30 Juniors Set For Breakout Seasons

There are some varsity newcomers and experienced juniors who will should become more well-known this season. Here are some of the 2023 players throughout the state that are on the radar to have breakout years.

Adam Beasley (6’2 SG, Bloomington)

Beasley, an explosive combo guard that can score off the dribble, is going to be a difference-maker for Bloomington this year. He has natural scoring instincts and is capable of elevating over defenders in the mid-range or at the rim. Even at 6-foot-2, Beasley is going to be a productive rebounder and defender as well.

Alex Engro (6’2 PG, Loyola)

Loyola’s floor general is an adept playmaker that can score in bunches. Engro plays with great pace and has a handle that can break down defenders. He is a gifted shooter that has developed into a legitimate three-level scorer and distributor. Look for the ball to be in his hands a lot as the primary decision maker.

Arius Alijosius (6’3 SG, Riverside Brookfield)

After transferring from Stagg, Alijosius should instantly become one of the top shooters in the area. His shot has range, consistency, and an ideal release point. On any given night, he’ll be a threat to score double-digits off of his threes alone. Alijosius has shown more comfort putting it on the deck too, which will only add to his appeal.

Brady Kunka (6’4 SG, Benet)

Kunka took big steps throughout the summer looking confident and aggressive for long stretches. He is a physical, athletic guard that excels at attacking closeouts and getting paint touches. Benet is loaded this year, but Kunka looks primed to step into a larger role after playing up as a sophomore. The toughness he provides on both ends will be infectious. Also look for a higher volume of outside shots from Kunka.

Chris Martin (6’6 PF, Mundelein)

The departure of arguably the best class in Mundelein history leaves a gaping hole. Martin was able to learn from them and has plenty of ability and upside in his own right. With a strong 6-foot-6 frame, he can attack from the rim or go to work in the post. His touches should skyrocket as a junior and the efficiency shouldn’t take too much of a hit.

DJ Wallace (6’7 PF, Hoffman Estates)

Wallace has a lot of impressive physical tools that may catch the eyes of college coaches down the line. He runs the floor well and will make an impact offensively in the punch spot and as a roll man. Hoffman has a good group of seniors that will probably handle more of the scoring, but Wallace’s rim running and defensive presence will be clear.

Drew Scharnowski (6’7 SG, Burlington Central)

Now in his third varsity season, Scharnowski has continued to grow while refining his skills as a guard. He will still be a versatile defender and volume rebounder, but his offensive production will take a leap. Scharnowski has the size and footwork to score on the inside with shooting range past the arc. The ceiling is high for a player with his combination of length and skill.

Foster Ogbonna (6’4 PF, Rolling Meadows)

Ogbonna made a name for himself as a rebounding machine last season. That should continue this year on a larger scale. I wouldn’t be surprised if he averaged upwards of ten rebounds a game for Meadows while giving them the ability to switch screens on the defensive end. He will team with Cam Christie and Orlando Thomas on a team that will be a favorite in the MSL.

George Bellevue (6’6 PF, Lincoln-Way East)

There aren’t many players in the state who are more explosive off of two feet than Bellevue. Outside of the highlight-reel dunks, Bellevue will be able to score off of cutting and slashing from the wing. He is also a plus rebounder on both backboards that is tough to keep off of the offensive glass. On a young team, he will anchor the frontcourt for LWE.

Hunter Duncan (6’1 PG, Saint Viator)

Transferring to Viator after playing for Fenwick in the summer, Duncan will bring a different gear for the Lions. He’s got next-level athleticism and the willingness and ability to be a shutdown perimeter defender. Duncan should form a nice backcourt duo with returning point guard Eli Aldana.

Jackson Kotecki (6’9 PF, St. Ignatius)

I’m a big fan of Kotecki’s college potential. He’s grown to around 6-foot-9, has a smooth outside stroke, and runs the floor like a wing. As a sophomore, he was largely a floor-spacing weapon that gave some size. Now he is going to be a primary presence on the interior, protecting the rim and creating mismatches. The guard play will be strong for Ignatius, but Kotecki will shine in the frontcourt.

Jake Fiegen (6’4 SG, New Trier)

Put Fiegen up against any shooter in the state. He had a strong sophomore year but could be in the All-State conversation this season. Fiegen shoots a high percentage from NBA range off handoffs, pull-ups, or spot-ups. His physicality, athleticism, and defense often gets taken for granted but he is a strong finisher that competes defensively. New Trier will be a top 10 team in the state and Fiegen should be their go-to perimeter option.

Jimmy Rasmussen (6’1 PG, Geneva)

Following a long list of productive Geneva point guards, Rasmussen will fit right into that slot after the graduation of Nathan Valentine. He is a bulldog of a point guard that plays through contact and puts pressure on the ball defensively. Rasmussen shoots it well off the dribble too, which will be a nice option for a Geneva team that lacks experience.

Josh Thomas (6’5 SF, Stevenson)

The long, rangy wing showed plenty of potential as a sophomore. That should start to be realized this season with Thomas being one of the featured pieces in the Stevenson offense. His shot is fluid and he has added some strength to take bumps on his drives. Look for a noticeable improvement in his aggression as a junior.

Mantas Zilys (6’5 SG, Naperville Central)

Following an impressive summer with the Illinois Attack, Zilys has the look of a big time scorer. The lefty two-guard creates well off the dribble and can shoot off a variety of moves. He’s also a solid athlete that has a very projectable frame that is starting to fill out. With how hard he plays, Zilys should have no problem making the most of his ability.

