Those familiar with Chicago sports know the powerful basketball programs that have given the location its identity as a “basketball prospect haven.” Schools like Simeon, Whitney Young, and Morgan Park have over the past years stood on the forefront of top teams in the immediate Chicagoland area. Head 90 miles southwest to Peoria and you have the favorite cousin to the Chicago basketball family. There too is a history and continuing platform of basketball talent boasting legendary names such as the Mcclains, Frank Williams, and Shaun Livingston. Between those two cities the family grows and now you have the awakening of a sleeping giant that is the Thorton Wildcat basketball program of Harvey, IL.
The program is under the direction of one of the most competitive teachers of sports, Tai Streets.
Hearing the name Tai Streets immediately brings thoughts of the moxie that any of his players bring to the court. Streets, while getting his athletic fame from being a standout at Michigan and later with the San Francisco 49’ers as a receiver, has gained his coaching notoriety with his dominant Mean Streets AAU program. Now one of the most respected and competitive basketball programs in the country. There have been countless five star prospects to emerge from the Mean Streets program.
Coach Streets has taken his experience and tenacious style to Harvey, Illinois, and expects to reanimate a program that not too long ago had a national identity. Let’s not mistake the job at hand for Streets and his Wildcat team. He is not being asked to build a team from scratch. Instead Coach Streets is being asked to take the program from an in-state powerhouse and transform it into a feared machine on the national level.
Competitors locally and abroad will be watching the Wildcat basketball program with a renewed respect.
What are they watching and looking for? That breakout moment when Coach Streets will surely take his players and program to perennial top ten opponent wins. The moment when a team goes from respected to feared. Plainly speaking, the awakening of a hibernating champion.
The immediate horizon shows the Wildcat program familiarizing itself with the high expectations of a coach with a championship mindset. The further and larger goal is to make the consistent deep playoff runs and national schedule play. Several tasks that Coach Streets would rather not talk about but instead make materialize. Stay tuned.
An impressive matchup of basketball skills will rouse the fans of the 619 area code of California this season. There you will have Jaylen Hands and Brandon McCoy, both top ranked players in the class of 2017, showcasing their incredible talent. Two players with tremendous upside are out to stamp their footprints in the top prospect book of legends.
The word on Jaylen Hands is that his game has transformed from being a showcase player to that of a team leader. Hands made his mark on the high school basketball scene after he exhibited some of the best point guard skills in his class to date. As a sophmore, scouts minimized his game as being too much of an individual effort. The UCLA commit from Balboa City High school went into the summer of ’15 traveling circuit with a chip on his shoulder, ready to eliminate these thoughts of his game being mercenary-esque. During the Adidas Gauntlet series the trendy point guard averaged double figures in assists. An incredible feat considering that he also averaged double figures in points and the fact that summer league play is renown for hefty individual scoring performances.
Following the progress of a guard like Jaylen Hands is unique for two reasons. One, a player this raw goes a long time without a progression ceiling. Two, guards that are as coachable as Hands tend to turn into elite players on the college level.
Brandon McCoy has decided to make his home above the rim. A big man with “in the paint prowess”, McCoy has personal expectations to become a familiar name on the high school basketball circuit. So far so good, as McCoy’s ability has quietly been paralled to that of Harry Giles and Thon Maker.
His wingspan of a 7 foot 4 inch big man will definitely be a plus when he finally decides to become a “Mutumbo” like shot blocker. That’s not too far off either as McCoy has numerous coaches in his ear telling him how lethal he will be as an overall player with this added component.
The case has already been made for Californians to hone in on the 619 area code for some explosive basketball action. It could possibly turn into one of the more entertaining scenes for the class of 2017 basketball class. Stay tuned.
