We’re looking at some of the top backcourts in the state for this upcoming season.
Notable Players: Daniel Hong, Will Grudzinski, Donovan Nichols
Grudzinski is a returning All-State two-guard that could be the best player in the MSL. He’ll be better off the bounce and remains as a plus defender. The 6-foot-2 Hong is a strong running mate that knows how to make plays on the move. Nichols is only a junior but he will provide plus outside shooting.
Notable Players: Brennan White, Brady Heckman, Brady Kunka, Sam Driscoll, Niko Absura, Brayden Fagbemi
The experience is there, with Heckman and White leading the group as heady seniors. Kunka, a physical slasher, and Driscoll, a skilled combo guard, also got varsity time as sophomores and should take bigger roles this year. There is good upside with the wiry Absura, who showed well with Full Package in the summer. Fagbemi should add depth as well after transferring from Neuqua Valley.
Notable Players: Jordan Brown, Raeshom Harris, KJ Cobb, Gianni Cobb
This young backcourt has its best basketball ahead of them. Brown scores it well in space and brings good energy defensively. Harris is another up-tempo guard that is going to open some eyes as a two-way player. The Cobb brothers transferred in and will be immediate help. KJ, a junior, is a pitbull-type driver and Gianni is a quick sophomore that can go.
Notable Players: Ahmad Henderson, Nick Niego, Cale Cosme
Henderson is as dynamic as any point guard in the state regardless of class. He plays fast, but is always under control and up for the big moments. The Division 1 lead guard is going to be kicking out a lot to Niego, a sharpshooter that is automatic with his feet set. Cosme is another small point guard with immense skill at his size that doesn’t back down.
Notable Players: Gavin Sarvis, Carson Seyller, Zach Schmidt, Drew Scharnowski, Trestan Wagner
Three all-conference players return in Sarvis, Seyller, and Schmidt. All three averaged double figures as juniors and created turnovers with their length and athleticism defensively. Scharnowski, a 6-foot-7 junior, has the most upside and is a breakout candidate that will handle some playmaking duties this year. Wagner gives Central a crafty guard that can collapse the defense.
De La Salle
Notable Players: DJ Bates, Mike Davis Jr., Anthony Davis III
Still underrated, Bates is a Division-1 caliber point guard that is a terror in transition. He’s the veteran of the group. Davis Jr., previously at Morgan Park as a freshman, is back in Illinois after garnering high college interest as an underclassmen. Anthony Davis will be able to play on or off the ball as a shooter that can make some plays.
Notable Players: Cade Pierce, Paxton Warden, Bobby Durkin, Kent Buchholz, Jack Caldwell
Easily the tallest backcourt in the state, the 6-foot-6 Pierce is back for a third year as the point guard. The Princeton recruit can pass guys open, space the floor, or score in the paint. Warden is a steady scorer and perimeter defender with a mean streak. Durkin, a Hinsdale South transfer and Army commit, may be the best 6-foot-7 shooter in the state. He’s a threat for 20 points any night. The bench will be aided by a promising, wiry junior in Buchholz and a savvy senior in Caldwell.
Notable Players: Cooper Noard, Nick Martinelli, RJ Davis, Nate Kasher
The 6-foot-8 Martinelli (Elon commit) is a big guard that could play one through five this year and may average 30 points a game. He’s a problem. So is Noard, a shot-making point guard that is a relentless competitor. The Cornell commit is looking more explosive as well. Davis is sometimes overlooked, but he is a smart combo guard capable of scoring in bunches. I like Kasher, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, a lot. He’s fearless and will be able to knock down open threes.
Notable Players: Bryce Tillery, Isaiah Green, Aa’Reyon Munir-Jones, Naz Duncan
Tillery is the floor general that makes everyone else better. He showed the ability to score in bunches this summer. After transferring from Tinley Park, Munir-Jones is going to up the defensive intensity while creating shots off of his penetration. Green and Duncan, two promising sophomores, are strong and athletic for their age. Look for both to be difference makers.
Notable Players: Mike Vuckovic, Nick Vuckovic
The Vuckovic twins lack some size, but they are as skilled with the ball as any backcourt in the area. Mike was an all-conference selection as a junior and has the ball on a string. He scores from three levels and has the explosiveness off the dribble to break presses. Nick is also a plus shot-creator and will have a breakout year with his shooting ability. Both could get 15-plus points a game.
