 months. The perimeter jumper remains the question mark, but Beane is a talent.

3. Michael Orris, 6-3, Crete-Monee … Love his court savvy, passing ability, size and presence as a true point guard. He’s the ideal mid-major point guard prospect. Orris is now playing with Old School on the AAU circuit this July.

4. Keith Carter, 6-0, Proviso East … As noted, Carter is a player that finds ways to get things done. Teams up with Aaron Simpson of North Chicago for NLP.

5. Derrick Randolph, 5-7, Hyde Park … A topsy-turvy career thus far, but when he’s on the floor he does put pressure on opponents at both ends of the floor. He brings some toughness and competitiveness.

6. KaDarryl Bell, 5-11, Oak Park … A bundle of talent is wrapped up in the explosive Bell, who is learning to run the point and make decisions in the halfcourt. So difficult to defend in transition and in the open floor.

7. Jaleni Neely, 5-10, Simeon … Great kid who suffered a tough break with a knee injury that looks like it will keep him out of action until probably November. He was playing the best basketball of his career over the past couple of months.

When you add talented combo guards like Jeff “Keke” White of Peoria Manual and Darrell Combs of Thornwood to the mix, who are a pair of Hoops Report mid-major favorites, there is a lot to like when looking at players that can play the point guard position at the mid-major level.

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