We’re about 10 weeks away from the start of high school basketball games. Until then, we will be posting some previews and players/teams to watch for this year. Today, I am looking at some of the top duos in the state for this upcoming season. A number of these teams have multiple players who could reasonably fit, but here are some of the standouts.
2022 AJ Casey & 2022 Xavier Amos at Whitney Young
The long, versatile combo forwards are going to put a hurt on some backboards this year. Casey has a final list of high-major programs looking to add his athleticism and upside to the mix. He can get whatever he wants offensively as a slasher, offensive rebounder, or post-up scorer. Casey should be among the top players in the state once again if he is at full health.
Amos committed to Northern Illinois on Monday, which was a big get for the Huskies. After having an impactful summer, it looks like he is starting to put it all together. Amos is showing more consistent shooting touch and continues to be a multi-purpose defensive stopper. Both players will be featured on a team that will be one of the favorites to make it down state.
2023 JJ Taylor & 2023 Darrin Ames at Kenwood
Kenwood has a super-duo with two top-100 national recruits (plus a third in Davius Loury). Any college coach in the country would welcome the chance to have Taylor. He makes it look effortless on both ends, skying above the rim for blocked shots, breaking down defenders, and hitting threes from NBA range.
Ames continues to be more impressive the more I see of him. He’s got star potential. After growing a bit to 6-foot-3, he has size to go with that shake and body control off the dribble. It will be an electric junior year for Ames after earning offers from schools like LSU, Maryland, Michigan State, and Oklahoma.
2022 Christian Jones & 2023 Macaleab Rich at East St. Louis
Probably not well-known to a lot of people in the upper half of the state, but this Division-1 duo is going to provide a lot of excitement for East St. Louis. Jones, a Missouri commit, is a late bloomer that has the vision and creativity to run the show. He should take a big jump as a senior.
Rich is one of the best juniors in the Southern Illinois/St. Louis area and shined for Brad Beal Elite this summer. He is a big-bodied, 6-foot-7 wing that can jump out of the gym. Missouri, Kansas State, and Illinois are among some of the schools involved.
2022 Cooper Noard & 2022 Nick Martinelli at Glenbrook South
There might not be a more in-sync and proficient duo than Noard (Cornell commit) and Martinelli (Elon commit). Noard averaged 18 points a game in a condensed junior year and should see even more volume as a senior. His shooting ability and combination of finesse and grit as a finisher makes him a tough cover. Cornell won big with this addition.
Martinelli is one of the most lethal scorers in the state. He’s 6-foot-7, has a tight handle, and is efficient from all over the floor, shooting nearly 70% from the field despite facing constant defensive attention. It will be more of the same for the Elon commit with a higher volume of threes. Martinelli is must-watch for fans who like bucket-getters.
2022 AJ Redd & 2023 Rich Barron at St. Ignatius
Ignatius has a number of solid players along with Redd and Barron. The 6-foot-4 Redd is a slithery point guard that has a high-IQ and advanced feel for the game. Now in his final varsity year, he has experience playing on or off the ball. Redd projects as an Ivy League-type of prospect at the next level but should have plenty of suitors.
Barron emerged as a serious Division-1 prospect that has ample talent to take a big step as a junior. It’s hard to find a player comparison for a 6-foot-5 guard that is as powerful, agile, and skilled as him. Barron has offers from DePaul, George Mason, Kent State, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
2022 Braden Huff & 2022 Cade Pierce at Glenbard West
Huff and Pierce have grown together over the last two seasons into one of the more well-rounded duos in the state. They both started for a loaded Illinois Wolves team that eventually won the UAA championship. The 6-foot-10 Huff is a dangerous inside-out threat with better perimeter skills than most guards. He’s a 40 percent three-point shooter and a timely shot-blocker that has a long list of power five offers.
Pierce can control games in all facets, establishing himself as an elite rebounder, passer, and defender as a junior. He was also the second-leading scorer. Now at 6-foot-6 with more spring to his step, Pierce is going to be a problem at point guard for opposing defenses. Mid-majors and Ivys are involved.
2022 Jackson Munro & 2023 Jake Fiegen at New Trier
New Trier is set to have a deep team with Munro and Fiegen as driving forces. While playing for Fundamental U and Full Package, Munro took his recruitment to another level. He garnered offers from a number of mid-major programs after showing how smart, skilled, and efficient he was for long stretches. There should be a good balance of post scoring and perimeter shooting from the blossoming 6-foot-9 big.
Fiegen was the best shooter I saw all summer and that’s not hyperbole. Every weekend he delivered with threes in volume and showed different aspects of his game. Fiegen is a good leaper, has a strong upper body, and really competes defensively. At this point, he has cemented himself as a Division 1 prospect that is going to set the nets on fire this year.
2022 Justin Mullins & 2023 Sam Lewis at Oak Park-River Forest
Both Mullins and Lewis had breakout summers for their respective AAU teams and reaped the rewards. But it should be entertaining seeing them team up one last year. Mullins has become a target for a number of Ivy League and MAC schools. His spot-up shooting and defensive prowess are evident, but he will be a force on straight-line drives for OPRF as well.
Lewis is still just scratching the surface. 6-foot-5 with a smooth jumper, Lewis is going to be worth tracking over the next few years. He can score in bunches in multiple ways with increased strength. Akron and NIU have offered since last year.
