The club circuit is a players circuit, a time to be seen and be recognized when the time is right with college coaches and evaluators watching.
This isn’t about the well-known, established players and prospects preparing for the two April evaluation periods for college coaches. These are up-and-coming names, a few relatively unknown ones, ready to emerge this spring and summer in some fashion.
It’s difficult to narrow the list down but here are a host of current juniors and sophomores who arrived on the high school scene this past winter but did so without much fanfare.
There are the talented but still unheralded –– Xavier Pinson of St. Patrick and Deandre Heckard of Romeoville –– and then those off the beaten path from the likes of Latin, Sterling and Streamwood.
Class of 2018
■ Xavier Pinson, St. Patrick
A point guard with ball skills, poise, imagination and an understanding of the position. The slender 6-1 lead guard is coming off a junior year in which he opened eyes –– Pinson averaged 14 points and 8 assists a game –– while running coach Mike Bailey’s team. He looks to pass first before creating his own offense, hurting foes with the pass while maintaining an offensive game that requires attention. And, oh, the pass … Pinson is one of the best, most crafty passers you’ll find in Illinois with an ability to make those around him better. This is a no-brainer Division I prospect with mid-major potential.
■ DeAndre Heckard, Romeoville
Here is the most recognizable name on the list. 6-2 guard opened some eyes last summer and his reputation grew throughout his junior year as he averaged 12.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals a game. While he does have a few scholarship offers, this versatile perimeter player is set to add a whole bunch more over the next few months.
■ Sam Shafer, Lincoln-Way East
While he gained an early label as a one-dimensional player –– Shafer can shoot the basketball with the best in this class –– this junior’s game continues to expand. He averaged 15.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists a game this past season, including a 30-point outburst in handing Bolingbrook its only regular-season loss. Shafer boasts solid shooting mechanics, range and an emerging offensive game.
■ Zion Griffin, Hinsdale South
Quite a bit has changed for the unheralded Griffin since last year. The 6-5 junior was an unknown a year ago but burst on the scene this past high school season. He put up 17.3 points and 8.2 rebounds for a team that won a West Suburban Gold title. And he certainly caught the eye of the City/Suburban Hoops Report. Now the athletic Griffin with a lively body heads to the club circuit as a City/Suburban Hoops Report top 15 prospect in the Class of 2018. Throw in the fact he may have one of the highest ceilings in the class and mid-programs should be on him now, not later. But this talented and athletic player has received very little interest from college coaches up to this point.
Class of 2019
■ Jeremiah Hernandez and J.R. Cison, St. Viator
The most accomplished and recognized name on this particular Class of 2019 watch list is Hernandez. He’s a rising prospect in the Class of 2019, but the Hoops Report had to include his teammate, Cison, as well.
Hernandez made an impact this past year at the varsity level. He’s smooth, versatile and has a feel for the game as a 6-4 perimeter threat. Hernandez, who averaged 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists a game, has a terrific upside.
Cison is a Hoops Report favorite due to the fact he’s a point guard in the truest sense of the word and plays with a maturity beyond his years.
■ Keenon Cole, Streamwood
A completely under-the-radar prospect this past season while playing for a young Streamwood team. You get excited about his length, how well he runs the floor and his athleticism. Then you throw in the 6-6 forward’s productivity as a sophomore –– 11 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game –– and Cole is a prospect to watch closely in the Class of 2019.
■ Jackson Tanner, Latin
The 6-7 sophomore continues to make such positive strides after playing at the varsity level this past season. While a bit unknown right now playing for Latin, this lefty brings a ton of upside to the table with his soft touch and shooting range that extends out to the three-point line.
■ T.J Wicks, Kankakee
This one is still all about projection and where this 6-8 forward will be several years down the road. The super slim Wicks lacks physical strength, remains raw and is barely a blip on the Class of 2019 radar, but he has tools, plays around and above the rim while boasting a high ceiling.
■ Aidan Shore, Sterling
A little over 100 miles straight west of Chicago sits a still developing but intriguing 6-8 sophomore. The unknown Shore is very raw but a projectable big man prospect who moves well. The lefty has touch facing up from 12-14 feet and around the basket.
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