Be careful not to miss the importance of this high school basketball season. It will be a rare one as fans come to the realization that there is indeed an equal level of talent between the junior and senior classes. The last time that this type of comparison was at the high school basketball forefront, it had the classes of ’06 and ’07 squaring off. The class of 2007 had the likes of Eric Gordon, Derrick Rose, and OJ Mayo headlining it’s guard spots. With Kevin love and Blake Griffin making the big splash in the paint area, high school basketball fans were in a rampaged debate on the would be winner of class ’06 and ’07. The class of 2006 was considered loaded with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant at the top of the high school rankings. Other highlighted players in that class were Chase Budinger, Ty Lawson, and Taj Gibson. It was a fun argument at that time. Which class had the quicker guards? Could Greg Oden out duel Kevin Love in the paint? Did Taj Gibson have the incredible athleticism of Blake Griffin or was he showing “flash in the pan” type performances? Certainly high school fans have in a sense ventured back to the future. The class on deck is 2016. You have nothing less than space age level talent with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Thon Maker. De’Aaron Fox and Josh Jackson are also on the frontline with their “one and done” type skill level. Without creating too much of a spark this early, one can’t help but to look over the horizon and see the class of 2017 impatiently waiting for its turn as high school basketball’s primary class. This class brews with the right type of confidence. Trae Young and Trevon Duval come out of this class with guard aggression that can unbiasedly be compared to that of Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon. When considering the talents of Wendell Carter, Michael Porter, and DeAandre Ayton, we can certainly put them into a Gus Macker type tournament with any three from 2016 and expect an even contest. The con that pundits will come with is that giving players at this age a fame like status can be detrimental to their work ethic and overall character growth. That thought will not be a factor with either of these classes, and we already see this with the major shoe brands working double time to get the top names and performers playing on their summer circuits. We may go through this season with the floating question of which class would prevail in a five on five contest, or who has the best overall mix of talent. Save that discussion for when it matters and it will indeed matter by midseason as players from the class of 2017 get recruited as heavily as those from 2016. Open gyms are full, coaches are readying their teams, and players all around the country are saying let’s go. Stay tuned.
Champlin Park Senior High School begins the average day like any other school. Bell rings, students rush the hall and classes fill with eager youth. Theo John walks these halls to start his daily routine. John is a highly coveted prospect in the class of 2017. Yes, John attends class like other students and has the common high school life, but his day does not end with the classroom. After school, the gym becomes his classroom and the phrase “no seasons off” becomes his main subject. His workout routine has many similarities to other athletes of his caliber, but what sets him in that class of the elite is his consistency.
John recognizes the narrowness of the path less traveled, and to John the game of basketball is a game of good habits. He understands that it takes countless reps with on court maneuvers, box out drills, and shot selection drills to solidify his spot at the big invite to basketball excellence. College scouts have been thoroughly impressed with John’s summer play. All that is left is a heated race to the top of the charts. Now that his run with Howard Pulley travel league is on hold, John will skill up in the September basketball league hosted by Hardwood Elite. Fans of this young man should stay tuned as they know he will only get better with time and can very well crack the top ten in player ratings for the next high school basketball season.
What have we the fans of high school basketball figured out after watching one of the most exciting summers for AAU basketball in its over 30 plus year history? Starting with the class of 2016 here are 4 facts that fans can all agree on…
3) Although one-and-done has taken on a negative connotation in the college basketball world, the class of 2016 has more potential one-n-dones than any other class in the history of high school basketball.
4) The battle for high profile players to play in a tournament sponsored by an acclaimed label such as NIke, Adidas, or Under Armour catches the attention of all…will players soon be allowed to represent one label and what type of pandora’s box will this open?
In the class of 2017…
1) Malik Williams made a meteoric rise from virtually unranked to being considered by collegiate scouts and coaches as a top 5 player in the class of 2017.
