LA GRANGE, IL – It didn’t take long for what is likely the best 1-2 punch in the building to reveal itself during Saturday’s first day of the Pangos All-Midwest Frosh/Soph Camp.
Marquese Brown, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard at Simeon High in Chicago, and Xavier Tillman, a 6-8 sophomore post at Forest Hills Central in Grand Rapids, MI, made like a modern-day version of John Stockton and Karl Malone – or, of mildly more recent vintage, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire – while helping their “Iowa State” squad roll past “Notre Dame” during the first round of games late in the afternoon.
It’s way too early to proclaim a definitive “No. 1 point guard prospect in the national Class of 2018”.
But the left-handed Brown – who was quite impressive during the 48-player USA Basketball “mini-camp” that was held in Colorado Springs Oct. 4&5 – belongs in any serious discussion about candidates for that proclamation.
He did pretty much anything he so desired while the ball was in his hands Saturday.
The same could be said of the 220-pound (give or take) Tillman, who was just too polished and overpowering for anyone to cope with in or around the lane.
Not only that, but he also blocked a lot of shots and got on the perimeter, got into a stance and moved his feet in nifty fashion while pressuring opponents who tried to shoot over the top of him or drive by him.
His goal in traveling the three or so hours by car (the cities are about 185 miles apart) to the Park District Center for the two-day event (which resumes action Sunday morning at 9 o’clock)?
“Honestly?” he responded, smiling with a question of his own.
Sure . . .
“I came here with the goal of being the Player of the Camp,” he said.
He took a solid step in that direction Saturday – as did his left-handed “Iowa State” teammate, of course.
Brown wasn’t the only Chicago-area freshman point guard to impress Saturday, nor was Tillman the only sophomore post with that last name to play with large doses of dominance.
Marquan Williams (Perspectives MSA/Joslin High in Chicago) may be something approaching four or so inches shorter than Brown.
But Williams showed off the same skill and feel for the position Saturday night.
And 6-9 (probably on the high side of that) Jeremiah Tillman – no relation, I think – appeared to rack up cumulative dozen or so dunks over his two games with “Xavier” Saturday.
J. Tillman – who attends East St. Louis High – arrived at the game Saturday afternoon after touring the University of Illinois campus in the morning.
Could we see a “Tillman vs. Tillman” matchup in the Top 30 Cream of the Crop All-Star game Sunday (scheduled to tip off at about 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon).
Other players who impressed when I watched them Saturday included:
*Dwayne Rose, a 6-2 sophomore point guard at Crete Monee High (Crete, IL).
If you’re wondering . . . yeah, he is related to the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose (a standout at near-by Simeon High). He’s a first cousin.
*When has the state of North Dakota ever had a freshman player the quality of 6-5 De’Sean Allen (Williston High in the city of the same name)?
Uh . . . . .I’m guessing: “Never?”
Allen dominated from the post and perimeter Saturday. Only Marquese Brown, among the freshmen I watched, was impressive.
And, like Brown, he would have more than held up quite well had he had the opportunity to be one of the 37 freshmen and sophomores at the USA BB function in Colorado Springs earlier this month.
*Malik Binns (a 6-5 sophomore at Hope Academy in Chicago) played with the same kind of inside power and perimeter skill that Allen displayed at about the same size.
There is a strong hunch will end up standing a lot closer to 6-8ish than he does 6-5ish, ultimately: His shoes are size 18.
*Coach Gary DeCesare has produced a whole lot of high-quality basketball during coaching stints at St. Raymond’s in the Bronx and, of late, St. Rita of Chicago – the most recent of which is 6-5 senior Charles Matthews, a strong 2015 McDonald’s All-America candidate who is scheduled to sign a letter of intent with the University of Kentucky next month.
His next player who could climb into that same “star strata” is 6-4 (and change) Te’Mon Green, who was mostly beastly from the wings or along the baselines Saturday night.
*Minnesota was represented quite well, thank you very much, by a couple of sophomores Saturday.
Ishmael El-Amin (Hopkins High in Minnetonka), a 6-2 “combo”, played as if there is a strong possibility he is going to be playing in one of the two all-star tilts set for Sunday – the Top 60 contest will be played at 1 o’clock, after each of the 18 camp squads has wrapped up its two games earlier Sunday morning.
So the name rings a hoop bell in your noggin’, right? He’s the son of Khalid El-Amin who, with Richard Hamilton, helped the Connecticut Huskies win their first-ever national title with a 77-74 decision over Duke in 199.
And 6-3 Isaac Johnson (Minneapolis Academy of Arts) figures to challenge El-Amin for the label of “best Minnesota prospect in the Class of 2017) for the next three seasons.
Other non-Illinois residents who played well on Saturday night included sophomores in 6-6 Max Techau (Cedar Rapids, IA, Kennedy) and 6-4 Dylan Alderson (Davison, MI, High), both rangy athletes with solid jump shots to a step or so from the arc.
Travel issues, injuries and state restrictions combined to take a bite out of the roster for the Cream of the Crop Top 30 All-Star Game that wrapped up the two-day Pangos All-Midwest Frosh/Soph Camp Sunday afternoon at the Park District Center.
But those personnel hits, ultimately, did nothing to rob the game of its start-to-finish competiveness and quota of entertainment, including some nifty head-up matchups.
