Since the IHSA boys basketball season tips today, it is time to take a look at this season's Preseason All-Area team. Similar to how college basketball has Preseason All-Americans, NBC Sports Chicago gives you the three teams with 15 players who have a chance to have huge seasons.
Limited to players from the Chicagoland coverage area of NBC Sports Chicago, this list won't include downstate players like Belleville West's E.J. Liddell. But it's a good representation of some of the names to keep an eye on for the local Player of the Year race that will occur this season.
Be sure to watch many of these players on High School Lites this season as we switch to basketball beginning on Friday, Nov. 30. And follow our Preps Twitter account @NBCSPreps for the latest news and notes on area teams and players.
Markese Jacobs, Uplift -- Explosive and capable of constant highlight-reel plays, the 5-foot-11 Jacobs is a serious Player of the Year candidate. Formerly committed to Kansas, but now signed to play at DePaul, Jacobs is considered a consensus top-150 prospect in the senior class. As a junior, Jacobs helped Uplift to a Class 2A regional title as he put up 18.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 steals per contest.
DaJuan Gordon, Curie -- Breaking out on the scene as a junior, the 6-foot-4 Gordon parlayed that success into an eye-opening summer. Now considered a consensus top-150 prospect in the national senior class, Gordon signed with Kansas State. Last season for the Condors, Gordon averaged 16 points per game as he's one of the premier scorers in the state.
Marquise Kennedy, Brother Rice -- Coming off of a big summer playing with the Illinois Wolves, the 6-foot-1 Kennedy had high-major scholarship offers before eventually deciding on Loyola. An athletic floor general who is tough to keep out of the paint, Kennedy averaged 17.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a junior. Kennedy has the potential to put up huge stats this season with Brother Rice not returning very much experience.
D.J. Steward, Whitney Young -- After transferring from Fenwick to Whitney Young the 6-foot-4 junior will have even more of a spotlight on him after a tremendous sophomore season. A consensus top-75 prospect in his class, Steward averaged 18.4 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals per game for the Friars last season. Now that he's teaming with another high-major prospect in junior guard Tyler Beard, Steward and the Dolphins are hoping for another trip to Peoria.
Perry Cowan, DePaul Prep -- A major varsity presence at DePaul Prep the past few seasons, the 6-foot-4 Cowan is a gifted three-level scorer. The shooting guard had some big games against strong competition last season as he averaged 18.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game as a junior. Committed to Brown, Cowan has the skill level to make plays in a number of unique ways.
Tom Welch, Naperville North -- After helping Naperville North's soccer team capture a third straight state title as one of the nation's top goalies, the 6-foot-7 Welch switches his focus to the hardwood. Committed to Loyola for basketball, Welch is one of the most skilled and competitive frontcourt players in the state. The only returning Naperville North starter, Welch averaged 13.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game as a junior.
RayJ Dennis, Oswego East -- Smooth with the ball in his hands, this point guard is headed to Boise State next season. A premier pull-up shooter, Dennis averaged 17.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game as a junior. Oswego East has top-25 expectations this season as Dennis is surrounded by plenty of talent.
Adam Miller, Morgan Park -- Only one of two juniors to make this list, the 6-foot-3 Miller is also nationally-ranked in his class. Capable of taking over a game with his scoring outbursts, Miller is one of the only players in the area capable of consistent monster scoring outings. A three-point threat, the lefty averaged 15 points per game during his first season in the area as a sophomore.
Tyler Cochran, Bolingbrook -- One of the state's most experienced senior guards, Cochran has already been to Peoria as a sophomore while stepping up in plenty of big games last season. The Northern Illinois pledge is part of an all-Division I backcourt with fellow senior Joseph Yesufu as they should be tough to stop this season. The 6-foot-2 Cochran averaged 15 points per game as a junior.
Bryant Brown, Waukegan -- Although Waukegan had a disappointing season in 2017-18, the 6-foot-5 Brown still put up eye-opening numbers. Uncommitted for college, this senior averaged 23.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 blocks per game last season. Brown can battle inside as a nightly double-double threat while also being skilled enough to step away and hit perimeter shots.
Lance Jones, Evanston -- One of the area's premier big-game players, the 6-foot-1 Jones always seems to step up with huge plays in critical games. The Southern Illinois commit was a huge part of the Wildkits finishing third in Class 4A last season as Evanston will have sizable expectations once again this season. Jones averaged 15.5 points per game as a junior as his bully-ball brand of perimeter play can be tough to stop at the high school level.
Jeremiah Hernandez, St. Viator -- Part of a dynamic backcourt duo with fellow senior guard Trey Calvin, the 6-foot-4 Hernandez can be very tough to stop once he gets rolling. Headed to Kent State after his high school career comes to a close, Hernandez is hoping to lead the Lions to a deep run in Class 3A after an unbeaten conference title in the ESCC last season. Hernandez put up 15 points, four rebounds and three assists per game last season.
Nate Ferguson, Lemont -- Perhaps the most underrated player on this list, the 6-foot-7 Ferguson is one of the state's most versatile offensive threats. The Drake commit is coming off of a strong summer in which he showcased the athleticism to play above the rim with the skill level to play behind the line. As a junior, Ferguson averaged 15.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.
Max Christie, Rolling Meadows -- The only sophomore to make this list, the nationally-ranked Christie might be the best long-term basketball prospect to make this Preseason All-Area team. Pushing 6-foot-6, Christie acclimated quickly to the varsity level as a freshman last season as he averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Christie is capable of playing nearly any spot on the floor at the high school level but he's a matchup nightmare thanks to his size at guard.
Fred Cleveland Jr., Leo -- Although the senior is undersized at 5-foot-8, Cleveland makes up for it by being one of the most complete point guards in the state. Committed to North Carolina A&T, Cleveland helped revitalize the Lions last season as he averaged 20.3 points, 7 assists, 3.5 steals and 2.7 rebounds per game. Leo has high hopes to make a major run in Class 2A this season as Cleveland could leave high school with more hardware.