Preps Talk

CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

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CSN's Top 20 Basketball Rankings

By Joe Collins and Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com
1 Simeon (3-0)

Results: Defeated Farragut 50-43 (Fri.)

This Week: Wednesday vs. Carver, Saturday @ Clash Of Cameron Showcase (NC) vs. Word Of God HS

Hoops Talk: Fridays victory marked the 200th win for Simeon head coach Robert Smith.

2 Whitney Young (1-0)

Results: No games played

This Week: Wednesday vs. Orr, Friday vs. Crane

Hoops Talk: Sophomores Jahlil Okafor and Paul White must grow up quickly while Thomas Hamilton Jr. recovers from an injury (torn patella tendon).

3 Proviso East (7-0)

Results: Defeated Addison Trail 88-64 (Fri.)

This Week: Friday @ Hinsdale South

Hoops Talk: The Pirates continue to cruise through the early portion of their schedule. Will they be the team to beat at the Proviso West tourney?

4 Warren (7-1)

Results: Lost to Stevenson 44-43 (Tue.), defeated Mundelein 61-45 (Fri.)

This Week: Friday vs. Lake Forest

Hoops Talk: Tuesdays loss prompted a team meeting. The Blue Devils responded on Friday behind 19 points from 6-9 center Nathan Boothe.

5 Curie (4-0)

Results: Defeated Uplift 73-58 (Thu.), Champaign Centennial 78-54 (Sat.), Decatur McArthur 69-41 (Sun.)

This Week: Tuesday @ Hyde Park, Thursday vs. Hope

Hoops Talk: Busy stretch for the Condors, who are getting excellent production from 6-8 forward Cliff Alexander.

6 Downers Grove South (6-1)

Results: Defeated Morton 62-57 (Fri.)

This Week: Friday vs. Willowbrook

Hoops Talk: Senior guard Jerron Wilbut (20 points) guided Downers South from a 13-point deficit to a key West Suburban Gold victory in Cicero.

7 Bogan (6-0)

Results: Defeated Du Sable 66-42 (Wed.), Rockford Guilford 82-39 (Sat.)

This Week: Wednesday vs. Vocational

Hoops Talk: DeVaughn Johnson, Devonta Smith and Kendall Wesley are all contributing for this Bengals squad.

8 De La Salle (6-1)

Results: Defeated Farragut 62-50 (Tue.), St. Joseph 62-52 (Fri.)

This Week: Friday vs. Hales

Hoops Talk: Two wins against solid opponents. They could do damage at York High Schools Jack Tosh Classic later this month.

9 New Trier (7-1)

Results: Defeated Niles West 58-47 (Tue.), Glenbrook South 71-47 (Thu.)

This Week: Friday @ Waukegan, Saturday vs. Prosser

Hoops Talk: Guards Austin Angel, Reid Berman and David Braigel and Dartmouth-bound forward Connor Boehm are on a roll.

10 Andrew (5-0)

Results: Defeated Stagg 81-51 (Fri.)

This Week: Friday at Bradley-Bourbonnais

Hoops Talk: Thunderbolts look like the real deal as Mike Bobek, Tyler Hook and the Adekoya brothers have people talking outside Tinley Park.

11 Bloom (7-0)

Results: Defeated Thornwood 49-38 (Tue.), Rich Central 52-39 (Fri.)

This Week: Saturday vs. Leo

Hoops Talk: Guard Donald Moore and the Blazing Trojans add to their list of an already-impressive resume of wins so far this season.

12 Plainfield East (6-0)

Results: Defeated Plainfield Central 58-39

This Week: Friday @ Minooka

Hoops Talk: Keep an eye on senior guard Dee Brown for the Bengals. He continues to make noise in the Southwest Prairie conference.

13 Seton (10-0)

Results: Defeated Crane 73-66 (Tue.), Mount Carmel 79-64 (Fri.), Hamilton (WI) 62-59 OT (Sat.)

This Week: Friday vs. St. Francis de Sales

Hoops Talk: Defenses take notethe Sting are averaging 78.8 points per game this season.

14 Crane (2-2)

Results: Lost to Seton 73-66 (Tue.), lost to Peoria 55-43 (Sat.), defeated Homewood-Flossmoor 61-57 (Sun.)

