MeanStreets put together an up-and-down season in 2018, rallying late to finish with an 8-8 record and an automatic bid to Peach Jam. Tyrone Slaughter coached led one of the most efficient offenses on the circuit last season, including team averages of 75% from the line and 37% from behind the arc. On paper, this year’s version of MeanStreets could be even better, and Director Tai Streets will be taking over the coaching duties with Slaughter moving to 16s. The Streets will bring a 10-man rotation to the lineup, including a top 75 junior recruit and two junior 3-star recruits. Similar to MeanStreets’ squads in the past, this year’s team is filled with athletic, versatile athletes that specialize in putting the ball in the bucket. Slaughter’s bunch will face a gauntlet of a schedule in Division A, so they will need to get off to a quick start in Atlanta.
The aforementioned top 75 recruits are Whitney Young (IL) star junior DJ Steward. A long-time program veteran, Steward (247 No. 61) is a 6-foot-4 playmaker who can do a little bit of everything, and his playing style should adapt perfectly with the new 24-second shot clock. Steward averaged 24.3 points and 3.2 assists in 2018-19 for Whitney Young, earning First Team All-City honors. He’s a gifted scorer and an impressive option behind the perimeter, but he’s at best when he’s out in transition. Steward starred for MeanStreets’ successful E16 squad last year, and he’s looking to pull from that experience.
“The main takeaway from last season is to never take my foot off the gas,” Steward said. “Because every game is going to be a dogfight. This helps me to know to always go hard, and to attack anyone that’s in front of me on both ends.”
MeanStreets junior DJ Steward (photo: Des Moines Register)
The backcourt is off to a terrific start with Steward, and he'll be joined by six other guards. Combo guard Isaiah Rivera is gaining popularity on the recruiting trail, and the 6-foot-5 junior should flourish in Slaughter’s style of basketball. Rivera is coming off averaging 28 points per game for Geneseo (IL), and he looked strong in preseason play with the Streets. He’s best when he’s out in transition and rim-running, but he also offers versatility on defense as he’s capable of guarding multiple positions.
Junior guard Aaron Ulis will see major minutes for MeanStreets, and the little brother of Tyler Ulis could have a similar junior breakout season that his brother had for MeanStreets in the EYBL in 2014. Ulis (247 No. 184) averaged 18 points, 5.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 steals for Marian Catholic during the 2018-19 high school season, and he should provide an instant jolt of energy as soon as he enters the game.
The MeanStreets coaching staff is really excited about the potential of Jeremiah Williams. The 6-foot-4 St. Laurence (IL) junior is a talented scorer and passer, and he’s a pest on the defensive end. Williams enjoyed a breakout 2018-19 high school season, putting up per-game averages of 18.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.0 steals, and 2.5 blocks. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective, and with his decision-making skills, he should be a valuable asset in transition for Slaughter and company.
6-foot-5 junior guard Destin Whitaker will also see minutes in the backcourt, coming off 2018-19 high school averages of 17.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 assists. The Romeoville (IL) product will provide efficient defense and an evolving shooter on the perimeter, and he’ll be on a mission to prove that he is worthy of multiple Division 1 offers. Thornton (IL) junior Derrick Williams Jr will see minutes off the bench. Williams is a dual-sport athlete doubling as a Quarterback on the gridiron, and he brings a sturdy 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame to the backcourt. He’ll be valuable on the defensive end of the floor, and he’ll compete for minutes with 5-foot-10 junior guard Titan Newton. The ASPIRE Academy (KY) product might be undersized, but he makes up for his with his terrific passing ability and sneaky explosiveness. Newton is a sure-fire low-to-mid major recruit, and his playing style should resonate with plenty of coaching staffs.
2020 Meanstreets Guard Isaiah Rivera @riv_isaiah is a really intriguing prospect. Has good positional size at 6’5ish, a college ready frame, plus athleticism & good shot creating ability off the bounce. Has the look of an under the radar gem that will boost his stock this Summer pic.twitter.com/pOn0PbADT6— Endless Motor Sports (@endless_motor) April 9, 2019
MeanStreets will be forced to play small for the majority of the season as their tallest player, Kennedy Brown, stands at 6-foot-8. Brown had an effective season for the highly-successful Bogan Bengals (IL), and he’ll look to continue his ascent as a bonafide Division 1 player. Brown is a plus rebounder and finishes well in traffic. He’s active, runs the floor well and has good hands. Brown won’t be asked to create his own offense, as his sole focus will be on rebounding and defending the other team’s tallest player. 6-foot-6 swingman Sincere Callwood will need to play bigger than his listed height, and his athleticism and length should allow him to show off his ability to guard multiple positions. Callwood was a terrific role-player for Simeon during the 2018-19 season, and he’ll adopt a very similar role on Slaughter’s Streets.
MeanStreets will enter the season with one of the smaller lineups on the circuit. Rivera and Whitaker will undoubtedly see time at the small forward position, as will Steward when they go really small. The 24-second shot clock should help their offensive efficiency, as teams will have a hard time slowing up the guard-very rotation. Steward and Rivera are super-dynamic and competitive guards, and it would be hard to believe that they struggle at the 17U level. They don’t have adequate size, but the overall makeup for this team should undoubtedly make a run for a Peach Jam bid. The overall height of their success will come down to one thing; defense. They should be able to score with the best of them, but with the smallest lineup on the circuit by combined height, the Streets will need to defend their tails off in order to pick up enough wins to earn a Peach Jam bid.