With college decisions made for the majority of the top seniors in the state, the focus turns to maximizing their final year of high school basketball.
There are conference championships and holiday tournament titles to be won in the regular season. And then there will be one more go around in the win-or-go-home state tournament in March where memories will really be made.
Here are the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top college basketball prospects in the Class of 2019, a talented group of 20 seniors who will be headlining this upcoming season.
1. EJ Liddell, 6-7, PF, Belleville West
The state’s best and most dominating player looks to lead the Maroons to back-to-back state championships. Liddell, one of the top 50 players in the country and an Ohio State commitment, is a nightmare matchup at the high school level and one of the most proficient players in the game.
Liddell is a force around the basket –– at both ends of the floor –– and has an emerging face-up game to go with it. He’s a productive winner and a coach’s dream.
2. Markese Jacobs, 5-11, PG, Uplift
The DePaul recruit is capable of putting Uplift on his back and carrying it with his dynamic athleticism and take-over ability. Jacobs can get anywhere he needs to with the all in his hands. There may not be a more exciting player to watch in the class. And when locked in and on the same page with coach and teammates, he’s a true difference-maker.
3. DaJuan Gordon, 6-4, 2G/WF, Curie
Everyone got a glimpse of what the budding star could do last season when he put up modest numbers. Now a year older, better and bigger, the Kansas State commit and versatile scorer is poised for a breakout season. He brings a soft shooting touch and slashing capability on the perimeter while also showing a high-level of competitiveness.
4. Terrence Hargrove, 6-6, WF, East St. Louis
A player with terrific physical attributes and a big upside, though he didn’t always get to show it on the club circuit with a talented Bradley Beal team. Big, long and athletic, Hargrove committed to Saint Louis after averaging 19 points and 9.6 rebounds a game as a junior.
5. Marquise Kennedy, 6-1, PG, Brother Rice
The fast, athletic guard put together a big junior year as he averaged 17.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and blocking 37 shots. But the biggest hit of the summer could be dominant as a senior. The stat-sheet-stuffing Kennedy, who is headed to Loyola, is a blur in transition and a force getting to the rim.
6. Tom Welch, 6-8, PF, Naperville North
As agile, athletic and versatile as they come for a high school four-man. A recruiting gem for Loyola and coach Porter Moser, Welch will have to do some heavy lifting this season for the Huskies. Welch, who averaged 13.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists a game as a junior, beats other big men down the court, can put it on the floor, shoot from the perimeter and competes at a high level.
7. Chris Payton, 6-7, PF, Bloomington
Blessed with a high-major body and athleticism, the talented and uncommitted Payton continues to battle consistency and focus. But when the motor is running he’s a force as a rebounder and finisher and evolves into a highly-productive big man.
8. Nate Ferguson, 6-7, PF, Lemont
The Drake recruit put together an under-the-radar junior season and then broke out in the spring and summer on the club circuit. The bouncy Ferguson is active around the basket and can step out and face the basket. The combination of size, an ability to run the floor and untapped upside make him an intriguing prospect.
9. Ray J Dennis, 6-2, PG/2G, Oswego East
There wasn’t a player in the class who added more Division I offers this past offseason than this smooth combo guard who can score and distribute. Dennis, a creative scorer who averaged 17.2 points and 4.9 assists a game while knocking down 66 three-pointers last season, is headed to Boise State.
10. Tujauntae Williams, 6-5, PG/2G/WF, Orr
The late-blooming Williams is still an unknown to Chicago area basketball fans, but he piqued the interest of college coaches this past summer with his endless length, marvelous athleticism and upside. With a bigger opportunity and more responsibility in front of him, look for the highly versatile Williams to take a significant jump this season in leading Orr.
11. Jeremiah Hernandez, 6-4, 2G, St. Viator
The smooth Hernandez can do so many different things on the perimeter with basketball instincts and playmaking ability. Plus, the Kent State recruit brings unique size, versatility and better athleticism than he’s given credit for to the backcourt.
12. Perry Cowan, 6-4, WF, DePaul Prep
There is a ton of substance with Cowan, who produces and is efficient. In addition, he defends, doesn’t take possessions off and does all the little things to help a team win. Cowan, who is headed to the Ivy League and Brown next year, averaged 17.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, three assists and 2.2 steals a game as a junior.
13. Antonio Reeves, 6-5, WF, Simeon
The lanky wing with terrific shooting ability and range has moved back to Chicago from Arizona and is one of the better uncommitted prospects remaining in the class. He can stretch a defense and space the floor as a knockdown shooter.
14. Ciaran Brayboy, 6-9, C, New Trier
The offensive game is still a work in progress, but the big-bodied Brayboy continues to make strides at that end of the floor. What Brayboy, who is headed to Harvard, brings to the table is great size and a competitive spirit. He battles while taking up space and uses his size and strength around the basket and on the glass.
15. Myles Baker, 6-2, 2G, Young
An unassuming player who has been a little under-appreciated. But this overlooked guard can score the basketball, especially when he’s in the open court and getting to the basket. He’s tough, competes and that translates to him being a quality rebounder for his size and position. Baker will be one of more closely watched uncommitted prospects this winter.
16. Joseph Yesufu, 5-10, PG, Bolingbrook
An all-around weapon as a point guard with a ton of big-game experience. A force in the open floor and as a pesky on-the-ball defender, the Drake-bound Yesufu is strong, compact and an athletic guard with outstanding end-to-end speed.
17. Tyler Cochran, 6-2, 2G, Bolingbrook
A savvy, experienced player who knows how to play the game and can impact it in a number of ways. A strong guard with shooting range and passing instincts. NIU landed a good one in Cochran, a mismatch at the high school level with his big body and as a triple threat with his passing, dribbling and shooting.
18. Kendrick Tchoua, 6-6, PF, Benet
The move-in from Maryland is physically imposing with a college-ready basketball body and intriguing upside. Tchoua is a Division I prospect who uses a mixture of strength and athleticism in backing down defenders on the block and in straight-line drives to the basket. Tchoua is one of the top uncommitted prospects in the state.
19. Trey Calvin, 5-11, PG, St. Viator
Quite possibly the most under-appreciated player in the class, Calvin simply makes shots and does his job at the point guard position without a whole lot of flash. The productive guard put up numbers last year to the tune of 16 points, five rebounds and three assists a game while shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc. Calvin will sign with Wright State in two weeks.
20. Evan Taylor, 6-5, WF, Glenbard West
While Taylor didn’t have an eye-opening July, he’s fresh off a big junior season in which he did so much for his team and handled some point guard duties while averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game. The long, lanky and versatile Taylor is headed to Southern Illinois.
Want to hear all about the Sun-Times preseason Super 25 basketball rankings? Michael O’Brien and Joe Henricksen go in-depth on all 25 teams in the latest episode of No Shot Clock, the Chicago high school basketball podcast. LISTEN HERE.