The first weekend of the July evaluation period is alway an interesting one, particularly with all the responses I get and conversations I have with college coaches throughout those first few days.
There inevitably is always a barrage of texts and calls from coaches throughout the first 24 hours of the July live period, starting on Wednesday night and running through Thursday night.
The topic at that time is always about a particular player who wasn’t quite on their radar or may not be projected to be at whatever level the coach is at (high-major, mid-major, etc.). But in that opening game or two during the live period, that player perks their interest.
Some players will continue to be tracked and maybe even offered. But more times than not the interest fades by Sunday after another evaluation is taken in by the coach or another coach on their staff.
From the sound of it, this is particularly happening at the high-major level as there appears to be a bit of a shortage of high-major prospects, according to several high-major coaches I communicated with this past weekend. We know that’s the case in Illinois, but it seems to be true nationally as well.
With that being said, it will be interesting to see how far high-major programs dip down into the talent pool. No matter the talent level, they have scholarships to offer and roster spots to fill.
There is always plenty to learn as prospects try to ramp up their game and draw the interest of college coaches. Brother Rice’s Marquise Kennedy was the big winner during the first weekend. But he wasn’t alone.
Here is a rundown of the first weekend of action.
Big offer for Curie’s DaJuan Gordon
The Xavier offer for Curie’s DaJuan Gordon was a big one. The 6-4 guard has generated a lot of interest and received a wide-range of offers. But this is a program that is coming off a 29-win season, was a No. 1 seed in this past year’s NCAA Tournament and reached the Elite Eight two years ago.
“I’m really exited about that offer,” says Gordon of Xavier. “It shows that people believe I can play at a higher level, and it really helps my confidence.”
In addition, Gordon has picked up two high-major offers from Ole Miss and Nebraska, which came Tuesday morning.
Following his weekend playing with Team Rose, Gordon has Tulsa, Colorado State, Murray State, UAB, Loyola, New Mexico and East Tennessee State as schools that are recruiting him the hardest. But he also adds he’s heard from Iowa State, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, Michigan and Virginia Tech in the past week.
Gordon, who is among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five ranked players in Illinois in the Class of 2019, is one of those players who screams upside. He’s just got that look with the length, emerging offensive skill set and still-developing body.
Duo has them talking … Will offers follow?
There are a host of players whose names are on the tip of the tongue of coaches at a higher level than what the player has been recruited at thus far. That means a couple of big weeks are ahead for the likes of Naperville North’s Tom Welch and St. Viator’s Trey Calvin.
There were many texts, calls and conversations with coaches — at different levels — regarding both Welch and Calvin over the past five days. They are all intrigued but haven’t pulled the trigger, though William & Mary and Ole Miss did offer Welch.
Welch, the 6-7 forward who the City/Suburban Hoops Report has been so high on over the past year, is impressing everyone who watches him. He brings a blue-collar mentality and tremendous versatility as a face-up 4-man who can battle around the basket. He’s also a relief and luxury as a secondary ballhandler.
There is no shortage of scholarship offers for Welch. Locally, Loyola has been front and center. But there are also several high-major programs on the periphery and will take in a little more in the coming week as he plays out July with the Illinois Wolves.
Calvin is an entirely different story. He should have been included in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s list of under-recruited players in last week’s story. Maybe it would have helped, because the 6-0 shot-making point guard is clearly being overlooked. It’s pretty ridiculous Calvin is sitting here in mid-July with one Division I offer, compliments of evaluating experts Wright State.
The good news for Calvin is there are a lot of coaches talking about a kid who may not provide all the flash but is full of substance.
Cochran + Dennis = Dribble, Pass and Shoot
You would assume there were more players who could dribble, pass and shoot. Well, everyone thinks they can dribble pass and shoot. But we’re talking from a true college basketball evaluation perspective and doing so at a certain level.
It’s why the City/Suburban Hoops Report appreciates Oswego East’s Ray J Dennis and Bolingbrook’s Tyler Cochran so much. They both can do just that.
Cochran has been on people’s radar for quite some time. You couldn’t help but be intrigued by Cochran early in his career at Bolingbrook.
Dennis caught the eye of the City/Suburban Hoops Report last summer but became enamored with his potential and promise throughout his junior year at Oswego East. Northern Illinois was right on it, offering Dennis back in February. But overall it was a bit of a mystery why he was more or less ignored by college coaches and evaluators.
But he’s a hot name now. He made his debut with Team Rose on the club circuit and his interest just keeps intensifying. The offer list is endless among mid-major programs, ranging across the Midwest –– and from all over the country –– and plenty more are taking in the 6-2 combo guard over the next two weeks. Florida Atlantic, Holy Cross and Wisconsin-Milwaukee have joined a lengthy list of 15-plus suitors.
When Cochran has his body right, the 6-1 guard is quite simply a different player. He can combine some power and strength with a skill level that allows him to score in a variety of ways. Cochran makes big, important plays. Most importantly, Cochran has always understood how to play. Right now Northern Illinois, UIC, Western Michigan and Toledo, who have all offered, are all in pursuit.
Biggest Hoops Report eye-opener
The one player who continues to impress the City/Suburban Hoops Report with his booming talent is Downers Grove North’s Trey Boston. In fact, the athletic, multi-dimensional scorer has been the biggest stock riser in the eyes of the Hoops Report during the first live weekend.
Boston showed his athleticism, explosive burst and shooting range while playing with Young & Reckless at the Chicago Summer Jam. He provided some “wow” moments and is a surefire Division I talent with his physical gifts and upside. And if he were to go the prep school or junior college route for a year or two, Boston could easily play himself up to a mid-major.
Cam Burrell just had a monster breakout senior season at Morgan Park, where the bouncy 6-6 forward helped the Mustangs to a state championship and averaged 17.7 points and 13.1 rebounds a game before signing with Eastern Illinois.
