basketball Edit

Starting Five: Illini land 4-star legacy

Four-star junior point guard Da'Monte Williams has chosen to follow in the footsteps of his father by committing to his home state school. Big man Cheickna Dembele is causing a stir in 2016 as programs scour the country for available talent. The Georgia and Florida State Tournaments featured plenty of talent, 2017 rankings drop Tuesday. See the latest on those topics and more in this week's Starting Five.

1. Williams will follow in father's footsteps

The No. 56 ranked player in the class of 2017, 6-foot-3 point guard Da'Monte Williams of Peoria (Ill.) Manual, has long been one of the biggest junior targets of Illinois.

Not only is Williams a terrific prospect from a town that has traditionally been good to the Illini, he's also the son of the one of the program's most popular players. Williams' father, Frank Williams, scored just under 1,500 points and dished out over 400 assists during three seasons before becoming a first round draft pick in 2002.

The four-star visited the Illini unofficially on Sunday and announced via his Twitter account later that night that he would play his college ball for the home-state program.

Much like his father, Williams is a big and strong lead guard who can create and play though contact. Though he isn't necessarily a knock down shooter, Williams does wield a respectable jumper and the job that he does scoring between the rim and the three point line makes him a tough cover.

Williams is the second prospect from Illinois to choose the Illini in 2017. He joins three-star wing Javon Pickett as an early pledge.

2. Dembele creating a stir

Cheickna Dembele
Cheickna Dembele (

It happens every year around this time. Previously unknown seniors surface out of the blue and generate a buzz. Often times, these late-bloomers are a bit over-recruited and weren't previously well-known for good reason. Could Cheickna Dembele be breaking that mold?

A native of Mali who watched at the 2014 Adidas Nations in Los Angeles, the 6-foot-9 Dembele has surfaced at the Scotland (Pa.) Performance Institute and he's developed quite a buzz over the last month.

Since word got out that he was available and looking to play college ball in the States, Dembele has gotten offers from N.C. State, Missouri, Iowa State, St. Joseph's, St. John's, Providence and La Salle to name a few, while Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland and Charlotte have been in touch or through to take a look.

Dembele is definitely a high-major level athlete and he has some scoring tools around the rim. His jump shot is workable and for a guy that is just bursting onto the scene he looks like he could be a legitimately viable option for those programs looking for help along the frontline.

3. Reviewing action from the Georgia State Tournament

Wendell Carter
Wendell Carter (USA Basketball)

Throughout the latter part of the week and over the course of the weekend, had the opportunity to watch a lot of State Tournament action from Georgia. The state is loaded with talent and here's some thoughts on a few of the standouts.

Though his team didn't get him the ball all that much, Wendell Carter showed why he is an elite prospect in 2017. The five-star big man from Atlanta (Ga.) Pace Academy, who currently ranks No. 1, helped power his team into Georgia's 2A finals. He altered shots around the rim, cleaned the glass and buried defenders under the bucket when he got the chance. His team pulled away late and could have dominated from beginning to end had they done a better job of getting him the ball.

Auburn-bound point guard Davion Mitchell of Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County put on a show. A tough-as-nails and athletic six-footer, Mitchell was totally dominant while racking up 33 points and nine assists to push his team to a state title game. Currently ranked No. 58 overall in 2017, Mitchell is pushing hard for a spot in the national top 50.

Also headed to Auburn is senior point guard Jared Harper. Ranked No. 52 in the class of 2016, the 5-foot-10 floor general helped push Mableton (Ga.) Pebblebrook into their class finals. He's little, but he can really shoot and he can really lead. Also impressive for Pebblebrook was 2017 combo guard Collin Sexton. Sexton is currently an unranked three-star, but that will change very soon when he enters the 2017 rankings as a four-star prospect.

Scheduled to meet up with Pebblebrook in the 6A title game is Atlanta (Ga.) Westlake. They survived a knockdown, dragout affair with Covington (Ga.) Newton thanks to their overwhelming talent level. Westlake juniors Chuma Okeke, Michael Durr and Daniel Lewis are all ranked in the 2017 Rivals150 and the four-star Okeke was a stud down the stretch making one crucial bucket after another. Also for Westlake, 2018 point guard Jamie Lewis will debut in the 2018 rankings this week, and he had a nice game as well. For Newton, keep an eye on the development of their freshman point guard Ashton Hagans. A 6-foot-3 playmaker, Hagans has all the makings of a big-time prospect and looks to be a legit candidate for high four to five-star status.

4. Florida features firepower too

David Nickelberry
David Nickelberry ()

Just as with Georgia, many games from Florida's various state tournaments were available to watch online. Here's some thoughts from what we saw there.

Versatile 6-foot-7 wing David Nickelberry has been one of the hottest names in the class of 2017. He showed why while leading Windemere Prep to a 3A title. He can handle the ball, he can shoot with some distance and he is an outstanding off-the-dribble playmaker. Currently ranked No. 124 overall in the junior class, he's going to be one of the biggest risers this week and you can pencil him in for a move to four-star status.

Five-star junior wing Kevin Knox has a good chance of moving into the national top 10 this week, but the 6-foot-7 product of Tampa Catholic didn't have his best game in a semifinal loss in class 4A. He did finish with 23 points but settled too much for deep threes (hitting just 3-13) when he's at his best going to the rim. Instead, the story was the play of Jacksonville Bolles senior big man Collin Smith. A three-star headed to George Washington, Smith could be one of the biggest steals in the class of 2016. Mobile and skilled, he went for 31 points and 11 rebounds in the semis before adding another 10 and eight in a 46-39 title game win over Holy Trinity.

Combo guard Geremy Taylor put himself on the map as somebody to watch closely. In the 7A title game, the 6-foot-4 junior from Blanche Ely had a triple double. Taylor caught's eye back in October at the Hoop Exchange event and he could be a sleeper about to emerge.

Finally, if South Miami combo guard Zack Dawson doesn't make the 2017 Rivals150 this time around, he will be somebody we are watching very closely this summer. A little rough around the edges and holding a recent Louisville offer, Dawson showed the ability to get his shot via the dribble pretty much whenever he wanted to in an overtime loss to Sarasota Riverview in an 8A semifinal. He finished with 32 points and six rebounds and looks like a legitimate high major prospect.

5. Will there be a new No. 1 in 2017?

DeAndre Ayton
DeAndre Ayton ()

On Tuesday, we will update the 2017 Rivals150, where the previously discussed Wendell Carter is currently sitting in the top spot. The question is, can he successfully fight off former No. 1 DeAndre Ayton and the other top five prospects who are after Carter's spot?

The players filling out the current top five -- Carter, Trevon Duval, Michael Porter, Ayton and Mohamed Bamba -- will remain the top five prospects. However, there will be a shakeup in the order.

Moving beyond the top five, there will be at least two new top 10 players and two newly minted five-star prospects, while at least 10 prospects will make their debuts in the Rivals150 as four-star prospects.