News-Gazette contributor Gavin Good checks how the current Illini signatories and targets are doing on the pitch this winter:
Class of 2022
➜ SENCIRE HARRIS, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio) and the Fighting Irish (4-2) had to cancel their game against Lima on December 19 and have rescheduled the conference opener against Cleveland St. Ignatius due to COVID-19. Harris returned to competition in style on December 28, dropping 30 points in a 72-56 victory at Richmond Heights. Sunday night, the Fighting Irish inflicted on Lincoln (Ohio) its first loss of the season with a victory of 70-69. Harris helped lead a second-half comeback, netting a three-point shot and tying the game with a steal and traditional three-point play. The Fighting Irish are scheduled to host South Oak Cliff, Texas on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
➜ JAYDEN EPPS, a 6-foot-2 combo guard from Combine Academy (NC), and the Goats (11-3) opened the John Wall Holiday tournament on December 28 with a 69-56 victory over Virginia Episcopal as ‘Epps scored 14 points and had five rebounds and two assists. Combine Academy lost its opener at the Hoop Cities Invitational in Winston-Salem, NC, 83-79 at Word of God Christian Academy (NC) last Friday, but Epps scored 12 points and had five rebounds and three assists in a 74-59 victory over Virginia Academy last Saturday. The Goats face Woodson (Va.) Thursday night.
TY RODGERS, a small 6-foot-7 forward from Thornton, and the Wildcats (7-4) defeated Chicago Vocational 70-61 on Dec. 27 in the first round of the Big Dipper tournament. Rodgers scored 13 points to go with nine rebounds and eight assists in the victory. The Wildcats won a 69-57 victory over Thornton Fractional South on Dec. 28 in the Big Dipper quarterfinals as Rodgers scored 24 points and had 14 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and three steals, highlighting place a semifinal showdown with Hyde Park, where the Wildcats were defeated, 57-46. Rodgers sat down against Hyde Park and missed a 53-49 victory over Leadership / Technology Perspectives in the third-place game with hamstring discomfort, according to Thornton coach Tai Streets. The Wildcats are set to return to play on January 11 with a home game against Homewood-Flossmoor.
Class of 2023
KY KYLAN BOSWELL, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Compass Prep (Arizona), and the Dragons (17-1) defeated Our Savior Lutheran (NY) 78-40 on December 27 in the first round of the Hoophall East tournament in Springfield, Mass. Boswell hit three three runs and scored 15 points, while also bringing in four rebounds. The Dragons continued to roll on December 28, fighting to a 75-45 victory over Westtown, Pa. Compass Prep went to the bench after winning 18-0 early, allowing Boswell to play a supporting role after hitting a soft, indented jumper to give the Dragons a 29-10 lead in the middle of the second quarter. Next up for Boswell and Compass Prep is a showdown against Prolific Prep (Calif.) At the Mustang Madness tournament on Saturday night.
➜ JEREMY FEARS JR., A 6-foot point guard from La Lumière (Ind.), And the Lakers (9-1) have not played since Fears scored 24 points in an 88-50 win over Wheaton St. Francis on December 18. The Lakers have seen a few cancellations in recent weeks, but are expected to play the LaPorte Invitational against Legacy Early College (SC) Thursday at noon on ESPNU, at 6pm Friday against Oak Hill (Va.) And at 6pm Saturday against Montverde (Florida).
JAZZ GARDNER, a 6-foot-10 center from Los Altos, Calif., And the Conquerors (9-3) edged Fountain Valley (Calif.) 47-44 on December 27 at the opening of the Classic in Damien. Gardner led the way with 18 points in the victory. Los Altos lost to San Joaquin Memorial (Calif.) 86-74 on Dec. 28 in the quarterfinals, but Gardner did all he could to stay the course, scoring 33 points and snatching 10 rebounds. Los Altos were scheduled to open the conference game against Diamond Bar (Calif.) On Wednesday night.
TY PENCE, a 6-foot-6 wing from St. Joseph-Ogden, and the Spartans (12-2) finished fourth in the State Farm Holiday Classic 16-team small school tournament last week. Pence surpassed 1,000 career points in the tournament and earned a spot on the tournament’s overall squad after averaging 17.5 points in four games. Pence and SJ-O returned to play on Tuesday night with a 62-55 home win over Williamsville which saw Pence total 25 points.
Class of 2024
➜ MOREZ JOHNSON, a 6-foot-8 forward from St. Rita, and the Mustangs finished fifth at the 16-team Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic last week, with Johnson contributing seven points in the 42-41 win over St. Rita v Marian Catholic in the fifth place game on December 29. St. Rita beat the Bosco Institute (Ind.) 66-47 last Saturday at the Mac Jelks Invitational, and the Mustangs (11-4) are expected to resume play this Saturday at 4:45 pm against Peoria Notre Dame at the Highland Shootout.
➜ NOJUS INDRUSAITIS, a 6-foot-4 shooting goaltender from Lemont, helped Lemont (10-4) go 2-2 at the 32-team Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at Elmhurst last week. Indrusaitis won accolades in all tournaments, averaging 21.8 points and 6.8 rebounds as Lemont beat Timothy Christian 75-50 on December 27 and Tinley Park 70-61 on December 29, but lost 67 -59 against Rolling Meadows on December 28 and 61. -58 in Batavia on December 30. He was back Tuesday night with 29 points and 11 rebounds as Lemont easily beat Evergreen Park 84-57 at home.
➜ BRYSON TUCKER, a small 6-foot-6 forward from Mount St. Joseph (Md.), And the Gaels (10-2) lost 72-67 to St. Frances Academy (Md.) On December 23. In Tucker’s second game back from a hip injury, he hit double digits again, scoring the Gaels’ last eight points in the final five minutes and finishing with 22 points. Mount St. Joseph bounced back to beat Archbishop Ryan (Pa.) 62-60 on December 29 on a buzzer-beater. Tucker scored 20 points and had five assists and six rebounds. In the Holiday Tournament at Benedictine championship game on December 30, Tucker scored 25 points as the Gales claimed a 76-54 victory over St. Anne’s-Belfield (Va.). A rematch against St. Frances is scheduled for Friday night.