The class of 2014 in Illinois continues to demonstrate talent and depth, and it appears 2015 will be a good year as well. Many discussed below had Illini coaches watching their play last weekend. A few other standouts are mentioned as well, including some from other states.
Class of 2014
Keita Bates-Diop, 6'-6", small forward (Illinois Wolves – Normal University High School)
Bates-Diop has improved his game significantly since I first saw him in April. The most significant stride has been made in his perimeter shot. When I first saw him, he couldn't shoot. Now he is a solid mid-range shooter and can reach out to beyond the three point arc. His confidence is through the roof.
His ball handling has improved to the point where I think he has a good shot to become a high major small forward at the next level. His length causes havoc on defense, and he is a good shot blocker. Bates-Diop's stock has continued to rise. He is among the top eight 2014 prospects in the state.
Jon Johnson, 6'-7", power forward (Illinois Wolves – Notre Dame High School)
Johnson is a big and thick power forward on the 15 and Under Wolves. He finishes well around the hoop and rebounds well. Johnson has mid-major banger written all over him!
Nic Weishar, 6'-5", small forward (Illinois Wolves – Marist High School)
I love Weishar's toughness and the energy he brings to his team. He plays hardnosed defense and does all the little things needed for a team to win. Plus, he is a good shooter from the arc.
Larry Austin, 6'-1", point guard (Peoria Irish – Springfield Lanphier High School)
I was surprised to see Austin playing with the Peoria Irish in Fort Wayne. He elevated his stock with great play for the USA 16 and Under national team.
Austin has good vision and makes solid decisions with the ball in his hands. He makes slick passes to open teammates. He has a good handle and is fast pushing the ball in transition. Austin gets great penetration in the lane.
The one area he needs to improve is his jump shot. Most of his scoring at this point comes in transition and in the lane after penetration. His college potential will depend on improving his jump shot and continuing to develop his point guard skills.
Erick Locke, 6'-0", shooting guard (Mac Irvin Fire – Brooks High School)
Locke is a strong and powerful guard. He attacks the hoop super strong and gets to the foul line at a high rate. He has tight handles when driving.
His forte though is his perimeter jump shot. The release point has a slight hitch, but it goes in at a high rate. He shoots it with confidence. His favorite spot is right inside the three point arc on the left wing.
Locke has a chance to be a big-time scorer at Brooks and beyond that at the college level. He also rebounds great for a guard. Locke established himself as a top ten prospect in Illinois.
Greg Jackson, 6'-1", shooting guard (Mac Irvin Fire – Hyde Park High School)
Jackson is a smooth two guard with great length. I was extremely impressed with his jump shot! He will be part of a talented Hyde Park squad next year, with all their new additions.
Lamont Walker, 6'-4", small forward (Mac Irvin Fire – Morgan Park High School)
Walker has great size and should be able to grow nicely into the small forward position. He is extremely athletic and is a good ball handler in transition. His jump shot is silky smooth from the perimeter, and he has displayed a nice floater in the lane. He is also a solid passer, rebounder and defender. The versatile Walker is a player to watch over the next couple years.
Tyler Wideman, 6'-6", center (Meanstreets Wilburn – Lake Central High School, Indiana)
This big man is so much fun to watch. He has a thick body and uses it to score and rebound at high rates. I love how aggressive he is on the offensive end attacking his defender. He posts up strong and goes hard to the hoop for his buckets.
Defenders are too thin for him, so they either have to hack him or get run over. Wideman can also hit a 15-foot jump shot. His rebounding is phenomenal; he's a beast on the offensive glass. If he grows two more inches, Big 10 schools will be jumping over each other to try to land him.
Drake Harris, 6'-3", shooting guard (Meanstreets Wilburn - Grand Rapids Christian High School, Michigan)
Harris is a big-time scorer with a quick release on his three point shot. He moves smoothly on the court and has a nice feel for the game. Although he is a scorer, he does not force shots, taking things as they come to him. Indiana and Michigan State appear to be the early leaders for his services.
Tyler Ulis, 5'-7", point guard (Meanstreets Wilburn -Marian Catholic High School)
Ulis is a good leader and has a game similar to Jaylon Tate. His quickness helps him in transition. He is a good passer, setting up his talented teammates for scores. Ulis is a pass-first point guard who would rather have his teammates score than himself.
Sean O'Mara, 6'-7", center (IBA - Benet Academy)
O'Mara had several high majors including Illinois tracking him throughout the weekend. He is not the best athlete in the world, but he is incredibly skilled. His combination of size, length, and skill set make him an intriguing prospect.
He is a nice passer out of the post and rebounds at a solid rate. In a class that is star studded but low right now on size after the top two elite stars, O'Mara has intriguing tools that need to be tracked by high majors including the Illini.