Notable Players: Davontae Hall, Cam Willford, Damarion Morris, Byron Hobbs Jr.
For anyone who hasn’t seen Hall, you’re missing out. He competes and makes plays every game, matching talent with consistency. The offers should start to roll in. Willford and Morris are returning juniors that score in different ways. Willford is a wiry ball-handler with a nice jumper and Morris can finish through contact. Hobbs will be able to guard multiple positions after transferring in to HP.
Notable Players: JJ Taylor, Darrin Ames, Trey Pettigrew, Bryce Heard, Robert Walls
Taylor makes plays at 6-foot-8 that most point guards can’t. The one-on-one skill is elite and blue boods are flocking to Kenwood for a reason. Ames, another star junior, is a high-major recruit in his own right. His offensive bag is deep and he’s proven that he can be a shutdown defender. Many remember Pettigrew from his All-State sophomore year at Fenwick. Now a senior, he will show why he is one of the best guards in the class. Heard, a 6-foot-5 scorer, and Walls, an electric point guard, are two of the top freshmen in the state.
Notable Players: Vito Lagioia, Sebastian Blachut, Matt Zakic
Laoiaia and Blachut will both be all-conference players this year. A speedy point guard with a solid pull-up, Lagioia breaks down the defense with ease. Blachut has video game bounce with the versatility to defend, rebound, and act as a primary playmaker when needed. His jump shot has progressed as well. Zakic provides good energy and another player that can get downhill.
Notable Players: Damari Wheeler-Thomas, Jakob Blakley, Fernando Perez, Armani Ivy
Now in his fourth year at point guard, Wheeler-Thomas (ND State commit) has an advanced IQ and the ability to control the game on both ends of the floor. Blakley isn’t as hyped up as some guys, but he is one of the better guard prospects in the sophomore class. His patience, feel, and pull-up ability will be valuable. It’s year four for Perez as well, another player with a great middle game and good athleticism. Ivy will space the floor and give a scoring punch.
Notable Players: Nojus Indrusaitis, Rokas Castillo, Matas Castillo
Indrusaitis has that rare combination of skill, size, athleticism, and competitiveness. Only a sophomore, he can fill it up from all over the floor and defends with purpose. He’s the best guard in the 2024 class and will open more eyes this year. Matas and Rokas are in constant motion, making plays and applying pressure defensively. They will have larger scoring loads this year.
Notable Players: Cam Cleveland, Tyler Smith, JaKeem Cole, Tavariyaun Williams
Cleveland is always a threat to score 20 points. He is back for one last season leading Leo. I like the impact that Smith provides on both ends. He is a tough guard with a clean handle and natural playmaking skills. Cole will be a solid piece to guard and attack. Williams has the fluidity and length that catches the eye of college coaches. He has a chance to be really good.
Notable Players: Xavier Sulaiman, Leirre Collier
In his second full varsity season, Sulaiman will take a leading role. A 6-foot-3 point guard with the athleticism and shooting that he has will create mismatches. Collier is healthy and should be in a position to open a lot of eyes. He also has good leaping ability and some skill to create in isolation situations.
Notable Players: Brock Harding, Grant Welch
The offers are starting to roll in for Harding and for good reason. He was the only sophomore on the 4A All-State team after guiding Moline with his elite court vision last year. His scoring isn’t too bad either, able to shoot the ball and shake defenders. Another junior, Welch is a nice complement that sprays in threes and plays through contact on his drives.
Notable Players: Jake Fiegen, Karlo Colak, Peter Kanellos, Josh Kirkpatrick, Noah Shannon
They have size, toughness, and plenty of shooting in the backcourt. Fiegen is a walking flamethrower that has developed into a Division 1 recruit. Colak and Shannon are both 6-foot-5 off guards that have range and physical frames. Colak should be a revelation this year. Kannellos gets everyone open looks and Kirkpatrick is a scrappy athlete with experience.
Oak Park-River Forest
Notable Players: Justin Mullins, Sam Lewis
There aren’t a lot of teams that feature two long, athletic players like Mullins and Lewis. Mullins committed to Denver after having one of the best AAU seasons in the area. Teams will struggle to decide if they want to run him off the line or take away his straight line drives. The same goes for Lewis, a junior with Division 1 offers. He is still just scratching the surface of his potential on both ends.
Notable Players: Jaloni Johnson, Javon Johnson
Jaloni, the younger Johnson, is a smooth lead guard capable of putting on scoring clinics. He will be the focus of most scouting reports after having a big sophomore year. Javon can also make a you pay, having a good understanding of angles and finishing well. They will be the keys for Proviso East once again.