2024 James Brown & 2024 Morez Johnson at St. Rita
The top two players in the sophomore class are back for another year of terrorizing opposing frontcourts. Both should be top 50 national prospects when it’s all said and done. Brown gained some valuable experience trying out for the USA youth team and has looked dominant in the paint recently. His level of footwork and balance at 6-foot-9 will shine more with a year under his belt. I have no doubts that he is a worth the billing of a five-star recruit.
Johnson keeps growing and flashing his two-way potential. The quickness, bounce, and length that Johnson possesses were on display as a freshmen. Now he looks more confident and refined on the offensive end. The twin towers at St. Rita are only going to get better.
2022 Will Grudzinski & 2022 Daniel Hong at Barrington
Barrington is going to be a favorite in the MSL led by their backcourt of Grudzinski and Hong. Grudzinski was selected to the All-State team after a huge junior year. The shooting, athleticism, and defense are difference makers at 6-foot-6. Grudzinski will be even better as a senior and should continue attracting interest from high-academic schools.
Hong was a dynamic all-conference point guard in the spring and carried that over to a strong summer. His playmaking and marksmanship from the outside are a good complement to Grudzinski.
Other Duos To Watch:
Cam Christie & Orlando Thomas at Rolling Meadows
Christie has blown up over the last few months and should be a threat to score 20-points a game for Meadows. Thomas transitioned into a leading role this summer and showed 3-and-D upside.
Pat Robinson & Mekhi Lowery at Oswego East
In his first varsity year, Robinson was a man amongst boys on the perimeter. He earned multiple D2 offers after a solid summer with M14. Lowery is one to watch for with his touch and ability to put it on the ground at 6-foot-6.
Ahmad Henderson & Khalil Ross at Brother Rice
Henderson never disappoints with his production and creativity. He can break down anyone and score from three levels as an undersized PG. Ross transferred in from Lincoln-Way East where he was due for a breakout year.
Brock Harding & Grant Welch at Moline
This shake-and-bake duo at Moline should be a lot of fun. Harding is a main attraction with his flashy floor general game. A prime mid-major kid, he is also a heady scorer that was the only sophomore on the All-State team. Welch can let it fly and plays with strength on his drives.
Sonny Williams & Bryce Coleman at NDCP
Williams is the man at NDCP now. In year three, he will be a premier point guard in the area. St. Rita transfer Bryce Coleman is looking to have a healthy year after showing high-major upside as a freshman.
Jake Hamilton & Zack Hawkinson at Sacred Heart Griffin
Hamilton is full of energy and finishes anything in the paint at 6-foot-3. Hawkinson is a nice complement as a 6-foot-5 forward that can stretch the floor or get going in the paint.
Ethan Ivan & Trent Tousana at Batavia
Ivan is a dude at 6-foot-7 with a clean outside stroke and slashing ability. He’s a high-level D2 recruit. Tousana knows how to make things flow and can really shoot it with his feet set.
Trey Redd & Zach Cleveland at Normal
Redd might be the most explosive sub-6-foot player in Illinois. He makes tough finishes look routine. Cleveland, a Liberty commit, was one of the most productive players in Central Illinois in the spring. Anything you need him to do to win, he will do at a high level.
DJ Bates & Marcellius Cohen at De La Salle
Bates is one of the more underappreciated point guards around. His quickness and scoring punch are going to create problems. Cohen is am interior big that should be a solid anchor this year.
Conrad Luczynski & Kelton McEwen at Bartlett
The 7-foot-2 Luczynski is a serious paint presence that protects the rim and can score in bunches over his left shoulder. He’s also got more passing skill and touch than he gets credit for and should be a good addition to a college program. McEwen made all-conference as a freshman in a guard-heavy Upstate 8. The 6-foot lead guard can shoot the lights out and has great feel for the game.
Ty Rogers & Josh Pickett at West Aurora
Rogers burst onto the scene as a junior and will be one of the better scorers in the area this year. He’s got a seasoned mid-range game and size that should attract some D2 programs. Pickett is a big-time transfer from St. Rita with excellent strength for a 6-foot-4 guard. His best days are ahead.
Mikell Jones & Mikqwon Jones at Michelle Clark
The Jones twins can beat you up playing bully ball on their drives. They play to and through contact and will be double-double threats on any given night.
Ethan Marlowe & Max Love at St. Charles North
When Marlowe was healthy, he made All-State as a junior. He’s getting back into form after some time off in the summer and should be a 15 and 10 guy again. The inside-out skill is impressive. Love is a wing to watch using his lanky frame and catch-and-shoot ability to impact the game.
Nojus Indrusaitis & (Rokas or Matas) Castillo at Lemont
Indrusaitis is the top guard in the 2024 class and established himself early on as a freshman. The sky is the limit with his competitiveness, skill, and athleticism. I know this is only for duos but I couldn’t pick between the Castillo twins. Both are scrappy, quick playmakers that can hit open shots.
Xavier Sulaiman & Leirre Collier at Marist
One of the young duos to watch, Sulaiman and Collier are explosive scorers that finish above the rim. Sulaiman should step into a lead role for Marist and Collier is healthy and ready to put some of the conference on notice.