With high school basketball seasons in full swing, Barret Benson, Rapolas Ivanauskas and Isiah Brown — Northwestern's class of 2016 recruits — have all been busy on the hardwood.
While Benson plays his ball for nearby Hinsdale South in Darien, Ill., Ivanauskas, a Barrington, Ill. native, is currently in New Hampshire playing for well-regarded Brewster Academy. Brewster has produced current pros Mitch McGary and Will Barton and former college standouts C.J. Fair and Melvin Ejim, among several others. Brown, meanwhile, is from the Seattle area and currently playing for Lakeside High School.
The trio comes in as the No. 47 class in the nation, and No. 8 in the Big Ten, according to 247 Sports. Here's a look at all of them, plus an early look at some class of 2017 prospects:
Benson, officially listed at 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, has been dominant on the high school circuit this year, and most recently returned from a sprained ankle to score 12 points, all in the second half, in Hinsdale South's 48-44 win over Addison Trail on Jan. 22. Before that, he had 11 points and 10 rebounds in a late loss to Proviso East. Benson has been double- and triple-teamed for much of this year, but he has still impressed. NBC Sports's Scott Phillips ranked him as the No. 5 candidate for the CSN Chicago Prep Player of the Year award.
More on NU Basketball's Future
More on NU Basketball's Future
Benson's best run of play came over the holiday break, as he dominated the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic to the tune of 22.2 points and 11.6 rebounds over five games, including 32 and 15 against Metea Valley in the quarterfinal. Benson's Hornets finished third in the 32-team tournament. With Northwestern losing both Joey van Zegeren and Alex Olah after this season, Benson could be in line for some key minutes as a freshman in Evanston.
Ivanauskas is playing alongside several other high-Division I prospects at Brewster and consistently scoring in double figures for the Bobcats. His most impressive game within the past couple weeks was a 16-point, 14-rebound performance against Lawrence Academy in the Hoop Mountain & Arc of Mass Holiday Challenge on Jan. 18 at TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics. He followed that up with a 13-point effort the next day at Wilbraham and Monson Academy in a 76-64 win. The lanky wing has helped Brewster to a 16-5 overall record.
FINAL: Isiah B. was honored as the all-time leading scorer, and dropped 43 as the Lions took down Sealth, 66-54. pic.twitter.com/L9PlMDvKdd— Lakeside BBasketball (@LakesideLionsBB) January 23, 2016
Isiah Brown can flat-out score the basketball. He surpassed 2,000 career points earlier this season and has had games of 50, 44, and 43. The 50-point game came against Garfield High, the No. 1 team in Washington's 3A class. With Tre Demps graduating and backcourt depth lacking overall, Brown could very well see some time as a freshman, as Collins said when the three-star point guard signed his letter of intent back in November:
"Isiah has a great pedigree. He is a first-team all-state player in the state of Washington. He has been a great scorer in high school. I think his ability to make plays and put the ball in the basket is going to really compliment our guard corps. I expect him to be able to come in and contend for big minutes as a freshman."
Class of 2017
Northwestern has extended offers to four highly-touted class of 2017 prospects: point guard Nojel Eastern, small forward Kodye Pugh, power forward Tomas Murphy and small forward Justin Smith, according to 247 Sports.
Eastern is from Evanston Township High School, just minutes from Northwestern's campus, but appears pretty locked in to Michigan State. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound junior has offers from several other major programs, including Iowa State, Purdue and Illinois, as well. This would be a huge get for Northwestern, but one that is probably unlikely to happen at this point.
Pugh, from Blair Academy in New Jersey, received his offer from Northwestern in June of 2014, before he reclassified to the class of 2017, and just as with Eastern, Chris Collins is competing with some powerhouses, including Georgetown, Vanderbilt and Florida. According to 247, Pugh's two most likely landing places are Georgetown and Stanford.
Murphy is from Northfield Mount Hermon, the same high school that produced current Wildcat Aaron Falzon. He also has a connection with Collins, who recruited Tomas's older brother, Alex, to Duke (Alex would later transfer to Florida). Based on those connections alone, it seems Northwestern might have an inside track on the four-star big man, who currently holds just four offers: Boston College, Maryland, Northwestern and Rhode Island.
Smith is another major local target for the Wildcats. Currently at Adlai Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., a half-hour drive from Northwestern, Smith is a top athlete and has three other Big Ten offers: Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. He visited Wisconsin in October. He shows solid handles and range in his highlight tape and, at 6-foot-7, would be a true wing player in college. With Northwestern losing two wings after next year (Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn), grabbing Smith would be quite the coup for Collins and company.