Preps Talk

Scott Phillips breaks down the NBC Sports Chicago boys basketball All-Area Team

NBC Sports Chicago

Scott Phillips breaks down the NBC Sports Chicago boys basketball All-Area Team

With the IHSA boys basketball season officially getting canceled, it made for a difficult year for the NBC Sports Chicago All-Area team.

For the past six years, we've waited for the IHSA State Playoffs to finish before handing out a Player of the Year and the 15-member, three-team, All-Area team.

But without the benefit of state titles and marquee, late-season head-to-head matchups it's impossible to fairly give out a Player of the Year award for the 2019-20 season.

There are still 15 players we will honor with All-Area status, however. These were the 15 best players to compete in the Chicagoland area this season. Criteria is based on individual stats and accomplishments, team success and accomplishments and overall ability.

Although many All-Area athletes are committed to major schools and being recruited nationally, recruiting rankings or status has no bearing on the All-Area team. This is simply one opinion of the All-Area team for this season.

If you feel like we got something wrong, feel free to address your opinion to us on our Twitter @NBCSPreps. We thank everyone for following our high school coverage this season and for another great season of High School Lites.


D.J. Steward, Whitney Young senior guard -- Steward closed out a memorable high school career with another impressive season. Playing a national schedule, Steward consistently put up strong numbers playing against many of the top high school teams in the country. The Duke commit was All-Tournament at the Beach Ball Classic and the state's only boys basketball player to make the McDonald's All-American Game -- breaking a five-year drought. Steward played for a Class 3A state title as a freshman at Fenwick and established himself as one of the state's best players the past three years. One of the rare players who thrived in the Catholic League and Public League, Steward is one of the best players to come out of Illinois in the past decade.

Adam Miller, Morgan Park senior guard -- A first-team All-Area selection for the second straight season, the Illinois commit was equally impressive during a huge senior season. Miller helped Morgan Park to the city title game with strong outings in wins over Whitney Young and Bogan in the Public League Playoffs. Miller also made All-Tournament honors at the prestigious Beach Ball Classic with performances of 52 and 41 points at the national event. The senior also was selected to the Jordan Brand Classic and was the only Illinois boys basketball player selected for the Nike Hoop Summit. Miller will be remembered as one of the most electric scorers of the decade and a player who stepped up in numerous big games.

Max Christie, Rolling Meadows junior guard -- Nationally-ranked and very hyped entering the season the 6-foot-6 Christie didn't disappoint. Christie was often double- and triple-teamed playing for Rolling Meadows. Despite the defensive attention, Christie continued to put up dominant and efficient numbers. Christie averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four blocks per game according to stats given to the Chicago Sun-Times. Perhaps most impressively, Christie shot 65 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range. A five-star national recruit, Christie will be one of the most highly-recruited players in the country this summer on the grassroots circuit. 

Bryce Hopkins, Fenwick junior forward -- Committing to Louisville shortly before the high school season, Hopkins backed up his ACC pledge with a monster junior season. In fact, Hopkins set a Fenwick record for points in a single season finishing an average of 23.3 points per game. The 6-foot-6 Hopkins was simply unstoppable with a full head of steam against most teams in the area. It contributed to multiple 40-point outings and a deep (unfinished) Class 3A playoff run. Senior season will be fun to watch Hopkins, as he is sure to climb national rankings this summer.

Dominic Martinelli, Glenbrook South senior forward -- The senior started with an eye-opening 51 points during Thanksgiving week against Buffalo Grove and never slowed down from there. Leading the Titans to a CSL title, Martinelli surpassed the 2,000-point mark for his high school career and averaged over 26 points per game this season. A unique and crafty scorer with a penchant for getting to the free-throw line, Martinelli had massive performances against top-25 teams all season.


Dante Maddox Jr., Bloom senior guard -- It's tough to stand out on a team of five Division I starters. But the 6-foot-2 Maddox Jr. managed to do so with his consistency and strong two-way play. Maddox was a first-team all-conference selection in the Southland after putting up 17.5 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals per game. Efficient as a shooter, Maddox was one of the area's biggest knockdown threats from three. Reliable as a defender, Maddox often took an opposing team's toughest perimeter assignment. The Cal State Fullerton commit was a force during one of the most talented season in the South Suburbs in recent memory.

