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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Joe Henricksen

Pulling up their stocks: The biggest stock risers during the April evaluation period

The breakout player arriving during the April live evaluation period is a little different than in the past. 

Today, it’s more about garnering interest rather than securing offers. While offers have been extended for the lucky few, expect the majority of offers, especially for those on the cusp of being Division I players to come during June and July. 

College coaches are still sorting through the pesky ordeal of the transfer portal and filling their rosters out with experienced, college-ready players first. Again, the high school kids will have to wait.  

Nonetheless, the two spring April live periods provided a platform and several players took advantage.

Biggest Class of 2023 Stock Risers: Niklas Polonowski, Lyons and Drew Scharnowski, Burlington Central

The combination of Lyons’ Niklas Polonowski and Burlington Central’s Drew Scharnowski is a testament to players being discovered regardless of who and where they play. 

These were two no-named prospects in the Class of 2023, but the college coaches have found them. 

The junior tandem doesn’t play for one of the shoe-sponsored grassroots basketball heavyweights. But an ideal fit with Breakaway Basketball has provided the perfect platform for both. Breakaway plays in the Under Armour Rise, a complimentary travel basketball league to the shoe-sponsored Under Armour Association.

Polonowski, a genuine sleeper in the junior class, is set to establish himself as a Division I prospect. 

In helping his Breakaway team to four wins last weekend, Polonowski averaged 11.5 points and 4.2 rebounds a game while knocking down 10 three-pointers. It’s that shooting, along with his size and strength as a 6-6 combo forward, that has grabbed the attention of college coaches. 

While there hasn’t been an offer just yet, the 6-6 Polonowski has done his job over the past two live periods to generate interest. There is a growing list of interested programs, including Brown, Furman, Toledo, Lipscomb, Minnesota-St. Thomas and San Diego. 

Scharnowski, who in early April the City/Suburban Hoops Report projected to be one of the biggest live evaluation period breakout players, is a 6-8 super skilled 4-man. He’s lived up to that forecast. 

As a result of his play in April, Scharnowski is now hearing regularly from the likes of Dartmouth, Princeton, Bucknell, St. Thomas, Furman and Miami-Ohio. 

Other Class of 2023 stock rising notes

➤ Marian Catholic’s Quentin Jones is very intriguing. He’s an under-the-radar player who continues to improve. Long, athletic and pushing close to 6-5, Jones has the size, length and quickness to become an impact defender capable of guarding several positions. 

A slasher offensively who must make strides with his jumper, Jones has peaked up some interest while playing with Team Fred Van Vleet on the AAU circuit. 

➤ The Rubin brothers, Simeon’s Miles and Wes, being mentioned in a “stock rising” story is beginning to be repetitive. But more and more college coaches are taking notice of the 6-8 big men. Illinois State and Toledo both just offered this week to add to a growing list of suitors. 

➤ Darrion Baker of Hillcrest put up modest numbers this past season as a junior. He averaged just over 10 points a game. But he appears ready to take a big step forward. 

In addition to his first Division I offer from Radford, the interest level from others has picked up. The 6-8 Baker shows skill as a 4-man with his handle and passing. He’s solidified himself as a scholarship player. 

➤ After coming out of nowhere this past season as the leading scorer of a Class 3A state championship team, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin’s Zack Hawkinson has picked up right where he left off in March.

If you remember, the 6-5 Hawkinson went for a whopping 49 points and 26 rebounds in the two biggest wins of the year in Champaign in March. Now he is showcasing more perimeter skills to go with the tenacity and sneaky athleticism he plays with as a key player for Mid-Pro Academy. 

➤ Keep an eye on Evan Jackson of De La Salle. He’s always played with a high-running motor and athleticism. He’s grown to 6-7 and has improved his offensive game. He’s opened some eyes while playing with Team Fred Van Vleet. 

Class of 2024 Stock Riser: Carlos Harris, Curie

The sophomore guard, who is flush with talent on the perimeter, was already a top 10 prospect in the class. But young players in the Class of 2024 have hardly been seen yet by college coaches. Illinois jumped in head first with an offer this past week following the two live periods. 

Harris is tough, strong and plays hard. The shot is coming along for the 6-2 Harris, but it still must improve and become more consistent, especially as a spot-up shooter. If that does materialize, Harris becomes an absolute force offensively. He’s most effective in the open floor, getting downhill and to the basket. 

Other Class of 2024 stock rising notes

➤ Following a growth spurt over the past year where he shot up to 6-3, Bloomington Central Catholic’s Cole Certa is establishing himself as one of the elite shooters in the state. This past year he was the IHSA state three-point shooting champ. Now he’s doing it on the club basketball circuit with the Illinois Wolves. 

More importantly, Certa is showcasing a more well-versed game and is showing he’s more than just a space-the-floor shooter.  

➤ While he may not have received the attention of teammates Toby Onyekonwu, a senior who signed with Stonybrook, or freshman phenom Jeremiah Fears, Joliet West’s Justus McNair was an unsung player for the Tigers this past season. He’s a name to keep an eye on as he plays out the spring with Young & Reckless. 

McNair is becoming more of a shot creator. The versatile 6-2 guard also doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective; he’s a player who impacts in multiple ways.

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