Stock Watch: The Rise of Ayo Dosunmu

May was a jam packed month of AAU basketball, and for several area prospects, it was an extremely productive one.  Summer AAU basketball has a knack for changing popular perception of a prospect in the blink of an eye.  A few impressive showings in national tournaments can send a player’s stock through the roof, while poor showings (or no showings at all) over the summer can leave a player with serious ground to make up come the high school season.  Already this summer there are a number of players seeing their stock rise, and others with ground to make up.

Over the course of the summer, we’ll highlight players who are seeing their stock rise or fall.  First up: Ayo Dosunmu.

Stock Rising arrow

Ayo Dosunmu (2018 PG, Mac Irvin Fire/Morgan Park)

Perhaps no one in the state has seen their stock rise as significantly this summer as Ayo Dosunmu.  Playing a secondary role to Cal-bound star Charlie Moore as a Sophomore this season at Morgan Park, Dosunmu has been on a mission to prove he can be a teams’ primary scorer.  Dosunmu started the season playing for the Fire U16 team on the EYBL circuit, but his strong play has earned him minutes with the Fire U17s recently as well.  The 6’3″ PG has seemingly scored at will at times this summer.  Dosunmu’s length and athleticism make him a constant threat when driving to the basket, but Dosunmu has also shown the ability to score from mid-range or beyond the arc.

Dosunmu’s strong play so far this summer has caught the eye of scouts and coaches alike.  Offers have poured in since the spring, including Illinois, Northwestern, SMU, Texas A&M and UNLV.  Ayo’s ascension has been noticed by scouts as well.  Just this week, Dosunmu was named a top-60 player in 2018 by ESPN.  The trend is certainly upward for Dosunmu, who figures to be in the discussion for Mr. Basketball in 2018.

 

Stock Watch: The Rise of Ayo Dosunmu

Summer Update #1: Recruiting Roundup

It’s been just over a month since the Illinois high school season ended in Peoria, but the AAU circuit is already in full swing.  The last several weekends have been jam packed with events on the NY2LA, EYBL, Adidas Uprising, and Under Armour circuits.  Away from the court, there’s also been plenty of recruiting news on some of the area’s best players.  Here are biggest recruiting storylines so far this off-season:

Charlie Moore

With Josh Pastner leaving Memphis for Georgia Tech, Illinois’ Mr. Basketball was released from his LOI and reopened his recruitment.  Immediately, some of the biggest programs in the country jumped at the chance to sign the state’s top senior so late in the game. This week, Moore cut his list down to eight:

Nick Rackocevic

This recruitment has been one of the more interesting to follow in recent years.  Rakocevic is a prospect with obvious talent and serious upside, but plenty question marks regarding his attitude and ability to add strength.  Those questions may have deterred some college suitors, but there were still plenty of high-level programs pursuing the 6’11” big man.  During the season, Rakocevic insisted he would focus on recruiting only after the season was over, and it didn’t take long for him to make a decision.  Just two weeks after his season ended with St. Joe’s, Rakocevic committed to USC over UNLV, Arizona State and Florida.

Nick Robinson

After decommitting from Indiana State in October, Kenwood’s Nick Robinson has committed St. Joseph’s after visiting in April.  The 6’6″ wing saw his stock rise early during his senior season and decided to reopen his recruitment.  At St. Joe’s, Robinson will have a chance to make multiple NCAA Tournaments and develop under accomplished coach Phil Martelli.

Summer Update #1: Recruiting Roundup

312 Hoops All-Chicago 2016

All-Chicago

It’s been another exciting season of high school hoops in the Chicago area, and a number of players have made a case for All-Chicago selection.  Here are the five best players in Chicago area for the 2015-2016 season, according to 312 Hoops.

Devin Gage (Senior, Curie)

During Gage’s four years as a varsity player at Curie, he witnessed one of the most tumultuous periods in the program’s history, but also it’s most successful.  As a sophomore, Gage was part of a team that was stripped of a city title over eligibility issues.  Two years later, Gage led the Condors to their first state title in program history.  Headed to DePaul next season, Gage averaged 15 points, five assists, four rebounds, and three steals during his senior season.

Charlie Moore (Senior, Morgan Park)

Morgan Park may have failed to reach Peoria this season after falling to Lincoln-Way West, but that takes little away from the stellar career of Charlie Moore.  Unquestionably the best pure scorer in the state, Moore averaged 28 points, seven assists and five steals en route to winning Mr. Basketball in the state.  Heading to Memphis next season, Moore seems destined to find success at the next level.

Zach Norvell (Senior, Simeon)

Despite being the best player on a Simeon team that captured a city title, Norvell still somehow seems to have flown under the radar this season.  Few players in the state (perhaps only Jordan Goowin) are as versatile as Norvell.  Known mostly as an outside shooter prior to his senior season, Norvell has expanded his game his game to become a talented scorer around the basket and an excellent rebounding guard.  Heading to Gonzaga next season, Norvell has all the tools to become a contributor early in his college career.

Nick Rakocevic (Senior, St. Joseph)

Still uncommitted, few players in the state have gotten more attention this season than Nick Rakocevic.  The 6’11” big man divides opinion like few players in recent memory, but his play this season certainly answered many of his critics.  Rakocevic averaged 20 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks, three assists, and two steals, leading the Chargers back to state as the team’s senior leader.  Rakocevic plans to take multiple college visits in the coming weeks, listing Miami, USC, Memphis, Arizona State, Florida, and North Carolina as possible destinations.

Mike Smith (Senior, Fenwick)

Other than Charlie Moore, there likely isn’t a player in the state that can put up points in bunches like Mike Smith.  The recent Columbia commit was explosive in high profile wins over Simeon and St Joseph’s on his way to winning Catholic League Player of the Year honors.  Capable of knifing to the basket or scoring from range (43% from three), Smith averaged 19 points, five assists, four rebounds, and three steals this season.

Honorable Mention: Barrett Benson (Senior, Hinsdale South), Nojel Eastern (Junior, Evanston), James Jones (Senior, Bogan), Justin Pierce (Senior, Glenbard West), Nick Robinson (Senior, Kenwood), Justin Smith (Junior, Stevenson)

 

312 Hoops All-Chicago 2016

Storylines from Peoria

Chicago Curie (4A) and Belleville Althoff (3A) were crowned State Champions this past weekend in Peoria.  Here are the biggest storylines from this season’s tournament:

March Madness is Alive:

When Henry V. Porter coined the term “March Madness” in 1939, he probably envisioned a tournament similar to the one that concluded last weekend in Peoria.  This season’s State Tournament was one of the more memorable in recent history, not necessarily for the level of talent on display, but instead for the madness.  Both Lincoln-Way West (3A) and Benet Academy (4A) from the Chicago suburbs made improbable runs to the state title game before falling to favored opponents.  En route to Peoria in 3A, Lincoln-Way Westbeat title contender Morgan Park in the Supersectional, while Benet beat 4A favorite Simeon in the State semi-final.

Goodwin, Belleville Althoff Seize Their Chance:

With Morgan Park falling to Lincoln-Way West in the Supersectional, the path was cleared for Belleville Althoff to win their first State title, and the Crusaders took advantage.  Althoff narrowly defeated Nick Rakocevic and every-present St. Joseph before blowing out the Cinderella Warriors of Lincoln-Way West in the title game.  Jordan Goodwin was the star of the show for Crusaders, averaging 22 points, 12.5 rebounds, three assists, and 2.5 steals over the weekend.  Goodwin showed the type of competitive fire and versatile skill set that has put him at the top of the list for Mr. Basketball in the state next season.

Pingatore and St. Joseph Get Back to Peoria:

Another year, another tournament run for Coach Pingatore.  Now closing in on 1,000 wins for his career, the winningest coach in Illinois high school history again had his team playing its best basketball deep into March.  After Fenwick throttled St. Joe’s 87-52 to win the Catholic League title in late February, a trip downstate for the Chargers seemed unlikely to say the least.  Fast forward two weeks to the Sectional final and St. Joe’s seemed like a different team, beating Fenwick 59-55 despite a heroic effort from Mike Smith who finished with 34 points.  The difference this time?  Coach Gene Pingatore allowed Smith the freedom to operate, while shutting down the rest of the Fenwick squad.  St. Joe’s then rolled over Ridgewood to return to Peoria, only narrowly losing to Belleville Althoff 66-62 in the semi-finals.

Curie Wins First State Title:

Considered by many to be the best program in the Illinois never to win a state title, Curie looked like a team on a mission in the post-season.  The Condors won tight games over Kenwood, Niles Notre Dame, and Rockford Auburn to reach the state title game against Benet Academy.  Trailing late in the third quarter, Curie went on a 19-0 run fueled by their star, and DePaul commit, Devin Gage.  The Condors held on behind strong free-throw shooting to beat the Redwings 65-59 and capture the state title.  Winning the first state title in program history is reason enough to celebrate for Curie, but doing so two seasons after they were stripped of a city title must make it that much sweeter.

Storylines from Peoria

No Dancing in Illinois

IllinoisNoDance

Sunday marked the third consecutive NCAA Tournament Selection Show without a team from the state of Illinois hearing it’s name called.  Let me reiterate that, none of the 13 in-state college programs eligible for the tournament were able to qualify for a third straight season.  If you focus on Illinois schools not nicknamed Fighting Illini, that drought stretches to nine years. NINE.

So the question is obvious: How can a state with so much prep basketball talent be so bad at college hoops?

