The window of opportunity for high school basketball prospects to shine and raise their stock was severely shortened over the past two years.
In particular, each of the past two spring NCAA “live periods,” a time where college coaches and talent scouts evaluate prep talent, was wiped out due to Covid-19.
But it’s all back in 2022. The calendar is packed with one club basketball event after another in the months of April and May.
Last weekend marked the tip-off for grassroots basketball across the country, while the two live periods this spring will be April 8-10 and April 22-24.
At last weekend’s NY2LA Swish ‘N Dish event just outside Milwaukee, there was plenty we already knew and have seen before.
Cameron Christie of Rolling Meadows showed off the multiple ways he is capable of scoring the basketball, while Lake Forest’s Asa Thomas did his deep-three-draining thing.
St. Rita’s Morez Johnson continued to show why he’s arguably the best player in the state in the Class of 2024, and Darrin Ames of Kenwood showcased his dynamic scoring ability.
But there were others, players who haven’t generated a lot of headlines — or at least not big enough ones just yet — who provided a hint of what’s to come.
The biggest eye-opener among emerging prospects in Illinois was Burlington Central’s Drew Scharnowski.
Playing for a very good but out-of-the-way Burlington Central the past three years, it was going to take some time for the 6-8 Scharnowski to be noticed. College coaches and evaluators will soon be noticing an intriguing prospect who is just starting to grow into his game and his body.
Burlington Central coach Brett Porto saw it early. But he’s also been able to see up close the progression and where it’s headed.
“In our final scrimmage, before the start of the season, you could see him taking it to our seniors,” said Porto of a successful and senior-dominated team. “It was eye-opening.”
But throughout the early part of the season Scharnowski deferred to those veterans, Porto said. As the confidence and comfort level grew in his third varsity season, there was a definite shift that continues today.
“All the work he put in gave him more confidence,” Porto said. “Something clicked coming out of our game with Peoria Notre Dame.”
That was the championship game of the Plano Christmas Classic in late December, a game in which he struggled. But the second half of the season was a big step in Scharnowski’s development and consistency.
The skill set he flashes at his size, thanks to a combination of shooting, ball handling and fluidity in all that he does at 6-8, grabs your attention. That is also what makes him a legitimate Division I prospect despite not even averaging in double figures this past season.
This past season he averaged 9.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
Scharnowski was a point guard in middle school and then grew into a 6-2 varsity performer as a freshman. That is where the perimeter skill set first emerged.
As he sprouted past 6-7, Scharnowski maintained his skill level and is now an emerging stretch 4-man who down the road will create mismatches with his shooting and size. How his game evolves from being an impactful role player this past year to a go-to player this spring and summer will tell us all a lot about his future.
“He’s just a multi-faceted player who can score inside and outside while also bringing the ball up the floor,” Porto said.
Scharnowski, who plays with Breakaway Basketball on the club basketball circuit, has a world of talent he seems to be just starting to tap into.
In addition to Scharnowski, here are a few others set to break through and raise their stock in the coming months.
There are several players in line for a sizable leap when it comes to their individual recruitments and name recognition.
Brock Harding, Moline
He emerged as a Hoops Report favorite last summer and gained more steam and statewide cred over the course of his junior season. He was named a City/Suburban Hoops Report first-team all-stater this past season.
And while he already has some serious suitors and a few impressive offers, the interest is set to soar for the purest point guard in the state. Several mid and mid-plus programs extended offers last year, including Drake, Illinois State, Bradley and Colorado State, while Loyola offered last week.
He’s a mid-major and mid-major plus dream recruit. But he will catch the eye of a high-major program at some point due to all that he brings to the table at the point guard position.
Both composed and capable of playing with basketball speed, Harding brings impeccable playmaking skills, feel and instincts. He creates opportunities for teammates that most players simply don’t see, thanks to an innate ability to read a defense.
The three-point jumper has improved immensely where he’s now at least a threat when left alone and coming off the ball screen.
Harding is a fun player to watch who plays with spunk and confidence.
Ahmad Henderson, Brother Rice
Locally, Henderson has a name that is very familiar to high school basketball fans. He led his team to 24 wins while averaging 15 points and four assists a game.
But with just a few offers that have been extended, he is still a player who has a lot to prove.
Here’s banking on Henderson proving it this spring and summer.
Henderson was offered by Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a staff that was recently fired, along with MAC offers from Northern Illinois and Kent State. Those all came last year. Look for Henderson to be a player in the class who generates a whole lot of interest and offers in coming months.
The hang up is simple: size.
At just 5-9, Henderson is a small-scale point guard in size who makes up for it with some true offensive punch. He has shooting range and competency, though it must become more consistent, and a pull-up game that keeps defenses on their heels.
DeAndre Craig, Mount Carmel
Much like Henderson, the Mount Carmel point guard has been a fixture on the high school basketball scene over the past few years. And he’s been a rock for coach Phil Segroves, averaging 21 points a game this past season while leading the Caravan to 28 wins.
That production and name recognition in the Chicago area has not resulted in Division I offers. Radford and Akron are the lone offers on the table and those came last summer, which is why he’s considered to be among the most under-recruited players in the class.
There will be more offers coming the more he’s seen on the club circuit and in June with the Caravan.
Craig is an energetic score-first point guard who is dangerous downhill in transition in getting to the rim and a shot creator. He offers an advanced pull-up game from 12-16 feet and offers legit range from the three-point line.
Ryan Cohen, Glenbrook North
Quietly, the 6-1 guard has put together two highly-productive seasons. As a sophomore he averaged 19 points a game and then this past season he put up 15 points a game.
He’s made the move to the Illinois Wolves this off season, teaming up with bigger names in Christie and Thomas, so he will have an opportunity to showcase his greatest strength: shooting the basketball.
Cohen is potentially a game-changing shooter, particularly as a spot-up threat from the three-point line in catch-and-shoot situations. He offers a clean release who gets it off quickly. This past season he connected on 85 three-pointers while shooting a remarkable 46 percent from the arc.
While he has a special knack for scoring, the next step is for Cohen to play at different speeds and begin to generate offense for others.
Look for Cohen to jump on the radar of scholarship programs from the Division II to low-major Division I level.