By Joe Henricksen
The holiday basketball tournaments are right around the corner later this month, but this weekend won't take a
backseat to any other event--or weekend--in Illinois this winter. Thanks in large part to the Chicago Public League
Shootout at Chicago State on Saturday and Sunday, this weekend is a headliner in terms of teams and individuals.
Throw in the Marshall County Hoopfest in Kentucky, which will feature several teams from Illinois, and plenty will be
learned and talked about after three days of basketball.
While Hales Franciscan, Whitney Young and Simeon will be playing in Kentucky on Saturday night, the Chicago
Public Schools will be showcasing quite an attraction of teams and players at Chicago State. The event continues
to grow each year, with better and more intriguing matchups. That's exactly what organizer Cyrus McGinnis has
set out to do.
"It's a great opportunity to get top-rated teams and great players together at one site early in the season," says
McGinnis. "It's kind of a preview of what is to come for the rest of the season. It's also a chance for different
players, coaches and teams to see different styles of play."
That is definitely the case as there is a tremendous mix of Chicago Public League, suburban and Chicago Catholic
League powers mixed and matched throughout the two-day event, which will feature four games each day.
"We are really looking for it to continue to grow, to get even bigger and better each year," says McGinnis.
It will be hard to top a potential 40 Division I prospects and the matchups this year. The Hoops Report takes a quick
look at each matchup and what to look for.
Chicago (Crane) vs. Glenbrook North, 3 p.m. .... A perfect example of different styles. Crane, led by scoring guard Dion Dixon, has stumbled out of the gate. Are things slipping for coach Anthony Longstreet on the West Side? Glenbrook North is extremely well coached by David Weber and led by junior Tyler Ponticelli.
Chicago (Von Steuben) vs. Chicago (DeLaSalle), 4:30 p.m. .... Catholic vs. Public, North Side vs. South Side. Von Steuben beat St. Rita last Sunday at Chicago State but will get a tougher challenge this week. Coach Vince Carter's club is a different team when Cordarrel Eldridge comes to play. Mike Dinunno is the best shooter in the Chicago Public League. DeLaSalle is probably a year away from being dominant, but this will be freshman phenom Mike Shaw's first big stage. And also a chance for Derek Needham to show he's one of the underrated juniors in the Chicago area.
Chicago (Curie) vs. Peoria (Richwoods), 6 p.m. .... Curie and freshman Wayne Blackshear have received plenty of media attention in the early going. Here is another chance to showcase arguably the best young team in the city. Speaking of young, there aren't many teams younger than coach Mike Ellis' Richwoods club. They head into the weekend 4-1 and boast a handful of sophomores, including scorer Aaron Davis and 6-4 T.J. Cole, the brother of Illinois freshman Bill Cole. This game features a ton of terrific young talent.
Chicago (Marshall) vs. Chicago Heights (Bloom), 8 p.m. .... Talk about two teams with plenty to prove. Marshall comes in anxious to move on after the Lamont Bryant debacle this past fall. Pure talent, led by senior Ryan Hare and junior Darius Smith, should allow them to do that rather quickly. Bloom is simply looking for respect. This is as talented of a team as you will find but has still needs to quiet the critics and show they are the class of the south suburbs.
Chicago (Washington) vs. Winnetka (New Trier), 2:30 p.m. .... Again, a great matchup featuring different styles and different geographical areas as the far South Side of Chicago faces the North Shore. Look for New Trier's precision, patience and great team play to cause fits for Washington. Will Washington's pure athleticism and quickness do the same to New Trier? This is a showcase of two very talented young players in New Trier guard Alex Rossi and Washington 6-6 junior Michael Haynes.
Chicago (Hales Franciscan) vs. Chicago (Farragut), 4 p.m. .... No team has opened the season with the trio of games Hales has had, which included Whitney Young last Sunday, a 6:30 p.m. game Saturday night in Kentucky against national power Oak Hill Academy and then a showdown with Farragut on Sunday. Ouch! Farragut big man Mike Dunigan has come out like a player on a mission. That continued regular dominance will keep Dunigan atop the Class of 2008 rankings in Illinois. Hales needs a win over a premier program.
Chicago (Simeon) vs. Harvey (Thornton), 6 p.m. .... Simeon has simply reloaded and is poised for another run at a state championship--this time in Class 3A--behind Illinois State recruit Kenyon Smith and Illinois signee Stan Simpson. Thornton is young and inexperienced, which doesn't bode well in a game and setting like this. However, this is a great measuring stick for Thornton and sophomore star Reggie Smith. And what kind of shape will Simeon be in after traveling back from Kentucky after playing an 9:30 p.m. game Saturday night?
Chicago (Whitney Young) vs. Homewood-Flossmoor, 8 p.m. .... How will the travel affect Whitney Young, which plays in Kentucky Saturday night at 8 p.m.? This one should be fun as H-F and Young boast superior athletes and team quickness. But something jumps out quickly when analyzing these two teams: Whitney Young's ridiculous depth and H-F's lack of depth. Kevin Dillard, H-F's star guard who has signed with SIU, will have his hands full dealing with the likes of A.J. Rompza, Marcus Jordan, Chris Colvin, Anthony Johnson and Bryan Hall.