The Prep Hoops Chi-Town Kickoff was full of high-level talent. I went to check out some of the games and locations in person and have write-ups for some of the top performers that I was able to see.
AJ Casey (6’8 SF, Whitney Young)
The five-star recruit was efficient throughout the weekend. His offensive game is so fluid, breaking down defenders, cutting hard for finishes, or exposing mismatches in the post. When he is shooting it from the perimeter like he did, any defense will struggle to find an answer. Casey’s defensive versatility shined as well, blocking shots and containing ball-handlers with his length. He was one of the best performers at the event and has a long list of high-majors in pursuit for good reason.
Kam Craft (6’5 SG, Buffalo Grove)
At this point, I feel comfortable saying that Craft is the best scorer in the state. His pull-up three was nearly automatic, even when it was heavily contested. When he attacked closeouts, Craft either gathered himself for mid-range jumpers or got to the rim and showed off his underappreciated bounce and body control. He hit a game-winning three, made some acrobatic layups, and brought the spectators to their feet with a couple of dunks in traffic. At 6-foot-5, he is a gifted three-level scorer that should continue to receive high Division-1 interest. I can’t imagine there are 100 high schoolers better than him.
Nick Martinelli (6’7 SF, Glenbrook South)
Martinelli was one of the more productive finishers I saw. He knows how to change speed, use fakes, and create angles to get to the rim. His touch and size make it tough to stop him even if you guess right on his move. He was getting to the rim in transition with regularity, putting up double-digit outputs on a stacked Meanstreets team. His rebounding and defensive activity shouldn’t be overlooked either. He’s been a mid-major plus prospect for a while, but these types of performances definitely help the cause.
Brad Beal Elite 2022
 Jeremy Fears Jr. (6’1 PG, La Lummiere)
Fears is just a leader. He played up with the 17U team but looked right at home running the show. He is one of the premier pick-and-roll players in the 2023 class, able to shoot behind screens, drive to the lane, or read the second level of the defense. Fears has a number of high-major offers and interest from some of the top college programs in the country.
Illinois Hoopstars 2022 Gill
A.J. Storr (6’6 SG, AZ Compass)
The Illinois commit was really impressive the entire weekend. Storr has serious strength and athleticism, but polished footwork and skills on the perimeter. He used his upper body well to bump off defenders and get to his mid-range or power through to the rim. The 6-foot-6 guard skied above the rim numerous times and added some threes. He has had one of the biggest rises in the country over the last year.
Zach Cleveland (6’7 SF, Normal)
I really like how hard Cleveland plays. He was cleaning the glass and pushing in transition where he has crazy bounce on the run. Cleveland handles the ball well for a 6-foot-7 forward but welcomed the opportunity to seal in the post against smaller opponents or battle on the inside defensively. He also gave a glimpse of his improved outside shot, a weapon that will really elevate his stock. Cleveland was offered by Illinois State recently.
KJ Debrick (6’10 C, Springfield Lanphier)
Debrick is a big-time shot blocker with a reputation as a rim protector. A bit of a traditional big that defends, rebounds, and works to find openings for dump-offs, Debrick doesn’t require a high volume to produce. He had multiple dunks in the games I saw, doing a nice job of separating from his defender. He plans to reclassify to the 2022 class, but he is already a Division-1 center.
Illinois Hoopstars 2022 Rhymes
Jeremiah Jones (6’4 SG, Marian Catholic)
Jones is a high-level defensive stopper that flashed plenty of offensive gifts. His long arms and anticipation make him a nightmare guarding the ball, creating turnovers easily. Jones has balance on his pull-up, range to the three-point line, and can use his long strides to get by defenders to score or distribute. He is a serious guard prospect that could defend D1 guards today.
Christian Meeks (6’6 SF, Homewood Flossmoor)
Meeks may be considered a tweener, but he is a workhorse that impacts the game in multiple areas. He rebounded very well outside of his area. Meeks has broad shoulders that he uses to get space in the paint where he is a quality finisher. The outside shooting stood out, looking comfortable taking and making threes. He is a scholarship player.
Donovan Jones (6’2 PG, Solorio)
Solorio’s point guard is a physical playmaker that gets after it on both ends. He put good pressure on the ball against some good guards, controlling the tempo with his quickness. Jones showed that he can score from multiple levels, having enough skill to knock down stepbacks but also enough strength to play through size at the rim.
Team Rose 2022
Tye Banks (6’3 PG, Springfield Lanphier)
Banks made big shot after big shot this weekend. When he had the ball in isolation situations, he was able to connect on jumpers off the dribble after creating separation. He has a strong build and solid body control that allows him to absorb contact. Banks can make plays on the move for himself or teammates and should be a valuable guard for a college program.