This Week: Wednesday vs. North Lawndale, Friday at Whitney Young

Hoops Talk: Veteran head coach Chris Head has the Cougars back on the prowl after a nice win over H-F at the Team Rose Classic.
15 Homewood-Flossmoor (6-2)

Results: Defeated Lockport 49-43 OT (Fri.), lost to Crane 61-57 (Sun.)

This Week: Friday vs. Lincoln-Way East

Hoops Talk: Devlon Rencher came up big to save the Vikings Friday. He had a game-high 26 points, including the tying three-pointer in regulation.

16 West Aurora (5-1)

Results: Defeated Naperville Central

This Week: Friday @ Glenbard North, Saturday vs. East Aurora (at NIU)

Hoops Talk: The Blackhawks shot 65 from the field Friday night against Central. Juwan Starks and guard Jontrel Walker each had 18 points.

17 Elgin (6-1)

Results: Defeated South Elgin 47-25 (Tue.), St. Charles North 53-41 (Sat.)

This Week: Tuesday at Burlington Central, Friday at St. Charles East

Hoops Talk: Arie Williams, Kory Brown, Cortez Scott and Dennis Moore have paced the Maroons so far this season.

18 Notre Dame (8-2)

Results: Defeated Marist 75-59 (Fri.), Crete-Monee 67-50 (Sat.)

This Week: Tuesday @ Niles West

Hoops Talk: The Dons raise some eyebrows with a 17-point thumping of previously ranked Crete-Monee and another blowout over a solid Marist squad.

19 North Chicago (5-1)

Results: Defeated Antioch 96-36 (Tue.), Vernon Hills 77-65 (Fri.)

This Week: Friday @ Lakes

Hoops Talk: Illinois State-bound Aaron Simpson had 33 points in the victory over Vernon Hills, 27 more in Tuesdays rout against Antioch.

20 Metea Valley (8-0)

Results: Defeated Bartlett 68-58 (Fri.), South Elgin 55-43 (Sat.)

This Week: Friday @ Neuqua Valley

Hoops Talk: The new kid on the block (school opened in 2009) has game, especially on the defensive end.
Looming and Lurking: St. Rita, Morton, Morgan Park, T.F. South, Farragut, Crete-Monee, St. Joseph, Glenbrook North

Recruiting news and notes: Lincoln-Way East's AJ Henning piling up major offers

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Recruiting news and notes: Lincoln-Way East's AJ Henning piling up major offers

Lincoln-Way East sophomore athlete recruit AJ Henning (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) continues to pile up the major Power 5 scholarship offers this winter including his latest from Stanford on Wednesday.

"Stanford offered me a scholarship today (Wednesday)," Henning said. "I have thirteen scholarship offers so far and it's pretty amazing to have opportunities from such great schools and football programs."

Henning, who was a key performer in leading the Griffins to the 2017 Class 8A state championship run has been taking all of the recruiting attention and offers in stride.

"My family and I talk about recruiting a little bit but it's not really that pressing for me," he said. "I still have two years left of high school so I'm really not in any rush."

Henning, who plans to visit Notre Dame on March 3 is now holding early scholarship offers from Central Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Miami of Ohio, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford, Syracuse and Western Michigan.

Oswego East junior defensive back recruit Justin Clark (6-foot, 180 pounds) has also seen a nice spike in his overall recruiting stock this winter. Clark has been able to add six scholarship offers along with recruiting attention from several Big Ten programs.

"I have offers now from NIU, Bowling Green, Miami of Ohio, Iowa State, Toledo and Ohio University," according to Clark. "I've also been staying in touch with Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa and Purdue. Northwestern is waiting on my test score and they seem pretty interested. Iowa, Purdue and Minnesota all want me to come out and visit them on campus and the same goes for all the schools who have offered me."

Clark, who played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, safety, cornerback as well as return kicks and punts and also punted for Oswego East being recruiting to play at what position in college so far?

"So far the majority of schools are recruiting me to play safety," Clark said. "I'm very open when it comes to position and I also love to return kicks and punts. I just like to be as versatile of a player as I can for my team."

Batavia junior linebacker Michael Jansey Jr. (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) has continued to remain on several college recruiting radar screens this winter and Jansey Jr. has also seen his offers list grow.

"It seems like my recruiting is all starting to come together really well," Jansey Jr. said. "My latest offers from from Miami of Ohio, Kent State, Eastern Kentucky, Cornell and Wyoming."

Jansey Jr, has also remained in steady contact with several Big Ten schools this winter.

