We are taking a look at some underclassmen who should burst onto the scene this year. Some of these 2024 prospects may be seeing their first varsity action and a number of the 2025 players will have big roles right away.
Cooper Koch (6’8 SF, Peoria Notre Dame)
A year ago, Koch was a promising freshman set to contribute on a very experienced Peoria Notre Dame team. This year, Koch should elevate into an All-State caliber player. Long, highly skilled, and cerebral, Koch can make plays with his back to the basket or as a playmaker from the perimeter. He is already being coveted by the majority of the Big Ten and will be a nationally recognized recruit by the time his recruitment is over.
Jack Stanton (5’9 PG, Downers Grove North)
With so many departures in the 2021 class, Stanton will step into a big role in his first varsity season, Stanton understands the game and has the poise that should translate well to the varsity game. He sets up teammates well off the dribble and plays angles when getting to the rim. I think Stanton’s shooting ability is going to open a lot of eyes. He’s a tough lead guard that will stretch defenses and create in space.
Jaedin Reyna (6’0 PG, St. Rita)
Part of a loaded sophomore class at Rita, Reyna was usually playing a distributor role. Over the last six months, he has taken nice strides into being a dynamic scorer as well. He may not receive the same accolades as some of his teammates, but Reyna is going to be a lead guard that makes everything flow this season with the ball in his hands much more. He has added offers from Illinois, Eastern Michigan, and IUPUI over the last few months.
Jake Riemer (6’7 PF, Downers Grove North)
A physical, athletic forward that has a developing face-up game, Riemer is an ideal rim runner. His mobility and aggressiveness on the glass are uncommon for a young big and should be evident early on in the season. Riemer is comfortable stepping outside the arc and has shown flashes of being a high-level rim protector. DGN will lean on Reimer on the interior this season.
Jason Jakstys (6’8 PF, Yorkville)
Following a huge fall at showcases, Jakstys stood out amongst some of the elite sophomores in the state. You don’t find 6-foot-8 players who can run, jump, and shoot like Jakstys. Teaming up with his brother, Jakstys should have a breakout sophomore season where his ability to put the ball on the ground and sky above the rim will make a difference.
Jehvion Starwood (6’3 SG, Yorkville Christian)
Yorkville Christian will be the preseason favorite in 1A behind Duke recruit Jaden Schutt. There are a host of other guards, but Starwood’s explosive scoring may prove to be the best complement. He is going to have some highlight-reel dunks, but pay attention to the two-way production.
Josh Pickett (6’4 PG, West Aurora)
A bulldog of a combo guard, Pickett is powerful and athletic getting to the rim. He transferred in from St. Rita and will be an immediate weapon for West Aurora. There has been growth in his outside shot that should add another layer as well. Most recently, George Washington has offered Pickett.
Luke Kinkade (6’0 SG, Neuqua Valley)
The name of the game is shooting for Kinkade. He is one of the top shooters in the class with a repeatable lefty stroke that he can make in high volumes. Whether it is running off of screens or spotting up off drives, he is nearly automatic off the catch. Neuqua lost a ton of talent and will look to Kinkade to add to a guard-heavy team.
Mike Jones (6’8 C, Rockford Lutheran)
Jones was a little raw as a freshman. While he’s not a finished product, his body has developed nicely and his strong frame causes problems for opposing teams. Playing for a Rockford Lutheran team coming off of a great showing in the spring, his activity and improved face-up skill could lead them deep into March.
Tavariyuan Williams (6’5 SG, Leo)
Williams has the look of a next-level wing. This Leo team is deep with playmakers, but Williams should settle in as a transition scorer and shooter for them. He has a bright future and will be a primed for a big sophomore year.
Impact 2025 Players
Antonio Munoz (6’5 SF, Whitney Young)
In summer league, Munoz was the most impressive long-term prospect that I saw. He glides around the court and can finish above the rim with ease. What stands out about Munoz is his two-way projectability. The tools are there for Munoz to have an impact playing passing lanes, blocking shots, and guarding multiple positions for Whitney Young this year. He will be a high-major recruit.
Bryce Heard (6’5 SG, Kenwood)
With the departure of JJ Taylor, Heard should be the top wing on a stacked Kenwood team. Heard is incredibly gifted and fluid with the ball, possessing a good mid-range game, athleticism in the open floor, and a nice handle. He can score in bunches and will be able to play his game alongside star guards like Darrin Ames and Trey Pettigrew. Heard is in the discussion for the top freshman in Illinois.
Derek Bishop (6’1 PG, Mundelein)
Bishop is a bucket getter that has an advanced offensive game. The backcourt lost four-year star Conor Enright, but Bishop will be a nice bridge to the next era of Mundelein basketball. He has long arms and changes pace well, but he also has a good burst and bounce. There is little doubt that Bishop is going to be a well-known name by the end of the year.
Drew Rodgers (6’7 PF, Deerfield)
Deerfield has been blessed with some length over the last few years and Rodgers is another player that should be a productive frontcourt piece. Rodgers has a good frame with solid footwork on the inside. He should be a valuable pick-and-roll outlet that is able to catch in traffic and finish. Rodgers will play big minutes in his first year.
EJ Breland (5’11 PG, St. Patrick)
Breland is an excellent ball-handler with a pull-up game that will produce well against varsity competition. St. Patrick lost a deep, experienced senior class and the opportunity should be there for Breland to make a statement early on. He has already received an offer from Nebraska and looks like he still has plenty of more inches to grow.
Ian Miletic (6’5 SG, Rolling Meadows)
This has been a great stretch of basketball for Meadows over the last five years. Miletic is next up for the Mustangs and will play a role as a freshman. A wiry, athletic 6-foot-5 guard, Miletic is smooth and efficient with the ball. With upperclassmen like Cam Christie and Orlando Thomas absorbing defensive focus, Miletic could thrive early on spacing the floor and attacking closeouts. He will be receiving interest from Division 1 programs sooner rather than later.
Jacob Rice (6’1 PG, St. Laurence)
Rice was one of the top players for St. Laurence and leads a youth movement for them. He’s stronger than the typical underclassmen guard and has good size at 6-foot-1. Rice can barrel into the lane and play through contact on his drives. This will be the start to what should be a great high school career for Rice.
Jeremiah Fears (5’11 PG, Joliet West)
Fears is a different type of freshman. He should be one of the highest scoring 2025 players this year by using his creative handle to get to his spots. Even at 5-foot-8, he showed the ability to score in traffic during the summer against size and athleticism. There is something special about his vision and flare that will make him one of the more fun freshman to watch.
Melvin Bell (6’2 SG, St. Rita)
Of all of the names of the last few months, Bell was a player that took off during fall league play. The rangy guard runs the floor well and excels at getting out in transition. He has a good combination of finesse and power, able to show soft touch in the paint or put defenders on a poster. So far, Bell has offers from Toledo and Eastern Michigan. He will be a key backcourt piece for St. Rita.
Reid Olsen (5’9 PG, Niles North)
Olsen grew in the Niles North program and already looks like a seasoned point guard. He’s a big-time competitor that has NBA range and plenty of confidence in his ability. In fall league, he was regularly hitting five-plus threes a game. Olsen’s three-point marksmanship and playmaking should take some pressure off of four-year starter Yogi Oliff.