News-Gazette contributor Gavin Good checks in on how the Illini’s current signees and targets are faring on the court 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 its game against Lima on Dec. 19 and rescheduled the conference-opener against Cleveland St. Ignatius due to COVID-19. Harris resumed competition in style on Dec. 28, dropping 30 points in a 72-56 win at Richmond Heights. On Sunday night, the Fighting Irish dealt Lincoln (Ohio) its first loss of the season with a 70-69 victory. Harris helped lead a second-half comeback, nailing a pull-up three-pointer and tying the game with a steal and a traditional three-point play. The Fighting Irish are scheduled to host South Oak Cliff (Texas) at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
➜ JAYDEN EPPS, a 6-foot-2 combo guard from Combine Academy (N.C.), and the Goats (11-3) opened up the John Wall Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28 with a 69-56 victory over Virginia Episcopal as Epps scored 14 points and tallied five rebounds and two assists. Combine Academy dropped its opener at the Hoop Cities Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C., 83-79 to Word of God Christian Academy (N.C.) last Friday, but Epps scored 12 points and had five rebounds and three assists in a 74-59 win over Virginia Academy this past Saturday. The Goats are scheduled to play Woodson (Va.) on Thursday night.
➜ TY RODGERS, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Thornton, and the Wildcats (7-4) knocked off Chicago Vocational 70-61 on Dec. 27 in the opening round of the Big Dipper Tournament. Rodgers scored 13 points to go along with nine rebounds and eight assists in the victory. The Wildcats earned a 69-57 win 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, setting up a semifinal showdown with Hyde Park, where the Wildcats were defeated, 57-46. Rodgers sat out against Hyde Park and missed a 53-49 win over Perspectives Leadership/Technology in the third-place game due to hamstring discomfort, according to Thornton coach Tai Streets. The Wildcats are set to resume play on Jan. 11 with a home game against Homewood-Flossmoor.
Class of 2023
➜ KYLAN BOSWELL, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Compass Prep (Ariz.), and the Dragons (17-1) defeated Our Savior Lutheran (N.Y.) 78-40 on Dec. 27 in the opening round of the Hoophall East tournament in Springfield, Mass. Boswell hit three three-pointers and scored 15 points, while bringing in four rebounds. The Dragons continued to roll on Dec. 28, cruising to a 75-45 win over Westtown (Pa.). Compass Prep went to the bench after going up 18-0 early, which kept Boswell in more of a supporting role after he hit a smooth, step-back jumper to give the Dragons a 29-10 lead midway through the second quarter. Next up for Boswell and Compass Prep is a showdown against Prolific Prep (Calif.) at the Mustang Madness tournament on Saturday evening.
➜ JEREMY FEARS JR., a 6-foot point guard from La Lumiere (Ind.), and the Lakers (9-1) haven’t played since Fears scored 24 points in an 88-50 win over Wheaton St. Francis on Dec. 18. The Lakers have seen a few cancellations in recent weeks, but are slated to play in the LaPorte Invitational against Legacy Early College (S.C.) at noon on Thursday on ESPNU, at 6 p.m. on Friday against Oak Hill (Va.) and at 6 p.m. on Saturday against Montverde (Fla.).
➜ JAZZ GARDNER, a 6-foot-10 center from Los Altos (Calif.), and the Conquerors (9-3) edged out Fountain Valley (Calif.) 47-44 on Dec. 27 in the opener of the Classic at Damien. Gardner led the way with 18 points in the win. Los Altos lost to San Joaquin Memorial (Calif.) 86-74 on Dec. 28 in the quarterfinals, but Gardner did all he could to keep it close, scoring 33 points and snatching 10 rebounds. Los Altos was set to open conference play against Diamond Bar (Calif.) on Wednesday night.
➜ TY PENCE, a 6-foot-6 wing from St. Joseph-Ogden, and the Spartans (12-2) finished in fourth place at the 16-team State Farm Holiday Classic small-school tournament last week. Pence topped 1,000 career points at the tournament and earned a spot on the all-tournament team after averaging 17.5 points in four games. Pence and SJ-O resumed play on Tuesday night with a 62-55 home win against Williamsville that saw Pence compile 25 points.
Class of 2024
➜ MOREZ JOHNSON, a 6-foot-8 power forward from St. Rita, and the Mustangs finished in fifth place at the 16-team Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic last week, with Johnson contributing seven points during St. Rita’s 42-41 win against Marian Catholic in the fifth-place game on Dec. 29. St. Rita beat Bosco Institute (Ind.) 66-47 this past Saturday at the Mac Jelks Invitational, and the Mustangs (11-4) are set to resume play this Saturday at 4:45 p.m. against Peoria Notre Dame at the Highland Shootout.
➜ NOJUS INDRUSAITIS, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Lemont, helped Lemont (10-4) compile a 2-2 record at the 32-team Jack Tosh Holiday Classic in Elmhurst last week. Indrusaitis earned all-tournament accolades, averaging 21.8 points and 6.8 rebounds as Lemont beat Timothy Christian 75-50 on Dec. 27 and Tinley Park 70-61 on Dec. 29, but lost 67-59 to Rolling Meadows on Dec. 28 and 61-58 to Batavia on Dec. 30. He was back at it again Tuesday night with 29 points and 11 rebounds as Lemont easily beat Evergreen Park 84-57 at home.
➜ BRYSON TUCKER, a 6-foot-6 small forward from Mount St. Joseph (Md.), and the Gaels (10-2) lost 72-67 to St. Frances Academy (Md.) on Dec. 23. In Tucker’s second game back from a hip injury, he reached double digits again, scoring the Gaels’ final eight points in the final five minutes and finishing with 22 points. Mount St. Joseph bounced back by edging out Archbishop Ryan (Pa.) 62-60 on Dec. 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 Dec. 30, Tucker scored 25 points as the Gales cruised to a 76-54 victory over St. Anne’s-Belfield (Va.). A rematch against St. Frances is set for Friday night.