Preps Talk

Five takeaways from the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout

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NBC Sports Chicago

Five takeaways from the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout

The Riverside-Brookfield Shootout is annually one of the summer's must-see events for Illinois high school basketball, but this season was elevated to another level.

Division I college coaches were able to evaluate at the tournament thanks to the NCAA's new June live evaluation period as over 60 of the state's best teams played for three days in front of hundreds of college coaches.

In the end, there was a lot to be learned about some of the area's stronger teams this season while the junior class looks like they'll be one of the strongest in terms of depth that we've seen in recent years.

Here's a look at five major takeaways to watch for this season after Riverside-Brookfield.

1. Stevenson remains a major threat after last season's strong finish

One of the most pleasant surprises of last season was Stevenson as the Patriots went from an unranked preseason team to nearly making it to state in Class 4A. We were reminded of just how good Stevenson might be this year at R-B as the Patriots took home the title with an impressive three days of play.

While head coach Pat Ambrose's roster isn't littered with Division I prospects and household names, Stevenson has the luxury of returning most of last season's successful core. Senior guard Luke Chieng will be tough to replace but Ambrose returns his two sons, senior shooter Matt and junior floor general Evan, along with athletic forward Robert Holmes and experienced senior John Ittounas.

The bench also appears to be far from bare for the Patriots as Stevenson deserves credit for picking up wins over powerhouse programs like Simeon, Collinsville, Curie and Whitney Young over the course of the weekend. Matt Ambrose was named MVP of the event, but Evan Ambrose is a heady point guard who makes plays for others while Holmes has improved enough to now be on Division II radars with his electric above-the-rim play.

It's hard to say where Stevenson will be ranked this preseason, but they'll undoubtedly be the team to beat in the North Suburban after sharing the league title with Waukegan last season. And although Ambrose is perhaps most known for his Peoria trips with Jalen Brunson, Connor Cashaw and Justin Smith, he also made a prior Peoria trip with Stevenson (2007) and a deep playoff run last season without high-major star power.

Stevenson will be a major threat in the area this season as they're one of the most cohesive and selfless teams in Illinois.

2. Despite title-game loss, Whitney Young might be the area's top preseason team

Whitney Young lost in the title game at R-B to Stevenson but the Dolphins still have the look of a team who will be in the mix for the No. 1 spot once preseason rankings come out.

Although Morgan Park, and a handful of others, remain firmly in the preseason No. 1 conversation, it's hard not to like what the Dolphins bring to the table in terms of star power, senior leadership and overall depth.

The backcourt of seniors D.J. Steward and Tyler Beard remains perhaps the best one-two punch of any tandem in the state, and they're joined by the deepest backcourt to give Whitney Young supreme depth. Aurora Christian transfer Jaeshon Thomas already appears to be a starting-caliber player (although the Public League is a major step up from the Class 1A program he came from) while the bench of senior Elliot Sieger and poised freshman Dalen Davis would earn starting roles at many other places.

And the frontcourt keeps getting better for the Dolphins as well. Junior Grant Newell is starting to turn potential into production with his intriguing inside-outside play while senior Sangolay Njie is a solid defender who can control the glass.

However, head coach Tyrone Slaughter still needs to figure out why the Dolphins take their foot off the gas sometimes. There were also frightening stretches of play from Whitney Young where the Dolphins looked like they were playing at another level compared the event's other teams. As long as Steward and Beard stay healthy, the Dolphins will be a huge contender in the city and Class 4A.

3. Curie and Bogan are strong despite significant senior losses

Two of the area's best teams last season, Bogan and Curie, both lost first-team All-Area players from last season after making trips to Peoria. It'll be impossible for the Bengals to replace big man Rashaun Agee and guard DaJuan Gordon.

Thankfully for both programs, their depth at all levels continues to shine through as both teams remain active in the city and state title conversations.

Curie has a blossoming star in senior Ramean Hinton as the scoring wing can get buckets at all three levels while still maintaining improved efficiency as an overall offensive threat. Hinton has the potential to breakout and be a first-team All-Area player next season as his confidence is soaring this summer.

The Condors also return steady ball handler and menacing defender Elijah Pickens in the backcourt while junior Phillip Berryhill continues to look like an intriguing future player despite missing some shots this weekend.

Bogan has depth and athletics all over the floor as they fly to the ball defensively with some emerging talents at multiple spots. Senior guard Kyndall Davis drew rave reviews from college coaches for his upside and above-the-rim play as he's one of the area's better two-way wings. Big man Tremear Fraley finished some vicious lobs as his motor and bounciness stood out to help make him one of the event's better frontcourt players.

Both teams have plenty more assets to choose from as the Bengals and Condors can both press, attack on offense and also knock down perimeter shots. It's hard to envision a top ten that doesn't include both of these teams come preseason.

4. The addition of Louis Lesmond makes Notre Dame a team to watch

Notre Dame was already going to be fun to watch this season. The junior tandem of guard Anthony Sayles and forward Troy D'Amico was one of the state's blossoming tandems when it comes to overall play and college looks.

Now that the Dons have added transfer Louis Lesmond to the mix however, Notre Dame is going to be one of the must-see teams to catch this season. Now featuring three bonafide studs, the Dons have multiple scoring options, adept handlers and length and size at most positions.

With that junior trio joined by 6-foot-4 senior Jason Bergstrom, a talented scorer and prospect in his own right, Notre Dame is a no-brainer top-25 team next season with huge aspirations to reach higher levels following a promising 19-win season.

