Luwane Pipkins, Charles Matthews and Aaron Jordan all showed up to watch their former teams at the annual Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this weekend. The attendance of three decorated seniors was a reminder that a lot of star power left Illinois high school basketball with the graduation of the Class of 2015.
The era of stars leading powerhouse teams to state titles has an uncertain future entering the 2015-16 high school basketball season.
There isn't a Jalen Brunson, Jahlil Okafor or Jabari Parker type of individual talent to make a team nearly unbeatable as they roll to Peoria. The Class of 2016 will likely be the second time ever the state of Illinois doesn't produce a McDonald's All-American. Rivals only has three players from the Land of Lincoln listed in its current national top 150 for the 2016 class and no one from Illinois is in the top half.
The local headlining stars of the future appear uncertain, but it will make for an exciting and wide-open high school basketball season for 2015-16.
Action at Riverside-Brookfield this weekend indicated that we could be in for a close (and fun) year. On Sunday alone, Morgan Park beat Whitney Young on a buzzer-beater, Kenwood topped Simeon on a buzzer-beater and Bogan captured the title over Kenwood with a late 3-pointer in the final seconds from senior James Jones -- all in a three-hour window.
It was the culmination of a good opening June weekend of summer basketball that makes it appear that things could go in a number of different ways this season.
Bogan emerges as a legitimate threat once again
Defending city champion Bogan was led by the spectacular play of Jones, who had multiple high-scoring performances on Sunday against talented teams in Marian Catholic and Kenwood. The 6-foot-3 Jones is already a known mid-major recruit who was consistently dominant scoring the ball at R-B. Of the five biggest scoring performances of the weekend, Jones had three of them, and his biggest outing came with 31 points in the championship game win over Kenwood.
Using his quick first step and explosiveness, Jones finished plays above the rim, hit perimeter jumpers and also made clutch plays throughout the weekend. The consistent scoring ability of Jones -- who wasn't shabby on the defensive end, either -- made the Bengal role players comfortable staying within their strengths as the Red-South power went unbeaten over the weekend.
Head coach Arthur Goodwin has another experienced returning guard in Bryce Barnes, who had a nice spring playing reserve minutes in the Nike EYBL for the Mac Irvin Fire.
The combination of Barnes and Jones is a big reason the Bengals will be a favorite for the city and a state title this season.
Kenwood makes a statement
The Red-Central was won by Kenwood last season and the Broncos return most of the pieces from that 2014-15 group that had a breakthrough year. Led by senior forward Nick Robinson and senior guard Zion Morgan, Kenwood has multiple Division I prospects in the starting lineup and they have a good amount of size.
In a tight win over Simeon, junior big man Manny Patterson showed he was healthy and ready to make an impact with 14 points on putbacks and post touches. With a smaller Wolverine team than last year, they had a tough time stopping Patterson in the semifinals. Junior forward Dave Hunt provides a lot of energy among the starting group as well and he buried the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Simeon on Sunday.
Head coach Marlo Finner has done a great job of building a winner in a short amount of time and it should be an interesting year in the Red-Central with Curie returning to the Red Division.
- While James Jones helped his recruiting stock more than any other player this weekend, Morgan Park senior guard Jarrin Randall was also tremendous. The 5-foot-11 guard hit a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Whitney Young and buried a lot of tough perimeter shots this weekend. After shooting 43 percent (25-for-58) in the Nike EYBL this spring, Randall looked really good shooting the ball off the catch or off the dribble. With his quick release and ability to space the floor, Randall should have a lot of low-major eyes on him this July. Teammate Jamal Burton was also very good and they picked up the slack when teammate Charlie Moore sat out with injury.
- Speaking of Whitney Young, they're on the younger side, but they have some talented pieces. Senior point guard Derrick Freeman is one of the fastest end-to-end players in the state while sophomore Justin Boyd is comfortable hunting shots from 3-point territory. Junior wing Lucas Williamson also showed flashes of solid play this weekend.
- Strong showing from Marian Catholic, who is very young but has the talent of a potential CSN Preps Power Rankings team. The sophomore backcourt of point guard Chase Adams and shooting guard Brandon Hurt is talented while junior Austin Ritchie can also get going as a perimeter scorer. Senior Myles Howard was an intriguing 6-foot-8 forward who defended everyone from James Jones on the perimeter to post players on the interior. This team didn't have talented junior wing T.J. Smith for the weekend and the Spartans gave Bogan everything they had on Sunday in a close loss after a 3-0 opening day.
- While I mentioned the strong play of sophomore wing Alan Griffin from the first day of action, Oak Park-River Forest has a lot more talent than that. Senior guard Breshawn Wilkerson constantly plays in attack mode and it rubs off on the rest of a talented team that plays an aggressive brand of ball. Griffin continued to hit more shots on Sunday and this team has many more capable scorers on the roster as well.
- Another talented sophomore to keep an eye on this season will be West Aurora guard Camron Donatlan. The 6-foot-0 lefty has long arms and good athleticism as he can already score in multiple ways while finding teammates with solid passing ability. Donatlan put up some big numbers at R-B and could be one of the more productive second-year players in the area this season.
- Playing without injured star junior guard Nojel Eastern, Evanston took home the title in the second-place bracket. Besides a two-point loss to eventual champion Bogan, the Wildkits went 5-1 on the weekend playing a disciplined brand of team ball. Head coach Mike Ellis has a lot of hard-playing guards (senior Micquel Roseman, junior Chris Hamil) for a team that should be tough to beat this season.
- Be on the lookout for some good basketball coming from Downers Grove this year. I mentioned Downers South from my report on Saturday and Downers North also won their pool before running into a tough matchup with Simeon on Sunday. Head coach Jim Thomas has a talented wing to build around in senior Devin Blake the Trojans have some pieces in place for a good season.