Author Archives: Kaleb Carter

Benet’s Morgan Demos, A Navy Commit, Has Demeanor For Service

Benet's Morgan Demos, a Navy Recruit, Has Demeanor for Service

In summing up Benet Academy senior forward Morgan Demos, coach Joe Kilbride called Demos “high-caliber, high-character.”

He noted that Demos is one of the only players he’s ever coached where opposing team’s parents will reach out to compliment Demos’ demeanor. 

“She’ll go and fist-bump the kid that was beating the hell out of her all game,” Kilbride said. 

Those are the types of attributes that lend themselves to a high-potential future at the Naval Academy, where Demos, a 6-2 standout, verbally committed on Friday, July 30. 

Demos talked on and off with Navy’s coaches for over a year and creating a rolling list of her top 10 programs with Kilbride. She widened Navy’s eyes further with strong play with IL Lady Lightning this July.

After a trip to Annapolis while at a Nike event, things fell in line. She said everything about the trip and the campus enthralled her. 

“Everything about that trip felt right,” Demos said. “I met some of the players on the team. I saw the court. I saw what they had to offer with the campus.

“Currently, they’re in their plebe summer,” she continued. “So all of the incoming freshmen have to do this six-week boot camp, and so we got to see some of them in action while they were doing it. You get to see in-person what you have to go through when you go there, and I was all for it.”

Demos’ sister Madison, a Benet graduate that Morgan saw some time on the floor with, is in a service academy basketball program, playing for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. 

As the younger sister, Morgan learned quickly to soak in the information Madison was sharing at home during her own recruiting process and in talking about her time with the school.

“I would hear what she’s going through absentmindedly and I would (take) it in,” Morgan Demos said. “When I was thinking about college, I would ask a question and she would give me all the information about it, like what you can do when you’re serving after college, what you experience, you don’t have to force yourself. She was very supportive, ‘If it’s not your thing, don’t do it, you’re going to know though.’”

Demos had her sister to battle against growing up, and things got even more challenging when joined Benet Academy. She consistently found herself competing against bigger, more experienced players despite playing competitive travel ball herself. Though she’s now a Division I commit, Morgan Demos was not a starter as a freshman. 

Kilbride noted that right from the outset of her varsity career, she sat behind and battled fellow post player Ashley Konkle every day. Kilbride said that Konkle, now at Western Michigan, was understandably stronger and more physical than Demos, who he said now is strong like “a horse in the post.”

“She’s just a very responsible, hard-working, focused (player),” Kilbride said. “The colleges love the fact that she’s … a worker. She’s gotten better every year really since fifth grade. She’s gotten better every year at Benet. She’s one of those kids who’s going to keep getting better in college, and that’s important to them. They want kids where we’re not looking at their ceiling, we’re looking at where they’re starting from.”

Competing against the likes of Konkle and 2021 graduate Kendall Moriarty (now at Nebraska) helped Demos learn to adapt on the court. As Kilbride has told his players plenty of times, “Champions adjust.”

“I learned there’s different types of games for each player, and I adjusted to each type, so it was very beneficial,” Demos said. “In the post, Ashley Konkle, was a lot stronger than I was, so I had to learn to battle with that strength. She taught me very good habits that I have today.”

And while the effects have COVID-19 hindered recruiting for class of 2022 players, Kilbride felt that Demos was the type of player who was particularly affected by  colleges’ inability to see her play in-person in the summer of 2020 and this past winter. 

“She’s incredibly strong,” Kilbride said. “I’ve told coaches, ‘You can put her in a Division I practice right now and she’s not going to get broken or beaten up.’ She’s going to hold her own.”

“She’d have games where she only scored 8 points, but she got double-teamed on every catch,” Kilbride said. “So she’s creating wide-open shots for teammates on kickouts and dives and stuff. She’d have 10 rebounds and 5 blocks and she’d dominate the game having single-digit scoring.”

Benet heads into the coming school year with talent in waves. Class of 2023 guard Lenee Beaumont comes back on the heels of a summer that has yielded her over 20 college offers. Demos said Margaret Temple is a good shooter on a team full of them. Others like Emma Webb and several other underclassmen guards have given the Hawks reason to be excited. 

“We have new players and I’m excited to help them get the handle of the ropes and everything,” Demos said. “Everyone has put in so much effort when I played with them in June.”

Demos also had a parting message about the recruiting process, which has been extra stressful for many since the pandemic began. 

“Whoever has committed or hasn’t committed, they should just enjoy the process as they’re going along with it because COVID,” Demos said. “It was a bit unfortunate because it slowed the process down, but everything will work out.”

Harlem’s Mya Davidson Commits to Lindenwood, Comforted By Mother’s Wisdom

During the college commitment process, Harlem senior Mya Davidson’s mother gave her the comforting advice she needed to make a decision.

“She really emphasized, the college you choose has to feel like a home away from home,” Davidson said. “And that’s what Lindenwood was for me when I first set foot on campus, it … really felt like home.”

A skilled player on the NIC-10 runner-up Huskies a season ago, Davidson learned that lesson and others from her mother during her recruitment. Mya’s mother, Lauren, played at the University of Indianapolis — a fellow Great Lakes Valley Conference member with Lindenwood.

