Category Archives: College

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.”

‘The Missing Piece:’ Okaw Valley grad wins National Player of the Year

From tiny Bethany, Illinois (population 1,216), Drury University junior Paige Robinson seemed destined for big things from the outset of her basketball career. 

Okay Valley girls basketball coach Brad Ackers saw it from the beginning of her time on the team there. Ackers calls Robinson a gym rat and said he’s not all that surprised by her success.

“Paige’s IQ is off the charts in terms of the game of basketball and her instinct,” Ackers said. “She’s as skilled as any player I’ve ever been around in terms of ball-handling and shooting. That’s been apparent pretty much from the get-go.”

The junior for the NCAA Division II national runner-up Drury Panthers received a phone call recently that may not have shocked her high school coach, but certainly took her aback.  

Robinson had been named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division II National Player of The Year. 

“I got a random phone call from my head coach (Amy Eagan),” Robinson said. “Didn’t expect it whatsoever and I started bawling my eyes out. It just proves my hard work paid off.”

Robinson, boasted averages per game of 21.1 points, 4.8 assists, 2 steals and 2.4 3-pointers, and sank 39.6% of her three-point shots this season. Robinson said it was her defense that perhaps had improved the most.

“I was always known as a scorer in high school, and even in my freshman and sophomore year (of college),” Robinson said. “I think I’ve matured as a player and as a person on and off the court.”

The award was handed down just before the Panthers played in the Division II national semifinals in Columbus, Ohio. Robinson had already collected Great Lakes Valley Conference regular season and conference tournament MVP for the Panthers, who went on to fall in the national championship game to defending champs Lubbock Christian 69-59.

When Robinson was being recruited by Drury, while also drawing Division I interest simultaneously, a piece of confidence in Robinson’s abilities from the Drury staff stuck with her. As the 2017-18 Mattoon Journal Gazette & Charleston Times-Courier Player of The Year, Robinson had put many excellent pieces of her game together.

“When I was getting recruited my coach was telling me you’re the missing piece to a national championship and that just really stuck with me,” Robinson said. “That was a huge part in me coming to Drury and I’m glad I’m here.”

Drury was undefeated in 2019-20 before the pandemic brought a premature end to the campaign. Getting as far as Drury has this season, after losing several important seniors from that group, fell largely on the shoulders of the Okaw Valley graduate. 

“We had a lot of people thinking we weren’t going to make it as far as we did,” Robinson said. “We had a few seniors graduate. We had a girl before me, Hailey Diestelkamp, she was the national player of the year and everyone thought that since she was leaving and Daejah Bernard was leaving they thought that we weren’t going to make it all the way. So we just used that as a chip on our shoulders and carried that with us throughout the season.”

The Panthers won by single-digits in the national quarterfinals and semifinals in the Greater Columbus Convention Center. That came after a round of 16 home victory over national power Ashland (OH). 

The game being played at the convention center is the latest in a line of slights that women’s basketball advocates have highlighted toward the end of this past season most notably. 

Robinson said each team at the championship game was allotted 36 tickets apiece, and the game was played in a ballroom. 

By comparison, the men’s Division II title game was played at the Ford Center in Evansville, Indiana, an arena with a seating capacity of 11,000 with seemingly several hundred in attendance (official attendance listed as 1,080). 

“I think when people think of D-II, they think of those kids who couldn’t have made it D-I, but a lot of us had D-I offers and we could easily go up to D-I and compete with those kids,” Robinson said. “I think if people watch us, they can see how high of a level we play at and how much we deserve as athletes. It was disappointing like I said to play at an arena like that, but I think if people give us more support, they’ll see why we think we deserve more.”

The Panthers came from behind multiple times in the tournament to get to the final, and even came from down 20 to within four points in the title game. 

Robinson, who is currently treating some nagging injuries while entering offseason mode, is already thinking of what it’ll take to elevate things to another level next season for the Panthers. 

Paige Robinson dribbles down the court in an NCAA tournament game against Ashland. (Credit -Terry Griffin, DU sports communications)

Not that Robinson isn’t used to playing through trouble. As a high schooler, Robinson fought through what she didn’t know was a torn labrum sustained in Okaw Valley’s conference tournament, and played through the pain to the state semifinals. Ackers also mentioned other injuries Robinson has gutted out. 