Xavier Amos (6’7 SF, Whitney Young)
You can’t teach the length and agility that Amos possesses. He was a tough cover in the mid-post when he was able to face-up to shoot or get to the rim. There is a lot to like about his defensive versatility to guard on the wing or in the post. He has range out to the three-point line to use in pick-and-pop situations. In the game I saw, he was really good at keeping the ball alive on the offensive glass as well. Amos is a solid prospect hiding in plain sight.
Hoops For Health 2022
 Tyler Van Gorp (6’10 C, New Trier)
Van Gorp is a legit 6-foot-10 with good mobility. I saw him scorer out of the post, dunk off a baseline pass, and make a three from the wing. He has so many offensive tools to work with and a solid understanding of how to use him. As he matures physically, Van Gorp could be a problem at the center spot that garners scholarship-level college interest.
Young and Reckless 2022
Damari Wheeler-Thomas (6’0 PG, Larkin)
The quickness and efficiency of Wheeler-Thomas is advanced for a high-school point guard. He has different gears and knows when to use them. The lift on his pull-up jumper from 15-17 feet looked easy and allowed him to make shots over length. He excelled in the pick-and-roll game rejecting screens and turning the corner at times to get downhill where his vision is best. Wheeler-Thomas holds a number of Division-1 offers so far.
Tavari Johnson (6’0 PG, Lyons)
Johnson has blinding speed in the open floor with a lot more length than you would expect given his height. Most teams threw multiple defenders at him, but he probed well and got to his shots at the rim and in the middle game. Johnson is a shifty ball-handler that is a pest on the defensive end as well. He lacks some size, but he has the look of a productive college guard.
Will Grudzinski (6’6 SG, Barrington)
Grudzinski is a big, skilled shooter that gets better every time I see him. Shooting out of drive-and-kicks or designed plays, he is a lethal sniper that gets squared quickly. Grudzinski looked good attacking out of the triple threat and getting above the rim for layups and dunks. Defensively, he is a terrific on-ball defender that can shut down high-volume scorers. Grudzinski should be a top priority for Ivy League/high-academic coaches.
Justin Mullins (6’6 SG, Oak Park River Forest)
Mullins spaced the floor well and did his damage in transition. When he makes quick decisions with the ball, he can get to the rim and elevate before the help comes. I thought he looked best as a shooter off kick-outs when he got his feet set. Mullins is a lanky defender and quality rebounder as well. His stock will continue to rise after a strong first month with Y&R.
Xavier Lewis (6’7 PF, TF South)
There was never a question about the energy that Lewis was bringing. He lives around the basket as a roll man and cutter, sprinting to open space and finishing with force. Lewis got up well off two feet in traffic for offensive rebounds, dunks, and blocks. A high motor forward that also has decent shooting ability like Lewis is worth a look.
Ben VanderWal (6’7 SF, Timothy Christian)
It just seems like VanderWal really loves to compete. He made big shots when his team needed a bucket or took charges and blocked shots when they needed a defensive stop. A three-point marksman with ideal size, VanderWal hit deep shots with consistency on the move or from a standstill. He showed toughness slashing to the rim and finishing amongst length on the inside. His instincts as a rebounder and help defender were impressive as well. Most D2 coaches would love to have a player with the skill and intensity of VanderWal. But he has legitimate Division-1 talent with the grades to attract high-academics as well.
Bobby Durkin (6’6 SG, Hinsdale South)
Durkin is a new-age big playmaker that relies on his IQ and body to get to his spots. Even when smaller guards tried to pressure him, he kept his poise, diagnosed the defense, and created off the dribble. Durkin has a mature feel and footwork. He is a very good outside shooter off the catch and a physical finisher once he gets an angle to the rim. Ivy Leagues have shown interest and more programs should be looking at the big guard after this weekend.
Garrett Bolte (6’6 PF, Hinsdale South)
Bolte probably had one of the higher rebounding rates this weekend. He was shedding box-outs to create second chances and crashed hard to finish possessions. The 6-foot-6 forward looked comfortable shooting from the perimeter and attacking from the high post. He has sneaky athleticism and blocked a lot of shots this weekend with his length. I have said it before, but Bolte should be a rock-solid D2 forward.
