Forget about projecting state champions, holiday tournament chatter and conference races. Save that for November through March.
It’s October and the focus turns to the individual players and their recruitments and rankings.
Ayo and THT watch: The state’s top two senior prospects, Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu and Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker, are still on the board.
Dosunmu has taken his time and been patient in the process. He has now been on official visits to both Wake Forest and USC. Illinois, perceived to be the favorite to land the 6-5 point guard, will welcome Dosunmu the weekend of Oct. 13-15 for an official visit. While Illinois remains the one to beat, there is a feeling Wake Forest is becoming more and more realistic.
Wake Forest offers high-level basketball in the ACC, outstanding academics, a position of need at point guard and a talented young nucleus to play with.
The Demon Deacons have a pair of four-star recruits in the current freshman class, including 6-5 shooting guard Chaundee Brown, a top 40 recruit in the Class of 2017. Coach Danny Manning has also added two more top 100 recruits in the Class of 2018, highlighted by 6-8 forward Jaylen Hoard, ranked among the top 30 players in the country.
While Wake Forest does have a commitment from Class of 2018 point guard and three-star prospect Sharon Wright, there is an obvious need for a high-level point guard in the program.
Illinois, however, has the sell of a new era under first-year coach Brad Underwood and what every top prospect in the state is told: The chance to be the face of the home-state program while playing close to home. The question is always how important is that for each individual recruit and his family?
Illinois will have its chance for a final impression and pull away from Wake Forest and others in a couple of weeks when Dosunmu takes his official visit.
Horton-Tucker, the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2018, recently trimmed his list down to seven schools.
The multi-faceted 6-5 wing has been to Xavier for an official visit and is expected to take an official visit to Georgia Tech this weekend and to Iowa State the following weekend. Illinois, Georgetown, Ohio State and Saint Louis round out his top seven.
The committed: Zion Griffin, Hinsdale South (Iowa State); George Conditt, Corliss (Iowa State); Xavier Castaneda, Young (South Florida); Javon Freeman, Young (Valpo); Tamell Pearson, Morgan Park (UAB); Maurice Commander, Curie (Tennessee-Chattanooga); Messiah Jones, Simeon (Drake); Sam Shafer, Lincoln-Way East (Southern Illinois); Jake Wolfe, Aurora Christian (Lipscomb).
The uncommitted: There are plenty of recruiting storylines materializing outside of the remaining “big two” of Dosunmu and Horton-Tucker.
Simeon’s Xavier Pinson recently took official visits to Drake and Kent State and was expected to decide between the two. But Georgetown and DePaul have both started poking around with the 6-3 point guard.
The Orr tandem of Ty Mosley and Raekwon Drake have upcoming visits lined up. The versatile 6-5 Mosley visited Bradley this past weekend and will visit UW-Milwaukee this weekend. Athletic 6-5 Raekwon Drake will visit Cleveland State this weekend.
Libertyville’s Drew Peterson will not sign in November and play out his senior season, thus saving his remaining official visits for the spring.
Top 100 talent: Here is a look at where the state’s top in-state talent ranks nationally, according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com.
Class of 2018: Dosunmu (No. 20 Rivals, No. 27 Scout, No. 29 ESPN); Horton-Tucker (No. 54 Rivals; Griffin (No. 96 Rivals); Tim Finke, Champaign Central (No. 87 Scout).
Class of 2019: Francis Okoro, Normal (No. 26 Rivals, No. 28 Scout, No. 31 ESPN;); Markese Jacobs, Uplift (No. 74 Rivals, No. 74 Scout); E.J. Liddell, Belleville West (No. 96 Rivals).
Class of 2020: D.J. Steward, Fenwick (No. 32 Rivals, No. 18 Scout); Adam Miller, Morgan Park (No. 36 Rivals, No. 14 Scout, No. 23 ESPN).
Biggest ranking beef: The consensus among national rankings is that 6-9 Francis Okoro of Normal is the top-ranked prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2019. But Belleville West’s E.J. Liddell is vastly overlooked on the national scene.
Liddell, a physical 6-7 forward, dominated as a sophomore. He averaged 19.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks a game and was at his best in big moments in March. Remember, it was Liddell who went for 43 points in a regional win over Belleville East and Javon Pickett and followed it up with 34 in a regional title win over East St. Louis and Jeremiah Tilmon.
But Liddell, who has offers from Illnois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas State, Marquette, Iowa State and Saint Louis, is ranked No. 96 by Rivals and No. 154 by Scout. The idea there are 150-plus players/prospects better than Liddell in the country –– let alone 95 –– is so far-fetched.
Liddell’s game continues to expand –– the face-up jumper just gets better and cleaner with time –– while he continues to play with physicality, toughness and energy. While Liddell is already the most productive player in the class, the City/Suburban Hoops Report believes he’s the state’s best player and prospect in the junior class.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport