Return of the Mac
Actually, he never left. Standouts from the Mac Irvin Back to School Jam.
By Aggrey Sam
I spent the majority of this past weekend at the University of Illinois-Chicago for the annual Mac Irvin Back to School Jam, which is considered an indicator of which Windy City high school prospects (and therefore, teams) should be putting in work this winter. Mr. Irvin is a legend in the Chi and the godfather of grassroots hoops here, as just about every baller you can think of from the ‘Go either played for his program, the Mac Irvin Fire, or in his events. I usually just write about the kids who stood out to me at events, but by his request (after all, when the Godfather makes you an offer, you can’t refuse it), I’m giving y’all my top 10 players from the tournament, as well as 20 other prospects who did their thing. If any Chicago high school hoopheads read this, feel free to state your opinion. I’m just one man, my word won’t make or break any player and since I’m an out-of-towner, there’s no politics involved, although I’m an opinionated dude and very quickly developing my preferences among the local ballplayers. Here’s my top 10 from my weekend on the Westside:
1) Wayne Blackshear, 6-5 junior wing, Morgan Park: The highly-regarded swingman showed glimpses of his immense potential throughout the weekend by combining gliding drives to the goal, powerful above-the-rim finishes and high degree-of-difficulty outside jumpers in leading his young team to the event’s championship.
2) Derrick Randolph, 5-5 sophomore point guard, Whitney Young: An absolute blur with the ball, Randolph was a one-man press break, a fearless finisher, a terror as an on-ball defender, a game-changing playmaker and a dangerous, if streaky, shooter from deep.
3) Dave Dudzinski, 6-9 senior post, Kaneland: The slender Dudzinski continues to turn heads with his excellent touch out to the arc, surprising bounciness, polished post moves and tremendous motor.
4) Fabyon Harris, 5-9 senior point guard, Hyde Park: A speed demon with a tight handle, Harris drove to the rack without fear, finished with savvy, distributed to his teammates, kept the defense honest from outside and gave maximum effort on both sides of the ball.
5) Tommy Hamilton, 6-8 freshman post, Whitney Young: Operating almost exclusively in the post for a guard-heavy team, the youngster’s rebounding prowess, polished footwork, deft touch and agility were on full display.
6) Ryan Boatright, 5-11 junior combo guard, East Aurora: The diminutive scorer may not be a true point, but displayed some dazzling dishes on his lightning-quick forays to the rim, in addition to his fearless drives amongst the trees, which were aided by his uncanny body control.
7) Vincent Garrett, 6-5 senior wing, Marshall: Garrett, while raw offensively, was incredibly active off the ball on both offense and defense, where his quickness and big-time hops enabled him to make plays above the rim and in transition.
Sam Thompson, 6-6 junior wing, Whitney Young: The slender swingman with explosive athleticism offered bits and pieces of his complete package by showcasing his one-on-one scoring skills from the wing, an excellent touch on his feathery jumper, high-flying finishing ability and the willingness to battle inside for rebounds.
9) Curtis Jones, 6-1 sophomore combo guard, Orr: “CJ,” a natural scorer, was his usual aggressive self in attacking the rim and finishing, knocking down pull-up jumpers and creating opportunities off the dribble for himself and others, but he showed the added capability to be a lockdown defender.
10) Ray Lester, 6-6 senior post, Crete-Monee: Lester, a rugged insider, was a tough customer in the paint, whether he was pounding the boards or exploding to convert powerful dunks and layups, but his footwork, arsenal of post moves and soft touch made it evident he also possessed some finesse.
I was brought up to respect my elders. Thanks to Mr. Irvin and his fam for hosting me. Anyway, here are my 20 best of the rest, in my usual alphabetical order:
–Jerome Brown, 6-4 junior wing, Morgan Park: A sniper from behind the arc, Brown needs to continue to round out the rest of his game, but his length, solid athleticism, willingness to defend and scrap for boards nicely complement his outside stroke.
–Julius Brown, 5-10 junior point guard, Hillcrest: “Juice,” a quick, savvy and tough floor general combines natural playmaking skills, the ability to get into the lane and a knack for simply making plays.
–Paul Bunch, 6-10 senior post, North Lawndale: Still a project, Bunch’s size and frame alone are intriguing, but he showed signs of being a bruiser down low, as well as steady progress in his back-to-the-basket game.
–Jamie Crockett, 6-4 junior wing, Crete-Monee: An elite athlete, Crockett is currently most effective as a battler in the paint, defensive playmaker, transition scorer and when operating in the high post, all situations where he can maximize his strength, quickness and leaping ability.
–Ryan Frazier, 6-1 senior combo guard, Evanston: Frazier, heady and versatile, did everything from clean up on the glass and knock down jumpers to spoon feed his teammates for easy buckets and slash to the rim and finish plays himself for his squad.
–Mike Gabriel, 6-8 senior post, Lincoln Park: A physical, take-no-prisoners type, Gabriel was an enforcer inside on both ends; he dominated the boards, scored rugged baskets and was a shot-blocking force.
–Eric Gaines, 6-4 senior wing, Hillcrest: The Kent State commit, blessed with good length, athleticism and size for his position, displayed a knack for slashing to the basket, a solid handle in space and the potential to be a defensive stopper on the next level.
–Cameron Harvey, 6-3 sophomore wing, St. Joseph: The sweet-shooting and fundamentally-sound Harvey blended an ability to overpower smaller guards on drives and a pure stroke, in addition to mixing it up inside.
–Hollis Hill, 6-0 senior combo guard, CVS: A stocky guard who can light it up from outside, Hill was also effective on the ball as a floor general and penetrator, while showing great intensity on the defensive end.
–Josh Humphrey, 6-3 senior wing, Crete-Monee: Humphrey, the younger brother of Oregon sophomore Matt, mixed outside shooting ability with solid ballhandling and nice athleticism on drives to the bucket.
–Phillip Jackson, 6-8 senior post, Hyde Park: A long athlete with a developing post game, Jackson finished above the rim with power, intimidated opponents on defense, rebounded on both ends and consistently sprinted down the floor on the break.
–Marcus Lewis, 6-3 senior wing, Streamwood: A long, versatile and athletic slasher, Lewis functioned as a playmaker and a defensive stopper, while also making plays in transition and consistently getting to the rim.
–Miles Mayfield, 6-6 senior post, North Lawndale: One of his team’s legion of hard-nosed inside warriors, Mayfield used his length, energy and athleticism to work the boards, finish around the basket and be an inside presence.
–Terrance Quinn, 6-0 freshman combo guard, Morgan Park: “Speedy,” a high-energy player with excellent burst and good athleticism, was constantly around the ball or making plays, whether it was getting deflections and steals in the passing lane on defense, maneuvering his way to the rim for layups or creating scoring opportunities for his teammates.
–Mario Redmond, 6-6 senior combo forward, Crete-Monee: Redmond, a long athlete, operated inside for the most part, but displayed his versatility by knocking down the occasional outside jumper and making baseline moves for athletic finishes.
–JR Reynolds, 6-4 senior wing, Whitney Young: Although he’s primarily known as a spot-up shooter, Reynolds presented different aspects of his game by putting the ball on the floor and using his length to finish, as well as playing tough on-the-ball defense.
–Greg Tucker, 6-1 senior combo guard, Lincoln Park: An energetic scorer, Tucker is a quick and athletic slasher who frequently was called upon for playmaking duties and contributed on the boards, but mainly made his presence felt by getting to the rim and hitting outside jumpers.
–Eddie Williams, 6-1 senior point guard, Harper: Williams, a long floor general with a yo-yo handle, was the consummate playmaker, as opposing defenses couldn’t keep him out of the lane, where he either finished drives himself or, more often, found his teammates with thread-the-needle passes for easy buckets.
–Marquis Williams, 5-9 freshman point guard, Morgan Park: A stocky and competitive youngster, Williams is a blue-collar pure point who played sticky defense, ran the show in a heady fashion and was enough of a scoring threat to make defenses pay attention to him.
–Jermaine Winfield, 6-5 senior combo forward, North Lawndale: An undersized battler with a developing perimeter game, Winfield was most effective around the basket, where he utilized his strength and explosiveness to snatch boards on both ends, convert layups and muscle opponents with his physical play.