John Paul Hanley (6’4 SG, Riverside Brookfield)
Another strong shooter for Breakaway, Hanley is a knockdown shooter that ran off screens and made the defense pay whenever there was a sliver of space. He’s got a stout build for a two-guard, able to play through physicality off the ball. When needed, he put the ball on the floor to finish. The size at 6-foot-4 combined with his shooting and improved all-around game should make him a scholarship player.
M14 Adidas Gold 2022
Lane McVicar (6’5 SG, DeKalb)
McVicar was ready to play this weekend, bringing a high level of intensity. He was really productive as a driver, getting to the paint and using his athleticism to score through contact. His length and ball skills made it difficult on the primary and help defense to keep him from the lane. Defensively, he locked up his matchup and used that size to his advantage. He is a scholarship talent.
Jonah Hinton (6’2 PG, Naperville Central)
Hinton has some great moments for M14 this weekend. He has some college-level moves in his bag, including a number of ways to break down defenders in isolation situations. Hinton hit a few stepbacks and spot-ups from the perimeter. I thought his creativity as a finisher was noteworthy as well, playing up around the rim in traffic. Hinton is on a nice trajectory to bringing in college offers soon.
Patrick Robinson (6’5 SG, Oswego East)
The defense was excellent at times from Robinson, using his physicality and athleticism to be disruptive. As he got going defensively, that energy translated to transition finishes and a few strong dunks. He sprayed in some jumpers as well but did most of his work at the basket driving hard to his right hand. Robinson remains an intriguing wing with upside.
Brad Beal Elite 2023
Jordan Pickett (6’1 PG, Belleville East)
Pickett is a tough combo guard that showed well in transition. At the stage, he is really good getting to the rim, but he is also a solid outside shooter. I was probably most impressed with his defensive ability in space, staying aggressive without giving up anything easy. Pickett is an all-around guard that can be a playmaker or finisher as needed.
Macaleab Rich (6’5 SF, East St. Louis)
Rich has a grown man build and the strength that comes with it. His straight-line drives were forceful and drew contact often. He has a knack for getting into the paint and crashes the offensive glass well. Rich also has a projectable outside shot that has range. He is a power wing to track in the 2023 class.
Chicago Lockdown 2023
Jackson Niego (6’0 PG, Lyons)
Niego had one of the most productive weekends of the guards that I saw. A gritty floor general that has a good pulse on the game, he made great decisions off penetration by hitting floaters, skipping to shooters, or dumping off passes to bigs. He shot the ball at a high rate from three with a quick trigger. Niego also got to the foul line well, using his body to welcome contact. Niego is a tough lead guard that played with a ton of poise this weekend.
Matt Moore (6’7 PF, Hillcrest)
The long, athletic forward was manning the paint on both ends. Moore was relentless on the backboards and followed his shot well. He excels as a run-and-jump athlete in transition to get chase-down blocks and outrun bigs for easy shots. As his skill set becomes more refined, Moore has the tools to be a consistent double-double threat.
Luke Newhall (6’3 SG, Walter Payton)
Newhall is a big utility guard that does a lot of things well. He is an excellent rebounder and defender that can guard multiple positions. His passing feel and ball handling are solid as well. Newhall showed that he can connect on outside shots or use his upper body strength to go inside for finishes. His versatility on both ends is going to be valuable for college coaches.
Illinois Hoopstars 2023 – Duane
Bryce Tillery (5’8 PG, Hillcrest)
Tillery is a winning point guard that elevated his game when the game was on the line. He has the ball on a string and finds a way to knife through the defense to get shots for himself or teammates. His vision and passing skills were on full display. He knows when to throw bullets and when to put air on passes. He is a tempo setter that was able to finish among the trees and hit open jumpers.
Grant Welch (6’3 SG, Moline)
Welch is a strong shot maker that works well off of the ball to find his shot. He can get his own shot with crossovers and hesitation moves. His release is smooth with range and consistency. For a 2023 prospect, he has a good understanding for how to manufacture his own offense from multiple spots on the floor.
Illinois Hoopstars 2023 – Wilder
Conor Mosele (6’1 SG, Notre Dame College Prep)
Mosele was cooking from three during the game that I saw. He has a clean jump shot that comes out with good rotation. Mosele was ready to shoot from well behind the three-point line and hit multiple deep ones. His proficiency as a shooter is worth tracking going forward.
IBA Stars 2023
Collin Wainscott (5’11 PG, Marmion)
I don’t know how to explain it, but Wainscott manages to keep things simple while having flash to his game. He is a heady point guard that thrives in pick-and-rolls where he looks off defenders and uses hesitations to create space. His range is past the college line, able to stop on a dime and shoot. Wainscott was efficient from all three levels. His passing could be key at the next level, with no-looks and crosscourt passes thrown on time and on target. Wainscott is a scoring point guard to watch.
