Henricksen: Storylines to follow in July

Ayo Dosunmu (11) of Morgan Park looks up at the clock as time runs down. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

We are one day away from the first “live” period in July. Here are a half-dozen storylines to follow when talking Illinois players and prospects across the state as we head into the July evaluation period.

 

Ayo Dosunmu’s July run and what it could mean

There isn’t a more high-profile prospect in Illinois heading into July than Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu.

The recently released Rivals top 150 has the 6-5 point guard as the No. 21 prospect in the senior class. Scout has the state’s top-ranked senior prospect at No. 29 and ESPN has him at No. 38.

Those rankings firmly place Dosunmu in the McDonald’s All-American Game conversation. The Burger Boy selections can be controversial and sometimes even political, but Dosunmu is right there heading into the all-important July evaluation period.

While the McDonald’s All-American selections aren’t made until the middle of winter, the July evaluation period –– and the post-July rankings that follow –– will be the biggest indicators of whether Dosunmu is chosen. The first month of a player’s senior season just doesn’t have as much impact.

If Dosunmu, the only Illinois prospect with a chance to be chosen as a McDonald’s All-American in the Class of 2019, is left off, it would be alarming for a state recognized for its high school basketball. And here’s why.

Illinois didn’t have a player selected to play in either the 2016 or 2017 McDonald’s All-American Game. That is the first time in the history of the 40-year-old game where Illinois didn’t have a single player in back-to-back years. Now we’re talking a possible third straight year?

Our state’s last McDonald’s All-American was Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson in 2015.

The best and most fitting compliment the City/Suburban Hoops Report has given Dosunmu over the years is he’s just a player who was born to play basketball. Here’s hoping he was born to be a McDonald’s All-American, because the state of Illinois needs one.

 

Can fringe top 100s in 2018 solidify themselves?

Rankings don’t mean everything. Some would say they don’t mean anything. But they have been and currently remain a strong indicator of talent and potential.

There are years and classes in the past where the City/Suburban Hoops Report has clearly disagreed with the national rankings when it comes to Illinois prospects. In their defense, national evaluators aren’t able to see all the Illinois prospects as much as a local evaluator, particularly during their high school season.

The majority of the time an Illinois prospect won’t be seen by a national evaluator from July of one year until April of the next year. That’s nine months of pivotal development for a high school player, including an entire high school season, so there is often some major catch-up to be done in April.

Illinois has just two players in Rivals’ top 100. There are three players from Illinois in Scout’s top 100. It will be interesting to see how many there are when the July evaluation period is over.

Dosunmu, a consensus top 40 prospect nationally, is locked in and will remain a top 100 player. Whether he rises or slides a bit in the rankings, the top 100 status is not going to change.

Champaign Central’s Tim Finke remains a consensus top 100 player as he’s ranked No. 77 by ESPN, No. 83 by Scout and No. 92 by Rivals. But it was just 18 months ago when Finke, a 6-6 forward with high-major offers, was among the top 35 players nationally and ranked as high as No. 21.

Orr’s Ty Mosley jumped into Scout’s top 100 in May and currently ranks as the No. 87 player in the country. The 6-5 guard is the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 19 ranked player in the Class of 2018.

Then there is Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker, who is just on the outside of Rivals’ top 100 at No. 102. The City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 2 prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2019, Horton-Tucker has the potential to establish himself as a top 100 talent. But he will be doing that with a new club team in July as he tries to quickly establish a comfort level with Team Rose after leaving the Mac Irvin Fire.

The critics, including high-major college coaches the Hoops Report talks to who decided not to recruit Horton-Tucker, were stuck on these concerns: They questioned his athleticism and how well he moved, along with just what position he plays at the next level?

While there can be questions raised to both when projecting him to the highest level, it’s a little bit too much over-evaluation when you consider all he brings to the table. He’s versatile and is a big-bodied 6-4 baller –– regardless of position –– who can dribble, pass and shoot. Those types of players are difficult to find at any level.

 

The progression and realization of red-hot George Conditt

The fast-rising George Conditt, an unknown prospect just six months ago, is nowhere to be found in national top 100 rankings. He’s unranked by Scout.com which lists him as a three-star prospect. Rivals recently released its top 150 prospects in the Class of 2018 and the 6-10 senior from Corliss was left off the list.

That’s OK. Conditt has yet to really be seen by very many national evaluators. In fact, the majority of the schools and coaches who have offered Conditt, which now consists of a whopping 25-plus Division I programs from all levels, have never seen Conditt play live.

