Chicago Whitney Young won the Illinois high school 4A state championship last year, and they graduated several college-bound players. But Coach Tyrone Slaughter isn't rebuilding, just reloading.
"We're not gonna have the experience we had last year, but we have some guys capable of playing basketball," Slaughter understates. "The luxury we have is that potentially we have seven Division 1 players. We've been fortunate enough to graduate some good players, but there are still some good players there."
While he didn't have his full roster on hand, Slaughter displayed a team with outstanding talent at the recent Illinois basketball shootoout. Even without sharpshooting guard A.J. Johnson, a Purdue commitment, Whitney Young was a formidable opponent.
Ahmad Starks takes over at point guard for the graduated Chris Colvin. An Oregon State commitment, the 5'-8" Stark combines speed, savvy and shooting touch. He is clearly the leader of the team.
Rising junior Sam Thompson appears ready to manifest his tremendous potential. The 6'-5" jumping jack exploded on the scene late last season, and the sky is the limit for him according to Slaughter.
"Sam was probably as key to what we did at the end of the year as any one particular player. What he did in the playoffs kind of catapulted him through to spring and summer, and it will continue through the winter."
However, Slaughter was reluctant to call Thompson the star of the team.
"There's a lot of competition to call someone a star. It's not necessarily the pinnacle piece for him because we want him to play like a star."
Thompson has much more going for him besides basketball. There is no doubt in Slaughter's mind that Thompson has a bright life ahead of him. But comparing him at this early age to past stars is premature as his potential is still largely untapped.
"It is really kind of amazing to me. He's a kid who's extremely intelligent and comes from a tremendous family. His mom's a doctor and his dad's a lawyer, kind of the Huxtables in reverse.
"He loves basketball. He's still a fan of the game, a student of the game, so the circumstance (notoriety, college interest, rankings) hasn't taken complete control of him as it has some players.
"Eventually, he'll get to the point where he's concerned about it, but not in the sense that it drives him. It is what it is to be mentioned with some of these people."
There was much buzz surrounding Tommy Hamilton, a talented 6'-8" youngster who will be an entering freshman this fall. The son of 7'-3" Tommy Hamilton Senior, at one time an Illinois commitment, Junior is already a manchild with versatile ball skills.
Some media were surprised Hamilton would get minutes off the bench for Whitney Young at the team camp.
"Tommy is a kid who we believe has the possibility to be a varsity player. To that extent, we felt compelled to bring him. We've played freshmen before. Chris Colvin played four years of varsity basketball.
"It hasn't been an ideal situation in that we've had some real good players. This is one of those years where he has the size, 6'-8", that we don't necessarily have. So that's kind of where we are with him."
Upcoming sophomore Jermaine Morgan is 6'-8" also, but his frame is much more slender than Hamilton's. 5'-6" Derrick Randolph is another sophomore who will be getting significant playing time.
"Morgan and Randolph are having a good spring. We look for them to step up and play some time. Derrick is a phenomenal defender. Jermaine is probably gonna be a starter as the season begins."