Preps Talk

20 Illinois Class of 2020 Players to Watch in July

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NBC Sports Chicago

20 Illinois Class of 2020 Players to Watch in July

The July Live Evaluation Period begins this week as college coaches from all over the country will see the area's top high school players compete on the grassroots circuit. Despite changes to the NCAA's recruiting calendar this year, July remains the most significant recruiting month of the year for college basketball. Playing during July usually leads to many of the scholarship offers high school players will consider heading into senior season. 

While Illinois received a great head start to the July period with a successful two weeks of local high school events during the newly-implemented June Live Evaluation Period, the level of play will increase significantly in July as travel teams take over for high schools. That means most of the players going head-to-head are vying for college scholarships. The age gap is decreased since many of the rising seniors will play in their own age group. It's a huge opportunity for many of the area's best players to show college coaches how much they've improved since the end of the high school season.

Here's a look at 20 Class of 2020 players from the Chicagoland area to monitor during the month of July. Many of these players already have scholarship offers and recruiting attention. But things can quickly change if players have a hot month in front of the right coaches. Keep in mind, this isn't a list of the top 20 prospects or the 20 best high school players. These are players who have built some momentum heading into July. 

Tyler Beard, Whitney Young -- An up-and-down spring saw the 6-foot-2 guard drop in the national rankings but Beard picked up his play significantly with a strong June Period. Blazing fast with the ball in his hands, Beard plays in constant attack mode as he's always putting pressure on the defense. It'll be fascinating to see if his strong June carries over into July as high-major programs like Butler, DePaul, Iowa and West Virginia have previously offered. 

Darius Burford, Bolingbrook -- The Raiders have produced plenty of Division I guards the past few years as the 6-foot-0 Burford appears to be the latest. Mid- and Low-major schools starting hitting Burford with offers in June as his play translates well to the next level. Jet fast with the ball, Burford gets to the rack and finishes while also finding teammates with passes. A combo guard who scores at a high level, Burford's stock could rise thanks to his athleticism. 

Kyndall Davis, Bogan -- The latest in a long line of underrated Bogan college prospects, the 6-foot-5 Davis has gone from role player to potential star in just a few months. Gifted with an ideal basketball frame, including long arms and natural two-way intensity, Davis impressed college coaches in June and earned a few low-major scholarship offers. If Davis plays well in front of the right coaches in July, his offer count should double. 

Beau Frericks, Cary-Grove -- With Trojans teammate and big man Frank Jakubicek (Belmont) committed before July, the attention turns to this sweet-shooting point guard. Division II schools have been offering Frericks while low-major Division I programs will watch him play as Frericks can run an offense or hunt his own offense. The Fox Valley Conference doesn't typically produce many Division I college prospects but Frericks has proven he can compete against strong competition after a very good June in some big events. 

Ramean Hinton, Curie -- The Condors lost massive star power with DaJuan Gordon graduating (Kansas State) but the 6-foot-4 Hinton is a naturally-smooth scorer who should take over as the lead guy at Curie. Gifted with the ball in his hands, Hinton has plenty of advanced scoring moves and he plays with an extremely high motor. Not many wings in the area can score in bunches like Hinton can.

Connor Kochera, St. Viator -- Arguably the hottest local player during the June Period, the 6-foot-4 Kochera doubled his scholarship offers and became a must-see mid-major attraction. Missouri Valley schools are starting to keep serious tabs on the three-level scorer and Kochera has shown a better all-around game than simply being a perimeter shooting specialist. 

Bennett and Jordan Kwiecinski, Loyola -- Although this is technically two players, it's hard to split twins apart when it comes to the recruiting process. Both sweet-shooting 6-foot-8 forwards are versatile frontcourt weapons capable of scoring from all three levels. Bennett currently has more scholarship offers than his brother, but both Kwiecinski brothers have been underrecruited to this point. 

Seryee Lewis, Morgan Park -- After transferring to Morgan Park from Kenwood to start the offseason, the 6-foot-8 Lewis is still figuring out his new role playing with new teammates Adam Miller and Marcus Watson. An athletic forward who can play a bit on the wing, Lewis has big upside. Mid-major schools have kept close watch with high-major programs continually checking in. 

