Weekend Standouts That I Saw

Cooper Koch

I checked out a handful of teams this weekend via livestream and in person during this live period. Here are some of the standouts that I saw.

Illinois Wolves 16U

Kelton McEwen (6’0 PG, Bartlett 2024)

McEwen’s shooting ability shined, hitting a couple of standstill corner threes and another one from the wing off of movement. His pre-shot preparation is excellent when he drifts or steps into threes, showing an easy and consistently quick release. Once he got hot from the outside, he used a shot fake well to get a defender up in the air and drive into a floater off the glass. McEwen is composed and intelligent with the ball, getting to his spots, making passes on the move and orchestrating the offense against aggressive ball pressure. He is a shot-making point guard who coaches should be keeping tabs on.

Cole Certa (6’4 SG, Bloomington Central Catholic 2024)

It seemed like the defense knew Certa was a marksman but was still unable to run him off the line. The lanky, skilled two-guard connected on three shots from distance, including one from way behind the high school line. Certa moves well with the ball and has a good understanding of how to use his length to create angles offensively. He turned a steal into a layup and has shown some potential getting into passing lanes this spring. Certa doesn’t need long to catch fire.

Jaylan McElroy (6’7 SF, DePaul College Prep 2024)

The upside is evident, and it goes well beyond the stat sheet for McElroy. McElroy’s two-way versatility is uncommon for a 6-foot-7 wing. He was locking down on the wing defensively and did a nice job of contesting shots around the rim with his long arms. His steals and deflections were notable, but it was the quickness of his rotations and his recovery speed that really stood out. Offensively, McElroy got deep post positions a couple of times for easy layups and drove the baseline to score and make a dump off pass for a basket. There were times when guards were being denied and he initiated offense as well. Add in his rebounding presence on both ends and it’s easy to see the intrigue for a rising prospect in the class. A no-question Division-1 caliber wing.

Jaheem Webber (6’10 C, Normal 2024)

Webber is a massive post prospect that has takeover ability on the low block. He saw multiple defenders on the catch for the most part and didn’t panic. The 6-foot-10 center pivoted to see the weak side and delivered some timely passes to get teammates open looks. When he was isolated, he made powerful dropsteps and discarded defenders before finishing. Webber high points rebounds and really works to run rim to rim to get easy buckets. You’d be hard pressed to find too many sophomores bigs in the state who are as physical as Webber with the same touch and footwork on the interior.

Illinois Wolves 17U

Asa Thomas (6’7 SG, Lake Forest 2023)

Thomas was terrific, providing steady offensive production and making timely shots for the Wolves. As soon as he steps past half court, he’s in shooting range. The 6-foot-7 two-guard made a pair of NBA-range threes, made a corner three on the move after sprinting along the baseline to lose his defender, and drilled another one later in the game. But he wasn’t all catch-and-shoot, crossing over a defender to get to the elbow for a pull-up. A quick trigger and high release point will allow Thomas to continue to be an elite floor spacer in college where he has ample high-major interests.

Troy Cicero (6’1 PG, Romeoville 2023)

A tough, defensive-minded guard, Cicero got after it when applying pressure to ball-handlers. You can see his competitiveness on that end with the way that he stays in pursuit after fighting through screens or when recovering to get back in front of the ball. Cicero was able to knock down a pair of threes as well, looking comfortable as a spot up shooter. When he is at his best, he is getting to the paint and making plays for himself or teammates. Cicero has that grit that you look for in a lead guard.

Cam Christie (6’6 SG, Rolling Meadows 2023)

The defense focused their attention on Christie, who has been on a tear this month. While he had to work for everything, he still showed some of the ball skills and playmaking versatility that have him in the discussion for the best player in the class. Operating as a primary ball-handler in ball screens, he delivered some nice passes to rollers to get easy shots. As the defense collapsed, he sprayed the ball out to teammates for open looks. Christie showed off his pull-up and had a smooth spin move on a drive to finish. He will have his selection of Division 1 programs to choose from.

Jake Hamilton (6’3 SG, Sacred Heart Griffin 2023)

Hamilton is just a tough all-around player. He’s not the tallest two-guard, but he is athletic and physical on the defensive end to make up for it. A willing rebounder with an edge, Hamilton scored on putbacks and stuck his nose in to help on the defensive glass. When given space, he knocked down a three and cut with a purpose. Hamilton is also able to invert his game and post-up smaller or weaker guards, leading to looks for him around the paint and kickout opportunities when help comes. During this weekend, Hamilton added a Division 2 offer from Quincy University.

Indiana Elite 2024

Cooper Koch (6’9 SF/PF, Peoria Notre Dame 2024)

Koch was impacting the game across the board. At 6-foot-9, he covered ground well and regularly beating the opposing guards up the floor. He excels at all of the little things that make a good player great. Koch was in constant motion, either cutting for layups, relocating off of penetration, or working for deep post position. He showed a natural, compact jump shot that extends to the volleyball line. But the majority of his damage came from inside as a cutter and post scorer where he used his touch and length to make hooks. For as skilled and efficient as he is as a scorer, I was most impressed with his playmaking and ball-moving. The ball never stuck and he made precise decisions with his skip passes, lobs, and deliveries off the dribble in transition. Koch has a lanky frame and broad shoulders that should continue to allow him to defend multiple spots in college. He is the top combo forward in the 2024 class.

Grind 2023

Louis Kaminski (6’0 PG/SG, Lyons 2023)

Kaminski ran point for Grind, breaking the press and creating opportunities when defenders tried to reach. He was very efficient when he looked for his shot, hitting a jumper from the corner and stopping on a dime in transition to hit another three. Kaminski kept his dribble low and showed good ball control to handle the traps and find teammates against the ball pressure. He made a push shot in the lane and finished through contact on a layup after getting a steal late in the game. Kaminski stood out during the game and should be a solid weapon for Lyons next season.

Carter Reid (6’5 SF/PF, Lyons 2023)

A physical, athletic forward, Reid stood out with his defensive energy and explosiveness. He had a couple of big blocks early in the game, elevating quickly to erase shots in the lane. Reid went up and got rebounds in traffic, then was able to push the ball in transition to get easy looks. Offensively, he’s a slasher that has good strength and welcomed contact on his drives. Reid added a three at the top of the key as well and had a decent looking shot in catch-and-shoot situations. He has a nice combination of size, athleticism, and toughness.

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