“I was talking to a few D-I’s, a few D-II’s,” Davidson said. “I’ve always had interest since starting freshman year (AAU and travel), and I’ve been in constant communication with them but not really offers and visits.”

Davidson got her offer from Lindenwood on July 13 and received one from McKendree as well. Davidson said her mom’s love of basketball was passed down to her early on, and she knew from the time she started playing the game that she wanted to play in college. Now, Davidson has a game that her future coaches love.

“They really don’t want to change much about me,” Davidson said. “They say I’m really versatile and they just want to enhance what I already have.”

Davidson, a 6-3 wing, scored a team-leading 13.2 points per game as a junior. She added 5.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.0 steals, 1.1 blocks per game, shooting 50% from the floor on 10.6 shots per game. She was named to the NIC-10 all-conference first team.

“Mya is so versatile in both her offense and defensive expertise,” Harlem coach Beth Meyer said. “She can score and defend both inside and out — and she is confident in doing so.”

This summer with Midwest Wildcats, a Rockford AAU travel squad, she worked on improving her perimeter game — she shot just 18 three-pointers as a junior, though she made 6. She said she feels comfortable taking smaller girls to the basket and handling the ball on the perimeter with bigger post defenders on her, knowing she can beat them off the dribble. 

“I don’t consider myself much of anything because I can do most of it, but I guess I consider myself more of a wing,” Davidson said. 

Meyer noted Davidson’s footwork and how she is ‘smooth’ in attacking the hoop from anywhere on the floor. That contributes to her ability to finish inside with finesse. 

“As she transitions to the next level, I think she will be a long guard who plays primarily from the perimeter,” Meyer said. “We want to do everything we can to help her develop there.”

For Harlem, critical contributors Myah Udell and Julie Bailey will be back at guard as seniors, as well as junior guard Keyara Bailey. 

With Grace Vyborney, Davidson’s cousin to the fold as a rising junior, the Huskies are hoping to make a run at defending NIC-10 champs Hononegah. 

“I feel like with our team, everyone should not be afraid to be a leader, and that’s something coach Meyer hounds in,” Davidson said. “Everyone should be able to talk, your voice matters. We want to be a really good team and talk a lot more.”

Illinois natives on the 2020-21 Lindenwood roster:

  • Senior Hennessey Handy (Joliet native ad Plainfield Central graduate)
  • Senior Julia Ruzevich (Orland Park native, Marist graduate)
  • Senior Kate Ruzevich (Orland Park native, Marist graduate)
  • Junior Blair Borrowman (New Canton native, Western-Payson graduate)
  • Freshman Kendra Lee (Arlington Heights native, Buffalo Grove graduate)

Tatiana Thomas Commits to Kent State, Continues Bolingbrook to MAC Pipeline

'Throwback' Tatiana Thomas Commits to Kent State, Continues Bolingbrook-to-MAC Pipeline

Tatiana Thomas is a throwback player of sorts in the mind of Bolingbrook girls basketball coach Chris Smith. 

“She does what she’s supposed to do,” Smith said. “You can get on her and she’s going to say, ‘Yes coach, my fault coach, I’ll do better next time coach.’ There’s never no disrespect from her at all.”

He says Thomas doesn’t take plays off, and that she has a burning desire to compete.

“Whether she does something positive or negative, she’s always positive,” Smith said. “No matter if I have to get on her and be hard on her, she’s always positive.”

After notable receiving interest from Division I programs as far back as 2019 — Thomas was offered by Marquette that June — the 5-11 forward committed to Kent State on July 3. 

“They’ve been recruiting me for a year-and-a-half, and at first I just had a lot of different schools talking to me so I wasn’t pinpoint on one school,” Thomas said. “But once I visited them, I liked the coaches. They were really nice, kind and genuine. I got to hang out with the girls and they were super sweet, and I would ask them questions and I feel like they told me how it was. Some people just gaslight you … I feel like they were pretty truthful … it seems like a good place to call home.”

Currently, four other Lady Raiders are on MAC rosters: De’Ahna Richardson at Western Michigan, Jayden Marable at Northern Illinois, Jahari Smith at Central Michigan and Treasure Thompson (LSU transfer) at Eastern Michigan. 

There wasn’t too much of an adjustment period for Thomas after her transfer from Montini before her junior season, as she exploded for 22 points in her first game with the program. Before she had even made the decision to play at Bolingbrook last summer, several of her future teammates took her on a trip to a mall to make her feel welcome. 

“I meshed with the girls really well,” Thomas said. “They’re all super nice and welcoming.”

Thomas can fill out the stat sheet in a number of ways — note her seven-steal performance against Homewood-Flossmoor — and Smith says rebounding ability sets Thomas apart from her peers. 

“She is notorious on the boards and as a defensive presence,” Smith said. “Offensively she can hit the mid-range, attack off the bounce and use her quickness.”

Despite not being the primary scoring option on the team, her all-around ability yielded her Southwest Suburban Conference Blue Division Athlete of the Year honors. And now she can potentially repeat that honor as a senior.

