We are only a few days away from the first games of the new high school season, so it felt like a good time to highlight some of the better positional units. Today we are noting 40 backcourt groups in the state to watch for (listed in alphabetical order). Some of the key players in each backcourt are listed.
Kelton McEwen (6’1 Junior), Marty McCarthy (6’2 Senior), Nathan Scearce (6’3 Junior)
McEwen is one of the best junior guards in the state who more D2 and low-major college coaches need to see. He is an efficient, volume three-point shooter that has a tight handle, makes plays for others, and has taken a huge leap athletically. McCarthy had a good junior year and has a nonstop motor that should stand out on both ends. Scearce missed time as a sophomore but is back and gives them another long-range option and double-digit scoring threat.
Brayden Fagbemi (6’0 Senior), Brady Kunka (6’3 Senior), Niko Abusara (6’5 Senior), Sam Driscoll (6’2 Senior), Andy Nash (6’4 Senior)
The three-headed monster of Abusara, Fagbemi, and Kunka will be a problem for any team on their schedule. With speed, length, and activity, they all provide value beyond the stat sheet. Abusara has advanced versatility at 6-foot-5, Fagbemi (Johns Hopkins) is a true floor general that had a great summer, and Kunka is a three-year player that brings shooting and defensive intensity. Look for Driscoll and Nash (Carthage) to help space the floor and attack within the offense.
Mekhi Cooper (6’0 Senior), Josh Aniceto (5’10 Junior), DJ Strong (5’11 Junior), Jason Lawani (6’3 Junior), KJ Cathey (5’11 Junior)
Miami (Ohio) commit Cooper is the focal point creating shots for himself and others. But they have depth, quickness, and tenacity surrounding him at the guard spots. Aniceto was terrific at times this summer for Paradise while Strong, Lawani, and KJ impressed with Flight. They should all have added confidence and be able to contribute early and often for a team who made it down state in the spring.
Ahmad Henderson (5’10 Senior), Nick Niego (6’2 Senior), Cale Cosme (5’5, Junior), Tre Dowdell (6’2 Junior), Marcos Gonzalez (6’3 Sophomore)
Henderson is among the best players in the state, even at 5-foot-9. He does it all and lets his game speak for itself. Niego showed that he has a flamethrower as a junior and could flirt with 100 made threes this year. Cosme constantly gets paint touches and Dowdell is another junior who makes plays in space. Gonzales, a sophomore, has length, scoring instincts, and can pressure the ball defensively.
Downers Grove North
Jacob Bozeman (6’5 Senior), Jack Stanton (6’2 Junior), Max Haack (6’0 Senior), Ethan Thulin (6’0 Senior), Owen Thulin (5’10 Junior)
Bozeman anchors the backcourt and flexes between the perimeter and the interior. There are understandably high expectations for Stanton, a likely Division 1 prospect who is an explosive scoring guard that can put up points in a hurry. Haack has range past the arc while fellow senior Ethan Thulin mixes it up and gives a defensive impact. Owen Thulin will get the entire backcourt open looks.
Darrell Island (6’3 Junior), Sean Reynolds (6’1 Sophomore), Jackson Kees (6’2 Sophomore)
Island can really go and should be in for a breakout senior year. He just knows how to get into the lane and finish in traffic. Reynolds is an excellent off-ball mover and shooter who will be among the top outside threats in the area. His role and leadership responsibilities will grow after a nice freshman season. The wiry Kees is another sophomore who will be looked on to provide shooting and scoring punch.
Maurice Thomas (6’0 Senior), Payton Kamin (6’7 Junior), Robert Walls (5’11 Sophomore)
Thomas has grit and a quiet confidence that gives the entire team composure. He will be the starting point guard this year. 6-foot-7 Kamin averaged double-digits as a sophomore in a tough conference and grew a few inches since then. His skill and shooting ability create constant mismatches. Walls, a Kenwood transfer, is an energetic guard that loves to defend and make plays off of the bounce.
Hunter Duncan (6’1 Senior), Ephraim Chase (6’3 Senior), Brandon Watson (5’8 Junior), Malachi Barrett (6’2 Senior), Jonah Ross (6’0 Senior)
Duncan is a St. Viator transfer who will be able to up the tempo. Chase competes on the defensive end and can score in transition and off cuts well. Look for Watson to bring similar defensive energy while being a spark plug with his passing and ball-handling. Barrett will be another athletic guard with some height and Ross is a lethal outside shooter.
Jimmy Rasmussen (6’1 Senior), Mick Lawrence (5’11 Senior)
Both were impact players as juniors for Geneva. Lawrence changes gears nicely and shot it well from distance last year. He will have even more volume this season and has some one-on-one game to create his own shot. Rasmussen is a hard-nosed guard with serious strength and physicality. Geneva will lean on his toughness, inside-out scoring, and defensive leadership.
Ryan Cohen (6’4 Senior), Josh Fridman (5’8 Junior), Owen Giannoulias (5’10 Junior)
Without question, Cohen is one of the top two-guards in the entire state. Don’t expect anything less than consistent productivity, quality shots within the offense, and vocal leadership for GBN. How he doesn’t have more college interest is a mystery to me. Fridman missed time in the summer but was a difference-maker as a sophomore. He can be a pest defensively and brings high-IQ and skill to the offensive end. Likely will be an all-conference pick again. Giannoulias is a perfect complement able to both shoot the three off of the catch or operate in ball screens or as a play initiator.
RJ Davis (6’2 Senior), Gaven Marr (6’4 Senior), Nate Kasher (6’0 Junior), Anestis Hadjistomolou (6’0 Sophomore)
Davis is a three-year guy who has won a lot of games with the Titans. Now he’s the leader and will thrive in it. Marr started as well and has a nice combination of length, slashing, and shooting. Returning junior Kasher has range that rivals former all-state and current Cornell guard Cooper Noard. He’s a proficient shooter, but will also show his balance and touch around the rim. Hadjistomolou doesn’t play like a sophomore at all. On a team with a lot of weapons, he will make sure everyone eats and fill it up when defenses give him space.
Jeremy Fears (6’1 Senior), Jeremiah Fears (6’1 Sophomore), Justus McNair (6’2 Junior), Jayden Martin (6’2 Senior)
There isn’t a better guard duo in the state than the Fears brothers. Jeremy (Michigan State) is a potential McDonald’s All-American who brings it on a nightly basis on both ends. Jeremiah has grown and is a true three-level scorer with plenty of passing prowess. McNair is an under-the-radar junior who will have a field day against whoever the third defensive option may be. He has scholarship-level talent. And Martin is a bulkier downhill guard capable of rebounding and defending as well.
Dai Dai Ames (6’1 Senior), Tyler Smith (6’0 Senior), Isaiah Green (6’0 Junior)
Ames (Kansas State) is a dynamo with the ball and returns for his final year with a lot of expectations. That shouldn’t be a problem with how effortlessly he can score and get shots for his teammates. But the other guards may not need much help creating offense. Tyler Smith should end up with a number of D2 and low-major offers. He plays with a chip, is a premier defender, and will be able to be aggressive attacking the rim off of the ball at times. Green, a Hillcrest transfer, is one of the city’s top junior guards and will make a big impact immediately.
Asa Thomas (6’7 Senior), Tommie Aberle (6’2 Junior), Noah Portalatin (5’10 Senior), Anthony Mordini (6’3 Senior)
Clemson commit Thomas is 6-foot-7 but he is a legitimate guard. Still an elite shooter, he has improved every year and will showcase passing and ball-handling skill that should open things up for the Scouts. Aberle was a revelation as a sophomore stuffing the stat sheet and bringing a dog mentality to the game. Seniors Portalatin and Mordini are both high-energy guys. Portalatin is a solid mid-range scorer while Mordini is a physical three-point shooter.
Matas Castillo (6’1 Senior), Rokas Castillo (6’1 Senior)
The Castillos, both committed to Wisconsin Parkside, are going to make Lemont games entertaining all year with their craftiness, creativity, and quickness. Both are slick passers and are able to shoot or distribute off of the dribble. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a number of games where both had 15/5/5 lines.
Alex Engro (6’2 Senior), Miles Boland (6’3 Junior), Jimmy Tarjan (6’5 Junior), Ethan Dabu (5’9 Junior)
Engro exemplifies Loyola basketball in the best way. Tough as nails, unselfish, patient, and confident in high-pressure moments. He’s also going to aid in the up-tempo, perimeter scoring style this year. Boland showed a lot of good flashes as a sophomore and should be one of the top scorers and rebounders. Tarjan, a promising 6-foot-5 junior, and Dabu, a pass-first, quick point guard, give the Ramblers depth and pieces for the future.
Nik Polonowski (6’6 Senior), Jackson Niego (6’0 Senior), Louis Kaminski (6’0 Senior)
Polonowski (Penn) opened a lot of eyes as a junior. He will be the focus of opposing defenses but has added layers to his game to complement his shooting, defense, and straight-line athleticism. Niego makes others better, really pressures the ball, and should double his scoring from last year. He had a great summer and should continue to see his stock rise taking over the lead guard spot. Kaminski is a quality point guard that should add depth and shooting.
