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Cliff Alexander dunks against Benet. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media

No. 1

When discussing established, high-profile prospects, it’s rare to rave about the advanced strides that a player makes in a season. But with Curie’s Cliff Alexander, one of the top 10 prospects nationally in the Class of 2014, the jump he’s made this season has been significant.

“His confidence is so much higher now, where he knows he’s going to be able to just go out and dominate,” Curie coach Mike Oliver said.

Oliver says Alexander, who is averaging 22 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks a game, has been recruited “the longest and the hardest by Michigan State.” But it’s a recruiting race that is far from over, with Illinois, DePaul, Ohio State, Kentucky, Indiana and N.C. State most prominently involved, says Oliver.

No. 2

As a ranked team on top of the tough North Suburban Lake and the No. 1 seed in the Waukegan Sectional, there is a whole lot to play for in the coming weeks for Stevenson. But take a quick peek into the future of coach Pat Ambrose’s program and you’ll find one that will have plenty of staying power.

The Patriots boast arguably the top sophomore in Illinois in star point guard Jalen Brunson (19 ppg). Fellow sophomore Connor Cashaw (16 ppg) and 6-3 junior Matthew Morrissey (10 ppg) are two other double-digit scorers who will be back next season.

Even with four sophomores in the rotation for a 20-4 team, the Stevenson sophomore team has still put together an impressive 17-4 record.

No. 3

Pat McInerney of Benet is one of the most unheralded players on a ranked team in Illinois. The rugged, no-nonsense 6-5 senior is a four-year varsity performer who is closing in on 100 victories in his Benet career.

He’s gone from a valuable complementary player to a Swiss Army knife-type player, averaging 11.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game for the East Suburban Catholic leaders.

McInerney, who is likely headed to Illinois as a preferred baseball walk-on, knows his limitations, yet impacts the game in a multitude of ways. He does sound work on the offensive and defensive glass. He contributes as a secondary ballhandler and playmaker, and he’s a vastly improved shooter and offensive weapon.

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