IMG Academy

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.

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

Recruiting News and Notes: Christian Perez commits to Navy

Recruiting News and Notes: Christian Perez commits to Navy

Christian Perez (QB), East St. Louis

East St. Louis quarterback Christian Perez (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) decided to end his recruiting process this week and give Navy his verbal commitment.

"It's a really big decision and I just felt very comfortable with the coaches at Navy," Perez said. "They easily recruited me the hardest out of anyone plus Navy offers so many opportunities on and off the field. Both of my parents are in the Air Force so in many ways I've been around the military my entire life. I fully understand the commitment both before the academy and after graduation at Navy. It's great to know that I'll have a job and a potential career path waiting for me after the Naval Academy.

"Navy also offers a great education and top academics along with a great football team. It's just a tremendous overall opportunity that I just didn't want to miss out on."

Alec Pierce (WR), Glenbard West

Glenbard West senior wide receiver Alec Pierce (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) has added multiple offers this summer, but don't look for a quick college decision just yet.

"I'm looking at taking my recruiting process into the season," Pierce said. "A lot of schools, especially schools in the Big Ten all want to see my early senior video. I already have some great offers and options but I also feel that I want to give some of those other schools a better look. I'm willing to wait until they get a chance to evaluate me this fall. I believe I can play at the highest level in college and I want to make sure I give myself every opportunity."

[RELATED: Noah Shannon pledges to Iowa]

Alante Brown (QB), Simeon

Simeon junior quarterback Alante Brown (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) is already holding two early scholarship offers and has increased recruiting attention this summer.

"I have two offers from NIU and Toledo so far," Brown said. "I'm planning to go to Miami of Ohio this coming Friday for a camp and a visit. I have also camped at Illinois and NIU so far this summer. Also this coming weekend I'm going to visit Purdue, Central Michigan and Western Michigan."

Aaron Antoniou (OLB), Hinsdale Central

Outside linebacker Aaron Antoniou (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) has transferred back to Hinsdale Central for his senior year after spending last season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. 

"I was playing on second string as a strong safety and also playing on special teams at IMG last year," Antoniou said. "After looking at everything I decided along with my family that coming back home for my senior year was my best decision. I'm just excited to be back home and back with kids that I already know and playing for my home school. This year I'm looking at playing some defensive end and linebacker for my team this season and I'm excited to be back at Hinsdale Central. It feels good to be back home for sure."

Antoniou has drawn recruiting interest from the likes of Minnesota, Illinois, Western Illinois and UMass.