Quentin Jones (6’5 Senior), Tre Davis (5’10 Senior), Zack Sharkey (6’1 Sophomore)
The increased strength and skill of Jones (Cal Poly) will prove to be crucial for Marian. He will have an impact on all facets of the game for them and looks primed for an all-state year. Davis returns as a productive lead guard who doesn’t need a lot of space to get going. The sophomore Sharkey is from Indiana that looks to have a bright future.
Collin Wainscott (6’2 Senior), Jabe Haith (6’4 Senior), Anderson Conlin (6’1 Senior), Evan Stumm (6’2 Junior), Caden Anderson (6’1 Sophomore), Bradley Stratton (6’1 Sophomore)
Wainscott and Haith lead a pretty deep guard group for Marmion. Wainscott, a heady shooter, was an all-conference player as a junior and continues to pull in D3 offers. The smooth-scoring Haith has taken a big jump since last year and could lead the Cadets in scoring some games. Conlin and Stumm are both nice spot-up shooters who move well off of the ball. Anderson and Stratton should also have impacts spacing the floor.
Brock Harding (6’0 Senior), Grant Welch (6’3 Senior)
Harding (Iowa) is one of the better passers in the entire Midwest and should be among the state leaders in assists. But he’s also going to be one of the top scorers in Moline history, able to use his handle to get space and either pull-up or score in the lane. Welch is one of the best kept secrets in the state for hose outside of the Quad Cities. He is a knockdown shooter who is tough and competitive on both ends.
DeAndre Craig (6’1 Senior), Angelo Ciaravino (6’6 Junior), Lee Marks (6’5 Junior), Anthony Ciaravino (6’1 Senior), Grant Best (6’1 Sophomore)
Craig (Denver) is the top returning player and a catalyst with the ball. 6-foot-6 junior Angelo Ciaravino has pulled in a couple of Division 1 offers himself over the last few months, intriguing coaches with his fluid game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaped into the All-State conversation this year. Marks, a Homewood Flossmoor transfer, is another junior that screams upside. Anthony Ciaravino doesn’t miss many open looks and Best is the future lead guard who will mix in with the upperclassmen this year.
Luke Williams (6’1 Junior), Bryce Welch (5’11 Junior), Cole Arl (5’11 Junior)
All three played big minutes as sophomores. Williams should become the primary option after being up the last two years. His athletic ability is off of the charts and should allow him to create some easy shots. Arl was very consistent last year and had a big summer to carry that momentum. With his shiftiness in space, he should be able to excel in the heavy guard lineup. Welch is the one guard who could show the most growth. He has deceptive explosiveness and length and does a great job scoring around the rim.
Mark Mennecke (6’1 Senior), Luke Kinkade (6’2 Junior), Chris Srbinov (6’2 Senior), Colin Gerrity (6’2 Junior)
Mennecke is back for his third season in a point guard role where he has shown vision and big-shot making. Kinkade is a player who should really open some eyes this year. His shooting separates him, but his overall scoring ability has flourished over the last six months. Srbinov is a likely Division 3 recruit that scores in space and the junior Gerrity looks to be another shot-maker in the backcourt.
Jake Fiegen (6’3 Senior), Colby Smith (6’2 Sophomore), Logan Feller (6’4 Junior), Evan Kanellos (5’10 Senior)
Fiegen (Cornell) has put in the work to become a bruising, athletic guard with a killer-instinct that should ignite this team. He’s going to be a threat to hit five-plus threes on any given game and will be able to take on the toughest defensive matchups when needed. Feller has great length at the guard spot and uses it well as a cutter and driver. His versatility to make the extra pass, rebound, and guard the ball will be valuable. Kanellos will serve in a play initiator/defensive irritant role. Sophomore Colby Smith has the dynamic scoring ability that you can’t teach. He is among the top guards in his class and is wired to create offense.
Reid Olson (5’11 Sophomore), Yaris Irby (5’10 Sophomore), Eduard Holom (6’2 Senior), Gio Williams (6’2 Senior)
One of the younger guard groups, three-point sniper Olson leads the way after leading the team in scoring as a freshman. He stronger, smarter, and better around the rim now. Evanston transfer Irby is a highly regarded sophomore in his own right, able to also make plays on both sides of the floor. Holom will provide some shooting and Williams is another transfer that has offensive ability.
Xavier Sulaiman, (6’3 Senior) Corey Lee (6’0 Junior), Robert Wagner (6’0 Senior), Donte Montgomery (6’2 Sophomore)
Athletic Marist transfer Sulaiman had a huge summer with Oak Lawn and on the AAU circuit. Both utilizing his athleticism and showing consistency as a shooter, he is set to emerge as one of the better players in the area. Wagner is another super-athlete who is a track star capable of skying above the rim to finish. Lee was up last year and has a projectable frame and good slashing ability. Montgomery has a lot of upside as a sophomore who can make plays in the open floor.
Jehvion Starwood (6’3 Junior), Bryce Shoto (5’10 Senior), Mason Blanco (6’3 Senior)
Starwood, a Yorkville Christian transfer, is a game-changing athlete that can shift defenders, get all the way to the rim, or score on short pull-ups. He might not have any offers yet, but he has obvious talent. Shoto is another transfer who will handle point guard duties and give someone to break pressure and create for others. Blanco gives Oswego East depth, size, and defense.
Tim Handy (6’2 Junior), Gianni Cobb (5’10 Junior), KJ Cobb (6’0 Senior)
Handy returns as a triple-double threat that makes plays all over the floor. The Cobb brothers transferred in and will give instant impact. Gianni gets up and harasses opposing ball-handlers while being a high-assist playmaker and nifty finisher on offense. KJ is stronger and more of a bruising guard, barreling through defenders with ease and producing high scoring outputs at the foul line. This trio will give teams fits.
Jaloni Johnson (6’4 Senior), EJ Marshall (6’0 Senior)
Johnson has been a mainstay in the Proviso East lineup and should be expected to score at a high rate and show skill and finesse on the offensive end once again. I would expect scholarship-level programs to be closely tracking him. Marshall transferred in from Montini where he became one of the better guards in the Catholic league as a junior. Now he has a running mate who should allow him to show his game on and off the ball.
Bradley Longcor (6’3 Sophomore), Camden Brown (6’5 Junior), Reid O’Brien (6’1 Senior)
Only a sophomore, Longcor broke Quincy’s freshman scoring record and will be looked on as a leader. He is the best 2025 guard prospect outside of the Chicago area and really understands angles, timing, and how to use deception to get to his spots where he is a good shooter and interior scorer. Now at 6-foot-3, Longcor should be even lethal. O’Brien had solid time as a junior and started to come on as the year progressed. His shooting will be key. Brown missed all of last season, but the 6-foot-5 junior is a scholarship kid. He’s got long strides, good athleticism, and plays with energy. Look for him to reemerge.
Arius Alijosius (6’4 Senior), Will Gonzalez (6’5 Junior)
RB will run out a big lineup with size across the board. The two guards who will make the most impact are Alijosius (Winona State) and Gonzalez. Alijosius pulled in a bunch of D2 offers following a breakout summer where he proved to be one of the best shooters in the entire state. His size and off-ball movement make it tough to effectively face guard him all game. Gonzalez has every physical tool you look for in a wing with a lot of that free-flowing skillset to refine. It looks like he is putting it all together and may be in line to give some defenses trouble.
Cam Christie (6’6 Senior), Ian Miletic (6’6 Sophomore), Jack Duffer (6’0 Sophomore)
It obviously starts with Christie, a Minnesota commit who could reach 2,000 career points. He will be handling the ball a bit more than last year, but there are enough surrounding weapons to limit how much help you can give. One of those weapons is Miletic, a blossoming 6-foot-6 sophomore who will regularly leave his marks on games a slasher, shooter, and defender this year. Duffer, another sophomore, will work in the guard rotation and make defenses pay for sagging off of him.
Troy Cicero (6’2 Senior), Meyoh Swansey (6’3 Junior), Deonte Cunningham (6’2 Senior), Mickeis Johnson (6’2 Freshman)
Loyola Maryland got a good one in Cicero. His game has continued to develop and it looks like he is processing and making decisions at a high level. Already a strong defender, Cicero was scoring at a high clip over the summer. Swansey was good as a sophomore, but he should have a big-time affect this year. A master of the pull-up game, he has quick-twitch athleticism and is an adept finisher. He should be a Division 1 prospect by the time the recruiting process wraps up. There’s a lot to like about the relentless intensity that Cunningham brings to both ends for them. Johnson doesn’t look or play like a freshman and has explosive athleticism to rebound, defend, and score in transition.
Sacred Heart Griffin
Jake Hamilton (6’3 Senior), Will Hamilton (6’3 Senior), KeShon Singleton (6’2 Senior), Jveon Bardwell (5’10 Senior)
Their backcourt from the state-championship team returns intact. Jake Hamilton (Quincy) should be a repeat All-State selection after being near the top of points, rebounds, and assists for SHG. He does a great job scoring from the mid-range and using his body to get angles. Will Hamilton is a shutdown defender who can guard multiple spots and take players out of the game. Singleton is headed to Air Force for football but will give them another year on the court as a stout perimeter stopper and penetrator. Bardwell was also a significant contributor who is a ball hawk and smart passer.
Jalen Griffith (5’9 Senior), Kaiden Space (6’1 Senior), Sam Lewis (6’5 Senior), Michael Ratliff (6’0 Senior), Lorenzo Shields (6’1 Sophomore)
The deepest backcourt in the state, Griffith is the top returner leading the group as the primary decision maker. He’s going to be exciting seeing extended minutes as the point guard. Space (Stony Brook) is one of the top on-ball defenders in the state and can do whatever is needed to serve winning. OPRF transfer Lewis (Akron) is a much-needed addition with his length and natural scoring ability. Ratliff is another dog on the defensive end who would start on the majority of teams in the state. Sophomore Shields has generated some buzz with his projectability and scoring gifts.
Rich Barron (6’5 Senior), Phoenix Gill (6’2 Sophomore), Reggie Ray (6’3 Junior)
Barron (George Mason) makes things go and will draw a ton of defensive attention. The shooting, ball-handling, and size he brings create all types of problems for opposing teams. Gill will elevate in his first varsity season as a premier guard with the court sense and high-major athleticism that you usually see from seniors. Ray is a strong-bodied two-guard who expects to take a nice jump as well and should form a nice duo with Gill for the next few years.
Nojus Indrusaitis (6’5 Junior), Melvin Bell (6’5 Sophomore), Nashawn Holmes (6’2 Senior), Jeezy White (5’10 Junior), Jordan Chandler (6’0 Senior), Amari Edwards (5’8 Sophomore)
Indrusaitis has a slew of high-major offers and should solidify himself as one of the top players in the state, regardless of class. He gets it done in one-on-one situations, as a three-point threat, and attacking in transition. Bell is back from injury and added a few inches as well. He’s another high-end Division 1 prospect that will excel playing off of Rita’s big three. Holmes (Homewood Flossmoor transfer) is a scholarship-level senior who can fill it up and will make an impact playing off of the ball. White transferred in providing playmaking skill, Chandler has some athleticism and defensive instincts, and Edwards should build off of the extended time he got at the end of his freshman year.
Braeden Carlsen (6’4 Junior), Cayden Mudd (5’11 Junior)
Carlsen was a model of versatility as a sophomore, finishing among the team leaders in almost every statistical category. Expect that trend to continue for a player who D2 and low-major D1 coaches should be closely monitoring. Now at 6-foot-4 with ideal physical strength for a guard, Carlsen’s long-range shooting and shot-creating ability should be at the forefront. Mudd was also up for the regional championship team and stretches the floor out to the volleyball line. He drives with a purpose and should get plenty of looks inside the arc given his shooting ability. I could see both averaging 15-to-18 a night.
Josh Pickett (6’5 Junior), Terrence Smith (6’4 Sophomore), CJ Savage (5’11 Junior), Jordan Brooks (6’1 Junior)
Pickett has pulled in numerous Division 1 offers over the last year and provides a level of athleticism, shooting, and size that you don’t see at the point guard spot. Look for the hyper-athletic Smith to take the experience he had from his call-up last season and become a dangerous two-way attacker. East Aurora transfer CJ Savage is improved as a shooter and takes contact very well in the paint. He should be that third piece. Brooks is another transfer who played up as a sophomore for Oswego last season and can play on or off the ball.
Isaiah Giles (5’11 Senior), Askia Bullie (6’0 Junior), DJ Butler (6’4 Senior)
Giles is the most experienced of the bunch, returning after a big junior year. That pitbull mentality sets him up nicely. Butler also was productive last season and will have to play on the interior at times and use his length and quickness to play bigger than his size. Bullie has a knack for making the right plays and will almost act as the glue for Westinghouse.
Dalen Davis (6’0 Senior), Marcus Pigram (6’4 Senior), Damajay Richardson (5’10 Sophomore)
Davis (Princeton) and Pigram (The Citadel) have played together for years and have won a lot of games as a duo. By the end of the year, it would be hard to see Davis being outside of the Mr. Basketball conversation. His impact on the game is so evident, whether he’s breaking down defenders to set up shooters, flying by guys in transition to get to the rim, or picking up full court to turn opposing guards. Pigram is around 6-foot-4 now and has an aggressive approach that will lead to great shots. Richardson, only a sophomore, is next up in the backcourt for Young and should be a key defender and drive-and-kick guy this season.