Dante Maddox, Bloom -- On a team full of Division I prospects, the 6-foot-2 Maddox put together a tremendous June in helping the Blazing Trojans to a title at the Ridgewood Shootout. Schools were initially slow to offer Maddox, who is capable of playing and defending multiple spots on the perimeter. Since the end of June, mid-major schools have been pouring in offers as Horizon, MAC and Missouri Valley schools have made Maddox a priority. 

Dom Martinelli, Glenbrook South -- Without a Division I scholarship offer despite being a high-level scorer, the 6-foot-5 lefty gets it done in a number of unique ways. A good perimeter shooter who is also comfortable scoring at other levels, Martinelli is one of the area's most productive players. Although Martinelli isn't an elite athlete, he understands angles and how to play. It'll be fascinating to see what Martinelli's recruitment looks like after July. 

Adam Miller, Morgan Park -- Still in the running as the state's best player and prospect, Miller shook off a quiet Spring with a blistering-hot performance over Memorial Day weekend. Since then, the top-50 national prospect has continued to score the ball at a high level as Miller remains the elite perimeter shooting threat in the state. The 6-foot-3 lefty owns offers from Arizona State, Illinois, Kansas and Louisville -- to name a very short few. Miller's recruitment could reach an elite level with a hot July.

Martice Mitchell, Bloom -- The area's top big man prospect, the 6-foot-10 Mitchell combines great size with a unique skill set as he handles and shoots the ball like a wing. Although Mitchell still needs to add strength and figure out what he's capable of in the post, he has a massive amount of upside. Mid-major schools have made Mitchell a priority while he recently took a visit to Rutgers as other high-majors will track him closely. 

R.J. Ogom, Homewood-Flossmoor -- A hard-playing 6-foot-5 forward who gets after it on the glass, Ogom was quietly a very productive piece for the Vikings last season. In June, Ogom earned scholarship offers from Northern Illinois, Milwaukee and Purdue-Fort Wayne as his play at Riverside-Brookfield was impressive. Ogom is a bit of a throwback but he's always productive and finds a way to make an impact. 

Nate Shockey, York -- On a balanced Dukes team last season that didn't need him to put up big numbers, Shockey fit in well and was a knockdown shooter. With many seniors leaving, this is the 6-foot-2 Shockey's chance to lead and become a breakout player. Earning low-major scholarship offers during the June period for his strong play at guard, Shockey has a strong ability to knock down shots and get perimeter buckets. Shockey is a sleeper to watch in July if he can continue to hit three-pointers. 

D.J. Steward, Whitney Young -- It's been a busy summer for the state's most sought-after recruit. A high-end four-star national recruit, Steward has visited Illinois, Louisville and Texas over the last month as a monster summer could push him into an even higher recruiting level. A big summer from Steward could push him into five-star status as he has a chance to make next spring's McDonald's All-American Game.

Ahron Ulis, Marian Catholic -- Recruiting has been surprisingly slow for the younger brother of Tyler Ulis as mid-majors continue to track the 6-foot-2 lead guard. Ulis can effectively run an offense, score on his own using the jumper and he's a capable perimeter defender. A double-figure scorer in the Nike EYBL with Meanstreets this spring, Ulis has a lot to prove entering July. 

Marcus Watson Jr., Morgan Park -- Leading a high-octane Mac Irvin Fire offense in the Nike EYBL this spring, Watson put up huge assist numbers while showing a comfort level playing with pace. It lead to scholarship offers -- including one from Illinois -- as the 6-foot-1 Watson is also good at getting in passing lanes and making steals. Consistent perimeter shooting is something to watch for with Watson as an improved jumper could lead to significant high-major attention.

Destin Whitaker, Romeoville -- One of the cleanest perimeter shooters in the area, the 6-foot-5 Whitaker has the size and perimeter ability to make an intriguing fit at the next level. Mid-to-Low majors continue to check in as Whitaker is the type of shooter who could blow up during July with the right game in front of coaches. Productive with Meanstreets in the Nike EYBL, Whitaker should have a lot of college coaches watching him.