"I'm also in touch with Northwestern, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska," he said. "Also some of the SEC schools are starting to follow me on Twitter. It's just pretty exciting and my recruiting is really starting to all coming together."

Jansey Jr. has early scholarship offers now from Central Michigan, Ball State, Toledo, Illinois State, Iowa State, Western Michigan, Princeton, Cornell, Kent State, Miami of Ohio, Wyoming, Illinois State and Eastern Kentucky.

One of the better stories in the Class of 2019 in Chicagoland has to be Jacobs junior offensive tackle Joacheim Price (6-foot-8, 310 pounds). Price, who has been a mainstay on the Golden Eagles basketball team since his freshman year had never played football until last June. Price is now holding early offers from the likes of Illinois, West Virginia, Iowa State and Northern Illinois this winter. 

"The first time in summer football workouts I didn't know how to get into a stance," Price said. "I had to stay over after every practice that summer just to work on getting into a stance. I also had to learn all of the plays and also learn technique. I just hung in there and kept working and started to gain more and more confidence."

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive backs

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive backs

2017 grade: B-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Kyle Fuller (free agent), Prince Amukamara (free agent), Marcus Cooper (contract), Sherrick McManis (free agent), Bryce Callahan (restricted free agent), Quintin Demps (contract)

Possible free agent targets: Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler, Bashaud Breeland, E.J. Gaines, Rashaad Melvin, Robert McClain, Darrelle Revis

There’s a wide spectrum of scenarios for the Bears at cornerback, ranging from keeping the status quo to blowing the whole thing up, and everything in between. Safety is far more stable, with Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson proving to be a reliable pairing, so that’s set for 2018.

Let’s start with one end of that cornerback spectrum: The Bears keep the top of this unit intact. That means, No. 1, retaining Kyle Fuller via the franchise tag and/or a long-term contract. No. 2, it means bringing back Prince Amukamara, who didn’t record an interception and committed a few too many penalties, but otherwise was a fine enough cover corner. No. 3, it means keeping restricted free agent Bryce Callahan as the team’s No. 1 slot corner.

On paper, this doesn’t seem like an altogether bad option. The Bears weren’t spectacular at cornerback in 2017, but the position was a little better than average, which isn’t the worst place to be for a single unit. Couple with solid play from the safeties and the Bears’ defensive backs were overall a decent enough group. Outside of Marcus Cooper -- who is a candidate to be cut for cap savings -- the Bears may not need to make wholesale changes to this group.

That, though, is a rosier look at this unit. The Bears can certainly improve the personnel in it with a healthy amount of cap space and a strong crop of free agent cornerbacks about to hit the market. Keeping Fuller and then signing a top-tier player like Trumaine Johnson or Malcolm Butler would upgrade this group, as would bringing back Fuller and Amukamara but then using a high draft pick on a player like Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.

Unless the Bears sign two big-time cornerbacks -- i.e. Fuller and Johnson, or even a guy like Brashaud Breeland or E.J. Gaines -- it would seem reasonable for them to use a first or second-round pick on a cornerback in an effort to find a longer-term solution at the position. That doesn’t mean the Bears would absolutely have to go that route, especially with other needs at wide receiver, guard and outside linebacker.

But here’s another thought: It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bears are able to sign a combination of two top cornerbacks in free agency. With plenty of cap space top-end free agents lacking at wide receiver and outside linebacker/edge rusher, could Pace allocate a good chunk of that money to, say, tagging Fuller and making runs at Johnson, Butler and/or Breeland? 2018 looks to be a good year to be aggressive in the free agent cornerback market, and that could play into the Bears’ strategy well.

Before we finish, we should carve out some space for Amos and Jackson. Pro Football Focus isn’t the only outlet that’s given Amos high marks -- Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 ranked him as the No. 1 free safety in the league, too. Jackson came in at No. 19 in B/R’s strong safety rankings, which is pretty solid for a fourth-round rookie.

But the larger point here isn’t exactly where Amos and Jackson are in outside evaluations -- it’s that, tangibly, the pair played well off each other on a consistent basis last year. Seeing as Amos didn’t enter the Bears’ starting lineup until Week 4 -- after Quintin Demps suffered a season-ending broken forearm against Pittsburgh -- how quickly and successfully he and Jackson meshed was one of the more impressive developments for the Bears’ 2017 defense. Amos needs to make more plays on the ball and Jackson has some things to clean up, but the Bears enter the 2018 league year not needing to address their safety position. That’s a good place to be for a team with other significant needs.