O’Brien: Nine players to keep an eye on next season

Jeremiah Hernandez (33) of St.Viator run past a St. Patrick defender. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

The first two weekends of the spring club basketball season are in the books. Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker was all the talk last weekend in Wisconsin. His recruiting is taking off and he’s rising up the class of 2018 rankings.

That won’t be a surprise to anyone that watched the Wolverines this season. He’s not exactly an under the radar talent. But there are plenty of those players around the area. The dwindling amount of prep sports coverage in the state makes it hard for even really good players to get a moment in the spotlight.

Some players that deserved more publicity this season and are very likely to make major impacts during the next few months of club basketball and next year:

Tyrek Cooper, North Chicago: Possibly the best shooter in Lake County. The junior can light it up from outside. The Warhawks had a number of talented underclassmen playing this season.

Jeremiah Hernandez, St. Viator: The Lions made a nice playoff run into the supersectionals. Hernandez, a 6-3 sophomore, played a major part in that success. He does a bit of everything and is a top-notch decision maker with the ball in his hand.

Javari McClendon, Hope Academy: The numbers tell a lot of the story. The 6-7 junior averaged 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. He’s a hard-working, active player that probably didn’t get enough credit for the Eagles’ run to Peoria.

Teon Nesbitt, Butler: His brother Marvin received all the attention last season, but Teon actually led the Lynx in scoring. The 6-1 sophomore is a tremendous shooter and averaged 20 points.

Drew Peterson, Libertyville: Colleges are already well aware of the 6-7 junior but he flew under the radar this season because the Wildcats didn’t have a very good year. Peterson scored more than 30 three times and averaged 20 points, seven rebounds. It’s not out of the question to imagine him making a run at Player of the Year next season.

Jalen Shaw, Larkin: The 6-8 junior opened plenty of eyes locally this season. He’s a natural shot blocker and improved quite a bit throughout the season.

Aaron Strong, Farragut: The Admirals are ridiculously underappreciated. Strong is one of the state’s top sophomores, but doesn’t get much attention. He scored 28 at Simeon in the city playoffs.

Malik Tidwell, Marian Catholic: He’s just 5-8 and doesn’t have the hype around him as some of the Spartans recent stars, but all Tidwell does is produce. The sophomore can shoot very well and will combine with Chase Adams in one of the area’s best backcourts next season.

Joel Watts, St. Rita: A number of Mustangs could have been mentioned, but Watts is just a freshman and flashed some tantalizing potential this season, so he gets the nod. He picked up a ton of experience this season (as did teammate Alec Millender). St. Rita has a solid young core of players.


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