The Chicago Elite Invitational featured a solid group of programs from Chicago and the surrounding area. I was downtown checking out some of the 17U teams this weekend and caught a couple of the
DJ Douglas (6’4 PG/SG, Yorkville Christian)
Douglas had another big weekend for Breakaway, highlighted by a pair of emphatic putback dunks. His ability to utilize his length as a finisher in traffic and on the defensive end against quality guards was impressive. He takes pride in the defensive end and should be able to guard both backcourt spots at the next level. The 6-foot-4 combo guard spent more time at lead guard than I had seen in the past, doing a nice job of balancing playmaking with creating space for his fluid jumper. Douglas will continue to see his stock rise with more performances like this.
Drew Scharnowski (6’8 SG/SF, Burlington Central)
The long, mobile wing created mismatches on both ends with his skill, athleticism, and length. Bigs were unable to keep him in front, using hesitations and shot fakes to get defenders off balance before finishing in a variety of ways around the rim. He finished through contact all weekend and knocked down a couple of jumpers from the perimeter. Defensively, he was blocking shots at their apex and quickly closing up driving lanes. Scharnowski, who recently picked up his first Division 1 offer from Brown, has high-major upside.
Arius Alijosius (6’3 SG, Riverside Brookfield)
All of the scouting reports say “shooter”, but when you are as active off the ball as Alijosius, it’s tough to take those looks away. He had over double-digits made threes on the weekend, primarily off of staggers and kick outs. Alijosius is playing with so much confidence right now and is shooting at a high clip. I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s on a hot streak because this is just the type of shooter he has been.
Nik Polonowski (6’7 SG, Lyons)
Despite struggling from the perimeter, Polonowski lived at the foul line off of aggressive drives to the rim. At 6-foot-7, his explosiveness in straight lines is very difficult to deal with when defenders have to respect his shooting ability. He got going from three in later games, but it’s always nice to see a player find other ways to score and bring the same hustle and defensive energy when shots aren’t falling. Polonowski fits the prototype of a 3-and-D wing and grades very high with his character and work ethic.
Chase Collignon (6’5 PF, Hinsdale Central)
A rugged four with good athleticism, Collignon was active around the paint with face-up drives and rebounding on both ends. He is relentless on the glass and can win one-on-one rebounding battles at 6-foot-5 because of his quick jumps. Collignon played solid interior defense as well, which provided a nice boost when they went to their bench.
Graham Smith (6’5 SF/PF, Lyons)
Smith gave great minutes utilizing his physicality to affect the game. He has grown-man strength that allowed him to get rebounding position, stand his ground in the post, and score through bumps. Moving like a freight train in transition, Smith had a big one-handed dunk and showed soft hands to finish an inbound lob, putback, and layup off of a pass in traffic. Smith is a coveted Division 1 football recruit that brings a lot of translatable traits to both sports.
Ryan Duncan (6’3 PG, Wilbraham & Monson Academy)
Duncan understands how to make others around him better. His court sense and accuracy throwing cross court skips, pocket passes, and lead passes to cutters was crucial for Fundamental U. The way that he reads the second line of help and is willing to swing the ball early in the offense is often overlooked by young point guards. Duncan wasn’t shy when trying to score either, making a few difficult stepbacks and using his 6-foot-3 frame to shoot floaters over defenders or create angles when he felt contact around the rim. A clear D1 prospect with a few offers, Duncan should catch more eyes this summer.
Jakob “Cheese” Blakley (6’0 PG, Larkin )
Blakley has a confidence, poise, and competitiveness about him that will bode well for the next level. He was attacking the elbows early and often to get to his stop-and-pop jumper and was able to pull back behind the arc for a couple of threes. When he got going downhill, Blakley maintained his balance with defenders on his hip and got to the free throw line well. Blakley remained active defensively and applied a high-level of ball pressure. He’s another well-rounded guard that holds an offer from Western Illinois.
Cole Bonder (6’5 PF, Libertyville)
Bonder played about as well as I’ve seen him play, against a big frontcourt. The 6-foot-5 post used his lower body strength to pin defenders on the block and got over his right shoulder for multiple left handed hooks and dropsteps. Bonder stepped outside and hit a three as well in a game where everything was working. He is a solid option at the elbows, but he was seeking out paint touches and was all over the offensive glass. Definitely was a noteworthy performance during the weekend.
Nikola Raic (6’8 PF, Libertyville)
There is so much to like about the energy and athleticism of Raic. There were transition situations where he consistently outsprinted the defense, caught the ball at full speed, and finished. Raic is both a bruiser and a fluid rim runner, leading to so many of his interior opportunities. His motor was running high and stood out in a game where he gave up some size to his matchup. I like Raic’s projectable frame and upside as a pick-and-roll big capable of playing in up tempo styles.
Tylon Tolliver (6’2 SG, Lincoln-Way East)
Tolliver was able to make some tough jumpers off the bounce with a couple of long twos and contested threes. He was aggressive and sought after his shot in space and in transition. With his strength and quickness, Tolliver got to his spots and elevated well. After a breakout junior year at Lincoln-Way East, Tolliver picked up an NAIA offer from University of Saint Mary a few weeks ago.
Dennis Estepp (6’1 PG, Grayslake Central)
It was all about the defense from Estepp this weekend. He took on some tough assignments and gave maximum effort fighting through screens, harassing ball-handlers, and going after loose balls. That led to steals, deflections, and fatigued opposing guards. Estepp, also a solid spot-up shooter, connected on some threes and showed good arc on his shot. He should get some Division 3 interest.
Louis Kaminski (6’0 PG, Lyons)
Kaminski ran the offense, was efficient with his shot attempts, and defended the other team’s best player. Offensively, he reversed the ball to find some of the hot shooters for Grind. When he did look to score, he hit a hook layup off of a jump stop and hit some threes. Kaminski scraps and competes on both ends.
Finn Kramper (6’3 SG, Downers Grove North)
Kramper got going with some turnaround jump shots and straight-line drives. Doing a nice job working off of his pivot, he waiting for defenders to fly by before turning and elevating for mid-range shots. But Kramper’s calling card is his outside shooting, which he put on display with a pair of triples. He gave a nice offensive boost.
Xavier Sulaiman (6’3 SG, Marist)
It was a great weekend for the hyper-athletic slashing guard. Sulaiman was nearly unstoppable once he got to his launching pad and took off in the lane. His hang time, body control, and touch inside of ten feet was leading to paint points and drawn fouls. He drives with purpose and has that slithery ability to avoid secondary help while staying on balance. When he also hits perimeter shots like he has been doing more frequently, defenders have to pick their poison. Sulaiman has a number of intriguing tools that should draw some eyes in June and July.
George Bellevue (6’6 SF/PF, Lincoln-Way East)
Bellevue is usually impacting games as a volume rebounder, but he shot the ball as well as I have seen. There is noticeably more fluidity to his jump shot, particularly from the mid-range where he made a few pull-ups, a long stepback two, and a turnaround from the mid-post. He still mixed in some of those bruising takes to the rim where his explosiveness takes over, but he showed multiple dimensions. Bellevue can play and defend either forward spot and is smoothing out his perimeter game nicely ahead of a busy summer.
Jeremiah Fears (6’1 PG, Joliet West )
Fears plays with that dog mentality that you can’t teach. He wanted to take big shots, and scored out of ball screen actions with a deep 3, elbow pull-up, and countless drives to get to the foul line. The Joliet West freshman is quick but not in a hurry with the ball, getting exactly where he needed to without being sped up into mistakes. He has continued to grow and projects as a high-major floor general.
Tyler Van Gorp (6’10 C, New Trier)
From last year to now, Van Gorp has taken huge strides with his physicality and assertiveness. The 6-foot-10 big was active in and around the paint defensively to contest shots and cause players to take shots falling away from the basket. Many players his size lumber up and down the floor, but I am impressed with his ability to change ends and finish above the rim off rolls. He’ll be an early candidate for one of the state’s breakout bigs for New Trier.
Adidas Davis (6’4 SG, The Skills Factory)
Wiry and athletic, Davis led the offensive attack for the Hoopstars. The lefty drove to his strong hand for a floater early on and did a good job looking for his shot during dry spells. Davis stepped way behind the arc for a three off of a ball screen and showed flashes of his playmaking ability. After reclassifying to the 2023 class, Davis should be able to add strength and draw some interest from scholarship programs.
Kevin Anthony (6’9 PF/C, Von Steuben)
Anthony’s size, wingspan, and mobility are easily evident. He’s a presence around the rim with his timing as a shot-blocker, throwing shots away effectively and cleaning up some misses. He had a big two-hand dunk and scored on some deep seals. As the 6-foot-9 big becomes more polished, he could really control the paint area. Anthony checks some boxes as a four/five man and would be worth the look as a developmental big.
EJ Marshall (6’0 PG/SG, Montini)
Marshall was one of the most impressive players that I saw all weekend. Even at 6-foot, he was living in the paint and making acrobatic layups against all types of defenders. A large part of that was his top-level athleticism and quickness to win one-on-one battles and adjust mid-air. Marshall scored in bunches, adding some long turnaround jumpers and a heavy dose of free throws. He has a lightning quick second jump that gave him an edge as a rebounder as well. Marshall was terrific this weekend and looked like a scholarship-level guard.
Katrell Weekley (6’2 SG, Michelle Clark)
An aggressive slasher with long strides, Weekley played a lot bigger than 6-foot-2. He has a power and urgency about his drives that made for a number of exciting finishes in traffic. Weekley had a rim-shaking dunk in transition and was another Jaguars play who didn’t shy away from contact. There was no questioning his effort.
Collin Wainscott (6’1 PG, Marmion)
Wainscott was being tightly guarded, but great things happened when he got touches. Early on, he had two assists on throw ahead passes, then hit a three off of a pindown and another on a stepback after getting a big to switch out on him. Wainscott has a fast, repeatable shot that comes out clean. When he did receive ball screens, he kept defenders on his back and got the foul line and hit a floater. Wainscott is a balanced point guard that projects as an elite shooter and high-IQ decision maker in college.
Jayden Martin (6’2 SG, Joliet West)
A bully of a two guard, Martin had to battle with some bigs defensively for an undersized Stars team. He won most of the matchups by using his strength and made them pay on the other end. Martin had a couple of corner threes and used his first step to knife to the rim, excelling on direct drive. Throughout the spring, Martin has been a solid scoring option for the Stars.
Mick Dempsey (6’2 PG, Taft )
The unsigned senior has an advanced scoring package, converting tough leaning jumpers, pullback threes, and stop-and-pop shots from the mid-range. Dempsey is a gifted shooter, but also handled the ball in tight spaces when he needed to get separation. A smart passer as well, Dempsey made a couple of perfectly timed pocked passes on the move to some of the active bigs. He is going to be a solid late pickup for a college program.
Darrion Baker (6’8 PF, Hillcrest)
Baker has such a unique skillset for a 6-foot-8 forward. His grab-and-go ability off of defensive rebounds put transition defenses in a tough spot, finishing off possessions as both a scorer and playmaker. Baker was able to make timely skip passes off of post ups and used his footwork and size within 15 feet to make plays. In the last month, Baker has cemented himself as one of the most versatile forwards in the 2023 class.
Jalen Griffith (5’9 PG, Simeon)
When you are 5-foot-9, there isn’t a lot of margin for error. Thankfully for Griffith, he doesn’t make a ton of mistakes with his handle and basketball IQ. While he didn’t shoot it that well, Griffith broke down the defense and threw strong passes out to shooters and bigs for quality looks. Griffith recently got another Division 1 offer from Jacksonville and more coaches should be calling for the super-skilled point guard.
Michael Ratliff (6’0 PG/SG, Simeon)
Ratliff leaned on his upper body strength to shed on-ball defenders and absorb contact from the help. He had a couple of tough double-clutch layups and rebounded well on the offensive end for a 6-foot guard. I see his defense as his best asset at the next level though, picking up ball-handlers in space and giving them fits with his quick hands and power.
Josh Thomas (6’6 SG/SF, Stevenson)
Open court athleticism has never been a question with Thomas, but it doesn’t make the highlight-reel dunks any less impressive. He was flying well above the rim in transition and ripped through in the half court for a right=hand scoop. Thomas also showed a smooth jumper on a corner three. He has the length, effortless athleticism, and shooting potential that coaches will take note of if he can produce in a leading role for Stevenson this summer.
Jeremy Harrington (6’5 PF, Curie)
Harrington, a strong inside-out forward, was joining in on the fast break activity for Team Rose. He did connect on a short corner jumper, but Harrington had a strength mismatch inside that often led to defenders moving out of the way to avoid his bumps. Harrington is another player who has taken advantage of the spring season, stretching the floor, rebounding, and playing a lot bigger than 6-foot-5.
Lonnel Strickland (6’4 SG/SF, Fenger )
Strickland was in go-mode from tip to final horn. He defended multiple positions and found ways to cause turnovers from all of them. With his length and high motor, Strickland was turning deflections into dunks and layups up around the rim. His best plays came in transition when he could pick a lane and attack it with tenacity. Still uncommitted, Strickland is one of the better available wings in the senior class.