Preps Talk

Top 50 High School Basketball Players to Watch in Illinois

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Top 50 High School Basketball Players to Watch in Illinois

There isn't a bonafide superstar in the Chicagoland area entering the 2015-16 high school basketball season but there are still plenty of talented players you should be aware of. With the season starting in Illinois this week, here is a list of 50 local players you need to watch play during some point this season.

Seniors

Mike Ballard, Guard, Fenwick

Bryce Barnes, Guard, Bogan

Barret Benson, Center, Hinsdale South (Northwestern)

Micah Bradford, Guard, Bradley-Bourbonnais (Valparaiso)

Jamal Burton, Guard, Morgan Park

Jacob Cushing, Forward, Neuqua Valley (Cal Poly)

Chris Duff, Guard, Carmel (Western Illinois)

Lorenzo Edwards, Forward, Lake Forest

Devin Gage, Guard, Curie (DePaul)

James Gordon, Forward, Simeon (Toledo)

Elyjah Goss, Forward, Plainfield East (IUPUI)

Rodney Herenton, Guard, Stevenson

Evan Hines, Guard, Niles West

Zach Hollywood, Center, Bradley-Bourbonnais (James Madison)

Daniko Jackson, Guard, Riverside-Brookfield

Brandon Johnson, Forward, TF South (Western Michigan)

James Jones, Guard, Bogan (Buffalo)

Kevin Krieger, Forward, Plainfield North

Jon Marotta, Center, Lincoln-Way West

Charlie Moore, Guard, Morgan Park (Memphis)

Zion Morgan, Guard, Kenwood

Zach Norvell, Guard, Simeon (Gonzaga)

Justin Pierce, Forward, Glenbard West (William & Mary)

Nick Rakocevic, Center, St. Joseph

Jarrin Randall, Guard, Morgan Park (Western Michigan)

Nick Robinson, Forward, Kenwood (Indiana State)

Matty Smith, Guard, South Elgin (Central Michigan)

Mike Smith, Guard, Fenwick

Josh Thomas, Guard, Simeon

Antonio Williams, Guard, Proviso East

Chris Williams, Guard, St. Rita

[POWER RANKINGS: No. 1 Morgan Park]

Juniors

Nana Akenton, Forward, Bolingbrook

Denis Alibegovic, Guard, Downers South

Trevian Bell, Forward, Joliet West

Craig Beaudion, Guard, Whitney Young

Tai Bibbs, Guard, West Chicago

Tyler Chisom, Forward, Proviso East

TJ Clifford, Forward, Downers South

Nojel Eastern, Guard, Evanston

Evan Gilyard, Guard, Simeon

Demarius Jacobs, Guard, Uplift

Elijah Joiner, Guard, Curie

Cameron Krutwig, Jacobs

Christian Negron, Forward, Larkin

Manny Patterson, Center, Kenwood

Justin Smith, Forward, Stevenson

[POWER RANKINGS: No. 2 Simeon]

Sophomores

Chase Adams, Guard, Marian Catholic

Xavier Castenada, Guard, Whitney Young

Camron Donatlan, Guard, West Aurora

Raekwon Drake, Guard, Orr

5 Days to Kickoff: Batavia

5 Days to Kickoff: Batavia

NBCSportsChicago.com 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 Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Batavia

Head coach: Dennis Piron

Assistant coaches: Matt Holm, Billy Colamatteo, Sean Anderson, P.J. White, Dan Cadena, Adam Lester, Adam Kolowski, Mike Theriault, Zac Roberts and Erin Finucane

How they fared in 2018: 12-1 (7-0 DuKane Conference). Batavia made the Class 7A state playoff field and defeated Granite City, Moline and Willowbrook. They advanced to the semifinals where they lost to Nazareth Academy.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 31 vs East St. Louis
Sept. 6 @ Naperville North
Sept. 13 @ Lake Park
Sept. 20 vs Glenbard North
Sept. 27 @ Wheaton South
Oct. 4 @ Geneva
Oct. 11 vs St. Charles East
Oct. 18 @ St. Charles North
Oct. 25 vs Wheaton North

[MORE: 64 Days to Kickoff - Geneva

Biggest storyline: Batavia has won a minimum of 12 games four times since 2011 (two state titles: 2013, 2017). They were within striking distance of another title game appearance last season. Can Batavia reload and make it to DeKalb in November?

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Quinn Urwiler (Sr., North Dakota) and ILB Matt "Mojo" Weerts (Jr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Bulldogs welcome back nine returning starters (four offense, five defense); they will need to patch a few holes on both the offensive and defensive lines. 

EDGY's Early Take: Head coach Dennis Piron has simply built the Bulldogs into a perennial state title contending team over his eight seasons (85-12 overall record, two state titles). The 2019 Bulldogs welcome back some key names from a season ago including RB/LB Quinn Urwiler, his brother junior RB/DB Trey Urwiler, senior RB Art Taylor, junior ILB Matt Weerts and senior S Sam Barus. The schedule is loaded, like usual. The opener vs. East St. Louis is full of intrigue. The Week 8 game against St. Charles North could be a must-see. If the new faces can step up and help Batavia reload in a few key spots, the Bulldogs will again challenge for the Class 7A state title. 

6 Days to Kickoff: Naperville Central

6 Days to Kickoff: Naperville Central

NBCSportsChicago.com 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 Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Naperville Central

Head coach: Mike Stine

Assistant coaches: Mike Ulreich (DC), Tim Boecker (DB), Marty Balle (LB), Marc Anderson (DB), Eric Novak (DL), Adam Pucylowski (LB), Rick Erickson (DL). Offense: Mike Stine (OC), Pat Watson (OL/Assistant OC), Tony Colletti (OL), Phil Allen (H-Backs), Kofi Hughes (WR), Josh McLeod (WR), Joe Denney (WR), Ryan Clifford (RB) and Chad Bradley (QB)

How they fared in 2018: 7-4 (4-0 Dupage Valley Conference). Naperville Central made the Class 8A state playoff field, defeated Plainfield South and then lost to Marist in the second round.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Hinsdale Central
Sept. 6 vs Lincoln-Way East
Sept. 13 @ Pickerington Central (Ohio)
Sept. 20 vs Metea Valley
Sept. 27 vs Naperville North at NCC
Oct. 4 @ Neuqua Valley
Oct. 11 @ Waubonsie Valley
Oct. 18 vs DeKalb
Oct. 25 vs East St. Louis

Biggest storyline: Can the Redhawks’ transfers mesh well with their new teammates and win big in Class 8A?

Names to watch this season: QB Sam Jackson (Jr., Minnesota) WR Jadon Thompson (Sr., Illinois)

Biggest holes to fill: The Redhawks welcome back just seven returning starters (four offense, three defense); however, some key incoming transfers will certainly help fill those holes. 

EDGY's Early Take: Naperville Central had a short IHSA playoff run last season. Coach Stine’s 2019 Redhawks might be young in spots, but they have the potential to be one of the most explosive offenses in the state. Junior quarterback Sam Jackson (Minnesota) played receiver in 2018 and brings incredible speed/quickness and athletic ability to the offense. Incoming (transfer) wide receivers Thompson and sophomore Reggie Fleurima provide instant big play ability to the Naperville Central offense.

If the new faces on defense can develop and progress this fall, the Redhawks have a chance of being one of the top teams in Chicagoland in 2019.