Last year’s big dance included over 50 players from the state of Illinois, and recent tournaments have been headlined by Illinois talent; Anthony Davis, Jahlil Okafor, and Frank Kaminsky to name a few.

It would be easy to paint with a broad brush and say, “Illinois schools aren’t keeping kids in-state.”  And you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong for saying that.  In-state players make up about half of the roster at Illinois and DePaul (9 and 8 players, respectively), but far less at other in-state schools.  Northwestern and Southern Illinois rosters include only four in-state players each, while Bradley’s roster includes five in-state players.  Keeping kids in-state is an issue, but just loading a squad full of in-staters doesn’t guarantee wins.

The reality is that the state of Illinois is fertile recruiting territory for most of the Midwest and even beyond.  Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky have all picked up multiple high-level prospects from the Chicago area within the last few seasons.  Not to mention other traditionally strong programs – Michigan State, Wisconsin, Louisville, etc. – who have come to consider Chicago and the state as must-recruit territory.  With so much competition for the state’s best talent, Illinois schools have been left behind.

Since 2011, there have been eight top-50 prospects from the state of Illinois.  None have stayed in-state to attend college (according to 247 Sports).  You have to go back six years to 2010 to find a top-50 recruit that stayed in-state (Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard both went to Illinois).  The result is a group of Illinois schools fighting for the leftovers.

With the state’s top talent being snagged up by out-of-state programs, Illinois schools have been forced to settle for lower level in-state talent or search for talent elsewhere.  That puts schools in a tricky position.  With the possible exception of the Illini, no in-state school can claim the type of reputation that attracts top prospects regionally, let alone nationally.  If a school has trouble landing local talent, what chance does it have in an area where the school isn’t well-known?

This situation leads coaches to scoop up the best local talent they can, while trying to build relationships outside their state.  By recent evidence, that strategy hasn’t worked out very well for Illinois programs.

No Dancing in Illinois

Scouting Report: Mike Smith

It seems like every year there’s a Senior that rises from relative obscurity to capture the imagination of the Chicago prep basketball scene. In 2016, that player is Mike Smith of Fenwick.  At just 5’9″ and with a soft-spoken demeanor, Smith isn’t the kind of player that jumps out at you in warm-ups, but once the ball tips it’s hard to keep your eyes off him.  Smith combines the kind of elusiveness you expect from an NFL punt returner with the craftiness of a 30 year YMCA-ball veteran.  He’s capable of blowing by a defender and attacking the basket at will or setting up a teammate with a perfectly timed pass.  To summarize, Mike Smith has just about everything you want in a high school point guard.

With all that being said, it’s impossible to ignore Smith’s size when you project him at the next level.  There’s always a question that hangs over small guards who rely on attacking the basket in high school: Can they do it against bigger players in college?  Without a reliable outside shot, it’s not clear that Smith’s attack-first style will translate to the high-major college game.  With the high school career coming to an end, Smith seems like a player destined to star for a mid-major program in the near future.

Smith currently holds offers from a number of mid-major schools, including UIC, Loyola, UW Green Bay, and Dartmouth.  Expect a college decision from Smith following the high school season.

More Scouting Reports

Scouting Report: Mike Smith

Simeon, Fenwick Shine in Tournament Play

This past weekend saw two city powers shine en route to tournament titles.  Simeon won three games in three days against ranked opponents en route to a city title, while Fenwick blew out a talented St. Joseph team to win the Catholic League title.

In the Public League, Simeon prevailed in a wild ‘Battle of Vincennes’ against Morgan Park Friday night in the CPL semi-finals.  Ben Coupet led the way for the Wolverines, scoring a career high 24 points in the 74-72 win.  Simeon followed up its impressive win Friday by beating Evanston 55-43 on Saturday.  The Wolverines held Evanston’s Junior star Nojel Eastern to nine points on just 3-of-19 shooting.  Playing its third game in three days, Simeon then battled through fatigue to beat Kenwood 54-49 in the city title game.  Zach Norvell (18 points, 7 rebounds) and Evan Gilyard (16 points) led the way for Simeon, securing the school’s first city title since 2012.

In the Catholic League, Fenwick used 27 points from star Mike Smith to blow out St. Joseph 73-51 at DePaul’s McGrath-Phillips Arena on Saturday night.  The 5’9″ Smith used his explosive speed to get to the basket at will and score over taller defenders.  Nick Rakocevic led the way for St. Joesph with 21 points and 18 rebounds.  Smith – who also took home the Catholic League Player of the Year award Saturday night – remains a dark horse candidate for Area Player of the Year and perhaps the most overlooked player in the state.

After impressive performances over the weekend, Simeon and Fenwick now occupy the top two spots in the Sun-Times Super 25 rankings.

Simeon, Fenwick Shine in Tournament Play