Miles Bridges has enjoyed the summer of 2015 by squaring off against some of the best talent around the world. One of the best parts of being a top rated recruit, is meeting other top athletes and developing a comradery that can last for a lifetime. Bridges will tell you that he has befriended other players such as Nick Ward, Cassius Winston, Derek Funderburk, who all played on his Midwest team during the Global Challenge hosted by Nike. After talking to Miles Bridges, one would acutally think that he has no enemies. His demeanor as he overlooks his opponents is tranquil and as he watches his fellow teammates he smiles at his newfound allies. What goes through his mind though is what takes players from good to great and finally may land them at legendary status. Bridges is studying not just his opponents but also his teammates. Looking for strengths and weaknesses, almost absorbing their talents and discarding the fragile parts much like a superhero would or could do. This could be the very reason why Bridges grades out as the most lethal scorer in the class of 2016. College coaches and scouts label his ability to score from anywhere on the court as lethal, even in the range of devastating to his opposition. With his 6’7 height, Bridges has spent the spring and summer developing his ball handling and is super smooth at creating a shot. Add this to his vast array of post moves and long range capability, and one is now looking at one of the most feared offensive arsenals in his class. It’s always wise for athletes to study the games of pro athletes and even base their game around someone who plays their position. What’s even wiser is to study teammates and opponents and pick up a move here or there, a sort of merger of skills. And after the skills are complete, meet the opponent on the court and hit him with a version of his moves and your own. A strategy that has been perfected by Bridges and has placed him at the top of his class. Bringing his full arsenal to the basketball court is a given but definitely stay tuned to see what Miles Bridges will add to his game.
Who is Charlie Moore? He is one of the nation’s most patient guards and a blue chip recruit. Moore, who attends Morgan Park High school and is a member of Mac Irvin Fire aau team, has placed more fuel in the intense talk of his recruiting journey. Moore faced off against some of the world’s best talent at the Nike Global Challenge hosted by Nike EYB. Everyone in attendance shook their head in approval as Moore, a poised guard, held his composure while his team faced an early 18 point deficit to the USA West team. Moore helped his Midwest team fight their way back into the game and grab a temporary lead, making the game an intense battle up to the end. Just one instance of many that Moore proves to be a patient and very knowledgeable guard. What makes him patient is his high level court vision. As you watch him bring the ball up the court, it’s as if he has predetermined where the defense will be and Moore reacts with boxer like reflects and either scores or gets the valued assist. Charlie Moore demonstrates the importance and value of knowing the game of basketball and not just showing up to do what he is told. His knowledge of the game exceeds what you would expect for even a five star recruit of his ability and would make his value to any college program more significant. Most recruits come into the college system with a very skewed comprehension of the game. More importantly Moore is a coach’s dream because he gives the offense a chance to work and makes quick assessments with a calmness comparable to the legendary guards from the University of Arizona. It is not a long shot at all to say that Moore’s vision and court knowledge measures up to what Mike Bibby or Jerryd Bayless had at this point in their great careers. While the mad scramble for college offers takes place around the nation, this class of 2016 guard is as relaxed as his mild expression shows. Top guard status…check. Division one offers….check. Next move for Charlie Moore…stay tuned.
At the Nike Global Challenge, hosted by Nike EYB, two guards made it their business to certify their games as the best. The class of 2017 five-star performers inked another page in their impactful summer basketball play.
Trae Young took advantage of the opportunity to match up against two top guards from the class of 2016 in Xavier Simpson and Charlie Moore, when the USA West squared off against USA Midwest. Young was definitely up for the challenge when presented with the quickness of Simpson and defensive discipline of Moore. Trae Young’s method of attacking the basket shows his confidence and concept of keeping constant pressure on the opposing defense. While his ability to shoot the long range three-pointer is up to the standards that college scouts prefer, Young regularly chose the 14 foot jumper that he is deadly accurate at shooting. What did college coaches find out about Trae Young during the Nike Global Challenge? That he approaches the game with a make something happen attitude and does just that.
Whichever division one program Gary Trent Jr. decides to be a part of, that program will gain a complete player in a very short list of players who can do it all. Trent’s awareness on defense keeps even the most meticulous of coaches interested in his games. It was interesting to hear some of the NBA scouts comment to each other how useful it is to have a rebounding guard, who also has the presence of mind to stick with the forgotten fundamentals of boxing out. Trent Jr. came into the tournament known as one of the nation’s top scorers, but he would leave as possibly the nation’s top defender. While he stood out as a defensive juggernaut, Trent Jr.’s scoring ability is as natural as any big name in the tournament. Offensively, he is a legitimate ball handling guard and is able to mix it up in the paint when challenged. As a native of Minnesota and B1G conference territory, fans have to wonder if this young talent will take his abilities down to the SEC where Kentucky is now on his recruiting trail.
