Chicago Sun-Times

Baldwin leads breakout stars

- JOE HENRICKSEN Twitter: @joehoopsre­port

Hyde Park coach Jerrel Oliver thought the new player in the program, HomewoodFl­ossmoor transfer Jurrell Baldwin, would be a “glue guy.”

Even after watching Baldwin in open gyms last fall, the first-year coach said he had no idea the 6-5 junior could do the things he’s doing for the Thunderbir­ds this season.

“I did not expect this,” Oliver said. “I saw some things in the fall, but I did not see it trending this way.”

What Baldwin has done after playing on the sophomore team last year at HomewoodFl­ossmoor is become the go-to player for a top-25 team. The do-it-all threat who can play any perimeter position is averaging 18.1 points a game while hitting 57 three-pointers and regularly posting double-doubles.

Baldwin has a vintage offensive game.

Whether it’s showcasing a soft jumper, facilitati­ng with outstandin­g passing skills or turning into an isolation scorer, Baldwin has a knack for affecting a game in a big way on the offensive end.

“His upside is just huge,” Oliver said of a player who has skyrockete­d up the rankings

more than any other prospect in the class.

Here are four other juniors who are in the midst of breakout seasons:

Jack Stanton, Downers Grove North

The 6-1 combo guard has proved to be a spark-plug scorer, thanks in large part to his perimeter shooting and ability to get his shot off. He thrives off the dribble with pull-up jumpers, in transition and with catch-andshoot threes in the halfcourt.

Stanton is averaging a team-high 15.9 points for a team that’s 23-3. A deadly sniper, Stanton is shooting an impressive 46% from beyond the arc with 79 threes made on the season.

Luke Williams, Naperville North

There are very few players who do more for their team than what Williams does for coach Gene Nolan’s Huskies. He’s a tone-setting player.

The 6-1 guard has impressive numbers — 21 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 3.1 steals a game — but more important, he’s an energizer at both ends of the floor.

A top-flight football prospect as a wide receiver, Williams is not only a strong, compact guard who is an absolute load when attacking downhill in the open court, he’s a threat shooting the ball, as well.

Connor May, Palatine

An argument could be made that May “broke out” a year ago, when he averaged 11 points and 4.8 rebounds. Those are impressive numbers for a sophomore.

But the 6-6 swing forward has put a charge into those numbers this season by averaging 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. May scores in many ways, whether it’s at the basket, with mid-range jumpers or knocking down one of his 32 three-pointers.

May has been instrument­al in leading Palatine to 20 wins and first place in the MidSuburba­n League West.

Stefan Cicic, Riverside-Brookfield

Big men come along slowly. Yet there’s always the danger of heaping too much responsibi­lity or expectatio­ns on young, promising big men.

But Cicic, the quintessen­tial developmen­tal big man, has taken a big step forward in his junior season. He’s pushing toward a legit 6-11 and has seen his production skyrocket. He’s averaging 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and two assists while blocking 29 shots.

Cicic, a mountain of a presence inside, is shooting 66% from the field and, with his mechanics and touch, shows plenty of promise shooting the ball for a 5-man.

 ?? KIRSTEN STICKNEY/SUN-TIMES ?? Hyde Park junior Jurrell Baldwin has become the go-to guy in his first season since coming over from Homewood-Flossmoor.
KIRSTEN STICKNEY/SUN-TIMES Hyde Park junior Jurrell Baldwin has become the go-to guy in his first season since coming over from Homewood-Flossmoor.
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