Jeremiah Williams, St. Laurence -- Already impressive as a junior last season, the 6-foot-4 wing is underrated in terms of scholarship offers and all-around ability. Williams can score, helps out on the glass and also can make some plays as a passer. Mid-major schools like Northern Illinois have jumped in the mix as Williams has steadily gotten better over the last year. 

Keshawn Williams, Bloom -- A monster June helped Williams add nine scholarship offers as high-major programs are starting to pay serious attention. The 6-foot-2 Williams can get to any spot on the floor as he's one of the best in the area at attacking the basket and finishing. If Williams can show progress on his perimeter jumper then he could become a hot high-major recruit. Colorado State and Colorado have long been involved while DePaul, Kansas State and West Virginia jumped in with recent offers.

Top five under the radar teams to watch in 2020

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NBC Sports Chicago

Top five under the radar teams to watch in 2020

There are several teams that finished with losing records this past season; they will undoubtedly be flying under the radar come August.  Who are the top 5 teams who could surprise IHSA football fans next fall?

St. Charles North (4-5): It was a tough 2019 season for the North Stars both on and off the field. The school administration and head coach Ron Pomazak had to deal with the serious brain injury to sophomore RB Aidan Carlson-- an issue which impacted the entire community. St. Charles North still has talent in the program including several starters on the offensive line, namely junior OL/DL Carmine Bastone and junior OT Ian Erickson. They are on the rise along with junior ATH Jordan Nubi, the younger brother of former North Star and current Minnesota Gopher safety Tyler Nubin. 

Naperville Central (4-5): The Redhawks had a ton of hype in the preseason, then the reality of a brutal schedule set in. Naperville Central ended up losing three games to eventual state champions (Lincoln-Way East, Ohio’s Pickerington Central and East St. Louis). They lost another two games to teams with a combined record of 17-4. The 2020 Redhawks will still have one of the state's most dangerous athletes in QB Sam Jackson (Minnesota) along with a deep group of talented young receivers led by junior Keon Green and sophomore Reggie Fluerima.

Stevenson (4-5): The Patriots missed the IHSA state football playoff field for the first time since 1988. Can postseason football come back to Lincolnshire? Stevenson head coach Brent Becker will need to replace a very big senior class; however, this remains one of the top programs year in and year out in Illinois. Don't look for Stevenson to be down for very long.

Lockport (4-5): Easily one of the better stories of 2019. Former longtime Porter assistant coach George Czart was given the reins of this program in the offseason. Czart was also the head coach at Lincoln-Way North and led the Phoenix to a 54-29 record in eight seasons before the district closed the school. The Porters have numbers in the program; Czart’s staff did an outstanding job of getting everyone to buy in and the program became competitive as a result. The overall talent level is still a work in progress but the ingredients are in the building. They have the potential of becoming an eventual monster to watch in the Southwest suburbs.

Oak Park-River Forest (4-5): The Huskies, under head coach John Hoerster, wound up posting a losing record—a rarity for this Western Suburban Silver program. But outside of a 42-0 Week 9 loss to Glenbard West, OPRK was in every game last season. Several of the Huskies top players in 2019 will be back in 2020, led by QB/S Jaden McGill, LB Naahlyee Bryant and junior OL/DL Amarion Jones.

VOTE: Wintrust Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Wintrust Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?              

NBC Sports Chicago and Wintrust present our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of passionate high school basketball followers. Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive and appears in the MyTeams app.  High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago. 

This week, we're going to get a taste of the Chicago Public League/White division. Which game should we attend for High School Lites?

Mather at Foreman, 5:00 p.m.

Jones at Wells, 5:00 p.m.

Perspectives-MSA at Raby, 6:30 p.m.

To participate, our fans are encouraged to do the following:

**Follow our NBC Sports Chicago preps Twitter page: @NBCSPreps.

**Note the pinned tweet that is atop the feed.

**Vote for the game you want NBC Sports Chicago to cover Friday night.

**Spread the word!

The poll will start promptly at 12:00 p.m. Monday. We will make an announcement with the official results on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights, all season long.