A way-too-early preseason list to get us started.
There is always unpredictability when forecasting a season before it starts, especially six months out.
But with all that high school basketball fans, players and coaches went through over the past year, it’s a little refreshing to know we should have a better feel heading into the 2021-22 season than the one that just passed.
While we will watch the summer play out with transfers and what transpires in shootouts and player development, this look at what is still a way-too-early preseason list to get us started. Here is an early Elite Eight in the Chicago area, listed alphabetically.
The Hilltoppers are loaded, starting with 6-9 Braden Huff, a high-major prospect and one of the top players in the state.
Versatile 6-5 senior Cade Pierce, another Division I prospect, returns, along with improving 6-7 Ryan Renfro and hard-nosed guard Paxton Warden.
When you add the arrival of 6-5 Hinsdale South transfer Bobby Durkin, who is among the elite shooters in the state, this is one of the top teams in the state.
The 1-2 punch of 6-7 Nick Martinelli and guard Cooper Noard did a ton of damage as juniors, combining to average 40 points between them. That talented tandem, along with Rodell Davis, Jr. and Brandon Ballarini, will keep the Titans ranked all year.
Mike Irvin has a stable of talented young players returning in his second year as head coach.
The exciting 6-7 JJ Taylor put up huge numbers as a sophomore last season and is among the top 25 prospects in the country. Taylor, 6-7 Davious Loury and scoring guard Darrin Ames form a dynamic trio.
The return of former Fenwick star guard Trey Pettigrew to Kenwood, via Eduprize in Arizona for one year, adds experienced talent to a loaded, young Broncos roster. Pettigrew is among Hoops Report’s top five prospects in Illinois in next year’s senior class.
This may have been the best team no one talked about this past season, and the Trevians will be even better next year after going 13-2.
There is size, shooting and experience with the emerging 6-8 Jackson Munro, 6-3 guard Jake Fiegan, who will be one of the breakout players in the junior class, guard Josh Kirkpatrick and 6-10 Tyler Van Gorp.
The Wolverines lose a lot, but we’ve all heard that a time or two over the past 20 years.
Coach Robert Smith’s program will be a state title contender again, this time in Class 3A, with the backcourt trio of Jaylen Drane, Avyion Morris and Jalen Griffin.
The expectations for the Wolfpack are sky high with so much experience returning from a team that went 13-5.
Seniors AJ Redd and Kolby Gilles and junior Richard Barron will all be double-figure scorers for a team that should be among the best in the Chicago area. Keep an eye on the development of 6-8 junior Jackson Kotecki.
The Mustangs are brimming with talent and potential.
The heralded Class of 2024, featuring 6-9 James Brown, 6-8 Morez Johnson and point guard Jaiden Reyna, all got their feet wet a year ago as freshmen. Promising transfer Bryce Coleman has grown to 6-6 after being a double-figure scorer at St. Joseph, while guard Kaiden Space also returns.
Starting with AJ Casey, the state’s top-ranked prospect in next year’s senior class, the Dolphins will be primed and ready for a run at a Class 4A state championship.
Xavier Amos, a 6-7 forward, had a breakout junior year this past season, while point guard Dalen Davis is one of the state’s top talents in the Class of 2023.