The Team Rose Classic took place this past weekend at Whitney Young. Here are a few notes from an event that brought together several local club teams.
➤ Junior Myles Baker and sophomore Tyler Beard are the big names returning for a Whitney Young team that reached the Class 4A state championship, losing in overtime to Belleville West. But Sangolay Njie and Keenan Jones are two players who will see their roles and production expand for coach Tyrone Slaughter in 2018-2019.
Both Jones and Njie had their moments and showcased growing individual games at the Team Rose event while playing for their club teams. While they don’t have the reputation past and present players at Young have, the tandem will be instrumental in keeping the Dolphins among the state’s top teams.
Jones, who averaged five points a game as a junior and plays with Young & Reckless on the travel team circuit, is a long, rangy 6-5 wing. The slender lefty showed range on his shot, knocking down a few face-up jumpers, and used his length around the rim to his advantage. Jones’ trajectory points towards a scholarship player, whether it’s at the Division II or low-Division I level.
Njie, who came out of nowhere to play 22 minutes in the state championship game and contributed while on the floor, is just a sophomore. The 6-5 forward had six points, five rebounds and blocked a shot in the 4A title game. He continued to show flashes while playing with Team Rose this past weekend. Consistency and playing with some assertiveness while using athleticism is the next step and will go a long way in becoming the player he can be.
➤ A forgotten player in the Class of 2019 is Lamond “L.J.” Johnson, who started his career at Morgan Park before transferring to a prep school. He’s now back in Chicago and attending Kenwood.
The power-packed athletic 6-2 junior played with a lot of energy at the Team Rose Classic while playing with Young & Reckless. The perimeter jumper is still a work in progress, but he’s strong, athletic and competed at both ends this past weekend. It will be interesting to see the development over the course of the summer for this once very promising prospect.
➤ There’s a new wave of talent in the Upstate Eight River. Seniors like Larkin’s duo of Anthony Lynch and Jalen Shaw, along with St. Charles East’s Justin Hardy, are moving on. But a pair of sophomores to keep tabs on over the next couple of years are Nate Santos of Geneva and Jayden Johnson of Batavia.
Both had their moments while playing with their respective teams this past weekend. Santos, whose brother K.J. Santos is currently sitting out at Missouri and will be eligible to play next season, plays with Chicago Elite. Johnson suits up with Fundamental U on the club circuit. Santos and Johnson are players with nice size and capability of stretching the floor.
This past season, the 6-5 Johnson averaged 13 points a game as a sophomore at the varsity level while shooting an impressive 41 percent from the three-point line. He’s also a terrific student in the classroom. While he may lack ideal athleticism, Johnson knows how to play, leads on the floor and has that ability to knock down shots.
Geneva will center around the senior tandem of Jack McDonald and Mitch Mascari, but the top college prospect is Santos, a versatile wing with size. The 6-6 sophomore who, like his brother, has outstanding length and a shooting stroke and mechanics that project well to the next level. There is some nice offensive potential in a player who should make a big impact at the varsity level next winter.
➤ It’s impossible to not be impressed with the energy and hustle Curie’s Ramean Hinton plays. Hinton, a 6-4 sophomore who suits up with Team Rose, is a player who goes out and makes a play every time he hits the court. He will certainly be one of the breakout players in the Chicago Public League next season as his minutes and role greatly expand. Hinton has shown a combination of relentlessly attacking the basket and hints of a perimeter jumper.
➤ Following a strong sophomore season, Stevenson’s Matt Ambrose did what he does best at the Team Rose event: shoot the basketball. The 6-2 guard, who averaged 10 points a game this past season and is now playing with Fundamental U, is pretty crafty and is one of the better three-point shooters in the class. With some added physical maturation, Ambrose is going to be a ton to deal with over the next two years in the North Suburban Conference.
➤ A small college prospect who impressed at the Team Rose Classic while playing with his club team, Breakaway, was Riverside-Brookfield’s Zach Vaia.
Following an outstanding junior campaign where he was named Metro Suburban Blue Conference Player of the Year, the 5-9 point guard continues play with confidence and some real spunk. Vaia brings toughness to the point guard position while also showing the ability to shoot the basketball at a high rate. This past season he averaged 14 points and five assists a game while making 63 of 158 from beyond the three-point line.
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