“She’s a killer,” Achers said. “She just is.”  

It takes more than nagging injuries to keep her off the floor. 

“We take away It takes a lot of hard work to get there,” Robinson said. “We’re not just going to walk in to the season next year and just expect to get that far. We took a tough loss in the middle of the season, and I think that shaped us into then team we were at the end of the season.”

Next season, Robinson will see how a storybook season fits in the puzzle of the Division II landscape. 

“Losing it last year due to COVID and then actually getting all the way this year, it was a huge stride for us,” Robinson said. “Hopefully we’ll be back there next year.

Oakwood’s Katelyn Young exceeding expectations at Murray State

Photo of Murray State freshman and Oakwood graduate Katelyn Young. Photo provided by Murray State athletics.

In an era of increasingly position-less basketball, former Oakwood great and current Murray State freshman forward Katelyn Young stands apart from most peers on the hardwood.

A throwback post player with nifty footwork and a complete all-around game, the 6-1 Young, Murray State’s second-leading scorer at 13.7 ppg and rebounding leader (9.5 rpg as of Jan. 27) , is surpassing the expectations of not only herself, but also the people who had plenty of confidence in her.

“I wasn’t expecting to make a huge impact like I wanted to right away,” Young said. “I wanted to play some good minutes and everything, but I was not expecting this.”

The Racers lacked a true, big-bodied, tough forward of Young’s caliber in Rechelle Turner’s three-year tenure as Murray State head coach.

That has changed with Young.

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Former Maine West Standout Van Fleet Walking Her Own Path

Provided photo of the family of Dylan Van Fleet, father Jeff, mother Lisa and brother Max.

Dylan Van Fleet delayed her D-I basketball career to hike the Appalachian Trail and raise money for cancer research.

Dylan Van Fleet will always set her own course, even as others follow in her footsteps. The Morton College (Cicero) freshman is quiet in nature, doing much of her talking through her actions. 

Some of that nature is by design, the rest by consequence of her lived experiences. 

Van Fleet’s Chi Hoops Express AAU coach Jerald Davis, who she affectionately refers to as “JD,” describes her as quiet toward adults, but said she has always gotten along well with teammates — dating all the way back to when he first saw her play with the program around fifth grade and continuing as he began coaching her directly in eighth grade.

“Dylan was quiet in the sense of, she was more non-verbal, but she was very, very physical, very aggressive, very tough-minded and highly competitive,” Davis said. “To be honest with you, I think that [her actions] was how she spoke.”

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Q&A with Angela Dugalic, former Maine West Star and current Oregon freshman

Former Maine West all-state performer and 2019-2020 Illinois girls basketball Gatorade Player of the Year Angela Dugalic is having a blast early in her time for the Oregon Ducks, in the midst of a historic year.

Ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press, the 7-0 Ducks have had only had one game postponed due to COVID-19 this season. Duke women’s basketball, for example, shut down its season entirely.

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Illinois DI Hoopers: December 21 Top Performers

On Monday, 36 Division I basketball players from Illinois saw the court, with five scoring in double figures.

Some notable performances are below, as well as all box scores at the bottom in sortable tables. You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

Monday Notes

  • Oswego East graduate RayJ Dennis had 16 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals Monday. He’s averaging 14.3 points as a sophomore for Boise State, up from 4.1 as a freshman.
  • Austin Richie, who played high school basketball for Bloom and Marian Catholic, scored 14 points for Tulsa in a win over Memphis Monday. He has scored 33 points over the last two games after just 8 points over the first four.
  • Curie graduate Dajuan Gordon had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Kansas State in a win over Jacksonville. It’s the sophomore’s second career double-double, both in the last three games.
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Illinois DI Hoopers: December 20 Top Performers

A huge day for college basketball with 88 former Illinois high school players in action. In total, 24 players reached double figures scoring, with six double-doubles and the rare triple-double

Some notable performances are below, as well as all box scores at the bottom in sortable tables. You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

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Illinois DI Hoopers: December 19 Top Performers

Saturday was a big college hoops day, with 93 Illinois high school basketball players in action across Division I teams. Twenty-one players scored in double digits, with two double-doubles and two other 20-point scorers.

