LA GRANGE, IL – 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 match-ups.
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)