Rafael Cruz Jr., Kawanise Wilkins both getting closer to a college decision


Von Steuben’s Rafael Cruz Jr. in the CPLBCA all-star game.

By: Eric Van Dril   |   April 11, 2017

Von Steuben’s Rafael Cruz Jr. and Farragut’s Kawanise Wilkins are similar in several different ways.

The seniors are both big, versatile guards. They can score inside and outside. They were the unquestioned leaders of their high-school teams this past season.

They’re also both unsigned.

Cruz and Wilkins have received interest from college programs, but they haven’t yet decided where they will play next season.

“It’s so hard, making a college decision — weighing all of the options, especially academically,” Cruz said. “I’m sort of in the middle (of the process) right now.”

Cruz and Wilkins both played well in the CPLBCA all-star game on Saturday, April 8. Cruz knocked down five 3-pointers for the North-West team, which lost 151-141. The 6-foot-3 point guard finished with 21 points and six rebounds. Wilkins, meanwhile, finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.


By | April 11th, 2017|Basketball, Farragut, Von Steuben|

Williamson finishes 10th, Gilyard 12th in 2017 Illinois Mr. Basketball voting


Whitney Young senior Lucas Williamson

The ballots for 2017 Mr. Basketball have been submitted, and the results are out.

There were 139 ballots cast, according to the Chicago Tribune’s article announcing that Edwardsville senior guard Mark Smith finished first. First-place votes are worth five points. Second-place votes are worth three points. Third-place votes are worth one.

Here are the full results.

251 points: Mark Smith, Edwardsville sr. (41 first, 13 second, 7 third) named on 61 ballots

175: Nojel Eastern, Evanston sr. (22-19-8) 49

136: Jordan Goodwin, Belleville Althoff sr. (11-24-9) 44

105: Jeremiah Tilmon, East St. Louis sr. (13-9-13) 35

85: Taylor Bruninga, Glasford Illini Bluffs sr. (10-9-8) 27


By | March 21st, 2017|Basketball, Morgan Park, Simeon, Uplift, Von Steuben, Young|

Ralphy Cruz comes through in Von Steuben’s much-needed win over Lane Tech


Von Steuben’s Ralphy Cruz dribbles as Lane’s Marques Barnes defends.

By: Eric Van Dril   |   Feb. 2, 2017

Ralphy Cruz has the skillset to put up huge point totals, break ankles and throw down highlight-reel dunks.

But those things don’t interest Von Steuben’s senior point guard if they don’t lead to something more.

“Everyone says, ‘Oh, you’ve got to drop 40′ or do this (and that), but I just want to win,” Cruz said, after leading his team to a 53-49 victory over Lane Tech on Feb. 1.

Cruz is willing to do “anything I have to do (to win),” he added. “I’m a point guard, I had to guard the (Indians’) big guy a couple times. It doesn’t matter. … If I have to be the hustle guy, I’ll be the hustle guy. If we need somebody to stop their best player, I’ll do it. If we need shots, I’ll make shots. I just want to win.”

Cruz’s versatility and value were evident throughout the Panthers’ much-needed victory over Lane Tech, which broke their seven-game losing streak.

Cruz finished with a game-high 22 points. He also grabbed a team-best seven rebounds and came through when his team needed him the most.

For example, Lane Tech (10-12, 2-8 Red-North) scored eight-straight points in a two-and-a-half-minute stretch near the end of the third quarter. The 8-0 run put the Indians ahead 36-32 on Wednesday evening, but Cruz answered by draining a 3-pointer off of the dribble to halt their momentum.

“That third quarter, we didn’t really score a lot and that’s on me. That’s what I’m supposed to do,” Cruz said. “I’m the captain of the team. I’m the leader of the team. So when we don’t get a bucket, that’s when I’m supposed to step in. In that (situation), that’s what I was thinking.”


By | February 2nd, 2017|Basketball, Lane, Von Steuben|