Author Archives: Kaleb Carter

Boys Commitment Notebook: Trice the Enforcer, Hall the future Buccaneer

Photos of Trayton Trice (left), Brandon Hall (center) and Caleb Corro (right) provided by Trice, Tai Streets and Saint Patrick High School, respectively.

Romeoville Coach Marc Howard has long relied on Trayton Trice, a varsity performer since his freshman year, to be an enforcer-type player thanks to Trice’s attitude and size on the floor.

“I always had that approach my whole life,” Trice told Illinois-Basketball.com. “Every time I would set foot on the court,(I’ve) always been the enforcer. I do all the dirty work, grab rebounds, guard the biggest or strongest guy on the court.”

Trice took one visit to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, and realized quickly how much he liked nearly everything about the campus, the coaches and the men’s basketball program in general.

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Commitment Notebook: Murphy & Braman a big pair of verbals

Aidan Murphy (left) shoots a free throw in a game for Glenbard West (provided photo). Luke Braman (right) blocks a shot in a postseason game for Roanoke-Benson. – Photo provided by Suzy Thompson

Aidan Murphy is springing into the future, one leap at a time. For someone who has added at least nine inches to his vertical leap thanks to studious training, the potential outweighs what Murphy has already done on the court for Glenbard West.

The 6-6, springy Hilltoppers senior made his commitment to Division III Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Oct. 28.

“I chose Carnegie Mellon first because of the world class education,” Murphy said. “(I) felt connection with coaches and style of play, and really felt it would suit my game. I think I can contribute early as well with my shooting ability.  Absolutely loved the campus and think it’s the perfect size. Pittsburgh is one of the great sports towns and I’m very excited to play in it.”

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Commitment Notebook: Fierce Howard chooses Murray State, Hopkins to Kentucky

TaKiya Howard handles the ball in a February contest against Mother McAuley. Beverley Review photo by Tim O’Brien

TaKiya Howard didn’t have to lead her team in scoring to be the type of impact player that caused colleges to come running.

Now a 5-10 senior guard who helped lead the 17-15 De La Salle Meteors last season as a junior, Howard committed to the Division I Murray State Racers on Oct. 19, telling Illinois-Basketball.com that the Racers program fits her and her style of play.

“Murray State made the decision easy because of the environment they created, and I could tell I would be going there after our first conversation,” Howard said. “The coaching staff and the school as a whole I knew would be a good fit.”

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Blue Demons getting a pair of sponges: Morrow Sisters Commit to DePaul

Provided photos via Miami-Dade athletics (Nazlah Morrow, left) and Baylor Youth Foundation (Aneesah Morrow, right).

In a family line of immensely successful athletes, the Morrow sisters Aneesah and Nazlah Morrow stand poised to be the next up to leave an impact on their respective sport. Aneesah, a 6-2 combo player and defending state champion for Simeon, made her verbal commitment to the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday.

Demonstrating finesse and power on the hardwood as a junior — Aneesah Morrow averaged 23 points, 3.6 assists, 12.1 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 2.5 blocks per game for the 35-2 Wolverines — her coaches see tremendous upside in her. The Class of 2021 star came up big for the city and 3A champion Wolverines, posting a 22-point, 13-rebound effort in the state semifinals, propelling Johnny Davenport-coached Simeon to a state title win over Morton.

“I hope she comes out and (can) be an even stronger impact player than she was for our program,” Baylor Youth Foundation Director Toi Baylor said of Aneesah Morrow. “Hopefully she can make it overseas and into the WNBA because she’s that type of player.”

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Commitment Notebook: Record-setting Loftus sees passion for hoops intensify

Brenna Loftus thought from a young age that college basketball could be in her future. Even so, well into her high school career there was enough doubt cast in her mind to question the possibility of playing at the next level.

After a historic 2019-20 season for 30-win, Metro Suburban Blue division-winning Riverside Brookfield and a pandemic that erased her final travel season, Loftus confronted an uncertain reality.

Brenna Loftus plays for Chicago Hoops Express
Brenna Loftus drives to the basket for Chi Hoops Express, who she has participated with since she was an eighth-grader. Photo by Debra Prochaska, used with permission of Chi Hoops Express program director Jerald David.

“As I got older, I wasn’t entirely sure [if I’d play collegiately], but then my junior year season was so fun and quarantine happened,” Loftus said. “It was weird to have such a long period of time without playing basketball. Losing my last travel season kind of woke me up to maybe I couldn’t go four years without playing.”

The senior committed to storied Division III Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Although Washington U is coming off a 14-11 season, the program has five NCAA women’s basketball championship trophies, 24 conference championships and 31 NCAA tournament appearances to its name.

There, she’s hopeful to study environmental science and Spanish.

“Washington University ended up giving me the best opportunity to play really competitive, really good basketball in a really difficult conference and a really competitive conference, alongside providing really incredible academics and really good workforce opportunities and internship opportunities, study abroad programs and all of that,” Loftus said.

In her junior season, Loftus averaged 30.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. She scored at least 30 points 15 times and 40 or more points five times. She poured in 1,044 points in the 2019-2020 season and is over 2,000 career points. Her 389 field goals were eighth most in a season in IHSA history, and her 257 free throws made last season were ninth-best in state history.

Her accolades include being an IBCA Class 3A all-state performer and two-consecutive Metro Suburban MVP awards. The race for a third has high potential for entertainment with Aurora Christian’s Anna Griffin, a Virginia commit.

Loftus, something of a throwback player, stands 5-8 and scores by attacking the basket, producing in bunches without shooting much from the perimeter.

Riverside Brookfield coach Dallas Till, a 20-plus game winner each of the last eight seasons, called Loftus “crafty,” and credited Loftus’ attacking mindset with her prolific scoring ability. He noted that while his team is capable of scoring in a half-court offense, he much prefers playing in transition, and Loftus’ quickness and finishing ability is the perfect cog in the machine.

With a full season in place — far from a certainty with the coronavirus pandemic — Loftus could reach 3,000 points. Doing so would leave her top 10 in IHSA history in scoring.

“I think she overwhelms people and surprises people with her speed,” Till said.

Till added that he’s confident in Loftus’ ability to shoot, but that it’s not needed for Loftus to score.

“She can shoot it,” he said. “Her role last year was just to get to the basket.”

Loftus was candid about her need to become a better shooter and a better defender.

“I definitely think it would really help my game if I could become a better perimeter shooter,” Loftus said. “That’s a huge part of the game, and the more ways you have to score, the harder you are to guard for sure. I think growing up I was always kind of tall and so I think I stuck to driving because of that. So it’s been a part of how I’ve played since I was young. I think in terms of that, I definitely need to get better at using my left hand. That’s what my dad would tell you at least.”

Chi Hoops Express program director Jerald Davis provided a sampling of his thoughts about Loftus, who he deemed “loyal, true to her teammates and dependable.”

According to Loftus, competing with Chi Hoops Express, full of college-level talent, was something that served to motivate her.

“Playing in that type of environment I think makes everybody better,” Loftus said. “You’re around girls that are better than you all the time and you’re around girls that are just as hungry to get better.”

For Loftus, who is most excited about carrying over the energy from last season to this season for her team in a strong Metro Suburban, just having a season would be enough.

“The main goal is just to keep the same type of energy and same excitement that we all had,” Loftus said. “It was never a boring day in the gym because we were all so excited to be there and nobody was ever dreading going to practice and we all showed up for each other. And I think that’s the biggest thing that we want to keep going into next season because ultimately that’s what led to the success that we saw.”

Ronan storming to Georgia

Maine South’s Ellie Ronan, a 6-2 senior forward, announced her verbal commitment to a highly successful program in Atlanta, Georgia: Division III Oglethorpe University.

The Stormy Petrels boasted a record of 29-1 in the regular season after boasting an undefeated 14-0 record in Southern Athletic Conference and were riding a 27-game win streak before their season came to an end due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The lengthy forward Ronan received her offer in late July.

According to Maine South coach Jeff Hamann, Ronan has made significant strides over the last few seasons, and primarily came off the bench to average 3.1 points and grab 3.0 rebounds last season for the 26-7, Class 4A regional title-winning Hawks.

“Ellie’s story goes much beyond her stats from last season,” Hamann wrote in an email. “As a freshman, she played on our Freshmen B Team and played a reserve role even on that team. She continued into sophomore year and made our JV Team.  However, her minutes were extremely limited during that season. It is after her sophomore year [when] she really decided to work on her game. During the summer and fall of 2019 (between her sophomore-junior year), she improved significantly (her ability to finish around the basket, her footwork, her ball handling, her toughness, her conditioning, etc.). 

