What have we learned so far this offseason? That many of the major players in high school basketball, particularly several of the Chicago Public League’s upper-echelon teams, have all upgraded their talent through transfers.
That was evident at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.
While R-B is always a sneak peek at the upcoming season, everyone does realize when watching that a player or two is often missing, teams have not practiced, scoring rules and clock management is different, and many times coaches aren’t on the benches with their teams.
Curie returns veterans in 6-7 Tyree Martin and 6-8 Treavon Martin, a pair of inside players with a ton of big game experience. These two seniors-to-be provide a defensive presence in the lane and around the basket. The Martin brothers were named co-MVPs at R-B as they helped propel the Condors to a Riverside-Brookfield Shootout championship.
But after watching Curie at R-B, it’s a team that will obviously prosper as a result of an influx of transfers. The Condors have reloaded with a trio of newcomers.
Maurice Commander, last year’s East Suburban Catholic Conference Player of the Year at Marist, former St. Joseph star Marquise Walker and underrated 6-4 Jayden Gasby from Urban Prep Englewood, will all be impactful transfers for Curie. Commander and Gasby led Curie in scoring in a semifinal romp over Simeon at R-B.
Maybe the biggest addition this past weekend at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout was Simeon’s Zion Young. The 6-3 shooting guard, who is originally from Merrillville but most recently attended Wasatch Academy in Utah, opened eyes with his body, strength, toughness and shooting ability. He plays with a blend of ruggedness and skill.
It’s easy to see, based on one weekend of play at the R-B Shootout, the impact Young will have for Simeon. Young is clearly among the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2018 in Illinois.
While Orr did not play in the R-B Shootout, the defending Class 2A state champs did make some noise this past week with more transfer news. Orr returns the majority of its team and last week added Chase Adams, who has transferred to the West Side power after making an impact at Marian Catholic. Adams now becomes a valuable point guard for a team that lacked a true one.
Pinson is ESCC’s best: After a breakout junior season and opening eyes on the club circuit during the spring, St. Patrick’s Xavier Pinson has established himself as the top player in the East Suburban Catholic Conference heading into the 2017-2018 season. He looks the part of a catalyst for the Shamrocks this winter.
In St. Patrick’s first three games played in the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout on Saturday, the slender 6-2 point guard averaged 23.3 points a game, including a 37-point, buzzer-beating performance over Batavia. He followed it up with games of 22, 20, and 22 on Sunday, including knocking down 11 three-pointers en route to winning the second-place bracket at R-B.
Pinson has been fast-climbing the City/Suburban Hoops Report player rankings in the Class of 2018 for the past six months. Western Illinois has done a terrific job of identifying Pinson early and making him a priority. He should have more college interest up to this point than he currently does. He’s a player Horizon League and Mid-American Conference programs in need of a lead guard should be on before closely evaluating this July.
The very slender Pinson lacks the strength you would like, but he’s long and has a smoothness in his game, along with a very natural feel and glide that you covet at the point guard position. With an improving perimeter jumper that he continues to display, Pinson constantly puts pressure on opposing defenses.
Larkin impresses: While Larkin didn’t make a run to a championship game, the Royals were still a team that opened the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s eyes at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout.
Larkin beat two-time defending Missouri champ St. Louis Vashon behind the 1-2 punch of guard Anthony Lynch and 6-9 Jalen Shaw. Lynch was ultra-impressive in scoring 30 points in the win over Vashon, constantly beating defenders off the dribble and attacking the basket.
Coach Deryn Carter’s team will be among the top teams in the western suburbs and a likely preseason Top 25 team when the season begins. Lynch is a scoring lead guard while Shaw provides a major presence around the basket.
In addition, Larkin welcomes back Pierre Black, who was a major contributor last season as a sophomore, 6-5 Isaiah Talley and guard Kindrell Morris from a team that won 19 games and played without injured star Christian Negron.
Don’t discount Joliet West yet: The backbone of last year’s 26-win Joliet West team has departed. Veteran stars Teyvion Kirk and Trevian Bell are off to Ohio and Wisconsin-Green Bay, respectively. Key players such as Elijah Ward and Tabyous Casterberry have also graduated.
But there are a trio of players in the Class of 2018 who gained experience a year ago.
Eddie Creal, an athletic 6-3 punishing finisher, and guard Michael Smith are both primed and ready to become the focal point of coach Nick DiForti’s team. Both were impressive for the Tigers in Riverside-Brookfield Shootout play, while Charles McKinney is a late-blooming 6-3 wing.
While Romeoville appears ready to pounce in the Southwest Prairie Conference this winter, Joliet West ran the table last season and will again be a major player for the top spot in the league.
The rise of George Conditt continues: In a little over four months, 6-10 George Conditt has gone from an unknown prospect who played for little-known Corliss and an AAU team called Team RWA to a City/Suburban Hoops Report top five prospect in the Class of 2018 with a dozen-plus scholarship offers.
After a multitude of low-major and mid-major offers, Conditt landed his first high-major offer this past weekend from Illinois while on an unofficial visit to the Champaign campus.
[Read more from the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Conditt HERE]
Odds, ends, more thoughts …
■ The 15th annual Riverside-Brookfield Shootout was once again smoothly run, well attended and brought together many of the top Chicago area teams together. Organizer Mike Reingruber, a longtime assistant coach at R-B, now takes over the Bulldogs program as head coach.
■ Fenwick’s D.J. Steward is so talented. That’s not exactly news, but it’s going to be fun to watch the sophomore’s development over the next three years. In addition to Steward, the player who is set to make the biggest jump is Damari Nixon, a junior guard who is difficult for a defense to keep in front of them.
[Read more from the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Steward HERE]
■ The City/Suburban Hoops Report is a big fan of Bogan junior point guard Jeremiah Washington and his speed and burst with the ball in his hands. In addition to Washington, Bogan has a host of exciting juniors who won a sophomore city championship last year who aren’t big names but will make the Bengals better than people realize.
■ DePaul Prep’s Elliott Sieger is so composed a really knows how to play. When you watch him it doesn’t surprise you the big impact he made this past season as a freshman. Plus, he’s grown a little.
■ The Upstate Eight River has produced some fun over the past few years. It will once again this winter. The aforementioned Larkin will likely be the favorite, but Geneva showed flashes at R-B once again of being a potential 20-plus win team. Throw in an experienced St. Charles East, led by Justin Hardy, and the UEC River race should be tight.
■ While the City/Suburban Hoops Report hyped up incoming freshman Patrick Baldwin, Jr. of Loyola Academy last week, here’s a quick reminder about the Ramblers: Senior guard Kevin Cunningham can play. Cunningham is an underrated player in the Class of 2018 and will have small college programs flocking to him going forward.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport