Preps Talk

50 Chicagoland boys basketball players to watch

50 Chicagoland boys basketball players to watch

There is always an abundance of talent in the Chicagoland area when it comes to high school basketball. As one of the nation's hotbeds for hoops, our area regularly churns out high-level high school basketball players and Division I prospects.

This season is no different.

With a ton of senior Division I signees, along with a talented junior class that features a lot of varsity contributors, this should be a memorable local season of high school hoops. 

Here's a look at 50 Chicagoland boys basketball players you need to watch this season. While this list isn't necessarily supposed to represent the 50 best players in the area, it's a guide for fans to check out top players on top teams along with Division I recruits. 

Have a player you think we need to watch this season that didn't make our list of 50? Make sure to let us know on our Twitter @NBCSPreps. 

CLASS OF 2020 (SENIORS)

Matthew Ambrose, Stevenson

Kendale Anderson, Leo

Tyler Beard, Whitney Young

Darius Burford, Bolingbrook

Chris Conway, Naperville Central

Kyndall Davis, Bogan

Ramean Hinton, Curie

Ryan Isaacson, Hinsdale Central

Frank Jakubicek, Cary-Grove

Elijah Jones, Marian Catholic

Jayson Kent, Oak Forest

Connor Kochera, St. Viator

Bennett Kwiecinski, Loyola

Jordan Kwiecinski, Loyola

Connor Linke, St. Charles North

Dante Maddox Jr., Bloom

Dom Martinelli, Glenbrook South

Adam Miller, Morgan Park

Martice Mitchell, Bloom

Lance Mosley, DePaul Prep

Donovan Newby, Bloom

R.J. Ogom, Homewood-Flossmoor

Aquan Smart, Niles North

Luke Sgarbossa, Lake Park

Nate Shockey, York

D.J. Steward, Whitney Young

Reggie Strong, Orr

Everett Stubblefield III, Willowbrook

Ahron Ulis, Marian Catholic

Marcus Watson, Morgan Park

Destin Whitaker, Romeoville

Jeremiah Williams, Simeon

Keshawn Williams, Bloom 

Will Wolfe, Oswego East

CLASS OF 2021 (JUNIORS)

Amar Auguillard, Zion-Benton

Isaiah Barnes, OPRF

Ahamad Bynum, Simeon

Max Christie, Rolling Meadows

Scottie Ebube, Mundelein

Conor Enright, Mundelein

Chris Hodges, Schaumburg

Bryce Hopkins, Fenwick

Louis Lesmond, Notre Dame

Blake Peters, Evanston

John Poulakidas, Neuqua Valley

Julius Rollins, Hillcrest

Anthony Sayles, Notre Dame

Brandon Weston, Morgan Park

CLASS OF 2022 (SOPHOMORES)

A.J. Casey, Tinley Park

Jaden Schutt, Yorkville Christian

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

There’s country strong. And then there’s Jerry Sloan.

The NBA Hall of Fame player and coach, a tenacious defender and steady offensive threat, became a household name with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s. Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. Two-time NBA-All-Star.

Sloan died Friday after a courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

But it was Sloan’s perseverance as a child and his dedication to the game of basketball —and his home town— 300 miles south of the Windy City that made him a real star.

[MORE: Remember ‘Original Bull’ Jerry Sloan as he lived: tough, humble and honest]

The former Bull, who went on to lead the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons there as a head coach, grew up on a farm near McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan would routinely wake up in the wee hours to do family chores. He’d then walk two miles to the town’s high school for basketball practice.

The foundation of a hard work ethic and a ferocious competitive nature paved the way for Sloan’s rise to stardom.

Sloan played on several great McLeansboro teams in the late-50s. In his junior season, he helped guide his squad to a 19-6 record for coach Gene Haile. He followed that up with a senior season most kids would dream of: 26 wins, 3 losses. He was named to the All-State team.

He would later guide the Evansville Purple Aces to two Division II national championships. He became known as “the Original Bull” shortly after the startup Bulls franchise drafted him in the 1966 expansion draft. The rest was history—a brilliant 10-year career in Chicago as a player and nearly three more as a head coach on West Madison before becoming a legend in Salt Lake City.

But it was his small-town roots that made Jerry Sloan all the more genuine.

He would return to McLeansboro several times in 1984 —the year he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz— to watch his high school team play. His son, Brian, led the Foxes to the Class A state championship that year, going 35-0 in the process. Brian went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

Sloan would return frequently to this Southern Illinois town many times during his run with the Jazz— a run where he only finished below .500 once and racked up an astonishing career 1,221 wins. Hamilton County High School, formerly known as McLeansboro, dedicated its gym in Sloan’s honor in Dec. 2012. A road in McLeansboro is now called Jerry Sloan Avenue.

In a statement, a representative from McLeansboro High School said the following:

“Today is a sad day for Hamilton County and the Foxes. Coach Jerry Sloan has passed away. Coach Sloan graduated from McLeansboro High School in 1960 and was always a hometown boy. Whenever he returned he was just one of us. He will be greatly missed. RIP Coach Sloan.”

McLeansboro will always be Sloan Country.

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Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

J.J. McCarthy, the state’s top-ranked high school quarterback and overall player according to Rivals, is transferring from Nazareth Academy to IMG Academy in Florida.

McCarthy made the announcement on his Twitter page Monday afternoon.

The news sent shock waves throughout the national prep football landscape. McCarthy, committed to play at Michigan, led the Roadrunners to an IHSA 7A second place finish back in November. As a sophomore in 2018, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. It culminated in a state title win and a 13-1 season.

The move makes sense for McCarthy, as he will team up with offensive lineman Greg Crippen, a fellow Michigan commit. According to Rivals, McCarthy (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 33 overall recruit in the country.

The loss is a huge one for head coach Tim Racki and company at the La Grange Park school. That said, the Roadrunners are one of the dominant programs in IHSA football, compiling a 38-4 record the past three seasons with three state titles in the previous six campaigns.

The big questions: Will other high-caliber Illinois high school athletes follow McCarthy? When will the IHSA commit to a fall sports schedule? What will Illinois high school football look like in the fall? What guidelines will be in place? There are many uncertainties.

What is known: The IHSA chose to cancel the state basketball tournament and all 2020 spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois is currently in a phased reopening of businesses and other institutions. Florida is ahead of Illinois in respect to some of those aforementioned facilities.

The risk, or perhaps the unknown, was worth it for McCarthy and his family. Will Florida —or other states, including Illinois— even be cleared to play football come August? Will his move be a productive one in retrospect?

Time will tell.