Ramean Hinton, Curie senior guard -- Only one player on this list can claim being on a nationally-ranked team for two straight seasons. Hinton was one of the area's biggest winners during a strong career at Curie. One of the state's most intense players and a rugged two-way force, Hinton was skilled enough to drop in smooth three-pointers and tough enough to take charges and defend multiple spots on the other end. Hinton finishes his career with a trip to Peoria, a city title as a junior, the state's No. 1 ranking two seasons in a row and a ton of big moments in spotlight games. Hinton is currently uncommitted after recently decommitting from Southeast Missouri State. 

Aquan Smart, Niles North senior guard -- The 6-foot-3 senior guard exploded on the local scene this season. Smart started his final high school season committed to East Tennessee State. Eventually decommitting and pledging to Maryland, Smart became a must-see attraction for high-major coaches by December. Smart put together explosive highlights above the rim coupled with big-game scoring ability. A consistent winner during his time at Niles North, Smart helped the Vikings to a Class 4A regional title and CSL North title. 

Ahron Ulis, Marian Catholic senior guard -- A strong senior season capped a memorable career at Marian Catholic for Ahron Ulis. A starter for a top-25 team for three seasons of his career, Ulis made state as a sophomore and helped the Spartans knock off No. 1 Bloom in the Class 4A sectional semifinals as a senior. The 6-foot-2 Iowa commit finished with over 1,500 points in his Marian Catholic career -- trailing only his brother Tyler on the school's record books. A gifted facilitator, Ulis was the ESCC Player of the Year. 

Antione Bloxton, Bogan senior guard -- Massive scoring numbers and huge plays puts Bloxton squarely on the second team. The senior made second-team All-Tournament at Proviso West -- including 33 points in the title-game win. From there, Bloxton became the most consistent scoring force for one of the top teams in the state this season. Bloxton helped the Bengals make deep Class 3A runs in back-to-back seasons. Through it all, Bloxton will be remembered for his quick-burst scoring runs.


Ahamad Bynum, Simeon junior guard -- The nationally-ranked junior established himself as a varsity force this season. Capable of going on the hottest of scoring runs, the 6-foot-2 Bynum was one of the few area scorers who could finish above the rim or rip threes with consistency. Bynum averaged 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while helping Simeon to the 10th city championship in program history. The DePaul commit could shoot up national rankings this summer if he continues a blistering end of the season stretch.

AJ Casey, Tinley Park sophomore forward -- The only sophomore to make this list, the 6-foot-8 Casey turned into a force in his first year at Tinley Park. Showing a more complete all-around game than freshman year at Simeon, Casey was often aggressively defended by other teams because of his lofty national status. Casey averaged over 22 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Titans this season. Already with multiple high-major scholarship offers, the future is also very bright for Casey as he heads into an important summer.

Amar Augillard, Zion-Benton junior guard -- Putting up massive scoring numbers was a consistent trait of the 6-foot-5 wing during a memorable junior season. Augillard put up over 25 points per game for the Zee-Bees, becoming Zion-Benton's latest standout player. Augillard also stepped up his play against strong competition with 23 points in a win over Evanston and 27 points in a loss to Stevenson. A three-level scorer who can get hot from distance, Augillard could be in line for a breakout summer with college coaches.

RJ Ogom, Homewood-Flossmoor senior forward -- During a guard-driven year of area hoops, the College of Charleston commit stood out for his exceptional play on the interior. Ogom was a double-double threat each time he took the floor as he put up 15 points and seven rebounds per game for a consistent top-15 team. Ogom was tough and athletic enough to create problems on the inside but skilled enough to take the ball outside and knock down perimeter jumpers. Ogom helped the Vikings to a title at Hinsdale Central and a Class 4A regional title. 