Many of those schools have seen video highlights of Conditt. Maybe they’ve reached out to nab some game film of action in the unwatched Public League’s Blue-South from this past winter. And they’ve listened to accounts and area scouting reports from evaluators who have watched him several times during the spring. The City/Suburban Hoops Report profiled and highlighted the rise of Conditt back in May.

All of it was enough to offer a scholarship to a player who is approaching 6-11 and has such a high ceiling with his endless length, skill and coordination for a player his size. However, the lights will be brighter in July, and there will be a whole bunch of eyes on the very promising Conditt over the next three weeks.

But everyone involved –– from Conditt, to national evaluators to the coaches who will be scouting him this July –– know he still has plenty to prove despite his ascension, which includes being the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 4 ranked prospect in the class in Illinois.

With Conditt, it’s really all about projection and what you think he can become three years from now. But a firm evaluation from coaches, which begins this July, is needed first.

 

Watch E.J. Liddell’s status rise

The City/Suburban Hoops Report once again gushed about E.J. Liddell after watching him dominate and manhandle foes at the Morris Shootout last month. Let’s repeat what was said last month:

The 6-7 Liddell is a man among boys at the high school level with his size, strength and growing versatility. He will be the biggest mismatch in high school basketball this winter in Illinois. He dominates the glass, snaring rebounds at its highest point, can step out and hit a three-pointer, and absolutely obliterates high school defenders on the block.

But when it comes to his man vs. boy basketball attributes, it’s not just from a size and talent standpoint; it’s how he plays and goes about his basketball business. Liddell has such a workmanlike approach and has fun playing. When you add a relentless motor with a punishing physicality to his basketball gifts, you have something special. Throw in some obvious unselfishness for a star and a face-up jumper that’s only going to get better and better, and it’s easy to start questioning the national rankings.

The Belleville West Class of 2019 star is a top 100 prospect –– he’s ranked No. 90 by Rivals and No. 98 by Scout –– and has high-major offers from local high-major programs, including DePaul, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Missouri and Kansas State.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report will be surprised, however, if Liddell’s status doesn’t grow nationally after playing out the month of July. It’s really difficult to imagine 90-plus prospects better than Liddell in the Class of 2019. And there’s zero chance his list of suitors doesn’t grow immensely between now when he can sign, which is still 16 months away.

 

What juniors will take the next step?

This is a time when the juniors really start being evaluated by college coaching staffs. There are some who still aren’t quite ready to make the big jump some of them will still surely make.

While it’s not always the case across the board, the City/Suburban Hoops Report has always believed the largest strides are made by players during the course of the their junior year. For these kids in the Class of 2019, that junior year essentially begins in July.

It will be interesting to see what juniors in Illinois are ready to make an early splash. Specifically, can a player out of the Chicago Public League take a big step forward? There is an alarming talent drop in the city in the Class of 2019 as we sit here at the midway point of their high school careers.

When looking at the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 20 prospects in the Class of 2019, there are currently just three players from the Chicago Public League in the top 20.

The Hoops Report has raved about the progress of a few juniors in the class over the past couple of months, including Naperville North’s Tom Welch. This versatile 6-7 forward is just beginning to come into his own as a player and, up to this point, has arguably been the most overlooked prospect in the Class of 2019.

The highly-skilled 4-man can move, fill lanes in transition, put it on the floor and can run, catch and finish with terrific hands. He’s poised for a breakout junior year as his confidence catches up with his added skill.

 

Under-recruited players in Class of 2018

No, the Class of 2018 isn’t loaded. But there remain several players in the class whose recruitments have been slower than they should.

In a column I wrote on Monday, I pointed out a host of players who have been under-recruited. There was an obvious omission: Simeon’s Messiah Jones.

The athletic, hard-nosed 6-5 post is a no-brainer mid-major prospect. I don’t care about being an undersized inside player or that he lacks the skill level you want in a 6-5 player, which is what the detractors will say. He’s ultra-productive, a savage on the glass, will block a shot on the defensive end and finish above the rim on the offensive end. I would take Jones, who has not received anywhere near the interest he should, in a heartbeat in the Horizon League or Mid-American Conference.

Here is a short list: Henricksen’s Class of 2018’s under-recruited, overlooked prospects heading into July.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

3 comments

  • aaron

    No news on Francis Okoro and Chris Payton? They are both top 5 players in the state in the class of 2019 but no love from the Chicago media?

  • Devonne Duling

    Joe, Kenyon Duling from Morgan Park is also a certain underrated prospect. He has a Great Spring and Adidas Gauntlet this pass weekend.

  • Don Chipman

    Is EJ Liddle AS GOOD AS ADVERISED

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