IHSA basketball rankings: Rockford area's top 15 high school boys basketball players

Matt Trowbridge
Rockford Register Star

Boys basketball season begins this week, and here are our top 15 players to watch in the Rockford area for the 2021-22 season. Players are listed alphabetically by their school.

Adrian Agee, Auburn

Auburn's Adrian Agee dribbles against Guilford in the first quarter at Auburn High School on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Rockford.

The 6-footer led Auburn in scoring (12.0 points) and ranked third in the NIC-10 in 3-pointers with 30 last year, when he was the only sophomore named first-team all-NIC-10. “My favorite returning player,” East coach Roy Sackmaster said. “My pick if I could take anyone from another conference team. Can shoot it and can guard.”

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Rob Chaney, Auburn

Auburn's Robert Chaney gets the layup in the second quarter against Guilford at Auburn High School on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Rockford.

The hard-luck Chaney missed his sophomore season and most of his junior season with ACL injuries, but probably would have been all-conference both years if he could have played. Auburn coach Bryan Ott says his 6-1 senior guard “looks like himself again” and that he “looked terrific in the two and a half games he played for us last year.”

Mike Jones, Auburn

Rockford Lutheran's Mike Jones goes up to the hoop against Stillman Valley in the first quarter of their game at Rockford Lutheran High School on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Rockford. Lutheran beat Stillman Valley, 73-44.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore transfer from Lutheran is extremely athletic and should be one of the best big men in the NIC-10. “Mike Jones is as talented a 6-6 player as I have seen in a long time,” Auburn coach Bryan Ott said.

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Ethan Andre, Belvidere North

The 5-11 junior point guard led Belvidere North in scoring (11.0 points) and was fourth in the conference in 3-pointers (26) as a sophomore. “Ethan makes tough shots and he is very crafty with the ball,” Guilford coach Chris Dixon said.

Joe Appino, Boylan

Boylan’s Joey Appino drives the ball to hoop on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, at Boylan High School.

The 6-2 senior forward led Boylan in scoring (10.3 points) as a junior. Appino is also a two-time all-conference defensive back who also played quarterback, running back and receiver for the football team. “He might be the best athlete in the NIC-10, and he is a winner,” Belvidere North coach Todd Brannan said.

Tristian Ford, Boylan

Boylan’s Tristian Ford drives the ball against Jefferson’s Latrell Graham on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, at Boylan High School.

The 6-2 sophomore guard averaged 9.6 points as a freshman, shooting 40% on 3-pointers and 82% on free throws.

Jemere Jefferson, East

Jefferson's Jemere Jefferson shoots the ball on Saturday, March 6, 2021, at East High School.

Jefferson, a transfer from Jefferson, was named special-mention all-conference last year when he averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 steals and led the conference in 3-pointers with 34. “Jemere is a threat to score at all times and has big-play potential," Guilford coach Chris Dixon said.

Kellen Henze, Eastland

Henze’s older sister, Erin, was a first-team all-stater and he could join her. The senior guard averaged 21.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.1 steals as a junior, when he made honorable mention all-state. He shot 50% from the floor and 47% on 3-pointers. He is probably the top player in all three divisions of the NUIC. "He can take over the game offensively. He's strong with the ball, is a great shooter, and he can score around the rim,” South Beloit coach Matt Stucky said.

Mekhi Doby, Guilford

Guilford's Mekhi Doby jumps to the hoop under Jefferson's Antonio Leavy in the third quarter at Guilford High School on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Rockford. Jefferson beat Guilford, 57-43.

The junior forward quietly averaged 7.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.9 steals last year, when then-freshman Malachi Johnson led Guilford in scoring at 10.2 points per game. “The Johnson kid gets all the attention, but Doby is Guilford's best player,” East coach Roy Sackmaster said.

Lathan Lewis, Harlem

Harlem's Lathan Lewis goes to the hoop in the second quarter at East High School Friday, March 12, 2021, in Rockford. East beat Harlem, 59-50.

Lewis is one of three returning first-team all-conference players in the NIC-10. The senior guard was fourth in the NIC-10 in scoring last year at 13.6 points. “He may be the best returning player in the conference,” East coach Roy Sackmaster said.

Braydon Savitsky-Lynde, Hononegah

The 6-6 junior forward averaged 10.3 points as a sophomore and was second in the conference with 9.4 rebounds. He was named special mention all-NIC-10. “He’s a good post player, and the conference doesn’t have many post players right now,” East coach Roy Sackmaster said.

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Hunter Hoffman, Pecatonica

Du/Pec’s star quarterback was also all-NUIC in basketball last year, averaging 11.6 points, 8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 steals and shooting 53% . The senior forward is a three-year starter for a team that has finished 9-3 and 24-10 the last two years. “He is the heart of that team and does a little bit of everything,” South Beloit coach Matt Stucky said. “The guy is just a winner and a great leader.”

Walter Hill, Rockford Lutheran

Rockford Lutheran's Walter Hill shoots a three-pointer against Stillman Valley in the second quarter of their game at Rockford Lutheran High School on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Rockford. Lutheran beat Stillman Valley, 73-44.

The 5-11 junior point guard averaged 13 points, 4.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 3.4 steals as a sophomore for a team that finished 16-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 2A. He also had a better than 3-to-1 turnover ratio and made 52% of his 3-point shots. “Walt is a true point guard who values the ball,” Lutheran coach Tom Guse said. “He’s a leader. He gets us in our offense. He is extremely quick and can get to the rim. And obviously he can knock down the open shot.”

Garrett Bertrand, Rockford Lutheran

Rockford Lutheran's Garrett Bertrand drives against East in the second half of their game at East High School Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Rockford. Rockford Lutheran beat East, 61-58.

Bertrand, a senior 6-2 shooting guard, averaged 10 points and 3.7 rebounds last year, shooting 80% on free throws and 40%  from 3-point line. Lutheran coach Tom Guse called him a complete player. “He uses his body really well in the paint so he can post up,” Guse said, “he has a mid-range game and he can also shoot the heck out of it.”

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Ross Robertson, South Beloit

Robertson may be the top freshman in the area — although Rockford Christian guard Christian Cummings could also compete for that honor — and could have a huge impact at the Class 1A level. “As a freshman, he should lead us in scoring and rebounding,” South Beloit coach Matt Stucky said. “He’s 6-7, but he also has guard skills. He’s consistently one of our best shooters. He’s a match-up nightmare for opposing teams because he can score from inside and the perimeter. He'll be a name to watch throughout not just this year, but the next four years.“

Matt Trowbridge: mtrowbridge@rrstar.com; @matttrowbridge