Yesterday some of the top backcourts were listed. Today, the focus is on some of the top frontcourts in the state.
Austin Kulig (6’8 Senior) | Grantas Sakenis (6’9 Junior)
Kulig will have a huge senior season. You don’t find a lot of 6-foot-8 players who can move as easily, shoot as well, and have around a 40-inch vertical. Their offense will lean on him. Sakenis will enter the year as the primary interior presence. His footwork, hands, and understanding for how to use his body make him a tough cover in the paint. Sakenis should provide value as a positional rim protector as well.
Jayden Watson (6’8 Senior) | Michael Garner (6’8 Senior)
Watson, a transfer from Brother Rice, is one of the best available forwards in the senior class. The length and athleticism are there, but so is his knack to get to the basket off of the dribble and push the break with the ball in his hands. Garner is also a football prospect and has elite size and a plus wingspan. He swats anything in his area and is a vertical threat around the rim on offense.
Donoven Younger (6’9 Senior) | Keon Alexander (6’7 Senior) | Aries Hull (6’8 Senior)
I’m surprised that more college programs aren’t offering Younger. He is a legitimate big that can run the floor and pop outside and shoot. This should be a statement year for him. Alexander plays with an infectious energy and will rebound in bulk all year. Hull is a transfer who has serious talent and upside. As he gets comfortable with them, his athleticism and rim-attacking will shine.
Khalil Ross (6’7 Senior) | Jimmy Navarrette (6’3 Senior) | Ryan Kenney (6’7 Senior)
Ross may project more as a wing in college, but his shot-blocking and length allows him to play big. His rangy play style gives Rice some flexibility with their lineups. He is a low-major D1/D2 prospect. Navarrette (Loras) is another kid who plays well above his size as a volume rebounder and energy defender. Kenney moves well for a center and will add some toughness on the inside.
Chikasi Ofoma (6’7 Senior) | Jeremy Harrington (6’5 Senior) | Sherod Dent (6’5 Senior)
Back after being one of the best interior duos in the Chicago Public League, they have both taken steps in the right direction. Ofoma produced all summer on the AAU circuit as an undersized big and doesn’t really get the credit he deserves for his ability to play bigger than his size. Harrington shot it well last year and has similar expectations this year. Dent transferred in from Notre Dame and is another strong-bodied combo forward that can really shoot the ball. All three will anchor Curie.
De La Salle
Evan Jackson (6’7 Senior) | Tavariyuan Williams (6’6 Junior) | Richard Lindsey (6’5 Junior)
All three can flex between the perimeter and the interior. Jackson is among the best available wings in the state, flashing Division 1 potential and nice two-way upside. He will have a big senior year back at full strength. Williams started off with the Meteors and has developed well as a smooth shot creator, pulling in a Division 1 offer this summer. Lindsey comes in from Simeon, looking like an impact athlete that can finish and defend all over the floor.
Jaylan McElroy (6’7 Junior) | Jonas Johnson (6’6 Sophomore)
Both can play on the wing or on the interior. McElroy is a next-level defender who is capable of taking over games on that end of the floor. He moves the ball on offense, attacks closeouts with aggression, and is continuing to develop as a shooter. Division 1 programs are already involved. Johnson has so much talent to work with and shows flashes of being a dominant, multi-purpose prospect down the line. His release is smooth, he runs the floor effortlessly, and he can handle and defend.
East St. Louis
Macaleab Rich (6’7 Senior) | Antwan Robinson (6’5 Senior) | Demarion Brown (6’8 Senior) | Cameron Boone (6’10 Senior)
One of the biggest, more physical front lines in the state, Rich (Kansas State) leads the way. He is unguardable at times with how strong, quick, and explosive he is around the rim. Another year around 20 and 10 should be expected. Robinson (Cal-State Fullerton) emerged over the summer as a reliable shooter and impactful defender with a college-ready body. Brown is a big-bodied post that can move guys out of the way and score on the block through contact. Boone is another active, long big to watch.
Prince Adams (6’7 Senior) | Josh Thomas (6’6 Senior) | Nikola Raic (6’7 Senior)
Adams is the returner of the group with experience and defensive versatility to anchor this team. He is a nightly double-double threat. Thomas, a Stevenson transfer, is an above-the-rim finisher who rebounds well and can aid in rim protection. Evanston transfer Raic plays with a constant motor and has solid interior footwork. All three are uncommitted and should be able to help programs at various levels.
Darshan Thomas (6’5 Junior) | Nate Marshall (6’5 Sophomore) | JT Pettigrew (6’6 Sophomore) | Zion Young (6’6 Sophomore)
They may be young, but there is a lot to look forward to with this group. Thomas is the “vet” and has the IQ, physical tools, and versatility to break out and become an all-conference player. Marshall is a D1 football prospect with a unique set of perimeter skills. Pettigrew will probably operate in the post more, but he will be able to step out and shoot a high percentage on open threes. Young is another strong body that is a great screener who rebounds, guards on the interior, and makes winning plays.
Darrion Baker (6’8 Senior) | Reuben Samuels (6’7 Senior) | Quentin Heady (6’4 Senior) | Nyzir Duncan (6’3 Junior)
Akron commit Baker can do just about everything, from handling the ball, to scoring inside and out, to defending across positions. He’s going to be in position to be an All-State player this year. Samuels is a lanky 3-and-D forward who will be useful on both ends. The 6-foot-4 Heady has good experience and can score in transition and guard on the perimeter as needed. Duncan was up as a sophomore and has good toughness and finishing prowess.
Ben Oosterbaan (6’6 Senior) | Chase Collignon (6’6 Senior) | Tyler Thick (6’7 Sophomore)
Michigan baseball commit Oosterbaan is one of the top returning scorers in the area and will be a volume creator on the wing. He can both score off of pull-ups or invert into the mid-post where he uses his size well. Collignon (Carnegie Mellon) can play a bruising style or use his nifty footwork to get shots around the rim. His experience should be crucial for them. Thick is only a sophomore but gives them legitimate size at the five spot and a post player to build around in future years.
Calvin Robbins (6’5 Junior) | Aleks Alston (6’9 Sophomore) | Jaden Smith (6’10 Junior) | Solomon Mosley (6’7 Senior)
Robbins is a primary target for Ivy League and other Division 1 programs throughout the country for good reason. His freakish athleticism and consistent will to affect games on both ends should make him a double-double guy. Alston can legitimately play all five positions and will be an asset stretching the floor, passing, and using his size on the inside at times. He’s a high-major recruit. Smith is another Division 1 prospect that will use his length to affect shots. Mosley is the elder statesman that will keep everything in check and use his physicality for good.
George Bellevue (6’5 Senior) | Kyle Olagbegi (6’6 Senior) | Mac Hagemaster (6’7 Junior)
Power and energy define this frontcourt. Bellevue is one of the state’s top rebounders at 6-foot-5 and he has continued to progress his offensive skill set. Olagbegi gained some Division 3 offers following a summer where he dominated at times on the AAU circuit. The mobility and defensive energy that he brings will show on a larger stage this year. Hagemaster is a junior who has long arms and plenty of upside.
Graham Smith (6’5 Senior) | Carter Reid (6’5 Senior) | Brady Chambers (6’6 Junior)
They will lean on this physical, agile, trio of dual-sport athletes to give them some anchors in the frontcourt. Smith (Yale football) clears guys out of the way with his strength and pulls in contested rebounds above the rim with regularity. Reid showed that he can step out and hit spot up shots over the summer and also excels as a run-and-jump transition weapon. Chambers (Michigan State baseball) will bring nice depth and has some high post skill offensively and ideal timing defensively.
Ethan Kizer (6’7 Senior) | Tyson Swanson (6’3 Senior) | Matthew Zobrist (6’4 Sophomore) | Luke Hopp (6’8 Junior)
Kizer (South Alabama) is the highlight-reel player and primary option for the Redbirds. The blocks off the glass, big-time dunks, and three-point barrages will remain. Swanson and Zobrist will handle the ball at times in their free-flowing offense. Swanson had a huge junior year and has strength, driving instincts, and a good feel for the game. Zobrist will make some noise as a lanky shooter with plus athleticism around the rim. The 6-foot-8 Hopp has grown a bit but still has the face-up game that should open things up. They will be a very difficult team to beat.
Owen Freeman (6’11 Senior) | Trey Taylor (6’5 Sophomore) | Braden Freeman (6’6 Sophomore)
Owen Freeman is the top center in the senior class and will be a nice player down the line for Iowa. He will form one of the better duos in the state with point guard Brock Harding and should benefit from rolls and post up isolations where he can go to work. Taylor was up as a freshman and is an underrated sophomore prospect. He is a physical forward that plays with tenacity and can put it on the ground. Braden Freeman is a skilled wing/forward who has grown and will be able to play some on the inside this year.
Evan Barlow (6’4 Junior) | Wes Gudeman (6’5 Sophomore)
Barlow is an active forward that plays angles, rebounds, and provides some value on the perimeter. He is a timely cutter who gets to his spots well. Gudeman has a strong frame and knows how to handle the ball in space. During the summer, his shooting stood out, making shots off of the catch and from NBA range off of the dribble. Both Gudeman and Barlow will create mismatches.
Jaheem Webber (6’9 Junior) | Kobe Walker (6’8 Sophomore)
Webber is one of the most powerful bigs in the state. His back-to-the-basket game is hard to stop with his hooks and dropsteps and he has progressed nicely as a shooter. He will be a force for Normal. Walker is only a sophomore and is still raw, but he’s got great size and will be another load on the block for opposing teams to deal with.
Mekhi Lowery (6’6 Senior) | Ryan Johnson (6’7 Senior) | Tyler Jasek (6’6 Senior)
Lowery (Towson) and Johnson will both be more perimeter-oriented at the next level. In fact, Lowery will play some point guard this year while defending all five spots. His versatility makes things go for OE. Johnson is starting to put his shooting ability, size, and defensive upside together. Division 2 and Division3 programs will continue to target him. The 6-foot-6 Jasek has numerous D3 offers in his own right and could lead this team in rebounding. His floor spacing will be an added bonus.
Peoria Notre Dame
Cooper Koch (6’8 Junior) | Eoin Dillon (6’9 Junior) | Eliot Lynch (6’7 Junior)
Iowa commit Koch shoots it as well as any frontcourt player in the state. He was highly efficient as a sophomore and was an All-State player. Koch will be able to play a point forward role at times with his ball skills and ability to pass. Dillon will be a breakout player with a much larger role after providing depth last year. Big, smooth, and a plus athlete, he will be a lethal duo with Koch. The 6-foot-7 Lynch is another junior with length and some perimeter game. The front line will be mobile and versatile.
Mark Nikolich-Wilson (6’7 Senior) | Foster Ogbonna (6’4 Senior) | Tsvet Sotirov (6’8 Senior)
All three return after seeing quality time as juniors. Nikolich-Wilson is a high-post nightmare for opposing defenses with his vision, shooting, and ability to put the ball on the ground. He’s the type of player who could be successful at multiple levels of college. Ogbonna is a shutdown, multi-positional defender who should be more of a threat offensively this year. Sotirov is taller and playing with more confidence. His shooting and length should allow him to double his scoring from last year.
Miles Rubin (6’9 Senior) | Wes Rubin (6’8 Senior) | Steven Turner (6’10 Senior)
The Rubin twins are intelligent, active, and capable of dominating games on the interior. They complement each other so well with Miles doing a little more on the blocks and Wes acting more as a high post option. Both will show more willingness to take and make shots from 15-feet out to the three-point line. Turner is a great backup big who can be a space eater, screener, and putback guy for them.
James Brown (6’10 Junior) | Morez Johnson (6’9 Junior)
As talented of a frontcourt duo as the state has seen since Jahlil Okafor and Paul White, the Rita twin towers are back with state title aspirations. Brown looks to have added noticeable strength, is capable of pulling in 20 rebounds in a single game and has a deep bag of low post moves. Johnson’s frame has filled out as well and he is moving more like a wing than a forward. His inside-out game and shot-blocking prowess will shine this year. Both should be All-State players this year.
Aaron Brown (6’5 Senior) | Kosi Okeke (6’4 Senior) | Kaharie Loggins (6’6 Senior)
The frontcourt is heavy with transfers. There is never a question on how hard Brown is going to play, rebounding and defending at a high level. His offensive progress is notable as well and he has a bunch of Division 3 offers so far. Okeke comes from Neuqua and his ability to bang on the inside or guard wings will be helpful to their depth. Loggins has very intriguing skill and can play multiple spots on the floor.
Antonio Munoz (6’6 Sophomore) | Daniel Johnson (6’6 Senior) | Sean Brown (6’2 Junior)
Munoz is one of the breakout candidates in the sophomore class. His motor never stops and he has speed and leaping ability that you can’t teach. Expect for him to become one of their top players by year end. Johnson battled injuries last season, but the shooting wing has the length and touch to bounce back in a big way. Brown was up as a sophomore and gives some strength at the forward spot.
Jason Jakstys (6’9 Junior) | LeBarron Lee (6’4 Senior) | Jory Boley (6’3 Junior) | Caleb Fisher (6’3 Junior)
Jakstys opened a lot of eyes in his first varsity season last year. Look for a more assertive, physical, and polished version of himself. Jakstys has huge upside with his touch, shot blocking, and athleticism. He is the best big in the junior class without an offer. Lee (Illinois State baseball) was a double-double threat last year and should continue that as a senior. Boley and Fisher are Yorkville Christian transfers who will give some energy and depth immediately.