Notable Players: Joevonn McCottry, JP Hanley, Will Gonzalez, Arius Alijosius
Hanley was a big-time shooter as a junior and should be even more effective getting to the rim this year. He’s an all-conference talent. The same could be said of McCottry, a long-armed combo guard that looked great during stretches this summer. He has a defensive presence and gets hot quickly. Gonzalez could be a wild card. The talent is there to have a huge sophomore year. And Alijosius, a Stagg transfer, is a lethal shooter.
Notable Players: Amarion Nimmers, Marieon Anderson
Nimmers and Anderson are both next-level athletes that aren’t afraid to mix it up in the paint. Nimmers was part of the UAA champion Illinois Wolves team this summer and has the look of a scholarship-level guard. His penetrating ability and explosiveness will make him a tough cover once again. Anderson, another senior coming off a good junior year, has size, speed, and slashing skill to utilize.
Notable Players: Cam Christie, Orlando Thomas, Lukas Paisley, Ian Miletic
Christie is going to be the vocal point. All of the tools and intangibles are there and he has added strength since last year. Don’t be surprised if he ups his average to 20-plus points. If Christie is ever contained, Thomas is able to lead Meadows as well with his sweet shooting stroke. Paisley is another experienced guard and Miletic is a 6-foot-5 freshman who I think will be a high-major prospect if he continues to work.
Notable Players: Eli Aldana, Hunter Duncan, RJ Gamble
Aldana, a creative point guard, returns after a huge sophomore year. He may not be the biggest guard, but he weaves in and out of the lane and knows how to manufacture shots. Duncan should be able to help take some pressure off of Aldana and add an athletic element to a guard-heavy team. Gamble returns as well with a larger role as a physical guard.
Notable Players: Jaylen Drane, Jalen Griffith, Avyion Morris
Morris and Drane have been mainstays in the Simeon rotation. Drane is primed to star in a leading role using his slithery finishing to spark the offense. Mid-majors should be in play for him. Morris is a hard-nosed 5-foot-8 point guard that will pick up full court and collapse the defense once again. Griffith, another undersized guard, has some of the best handles in the state. He makes tough plays look routine and will play on and off the ball this year.
Notable Players: AJ Redd, Rich Barron, Miles Casey, Reggie Ray
The duo of Redd and Barron has experience and proven production. Redd looks every bit like a guard that can lead Ignatius deep into March. He’s got a good pace and passing instincts at 6-foot-4. Barron is one of the premier two-guards in the junior class, bullying smaller defenders and taking bigger players to the perimeter. Expect another monster year for him. Casey is an energy guard that adds some depth for them. Ray is a physical sophomore who could see some time with them as well.
Notable Players: Jaedin Reyna, Kaiden Space, Melvin Bell
If you want production and leadership, Space is a guard to watch. The elder statesman of this young Rita team, Space will be a guidance force on or off the ball. Reyna is so composed for a sophomore, playing like a high-end point guard. Look for him to become a bigger scoring threat this year. Freshman Melvin Bell is different. He has extreme length, good scoring skill, and a high motor.
Notable Players: Dalen Davis, Jordan Streeter, Marcus Pigram, Antonio Munoz, Sean Brown
There has been little doubt that Davis is built for big moments. That won’t change for the point guard who collected a number of high-major offers since last season ended. Streeter will have a big senior year slashing and shooting spot ups. The youth is promising as well. Pigram is an active combo guard that has shown some microwave scoring ability. Brown is a sophomore with a big frame to score inside. And I am really impressed with Munoz, a gifted 6-foot-5 freshman who showed immense upside during June live period.
Notable Players: Jaden Schutt, Brayden Long, Ty Burrows, Kevin Vassar, Jehvion Starwood
Most people are now listing Schutt as the top player in the state following a huge summer that ended in a commitment to Duke. He’s been like that for Yorkville Christian. Schutt has continued to polish his reads, footwork, and ball-skills to complement his three-point marksmanship and explosive straight-line driving ability. The hope is that the 6-foot-4 Long is back healthy and able to be the scoring weapon and All-State talent that he showed glimpses of as a freshman. Burrows and Vassar are both talented guards that get up and force turnovers defensively. I would keep an eye on Starwood, a lefty sophomore that is a showtime athlete with a solid outside stroke.