While the Raiders haven’t spent much time in competition this summer — Smith likes his teams to work on conditioning and skill development during the June team period — Thomas was content with the time used to further bond with teammates and prepare for the upcoming season. She’s been playing more of a shooting guard and wing spot for travel squad Illinois Lady Lightning this summer, a program that she has been part of for years. 

“I’ve definitely improved over the last year,” Thomas said. “I do a lot more outside shooting and I handle the ball a lot more. For my travel team I play the two instead of the three or four. I do play those positions still, but I’ve been mostly a two (this summer). I’m really excited to be able to go to Kent State and for them to work with me. I feel like they’re going to make my skillset so much better from what it is now.”

Kent State coach Todd Starkey told Thomas that he likes her game as is and that made Thomas feel comfortable and appreciated, she said.

“If I go to Kent State, I’ll be able to be an impact player and I’ll be able to help my team,” Thomas said. “If that means I were to be able to sit on the bench, I would do that and be the best bench player ever.”

“I really want to make sure I keep myself in shape, especially not just during the high school season but after going into college so I don’t feel like I’m going to die at the college workouts. I want to do that and I want to improve my outside game, my shot, my mid-range and get my handles better before I go off to college so I have a better transition.”

With another bonafide Division I recruit back this season in Angelina Smith, and a strong core of returning players who saw major time for Bolingbrook a season ago, Thomas enters her senior season ready to focus. 

“It’s a big relief to know where I want to go and have it all figured out and stuff, so I don’t have to be stressed out through my whole senior year so I can focus on my grades, basketball and just having fun,” Thomas said. 

Princeton Commit Taylor Charles Takes Leadership Role for Burlington Central

Taylor Charles’ defensive prowess has had colleges inquiring about her since middle school. 

“That defensive presence, at the rim specifically, she has incredible ability to change the game from the inside of the basket and out,” Burlington Central coach Collin Kalamatas said. “Not only the shot-blocking element, but her presence around the basket really discourages (other teams).”

The 6-2 Charles, who comes from an athletically gifted and academic-focused family, averaged 10.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in 2021’s shortened 15-game season. It was her first with the Rockets after spending her underclassmen years at Montini. It was numbers like those that brought programs such as Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Purdue, DePaul, Colorado and others calling.

The Burlington Central senior, with her collegiate decision behind her — Charles committed to Ivy League power Princeton on June 22 —  has been able to focus on the aspects of her game that could make her a major part of the Princeton rotation immediately after high school. 

“I think I fit in really good with how they play,” Charles said of Princeton. “They’re more defensive-oriented and that being my favorite part of the game … I also think I’ll be able to help them on offense. I have that ability.”

In the meantime, she’s taking charge as a vocal leader on a long-successful program at Burlington Central. The Rockets have a record of 205-54 over the last nine seasons between coaches Mark Smith and Kalamatas — who enters his third year as head coach. Burlington Central will look to Charles to a great degree after the loss of seniors Avery Andersen and University of Indianapolis signee Elana Wells. 

This summer, the Rockets have taken on tough competition from the likes of St. Charles North, St. Charles East, Carmel Catholic, Geneva, Sycamore and Huntley, among others. Kalamatas said Charles has stepped into a bigger leadership role this offseason.

“It’s been a really good experience for her as well as the other girls to slide under Taylor’s wing a bit and learn a lot about the game from her,” Kalamatas said. 

He also said Charles’ ability to get up the floor with long strides makes her a big weapon in the fast break. Charles said she wants to expand and better her mid-range game.

Three-year varsity players Rylie DuVal and Becca Caratti will be integral parts of a team that lost its leading scorer in Wells. Still, Burlington Central returns key contributors from a 12-3 squad that did not lose a Fox Valley Conference game a season ago. 

“I’m just trying to get all of my team motivated,” Charles said. “I think this season especially we’re going to have to play as a whole unit. Nobody can do it themselves. I’m really just trying to build confidence in all of my teammates.

“I just really want to help my team win,” she added. “Of course try to score, block as many shots I can, but I’m not one who has ever really been focused on the stats.”

Both of Charles’ parents are engineers. Looking forward to college, she hopes to study pre-med and ultimately become a neurosurgeon. She’ll jump into a Princeton program on great footing, finishing 26-1 in 2019-20 (the Ivy League cancelled its 2020-21 season due to the pandemic).

“They’re coached by coach (Carla) Berube, she’s an ex-UConn player,” Charles said. “The season before COVID … they were a top-25 team. They’ve been competing at a high level, a good level and the fact she can make that with academics is unmatched.”

Kalamatas’ look into the recruiting process provided him an unfamiliar insight into the Division-I recruiting cycle. Princeton’s desire to bring Charles aboard was notable.

“Most of the teams that had interest from really early on like the Michigan and Illinois types, they didn’t contact me at all,” Kalamatas said. “But there were a handful of schools including Princeton and Yale and Davidson that did reach out to me and talked to the head coaches a handful of times.”

Charles is the third Illinois girls prep player in the Class of 2022 to commit to an Ivy League program after Morton’s Katie Krupa (Harvard) and Evanston’s Lola Lesmond (Yale, after senior year at a prep school in Massachusetts) did so. 