Mark Mennecke (6’1 PG, Neuqua Valley)

Mennecke, a multi-sport star for Neuqua, ran the show as a sophomore for a team that featured two talented wings. With their graduation, he will look a lot like the player he showed towards the end of the spring. Mennecke plays with an edge on both ends and has a good outside shot to complement his ability to finish in traffic. Things will run through Mennecke at Neuqua.

Mekhi Lowery (6’5 SF, Oswego East)

Lowery has the chance to become a star at Oswego East. He’s 6-foot-5 with a huge wingspan, easy athleticism, and a high motor. During the summer, he showed that he is a capable catch-and-shoot threat and has a pull-up game from 15-feet. His defense was most impactful as a sophomore but Lowery has the full package of a potential Division-1 recruit.

Miles Rubin (6’8 PF, Simeon)

Rubin’s activity and length gave Simeon immediate benefits during summer league. He gives them a vertical outlet as a lob man and cleans up misses out of his area. Rubin showcases his face-up potential with Meanstreets on the AAU circuit which should be another plus heading into the season. Simeon will have high hopes as usual, and Rubin could be a difference maker to push them over the edge.

Nik Polonowski (6’6 SF, Lyons)

Polonowski should be an immediate weapon in his first varsity season. As a floor-spacing wing with plenty of athletic pop, he can go on shooting tears or make aggressive moves downhill to finish over length. He should also be a reliable team defender for Lyons using his size to clog up gaps and block shots. It’s still early in the process, but Polonowski will be a solid Division-1 prospect.

Prince Adams (6’5 SF, Evanston)

There were times last season where Adams looked like the best defender on the floor. He’s so lanky, versatile, and committed to being elite on that end. That defensive excellence alone is going to make Adams a must-see player. But they will need more on the offensive side after losing a lot of scoring from last year. Thankfully, he is a competent rim runner that is tough to keep out of the lane when he faces up. Adams is growing exponentially.

Raeshom Harris (6’3 SG, Bloom)

Harris is next up in a line of productive Bloom guards. They will be deep once again, but Harris is a tremendous on-ball defender and a wiry slasher that effectively gets to the rim. When he gets time and space, Harris can heat up from three as well. Harris brings energy that you have to appreciate and he’s just scratching the surface of his offensive game.

Ryan Sammons (6’3 SG, Fremd)

You know what you’re going to get with Sammons. He is instant offense and unafraid to take big shots as he showed as a sophomore. They have some returners back at Fremd next to him, so expect more continuity. Sammons shoots it with deep range and has a knack for breaking down defenders to get to his spots.

Sam Lewis (6’5 SG, Oak Park River Forest)

Lewis is an All-State caliber talent that has a list of Division-1 offers for good reason. The silky wing got stronger and more polished over the offseason, setting him up for a monster junior year. Shooting has been his calling card, as he can hit three-plus long-range shots on any given night. But his springy athleticism isn’t always appreciated. That will change this year for Lewis.

Sonny Williams (6’0 PG, Notre Dame College Prep)

A trio of stars graduated leaving Williams, a three-year varsity player, as the heir apparent leader for the Dons. He has the game and personality for it. Williams is a constant communicator, can score or pass in space or off ball screens, and has speed that creates problems for opponents on both ends. The addition of a few transfers will assist Williams, but he knows the system and may be the best point guard in a guard-heavy ESC.

Tyler Franklin (6’6 SF, Cobden)

Franklin will be without his brother Noah, an All-State guard. But that will open up a spot for Tyler to have a similar impact after he made a nice jump as a sophomore. At 6-foot-6, he is a big body that can play on the perimeter or the interior. Franklin is a double-double threat that could go for 20 and 10 on multiple occasions.

Tyler Swierczek (6’5 SF, Palatine)

Swierczek put his name on the map with timely scoring in the spring. With a few more inches and continued development of his offensive skillset, Swierczek should be a force for Palatine with his shot making and rebounding. The mid-range pull-up game is advanced and he knocks down perimeter shots at a high clip when he is in rhythm. It should be an all-conference year for Swierczek.

Tylon Tolliver (6’2 PG, Lincoln-Way East)

Tolliver can flat out score. He’s able to play on or off the ball, but he be a volume scorer with his jumper or using his craftiness and bounce to get going downhill. There is little doubt that he will be able to manufacture offense in whatever role he has, but it seems likely that he will have some freedom to play to his strengths.

Wes Rubin (6’8 PF, Simeon)

The other Rubin twin provides similar value, though he is bulkier and ventures out to the perimeter a bit more. Rubin runs the floor well and will be a mismatch for any four man he is matched up with. Similar to Miles, Wes holds a number of Division 1 offers.

Xavier Sulaiman (6’3 PG, Marist)

Sulaiman was a key piece to Marist as a sophomore he should be acting as the primary ball-handler now. One of the best above-the-rim finishers and slashers in the class, Sulaiman excels at getting into the teeth of the defense where he can score for himself or pass out to teammates. He’s got the shooting range and defensive anticipation to find ways to affect the game if defenses clog the lane. Sulaiman will look to lead a young Marist group.

Zack Hawkinson (6’5 SF, Sacred-Heart Griffin)

Hawkinson is an up-and-coming wing with the body and versatility that should catch the attention of college coaches. He is a mobile forward that has shown the ability to step out to knock down jumpers as well, which will be even more important this year as more defenses try to take away his paint touches. Hawkinson was recently offered by D2 Illinois-Springfield and more offers should come.

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