The Southwest Illinois Jets program has a ton of talent on their hands, and they choose to split it up to make multiple very competitive teams instead of different levels. We will focus on their 17U Blue team and their 17U Orange team. It’s hard to pick which is the better of these 2 teams, as both are filled with talent and guys that look like they’ve played together for years.
Southwest Illinois Jets 17U Orange
This team loves to get out and run in transition. Their players all have skill sets that mesh together really well, which makes for a pretty good team. The standout player for them is AJ Smith. He has a good build and is an athletic freak. He played above the rim all weekend, throwing down monster dunk after monster dunk, including a highlight reel windmill in one of his games. He is the go-to option for the Orange team, and the man who usually gets it to him is Ethyn Brown. Brown is a great facilitator for the Jets. He does a good job with getting steals and kicking ahead to open teammates, or finding a cutting Jet for a bucket. Or it might just be a swing pass in their offense that goes to Tommie Williams, who’s great at attacking and finishing near the basket. Or the pass could go to Dylan Harkins, who stands at only 5’9, but can really hit from 3. His form is golden and he has the same release every time. Lefty wing Brennan Weller played terrific all weekend and came up with some big performances. Quani Rudd and Carson Prost both played well and contributed on both ends.
The Jets Orange team got a tough schedule, having to face OSA 17U Adidas, Jimmer Elite 17U, Team YOBO, and Team Knight Elite 17U, but they finished 2-2 and their 2 losses came by 2 points and 3 points.
Southwest Illinois Jets 17U Blue
The Orange team’s go-to guy is AJ Smith, a high flying wing who loves to throw down dunks. The Blue team isn’t much different. Their go-to guy is Cole Farrell. If Farrell starts to load up to jump, it’s best to get out of the way or you might end up on a poster. Farrell is more than just a high-flyer, though. He has some really good vision that results in timely passes that most others wouldn’t be able to make. A couple of those passes go to Mario Fleming. Fleming scores a lot of his points off of dump off passes near the rim, but showed his ability to cross over and drive into the lane and either pull up for a jumper, or finish with a layup at the rim. NJ Benson (2022) played up this weekend, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell that he was a grade younger than everyone else on the court. He played a great post role for the Jets this weekend. Rebounding, scoring in the paint, altering shots on defense, blocking shots, and more. His motor was set on high for the weekend for sure. The Blue team also got good contributions from Dre Scott and 2022 Brylan Phillips. Scott was doing a little bit of everything for his team and does all the little things that don’t necessarily show up in a boxscore. He’s got good size at 6’5 / 180lbs and moves well laterally to defend on the perimeter. He also is strong enough and long enough to defend in the post on small/power forwards. Scott made a few key defensive stops and took some big charges in their games. Phillips has the tools to be really good. He came in and played well and had some nice moments — look for Phillips to have a big junior season.
This Jets team kept it close against Team Factory 17U UA Rise as well as with Lincoln Supreme 16U National, and played high-level basketball all weekend.