I checked out a couple of games at the Bill Hensley Run N Slam event on livestream this weekend in Fort Wayne. There were a number of matchups between Illinois-based AAU programs that we don’t usually have the opportunity to see. Here are the standouts from games that I saw.
DJ Douglas (6’4 SG, Yorkville Christian)
Douglas had a huge weekend as a scorer and on-ball defender. He was pouring in threes at a high rate and delivered them in big moments. At the same time, he was taking on some tough defensive matchups and made an impact on that end. Douglas was working to fight through screens and remained attached and active. Still under the radar, Douglas is a shot-making, 6-foot-4 guard that can defend both backcourt spots.
Nik Polonowski (6’7 SG, Lyons)
Polonowski was eating off of catch-and-shoot looks from three. With his size, there’s not a lot that a defender can do once he catches it. Even when defenders tried to run him off the line, he was able to get space for his shot by pulling up behind ball screens or dribbling into stepbacks. Polonowski, a very good athlete with great size for a two-guard, was disruptive defensively and contained his matchups. He continues to look well-equipped to receive more Division 1 interest over the next few months.
Drew Scharnowski (6’8 SG, Burlington Central)
Facing a couple of physical posts, Scharnowski relied on his length, quickness, and skill to make an impact. There were a couple of times where he got downhill for layups or free throws on open sides. When he had smaller opponents on him, he went to the block and found some success shooting over defenders, using hooks and dropsteps well. Scharnowski has a lot of promise on both ends and has caught the attention of Division 1 programs intrigued by his versatility at 6-foot-8.
Arius Alijosius (6’3 SG, Riverside Brookfield)
Alijosius was hot for most of the weekend. It was nearly automatic on open threes off of different actions. He is so proficient off of stagger screens and pindowns, even while defenders trail him on the hip. The lefty three-point specialist was on his game and was critical in a number Breakaway’s wins.
Alex Engro (6’2 PG, Loyola)
Engro’s energy was infectious for the team, starting on the defensive end where he got a steal, rotated well, and took a big charge. He adds a lot of value as the offense initiator and playmaker in the offense, especially on a team with so many weapons. But he got going for himself as well, scoring on a putback in traffic, converting a runout layup, and then hitting a three. Engro has a lot of skill as a ball-handler, shooter, and passer and should be a target for high-academic coaches.
Chicago Lockdown 2023
Dylan Schmidt (6’4 SG, Johnsburg)
Schmidt was putting on a show this weekend with his athleticism and shooting. He had a big poster dunk on a drive down the middle of the lane, got a defender off balance for a straight line drive, and made a couple of threes, one off the catch and another off of a pullback move. Schmidt can jump with anyone off of one foot and has been able to use his threat of shooting and ball-handling to get to the rim.
Leirre Collier (6’3 PG, Marist)
A strong, athletic guard, Collier was leaving his mark on both ends of the floor. Starting off hot, he scored from multiple levels with a pair of threes, a long pull-up two, and a couple of tough finishes. His body control when he gets in the lane allowed him to keep balance through bumps on a spin and double clutch layup. Collier has had a really good spring and continues to look like a scholarship-level guard.
Nick Niego (6’2 SG, Brother Rice)
I swear that Niego never has a bad miss. The 6-foot-2 guard connected on a few threes off the catch and made a mid-range pull-up on the move. His confidence and consistency as a shooter forced defenders to stay attached to him which allowed to score on some backdoors and backscreens. If we had to rank the top 5 shooter in the junior class, Niego would be a shoe in.
Full Package 17U
Mark Nikolich-Wilson (6’7 C, Rolling Meadows)
Nikolich-Wilson owned the paint with his offensive rebounding, passing, and interior finishing. There were multiple putbacks and deep post scores that he had, as well as a tough 10-foot turnaround. His passing and perimeter game stand out. Nikolich-Wilson can facilitate the offense through the high post, deliver passes on the move, and make face-up shots. On top of that, he plays hard and knows how to use his mass to gain an advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised to see low-major or Ivy League programs start to look at his passing, pick-and-roll ability, and soft touch at his size as projectable tools for the next level.
Jake Fiegen (6’3 SG, New Trier)
As defenses attempted to blanket Fiegen, he found different ways to contribute while still creating separation for his own shots. He still had multiple games with multiple threes this weekend, pulling up from all over the perimeter and making some difficult shots look routine. Fiegen has gotten really good at that 15-18 foot one-dribble pull-up and has shown the benefits of his improved athleticism and strength on his straight-line drives. The defensive intensity was there as usual. Fiegen continues to show out against elite competition.
Niko Abusara (6’5 SG, Benet)
Any “intrigue” should have converted to reality at this point with Abusara. The long, versatile two-guard has defended, scored, and distributed like this all spring. A 6-foot-4 listing doesn’t do him justice for how big he can play defensively, covering ground and disrupting vision with his wingspan. Abusara hit some long pull-ups, showed patience and pace as a P&R decision maker, and knifed into the lane for a couple of crafty extended layups in traffic. There is a lot to like about Abusara’s game and college potential.
Rokas Castillo (6’0 PG, Lemont)
Acting in a primary role of facilitator, Castillo controlled the ball and was selective in his scoring attempts. But he was still looking to break down defenders, get into the lane, and make plays. He does a really nice job of keeping his dribble alive and got to the foul line well. Castillo was also a defensive hound and caused some turnovers.
Matas Castillo (6’0 PG, Lemont)
Matas was also handling a lot of the pressure that was applied and working to do the same to opposing guards. He was able to knock down a three and used his change of pace to work around defenders. Castillo was a steadying player for Full Package.
Dalen Davis (6’0 PG, Whitney Young)
A smooth operator that can score or facilitate in volume, Davis picked his spots and ultimately set up teammates for easy shots more often than not. He was able to knock down a three and drove to the lane looking to score as well. Over the last month, he has reasserted himself as the driving factor for a talented Meanstreets team. Mid and high major programs will continue to be interested.
Wes Rubin (6’8 PF, Simeon)
Rubin is very comfortable on the wing, making a three off the dribble and working in dribble handoff actions well. For a taller forward, he passes the ball on time and on target in transition or out of the high post. Rubin crashed the glass on both backboards hard as well, leading to easy shots and grab-and-go opportunities. His recruitment has picked up since coaches were able to see him during the live periods.
Miles Rubin (6’8 PF, Simeon)
Rangy and active are the best ways to describe Rubin. An above the rim finisher with soft touch and a developing offensive game, he worked the high-low as both the finisher and passer. The lefty Rubin scored over his right shoulder at a high rate and protected the rim on the other end. Similar to his brother, Miles has picked up a number of offers over the last few weeks and should be a target for many mid-major programs.
Rich Barron (6’5 SG, St. Ignatius)
Barron made a couple of shots from beyond the arc, getting hot from the corners where he shoots it at a high clip. He defended well using his strong frame to bump smaller players off of their paths and give him time to get back in front of the ball. Barron is another mid-major level guard with size, shooting, and an uncanny ability to handle the ball and create at 6-foot-5.
Young & Reckless 17U
Ahmad Henderson (5’11 PG, Brother Rice)
A big spring continued for Henderson, who has solidified himself as one of the top guards in the 2023 class. Time after time, he turned tough drives into two points by using his body control and understanding of angles to get shots around and over defenders. Henderson has that next-level gear that consistently left defenders in the dust. He also made threes in bulk off of drifts, standstills, and pull-ups in ball screens. His size shouldn’t deter coaches in this case. Henderson is a difference-maker.
Kaiden Space (6’0 PG, St. Rita)
Space was the model of toughness with his combination of contact finishes and stout on-ball defense. Whether he was acting as a primary or secondary ball-handler, Space found himself in plenty of ball-screens and one-on-one situations where his change of speeds aided him. Space knocked down a three from the top of the key and looked smooth as a playmaker. He’s another guard with Division 1 appeal.
Mekhi Lowery (6’5 SG/SF, Oswego East)
Lowery was a Swiss-army knife that was cutting deep this weekend. The do-it-all 6-foot-5 junior was slashing and using his length and explosiveness around the rim to score and rebound outside of his area. He is a solid pull-up shooter as well, but was aggressive getting all the way to the bucket. Lowery’s playmaking ability adds another dimension to his game as a grab-and-go option in transition. Expect for more interest to come his way in May.
Mantas Zilys (6’5 SG, Naperville Central)
The strength of Zilys is his scoring, but he was doing a lot of little things for Y&R this weekend as well. Zilys went into crowds to rebound and hustled on the defensive end. In straight lines, he had a number of strong takes to his left hand. He made some threes as well and has the look of a serious three-level scoring threat.
Big 3 2024
Liam Taylor (6’7 SF, Lyons)
Taylor was using his length to attack the paint as often as possible. He’s a plus athlete that has a smooth handle and soft touch in and around the lane. The 6-foot-7 wing can make leaners over the top of help defenders and has three-point range when given space. Taylor knows how to use his size to his advantage defensively, getting a bunch of deflections and outrunning the other team for easy layups. He isn’t as well-known statewide, but Taylor has nice upside.
Alec Schmidts (6’4 SF, Barrington)
Showing a clean outside shot, Schmidts hit a couple of threes and was able to make a high percentage of his looks. As a spot-up shooter, he has good rhythm and a one-motion shot that looked repeatable. Schmidts has good size and strength for a forward and got some of his points out in transition.
Brady Chambers (6’6 PF, Lyons)
Chambers hunted the blocks and punch spots for easy layups and physical finishes. He used his body to seal hard and had a couple of and-ones off of cuts and post-ups. There was constant activity from Chambers as an area rebounder and he was rarely standing around during plays. Chambers anchored the middle for Big 3.
Michael Reilly (6’3 SG, Lyons)
Coming in and making an immediate impact isn’t easy, but Reilly found quick success with a pair of threes and an aggressive drive to the rim. Another player with positional size, Reilly made some plays on the defensive end with his length and has some athleticism that should help him as he grows.
Jack Stanton (6’1 PG, Downers Grove North)
The more I watch Stanton, the more impressed I am by his overall impact on games. He did a lot of damage away from the ball, scoring on a few backdoor layups and hitting a three off a pindown. Instead of allowing the defense to dictate his pace, the 6-foot-1 guard attacked the paint all game using a variety of moves to collapse the defense and drop off passes. Stanton also showed a lot of tenacity on both ends by poking balls lose defensively and jumping with bigs in traffic to get offensive rebounds.
Yusuf Cisse (6’0 PG, Conant)
Cisse has a poise and toughness about his game that seemed to have a calming effect against aggressive ball pressure. He’s got the physicality and strong frame to shield off defenders to get to his spots to facilitate. Conant’s lead guard threw some pinpoint backdoor passes and impacted the game on the defensive end as well. Cisse gets in a stance and guards, staying in front of the ball and turning steals into points.
Jake Riemer (6’7 PF, Downers Grove North)
Riemer was doing a nice job competing and fighting on the block against some tough interior matchups. His energy and effort were there though, crashing the glass to get second chances, walling up defensively, and working block to block to find angles to receive dump offs. The well-built 6-foot-7 forward had a powerful lob dunk, made a jumper from the short corner, and scored from the punch spot and low post. He continues to improve and has the body and ability to make an impact against top competition.
Connor May (6’7 SF, Palatine)
A bit of a mismatch problem at 6-foot-7, May was getting different types of defenders throughout the game. Still, he finished a couple of times around the rim and made a three from the wing. May’s shot looked really good and has been a nice weapon all spring at his size. He gave some needed assistance on the defensive end against the big bodies and showed some versatility both ways. May had a big weekend scoring the ball and the arrow is pointing up heading into the summer.
Chicago Lockdown 2024
Xavior Gonzalez (5’9 PG, Fenton)
Gonzalez is a score-first point guard with a compact outside shot with range and ideal arc. Once he received passes, he was shot-ready and hit a couple of threes off the catch. He plays low to the ground as a ball-handler and has the quickness and handle to beat defenders in space. Gonzales is a microwave scorer, but he’s also a capable playmaker that has good vision on the move.
Connor Williams (6’2 SG, Stagg)
Williams found different ways to impact the game and showed a quality all-around skillset. He handled the ball well in space for a bigger two-guard, showed passing feel when playmaking within the offense, and shot it with confidence. He’s got a projectable, lanky frame that should continue to add strength and allow him to play through contact even better while exceling as a multi-faceted guard.
Mac Irvin Fire 2024
Josh Pickett (6’4 PG, West Aurora)
In a dominant performance, Pickett was draining threes from multiple feet behind the line. He took a couple from the volleyball line and forced defenders to extend out to him. When they pressed up, he used his strength and athleticism to get downhill and play in crowds. Pickett was the main source of offense and the primary ball-handler for the Fire and has looked terrific in that role.
Chris Riddle (6’5 SG, AZ Compass Prep)
Riddle looked like a grown man relative to the competition. His frame and elite explosiveness make it an unfair fight when he meets defenders at the rim. But what I was most impressed with was how willing and effective Riddle was as a passer. He was under control on his penetration and was whipping one-handed passes out to shooters. Had Riddle stayed in-state, he would be a top-5 sophomore.
James Brown (6’9 C, St. Rita)
Brown was a problem inside of 15 feet. He scored off of a block-to-block post up, a high-low, duck-in, and had multiple and-ones off of strong post moves. One thing he does really well, especially at his age, is positioning himself with his back to the basket where he can see the whole floor. That allowed him to easily see potential double teams and make the requisite passes or moves to score with either hand. Brown also dominated on the glass and was a presence as a rim protector. He’s got a mature game.
Nojus Indrusaitis (6’5 SG, Lemont)
Facing a lot of defensive attention, Indrusaitis picked his spots and was explosive with his touches. He had an impressive dunk and showed his athleticism on an acrobatic finish off of a handoff. The 6-foot-5 guard finds a way to hang in the air and make adjustments to convert. A smooth ball-handler that has a good first step, Indrusaitis made good reads in space. He hit a corner three as well. Don’t be surprised if Indrusaitis adds numerous more offers in June once college coaches are free to reach out to him.
Morez Johnson (6’9 PF, St. Rita)
Johnson defended in space very well for a 6-foot-9 player. He was sliding and recovering all game against guards while they were switching, even blocking a few shots on dribble penetration. Offensively, the talented Illinois commit had an and-one after cleaning up his own shot and finished off a high-low after burying the defender under the rim. Another national recruit for Meanstreets.
Carlos Harris (6’2 SG, Curie)
A week after adding an offer from Illinois, Harris was in attack mode as usual. There were multiple finishes that he had off of creative dribble drives and he made a long pull-up two as well. Harris can really fill it up in a hurry and he does it in an effortless, efficient way.
Isaiah Green (6’0 SG, Hillcrest)
Green was getting after it on the defensive end with his lateral quickness and hands. Even though he is known more for his scoring at Hillcrest, Green was able to cause turnovers frequently and turn them into points. During portions of the game, he guarded and played point both at a high level.
Team FVV 2024
Antoine Glasper (6’0 PG, Collins)
I honestly lost count of how many threes Glasper hit. It seemed like he was stepping into one every other possession. He’s also a dangerous downhill driver that has gravity on his penetration, leading to open threes for FVV’s shooters. Glasper may have put on the best shooting performance I saw all weekend. He is the complete package as a lead guard.
Tavariyuan Williams (6’6 SG/SF, Leo)
Williams is a rangy, athletic wing that was ultra-aggressive early on. He worked along the baseline effectively and was active on the glass. A long, 6-foot-6 frame doesn’t hurt, but Williams also has a quick second jump that allows him to get back up to the backboard quickly. Williams has a ton of tools to work with and is starting to realize his potential.
Young & Reckless 16U
Gianni Cobb (5’10 PG, Perspectives)
Cobb is a quick, crafty point guard that plays with style. Defenders struggled to keep him in front, getting to the rim for a few scoop finishes and weaving through the lane after coming off of ball screens. His ball pressure on the defensive end was excellent as well, really irritating guys to force turnovers.
JJ Hernandez (6’5 SF, Glenbard North)
The upside is beyond evident for the long-armed, athletic wing. Guarding a lot of bigs, he used his length and anticipation to contest shots around the rim. He had a couple of straight line drives that he converted and looked comfortable operating in space as a ball-handler. Hernandez is one of the most versatile defenders in the class and has a budding offensive game.
Justus McNair (6’2 SG, Joliet West)
Joliet West’s up-and-coming sophomore was aggressive and confident with the ball. He is a natural scorer that showed range and a consistent release on his jump shot. McNair was able to make solid reads in the ball screen game, delivering a few nice passes off the dribble and showing patience to make the most out of his athleticism when he decided to attack.
Tim Handy (6’2 PG, Perspectives)
There were times when Handy jumped off the screen on his drives to the rim. For most of the game I saw, he was at the line often after beating his defender and playing to contact. Even at 6-foot-2, he has the length to make some tough finishes in traffic. Outside of the paint, Handy elevated well on his pull-up and put his court vision on display in transition.
