Sun-Times High School Sports

Inside the rankings, recruitments of state’s top players

Belleville West's EJ Liddell (32) gets a dunk against Larkin. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

The likelihood of another year without an Illinois player in the McDonald’s All-American game? Very likely.

If you’re counting, this would make it four straight years since Illinois produced a McDonald’s All-American. The last was Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson in 2015.

However, there is still some representation in the national rankings which include several Illinois players in each class.

Here is a snapshot of where the state’s top players are ranked nationally, along with thoughts on their ranking and their individual recruitments of the uncommitted seniors.

• E.J. Liddell, Belleville West (Class of 2019)

Rivals: 44
247sports: 57
ESPN: 44

Ranking thought: A player who was once vastly underrated and overlooked nationally is now right about where he should be as a top 50 talent. At the end of the day, expect Liddell to finish somewhere in that 30-50 range as he completes a spectacular high school career.

Recruitment: After taking an official visit to Ohio State and Missouri these past two weekends, the state’s top prospect takes a weekend off before heading to Illinois the weekend of Sept. 21-23. Liddell moved up his visit to Illinois from its original October date. He also has contacted both Kansas State and Wisconsin, who were on his final five, and canceled those future visits on Tuesday.

Uplift’s Markese Jacobs (0) drives to the basket against Morgan Park in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

• Markese Jacobs, Uplift (Class of 2019)

Rivals: 125
247sports: 137
ESPN: 84

Ranking thought: The highly-athletic lead guard has really bounced around the rankings throughout his career. With that inconsistent label comes ranking volatility. With his talent and high-level athleticism the City/Suburban Hoops Report believes Jacobs is clearly a top 100 talent.

Recruitment: The former Kansas commit has received a ton of interest since his de-commitment from the Jayhawks three weeks ago, including DePaul, Illinois, Iowa State, Nebraska and Virginia Tech. The Jayhawks also remain in the picture.

West Aurora’s Cam Donatlan (2) fouls Curie’s Dajuan Gordon (2) at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, Friday 12-29-17. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

• DaJuan Gordon, Curie (Class of 2019)

Rivals: 145
247sports: 151

Ranking thought: Gordon is a late-blooming 6-4 guard who is a borderline top 150 prospect based on his potential. Asking for more than that at this point may be a bit much, but the arrow is certainly pointing up for a player with his upside.

Recruitment: Gordon took an official visit to SMU last weekend. Gordon will hit Ole Miss in two weeks and follow that up with a visit to Kansas State the last weekend in September. Seton Hall, UAB, New Mexico and Nebraska continue to show varying degrees of interest.

Morgan Park’s Adam Miller (44) shoots from just outside the lane in the second half of the Mustangs 76-67 victory over Fenwick, January 20, 2018. Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times.

• Adam Miller, Morgan Park (Class of 2020)

Rivals: 33
247sports: 32
ESPN: 19

Ranking thought: The 6-3 guard has been a fixture in national rankings since he entered high school. Can he push himself forward and become a consensus top 25 player in the country? There is time to do so and, along the way, put himself in position to end the Illinois McDonald’s All-American drought.

Recruitment: There are a surplus of high-major offers (Illinois, Texas Tech, Arizona State, UCLA, Wake Forest, Kansas and Northwestern) and interest in a recruitment that isn’t close to finishing.

Fenwick’s D.J. Steward (21) gets a finger roll on Bloomington’s Colton Sandage (15). Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

• D.J. Steward, Young (Class of 2020)

Rivals: 59
247sports: 59
ESPN: Unranked

Ranking thought: With a smooth game and a whole lot of substance to it, the belief here is Steward’s ranking will continue to climb as he plays out this season and next spring and summer.

Recruitment: This recruitment is just picking up after Steward put together a rock solid July with Meanstreets on the club circuit. The steady stream of activity at this point, Steward says, is coming from Butler, Louisville, Michigan, Marquette, DePaul, Illinois, Virginia and Notre Dame.

Young’s Tyler Beard (24) attempts a dunk against Evanston Friday 03-16-18. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

• Tyler Beard, Young (Class of 2020)

Rivals: 54
247sports: 91
ESPN: Unranked

Ranking thought: Beard put his name out there on the national level in June with a strong showing in national camp competition. Look for Beard to solidify himself as a top 100 prospect this season.

Recruitment: There are offers from DePaul, Iowa, South Florida, Butler, West Virginia and Florida Atlantic, while Beard has a dozen-plus other schools showing considerable interest.

Rolling Meadow’s Max Christie controls the ball as Hinsdale South’s Zion Griffith defends. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun~Times.

• Max Christie, Rolling Meadows (Class of 2021)

ESPN: 23

Ranking thought: While all the national rankings have yet to put out their Class of 2021 rankings, Christie clearly has the look of a top 25 talent in the country.

Recruiting: Being just a sophomore, the recruitment of Christie is just starting to heat up. But the early and growing list includes Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan, DePaul, Loyola, Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa and Oregon is real.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport