By Joe Henricksen

It's early, but Young-Hales still big

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By Joe Henricksen

The calendar on Sunday may say Dec. 2, but the Whitney Young-Hales Franciscan showdown at 6:30 p.m. at

Chicago State University is still big--very big. The City/Suburban Hoops Report preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams in

the state will not meet at any other time this season, thanks to the new four-class system. So you better believe

Hales heads into this one with something to prove.

The only negative of this marquee matchup, which could potentially feature as many as 13 or 14 Division I players

in uniform between the two teams, is that it is being played so early. A circle-the-calendar matchup like this

deserves more buildup, more hype. That's difficult to do the first weekend in December, especially when it's

Whitney Young's first game of the season. Nonetheless, this is a must-see game with plenty on the line.

Plenty on the line? This early in the season? You bet!

As previously mentioned, this is the stage Hales Franciscan has been waiting for since last year's disappointing

and inconsistent season. There remain doubters out there as to whether Hales can indeed put it all together. This is

a chance for Gary London's team to prove it can play with--and hopefully beat--any team in Illinois regardless of

class. Hales will be a prohibitive favorite in Class 2A when March finally does roll around. But if Hales, led by the

Oregon-bound duo of shooting guard Matt Humphrey and big man Josh Crittle, wants to be considered the state's

best team when all is said and done, they must make the most of opportunities like this.

The Hoops Report put Hales at No. 2 in the preseason with the thought that talented transfer Jordan Walker, a 6-6

versatile and athletic junior, would be eligible. The IHSA had not cleared him as of last week. Hales, which lost

to Virginia power Birmingham Benedictine last weekend without Walker, will give teams an entirely different look

with Walker playing. The key, however, will be junior point guard D.J. Cooper. Whitney Young will come at Hales in

waves, with Cooper largely responsible for handling that pressure. Cooper is a talented prospect who has grown

up quickly after playing last year as a sophomore.

Still, Whitney Young is No. 1 for a reason. They, too, have plenty to prove as they hope to duplicate the 1998

Whitney Young team that stayed on top of the polls from wire to wire. Now it's a matter of Whitney Young not

trying to show or prove too much in 32 minutes of basketball Sunday night. That can be tricky when playing your

first game of the year in a big-time atmosphere and against a talented team that has some games already under its

belt. It will be interesting to see how coach Tyrone Slaughter utilizes the abundance of perimeter talent and how the

minutes are used between seniors A.J. Rompza and Bryan Hall, junior stars Marcus Jordan and Chris Colvin,

sophomore sensation Anthony Johnson and classmate Ahmad Starks.

Yes, it's probably too early for a "Game of the Year," but it's a fun matchup to enjoy and a special treat this early in

the season.

To subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 13th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or e-mail

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on November 29, 2007 10:35 PM.

IHSA sectional assignments are laughable--and sad was the previous entry in this blog.

A showstopper for starters as No. 1 rolls is the next entry in this blog.

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