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De La Salle's Brandon Hutton leans back to shoot past Proviso East's Branden Jenkins. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Don't underestimate the significance of coach Chris Collins and Northwestern landing Fenwick's Scott Lindsey this past weekend. Although Lindsey isn't mentioned in the same breath with the top in-state players in the Class of 2014 and he can't be found in anyone's top 100 nationally, Lindsey is still an underrated prospect and an exciting recruit for the Wildcats.
Lindsey is the classic late bloomer who came into his own in a hurry -- just a little later than some of the more recognized names fans are more familiar with in the senior class. The versatile 6-6 perimeter player transformed himself into a different, more confident and diverse player this summer and moved into the top dozen prospects in Illinois in the loaded Class of 2014 as a result.
In time, Lindsey projects to be a player with a complete offensive package. Already a splendid shooter, the skilled Lindsey has become more comfortable in getting to the basket off the dribble. Plus, he has that untapped potential you see in a ready-to-blossom prospect.
How solid has Collins and his staff been in six months? The Wildcats have arguably the most impressive collection of incoming recruits in the program's history. Vic Law, a 6-7 multi-faceted forward from St. Rita, and 6-3 point guard Bryan McIntosh of Greensburg, Ind., are the headliners, with 6-8 Gavin Skelly out of Cleveland and Lindsey rounding out the rock solid four-man class. Depending on what national rankings you look at, Northwestern has some combination of four and three-star recruits in Collins' first recruiting class.
THE BREAKOUT PLAYER IN 2015
He was one of the true breakout performers this past summer on the AAU circuit. And there's no reason to believe that won't continue to happen when the season tips off for De La Salle's Brandon Hutton.
The chiseled and uber-athletic 6-5 forward is still figuring things out as far as making the move from an undersized 4-man to a wing. Hutton, who transferred to De La Salle from Simeon after his freshman year, just brings it -- toughness, strength, elite athleticism and a non-stop motor. Those traits -- ones college coaches don't have to teach, coach or worry about --- typically always lead to high-level production. The handle and perimeter jumper remain a work in progress, but he has enough tools to work with and improve on to make him very intriguing for high-major programs.
RISING THE RIGHT WAY
Plainfield East's Aaron Jordan has received a lot of attention and hype of late, with the latest being an offer from Indiana. He's also risen in the national rankings, climbing to No. 60 in the Rivals.com rankings of juniors and No. 79 in the Scout.com rankings.
Maybe there is never really the "right way" to rise among your peers in today's prep basketball world; take it anyway you can get it. But the 6-4 junior guard, however, has done so in his own way. His interest and ranking has soared without the beneficiary of playing for a state power (Plainfield East was 11-15 last year). He doesn't play in the much-talked-about Chicago Public League. His rise wasn't due to being connected to one of the high-profile local AAU programs, which often unjustifiably influences national rankings.
The reward for putting in the work and letting his game do the talking for him has been Big Ten offers from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Northwestern, along with offers from Xavier and Butler out of the Big East.
READY TO ROLL AT ST. JOE
There were some big and lofty expectations thrown at Jordan Ash entering high school a couple of years ago. With an up-and-down sophomore season for the St. Joseph guard in the rearview mirror, Ash put together a steady and productive July rather than a breakout one. But the strong, athletic 6-1 guard is coming along at his own pace. A few college coaches have walked away from fall open gyms really impressed with Ash's development, as well as his trademarks of being an athletic, tough, hard-nosed player who will compete.
Ash and fellow junior point guard Glynn Watson will be the catalysts for coach Gene Pingatore's team, which lost a pair of seniors in Paul Turner and Karriem Simmons who transferred out.
BIG-TIME 2015 BIG MAN COMING TO CHICAGO
The recently released ESPN.com Class of 2015 player rankings has 6-11 Stephen Zimmerman of Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the country. Zimmerman and his loaded Bishop Gorman team will be in Chicago Dec. 7 playing in the second annual Chicago Elite Classic.
Every time a new Class of 2014 national player rankings is released, you can't help but quickly recognize and appreciate the two stars at the top. Do you realize how special it is to have two consensus top five players in the country right here in Chicago, including the nation's top-ranked player? We have six months left to enjoy both the development and domination of Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander, so take advantage Chicago area prep basketball fans.
NEW YOUNG PG
With talented pieces like Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1 player in the country, Georgetown commit Paul White and three-year starter Miles Reynolds returning for Whitney Young, the Dolphins are in good shape. But the projected preseason No. 1 team in Illinois will get a boost from Providence St. Mel transfer Ant Mosely, a pure point guard in the Class of 2015.
CITY POWERS ON A 3A COLLISION COURSE
When looking way ahead -- yes, we're looking all the way to March -- it's impossible not to begin thinking of a potential Morgan Park-Orr clash in Peoria in Class 3A. There is just too much talent on both rosters to think otherwise in what is usually always a very watered down Class 3A field.
DEPAUL'S NEW DIGS
There is no question the beautiful new arena DePaul is expected to build will draw interest from local recruits and out-of-state players on official and unofficial visits. The recently released renderings of the state-of-the-art facility look ideal for a major college basketball program and just what the Blue Demons basketball program needs.
It's just too bad the facility isn't closer to the Lincoln Park campus. While clearly better than playing at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, there is something to be said to having an on-campus arena -- or at least one just off campus. The "L" ride or bus shuttle won't be short for DePaul students from campus to the arena. And walking recruits and their families around campus and then having to load up in a car or van for a traffic-filled ride to the South Loop isn't ideal.
HIGH-MAJOR TALENT IN 2014
With the recent commitment of Fenwick's Scott Lindsey to Northwestern, that makes 10 senior prospects in the state of Illinois who have committed to programs in high-major conferences. Add Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander to that list, along with three other players in the class with high-major offers on the table, and this year's senior class could have as many as 15 high-major signings. There were 11 high-major signings out of Illinois in the last two years combined.
AT THE TOP IN 2016
The Class of 2016 is, well, not up to par with what we've grown accustomed to in the Class of 2013, 2014 and even 2015. But it's still early.
Although the class lacks the superstar power we've seen, like an Anthony Davis, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander, there also appears to be very little depth in the sophomore group. There are a couple of players at the top, however, who have separated themselves, starting with 6-3 Simeon combo guard Zach Norvell, followed by 6-9 big man Barrett Benson of Hinsdale South. What's interesting is neither are athletic marvels for their position, which typically is all the rage in scouting and recruiting.
Norvell has moxie and know-how as he's able to play both guard spots with his height, big frame, feel and perimeter shot. The fact Norvell will be thrown into the fire this winter as a sophomore for Simeon will enhance his development.
Benson, meanwhile, is a true on-the-block big who has really good hands and a soft touch. As his footwork gets better and better, he will become that much more effective around the basket. Plus, he's an outstanding student academically.