ETHS boys basketball: Adams drills for new Wildkit cagers

Curious fans of Evanston’s basketball program have likely spent the summer intrigued by the arrival of four transfers hoping to make an impact for a Wildkit team that might otherwise have faced a rebuilding year in 2022. -23.

But as newcomers Hunter Duncan (Saint Viator), Josh Thomas (Stevenson), Nik Raic (Libertyville) and Ephraim Chase (Chicago Sullivan) all tried to establish themselves playing in front of a new technical staff, the month of June belonged returning starter Prince Adams.

The 6-foot-5 senior forward has had a breakthrough summer and he is yet to finish. After leading the Wildkits to a combined 10-3 record in shootouts at Marquette University, Riverside-Brookfield and Ridgewood, Adams will spend July trying to continue his strong all-round game on the AAU circuit for the Young program. and Reckless. based in Chicago.

Any resemblance between Adams, who as a junior averaged 7.5 points and 5.4 rebounds, and the player who dominated at both ends of the court every time he was on the court over the past 3 last few weeks is purely coincidental.

Ask Evanston head coach Mike Ellis.

“Prince is a different player, a different person now,” Ellis said. “He’s done pieces that will get you up out of your chair this summer. He does things I haven’t seen him do in the last 3 years.

“He’s always had that love of the game and he’s still in the gym (training). It’s the base for him because he loves what he does. But I think he understands now that he had to take a big leap for us to be successful as a team. He is the one who has been here for 4 years, and it is to him that the new ones turn. He leads by example.

“His effort is better, there’s a bit more urgency for him because it’s his last year, and I think his confidence is at an all-time high. He feels more owned now, than it’s his team, and I don’t think he’s ever felt that way before. He’s a very selfless player and a very selfless person, but consistency is definitely key for him now. He’s seeing more results day by day than we have seen in the past.

Adams’ improvement in his overall game was evident to the casual fan and to the college coaches who flocked to the shootouts at Riverside-Brookfield and Ridgewood, in particular. He put up some good numbers in timed games against strong competition, including a 21-point, 13-rebound effort against a talented West Aurora club on Day 2 of play at RB.

Primarily a shot blocker and rebounder in his career to date at ETHS, Adams has expanded his game in eye-catching fashion. His ability to put the ball on the ground and get to the basket against big defenders, combined with a determination to grab every rebound within reach, has elevated the unassuming senior to an elite level during this period of Three weeks.

No longer is the player who, as a junior, often committed an offensive foul the first time he touched the ball in a game – and then slid into a passive mode – anymore.

“Last year he had a basic rotational movement, back to the basket,” Ellis explained. “Now there’s more arsenal in his game. He’s more confident with his ball handling and he’s more confident in front of the basket, not just when he’s on the block (underneath). He’s more at comfortable in more situations and that has been a big part of his success this summer.

“And even when shooting from 3 (point range), he shoots as confidently as anyone else.”

Adams’ attempt to step into the spotlight after playing a role in 2 previous college seasons is a breakthrough outside of his comfort zone. That sense of urgency that many seniors feel in their final seasons — along with the hope of trying to further their careers and get notice from college scouts — is just part of his motivation.

He also plays for his deceased nephew. Nine-year-old Jeremiah Tousaint was the victim of gun violence in May and his death came as a shock to the Evanston eldest.

“I was very close to him. He was like a little brother to me,” Adams said. “My family helped me through this after what happened to him, and now I’m much more focused on this. that I need to do. I’m learning to be more consistent every day, outside of basketball too. I try to do all the right things more consistently.

“Even though defending is still the most important part of my game, I wanted to show another side of my game this summer. I want to show people that I’m a versatile player and that I want to be as consistent as possible. is my state of mind.

“I think I’m more mentally aggressive and more confident in my skills. Now I make up my mind and I’m going! Instead of stepping back on the pitch, I’m more assertive. And to make that work for us this year – we came close to winning State and that’s my goal – I need to be as focused as possible. I like what we did this summer, but we can do much better.

Adams’ blocking and soaking ability produced movie highlights again and again during those summer weekends. Ellis’ favorite moment? It happened in Wisconsin as the Wildkits struggled to hold off a strong Nicolet squad in their first competitive weekend as a unit.

“It was a 1 possession game and Prince did the best tip-dunk I’ve ever seen,” Ellis said. “He reached over his head to grab the ball, then in the same motion he threw it with both hands. It was a monster dunk and it all happened in one fell swoop! When that happened, everyone on the floor stopped to watch our game end.

“What our entire coaching staff has seen from Prince is that he’s not just 1 in 5 players on the pitch now, he’s one of the best players on the pitch. He’s dictating what happens on every possession and he has his fingerprints on the game much more than he ever has before.

For a team with so many newcomers, the Wildkits played selfless team basketball for the most part. Duncan’s explosiveness at point guard and a 25-point effort from Thomas led to a 58-53 cut from strong Chicago Kenwood at RB, and the 6-foot-7 Raic contributed 8 points and 8 rebounds in a win over Peoria Sunday Central at Ridgewood after establishing legal residency later than other newcomers.

Chase, a 6-foot-4 guard, has missed most of the summer with an ankle injury. All 4 transfers are entering their final years and all 4 are potential starters in November, according to Ellis.

As unusual as it is for players to move to another school for their final year of competition, transfers aren’t exactly new to the ETHS program. David Gieser moved in last year and led the Wildkits in scoring – and was their only all-conference selection – and the school’s all-time leading scorer, Blake Peters, grew up in Highland Park before joining his AAU teammate, Jaylin Gibson, in Evanston.

Player mobility in the current cage environment is not stigmatized as in the past. No one blames an individual (or their family) for seeking a better opportunity in another program if it is possible for them to take a legal step.

“Each of these student-athletes is in a different situation,” Ellis said. “Before I came to Evanston, I had a job (in Peoria Richwoods) which was a good job, and I didn’t want to leave. But I saw the resources that Evanston has and I saw it was a special place, and that’s why I came here. The leadership and resources here are second to none, so it would be foolish of me to tell someone NOT to come here.

“If you look at any high school sports program, you’ll see that the freshman class is rarely the same four years later. We had player transfers and we also lost an equal number of players. Coming here may scare some people off as we have set standards and expectations are high. To put on this (Evanston) uniform and play at Beardsley Gym, against the schedule we have put in place, is something special – and they want to be part of it.

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