“She’s such a good kid, you see it immediately talking to her, talking to her family,” Kalamatas said.

“I’m really happy she made that decision,” he added. “I know she had her pick of a lot of the top power conferences, but this is the best thing for her to play immediately, get a good education and be set for life.”

Q&A: Super Skilled Whitney Young Freshman Destiny Jackson

Destiny Jackson will only be a freshman this fall, but she is already a steady presence for the Whitney Young girls basketball team — a program that, by last count, had won at least 15 games over the summer without a loss.

Kaleb Carter of Illinois-Basketball spoke with Jackson on Thursday, June 24, after Whitney Young won summer league games against Kenwood and Batavia. Several days later Jackson picked up offers from Ohio State and Illinois after already having an offer from Arizona State.

Destiny Jackson attacks the basket during a June 24 summer league game against Kenwood at Morton College.
Destiny Jackson (Photo: Kaleb Carter)

Illinois-Basketball: How has it been getting acclimated to varsity with your teammates during this summer ball league?

Destiny Jackson: “It’s been great, I really like my teammates. I like how we bond together and we haven’t even had as many practices or games as most people, but I like how things are going so far.”

I-B: What’s nice about the (bench’s production) and depth this summer?

DJ: “It’s definitely nice to have a bench full of people who just come in the game and be what the starting lineup can be.”

I-B: Did you set any goals coming into this summer league, things you wanted to accomplish individually or as a group?

DJ: “Just molding together as a team really. It’s not really individually. I’m a pass-first point guard, so it’s about my team, just molding together as a team.

I-B: Are you all as a team setting goals for the upcoming winter season?

DJ: “Yes, we want to win city and state. Definitely. We want to go undefeated if it’s a possibility.”

I-B: Facing Kenwood is a great chance to test to see where you’re at. Even knowing they’ll still have other players back (a pair of starters that didn’t play Thursday), how nice was it to make a statement like that?

DJ: It was great, Kenwood and Whitney Young have some type of rivalry, so it was great just being able to beat Kenwood the first time we come out. The way we beat them was great.”

I-B: Have you had a chance to attend some college camps?

DJ: “I actually just went to the Louisville camp and they said they loved me. They said they’d reach out to my coach so that’s the only camp I’ve been to so far, but I’m going to go to the Marquette camp and Purdue camp.”

 

Destiny Jackson (Photos: Kaleb Carter)

 

Q&A: Glenbard West Forward Ryan Renfro Due to See Increased College Interest

On one of the biggest teams in the state, Ryan Renfro is an overlooked athlete who wouldn’t be in the background at nearly any other boys basketball program in Illinois. As it is, the 6-8, 225-pound senior forward who plays in the middle of Glenbard West’s arduous 1-3-1 zone, is surrounded by some of the other more talented players in the state of Illinois.

The Hitters went 13-1 in 2021, blowing away most of their competition and beginning to receive warranted respect from Chicago-area and statewide media. They have been remarkably large for several years now, something Illinois-Basketball.com wrote about in November. And while many will understandably shower adulation upon the likes of Division-I talent Braden Huff, Caden Pierce and newcomer Bobby Durkin, Renfro is starting to put on display the type of athletic feats and on-the-floor determination that should have more colleges calling soon. 

While not possessing as much shooting or ball-handling skills necessarily as some of his teammates, Renfro possesses the traits that winning programs need in players to put them over the top. As a quarterback previously, his footwork is an aspect of his game that will steadily improve. A physically imposing post presence, Renfro can play bully ball around the rim and does so often on the offensive glass.

Governors State had offered as Renfro a spot on the team as of June 24. More offers are surely to follow.

Ryan Renfro, at center playing defense against Michele Clark. (Photo Kaleb Carter)

Illinois-Basketball.com’s Kaleb Carter spoke with Renfro following two Ridgewood Live shootout wins over Michele Clark and Maine South. 

Illinois-Basketball: What are you guys doing well this summer?

Ryan Renfro: “We may have five guys on the court, but we’re all one player. We’re all working the ball around, getting it to each other. We’ve been playing (together) since fourth grade, so we all know each other really well. I think it’s the chemistry that stands out the most. We’re always looking for the extra pass, it’s just a ton of fun.”

I-B: As an individual, do you try to have an individual identity yourself or is there anything in particular you’re trying to do when you’re on the floor?

RR: “When I’m on the floor, I’m just trying to find the small things to impact the team. I’ve got some of the greatest scorers in the state [around me], so my role, I feel like I really have to go for every offensive rebound or get helpline, maybe take a charge. But I mean, that stuff is just going to lead to scoring on my end, so I just love making the extra pass, hustling, because that’s what helps our team the most.”

I-B: You guys are playing some of the best teams you can this sumer, so how do you think you guys have responded in some of these instances and where do you still want to improve? 

RR: “We’re just hoping to come out and try and blow every team out. Nobody would expect Glenbard West to be good, so we’re just trying to make a name for ourselves. We have a big target on our back this year, so I mean, it’s just going out there, proving them wrong and just staying humble because we know we can do it ourselves.”

