They are still absolute no-namers but Hinsdale South’s Zion Griffin and Glenbard West’s Evan Taylor are two names you’ll be hearing plenty about.
Both are young, blossoming players who have enormously high ceilings as college prospects. But the excitement isn’t just surrounding their potential; the two have become productive, impact players for their respective teams.
Griffin, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds in handing Willowbrook its first loss of the season Friday night, is averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game. He’s an exciting talent and one of the best-kept secrets in the junior class. Griffin has soared up the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s player rankings and will eventually grab the attention of Division I college coaches.
The 6-5 junior plays with electric explosiveness and impacts the game at both ends of the floor with highlight reel dunks and as a gifted shot blocker for his size. Plus, he has a developing mid-range jumper and showcases a comfortable turn-around jumper to go with his pogo stick athleticism.
Without any fanfare, pub or high ranking on player lists, Taylor quietly made his way into the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 20 prospects in the sophomore class heading into this season. The super intriguing 6-5 sophomore wing is long, versatile and blessed with a lot of tools, but he is still at the infancy stage of his basketball development.
Taylor has made his presence felt this season, however, averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds a game while shooting 53 percent from beyond the arc.
Mid-Suburban League basketball has been maligned at times in recent years, but it made a big statement over the weekend.
Surprising Fremd, the favorite in next week’s Wheeling Hardwood Classic, continues to show it’s legitimacy with a convincing road win over Niles Notre Dame to push its record to 9-0.
Conant, with a pair of Division I prospects in senior Jimmy Sotos and 6-8 junior Ryan Davis, picked up a big non-conference win over Benet.
And Prospect, the favorite in the MSL East, handed Stevenson its first loss of the season with a dramatic buzzer-beating shot from unsung star guard Frankie Mack.
While it’s still early, right now the three would be top three seeds in the Elk Grove Sectional in March –– Fremd No. 1, Conant No. 2 and Prospect No. 3.
While Conant has the bigger names in Sotos and Davis, along with the fact it won a sectional championship last year and came into the season with the most hype, Fremd has been one of the best stories in the early part of the season.
Fremd relies on a cohesive senior group that continues to believe in themselves and play with confidence and continuity at both ends of the floor.
If the Vikings can win the Wheeling Hardwood Classic, it’s not inconceivable for Fremd to run the table. The Vikings will be favored in every game it plays in January and February while getting Conant in its home gym Jan. 20.
Coach Bob Widlowski’s team just recently ran the table in the regular season, finishing 24-0 in 2013-2014. That team lost to the Jalen Brunson-led Stevenson team in the sectional championship as a No. 2 seed. This year there isn’t a Jalen Brunson standing in the way.
While high school basketball fans are always thirsty at this time of the year for holiday tournament basketball, a couple of intriguing, pre-holiday showdowns take place Wednesday night.
Simeon and Young, two of the city’s best, will tangle at the UIC Pavilion, while unbeaten Fenwick travels to Benet.
The Simeon-Young matchup has become a healthy and friendly rivalry. But it’s clearly an opportunity for Young to steal some of the limelight it’s been seeking since winning a state championship in 2014.
The Fenwick-Benet battle features a pair of ranked teams but also showcases two of the elite coaches in the business.
Rick Malnati, who was highly successful at New Trier, has pumped more life into an established Fenwick program. The Friars are 8-0 and fresh off a season in which they tied a school record for wins with 28 and captured a Catholic League title.
All Heidkamp has done is lead Benet to an average of 26 wins a season over the past seven years, including Class 4A state runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2016.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport