Another day of team previews, focusing on some of the Chicago Public League schools to keep an eye on this season.
The physical, versatile frontcourt of Chikasi Ofoma and Jeremy Harrington is back. Both are serious double-double threats and have become more consistent perimeter shooters. They will be key in the high-low game.
Junior Carlos Harris is a Division 1 guard who will take a huge step leading the backcourt. His attacking style and creativity off of the dribble makes him close to unguardable in one-on-one situations. Look for Harris to be in the all-state conversation this year.
Now under a new coach, Hyde Park will look to build off of the momentum from last year where they had a solid season. Camron Williford had a good summer and should be a volume scorer in the CPL. His understanding of angles combined with his quickness will allow him to rack up paint points. His backcourt mate DaMarion Morris is also back for his final year as another guard who will provide some scoring.
A big addition is 6-foot-6 Homewood Flossmoor transfer Jurrell Baldwin, an athletic slasher who will give them some productivity on both ends. The junior has good tools and cuts and rebounds with a purpose. Junior Jochahana Pullum (6-foot-4) also gives them some length and athletic punch. They have good guard play, will pressure the ball, and now have some back line size to help.
One of the top groups in the Chicago Public League, Kenwood lost some players but reloaded accordingly as they have in previous years. Kansas State commit Dai Dai Ames is the lead dog on a gifted squad that will lean on his ability to break down a defense and make tough shots off the bounce. Two transfers will aid him in the backcourt in Isaiah Green (Hillcrest) and Tyler Smith (Leo). Green just knows how to get buckets and has the shiftiness to get his own shot. Smith brings a defensive presence and calming leadership to the team while possessing the handle and finishing ability to go on scoring runs.
6-foot-9 sophomore wing Aleks Alston is one of the breakout candidates in the class. He has grown since last year and added a bevy of Power 5 offers. You don’t see the shooting and playmaking at his size often. 6-foot-5 junior Calvin Robbins just continues to impress every time I see him. He’s so productive and reliable using his athleticism to finish, block shots, and leave a stamp on the game.
They also have some weapons inside. 6-foot-11 center Jaden Smith has a huge wingspan and alters shots in his space. If they can go to him on the block for a few easy buckets a game that will be a nice added element. Uncommitted senior big man Solomon Mosely is the anchor inside providing toughness, rebounding, and a sense of physicality. Let’s make sure to keep an eye out on the development of freshman Noah Mister as well. He may not be up full-time with varsity, but he’s a big-time playmaker.
It all starts with Shaheed Solebo, a Division 1 guard prospect who has turned into a monster over the last year. The smooth, 6-foot-4 junior gets to his spots and does damage getting downhill to his strong hand. He will be the focal point. Point guard Lorenzo Aquino will be a senior leader for them and provides activity on the defensive end, timely scoring, and a passer capable of kicking out to shooters.
I like two of their sophomores, Drew Bartolai (6-foot-3) and Dalton Scantlebury (6-foot-6). Bartolai is a physical, athletic guard that is a good driver and a shooter who can heat up for stretches. Scantlebury has a nice inside-out game and has agility and leaping ability at his size. Both will grow exponentially throughout the year.
Cordy Johnson is going to be a dynamite as a shot-making, undersized guard. He returns as a top three-point shooter and play initiator for Clark, who will play with that same full-court pressure this year. They don’t have a ton of true bigs and will miss the presence of the Jones brothers, but they are a solid group.
Watch out for Katrell Weekly, a non-stop force as a rebounder and slasher. He doesn’t rob you with his effort and should be a double-double threat despite lacking some height. Weekly and Johnson should both have a chance to play at the next level.
Maybe the biggest cumulative additions of talent of any team in the CPS, Perspectives should be a fun team to watch. The Cobb brothers, junior Gianni and senior Kamarion, can both go. Gianni has a high court sense and knows how to set guys up. Kamarion is a bruising combo guard that is relentless getting to the rim. They will be joined in the backcourt by junior guard Tim Handy, who was on triple-double watch a few times last year and should have even more room to operate this year.
CCL Player of the Year from last year JaKeem Cole also transferred in and will give them volume scoring on and offf the ball. Jarrod Gee Jr., an intriguing 6-foot-5 wing, just transferred in recently and will be able to cause turnovers, get out in transition, and show his improved half-court game. Some college coaches should look to buy stock in his long-term ability. Long-armed big man Kenric Mosby has also transferred in and gives them a good shot blocker and rim runner. The starting five will put on some shows this year.
Following a downstate trip, Simeon is poised to challenge for another deep run. After losing some key guards to graduation, this year’s team will lean more on their skilled frontcourt. Miles (Loyola commit) and Wes (Northern Iowa) might be the best frontcourt duo in Illinois and play off of each other so well. Wes shined at times last year with his passing and ability to push the break. Miles is always in motion, either sprinting in transition, getting to help early to protect the rim, or finding ways to the offensive glass. Both are 6-foot-7 plus.
OPRF transfer Sam Lewis (Akron) looks like the perfect athletic, smooth wing to fill a gap for this team. He will have games when he gets 20-plus points on 10 shots. Floor general Jalen Griffith will be the main guy with the ball in his hands this season and it should be a welcome sight. The intelligence, creativity, and sheer speed that he has with the ball energizes his teammates and encourages them to run their lanes.
But they also have two pit bull guards in Kaiden Space (Stony Brook) and Michael Ratliff. Space is a steal for Stony Brook considering how efficient he is as a two-way player. Ratliff is going to be a primary defender on some of the tough perimeter players on their schedule. All three of the guards are excellent at moving their feet and causing havoc defensively. Add in depth from 6-foot-10 center Steven Turner and a pair of promising juniors in RJ McKinnie and Ameer Morrow and it’s hard to deny the talent.
The loss of All-State guard Joshua West will hurt, but they have ample guard-play returning to help combat it. Isaiah Giles has been productive for a few seasons and really took a step forward as a junior. He’s only about 5-foot-11, but he is built to play through contact and make plays in space. Lanky guard DJ Butler is back as well and will be counted on even more to contribute on the glass and carry a heavier scoring load.
Dual-sport athlete Askia Bullie got better as his sophomore year progressed and has good length and pace as a point guard. He makes life easier on others. Similar to other programs, they added a few transfers who project to have roles in their rotation. They will be guard-heavy, but this team will get up and down with most teams in the Chicago Public League.
One of the consistent powers in the CPL, Whitney Young has serious 4A championship aspirations. Princeton commit Dalen Davis has been giving the Chicago area problems for years now and is back once again, this time as the unquestioned leader. Although he is an unselfish, passing guard, he was terrific on the EYBL circuit for Meanstreets as a scorer as well. On this team, he will show a little bit more of his game getting offense for himself. Uncommitted 6-foot-6 wing Daniel Johnson is healthy after missing a lot of time last year, and gives them an experienced 3-and-D weapon. Marcus Pigram (6-foot-3) is another uncommitted senior with Division 1 offers who had some strong flashes as a junior.
I’m high on the breakout potential of sophomore wing Antonio Munoz. His energy, elite athleticism, and determination on both ends is uncommon for a young player. Now taller and stronger, Munoz is going to step into a big frontcourt role that he should excel in. Fellow sophomore Damajay Richardson gets after it and will play off of Davis well as a mid-range shooter, solid defender, and instinctual playmaker in his own right.
There are some good complementary pieces throughout the roster to aid the core. They don’t have the interior players like a year ago, but I would argue that this year’s perimeter play will be deeper. They have ample players up on varsity already, but it would be hard to not mention the talent in the pipeline in their freshmen class that has multiple players who would be varsity starters at a lot of schools.