With the high school season over, it’s time to transition to AAU. I decided to head out to Breakaway’s combined practice on Sunday. Here are the evaluations on 16U and 17U players who stood out.
Yusuf Cisse (6’2 PG, Conant)
Cisse was a player that jumped out early on. He can flat out go. He has some height, a strong frame, explosiveness, and good instincts. Cisse has good pace and displayed balance when playing through contact off the dribble. His drives have gravity that allows him to whip passes out to shooters. While going through shooting drills, he was showing consistent mechanics and knocking down a solid percentage of threes. Cisse looks like he will be a key shot creator that is able to lock down on the defensive end as well. He’s a guard to keep a close eye on in the 2024 class.
Ryan Cox (6’3 SG, Fremd)
Cox delivered on multiple occasions with his smooth lefty stroke. He didn’t need a ton of space to get his shots off, often spacing out in transition or moving off of a teammate’s penetration. Cox has some height to work with and looks to be a solid athlete that hasn’t hit his physical peak yet. As with most Fremd players, you can expect Cox to be disciplined and active.
Connor May (6’6 SG/SF, Palatine)
May is a big wing that looked good handling the ball in transition and shooting from the perimeter. He has a clean one motion shot that he is able to get up over extended hands. Even though he didn’t overwhelm defenders athletically, he showed some understanding for using his body to protect the ball in traffic. I was impressed with his feel for the game, both as a floor spacer and ball-handler. He cuts and drifts well to open space to make the most out of his scoring ability. At 6-foot-6, May is a skilled wing that has some upside.
Braden Richardson (6’5 SF/PF, York)
Richardson seems to be consistently in the right place. Leaning on his strong 6-foot-5 frame, Richardson can guard all over the floor with his lateral quickness and instincts to assist his efforts. He is an athletic wing that rebounds well and cuts with purpose on offense. His form is solid from the perimeter and I’m fairly confident that he can become a reliable spot shooter. For now, the activity and energy will be more than enough to impact games.
Jake Riemer (6’7 PF, Downers Grove North)
The biggest player in the 16U group, Riemer looks primed to be the focal point on the interior this spring. He has a really solid, athletic build and even the older players struggled to keep him off the glass at times. As a help side defender, he was able to step over without giving up easy dump off passes. Riemer looked best running rim to rim and using his frame to either roll hard or seal. During shooting drills, he was comfortable extending beyond the three-point line. That’s a good sign for post player that can really impact games on both ends if he is consistently in attack mode.
Brendan Savage (6’2 SG, Hinsdale South)
I can see why Savage made a deep run in the state three-point contest. He gets off the ground well and has a high finish to his shot. When he got the ball in space, he looked to let it fly, but he did have a few nice direct drives to the rim. Savage was a willing rebounder that didn’t hesitate to mix it up on the defensive end against size. Another player that was up on varsity this year, Savage should be a reliable weapon.
Nate Scearce (6’3 SG, Bartlett)
Scearce wasn’t missing all night. There were shots from all around the arc that he was hitting, both off the catch and off settle dribbles to get his balance. After missing some time with injury in the regular season, it didn’t look like he’s missed a step. He’s able to run off of screens and get lined up for shots from distance. Scearce has gotten taller and is able to see over defenders better. He’s going to be a marksman for the 16Us this spring.
Jack Stanton (6’1 PG, Downers Grove North)
Stanton has a good rhythm to his game that regularly led to good shots during live portions of practice. During drills, the arc and release on his jump shot stood out. He has the makings of an elite shooter with his pre-shot preparation and consistency. But his playmaking ability isn’t too far behind. Stanton kept his dribble alive and knew when to push and when to pull it out to get a better shot. He has longer arms than I thought, which helped make up for some height disadvantages defensively. There’s a lot to like about Stanton’s future as a point guard and floor spacer.
Owen Thulin (5’10 PG, Downers Grove North)
Thulin was the smallest player out there but as scrappy and competitive as any of the sophomores. Defensively, he got deflections and anticipated well to get steals and disrupt flow. He stayed active and alert on and off the ball on that end. As a guard, Thulin hit a few threes, but was more effective probing in the lane and using his quickness to collapse the defense. Thulin brings a ton of energy to the game that can’t be quantified.
Arius Alijosius (6’3 SG, Riverside Brookfield)
Following a solid first year with Riverside Brookfield, Alijosius should begin drawing more interest from college coaches this spring. He’s easily one of the 10 best shooters in the 2023 class, making a majority of his uncontested looks and seeming unfazed when defenders are running at him. His timing and understanding of how to get into his teammate’s line of vision shouldn’t be undervalued. Alijosius stays in motion off of the ball and balances the floor to by finding open space. Defenders knew he was looking to shoot and it didn’t matter. He will be a threat to make 5+ threes a game.
Jacob Bozeman (6’4 SG/SF, Downers Grove North)
I’m not a big fan of putting players in a box, but Bozeman plays like the prototypical 3-and-D wing. And the threes were definitely in full effect. Bozeman went on stretches hitting multiple triples in a row, looking very confident and comfortable from deep. He wasn’t shy about using 6-foot-4 frame to cut hard to the rim or defend in space with physicality and activity. There should be a number of schools that are interested in seeing the rock solid production from Bozeman.
Alex Engro (6’2 PG, Loyola)
Engro is the pace setter. He never got sped up, got to his spots, and delivered the ball on time and on target. When he was going through drills, he was drilling pull-ups and jumpers of the catch. Engro was a Special Mention All-State selection this year in part because of his ability to take and make shots off the dribble while bringing defensive focus, rebounding, and playmaking. It should be more of the same as a lead guard for the 17U team.
Alex Georgakas (6’2 SG, Prospect)
Georgakas is a scoring guard that can fill it up from all three levels. He was moving well with the ball and flashed his shooting ability and range during drills. While Georgakas didn’t catch fire during the live segments, he’s got the ability to heat up in a hurry. With solid size for a two-guard, Georgkas can lift up over help defenders to score. He had a breakout year for Prospect and should be able to carry that momentum into the spring as he gets acclimated with the 17U team.
Max Niesman (6’1 PG, Oswego)
Niesman is fresh off of another all-conference year for Oswego. He was hitting some tough shots during the live portions, running into threes and creating off the bounce in space. Niesman has a good first step that is aided by his tight ball-handling ability. Even at 6-foot-1, there is a noticeable grit about his play in the paint, whether that be off of penetration or as a rebounder. That toughness will allow for him to contribute in addition to his scoring prowess.
Nik Polonowski (6’6 SG/SF, Lyons)
Polonowski has worked to refine his game and the benefits are showing. Still an excellent three-point shooter, he is also a plus passer with more creativity off of the dribble. The athletic 6-foot-6 guard has a physical nature about his drives and can finish plays once defenders are on hip. He has an advanced ability to use jab steps to make reads out of the triple threat which led to numerous driving lanes. It was evident by his communication, intensity, and defensive activity that Polonowski is the leader of the team. He was locked in for every drill. Polonowski checks a lot of boxes and will be one of the risers in the state for Division 1 coaches this spring.
Drew Scharnowski (6’8 SG/SF, Burlington Central)
At 6-foot-8, Scharnowski has the ability to defend multiple spots, handle the ball, and score on the inside. He was on the block a lot from rolling or flashing and showed clean footwork to get to his hook shot or face up to score. Wiry and long, Scharnowski has continued to add strength to finish through contact. He contested shots around the paint and looked comfortable acting as a decision maker in transition with the ball. Scharnowski creates mismatches and has Division 1 upside, but his game will go to another level if he can consistently knock down threes off of kick outs and pick-and-pop situations.
Graham Smith (6’5 SF/PF, Lyons)
Smith didn’t participate for most of the live full-court drills, but he had enough time to show off his high-level athleticism with a few powerful dunks. He excelled as a rebounder and interior defender for Lyons this season. But as he showed during the practice, he also has the ability to score around the rim, attack in straight lines, and knock down jumpers with space. Smith has picked up a number of Division 1 football offers over the last month and it’s easy to see why with his strength, mobility, and elevation at 6-foot-5. He’s a physical forward that could have a nice spring with his added floor spacing production.