Jayden Martin (6’2 SG, Joliet West)
Martin is an explosive scorer that impressed me with his tough shot-making. There were times where he hit jumpers off the dribble with defenders draped all over him and he seemed unfazed. Martin has a strong build with a quick first step. He was always looking to put pressure on the defense with his dribble penetration first, then was more than willing to start stretching them out from three. He has some scoring instincts that you can’t teach.
Trevon Roots (6’4 PF, Marmion)
A combo forward with pogo stick bounce, Roots was having a block party. He stood out defensively switching screens and rotating over to make up for teammates’ mistakes. Roots did most of his work offensively on the glass, but he was solid in a few face-up situations. There are a bunch of physical assets for Roots to utilize going forward.
Team Rose 2023
Tae Jackson (6’2 PG, Springfield Lanphier)
Jackson is a fluid, crafty point guard that has crazy length. He almost glides on the court to get to his spots but never seems rushed. Jackson can drive and finish either way, using his change-of-pace very well to get a step. Jackson can shoot it from the outside given time, but his penetration skills are special. He is considered one of the top point guards in the 2023 class and for good reason after seeing him this weekend.
Chikasi Ofoma (6’7 SF, Simeon)
Ofoma is a big sophomore that has a promising inside-out game. He was strong getting downhill to overpower defenders but showed his jump shooting ability from the mid-range and added a few threes as well. Ofoma has some quickness on the defensive end that should help as he flexes between the three and four. Ofoma should be a prospect that garners some scholarship interest over the next year.
Nik Polonowski (6’6 SF, Lyons)
Polonowski opened a lot of eyes for those who had not seen him before. The athletic 6-foot-6 wing is a smooth shooter with a strong frame that made threes from the trail spot and off ball reversals. When he was chased off of the line, he showed good footwork on one-dribble pull-ups and drove to the rim for right-handed finishes. Polonowski had multiple chase-down blocks meeting guys at the rim and used his size and athleticism to stay in front defensively. His energy and motor are differentiators. Polonowski is a high-upside, high-academic wing for coaches to keep an eye on.
Hampton Dauparas (6’6 C, Providence Catholic)
The big fella was punishing defenders on the block. Dauparas posts with a purpose in the middle of the lane and shows his hands well for entries. Once he got the ball, he was able to dropstep in either direction or make hooks over his left shoulder. With a wide-body and good footwork, he created easy baskets by doing his work early. Dauparas is a terrific rebounder on both ends in part because of how hard he plays when the ball goes up. He is a refreshing, physical back-to-the-basket big.
Arius Alijosius (6’2 SG, Stagg)
The lefty sniper was solid as a scorer from distance. He has a good-looking stroke and got hot a couple of times with his catch-and-shoot chances. Alijosius also got into the lane for some floaters off of straight-line drives. At 6-foot-2, he has length so he might be even more impactful on defense as he gets stronger and taller.
Sam Lewis (6’5 SG, Oak Park River Forest)
Lewis shot the ball well in the game I saw. He has a compact release and an ease about the way he scores. A good athlete with length, Lewis can defend multiple spots on the perimeter. He is a 2023 wing with a ton of upside playing on or off the ball.
Rich Barron (6’5 SG, St. Ignatius)
Strong, athletic, and skilled, Barron was a mismatch problem for teams. I liked what I saw from him defensively, moving his feet and being active. He poured in threes and got to the rack in straight lines. With his big frame, he can flip to a post up if he gets cut off on penetration. And he rebounded it pretty well. Barron has an offer from DePaul so far.
Daniel Johnson (6’6 SF, Whitney Young)
Another big shooter on this Meanstreets team, Johnson was on fire from the perimeter. When he shoots it with confidence, Johnson is a dangerous catch-and-shoot player. He profiles as a 3-and-D wing at the next level.
Raeshom Harris (6’3 SG, Bloom)
It really stands out when you can disrupt an entire offense with your ball pressure like Harris did this weekend. He has size, length, and quickness, but complements that with tenacity and commitment. Harris also hit some threes and penetrated as a playmaker. He got it done on both ends.
Miles Rubin (6’7 PF, Homewood Flossmoor)
Fresh off of an offer from Northern Illinois, Rubin looked the part showing elite defensive upside. He sent back shots on the ball and as a help-side defender. The ones he didn’t block he affected with his length. Rubin’s quickness is always impressive given his 6-foot-7 standing as well. More Division-1 schools will be looking into the long-term impact of Rubin.