I was in the Chicago area to catch a few games this weekend at the Prep Hoops Summer Challenge. Of the games that I saw, here are the standouts.
Full Package Black 2023
Matas Buzelis (6’10 PG, Sunrise Christian)
Buzelis rejoined Full Package for the weekend and showed a lot of the intangibles that will help him excel as a pro. The rangy, 6-foot-10 point guard handled pressure and regularly created separation with a range of stepbacks, side steps, and misdirection moves. His jump shot has tight rotation and good arc, connecting on a number of threes off the bounce. When he got inside the paint, he maneuvered around help defenders for layups, leaped over them for emphatic dunks, and made in-rhythm passes to shooters. There is something unique about his defensive versatility. Buzelis got in a stance, defended ball screens, and controlled the paint as a shot blocker. He is a talented player, but the way he conducts himself will set him apart down the line. Some kids allow themselves to be coached, but Buzelis looked like he wanted to be coached. When the Full Package coaches held him accountable or offered advice, he was engaged and made adjustments. Buzelis grades high, even on the NBA level, as a teammate and worker.
Rokas Castillo (6’0 PG, Lemont)
Rokas is a skilled finisher that used his body control all game to score against size. He did a nice job of getting around his defender’s hips and maintaining his driving angles before he got the ball up on the glass quickly. Also a willing and capable shooter, Castillo hits a high percentage from the wings. After receiving his first Division 2 offer from Wisconsin Parkside, expect for Rokas to draw more eyes over the next three weeks.
Matas Castillo (6’0 PG, Lemont)
Another creative guard for Full Package, Matas also worked on and off the ball at times effectively. Bringing some of the same traits as his brother, defenders struggled to keep Matas out of the paint in transition and in isolation situations. It’s not just his speed, but more so how deceptive he is with the ball when he sets up his drives. Castillo also got a Parkside offer and should have a nice July before forming one of the top backcourts in Illinois during the winter.
Mark Nikolich-Wilson (6’7 C, Rolling Meadows)
No matter how many times I see him, Nikolich-Wilson is one of the more perplexing players in the 2023 class. He’s not just a threat to shoot the three, but a legitimate high-percentage shooter with a textbook follow-through. The Rolling Meadows big works perfectly in the slot and high post area as a playmaker, shooter, and dribble handoff weapon. He went to work from the perimeter in the game I saw with threes and crafty moves to the rim. Nikolich-Wilson is another player who scholarship schools should do their due diligence on.
Illinois Attack 2023
Brayden Fagbemi (6’0 PG, Benet)
At a certain point, you would expect the defense to identify someone with as many threes as Fagbemi as someone to run off the line. But he continued to cash in on open looks. I guess the challenge for the defense was that aggressive closeouts led to Fagbemi carving up the defense and setting up teammates. Over the last few months, Fagbemi has emerged as one of the better ball-handlers in the senior class and a point guard who can influence games as a scorer or passer. He has continued to add strength and should be closely watched this month.
Brady Kunka (6’3 SG, Benet)
Kunka made his presence felt on the offensive glass, converting a number of putbacks in traffic after using his strength to get through box-outs. There is never a question on his effort, which plays well with how explosive he is in the paint. Kunka rebounds and finishes like a player three or four inches taller while still possessing a clean three-point stroke that he didn’t have to use much in the game I saw. Kunka should be near the top of the wishlist for a number of Division 3 programs.
Ryan Johnson (6’6 SG, Oswego East)
There is a lot of evident upside for Johnson, who is a legit 6-foot-6 with good athleticism and a jump shot that would fit in at most college practices. He was efficient with his touches, scoring with a pull-up and getting out in transition. In June, Johnson had a number of big tournaments that caught the eye of college coaches. He will have a chance this month to reaffirm some interest as a potential 3-and-D with plenty of runway to grow.
Chicago Lockdown 2023
Jackson Niego (6’0 PG, Lyons)
Carrying a little bit of a heavier scoring load without his sharpshooting cousin Nick, Niego did an excellent job balancing scoring and playmaking duties. He probably shot over 50 percent from three despite defenders chasing him over screens and shooting off of curl actions. On his drives, he hit push shots and dropped off passes for bigs or skipped to open guys opposite. Always a physical and disciplined defender, Niego set the tone in the half-court with his on-ball defense. He will have similar responsibilities this week and remains as a two-way lead guard who has D2/D3 appeal.
Matt Moore (6’9 PF, Joliet West)
Moore had a number of different defenders thrown at him, but he capitalized when he got opportunities. He stepped outside and hit threes and had some clear path dunks on rim runs. A recent transfer to Joliet West, Moore impacted the game around the rim as a shot-blocker that altered shots outside in his area. He should continue to add Division 1 offers over the next three weeks.
Dylan Schmidt (6’4 SG, Johnsburg)
A finisher and shooter with long-range like Schmidt will always pose a mismatch. He was getting downhill out of the triple threat and successfully challenged some shot blockers with athletic layups. Later in the game, he showed off his shooting prowess as well. Schmidt didn’t get to be seen at big live events in June, but he is a plus athlete with the catch-and-shoot game to stand out in front of coaches.
Niko Abusara (6’5 SG, Benet)
In a game with solid talent on both sides, Abusara was the most impactful two-way player. His length affected ball-handlers and finishers alike with deflections, steals, and blocked shots. He was solid at the top of the press and showed the ability to guard all three perimeter spots. Offensively, he clearly has put in the time to improve his jump shot. Abusara hit a few pull-ups and threes, shooting them with confidence when the defense gave him space. Ball-handling and playmaking remain key traits for the Benet guard, getting a head of steam to finish against soft hedges and having the skill and feel to make early reads against aggressive coverages. Abusara looked every bit like a Division 1 guard prospect.
Quentin Jones (6’5 SG, Marian Catholic)
One of the biggest stock boosters in the state the last few months, Jones put on his own dunk contest in the game I saw. It’s like he shoots out of a cannon in transition and finds a way to finish, even with defenders in his path. Jones got his perimeter game going in the second half with a pull-up three and mid-range looks. In the last month, he has been one of the more reliable mid-range scorers in the class. Another Division 1 caliber player for FVV, Jones has the attention of coaches.
Tyler Smith (6’1 PG, Leo)
Coming off a hot end to June, Smith seems to be playing with great confidence on both ends. He takes defensive assignments seriously and picked up aggressively at half-court. Smith went to the rim with a purpose and made the right plays when he drew help. Smith isn’t a flashy player, but he gets to his spots and makes winning plays on both ends.
Fundamental U UA Rise 2024
Ayden Goll (5’10 PG, Milton [WI])
Goll is a big-time shooter that has a scorer’s mentality. In the first half alone, he buried multiple threes off the catch with a compact lefty stroke. He’s got a strong build that allowed him to keep his balance on penetration where his stop-and-pop game was effective and his touch around the rim looked solid. The Wisconsin shooter was very impressive stretching the floor for Fundamental U.
Nate Kasher (6’0 PG, Glenbrook South)
It would be hard for me to name five juniors who can shoot the ball better than Kasher. He has a burner from deep and was making shots past the college line in bunches. Kasher moves with good pace off the ball to lose defenders off screens or in transition. And he showed a very quick trigger that went from the catch right up into the shot with little wasted motion. Kasher is tough and competitive as a defender and is willing to sacrifice his body to make plays.
Braeden Carlsen (6’3 SG, Wauconda)
One of the more productive juniors that isn’t well known throughout the Chicago area, Carlsen is a do-it-all two-guard who plays with an edge. He knocked down some threes with a fluid outside shot and scored off cuts. Carlsen’s shot preparation and footwork in the mid-range are advanced and should help him going forward. He was active and a pest on the defensive end guarding opposing wings. He may not jump off the screen athletically, but Carlsen does so many little things at a high level.
Nick Taylor (6’7 SF/PF, Glenbrook South)
Taylor was as high energy as any player I saw all weekend. He easily had five-plus blocks in the game that I saw, rotating and contesting all over the floor. Taylor has elite vertical quickness, getting off the ground in a hurry to swat shots away or grab rebounds on the offensive glass. And the best part was that he kept that same energy for the whole game. When he got the ball on the low block, he used drop stops and spins to get layup angles. On the perimeter, he hit a three and drove hard to his left hand well. Taylor is the type of competitor that you want on your team.
Wisconsin Playground 2024
Nate Kwiecinski (6’6 SF, Cushing Academy)
Kwiecinski, a former Loyola Academy wing, has continued to progress and refine his game. His jump shot has taken a significant leap since a year ago, making threes and a pull-up confidently. Most of his production came off of paint touches from driving to the lane, pivoting, and using his length to score in traffic or get to the foul line. Kwiecinski has touch on his hook shot and wasn’t afraid to mix it up when secondary defenders came over. He is on the trajectory of a potential Division 1 wing if he continues to develop as he has been.
Illinois Attack Jelani 2025
Whitman Charboneau (6’2 SG, Neuqua Valley)
Charboneau was a difference-maker for the Attack with his multi-layered offensive game. When they needed a big shot, he delivered with threes off of flares and elevator screens or created his own shot on open sides. For a sophomore, he has good size as a guard and springs up into his mid-range shots to get shots up over defenders. When he didn’t have open shots, he was more than willing to pick a lane, put his head down, and finish off some contact layups. Charboneau continues to stand out for the Attack against good competition.
Vova Polishchuk (6’4 SF/PF, Neuqua Valley)
Another young Neuqua player who can stretch the floor, Polishchuk is one of the better shooting forwards in the sophomore class right now. Defenders were almost perplexed at how many threes the big man was hitting, coming off of different actions and spraying in shots like a smaller guard. He has some creativity off the dribble as well and pushed the ball in transition off of misses. Polishchuk is skilled enough offensively to play either forward spot.
Bryce Turner (5’8 PG, Lockport)
Turner played as well as I have seen, making hard, direct drives to the paint over and over again. For a 5-foot-8 player, he really goes through the lane like a running back and initiates bumps before making layups. He played with a competitive fire that was nice to see in the morning, taking pride in attacking defenders and then creating steals on the other end with his activity. If Turner can make performances like this his standard, he could be in for a great career at Lockport.
Fundamental U 2025
Reid Olson (5’10 PG, Niles North)
Olson has in-the-gym range and hit a few triples from NBA distance with ease. He uses his base well to get power for his shot and has a great finish to it. Throughout the game, he acted both off the ball spacing the floor, occasionally receiving screens, and on the ball to initiate the offense. Olson made good things happen with his touches and got the ball moving offensively. He has gotten stronger since the spring and is taking bumps off the ball well. The combination of confidence and IQ that he plays with stands out.
Ben Gablenz (6’2 SG, Prairie Ridge)
In a valiant comeback, Gablenz led the way with his perimeter shooting. The 6-foot-2 guard has a quick release from three and made a string of them in the second half to pull Fundamental U back within striking distance. Gablenz has decent size and athleticism at the guard spot that he used when he got into the teeth of the defense to absorb contact and score in crowds. He showed some flashes defensively as well fighting for loose balls, rebounding, and moving his feet.
Full Package 2025
Atticus Richmond (6’7 PF, Berkshire Academy)
Richmond made a statement with his performance, throwing down three impressive dunks and looking very fluid on the perimeter as a shooter and straight-line driver. He rebounded well on both ends and overwhelmed the opposing frontcourt with his athleticism and length. Richmond was outrunning guards in transition and had one poster dunk on the break. A recently announced transfer to Berkshire, Richmond has the game and upside that should shine in the NEPSAC.
Aidan Bardic (6’0 PG, Stevenson)
The lefty guard continues to get better. Bardic operates out ball screens with an attack-first mentality that fits him as a stronger guard with some upper body strength at his age. When he drives, he has a sense of urgency that leads to foul calls or layups before the help defense rotates over. Bardic is also a savvy passer who can get teammates easy shots off of his penetration. After seeing Bardic play in the summer with Stevenson, it’s easy to see his future as a potential two-way playmaking point guard.
Vince Buzelis (6’3 SG, Hinsdale Central)
An athletic two-guard with some shake off the dribble, Buzelis was able to get most of his offense in the open floor where his long strides gave him an advantage. He seems to be just scratching the surface of how dynamic he could be creating off the wing, showing some smooth counter moves and the balance to stop and pull-up from the mid-range. Buzelis gets off the ground well to pull down boards and has a frame that should add weight nicely. He’s another Full Package sophomore that is trending up.
All-In Gold 2025
Jordan Tunis (5’10 PG, Schaumburg)
Tunis controlled tempo and turned on his top gear when needed. He picked his spots throughout the game and thrived in the play initiator role. When he did look to attack, his quick burst and handle led to numerous layups and open threes when defenders gave him space. Tunis guards the ball in open space as well, turning ball-handlers and moving his feet to make them uncomfortable. He looks like he could be the floor general of the future for Schaumburg.
Matthew Morice (6’2 SG, Saint Edwards)
Morice could not miss. He was torching the nets from the perimeter, specifically out of the corners, where his high release evaded contested hands. His length suggests that he is far from done growing and his activity defensively was notable. Morice gets in the passing lanes, shows his hands, and covers ground on his rotations. He could have a nice future as a 3-and-D player.
Brandyn Michaels (6’1 SG, Saint Viator)
For the most part, Michaels got going with right-handed drives and crafty layups in traffic. He is a quality athlete that thrives once he has a head of steam. Michaels scored in the paint on multiple occasions simply by beating defenders to spots off of cuts. On the other end, he contains ball-handlers and turns defense into offense.
Ryan Brown (6’4 SG, Fremd)
A wing with good size and a very solid shooting stroke, Brown did a little bit of everything. Spot-up attempts were mostly on the money and he was the recipient of some transition run-outs. I like the way Brown moves off of the ball and the impact he provides as a rebounder out of the backcourt. Fremd’s 6-foot-4 wing will be a name to track in their conference next year.
Anton Strelnikov (6’6 C, Lake Zurich)
This was my first time seeing Strelnikov and he was one of the better bigs I saw. Long-armed and smart, Strelnikov fought for positioning and scored on the low block early and often. He got over his left shoulder for a number of hook shots and kept his post reads simple. Strelnikov displayed some touch on a face-up jumper from the elbow and has range that extends out to the three-point line. Not bad for a 6-foot-6 sophomore who is still filling out physically. He should be an impact post presence for Lake Zurich.