5. The junior class has far more star power than just Rolling Meadows guard Max Christie

A monster spring and summer has vaulted Rolling Meadows junior guard Max Christie into the five-star spectrum in national recruiting rankings. Christie didn't play this weekend at R-B in order to rest after a long summer, but the national recruit and recent Olympic Gold Medalist is the benchmark in what is looking like a deep junior class.

The Class of 2021 should have many stars leading teams this season. Fenwick forward Bryce Hopkins, OPRF wing Isaiah Barnes, Simeon guard Ahamed Bynum, Neuqua Valley wing John Poulakidas, Mundelein point guard Conor Enright, big man Scottie Ebube and Hillcrest wing Julius Rollins were among a small group of juniors who earned a lot of praise from Division I coaches with their play at Riverside-Brookfield.

When you also factor in the Notre Dame trio of juniors, Evanston's junior talent of Jaylin Gibson, Blake Peters and Isaiah Holden, Lincoln Park's returning backcourt of Julio Montes and Ismail Habib and Schaumburg big man Chris Hodges, who sat out, the Class of 2021 has the potential to be the best class the area has seen the past few seasons.

Preps Basketball Power Rankings No. 13 Lincoln Park

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NBC Sports Chicago

Preps Basketball Power Rankings No. 13 Lincoln Park

School: Lincoln Park

2018-19 record: 23-8 (7-2 Public League Red-North/West)

Postseason results: Lost to Riverside-Brookfield in Class 4A regional finals.

Players to watch: The backcourt of junior guards Ismail Habib and Julio Montes were outstanding last season as they showed poise and scoring ability. Both Habib and Montes are creative off the dribble and capable of knocking down jumpers. Senior big man Romelle Howard has a chance to be a force after some strong showings during the summer.

Why they're in the power rankings: Last season was a successful one for the Lions. They established themselves as a consistent top-25 program with a great returning talent base for the future. With a top returning backcourt, Lincoln Park should remain one of the city's best teams this season.    

Did you know? Playing one of the toughest schedules in the area last season, Lincoln Park managed its first 20-win season in a decade.   

Preps Basketball Player of the Year Preseason Power Rankings

Preps Basketball Player of the Year Preseason Power Rankings

The 2019-20 high school basketball season has plenty of star power to keep track of this season. One of the strongest groups of Player of the Year contenders the area has seen in years, this year's group features multiple nationally-ranked players and intriguing candidates.

We'll continue to monitor Player of the Year candidates as the season goes on but here's a look at the top five contenders entering this season. 

1. Adam Miller, Morgan Park -- The favorite entering the 2019-20 season has to be Miller after he was arguably the state's best player last season.

Averaging 28.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, nobody in the area is capable of going for scoring runs quite like Miller. He can go on insane three-point bursts off the dribble while also creating offense for his Morgan Park teammates. The senior broke the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament scoring record while having games of 48 and 45 points there last season.

The Mustangs also could be the best team in the state this season as Miller will have plenty of help around him. That could mean some huge offensive nights for Miller since defenses shouldn't be about to key in on him with junk defenses like he saw so often last season. 

2. D.J. Steward, Whitney Young -- Steward had perhaps the best summer of any in-state player as he rose up national rankings and committed to Duke. But he's still slightly behind Miller in the Player of the Year preseason race because his numbers haven't been as massive.

Still averaging a stellar 24.3 points and 3.2 assists per game for the Dolphins last season, Steward is ultra efficient as an offensive threat. On a team that will play a national schedule with tons of opportunities against nationally-ranked teams, Steward will also get a ton of chances to make his case during the season.

While this season looks like a Miller vs. Steward race for Player of the Year going into it, both players are also trying to capture state titles after falling short last season. Earning state hardware could wind up being the difference in what should be a tight race.

3. Max Christie, Rolling Meadows -- If anyone is to push Miller and Steward's two-senior battle for Player of the Year it will likely be Christie. The state's top college prospect, the 6-foot-7 junior is a top-ten national recruit in the Class of 2021 who won a gold medal with USA Basketball over the summer.

Putting up 25.2 points, nine rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a sophomore, Christie has already won MSL East Player of the Year honors and scored over 1,000 points during his two-year varsity career.

Capable of putting up 50 points during a game or throwing up a triple-double, Christie is one of the most electric players the area has seen in years. Watching his junior season should be a ton of fun as he has the potential to win Player of the Year if he can stay healthy and put up huge numbers.

4. Bryce Hopkins, Fenwick -- Also coming off of a big summer is this 6-foot-7 junior forward. Hopkins was already consistently putting up 30-point games by the end of his sophomore season. Now, the junior could emerge as a a sleeper Player of the Year threat after becoming a nationally-ranked Class of 2021 prospect this summer.

Committed recently to Louisville, Hopkins averaged 23 points per game last season. After seeing his complete scoring package grow and his strength continue to develop, Hopkins could be an unstoppable scorer for the Friars this season.

Hopkins will also be counted on to be a leader of a young team as Fenwick plays a tough schedule with tons of showcase opportunities this season. 

5. Ahron Ulis, Marian Catholic -- There are a number of candidates who could go in this final spot but Ulis gets a slight nod over the others. A winning player who has already made a trip to Peoria as a sophomore, Ulis has helped the Spartans to some very successful seasons while running point.

Averaging 18.3 points, 4.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game as a junior, the Iowa commit will consistently have the ball in his hands for a likely top-ten team as Marian Catholic has big expectations this season. If Ulis consistently shows an ability to knock down perimeter jumpers then he could have a huge season to close out a memorable high school career.