Some notable performances are below, as well as all box scores at the bottom in sortable tables. You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

Williams Scores 11 in Freshman Debut

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Illinois D1 Hoopers: December 18 Top Performers

In the only Friday night basketball we have right now, 66 former Illinois high school basketball players were in Division I action. Of those 15 reached double digits scoring, with a trio reaching a double-double.

Some notable performances are below, as well as all box scores at the bottom in sortable tables. You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

Debut Double-Double for Hawkins

Southern Miss had the first five games of its season cancelled, so juco transfer Fess Hawkins has had to wait more than three weeks to make her debut. The former Champaign Central (she played three seasons before transferring out of state) and Vincennes player did not let the chance to finally play go to waste.

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Illinois D1 Hoopers: December 17 Top Performers

On Thursday we had a strong group of college performances from Illinois players. Of those in action, 14 of 37 players scored in double figures. All the performances and some highlights are below.

You can also view all Division I men from Illinois and Division I women from Illinois.

Jones Does Everything for SIU

Sophomore Lance Jones has been a Swiss army knife for Southern Illinois as the Salukis have jumped out to a 4-0 start. The Evanston graduate started 26-of-32 games as a freshman, but he’s had an even bigger impact in year two.

On Thursday, Jones scored a team-high 18 points in an 85-64 win over North Dakota. Perhaps more impressive was the rest of his box score: 4 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals. He also took a charge.

You know Mike Ellis would love that stat line.

For the season, Jones is averaging 11.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals.

A Happy Birthday for Notre Dame’s Peoples

Schlarman graduate Anaya Peoples’ birthday was Thursday, and her performance for Notre Dame was extra reason to celebrate.

The Fighting Irish held on to beat No. 25 Virginia Tech 84-78, with Peoples’ two layups in the final 80 seconds giving Notre Dame the lead for good. She finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals.

After an ACC All-Freshman season, Peoples is averaging 13 points and 6.2 rebounds in her second season for Notre Dame.

Tim Robinson Finds Rhythm for Valpo

Kenwood graduate and Tim Robinson, a redshirt senior, had struggled offensively for Valparaiso to start the season. In the first six games he shot just 14-for-36 (38.9 percent) from the field and 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) from the arc.

That changed Thursday when Robinson scored a game- and career-high 21 points in an 89-71 win over Purdue Northwest, going 7-for-8 from the field and knocking down both of his triples.

According to the Post Tribune and NWI Times, Robinson called on an NBA player to help him get out of his rut.

“I told [Phoenix Suns player Langston Galloway] I was having a shooting spell, that I wasn’t hitting my shots like I should be,” Robinson said. “He gave me a few drills to do. And then, the next game, it happened.”

Despite the early season shooting, Robinson is averaging a career-best 9.3 points per game for the 3-4 Crusaders. On Thursday, two other Illinois high school players had strong performances for Valpo as well:

  • Connor Barrett, Loyola Academy: 12 points, 2 steals
  • Donovan Clay, Alton: 9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 blocks, 2 steals

Shannon Jr.’s Stock Rising

After four years at Lincoln Park and a prep year at IMG Academy in Florida, Terrence Shannon Jr. was a top-100 recruit in his class. He started 20 games as a freshman for Texas Tech, averaging nearly 10 points per game. The 6-6 guard has made a leap in year two.

On Thursday, he finished with season-highs 20 points and 9 rebounds as the No. 14 Red Raiders nearly knocked off No. 5 Kansas, falling 57-58. For the year he’s averaged 13 points and 5.3 rebounds, shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from the arc.

Scouts are starting to give Shannon Jr. more draft buzz as he’s taken on a bigger role on a top-25 team. Though ESPN currently ranks him the No. 47 prospect for the 2021 NBA Draft, Bleacher Report had Shannon Jr. in the lottery as recently as November.

Big games against the nation’s top teams, like his play against Kansas, will only help his stock.

Also for the Red Raiders, Nimari Burnett — who won a state title with Morgan Park before transferring out of state — has been a key piece of the rotation. He hasn’t found his offense, shooting just 27 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from the arc, but he’s managed other ways to contribute.

He’s averaging a team-best 2.1 steals per contest, good for fourth in the Big 12. Eventually his shot will fall, but he’s managed to stay on the floor through his play on the other end of the court.

