Preps Talk

Evanston's Nojel Eastern has positive outing at USA Basketball


Evanston's Nojel Eastern has positive outing at USA Basketball

COLORADO SPRINGS -- Nojel Eastern is nearing a full return to the basketball court. The Evanston junior guard took part in the USA Basketball Junior National Team Minicamp over the weekend with 50 of the best players in the country. It marked the first time Eastern played high-level competition since dislocating his ankle during an AAU tournament in Lexington in April.

Although Eastern has not been fully cleared to go full speed quite yet, he did take part in some drills with the other camp participants and got to receive some attention on his recovering ankle from USA Basketball's training staff. The weekend trip for Eastern to a USA Basketball event marked the second time he has been to Colorado Springs as part of his rehab process. He hopes to receive more encouraging news at home next week.

"I go back in for physical therapy next week and they'll run their tests on me and send it to the doctor and see if I'm good to go from there," Eastern said to CSN. "I'm just taking it easy. I'm not trying to hurt anything. Make sure I get cleared."

At USA Basketball, Eastern didn't appear to be favoring the recovering ankle and the 6-foot-5 guard moved without much limitation. Eastern clearly wasn't pushing himself or doing anything too strenuous on the ankle, but it was a very positive sign in his comeback. The trips to Colorado Springs are important to Eastern as he hopes to continue to compete in USA Basketball events in the future when he's at full strength.

"It's been great. Still having the opportunity to come out here and represent [USA Basketball] is a great feeling," Eastern said of the camp. "I got a chance to play in the first part the first day and the second session and just trying to get back in the groove of things so I can get back [to USA's next event in May. It's been a great experience so far and great being around with the great talent."

When Eastern couldn't compete in drills or scrimmages this weekend, he was often on a side hoop getting up shots and trying to establish a rhythm as the high school season approaches.

Recovering from the ankle injury hasn't slowed down recruiting for Eastern as Cal, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Illinois, Iowa State, Marquette, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Saint Louis, Seton Hall and South Florida have stopped in for Evanston open gyms this fall. Duke is also expected to see Eastern in an open gym next week.

Recruiting is going to be a process that continues for Eastern, but in the short term, he's focused on returning to an Evanston team that has a lot of talented juniors and sophomores. Playing without Eastern this summer, the Wildkits showed that they can play with some of the area's best teams without their star junior. With the versatile Eastern returning for the high school season, Evanston hopes to be a force this season.

"We have a really talented team, a lot of juniors on the team. Everybody has put in a lot of work over summer. We have a couple of big games and tournaments this year. We just want to make our mark."

If Eastern is healthy and contributing at his normal levels this season, he's expected to be a CSN All-Area candidate after a strong sophomore season for Evanston.


65 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

65 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Elmwood Park

Head coach: Dylan Mack

Assistant coaches: Gabe Ostrander, Tim Eberhard, Mario Fiorito, Chad Nardi, Joe Kraft and Dwayne French

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (4-1 Metro Suburban Red Conference), Elmwood Park made the Class 4A state football playoff field. The Tigers lost to Genoa-Kingston in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs St. Joseph

Sept. 1 vs Foreman

Sept. 7 vs Ridgewood

Sept. 14 @ St. Edward

Sept. 21 @ Fenton

Sept. 28 vs Leo

Oct. 5 @ Guerin Prep

Oct. 12 vs Chicago Christian

Oct. 19 vs Bishop McNamara

[MORE: 82 Days to Kickoff - Ridgewood]

Biggest storyline: An encore performance. Can the Tigers make back-to-back playoff appearances this season?

Names to watch this season: FB/DE Luciano Martino and WR/DB Kris Diallo

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers will need to replace eight graduated starters on defense this fall.

EDGY's Early Take: Elmwood Park head coach Dylan Mack is looking to keep the winning momentum found last season going into 2018. The Tigers will rely on an experienced offense with eight returning starters back in the fold and if the defense can gel sooner rather than later, look for Elmwood Park to once again challenge for another state playoff bid this fall. 

66 Days to Kickoff: Rich Central

66 Days to Kickoff: Rich Central preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Rich Central

Head coach: Terrell Alexander

Assistant Coaches: Quincy Woods (OC), Vince Brown (OL), Art Schuldt (ST), Les Hampton (DB), Jerrell Bibbs (DB), Steve Henley (DC), Jeff Spikner (WR), Derrick Goard (LB) William Pass (DL) Chuch Robinson (Skills), Guy Smith (RB) and Shawn Mitchell (Skills)

How they fared in 2017: 8-3 (4-1 Southland Conference). Rich Central made the Class 5A state football playoff field. The Olympians defeated Marion then lost to Dunlap in second round.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Hillcrest

Sept. 1 vs Lemont

Sept. 7 @ Kaneland

Sept. 14 vs Rich South

Sept. 21 @ Crete-Monee

Sept. 28 vs Rich East

Oct. 5 vs Kankakee

Oct. 12 vs Bloom Township

Oct. 19 vs Christ the King

[MORE: 67 Days to Kickoff: Hillcrest]

Biggest storyline: The Olympians have reached the IHSA playoffs three consecutive seasons-- the first such streak in Rich Central history. Can they stay on a winning track and make a deeper playoff run this fall?

Names to watch this season: WR/S Mehki Miller (Miami of Ohio) and RB Sean Tyler (Western Michigan)

Biggest holes to fill: The Olympians will need to replace their entire starting offensive line from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Rich Central and head coach Terrell Alexander has brought winning and stability to the Olympians football program.  The 2018 team has some firepower back in the aforementioned Miller and Tyler; however, the development of their underclassmen group this summer will determine just how far this team will go. The ingredients look to be there for another IHSA state playoff caliber team.