“Her improvements carried into tryouts where she made the varsity team while passing up several girls that were ahead of her on the depth chart during the previous two seasons,” Hamann continued. “She worked even harder as the season started and earned herself the reserve role she played for our team last season. If you think about it… freshman B team reserve role, to JV Team where she hardly played, to the varsity as a junior where she was in our top 7-8 on a 26-7 team. Now, she has earned herself the honor of being a college basketball player. Her best basketball years are certainly yet to come. “

Udoiwod staying local

Geneva senior Niyah Udoiwod has played successful basketball for years now and will continue on the court locally with a stronghold in McHenry County Community College.

Udoiwod will play for Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference coach of the year Karen Wiley and a Scotts team that posted a record of 23-5 and an undefeated, championship-winning 10-0 mark in conference play.

“I decided to further my playing career with MCC because it made a lot of sense to me and my family,” Udowiod said. “The MCC coaching staff know what they are doing basketball wise. They have a fantastic program and were pretty definitive on how they would utilize my skill-sets and athleticism in their system as well as further develop my abilities and potential to continue at the division one level at a four-year university. 

After playing for the school’s feeder program, Udoiwod transitioned into a productive role with the Vikings and is happy to have continued her time in basketball. The senior ha had the goal of playing collegiately for several years, something she said her father encouraged.

“My dad challenged me to be able to play at the collegiate level,” Udoiwod said. “He said I would have a lot of fun playing the sport in college and high school and I have so far.”

She also credited a number of people for getting her closer to being college-ready as a senior.

“My coaches, coach Collins of Illinois Hoop Dreams and coach (Sarah) Meadows, coach Caty, have been very helpful,” Udoiwod said.

Hines back in the swing of things

Taking an unconventional path in her basketball journey, Alicia Hines is joining Thomas University’s program in Thomasville, Georgia.

Hines is a graduate of Chicago Vocational Career Academy and is formerly a guard for Olive-Harvey Community College.

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Edwards returns, emphasizing development at long-successful Arcola

Taylor Edwards became just the third coach in the history of Arcola Purple Riders girls basketball on Oct. 1 when it was announced she would lead program she was pushing to new heights as a player just a handful of years ago.

Edwards was a two-sport participant at Illinois: four years on scholarship for Illini softball and a walk-on for basketball (she received a scholarship for her last semester). She was a four-sport athlete herself at Arcola and has a deep fondness for the coaches who guided her in her time as a Riders athlete.

Photo via Illinois athletics

Now, she seeks to be the type of coach who gives her girls a similar experience.

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Commitment Notebook: Pellegrini a shooting star, headed to Bemidji State

In helping to lead St. Charles North to its first 20-win season since 2010, Talia Pellegrini exhibited an efficient 3-point shot, and an ability to stay in control on drives and cuts to the hoop.

Talia Pellegrini – Provided photo

“(A) tireless worker, blur in transition, loves to run the floor and attack the paint,” St. Charles North coach Mike Tomczak said about Pellegrini.

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Caprice Smith Headed Back to Her ‘Favorite Place” as DePaul Assistant

Caprice Smith goes up for a layup during her DePaul playing days. – Steve Woltmann/DePaul Athletics

Yearning for a new opportunity while never far away, Caprice Smith turned her sights toward a college basketball coaching career, even while being part of a thriving basketball powerhouse.

Hopeful for a chance to return to college hoops over the course of the last few years, the one-time DePaul Blue Demon is delighted to be back coaching in a video coordinator role for the defending Big East Champions.

“It’s my favorite place to think of in terms of if I had to do it all over again, if I wanted to go to college, Lincoln Park is amazing,” Smith said. “It’s not right down within all of the chaos, but you’re still close enough.”

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Anna Griffin chooses Best fit, commits to Virginia

With over 30 Division I offers in her pocket, Griffin makes choice to traverse to Virginia

Having never stepped on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Aurora Christian’s Anna Griffin had to know the choice to become a Cavalier was really the right fit for her to go through with it.

For the class of 2021 standout, Virginia’s coaches checked all the boxes of showing continued interest, having her academic opportunities laid out to bare, and resources available to show they meant business.

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Illinois Girls Basketball Programs Begin Contact Days

With contact days underway for IHSA programs as of Monday, Sept. 7 (running through Oct. 24), coaches and players alike are relishing the chance to get back into the gym and with teammates. 

While many teams have begun practicing, some programs are choosing to push back the usage of their 20 days. And Chicago Public School programs can’t hold any practices after CPS ruled against contact days.  

Three girls basketball coaches from around the state chatted shared how their contact days are going and looked ahead to a season of uncertainty. 

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