I-B: As you’ve got the attention for being the “big team” — what has that been like?

RR: Yeah *laughs* the big team. Oh yeah, we have a lot of teams that like to talk bad about us, say we’re overrated and stuff, but at the end of the day, we know what to do, we’ve been here many times. Height is height. We were going to be the same team no matter what, but it does help though.”

I-B: You do want to play college basketball, so what are your expectations in terms of what type of college you’d like to attend?

RR: “I like to shoot big. You shoot for the moon and land in the stars is what I say so hopefully I can end up playing mid-major basketball at the DI level. I don’t know what my options are yet, but I’m just hoping I can play at the next level…hopefully mid-major for sure.”

I-B: Are you considering JUCO then going up, etc.?

RR: “If that’s the option, that’s what it is. If prep school is the option, it is. I’m not going to quit. Basketball is the sport.”

I-B: Have you made any college visits or had anyone reach out to you?

RR: “ I have not made any visits, but I have talked with West Point (Army), North Dakota and Cleveland State reached out to me. It’s nothing final yet. I just started this recruitment process. A bunch of schools have been texting me, it’s pretty fun. Nothing yet, hopefully some more though. I’ve just got to play my game and hopefully more will come.”

(Photo: Kaleb Carter)

Ridgewood Live Notebook: Tinley Park, Kenwood and Others (+Photo Gallery)​

Keon Richardson at Ridgewood Live 2021

Ridgewood Live Notebook: Tinley Park, Kenwood and Others (+Photo Gallery)

Ridgewood hosted a live event and tournament June 25 to June 27. More than 80 boys teams from the Chicagoland participated, and many of the top players in the state were on display.

Kaleb Carter stopped by the event Friday and caught a number of games and got a chance to chat with some of the standouts.

Tinley Park's Keon Richardson Eyes the Future

Keon Richardson at Ridgewood Live 2021
Tinley Park's Keon Richardson at the Ridgewood Live event. (Photo: Kaleb Carter)

Keon Richardson said that Tinley Park is starting to put the pieces together that could lead to a successful winter season. While some of his teammates have missed action thus far in the summer period, the senior point guard and the Titans showed flashes of excellence.

“Summer been good, got a lot of competition,” Richardson. “Good up and down. The Hillcrest tournament was good.”

At Ridgewood, Richardson showed off a pass-first mindset and distinct court vision that has led to college contact from Tulsa and IUPUI. He’s due for a July 1 visit to Tulsa.

“I’m looking for a school that lets the guards be free, lets the guards coach on the floor,” Richardson said.

Kenwood's Davius Loury Does It All

Kenwood Davius Loury
Kenwood's Davius Loury (0) and JJ Taylor (1) guard a St. Charles East ball-handler. (Photo: Kaleb Carter)

Kenwood assistant coach PJ Jones said that rising junior Davis Loury, a 6-7 wing with more than a handful of Division I offers, is the Broncos’ “Mr. do-it-all.”

Quite a compliment for a program that has some of most talented players in the state of Illinois. 

“He’s kind of what makes our team go, especially (since) he’s a mismatch for most teams,” Jones said. “Some of our other guys really take up the other team’s best defender, so that usually leaves Davius with someone smaller on him … just getting him to crash the boards, post up when he’s got a little guy and shoot over top of them.”

Loury received an offer Friday from Appalachian State while at the event. He also holds offers from DePaul, Illinois, LSU, Miami (OH), Nebraska and Western Illinois.

This summer alongside his talented teammates, Loury is working on several simple aspects of his game. He emphasized his need to become a better ball-handler.

“My shot, dribbling, passing the ball, drive-and-kick and more athleticism,” Loury said. 

According to Jones, Loury’s versatility gives Kenwood more options, especially on the offensive end. 

“He’s another option to bring the ball up and run the offense through, that’s great,” Jones said. “It relieves some pressure off the other guys. For him as a player, being able to do multiple things, he played great defense today, being able to defend all five spots is something we want to see out of him.”

In addition to a flock of major Division I coaches being in attendance for 5-star recruit JJ Taylor (Class of 2023), the Broncos showcased Darrin Ames (2023) and recently returned and highly recruited Trey Pettigrew, a senior, on the floor. 

“He left Illinois when he was ranked the the No. 2 player in the state,” Jones said of Pettigrew. “With the COVID season in limbo, he moved out to Arizona. He was ranked the No. 5 player out in Arizona. With him, getting acclimated with the guys, he’s played in the same AAU program as some of the younger guys, different teams though, 16U teams, 17U teams. Getting him acclimated and letting him know that college coaches know that you can score the ball, but we want to see you facilitate a little more, personal that’s what I want to see him down.”

With rising freshmen Bryce Heard and Rob Walls contributing as well, the Broncos’ lone loss at the three-day event came to Glenbard West, a team loaded with senior, college-level talent.

