College coaches finally get up-close look at high school basketball players

College coaches finally get up-close look at high school basketball players

Rolling Meadows’ Max Christie (12) and Cameron Christie (24) cover Buffalo Groves’ Kam Craft (12). | Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

June and July offer several chances for Illinois high school basketball players to finally get the college attention they’ve been missing.

College coaches will be watching, evaluating, scurrying around the country for two weekends in June and three more in July.

Players across the state will be competing with their high school teams this month, including many in some high-stakes “live” recruiting period shootouts in Illinois. Then the club circuit will follow in July.

A little normalcy returns to high school basketball and college recruiting.

Here is a primer for the next couple of busy, important weeks for prep players and college coaches.

Where will college coaches be in Illinois?

For starters, the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout and the Midwest Crossroads Showcase at Normal West this weekend (June 18-20) will be open season for 75-plus teams, dozens of potential scholarship players and college basketball coaches.

Ridgewood will host a similar “live” weekend period shootout the following week (June 25-27).

Why do so few players in Illinois have so few Division I offers?

This is a year like no other, so the answer to that question is a little jaded. But simply put, college coaches haven’t seen a prospect play in person in 15 months There are many college coaches, especially head coaches, who would like to, you know, maybe actually see a kid play before offering?

Those restless prospects and their “people” need to relax and let it all play out.

And for those who have received scholarships? The majority of you have them without the college coach having ever seen you play in person.

Will the Class of 2022 be squeezed out on the recruiting front like the Class of 2021?

Yes. Most likely. It’s the nature of the beast in college basketball recruiting these days.

The NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility due to Covid was a game-changer and will need to be cycled through. And with the transfer portal being a poor man’s version of free agency, college coaches covet the experienced college player over the unknown of a high school kid.

The good news is Illinois prospects are lucky. There are many, many states across the country who are doing nothing or are very limited during the June live evaluation periods. That means more college coaches with nowhere to go and descending on Illinois events at a higher rate.

Thus, there is the possibility even where Illinois prospects could be over-recruited as they will be some of the only players actually seen in June.

Who is the hottest prospect in the senior class?

Buffalo Grove’s Kam Craft is the hottest senior prospect. Through his play with Meanstreets this past spring, the 6-5 guard has elevated himself from being an on-the-bubble high-major prospect to being a bonafide target at that level. The offers and interest back it up.

Marquette, Xavier, Iowa, Texas Tech, South Carolina, North Carolina State, DePaul and others have offered and been involved.

Who is the hottest prospect in the junior class?

That was quite a first week of June for Owen Freeman of Bradley-Bourbonnais.

The 6-9 junior picked up offers from Purdue, Iowa, Wake Forest, Butler and, most recently, Ohio State after taking an unofficial visit to Columbus on Wednesday. Illinois offered Freeman last fall, and a whole bunch of other high-major programs will soon be involved after getting a chance to watch him play in person for the first time in coming weeks.

With his his impressive physical profile, mobility and long-range potential, Freeman’s emergence is similar to that of James Augustine, the former Lincoln-Way Central star who went on to play at Illinois nearly 20 years ago.

Who are the other senior prospects set to make a splash this June?

There are several players who coaches are anxious to get their eyes on, including Tuscola guard Jalen Quinn, Lyons guard Tavari Johnson, Glenbard West’s versatile Cade Pierce, New Trier’s 6-8 Jackson Munro and Mt. Vernon big man NJ Benson.

Who is the best prospect with the fewest Division I offers?

Timothy Christian’s Ben VanderWal.

It’s been a perfect storm in terms of VanderWal being under the radar. The combination of the Covid shutdown, playing at a small high school and not playing for a high-profile club team will do that to you.

Nonetheless, he will be seen and he will be offered. Watch one domino fall and others to follow.

Who is a sleeper no one talks about?

Marian Catholic’s Jeremiah Jones has made steady progress and the arrow is pointing up for the 6-3 senior guard. He has length, a growing game and is a bonafide two-way player who is so disruptive defensively. This is a scholarship kid.