Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins has finalized rosters for his 15 and under, 16 and under and 17 and under AAU teams. He believes they will be highly competitive again this year.
"We're excited about the kids we have coming back and some of the new players we've added. Everyone has been working very hard, and we expect to be successful this spring and summer again."
Included among his top 2011 players are players Nnana Egwu, Jacob Williams and Chasson Randle. And Coach Mullins won a tug of war for upcoming sophomore Bo Bo Drummond from Peoria. All are being recruited by the University of Illinois.
Egwu is a slender but athletic post player out of St. Ignatius.
"Nnana has improved tremendously. He's really improved his shooting, and he continues to grow in his understanding of the game. With his brief experience with basketball, just a couple of years, he's come a long way quickly. We're looking for the learning curve to continue.
"He's begun to lift weights for the first time. He's naturally growing and has gotten stronger, which is a good thing. He's 6'-9 and 1/4". He's athletic, he can run, he's got good hands.
"I know Coach Weber's been out to see him many times. I think everybody notices the progress he's made. He has some coaches at St. Ignatius who really work with him. I think in his class, he is the top post prospect in the state of Illinois."
Jacob Williams is somewhat an unknown quantity as he had to sit out the year after transferring to Bartlett. But he made a good impression on college coaches during last year's AAU circuit. And he has worked with Coach Mullins during his forced absence from the game.
"Jacob worked out throughout the year. He's doing all our practices with all the ages right now. What he missed was the live game action that you can't replace. He's grown a little bit, gotten stronger. He's improved his game speed, and now he's getting used to playing live, which was the biggest thing he missed throughout the year."
Coach Mullins described his game.
"Jacob is a 6'-5", very athletic wing who can shoot the ball. He slashes and can finish at the rim with or without contact. He really attacks the basket very well. And he has the ability to make shots from the three point range. With his midrange game and attacks, he's a difficult player to guard."
Coach Mullins hadn't finalized his rosters as of this conversation, but he was certain about some players.
"We have some talented players. Chasson Randle's coming all the way from Rock Island. He, Nnana and Courtney Darby from St. Pats will all be part of the 16 year old group. We have a shooting guard out of Benet (Academy) who had 41 in a high school game Dan Soboleski. BoBo Drummond's gonna play with our 16's.
"At the 15 level, Landis Farmer, Jeff Stokes, Romeo Johnson, Jacoby Roddy and Marcus Fair are all coming up. Mike and Matthew Mackey are 6'-7" twins from Glenbard West, who along with Jordan Foster, who started all year as a freshman at Oak Park, give us a strong nucleus at the 15 year old level.
"At the 17's, Anthony Shoemaker is a 6'-6" wing from Joliet. Matt Humphrey, a 6'-5" wing from Crete-Monee will be playing with us at that level, along with Alex Dragecevich, Bob Weddington, Wayne Simon, and Chris Olivera from Seton Academy, a 6'-7" forward who we're looking for big things from."
Coach Mullins is looking forward to the Wolves' first AAU event of the spring.
"The Hall of Fame is putting on a tournament at Attack Athletics in Chicago on April 10. All three of our teams will be participating."
He doesn't believe the economic downturn will adversely affect his tournament schedule for the year, although it might encourage participation in events closer to home.
"I think we'll be playing as many tournaments as in the past. Every year, we try out some different tournaments. There's gonna be a Nike event in Maryville in a brand new fieldhouse we are going to attend April 24th, along with the (Mac Irvin) Fire. We think that's gonna be a very good tournament. We'll go there instead of King James."