A busy weekend in Indianapolis, where Nike’s EYBL and the Under Armour Association action took place, along with a few other tournaments scattered around the area, led to several thoughts.
Here is a mini-rundown:
• The City/Suburban Hoops Report misses Kahlil Whitney
• Uplift’s Markese Jacobs has changed and will rise as a result (more on that story later this weekend)
• The soon-to-be-graduate, Terrence Shannon of Lincoln Park, continues to open eyes.
• Naperville North’s Tom Welch is now collecting scholarship offers.
• There is one little, fun player to watch who too many ignore (Fred Cleveland).
• And, yes, the overall talent in Illinois is still considerably down.
Here are some more specifics from the second “live period” of the spring.
Selfishly missing Whitney: While watching Khalil Whitney play with the Mac Irvin Fire, it’s easy to get a case of the “What-Ifs.”
Whitney, if you remember a few years back, was the highly-touted freshman star playing at a nondescript school (Solorio) that had just recently opened. After watching him play in the fall of 2015 at the Pangos All-Star Camp, the City/Suburban Hoops Report made this quick and easy distinction: Whitney was the top player and prospect in the Class of 2019 in Illinois.
And it was going to be a blast watching this young talent progress over his four years of high school in Chicago.
He immediately impressed, put up big numbers at Solorio and looked every bit the part of the No. 1 player in the class. However, he left Chicago following his freshman year and enrolled at Roselle Catholic, a powerhouse in New Jersey.
What if he had not left Chicago?
Whitney, an uber-athletic 6-6 wing, would still be the top-ranked prospect in the state if he were still playing in Illinois. That’s saying something when the top player as a freshman maintains that status throughout his high school career. Whitney just looks like the player we were so accustomed to seeing around here.
Unfortunately he’s a talented young player we weren’t able to see develop and become a star in Illinois.
He’s electric with his athleticism and his slashing, above-the-rim style. Plus, his overall game continues to evolve, particularly a perimeter jumper that has improved. Look for Whitney’s national ranking to rise between now and July as he’s a clear-cut top 50 type talent nationally.
Where does the high-major offers, interest for Shannon lead?: The Terrence Shannon recruiting interest is intriguing and will continue to develop over time.
Shannon, who shot up the City/Suburban Hoops Report rankings in December and ultimately landed in the top 10 in the Class of 2019, continues to enhance his stock as he plays on the spring club circuit with the Mac Irvin Fire. It was bound to happen.
Shannon, who was ignored for far too long by mid-major programs during his senior season, is now attracting high-major offers and interest. Florida State, Wake Forest and Ole Miss have offered the long, lanky, super athletic 6-6 Shannon, along with Saint Louis, DePaul, Loyola and others.
There will continue to be a lot of options for Shannon going forward.
There are some high-major programs who would likely prefer to “place him” at a prep school this coming year. But with so many high-majors now intrigued and poking around, that option may go by the wayside. This is no longer a prospect no one knows anything about and a school can sneak around the fringes.
There are others who may simply want to take him and redshirt him as a freshman.
But if Shannon were to go the prep school route, the high-major interest and options would only grow.
Liddell wide open?: The state’s top prospect, Belleville West’s E.J. Liddell, made a statement on Tuesday. The star of the Class 4A state champs made a point on social media to let it be known that “rumors coming out about how I am verbally committed to a certain school” are not true.
Liddell said in the statement that he’s “fully open” and is “loving the process.” He added he’s “not close to making any decisions at this point.”
Missouri, Kansas State and Illinois were a few of the schools that were in on Liddell very early and built solid relationships. But as the 6-7 junior’s star rose over the past six months, several others have offered and are taking their best shot. Connecticut, Louisville, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Georgetown and Florida have all offered.
Although the rumors certainly weren’t rampant, the muffled sounds that were percolating around Liddell and a “leader” centered on Missouri.
Coach Cuonzo Martin has been front and center in the Liddell recruitment since he was hired last March.
