Preps Talk

Bloom's Martice Mitchell commits to Minnesota

Bloom's Martice Mitchell commits to Minnesota

Bloom senior basketball standout Martice Mitchell is listed at 6-foot-10. But Mitchell has made it known on social media that he doesn't want to be labeled as a center or post player.

Mitchell's desire to be a big wing forward at the college level is ultimately a big reason why he committed to Minnesota on Monday night as Mitchell announced his decision.

Despite major recruiting services and many college coaches attempting to label (or recruit) Mitchell as a center over the last several months during his high-major emergence, the Golden Gophers recruited Mitchell to play more on the perimeter as Minnesota is getting a player with size and high upside.

Taking advantage of the NCAA's new recruiting calendar this summer, Mitchell drew eyeballs during the June Live Evaluation Period as Bloom -- a team of potentially five Division I seniors -- took the floor during two weekend tournaments. Mitchell played even better in front of college coaches during July in Champaign at the NCAA's first-ever regional camp as high-major offers began to come in.

After visiting Minnesota, Rutgers and Xavier, Mitchell pledged to head coach Richard Pitino as Mitchell will be an intriguing player to keep tabs on in the Big Ten the next several years. Although Mitchell is skilled enough to play facing up, he still needs to add strength to handle the rigors and physicality of the conference. 

But college coaches are always seeking size. Shooting has become a premium skill. So if Mitchell can bring a combination of the two to the Golden Gophers then Pitino will have exactly what he's looking for. It could take some time for Mitchell to get adjusted to the next level since he's still unlocking parts of his game but Minnesota ultimately deserves credit for aggressively recruiting an under-the-radar player with size and skill.   

Bloom and Mitchell will have massive expectations for the 2019-20 season as the veteran group seeks a state title. Senior guards Dante Maddox Jr. (Cal State Fullerton) and Donovan Newby (Milwaukee) committed to Division I programs earlier this month while guards Keeshawn Williams and Christian Shumate continue to get recruited. 

The Blazing Trojans fell in the Class 4A sectional semifinals to Homewood-Flossmoor last season. This season, they will try to make a state appearance for the ninth time in school history. 

Mitchell could be a huge key for Bloom's success this season. His perimeter skill allows the Blazing Trojans to spread the floor at up to five positions while making his perimeter teammates more difficult to defend with the added spacing. And while Mitchell doesn't want to be labeled as a center for his basketball future, Bloom needs its senior big man to rebound and protect the rim as well. 

Seven intriguing teams to watch outside the Preseason Power Rankings

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USA BASKETBALL

Seven intriguing teams to watch outside the Preseason Power Rankings

It's nearly impossible to pick the Chicagoland Preps Basketball preseason Power Rankings.

With over 300 programs eligible for inclusion, there are going to be plenty of teams outside of the preseason top 25 that end up making huge waves during the season. And this season, in particular, is strange because so much of the high school basketball talent in Illinois resides in the younger classes.

So when evaluating potential preseason top 25 teams, it becomes a subjective exercise in weighing the merits of talent and experience. It's a different formula for everyone. Many of these teams have Division I star power or already found some success from last season. So the expectation is that most of these teams will reach the top 25 at some point during this season.

Here's a look at seven intriguing teams that didn't make the first Power Rankings of the 2019-20.

Benet — Even though Benet lost a lot of talent from last season's top-25 team, the Redwings are kind of similar to Wisconsin basketball under Bo Ryan: it doesn't matter who is on the roster, the coaching and execution from the players will make them a top team regardless of preseason stature. This season, Benet can still count on senior big man Colin Crothers, an All-ESCC selection as a junior. Crothers has some size up front with him in junior wing Tyler Van Eekeren, a solid perimeter shooter. If Benet's guard play steps up then they should remain heavily in the ESCC mix. 

Oak Lawn — The Spartans had a bit of a breakthrough last season when they finished 16-16 and earned some notable wins. This season sees most of that core returning for a promising year. Senior guard Sami Osmani is one of the area’s more underappreciated players as he’s a big-time scorer not afraid of the big moment. And point guard Trey Ward and forward Kevin Swatek were also valuable contributors last season. Oak Lawn has its best team in many years as it could be a special season for them in the South burbs. 

OPRF — Although the Huskies lose a lot of important seniors from last year's top-25 team, there is still plenty to like about OPRF this season. The summer emergence of a few key players makes the Huskies a team to keep tabs on. Junior forward Isaiah Barnes and junior guard Josh Smith both earned multiple Division I scholarships this summer. The duo's length, athleticism and skill are a perfect fit for OPRF's trademark "Husky Havoc" defense. Also keep an eye on senior forward Justin Cross, as he went from promise to production during the June period. 

Oswego East — It will be next to impossible for Oswego East to replace departed guard Ray J Dennis (Boise State). Dennis was the catalyst for Oswego East's offense and a dynamic clutch player. The good news for the Wolves is the return of varsity veteran Sam Schultz, a 6-foot-7 forward, and Aurora Christian transfer and Division I prospect Will Wolfe. Oswego East will still need to figure out its ball handling responsibilities and who will run the offense. But the talent is there for the Wolves to be in the Southwest Prairie mix. 

Rolling Meadows — There might not be a more fascinating team in the area this season than the Mustangs. It’s hard to know what to expect from this group. Junior superstar Max Christie has become a local household name thanks to his top-ten national status in the Class of 2021. But the rest of Rolling Meadows remains uncertain. Young talent is coming in the form of the freshman class — including Max’s younger brother, Cameron. How much help will Max Christie have this season? That’s one of the biggest questions any area team will face all season. 

St. Viator — Replacing the Division I backcourt of Trey Calvin and Jeremiah Hernandez won’t be easy for the Lions. Thankfully, St. Viator can rely on William & Mary commit Connor Kochera to be the new go-to guy. The 6-foot-4 Kochera was exceptional during the June live period as he carried St. Viator to numerous wins despite missing players. Senior big man Mike Huene drew positive reviews with his play this fall as he should help Kochera with his 6-8 size on the interior. Don’t be surprised if St. Viator remains competitive in the ESCC despite some big losses. 

Thornton —Thornton had over 20 wins and went an impressive 11-1 in the Southwest Suburban last season as they transition to the Southland for 2019-20. The foundation is already in place to make big things happen. Senior guard Ari Brown is one of four returning starters for this team as he's joined by Derrick Williams, DeMarco Miner and junior Brandon Hall. Hall had some eye-opening moments this offseason as he could become a breakout player. Although Bloom will be the heavy favorite to win the Southland, Thornton should make it tough on the Blazing Trojans.

Preps Basketball Power Rankings No. 11: Hillcrest

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Preps Basketball Power Rankings No. 11: Hillcrest

School: Hillcrest

2018-19 record: 21-10 (13-0 South Suburban Blue)

Postseason results: Lost to Normal U-High in Class 3A sectional semifinals.

Players to watch: The junior class at Hillcrest has a chance to be special. The headliner is 6-foot-6 wing Julius Rollins, a standout from this summer who has become a big mid-major target the past several months. A pair of 6-foot-5 wings, Jakobi Heady and Hamahrie Bowers, both burst on the scene this summer with strong showings at June events with their length, athleticism and improving skill. And junior guards Kenton Wright and Mar'Keise Irving also played heavy minutes last season. 

Why they're in the power rankings: Hillcrest already started to make waves as a sophomore-based outfit last season. With an additional year of growth, the Hawks look like one of the most dangerous teams in the state -- regardless of class. Bowers, Heady and Rollins provide a lot of size and athleticism up front while the guards are also experienced.