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Notre Dame recruit Dragicevich shines

12/31/2009

CHICAGO -- The Proviso West Holiday Tournament, a long-time tradition on the Chicago hoops scene, didn't have the marquee star power of past years but the overall talent in attendance and competitive atmosphere more than made up for it. Undefeated Whitney Young, the top team in Chicago and the state of Illinois, faced off with the city's second-ranked team, Foreman, led by St. Louis-bound combo guard Mike McCall and three other Division I signees, in the event's championship game.

Led by top 2011 wing prospect Sam Thompson and precocious freshman post player Tommy Hamilton, Young would win the title, but the tournament's top performer was Glenbrook North swingman Alex Dragicevich, a Notre Dame recruit whose brilliant scoring and all-around game garnered tournament MVP honors. In addition, there were a host of emerging underclassmen prospects as well as solid but under-publicized seniors who brought the traditional toughness expected from Chicago products.

Eric Gaines, SG (6-foot-5, 185 pounds)
2010, Country Club Hills, Ill./Hillcrest

Gaines, a Kent State-bound wing, carried his team to a win in the consolation game with his all-around play. A long and athletic swingman, he excelled in transition, used his solid handle to consistently get to the bucket and finish in the half court, and also showed good playmaking ability with his court vision. In addition, he displayed the ability to effectively defend multiple positions and be a force on both ends of the glass.

Tommy Hamilton, PF (6-8, 240)
2013, Chicago/Whitney Young

Hamilton, a precocious freshman, may have been the difference-maker for Whitney Young in their championship run. The big-bodied post player came up with key plays and big overall performances in every game. His footwork, hands and touch inside were unstoppable when he got the ball in the post. He he finished around the basket or drew fouls, using spin moves and drop steps consistently on the block. He also displayed the ability to comfortably knock down shots from deep range. He was also effective on the glass on both ends of the floor, using his body, positioning and hands to dominate the boards and finish at point-blank range on offense or make solid outlet passes on defense. With his poise and ability, the keys for Hamilton are improving his conditioning, which should give him more lift and allow him to better run the floor in transition.

Mike McCall, PG/SG (6-1, 165)
2010, Chicago/Foreman

McCall, a St. Louis signee, was extremely impressive as both a scorer and a playmaker while leading his team to a second-place finish. He used his quickness and ball-handling ability to put pressure on defenders in both the half court and transition, then either fearlessly finished at the rim or dropped the ball to his teammates for open jumpers or layups. He also was very dangerous as a shooter, going on individual runs by knocking down pull-up, mid-range jumpers or deep 3-pointers. Defensively, he used his excellent foot speed to pressure opposing ballhandlers and make steals in the passing lane.

Sam Thompson, SF (6-7, 185)
2011, Chicago/Whitney Young

Thompson, a well-regarded national prospect, was up and down at the tournament but showed enough of his complete package to justify his lofty reputation, culminating with a dominant performance in his team's championship-game win. He used his elite athleticism and tremendous wingspan to be a game-changing defensive presence, playing the passing lanes, patrolling the paint and focusing on stopping his man from scoring or even touching the ball. When given the opportunity he was effective in transition, although he's better as a finisher than a player who has to make decisions on the break. In the halfcourt he displayed good ball skills, made solid passes, and used his footwork and explosive first step to beat opponents with reverse-pivot and triple-threat moves on the wing, mid-post and baseline. He also made a variety of mid-range, pull-up jumpers off the dribble, although he will need to improve the consistency of his outside jumper.

Surprise player

Alex Dragicevich, SF (6-7, 215)
2010, Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North

Dragicevich, a Notre Dame-bound swingman, is already regarded as one of the top players in the Chicago area but took his game to another level at the tournament, winning the event's MVP award. From functioning as a point forward to hitting deep 3s to scoring in the post and getting to the basket off the dribble, he did it all and rose to the occasion in every game despite clearly having a target on his back. Dragicevich was lights-out from behind the arc when open, hit contested mid-range jumpers off the dribble, was effective in pick-and-roll situations and moved well without the ball to score on backdoor cuts. While he isn't a great athlete he finished around the rim using savvy head-and-shoulder fakes, footwork and touch. He also broke down defenders with his tight handle, hit the offensive glass and used his court vision to set up his teammates for easy baskets.

Notes

• While Hamilton and Thompson are Whitney Young's best prospects, the senior backcourt of Ahmad Starks and Anthony Johnson (Oregon State and Purdue signees, respectively) were also big reasons the Dolphins won the tournament. Starks, a 5-9 floor general, hit big shots from the perimeter, controlled the tempo and set up his talented teammates for easy baskets. Johnson, a 6-3 wing, showed improved toughness when finishing at the rim and also knocked down important outside jumpers to key the team's championship.

• McCall's running mates for Foreman, South Florida-bound power point guard Lavonte Dority and energetic combo guard Tommy Woolridge, an Eastern Illinois signee, also had their share of big moments. Dority displayed a much-improved outside shot in addition to his typical gritty play and Woolridge, a low-major steal, proved to be a dangerous three-point threat, a fearless penetrator and wreaked havoc with his intense full-court defense.

• A sophomore duo from the suburbs, Tim Williams and Tyrone Sherman of Homewood-Flossmoor, were inconsistent at times but impressed with their considerable potential. Williams is a 6-7 face-up post player with range and athleticism, while Sherman is a 5-10 scoring playmaker with excellent quickness, heart and the ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands.

• Another pair of suburban sophomore teammates, Proviso East's 6-1 point guard Keith Carter and 6-5 undersized post player Trashaun Carroll, also made some noise. Carter is a pass-first point guard with good size, court vision and the ability to get to the basket, while Carroll is a tough rebounder on both ends who uses his athleticism to play bigger than his size.

• Despite not being one of Foreman's marquee names, Dontae Jones, a 6-9 senior shot-blocker, turned heads with his length, upside and developing offensive skills. Another undervalued senior from the city, 6-4 wing Jamal Dantzler, led his Von Steuben team to a third-place finish with versatility, scoring in the lane and toughness.

Sam Aggrey is a contributor to ESPN.com's basketball recruiting coverage.