Full Package 15U
Colby Smith (6’2 PG/SG, New Trier)
Smith has a nice combination of craftiness and quickness off the dribble that allowed him shake defenders and score inside. He had a few athletic takes to the rim, including a double clutch layup and a reverse along the baseline. Skilled for his age, Smith was effective in ball screens and exposed a switch to create a shot. He also knocked down a three and showed some shot creating ability. Smith looks like one of the more polished scorers in the freshman class right now.
Aidan Bardic (6’0 SG, Stevenson)
The lefty shooter has a decent stroke and good range on his shot. Bardic hit some perimeter shots and got into the lane for a few layups off of aggressive drives. There is a level of toughness that he had when he decided to get downhill that should work well as he adds strength.
Atticus Richmond (6’6 PF, Deerfield)
Richmond’s mobility and athleticism stood out. Most 6-foot-6 freshmen are not able to cover ground and run the floor like he can. He worked the high post area and made a couple of nice passes to shooters after facing up. Richmond is a high-flyer that can put the ball on the ground and step out to the perimeter to shoot. Defensively, he uses his bounce to rebound and contest shots around the rim.
Illinois Wolves 15U
Derek Bishop (6’2 PG, Mundelein)
Bishop is a complete offensive weapon that has a great feel for what play to make. When he got the ball in transition, he advanced the ball through the air to get open layups for teammates. He plays at his own pace and was able to score at the rim against length using his leaping ability and body control. Bishop is also a productive jump shooter, both in the mid-range and from three where he made some big shots. His scoring package is advanced and he’s got the chops to defend both guard spots as well.
Lyncoln Koester (6’2 PG/SG, Mt. Zion)
Koester showed off his quick trigger, burying threes from around the perimeter. At 6-foot-2 with good balance, he gets shots off over defenders even when he’s in motion or has a hand in his face. He can operate on the ball using his passing instincts or off the ball as a catch-and-shoot option.
Sean Reynolds (6’1 SG, DeKalb)
You can’t lose track of Reynolds. His range extends out to NBA line and he made a couple of bombs. His ability to sprint off of the ball was impressive, keeping his defender off balance and setting up any cuts he made. Reynolds was able to get some run out layups and cut to finishes when he has open lanes. It was a big weekend for the DeKalb marksman.
Marcos Gonzales (6’3 PG/SG, Brother Rice)
Gonzales just knows to score, particularly around the rim off of penetration. With good length and creativity as a ball-handler, he sized up defenders and attacked angles before scoring with underhand and contact layups. Gonzales is a dynamic finisher that has a knack for drawing fouls as well. Look for more him to continue to grow, get stronger, and become even more dangerous using his skill.
Jackson Hupp (6’6 PF, Hersey)
Hupp knows how to use his strength but also has an uncanny skillset for a player at his size and age. The lefty big man was excelling out of the elbow and high post area, finding open cutters on target and attacking to his strong hand off of a couple of dribbles. Hupp showed good comfort and footwork on the low block as well, a spot where he was effective for Hersey during the school year.
Mac Irvin Fire 15U
Stefan Cicic (6’10 C, Notre Dame College Prep)
Cicic has evolved into a dominant back-to-the-basket big in a short period of time. Hooks over his left shoulder were looking natural after he got great position in the post. The 6-foot-10 big has good hands and soft touch to make push shots over the defense. Cicic blocked multiple shots and was timing shots well to get a piece of them. He has been moving well and controlling the paint all spring.
Bryce Heard (6’5 SG, Kenwood)
One of the top freshmen in the country, Heard is so smooth with the ball in his hands. He took a rebound coast to coast to score, knocked down a three, hit a foul line jumper after a cut, and got out in transition for a few more layups. But he didn’t force things, making passes within the flow of the offense and finding teammates when he drew attention. Heard is able to make all of the prerequisite plays with the ball to be a high-level scorer.
Christian Cummings (5’10 PG, Rockford Christian)
Cummings can got hot in a hurry. The versatile scoring guard drilled a handful of threes from the wing and had some acrobatic layups in traffic against some length. Even though he’s not the biggest guard, he is relentless and welcomes contact. Cummings is a young guard that starred for Rockford Christian this year as a freshman and should continue to garner attention.