Preps Talk

Big summer pays off as Morgan Park's Marcus Watson Jr. commits to Wake Forest

Big summer pays off as Morgan Park's Marcus Watson Jr. commits to Wake Forest

Entering the offseason, Morgan Park senior point guard Marcus Watson Jr. didn’t have a lot of national recruiting attention. 

Although the 6-foot-1 lefty was one of the city’s best floor generals, he wasn’t getting the scholarship offers to back it up. Watson's hard work over the summer paid off on Tuesday night as the Class of 2020 point guard committed to Wake Forest with an announcement on Twitter.

The recruiting outlook for Watson changed once he took the floor with the Mac Irvin Fire in the Nike EYBL. Playing with high-caliber teammates — including Morgan Park backcourt running mate Adam Miller — Watson thrived with the Fire this spring and summer on the national grassroots landscape as his pass-first style looked great in an open-floor setting. 

Putting up 11.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and a league-leading 8.9 assists per contest, in 18 games this spring and summer, Watson's play in the EYBL helped him draw the high-major attention he was seeking. Illinois jumped in with a scholarship offer after the April Live Period. Numerous other high-majors tracked Watson’s play in June with Morgan Park and during July at the Nike Peach Jam.

In the end, the Demon Deacons came away with the pledge as Watson becomes the second senior point guard in the area to commit to a high-major program. Marian Catholic's Ahron Ulis made his decision to attend Iowa earlier this month.

Watson excels at setting up others while running an offense as the talent around him should ultimately dictate his success in the ACC. Although Watson is a talented player on both ends, improving on an inconsistent perimeter jumper will be a key to Watson becoming a dynamic threat in the nation's toughest conference. A solid mid-range shooter, Watson only shot 21 percent (5-for-23) from three-point range in EYBL play. If Watson can improve that number, then he could turn into a complete offensive weapon at the college level.

The commitment for Watson also signifies that Wake Forest will remain aggressive in Chicago after building a recent pipeline with Morgan Park and the Mac Irvin Fire. Although Watson is the first high school commitment to go to Wake Forest from Chicago (and the Fire), Demon Deacon senior guard Torry Johnson is a former Morgan Park standout who transferred into Wake Forest before last season.

Thanks in-part to Johnson's commitment, the Wake Forest coaching staff has been active with Chicago-area players, offering scholarships to Watson's Morgan Park teammates Adam Miller and junior guard Brandon Weston as well as Neuqua Valley junior wing John Poulakidas. Milwaukee-area standout Michael Foster Jr., a Class of 2021 standout who plays with Watson on the Fire, has also received a Wake Forest scholarship offer.

By landing Watson, the catalyst for the Fire's successful uptempo offense, the Demon Deacons are hoping that others might follow. While Wake Forest struggled in the ACC last season, they have a recent under-the-radar recruit turned NBA first-round pick in Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins. So it's interesting to see head coach Danny Manning and his staff target Watson, a player not many high-majors took a chance with. Wake Forest is hoping Watson can become the program's next three-star prospect that they turn into an all-league player.

Although the area's Class of 2020 has been slower to commit than some recent groups, the recent commitments of Ulis and Watson show that point guards are still a huge national storyline this fall as teams are trying to lock up floor leaders early.

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.