In fact, of all the seven allotted evaluation times Missouri has had since September with Liddell, it’s been Martin, the head coach, who has used all seven. So Missouri isn’t going anywhere. But with so many more options and relationships being built and with time to spare, the Liddell recruitment clearly isn’t ending anytime soon and could have some twists along the way.
Here is the one constant I’ve heard from coaching staffs that have been involved in this recruitment: They love recruiting Liddell. While they know it’s going to be a battle, it’s a calm, clean, respectful and old school recruitment thanks to the kid involved and the people around him.
Mighty mite continues to shine: Fred Cleveland has picked up right where he left off after a sparkling junior season at Leo, where he was named the Catholic League Player of the Year in the White Division.
There will be critics screaming about his size –– he’s probably a smidge over 5-8. And his size at this point can put a cap on his overall upside. But all he’s ever done is produce.
He put up numbers as a sophomore at Urban Prep-Englewood, continued to do so at Leo this past season and has remained a catalyst for Team RWA, which played in Indianapolis this past weekend.
Cleveland is about as fun and creative to watch as anyone in the class with the ball in his hands. He’s a playmaker, a natural with the ball and a very capable shooter with range. Division I programs should take notice, especially if he can add a couple of inches as he’s very long for his size.
Booming interest in Naperville North’s Welch: The City/Suburban Hoops Report touched on the ultimate rise of Naperville North junior forward Tom Welch this past weekend. But even since then the offers have been coming fast.
Since Sunday, the 6-7 Welch has added offers from Loyola, Belmont, Canisius and Bucknell. That adds to a list that already includes Ball State, Wofford, Furman, Brown, Florida Atlantic, Western Illinois and Kent State.
Interest will come: Keep an eye on Marquise Kennedy. The Brother Rice guard, who is playing this spring and summer with the Illinois Wolves, didn’t pick up and Division I offers following the two “live periods” in April, but the Hoops Report believes they will ultimately come.
In eight Under Armour Association games, the 6-1 guard is averaging 9.5 points and five rebounds a game while shooting 40 percent from the three-point line (6 of 15).
Hargrove continues to show flashes: When the flash turns into a constant bright light, look out for Terrence Hargrove of East St. Louis.
He remains a tad raw, battles inconsistency and his minutes are limited playing with a loaded Bradley Beal Elite team in EYBL play. But the junior has grown to 6-6 and possesses the body, athleticism and clear tools to work with. The numbers just haven’t matched his City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five ranking in the Class of 2019.
As a high-major assistant said to me while watching Hargrove this past weekend, “He’s this blank canvass.”
Translation: Hargrove is a player who is just beginning to grasp all that comes with elevating himself as a player. He’s trying to figure things out and is waiting to be taught and learn. All of that is what has led to the inconsistency, but it’s also what’s so endearing to the Hoops Report.
Simeon seniors commit: A pair of Simeon players, Messiah Jones and Zion Young, both committed over the weekend. Jones chose Wofford while Young will be headed to Western Illinois.
Jones, an athletic 6-5 workhorse with a lunch bucket mentality, originally committed to Drake last fall. But when Drake coach Niko Medved left for Colorado State, Jones was back on the board. He’s now found an ideal fit with coach Mike Young and the Terriers, a program that’s been to four NCAA Tournaments since 2010.
Young and his staff have done a terrific job recruiting Illinois. Wofford’s back-to-back NCAA Tournament runs in 2014 and 2015 were fueled in part by Glenbard East’s Lee Skinner, who started 103 games and scored 1,200-plus points in his career at Wofford.
Currently, former Plainfield North star Trevor Stumpe, who is his high school’s all-time leading scorer, is a returning starter for Wofford.
Jones joins found an ideal opportunity, joining a winning program and heading to a school with a strong academic reputation.
Young played a smaller role for a loaded Simeon team this past season. While his physical traits were easy to see –– the 6-3 Young is built like an outside linebacker and is explosive off the floor –– it was sometimes difficult to catch his overall game. But Western Illinois was able to secure a player who has the potential to thrive in the Summit League.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport