There are a host of juniors the City/Suburban Hoops Report fell for early on, and they didn’t disappoint during the just completed 2017-2018 season. But their roles will only expand going forward with more maturity, confidence and opportunity.
Here are five less-heralded players who are ready to shine this offseason in prepping for what should be big senior seasons next winter.
■ Raymond “Ray J” Dennis, Oswego East
Here’s the player in the junior class who has ramped up his game, made such considerable strides and the City/Suburban Hoops Report believes is really ready to break through.
Sooner or later Division I programs will take notice as Dennis is an intriguing long-term prospect considering his package of attributes between his shooting stroke and strong passing instincts.
The talented, smooth and slender combo guard was a bright light in the western suburbs this past season. While pretty much an unknown across the state, Dennis is among the Hoops Report’s top prospects in the class. He averaged 17.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds a game as a junior, while his length led to 44 steals and 72 deflections this season.
While he may not be the most naturally gifted athlete off the floor, the 6-2 junior makes shots in bunches and can really find teammates with the pass. He has a pull-up three, a spot-up three and a catch-and-shoot three at his disposal. Dennis made 39 percent of his three-pointers on the year (66 of 171) as he’s a player who can make shooting look easy.
An improving decision-making who has shown a penchant for making clutch shots and making plays in big moments, Dennis is one of the better shot-makers in the junior class.
■ Marquise Kennedy, Brother Rice
The City/Suburban Hoops Report has been gushing about the potential of Kennedy for some time. A 6-1 combo guard who continues to morph into a more traditional point guard under the tutelage of coach Bobby Frasor, Kennedy is poised to become one of the top players in the Class of 2019.
In addition to making the move to point guard, Kennedy filled a stat sheet in helping the Crusaders to 19 wins and a regional championship. He averaged 17.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game.
Kennedy made a living at the line, getting to the charity stripe 137 times and shooting 81 percent on the season. His impact defensively grows with 48 steals and 37 blocked shots for a guard.
While the perimeter jumper is improving (24 three-pointers this past season) and the release needs to become more consistent, Kennedy figures to look much better at the next level with college spacing and become a bigger factor passing the ball and driving to the rim surrounded by shooters.
■ Treyvon Calvin, St. Viator
While he made a name for himself in March by winning the Class 4A IHSA State Three-Point Shootout, Calvin put together one heck of a junior season for the East Suburban Catholic Conference champs.
Calvin filled a stat sheet all season long, averaging 17 points, five rebounds and three assists a game while shooting an impressive 44 percent from the three-point line.
The 6-0 junior not only has an ability to get other players involved, but he provides a steady stream of scoring potential as a lead guard. He can penetrate, dish and knock down open shots from the three-point line and mid-range pull-up jumpers.
Although he’s not a jet with the ball, the smooth, well-rounded scorer has been overshadowed for too long and remains one of the more overlooked players in the Class of 2019. Look for a breakout spring and summer and for Calvin to solidify himself as a Division I prospect.
■ Chris Roberts, Lincoln Park
Probably the most recognized name on the list but one whose rep should only grow as it becomes his team in 2018-2019.
There isn’t a player in the junior class who plays at a more breakneck speed than Roberts, a blur with the ball in the open court. There is still plenty of development needed, including a shaky perimeter jumper that must get better and improved decision-making and passing, but he’s an absolutely devastating weapon getting to the basket in transition. Roberts will take off in any up-tempo system with his speed and creativity as a finisher.
The 6-0 point guard averaged 16 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.4 steals a game this past season, which included a signature performance in a December win over Whitney Young: 42 points (20 of 25 from the field) and 10 rebounds.
■ Fred Cleveland, Leo
Yep, he’s a little one. And you hope the mighty mite has a growth spurt and can add a little height in the coming year, because the 5-7 Cleveland was pretty dynamic with the ball in his hands this past season. One could argue Cleveland just had his breakout year. He was, after all, a Chicago Sun-Times all-area selection this past season.
Cleveland immediately became the go-to player for Leo and showed he could handle it as he was named the Catholic League Player of the Year in the small school division.
Even at his diminutive size, Cleveland has a whole lot to his game and plays with a little sizzle and makes things happen. There are true natural basketball instincts in Cleveland, a way about him when playing the game. He can push temp, get into the teeth of a defense and has a nice feel once he’s there as a passer and scorer.
This past season he averaged 20.3 points, seven assists and 3.5 steals a game for a Lions team that won 20 games and the Catholic League White.