As both Young and Trent Jr. leave the Chicagoland area and the Nike Global Challenge, onlookers are left with two verified blue chippers. Look for both players to continue to dominate their positions as summer high school basketball comes to a close in August.
We are in the middle of an intense summer of travel basketball leagues, and Toi Baylor and Nike EYB have brought out the big guns to their much anticipated events.
The Baylor Youth Foundation has hosted several top notch tournaments with the pinnacle of them all being The Chicago Jam Classic. Over 200 colleges poured into her event last week to see who the next Jabari Parker or Jahlil Okafor would be, as Baylor Youth has hosted these all-world talents as well as others. Fans and coaches were all introduced to the 6’11 guard-skilled power forward Malik Williams at the Baylor Youth event. Williams is experiencing a meteoric rise to the top of the rankings and is being compared to a young Kevin Garnett, who we all know brought his talent to Farragut High School back in the early 90’s and would go on to become an obvious NBA legend. At the Chicago Jam Classic, coaches and scouts were able to verify the star ability of Theo John and Gary Trent Jr., both members of team Howard Pulley. Next year get to the Chicago Jam Classic several hours early because there is usually standing room only.
Nike EYB confirms the fact that the base for high school basketball talent and recruiting anchors in the windy city or as Nike coined the “Win City.”
The Nike Global Challenge event that ends today brought in players from around the world who squared off against the best from the US. Players in attendance included Jayson Tatum (class of 2016’s number one player), Jeremiah Tilmon (the 6’10 do-it-all big man), and Miles Bridges (considered the top swing-man in the class of 2016). College coaches and NBA scouts graced the sidelines at the Global Challenge and were thrilled to be in the biggest venue for the nation’s top high school basketball stars.
Bottom line… the Chicagoland area remains the main battle ground for basketball talent, and the Baylor Youth Foundation and Nike EYB are a major reason for this. Stay tuned for the upcoming stories of players from both events.
The comeback of Nojel Eastern is exciting college coaches and high school basketball fans around the country. In late spring Eastern injured his ankle and was left with a strenuous recovery and rehab period. But did he let it stop him? No. Eastern walked into the Chicago Summer Jam fully recovered and with an even more competitive vision. Onlookers were at the edge of their seats when seeing him walk in, almost with as much anticipation as waiting for the sequel to a great first half performance.
What’s next for the Evanston Wildcat and member of the Meanstreets AAU squad? He is taking it upon himself to let every major division one coach know that he is the number one player in his class of 2017. We can’t deny that Eastern is the most complete player in his class. The 6’5 lefty’s game resembles that of another Chicagoland great and college all star Corey Maggette. While most high school athletes feel fortunate enough to make it into the top 50 rankings for their respective sport, Eastern smiles when asked how he feels to be a legitimate blue chipper. You automatically sense there’s something more to his smile and appreciative response. Eastern will quickly tell you that he’s continuing his climb to the top through constant hard work and developing an already list of top-notch skills.
After grading out at the top of every category offensively and defensively amongst division one coaches, this young man has taken up a relentless blueprint of becoming the number one player nationally. This blueprint includes countless hours in the gym working on his jumper, and a weightroom regiment that would impress even the most diehard of strength coaches. The true combination of shooting, rebounding, and defense is on display when fans watch Eastern’s highlights. More importantly, critical and meticulous scouts whose job it is to find flaws in a player look at Nojel Eastern and only see a top level athlete who smiles at being challenged.
In other words Eastern is not up for negotiating with his competition, coaches, or scouts for the number one spot. He is in tunnel vision mode and will not stop until he is at the top of his class. Stay tuned as his best game is coming to an arena near you…
Nojel Eastern-Combo Guard/Evanston Township High/Evanston, IL