Other Notes

  • Edwardsville grad Makenzie Silvey scored a season-high 24 points in a win over UMKC. Earlier this week she reached No. 15 on the SIU all-time scoring list. Also for the Salukis, Lincolnwood grad Abby Brockmeyer had 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
  • Mattoon grad Drake Jeffries led Wyoming in scoring (19) in a win over Omaha.
  • Althoff Catholic grad Jordan Goodwin led Saint Louis with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in a win over N.C. State. The St. Louis Dispatch called him Saint Louis’ Yadier Molina, though I hesitate to add Cardinals references to this site.
  • Kenwood grad Jonaie Johnson scored had season highs in points (16), rebounds (7) and assists (7) for UMKC in a loss to SIU.

All Performances by Men from Illinois High Schools (12.17.2020)

PlayerHSCollegeResultMin.Pts.Reb.Ast.Blk.Stl.
Jordan GoodwinAlthoff CatholicSaint LouisW: 80-69 (NCST)361615512
Donovan ClayAltonValparaisoW: 89-71 (PNW)2397352
Kyndall DavisBogan / Homewood-FlossmoorLong IslandL: 72-87 (SHU)1202110
Thomas BellCahokiaNorth TexasW: 85-55 (HB)28510130
Terrence Hargrove Jr.East St. LouisSaint LouisW: 80-69 (NCST)401000
Lance JonesEvanstonSouthern IllinoisW: 85-64 (ND)32184705
Nick RobinsonKenwoodValparaisoW: 89-71 (PNW)24212113
Terrence Shannon Jr.Lincoln ParkTexas TechL: 57-58 (KAN)33209000
Connor BarrettLoyola AcademyValparaisoW: 89-71 (PNW)27120102
Justin BrownMaristWagnerL: 75-81 (BRYANT)1749001
Drake JeffriesMattoonWyomingW: 82-78 (OMAHA)25193010
Nimari BurnettMorgan ParkTexas TechL: 57-58 (KAN)2122003
Demarion Bariffe-SmithNiles NorthJackson StateL: 60-83 (BRAD)501001
Anthony D'AvanzoNotre Dame (Niles)Southern IllinoisW: 85-64 (ND)1945101
Jeremiah OdenSt. RitaWyomingW: 82-78 (OMAHA)1404100
Detalian BrownUpliftNorth AlabamaW: 99-51 (CR)2182001
Demarius JacobsUpliftSaint LouisW: 80-69 (NCST)1574200
Chris CrossUrbanaSouthern IllinoisW: 85-64 (ND)100000
Nate ShockeyYorkNorth DakotaL: 64-85 (SIU)620000

All Performances by Women from Illinois High Schools (12.17.2020)

PlayerHSCollegeResultMin.Pts.Reb.Ast.Blk.Stl.
Kaylah RaineyBelleville EastNorthwesternW: 70-54 (PURD)100000
Quierra LoveEdwardsvilleSouthern IllinoisW: 79-68 (UMKC)27102203
Makenzie SilveyEdwardsvilleSouthern IllinoisW: 79-68 (UMKC)37241501
Kate BullmanGrayslake CentralIllinois StateW: 69-38 (OMAHA)14114030
Isis FitchHomewood-FlossmoorBradleyL: 68-84 (SD)601000
Michelle PruittHomewood-FlossmoorUTEPL: 75-83 (NAU)27177111
Jonaie JohnsonKenwoodUMKCL: 68-79 (SIU)35167701
Abby BrockmeyerLincolnwoodSouthern IllinoisW: 79-68 (UMKC)30237500
Juliunn RedmondMarshallIllinois StateW: 69-38 (OMAHA)2593421
Aannah InterranteMcHenryBradleyL: 68-84 (SD)100000
South DakotaMontiniSouth DakotaW: 84-68 (BRAD)400000
Frankie KokkinesMontiniSouthern IllinoisW: 79-68 (UMKC)100000
Maya WongNormalIllinois StateW: 69-38 (OMAHA)1643411
Brea BealRock IslandSouth CarolinaW: 103-41 (TEMP)1953302
Anaya PeoplesSchlarmanNotre DameW: 84-78 (VT)34158303
Sheahen DowlingTrinityFlorida Gulf CoastW: 91-55 (WI)1624000
Kiara LewisWhitney YoungSyracuseL: 68-92 (UNC)24103301

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