DJ Williams, Thornton senior forward -- The 6-foot-3 Williams was the most unlikely player to make this team given his minimal preseason fanfare. That changed in a hurry once Thornton started beating everyone. The Wildcats were a force all season at 29-1 with Williams averaging a double-double and close to 4.5 assists per game. A rugged do-it-all force for Thornton, Williams could defend nearly any spot on the floor and often surprised with big scoring runs at opportune times. Williams came up with huge plays in Thornton wins over Bloom and Homewood-Flossmoor during the season.

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

There’s country strong. And then there’s Jerry Sloan.

The NBA Hall of Fame player and coach, a tenacious defender and steady offensive threat, became a household name with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s. Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. Two-time NBA-All-Star.

Sloan died Friday after a courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

But it was Sloan’s perseverance as a child and his dedication to the game of basketball —and his home town— 300 miles south of the Windy City that made him a real star.

[MORE: Remember ‘Original Bull’ Jerry Sloan as he lived: tough, humble and honest]

The former Bull, who went on to lead the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons there as a head coach, grew up on a farm near McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan would routinely wake up in the wee hours to do family chores. He’d then walk two miles to the town’s high school for basketball practice.

The foundation of a hard work ethic and a ferocious competitive nature paved the way for Sloan’s rise to stardom.

Sloan played on several great McLeansboro teams in the late-50s. In his junior season, he helped guide his squad to a 19-6 record for coach Gene Haile. He followed that up with a senior season most kids would dream of: 26 wins, 3 losses. He was named to the All-State team.

He would later guide the Evansville Purple Aces to two Division II national championships. He became known as “the Original Bull” shortly after the startup Bulls franchise drafted him in the 1966 expansion draft. The rest was history—a brilliant 10-year career in Chicago as a player and nearly three more as a head coach on West Madison before becoming a legend in Salt Lake City.

But it was his small-town roots that made Jerry Sloan all the more genuine.

He would return to McLeansboro several times in 1984 —the year he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz— to watch his high school team play. His son, Brian, led the Foxes to the Class A state championship that year, going 35-0 in the process. Brian went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

Sloan would return frequently to this Southern Illinois town many times during his run with the Jazz— a run where he only finished below .500 once and racked up an astonishing career 1,221 wins. Hamilton County High School, formerly known as McLeansboro, dedicated its gym in Sloan’s honor in Dec. 2012. A road in McLeansboro is now called Jerry Sloan Avenue.

In a statement, a representative from McLeansboro High School said the following:

“Today is a sad day for Hamilton County and the Foxes. Coach Jerry Sloan has passed away. Coach Sloan graduated from McLeansboro High School in 1960 and was always a hometown boy. Whenever he returned he was just one of us. He will be greatly missed. RIP Coach Sloan.”

McLeansboro will always be Sloan Country.

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Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

J.J. McCarthy, the state’s top-ranked high school quarterback and overall player according to Rivals, is transferring from Nazareth Academy to IMG Academy in Florida.

McCarthy made the announcement on his Twitter page Monday afternoon.

The news sent shock waves throughout the national prep football landscape. McCarthy, committed to play at Michigan, led the Roadrunners to an IHSA 7A second place finish back in November. As a sophomore in 2018, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. It culminated in a state title win and a 13-1 season.

The move makes sense for McCarthy, as he will team up with offensive lineman Greg Crippen, a fellow Michigan commit. According to Rivals, McCarthy (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 33 overall recruit in the country.

The loss is a huge one for head coach Tim Racki and company at the La Grange Park school. That said, the Roadrunners are one of the dominant programs in IHSA football, compiling a 38-4 record the past three seasons with three state titles in the previous six campaigns.

The big questions: Will other high-caliber Illinois high school athletes follow McCarthy? When will the IHSA commit to a fall sports schedule? What will Illinois high school football look like in the fall? What guidelines will be in place? There are many uncertainties.

What is known: The IHSA chose to cancel the state basketball tournament and all 2020 spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois is currently in a phased reopening of businesses and other institutions. Florida is ahead of Illinois in respect to some of those aforementioned facilities.

The risk, or perhaps the unknown, was worth it for McCarthy and his family. Will Florida —or other states, including Illinois— even be cleared to play football come August? Will his move be a productive one in retrospect?

Time will tell.