Illini targets and other top players were in action around the state over the Christmas holiday and some performed at a high level while others struggled at times. There are still a couple of games to be played, but here's a recap of some of the top performances of the week and how Illini targets fared.
Tennessee Larry Austin and Lanphier dominated the Pekin holiday tourney, and he had some big time help from sophomore guard Xavier Bishop, who continues to drop shots from all angles and all depths. Austin showed why he is one of the top guards in the 2014 class with an MVP performance. Austin defends as well as any high school guard I have seen, and he is great at finishing in transition. Bishop showed why he should be more heavily recruited despite a 5-foot-6 frame. At the end of the game, it's still about having more points than your opponent and Bishop can score.
Speaking of scoring, 2015 Plainfield East star Aaron Jordan had a solid Pekin tourney despite his team going 1-3. Jordan made shots from deep and showed the ability to score from the mid-range. While he put up some good scoring numbers, he didn't dominate the way he needed to for his team to win games. You would like to see him take that next step and become a player that not only dominates, but also makes his teammates better. Still, you just need to see one jumper to understand why college coaches covet his services.
Another coveted player is 2017 point guard prospect Nojel Eastern from Evanston. Eastern showed great court vision and passing ability throughout the tournament, and although he was inconsistent with his jump shot, he showed flashes. Right now he needs to get stronger so that he doesn't push his jumper and he needs to become more assertive. He has a great ability to use both hands around the rim and finish right or left handed. Evanston coach Mike Ellis says that his game with the ball is outstanding, but his next step is off the ball and making those big plays and shots.
Simeon run ends
Perhaps no player was more dominant over the holidays than 2014 Kansas commitment Cliff Alexander for Chicago Curie. The Condors took the tile behind a dominant performance each game from Alexander, who dunks with a ferocity and frequency not often seen at the high school level. Basically, nobody could guard him in the paint.
Curie defeated Simeon in the title game, and although he had a rather pedestrian tournament overall, Illinois 2015 commitment D.J. Williams showed well in the title tilt, playing all 32 minutes and scoring 13 points for the Wolverines from the point guard spot.
Williams is at times not assertive enough, but his ball skills and talent are undeniable. He scored around the rim, and over Alexander, with both hands, dropped in a couple of jumpers and made some nice passes. He can also defend at a high level with his length and quickness. Sometimes he reminds of 2014 Ohio State commitment Keita Bates-Diop in that he doesn't always take the lead for his squad.
Three wins for Centennial
Bates-Diop took on Illinois signee Michael Finke in the State Farm Holiday Classic in Bloomington and Finke's team got the best of them. After a lackluster effort against North Chicago, Finke bounced back with a pair of solid games on Saturday to lead his team to a 3-1 finish. Michael continues to grow into his body, but possesses the skills and frame to be a very good player down the road as he gains strength and evolves as a player. His best days are ahead.
Big game for Kain
A couple of new names have emerged over the past few weeks on the Illinois recruiting radar. 2015 guards 6-foot-4 Kain Harris of Morgan Park and 5-foot-10 Luwane Pipkins of Chicago Bogan. Harris put on a show Friday night in from of Illinois assistants Jamall Walker and Dustin Ford with 9 three's and 33 points, while Pipkins also dropped 30 on the same night. The next night, Illinois Head Coach John Groce accompanied Ford to the game and although Pipkins struggled, shooting 7-21, he led his team back from an 18 point deficit to win in overtime over Providence St. Mel. He also had a 10 steal game earlier in the tourney, so he did it at both ends.
Harris has become a bonafide high major recruit at this point, and Illinois has a great deal of interest in the 2015 star. His toughness and motor are unquestioned, and when you throw in his ability to knock down the 3 pointers, you have a special player. With Pipkins, the question isn't effort or toughness either, or even skill for that matter, but more position. He shoots a lot, and is small, but he makes a lot as well. Some question whether or not he can be a point guard at the next level because he takes some wild shots, but with good coaching someone will get a steal in Pipkins down the road.
Harris and Pipkins will do battle on Monday night in one semifinal, while undefeated St. Joe's and undefeated Stevenson play on the other side of the draw.
Flyers' frosh takes off
East St. Louis took home 3rd place at the Schnucks Holiday Classic in Collinsville. The story for the Flyers is the emergence of 2017 big man Jeremiah Tilmon. The 6-foot-9 frosh has the physical tools to rank high on the charts nationally. Tilmon is long and skilled, but his best asset right now is the ability to change games on the defensive end. As he matures and plays against top talent, look for Tilmon's point totals to soar.
While Tilmon isn't a consistent scorer yet, the same can't be said of another 2017 prospect who impressed in Collinsville. Still flying under the radar a bit nationally, Belleville Althoff wing Jordan Goodwin averaged 22 points per game at the Collinsville event, including 27 in the title game loss to Lincoln. The 6-foot-3 guard does most of his damage attacking the rim and drawing fouls.