Jaquan Lyle, 6'-4", point guard (Spiece Indy Heat – Bosse High School, Indiana)
Lyle has the best vision I have seen in a young player in a long time. He sees the floor so well and makes passes, especially in the half court, only a few college players can make. In transition he also demonstrates, like when he threw a three quarter court pass to A.J. Hammons on the run for a dunk.
Lyle does not show off his scoring ability as much in the AAU setting as he does at Bosse. Four schools remain heavily in the mix for Lyle: Illinois, Xavier, Purdue and the presumed favorite Indiana.
Trey Lyles, 6'-8", power forward (Arsenal Tech High School, Indiana – Committed to Indiana)
Lyles's combination of skills, athleticism and physical tools is unmatched in his class. He runs the floor like a deer and loves the big slam. In the half court, he has a nice post game that includes a skilled back-to-the-basket game, as well as a nice face-up game. He is a top five player in his class.
James Blackmon, 6'-2", shooting guard (Spiece Indy Heat - Bishop Luers High School, Indiana – Committed to Indiana)
Blackmon is a big-time scorer who can shoot it from all over the floor. His jump shot is flawless, and he makes it from several steps beyond the arc. He is also quick with his dribble, beating his man off the bounce. Blackmon is a tough one-on-one defender, giving opposing point guards fits.
P.J. Thompson, 5'-9", point guard (Spiece Indy Heat – Brebeuf Jesuit High School, Indiana)
Thompson is a tough pass-first floor general. He looks to set up his teammates by getting them the ball in the best place to succeed. He is quick off the bounce and is shifty in the lane.
Despite his size, Thompson is very strong and has some power in his small body. He has a nice set shot. I like his leadership qualities and believe he has a chance to be a quality guard at the next level.
Trevon Bluiett, 6'-5", small forward (Spiece Indy Heat – Park Tudor High School, Indiana)
Bluiett is a prospect who has grown on me. He is a thick-bodied small forward who is versatile. He attacks the hoop hard off the dribble. His three point shot is pretty consistent. Bluiett is also the primary ball handler when Thompson is off the floor for Spiece. He is a nice prospect.
Class of 2015
Jordan Ash, 6'-0", point guard (Illinois Wolves – St. Joseph's High School)
Ash is a great leader, running a team of players a full year older than him. His passing is solid, and once he gets in the paint, he makes creative plays that are rarely seen at that age. His jump shot has made major strides and now looks smooth. The shot is going down more consistently from beyond the arc.
He showed his intelligence by taking his man in the post when he had a significant advantage there. The rising freshman has clearly put himself in the top two of his class in Illinois and is a serious contender for the top spot.
Kain Harris, 6'-1", shooting guard (Mac Irvin Fire – Morgan Park High School)
Harris is a big-time athlete who is strong and knows how to use it. He is smooth with the ball in his hands and loves to get out in transition. His perimeter shot is silky smooth. Harris has the potential to become a big-time scorer and ranks among the elite players I have scouted in the class of 2015.
Myles Carter, 6'-6", center (Mac Irvin Fire – St. Rita High School)
Carter has emerged as the premier post prospect in the class of 2015 in Illinois. He has great length and is a monster shot blocker. His anticipation and quickness allow him to wait until his opponent leaves the floor to swat the shot.
Carter rebounds at an extremely high rate, including on the offensive glass. The athletic big man is skilled offensively, showing good footwork and an advanced post game. He can finish with either a powerful dunk or his soft touch.
His shot release is over the top of his head. This was the third event I have seen Carter, and I believe he has a chance to be special.
Armani Chaney, 5'-3", point guard (Mac Irvin Fire – St. Rita High School)
Yes, Chaney is small. Once you get past that, he is a heck of a basketball player! My favorite part of game is how he loves to go inside and score against players a foot taller than him. He hits some incredible shots in traffic and also finishes through contact.
Chaney's handles are slick, and he can get wherever he wants on the floor. His jump shot reaches all the way out to beyond the three point arc. All of the above is great, but it is his leadership that makes Chaney special.
Wolves 15U (Bates-Diop, Ash, Weishar, Johnson) – Illinois (Sean Harrington, Jerrance Howard), Northwestern, Wichita State, Xavier, Purdue, Illinois State, Indiana, Notre Dame, Fordham, Minnesota, and Evansville.
Fire 15U (Locke, Jackson, Walker)- Illinois (Howard), Purdue, Xavier, Wichita State, Indiana State, Loyola, Michigan, and IUPUI.
Southwest Jets 15U (Austin)- Illinois (Price, Howard), Indiana, Kansas State, Missouri State, Purdue, Butler, Michigan, and UIC.
IBA 15U (O'Mara) – Illinois (Price) and Purdue.
Meanstreets Wilburn 15U- Illinois (Price, Harrington), Michigan State, and Indiana.