The powerful and hard-working young man who was selected the Most Outstanding Player over the schedule of four games that every player was guaranteed, 6-foot-8 and 230-pound sophomore Xavier Tillman (Grand Rapids, MI, Forest Hills Central), wasn’t able to participate in the Top 30 contest because of Michigan rules which prohibit “all-star game participation” prior to the start of a regular season.
Also selected to the game, but not playing for the same reason, were two of Tillman’s teammates with the Michigan Mustangs grassroots program, Dylan Alderson (Davison, MI) and Jaron Faulds (Holt, MI).
But the Top 30 Game provided quite the showcase for those who participated, as the “White” squad eventually pulled away down the stretch against the “Black” to prevail, 122-105.
Sophomores Christian Negron (Elgin, IL, Larkin) and Max Techau (Cedar Rapids, IA, Kennedy) scored 15 points apiece for the White squad.
That squad also had some sizzling play from a couple of point guards who are surely among the very best at their position in the national Class of 2018 in Marquise Brown (Chicago Simeon) and Marquan Williams (Chicago Perspectives MSA/Joslin).
Another Chicago standout for the winning team was Coreyon Rushin (Westinghouse) who, like a lot of the 180 or so players who attended the camp, is obviously soon to become a hot name with college coaches, from coast-to-coast.
The Black team got a combined 51 points from the trio that traveled together from the Minneapolis area for the camp, Isaac Johnson (Minneapolis Academy of Arts and Communications), Ishmael Nasir El-Amin (Minnetonka Hopkins) and DeJohn Hunter (Minneapolis North).
Johnson, who may have been the “purest” of deep jump shooters at the event, scored his 18 points via six shots from behind the arc.
But Negron – who, along with Brown, was Xavier Tillman’s most serious challenger for Tops-In-The-Camp honors, based on the Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday morning games – was The Guy in the Top 30 clash.
Like Brown and Tillman, he played with great energy, effort and focus throughout the weekend at both ends of the floor.
And all of those things were on display Sunday afternoon as he snapped down rebounds from well above the iron, pressured dribblers, sprinted lanes, buried jump shots and hammered dunks that showcased both his horizontal and vertical explosiveness.
One second-half sequence bordering on the flabbergasting, as he rammed in a transition dunk from the left wing and then spontaneously jumped the inbounds pass, drop-stepped to the middle of the lane and crammed over the top of another pretty terrific vertical athlete himself, Te’mon Green.
He was an easy choice as Top 30 Player of the Game.
Good luck to the high school and travel ball (he is a part of the Mean Streets program) opponents that are going to have to deal with him for the next two-plus years.
He would be best advised, though, to keep a nice stockpile of mouth guards on hand for a while.
He’s got a nice set of braces “and they’re going to be on until I’m a senior,” he said, smiling and showcasing a mouthful of metal and rubber bands.
Other chosen to the Top 30 Game but unable to participate were De’Sean Allen (the freshman from North Dakota, so impressive on Saturday, suffered a hip injury Sunday morning); Manny Patterson (he suffered an apparent separation to his right shoulder early in the game); and Jeremiah Tillman (no relation; he had to leave for his East St. Louis home early Sunday afternoon).
My choices for the 15 sophomores and five freshmen that played the best over the weekend when I watched them are (based on weekend performances and not strictly college potential):
Dylan Alderson (2017/6-4/Davison, MI)
DeSean Allen (2018/6-5/Williston, ND)
Malik Binns (2017/6-5/Chicago Hope Academy)
Marquise “Kezo” Brown (2018/6-2/Chicago Simeon)
Mike Downing (2017/6-7/Westchester, IL, St. Joseph)
Ishmael Nasir El-Amin (2017/6-2/Minnetonka, MN, Hopkins)
DeJohn Hunter (2017/6-2/Minneapolis North)
Isaac Johnson (2017/6-3/Minneapolis Academy of Arts)
Messiah Jones (2018/6-4/Chicago Simeon)
Devontae Lane (2017/6-1/Iowa City West)
Christian Negron (2017/6-6/Elgin, IL, Larkin)
Malik Parker (2017/5-10/Chicago Marist)
Manny Patterson (2017/6-8/Chicago Kenwood Academy)
Shawn “P.J.” Pipes (2017/6-1/Lemont, IL)
Coreyon Rushin (2017/6-5/Chicago Westinghouse)
Jeremiah Tillman (2017/6-10/East St. Louis, IL)
Xavier Tillman (2017/6-8/Grand Rapids, MI, Forest Hills Central)
Marquan Williams (2018/5-9/Chicago Perspectives MSA/Joslin)
Lucas Williamson (2017/6-4/Chicago Whitney Young)
Zion Young (2018/6-2/Merrillville, IN)
The rest of those selected for the Top 30 Cream of the Crop game:
Bailey Basala (2017/6-5/Moline, IL)
Romelo Burrell (2017/6-6/Chicago Morgan Park)
Anthony Cameron (20178/6-8/Chicago Tilden)
Jaron Faulds (2017/6-9/Holt, MI)
Te’mon Green (2017/6-4Chicago St. Rita)
Stephon Harris (2017/6-4/Oswego, IL, East)
Lenell Henry (2017/6-7/Chicago Morgan Park)
Willie Herenton Jr. (2017/6-1/Chicago Whitney Young)
David Hunt (2017/6-4/Chicago Whitney Young)
Jaalen Ray (2017/6-1/Zion, IL, Zion-Benton Township)
Max Techau (2017/6-6/Cedar Rapids, IA, Kennedy)