A couple of seasons ago 6-7 Melo Burrell was a big part of coach Nick Irvin’s program at Morgan Park and helped the Mustangs to a Class 3A title in 2017. He started and averaged 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds a game for John Logan College in the junior college ranks this past season and is committed to Central Michigan.
Now get ready for Isaiah Burrell, because if this past weekend was any indication, the 6-4 junior wing is ready to take a big step forward. Burrell showcased his athleticism and much-improved aggressiveness while playing with the Mac Irvin Fire 16U team. He played hard, competed defensively and was a big-time finisher at the basket.
Other first period thoughts and observations
◆ We will go ahead and get this superlative out of the way: MY GOODNESS is Khalil Whitney one high-level talent. Oh, how I wish we could all watch his senior year play out in Chicago. He’s not going to be just a big contributor as a freshman in college; he’s a clear difference-maker as a freshman.
◆ Kenwood’s Artese Stapleton is flying under the radar. The lanky 6-1 guard played well for Young & Reckless over the weekend at the Chicago Summer Jam. He has a presence about him at point guard, can play downhill and has a little more of a burst with the ball than people realize. Stapleton, who still must show that he’s capable of making a perimeter jumper, is also outstanding academically. There needs to be more Division II and low-major interest in Stapleton.
◆ After getting another look at the Quad City Elite team, it’s still a wonder why more lower-level Division I programs have not put a little more emphasis on Lincoln’s Jermaine Hamlin.
The 6-9 big is still a project. And it’s going to take the right fit and need at the Division I level. But he’s grown so much as a player. The improvement has been pretty remarkable, considering where he came from two-plus years ago as a player.
A low-major that’s confident in its staff development of players should certainly have its eyes on Hamlin over the next two weekends. With his size, the way he moves and with positive parts of his game to work with, the idea of taking Hamlin, redshirting him for a year and seeing where he is two or three years down the road is enticing.
◆ Speaking of the Quad City Elite team, Rock Island’s Jamir Price is a much-improved player as well. He played on the ball quite a bit with star D.J. Carton taking the week off as he nursed an injury. Price has made a nice jump. If the 6-1 guard can show he’s just a capable shooter over the next two weeks, more Division II interest will come his way.
◆ What a recruiting get for Ohio State with D.J. Carton of Bettendorf, Iowa. The 6-1 point guard, who plays with Quad City Elite, committed to the Buckeyes on Saturday over Michigan and Indiana. Whenever I’ve watched Carton over the years he just screamed “can’t miss” no matter what level he ended up. At the end of the day he ended up as a high-major, five-star recruit. And, yes, he’s still such a sure thing.
Ohio State now has Carton, a likely McDonald’s All-American, and 6-8 Alonzo Gaffney, a top 30 recruit, committed in the Class of 2019. Imagine if coach Chris Holtmann added our state’s best player, Belleville West’s E.J. Liddell, to this recruiting class? Wow.
◆ I love Ramean Hinton. He battles, competes and plays with some intestinal fortitude. And while his game needs some polish, there is so much to like about the 6-4 Curie junior.
◆ Ray’Sean Taylor of Collinsville, who plays with Gateway on the club circuit, is wired to score. The slender 6-0 guard had productive sophomore season and played well at NY2LA’s Next Level Invitational this past weekend. This is a Division I prospect in the Class of 2020 whose body and perimeter shot are still a work in progress.
◆ Geneva’s Jack McDonald has been a City/Suburban Hoops Report favorite for some time. Yes, the point guard is on the small side. But he continues to show poise and patience and never seems to rattle no matter what’s thrown at him. He understands the point guard position. At the end of the day, McDonald will be one of the most coveted small college prospects in Illinois.
◆ Glenbrook South’s Will King is vastly improved since the end of his junior season. The 6-3 point guard has size and feel for the position, can really pass and knocked a few shots down at NY2LA’s Next Level Invitational. He continues to grow more and more on the Hoops Report and has the potential to elevate himself to the Division II/NAIA scholarship level.
◆ Another hot name among small college prospects is Ryland Holt of Gibson City, a small town in central Illinois. Holt jumped up the Hoops Report rankings heading into the summer and has continued his strong play with the Illinois Irish. Holt, a shade over 6-4, is a bouncy undersized 4-man trying to play himself out to being a true wing. He has attracted a bunch of Division II interest, landing a few offers along the way.
◆ Bolingbrook’s Kam Leonard continues to up his stock. When his engine is running consistently, he looks the part of a Division II/low-Division I bubble guy. A big body with athleticism off the floor, Leonard, who picked up an offer from Division II Lewis over the weekend, has workable shooting mechanics and touch around the basket. A non-stop motor would do wonders for Leonard going forward.
◆ Lincoln Park junior big man Romelle Howard has shown quite a bit of improvement. The 6-8 big man, who plays with the Mac Irvin Fire 16U team, is going to see a rise in the Class of 2020.
◆ Keep an eye on Seth Williams of Vocational, who plays with Old Gold. The intrigue begins with his high-level combination of a non-stop motor and pure explosiveness.
◆ Caleb Donaldson, a 6-4 guard who has transferred from Rockton-Hononegah to Bloomington for his senior year, can play. He again showcased his versatility this past weekend while playing with the IBA Stars. Capable of playing multiple positions, Donaldson should be on the radar of all Division II and lower level Division I programs.
◆ While they aren’t high-profile recruits or big names, Thornwood could be an interesting team this winter with the trio of point guard Zachary Carr, 6-5 big man Jeremiah Tarver and athletic Christian Simmons, who can really go with the ball in his hands. All three impressed in different ways and at different times while playing with the Thunder Elite team. And all three should be recruited at some degree by small college and junior college programs.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport