For those who are missing the high school basketball season, we are doing some quick recaps and a glance into what the future holds for some of the teams throughout the state. Today we will be looking at a few teams in the Chicago Public League, the Central Illinois area, and the quad cities.
Even when people started to question the Dolphins after losing to some stiff out-of-state competition, they won the CPL and made it to the state title game. Xavier Amos (NIU) and AJ Casey (Miami) were as effective of a frontcourt duo as any in the state. Lobs, face-up scoring, blocked shots, it was all there. Point guard Dalen Davis is a true floor general that gets overlooked at times and junior Marcus Pigram really stepped up. They had size, athleticism, and peaked at the right time under Coach Slaughter.
Dalen Davis will be the primary decision-maker, orchestrating and scoring more frequently. Don’t forget about 6-foot-6 junior Daniel Johnson who came back late in the year and gave a nice spark in the title run. He is another mid-major type of talent. Pigram returns as well. Antonio Munoz, a 6-foot-5 freshman, is going to be a star. You can book that.
Trey Pettigrew and Darrin Ames were electric as expected. They were one of the top teams in CPL despite having a relative young roster. Freshman Bryce Heard and junior Davius Loury gave them versatility and skill to mix and match lineups. They ran into a tough postseason schedule, but showed well when they were at full strength.
Ames is the best junior in the state right now and Heard may be the best freshman. There is no questioning the talent. Loury will have a larger scoring role after being a triple-double threat this year. And freshman guard Robert Walls should open a lot of eyes with his playmaking prowess.
Both Jeremy Harrington and Chikasi Ofoma were workhorses on the interior for Curie. They thrived on second chances and paint points. Part of that came from the crafty penetration of Carlos Harris, who flashed a ton of ability this year. They will lose Phoenix Bullock, a solid guard with experience, but have a nice crop of returners.
Harris has a knack for finding his way to the basket and filling it up. I’d imagine he is more aggressive with another year under his belt. Harrington and Ofoma will own the paint again with solid contributions from powerful sophomore Taevion Collier.
They came into the year as heavy favorites in 3A, but ran into some hot teams downstate. Jaylen Drane had a year where he reminded people why he’s considered one of the city’s premier guards. The Rubin twins may have been the biggest difference makers with the interior play from Miles and passing from Wes. Despite giving up some size in the backcourt, Avyion Morris and Jalen Griffith were effective on both ends.
The Rubin twins should see a nice uptick in minutes and touches. Both could get double-doubles any game. Griffith is incredibly gifted at 5-foot-9 and looked like their best creator at times and should step into a lead role. Michael Ratliff will be back to provide a defensive presence on the perimeter. Underclassmen like Steve Turner, Kenric Mosby, and Richard Lindsey should make some noise.
Davontae Hall was as important to team success as any guard in the Public League. He is a Division 1 guard that is finally getting his just due. Camron Williford and Malik Jenkins were excellent at times during the year, especially in games that Hall missed. Hyde Park was a well-coached team that played with energy and leaned on their guard play.
Williford is an all-city caliber guard. The change of speed, scoring instincts, and ball-handling ability will shine even brighter next year. With Hall and Jenkins gone, I would expect Damarion Morris to have more of an offensive impact.
There was no volume scorers for Orr, but they had a number of scholarship talents. Three-point marksman Cam Lawin was an all-state player and Caleb Hannah played his way to a Division 1 offer with his length and versatility. Leontae Lilly was a steadying, energetic point guard that applied pressure on both. Once Kelley Okoroh was cleared, the team looked different. His athleticism added a different dimention to a team that was among the top in 2A the whole year.
Okoroh will be an all-state player next year. His strength and explosiveness make him a menace on both ends. You can always bank on Orr pressuring the ball, getting out in transition, and reloading with transfers and underclassmen.
Sacred Heart Griffin
Who said this is a football school? SHG won the 3A state title in exciting fashion with a tough shot from junior KeShon Singleton. Zack Hawkinson played like a grown man in the state tournament and had an All-State year. As did Jake Hamillton, an athletic, tough lefty that opened a lot of eyes with his inside-out game. Will Hamilton was another junior that contributed, serving as a lockup defender that shut down a number of highly regarded played.
More of the same. They bring back most of their key contributors who will come back with a new level of confidence. Hamilton (Illinois Wolves) and Hawkinson (MidPro) should have their share of opportunities to play with and against top competition during the AAU circuit, which should only help. They will be one of the 3A favorites next year.
Liberty recruit Zach Cleveland had a monster career, highlighted by show-stopping dunks and a dominant senior year. The massive front line of the Iron Men was their strength, with jet-quick Trey Redd, a D2-caliber point guard, running the show. Jaheem Webber was one of the most efficient sophomore bigs in the state while Noah Cleveland gave them another young, athletic weapon. They were a top 10 team in 4A for most of the year.
6-foot-9 Webber and 6-foot-8 Clevelend are going to be a terror for any opposing frontcourt. They play so well together and are only sophomores. Keep an eye on their classmate, 6-foot-2 point guard Braylon Roman, who should have a breakout junior year.
A second place finish in 3A for Metamora was a great way to end a historic year. Ethan Kizer, the high-flying wing, was a first team All-State pick after putting together an impressive season on both ends of the floor. Tyson Swanson had a breakout year and led them in scoring by finding creative ways to produce. Senior Zack Schroeder was another shooter that could make plays. The balance, shooting, and unity of Metamora stood out all year.
Kizer and Swanson will be a dangerous combo on the wing with their slashing, shooting, and defensive ability. Freshman Matthew Zobrist is an athletic guard that played a big role and should continue to realize his potential as a sophomore. They should be right back in the top 10 of 3A.
Peoria Notre Dame
As the year went on, the Irish leaned more on 6-foot-8 sophomore Cooper Koch, a second team All-State player that was highly efficient and unselfish all year. The vets on the team gave them toughness, leadership, and production. Nelson Reynolds (All-State 3rd team) and Colin Schuler both hold D2 offers and David Williams will be a defensive dog at the college level. They lost earlier than expected, but it was a solid year for PND.
I think Koch could emerge as one of the top 10 players in the state. He’s that good. There’s a lot to like about Eoin Dillon, another 6-foot-8 sophomore, that can move, put the ball on the floor, and shoot form the perimeter. Their under level teams have some talent that should be trickling in as well.
Brock Harding is special. There will be a serious debate as to whether he is the top pure point guard in the state next year. He is a repeat All-State player and led Moline this year. Seniors Kyle Taylor and Rob Pulliam were nice options as scorers and secondary playmaker. I always like the toughness of junior guard Grant Welch, who rebounded well above his size this year. They were solid throughout the year and had some marquee conference wins.
Harding and Welch will both be back. The dynamic play of Harding will always give them a chance, but expect Welch to seek his own offense more. He can really get going when he’s on. They had some talent at the sophomore level that could contribute as well.
Jeremiah Talton ended a terrific career with a deep playoff run. He was the perfect leader for a young Quincy team, breaking the all-time three-point record, going over 1,000 points, and leading the team in charges. The freshman class stepped up in a big way, with Bradley Longcor, Keshaun Thomas, and Dom Clay all playing large roles in their first year.
They are set to be a force for years to come. The skilled, lanky Longcor was one of the most productive freshmen in the state. Thomas is a bruiser that has a mature frame capable of moving opponents around. The backcourt will also feature Clay and sophomore Ralph Wires.
Amarion Nimmers has been a killer for Rock Island for years, but he was a revelation this year throughout the state. It wasn’t just the eye-popping athleticism, but the pace and finishing ability really stood out. He and Marieon Anderson, a wing with endless energy, were critical to their success. As was 6-foot-5 senior Baker Beal, dual-sport star Eli Reese, and junior Cam Atkinson. They made it to the sectional final and leaned on their experience all year.
A lot is being lost to graduation. There will be a lot of new faces but Atkinson is a microwave scorer that lights it up from three. He should emerge as one of the top players in the Big 6.