There is clearly a lot of work to be done this spring and summer when it comes to the top high school basketball talent in Illinois.
The Class of 2020, next year’s senior class, is lacking in overall Division I talent, while the promising Class of 2021 still needs to take a big step forward in living up to its early potential.
But for different reasons here are eight names to keep an eye on this offseason as college coaches and talent evaluators ramp up their interest.
■ Max Christie, Rolling Meadows
Yes, everyone is already watching the precocious talent in the northwest suburbs. But if the first weekend of the Under Armour Association’s circuit play is any indication, Christie is poised to take yet another big step in his development and notoriety.
The 6-6 sophomore guard is already the state’s top college basketball prospect, mind you, but he shined over the weekend while playing up an age group with the Illinois Wolves. And in coming months the high-major interest will only intensify. Kansas was the latest to jump in with a visit to Rolling Meadows last week.
■ Chris Hodges, Schaumburg
With size and early name recognition, Hodges was an instant “prospect” to watch the day he entered high school. But the 6-8 sophomore has made terrific strides. The transition from prospect to player has begun as he’s evolved into a true, back-to-the-basket threat with improved footwork and feel on the block.
Hodges, who did pick up a few mid-major offers last fall prior to his sophomore season, averaged 16 points a game while shooting 66 percent from the field this past season.
■ Jeremiah Williams, St. Laurence
He’s too talented, too productive and easily projectable as a 6-4, multi-faceted guard to not garner a ton of Division I interest and offers in coming months. Williams fills the stat sheet and led the Vikings to 27 wins, a regional title and scored 23 points in a sectional loss to Bogan.
Williams, who averaged 18.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and three steals a game, may not have a lengthy list of Division I offers yet, but he will sooner than later as the spring and summer plays out.
■ Darius Burford, Bolingbrook
A Division I prospect with just one Division I offer –– Drake offered Burford last fall –– this junior led a talented Raiders team in scoring this past season (17 ppg) while playing with two Division I senior guards. An under-the-radar scoring guard, Burford will play with Team Rose on the Adidas circuit .
Blessed with terrific end-to-end speed, the 6-1 Burford thrives in transition and is a difficult cover in the open court and is an outstanding finisher. Plus, he shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
■ Ahron Ulis, Marian Catholic
There is a lack of buzz surrounding the recruitment of this 6-2 point guard. Why Ulis doesn’t already have a plethora of mid-major offers is puzzling. That will change soon enough.
He’s a calm, steady and poised lead guard who goes out and does his job, albeit without a lot of flash or sizzle. There is a whole lot of substance in the younger brother of Tyler Ulis. Ahron Ulis plays within himself, produces with 18 points, 3.5 rebounds and five assists a game and wins, leading the Spartans to 53 victories the past two seasons.
■ Sincere Parker, Rockford East
The time it’s taken people to take notice of Parker’s talents is somewhat laughable, considering his physical attributes on the perimeter and bonafide scoring ability (19 points a game).
Blessed with long-range shooting ability -– the 6-3 guard knocked down 121 three-pointers this past season –– and sneaky athleticism, Parker has been among the top-ranked prospects in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s player rankings since the start of his junior season. Fortunately, there is plenty of time for others to get on board.
■ Dante Maddox, Bloom
Bloom teammates Martice Mitchell and Keshawn Williams are both ranked higher in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s Class of 2020 player rankings, but that doesn’t take the shine off this talented guard who is under-appreciated.
Maddox is versatile guard with size, scoring ability and is strong academically. He averaged 16.5 points a game as a junior while shooting 43 percent from the three-point line. The 6-2 guard is a threat shooting the ball both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations.
UIC extended an early offer, along with the previous Southern Illinois staff, but expect Maddox to become a prime target for mid-major programs in coming months as is all-around game continues to make strides.
■ Connor Kochera, St. Viator
The biggest no-namer on this list from a recruiting and prospect perspective, but Kochera is a sleeper to watch this spring and summer.
An accomplished shooter on the perimeter, Kochera continues to add to his game and become a more diverse offensive threat. But his shooting ability (40 percent from the three-point line as a junior) is what led him to average 15 points a game this past season while playing with Division I standouts Trey Calvin and Jeremiah Hernandez.
Kochera, who chipped in five rebounds and three assists a game, has nice size and length on the perimeter and is an outstanding student in the classroom. This is a scholarship player who will try and play his way into the Division I conversation.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport