After the calendar year’s first two live periods, there are a lot of local players and teams who have made lasting impressions. We touched on a few takeaways in our newsletter this week, but here’s a little more in-depth information on some of the 2024 standout players, teams, and more.
A General Note From Live Periods: Versatility Is The Priority
Using the local players as a proxy for general recruiting activity, we saw a near perfect correlation between offers being given out and players who showed the ability to affect games in different ways. Versatility was once a trait that may hinder players, particularly if you were a doer of many and master of none. But what we are seeing an increasing value placed on kids who are willing and able to act in multiple ways, whether that is as an on-ball scorer, facilitator, floor spacer, and defender among other things.
That’s not to say that players who specialize as elite spot-up shooters or dominant low-post scorers will be left on the outside looking in, but it is a welcome trend to see players being rewarded for bringing energy and a well-rounded approach. With how much offensive skill and experience is in college across all levels, plus the rampant threat of kids leaving after a year or two, it makes sense for college coaches to target kids who can fit a role early on. High school players who show that they can do multiple things well and understand how to wear different hats seem to be dominating the offer list.
One final thought on this: Instead of creating a two or three-year plan to develop talented high school players with hope that they stick it out for three-plus years, we may see more college coaches shift their focus to more versatile, college-ready players who will be able to give them some impact as underclassmen (even if they hit the portal soon after).
5 17U Teams With Impressive Showings During The Live Periods:
It was a coming out party for Jack Stanton (Downers Grove North), who has steadily been building up to this over the last few years. He was named to the UAA First Team of the second session after having a couple of monster performances controlling the game with his creativity and shooting off of the bounce. With his consistent production, proven passing ability, and winning intangibles that help to will his team, Stanton has earned the status as a top 10 prospect in the class. But it was a group effort, particularly this past weekend as Breakaway was down a few key pieces.
Neuqua Valley marksman Luke Kinkade is a tireless off-ball mover and continues to show up in a big way with his scoring. He’s a rising scholarship prospect. Connor May (6-foot-7) added an offer from Lehigh after showing some of those big guard skills that make him a unique asset. On the interior, it was 6-foot-11 Jason Jakstys who really stood out in the first weekend, finishing in the top five of the UAA as a rebounder and doing a little bit of everything offensively. In week two, Downers Grove big Jake Riemer was excellent as an outlet, rebounder, and physical defender. They look like a keeper in the UAA.
Another solid weekend on the NY2LA circuit was highlighted with some late game heroics. DeKwon Brown has been the perfect point guard for this team, creating offense early and often for Denard Bros. While he’s a volume scorer, his passing has really shown recently coming off of ball screens and when getting downhill. The wing duo of Tavariyuan Williams (6-foot-6) and Fola Fayemi (6-foot-5) works well, with Williams bringing more perimeter creation and Fayemi providing power as a driver and defender. Both have shown the ability to space the floor.
They were at their best when pressuring the ball and forcing players to try to score over their back line defenders. 6-foot-7 Calvin Worsham (Christ The King) has emerged as a Division 1 prospect with point-forward upside, Grantas Sakenis is unmovable on the low block, and Sam Mickelson from Wisconsin has strength and a nice 15-to-18 foot game. They are a new program that is making immediate noise.
Fundamental U UA Rise
To this point, this team has been one of the most enjoyable to watch. The way the ball popped around and all five guys at any point were committed to defending stood out. There isn’t a star Division 1 recruit on the team, but a number of players who are on that D1/D2 or D2/high-end D3 fringe. 6-foot-4 guard Braeden Carlsen (Wauconda) shot it well from three, showed he can score off inverted post ups or drives, and defended the perimeter spots. Glenbrook South forward Nick Taylor was stellar at times getting out into space and finishing, whether that was in transition or off of face-ups. He’s got uncanny springiness around the paint.
The ball-handling was rock solid with Jakob Blakley, a cerebral guard who had some great stretches scoring the ball, a pinpoint playmaker in Owen Giannoulias who was nearly perfect making decisions, and a savvy 6-foot-4 play initiator in Logan Feller. So far this spring, 6-foot-6 JJ Hernandez has been a connecting piece for them on both ends playing inside or out depending on the game. Add in two physical, energetic multi-sport athletes in guard Tommie Aberle and forward Pat Schaller and the 9-0 showing on the UA Rise makes sense.
Bloomington Central guard Cole Certa was among the top scorers in the UAA’s first two sessions, looking efficient and aggressive while guiding the Wolves to the Final Four. There’s no question that his shooting ability is elite, but his multi-level scoring and playmaking showed well against high-end competition. Their positional size and athleticism allowed them to cause some problems defensively and create mismatches on offense.
6-foot-3 point guard Jehvion Starwood and 6-foot-6 guard Angelo Ciaravino had a lot of good moments getting into the paint to make plays and 6-foot-9 forward Eoin Dillon really broke out with his long-range shooting and perimeter skills. They also got consistent defense and rebounding from 6-foot-7 Swiss-army knife Jaylan McElroy. After having a good season together at the 16U level with much of the same core, they look to be one of the better groups in the UAA once again.
Even with a few losses this weekend, the talent, togetherness, and potential for this team by July was evident. Illinois commit Morez Johnson was playing like an uncommitted prospect trying to prove themselves for the first time. His motor and presence on the inside gave Meanstreets a reliable source of offense and defensive production. Nojus Indrusaitis (Iowa State) and Trey McKenney were excellent in the first game, particularly with their pull-up games.
They have so much backcourt depth. I really liked the slick scoring ability of lefty KJ Windham. Nothing seemed rushed with him and his confidence as a shot-maker was notable. Curie’s Carlos Harris and Lindblom’s Je’Shawn Stevenson had their moments slashing to the rim as well. Jurrell Baldwin (Hyde Park) is just scratching the surface as a two-way wing and 6-foot-11 center Stefan Cicic should be able to acclimate more as a force on the block going forward. As they get more time together, this group should get better exponentially.
Players in the 2024 Class Next Up To Receive Offers:
After the live events, some players received offers and others got on the radars of college coaches. Here are some of the current juniors who should be next up to receive their first offer(s):
Braeden Carlsen (6’4 SG, Wauconda/Fundamental U UA Rise)
A likely Ivy League target, Carlsen has scored from all over the floor for the undefeated UA Rise leaders. He’s not a stranger to the weight room and has a good understanding of how to use that strength to defend and play in crowds as a finisher and rebounder. Carlsen plays at a deliberate pace, handles the ball in tight spaces inside the arc, and possesses that quick elevation on jump shots that you need to create shots against quality defenders.
Cam Cerese (6’3 PG, Lake Park/Greater Purpose Athletics)
Finding high school players who consistently show up on both ends is tough. Cerese, who had an all-state junior year, took his game up another notch for live periods. The 6-foot-3 guard is merciless as an offensive threat, whether that is manufacturing his shot, driving hard to set up a teammate, or crashing the glass hard to get a second chance. At the next level, Cerese’s ability to be a shutdown defender, create in ball screens, and outwork kids will be key.
Jake Riemer (6’8 PF, Downers Grove North/Breakaway UAA)
Riemer has the build, athleticism, and attitude that tends to lead to good things for 6-foot-8 post players. This past weekend, he showed how effective he can be battling inside defensively, skying for rebounds, and finding spots in the offense to score, even if plays aren’t called for him. He’s got good closing speed that will allow him to be a factor in ball screen defense while displaying good instincts as a screener and operator in dribble handoffs. He’ll have his share of Division 1 and Division 2 suitors.
Jehvion Starwood (6’3 PG, Oswego East/Illinois Wolves)
It seems like a matter of time before the first Division 1 program offers the hyper athletic point guard. Starwood has looked really good as the primary ball-handler for the Wolves leaning on his deception off of the dribble and court vision when moving at high speeds. A long and rangy defender, he should be a difference maker with his quickness and instincts. His jump shot should continue to add consistency, but you can’t teach the athletic ability or competitiveness as a lead guard.
Luke Kinkade (6’2 SG, Neuqua Valley/Breakaway UAA)
Another standout for Breakaway who has helped his stock immensely this spring, Kinkade is an energetic and well-conditioned two-guard who doesn’t miss many open looks. He sprints off of screens in a way that loses even the most disciplined defenders. The lefty will be a threat getting pull-ups or direct drives off of aggressive closeouts. His shooting is his ticket, but Kinkade’s composed demeanor, solid on-ball defense, and toughness will elevate him.
Meyoh Swansey (6’3 SG, Romeoville/Illinois Stars)
An expert of the mid-range game, Swansey will be able to score with that one-to-two dribble pull-up wherever he ends up. There is a lot more to his game than that though, with quick-twitch athleticism and some initial flashes of being a good P&R option who would work well with a popping big while he probes with the ball. Swansey has good size and a projectable body at 6-foot-3 to play and defend all three guard spots as well.
Tyler Mason (6’2 PG/SG, Metamora/MidPro)
Mason was among of the best guards in Illinois this season on both ends, but he often got overlooked from a statewide coverage perspective. So far this spring, he has been as good as advertised. Athletically, he gets above the rim effortlessly for finishes and rebounds and controls tempo knowing that he can use his speed and to blow by guys as needed. Even if he flexes between guard spots, Mason will go make a play. Many D2s will be involved, but don’t be surprised if some local Division 1s take a hard look.