Other Notable Teams and Players

  • St. Charles East’s Trent Warren (class of 2022) had a hot shooting weekend, putting up double-digits in three straight games, including 20 against Kenwood and 25 versus Fenton. He also used our photo (we see you, Trent) for his new Twitter profile avatar. 
  • Lots of coaches were in attendance, including Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Illinois’ Brad Underwood, Wisconsin’s Greg Hard, Bradley’s Brian Wardle, UIC’s Luke Yaklich and plenty of others. Former NBA superstar Shawn Marion was even there watching Kenwood. 
  • DePaul College Prep has reloaded, and perhaps most intriguing is Dylan Arnett (2022), a 6-9 forward who walked away from the event with a Western Michigan offer. He showed himself capable of replacing some of the production lost down low from North Dakota signee Brian Matthews. 
  • Hillcrest and Tinley Park both showcased potential in the form of talented guards and springy forwards, but both will need the extra time leading up to the season to put things together. Matthew Moore (2023) and Bryce Tillery (2023) of Hillcrest showed flashes of what could make Hillcrest nearly as good as it was in 2021
  • I don’t have much to say about Glenbard West that hasn’t been said. They look like state championship material. They’re downright huge. The 1-3-1 zone they trot out covers more space than any other zone that comes to mind at the high school level. GBW did finish the event undefeated, including a close win over Kenwood. A couple spurts from senior transfer Bobby Durkin (Hinsdale South), including a deep 3-pointer and a two-handed slam in rapid succession, opened eyes. 
  • I was witness at the end of my day to a close affair between Whitney Young and Lake Forest. Asa Thomas is no joke and is dangerous from wherever and in creating. Whitney Young’s length and athleticism plus clutch plays late from D-I recruits A.J. Casey (offered by Florida Saturday), Xavier Amos (2022) and Daniel Johnson (2023) led to the win over a charged up Lake Forest squad. Casey is so smooth and improving in his all-around game. 
  • DeKalb’s Martez Jackson (2022) is a scrappy guard who defends just the way DeKalb teams have been taught to over the last handful of years by head coaches Al Biancalana and Mike Reynolds (both of whom I covered previously at the DeKalb Daily Chronicle). 
  • Simeon’s  Rubin twins, Miles and Wesley (recent transfers from Homewood-Flossmoor) have tremendous upside as incoming juniors. They are going to be ridiculous to try and stop as a tandem in the coming years.
  • Bolingbrook has some fearless guards and lots of size. Beware of coach Robert Brost’s perennially reliable bunch. 
  • The way Batavia guard Trent Tousana carries himself showcases his confidence, and I’m excited to hear how often he scores in bunches this year. 

Girls Notebook: Butler College Prep trio picking up major college interest; Kenwood and Whitney Young opening eyes

Butler College Prep’s triumphant trio of Camille Jackson, Xamiya Walton and Christin Brewer are helping the Lynx take on all comers this summer, showcasing talent that has had Division I colleges calling steadily.

Class of 2022 guard Camille Jackson returns for one last go around after leading her squad to consecutive Noble League championships. 

At Morton College’s summer league, the Lynx played tough against one of the better programs in the state in Kenwood, and then ran past St. Ignatius Thursday. The scores mattered less than the chemistry displayed on the floor for one of Chicago’s better small class programs. 

Camille Jackson takes a jumper.

“We’re on a roll and we have a lot to accomplish, but it also means we’re getting better as a program,” Jackson said. 

With collegiate offers rolling in at the Division I level, Jackson has expressed the most interest in DePaul and Illinois. 

“So far, I’m narrowing it down, getting closer to making an announcement, but it’s been DePaul and Illinois so far,” Jackson said.

Jackson isn’t the only one drawing interest from big midwest programs.

Walton (class of 2024), has wowed due to her handles and shooting ability. Loyola, Illinois, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Western Michigan, Memphis and Xavier have all extended offers. 

“It feels really great with these colleges showing interest because it’s what we work for,” Walton said. “Seeing the hard work pay off, it’s showing that you should be where you are and deserve everything. It’s really nice talking to these colleges, staying in touch and stuff and talking to new schools every week.”

All three of the Lynx expressed that competing against the state’s best teams helps prepare them for the regular season. For Butler, that means continuing its dominance of the Noble League.

“I feel like it’s a big accomplishment,” Brewer said of winning a second consecutive Noble title last season. “We didn’t have that much time to practice and have a season so to win it as a team, it was really good.”

Butler’s Christin Brewer drives into the paint against St. Igantius

“Once they said we’d have a Noble championship, we said we’d win it,” Walton said. “So I think that was nice to get us going for the summer league and we’re hoping to let this roll into next season.”

Lynx coach Xaver Walton, Xamiya Walton’s father, expressed that he felt Brewer would have drawn more attention from strong college programs if given the chance with a full season last year. 

A St. Ignatius player and Butler’s Camille Jackson battle for the ball.

And while Brewer, a 6-1 forward with improving ball-handling skills, is hoping that she is playing college ball next year while studying business administration, she’s fine focusing on the now. 

“This summer we’ve got out of this (Morton) tournament [becoming] more conditioned working as a team, bonding, [learning] how to play together,” Brewer said.

That doesn’t mean the Lynx don’t have big goals.

