This year is no different.
The tournament this year is marked with a lot of the familiar teams as well as some newcomers hoping to make a big splash.
Here's a look at a few of the names for Illinois fans to keep an eye out for.
Mac Irvin Fire:
There's talent at every age level of this team, but the 17U team is clearly the premier squad. Any team that has Jahlil Okafor already has an advantage, but now you include fellow Chicago big man Cliff Alexander, and this team goes from good to unfair. Whether or not Okafor will be back from injury yet is unclear, but Alexander proved through the first half of the EYBL circuit that he can be the man in the middle. Oh, and as if Alexander wasn't enough, another offseason acquisition, sophomore guard Jalen Brunson, has steadied the point guard position and made this a really dangerous team.
On the younger levels, Look for Morgan Park's Charles Moore and Simeon's Ben Coupet to be the guys for the 15u Fire teams. The 2016 prospects both have a fair amount of potential and should be guys to keep an eye on moving forward.
While this isn't the same meanstreets from the EYBL circuit, there's still a lot of guys to watch in this one. The 16u Meanstreets team features Illinois target and Simeon wing D.J. Williams as well as St. Rita's Charles Matthews. Another guy to look for is Indiana native Ryan Fazekas, brother of Nick Fazekas.
The Irish program has a few guys who are starting to collect offers, but the one Illinois fans are most dialed into is forward and Illinois commit Michael Finke. This spring will give a good indication of how Finke does when surrounded by other talent and playing against other talent. Another guy to look at is point guard Marcus Bartley, a Decatur native, who has started to collect high-major offers.
Ohio Basketball Club:
From the same program that produced Devin Williams, a new power forward is on the rise, and he'll be on display this weekend in Fort Wayne. Carlton Bragg, a 2015 target who is already picking up high division one offers, including Illinois, will have a chance to showcase his talents this weekend and prove why he's worthy of all of the hype.
The two main guys to watch for Indiana Elite are a pair of 2015 guards, both with Illinois offers. Jalen Coleman, who played with Spiece Indy Heat last spring, is now with Indiana Elite, joining point guard Hyron Edwards in the backcourt. If the two of them can get into a flow, that team could be a tough matchup.
The Wolves may not be the flashiest team out there, but they know how to win. The 17u Wolves team is deep with talent, especially at the forward position. Everyone knew about Ohio State pledge Keita Bates-Diop coming into this spring, but the guy who has been turning heads is Malek Harris of Orland Park, IL. Harris has really bulked up and is playing very assertively. Throw in Amanze Egekeze, Glynn Watson, Roosevelt Smart, Prentiss Nixon, JayQuan McCloud, Jordan Ash, and several others, and you can see why the Wolves are usually successful at these tournaments.
I've seen this team play before, and they were very impressive. Headlined by 5-star forward Kevon Looney, the Rebels are dangerous from the perimeter and from the inside, but a big reason for that is because Looney is effective from both. A 6'8" tall wing forward that can handle the ball like a 2-guard is the catalyst for his team.
Spiece Indy Heat:
Last year's matchup between Spiece and the Mac Irvin Fire drew nearly the entire gym's spectators over to the feature court for a slugfest of a matchup. With many of the same players back, the two will do battle again at some point this weekend, and for Spiece, they will look to Trey Lyles and JaQuan Lyle. Lyles, a one time Indiana commit, has reopened his recruitment, and Lyle has narrowed his list to 6 schools, one of which is Illinois.
A later addition to the event, Team Thad boasts two of the hottest names in the junior class right now. Based out of the Memphis area, Team Thad features PG Chris Chiozza and SF/PF Leron Black. Black, who has sat out a couple events so far this spring, is expected to play. If he does, he'll have a chance to go up against Michael Finke on Saturday.
The event, featuring Illinois' top three prospects in 2014 is sure to be a prime tournament, and the field this year is only going to make the competition even more fierce. We will be in attendance with plenty of coverage to follow, so keep it locked in here on IlliniPlaybook.