“We’ve been stressing we want to be state champions for our (class), Jackson said, with her teammates in agreement 

Young’s Jones and Jackson drawing attention  

Whitney Young’s lengthy class of 2023 forward Skylar Jones showcased the athleticism and skill on the block that showed why schools like DePaul, Syracuse and Miami have felt the need to extend an offer. Tanila Marshall, a now-senior, combines with Jones to give the Dolphins an improving and athletic presence around the rim. 

Jones was part of a Dolphins group that went undefeated in 12 games over the course of the summer league. 

“Skylar just got back from Louisville camp,” Whitney Young coach Krissy Harper said. “She is definitely a player to watch and everybody should know about her.”

Harper added about complementary guard Olivia Vick (class of 2023), who combos with Lily Montalvo (2023) for a swift and skilled backcourt: “Dead eye shooter. She’s actually working now on her mid-range and putting the ball on the floor and expanding her game. But if you leave her open for the three, she will knock it down.”

On top of all that returning talent, Young adds freshman point guard Destiny Jackson who already holds offers from Illinois and Ohio State.

“Our freshman is so good,” Harper said. “She came in with confidence. As a point guard you need that. She’s leading the team and she’s doing an excellent job.”

Broncos finding form

Kenwood’s Whitney Dunn (2022) has led the way in the absence of injured top prospect Brianna McDaniel (2022) while getting help from a supporting cast that’s finding its way. Freshman Ariella Hennigan showed talent in bursts, while Ayanna Jackson (2023), Jazelle Young (2023) and Ariana Williams (2024) proved exciting, especially so against Butler. Jackson in particular was a playmaker of note, scoring in the post, making timely passes and more.

It will be exciting to see DonYeil Bolton, a senior forward with multiple college offers, and McDaniel this winter when they return to the floor. 

Camille Jackson of butler tries to drive past Whitney Young of Kenwood while Jazelle Young (32) readies defensively.

First look at Example Academy

Example Academy, perhaps the most talented program in the summer league, is a newly founded prep program with players carried over from Example Sports’ AAU program. With a boatload of Division I and other collegiate-level talent, the likes of Jasmine Brown, Kennise Johnson-Etienne, Madisyn Saracco, Nakiyah Mays-Prince among others will be highly coveted and written about aplenty in the coming years. 

More shots from the Morton College Summer League

Wisconsin Coaching Staff Key to Tessa Towers Commitment

Batavia girls basketball coach Kevin Jensen has had his fair share of athletes go on to collegiate athletics, but Monday may have been the first time he was yelping for joy after hearing a college decision.

Tessa Towers, a 6-5 rising senior, made official her commitment to the Wisconsin Badgers after a visit and offer on June 16. Towers met with prospective future teammates and picked up good vibes immediately. 

Towers

“I just have a feeling this is it,” Jensen recalls Towers telling him.

Jensen’s response: Why wait or prolong what seems to be a natural fit?

“It’s a dream come true,” Towers said. 

“I could just see how they treat their players there and it’s just amazing,” Towers said. “I just wanted to go to a school where there’s a good coaching staff and there’s coaches who care about their players … all their players told me that that they do deeply care.”

Towers shared the thrill of her decision with those closest to her.

“My family, they’re all so excited for me,” Towers said. “My mom, she was so excited as well. She loves Wisconsin. She was so excited for me to get the next chapter of my life done.” 

The Badgers women’s basketball program, featuring multiple Illinois natives already, is heading into its first season under coach Marisa Moseley. Brooke Schramek of Naperville (Benet Academy) and former Lake Forest star Halle Douglass will be sophomores. Both Illinois natives played over 17 minutes per game as freshmen as the Badgers went 5-19. 

A unanimous all-conference player in the DuKane Conference this past season, Towers is a double-double machine with top-level strength on the block. Jensen said that there are things about her game that would surprise observers who just see Towers for her size, citing her ability to run the floor, improving leadership qualities and overall athleticism.

Jensen believes Towers has plenty of untapped potential and certainly has high hopes for what she can do for the Badgers. But for now, he has reason to be thrilled about a Batavia Bulldogs team that has as much talent as any in his decade-plus tenure in the role. Towers is central to that.

“She has the capability to be utterly dominant,” Jensen said. “She could put up a 20-rebound game like nothing. She could get six blocks like nothing. She’s not going to do it every night, but you might see a 30- or 40-point night this season. Even if he doesn’t have those things, she affects the game in so many ways.”

In a 5-11 season, Batavia found itself in close games with some of the Chicagoland suburbs’ stronger area programs like Burlington Central (a 63-60 loss), South Elgin (56-49 win), Lake Park (losses by 59-55 and 72-69), Geneva (a 60-57 loss) and St. Charles North (a 49-46 win).

The Bulldogs will face another tough schedule in 2021-22, but with a fellow Division I recruit Brooke Carlson — a rising sophomore — back to lead the way at point guard, Batavia has plenty of reason to be optimistic about the upside of this squad. Jensen said Carlson is one of the toughest and most explosive players he’s ever coached. 

“I think we’re pretty good as a pair,” Towers said. “Me and her, we work so well together. She is such a great passer … She can move the ball around so well. I feel like me and her this year are going to be unstoppable.” 

With the Bulldogs competing with a renewed hunger at the Geneva and Morton College summer leagues, Jensen can’t help but have a certain ring to his voice as he anticipates what’s to come.  

“I can see in a lot of their eyes, even what we’ve done in the summer, the level of focus and the level of seriousness in which they’re taking even the little things, from my standpoint,” Jensen said. “It’s really fun to see.”

Towers wants to expand her shooting range and level of comfort further from the basket this season. She’s just fine taking her time before ultimately taking her quiet, but growing confidence to Madison.

“I want to help my team as much as I can,” Towers said. “I just want to have a great senior year this year and play our hardest and make it as far as we can.”

New Head Coach Sean Connor is Learning and Doing for Antioch

Sean Connor is a man of different sides. He’s a father and husband. A math teacher. A sophomore basketball and ultimate frisbee coach. The man who runs fall basketball league.

It’s no surprise that Antioch’s new head varsity boys basketball coach knows what it takes to juggle tasks. He’s worn many hats coaching, scouting and organizing in the world of high school hoops. Still, Connor — who spent seven years at Chicago’s DePaul College prep teaching and coaching — bided his time before taking a head coaching job.

“I think I always knew I had a lot to learn,” Connor, now a Grayslake resident, said. “You look at all the different experiences I’ve had, and the more head coaches I was under the more I realized, ‘Like man, you’ve really got to make sure you understand this facet or this facet.’”

“It’s easy to say you want to be a varsity coach, but you’ve got to realize when you take on that duty, there’s more to it than just running the varsity team,” he continued.

Connor was hired Thursday, June 18, by Antioch. He was immediately thrust into the role: That same day at the Carmel Catholic Summer League he got to see his new Sequoit players in action.

Connor’s most recent coaching experience was at DePaul College Prep as the head sophomore coach, winning two Catholic League titles in six seasons. Before that he was with the sophomores at York and Geneva, and he has other experience building up youth feeder programs at programs like Marmion.

At DePaul, and when it was previously known as Gordon Tech, Connor was an assistant coach for a program in a school without much recent historical success before Tom Kleinschmidt’s arrival. 

“It was hard to rebuild the program and try to help coach Kleinschmidt achieve the vision he had and what we wanted to be,” Connor said. “That was a long process. Obviously it’s very fulfilling to see everything come to a head this past year after going downstate and having the opportunity to see the guys compete in the Chipotle Classic. But I know some people didn’t understand the amount of work that really went in over the last 8-to-10 years in rebuilding that thing, and how many times people said no and, ‘DePaul’s not good enough.’

“It’s just been a really cool experience to be part of that rebuild and have all these visions and goals the school set and a lot of them come to fulfillment,” he added.

That type of experience informed the type of attributes he wants his program at Antioch to showcase. That doesn’t mean he will remove any agency from his Sequoits players. 

Connor wants his players to take ownership of what’s to come in the process of program-building. He wants this especially for the upcoming seniors — a group who have seen three varsity coaches during their tenure after Tim Bowen’s departure after two seasons.

“I’ve always been very student-centered,” Connor said. “One of the things we’re going to do this week, and I’ve given the guys homework, is to think about what do you want Antioch basketball to be known for. Because I don’t think it’s appropriate that I come in and tell them what they should be in a community that I don’t have very strong roots in.”

A Woodstock graduate who still has family there, a more recent move to Grayslake put Connor’s family in a good position to look for new head coaching jobs. Growing up in Woodstock, Connor says he relates to what kids from Antioch experience growing up. He doesn’t doubt that will greatly influence the team they become. With an already organized feeder program — a selling point for Connor, who is already familiar with the region north of Chicago — he anticipates fitting in with the community’s existing identity. 

“(Antioch) and Woodstock are both blue collar, out on the rim of the country versus suburban area, and I really relate to a lot of the kids in the community,” Connor said. “Because I grew up in a similar situation where you have just enough and have you have to work hard to get by.”

The newly anointed head coach was looking forward to taking his team to compete at Rockford and getting to know his new players. Kobe Kriese, a threat to fill the hoop up a season ago, is now gone. 

Antioch has some seniors leaders and a large group of returning juniors. It also has talented underclassmen in sophomores like Coby Priller and Carter Webb back and the anticipated arrival of freshman Marshall Gehrke. Many moving pieces create a cloudy but enticing picture for the team’s future. 

“The seniors have been fantastic in terms of leadership, being where they need to be and starting to give input as to where they want to be,” Connor said. 

“There’s a very cool blend of experience: a lot of guys with varsity experience and then some young talent,” he continued. “We’ve got four players over 6-5, so it’ll be really cool to watch these guys grow over the summer and then really interesting to see what it looks like in November.”

While Antioch has had some recent success — the Sequoits won three consecutive regional titles between 2016 and 2018 despite three losing records — Connor things they can elevate past the traditional powers north of Chicago. 

“I think they can disrupt the status quo in Illinois basketball because nobody is always looking at Antioch as the team to come out of the north suburbs,” Connor said. “Since you know it’s North Chicago, Waukegan, Zion-Benton, Round Lake and some of these other programs have been really strong. It’ll be really cool to track us over these next few years.

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