By Joe Henricksen

Mac Irvin's Fire ridiculously loaded

| 16 Comments | No TrackBacks

By Joe Henricksen

Talk about individual talent. Good 'ol Mac Irvin's Fire sure have it. But before breaking down the star-studded roster of the Fire, I have found that not all basketball in March is fun to watch. Maybe part of it is the calendar still says March. That is the time, after all, when we are accustomed to watching the best basketball of the year, whether it be state tournament action in Illinois or the NCAA Tournament. But all-star games are being played and the AAU season has started. I guess it's still called basketball, nonetheless.

The McDonald's All-American game was horrendous, nearly impossible to watch, with selflish play, turnovers, ridiculous shot selection and, to top it off, a weak group of seniors nationally. I have quit going to post-season high school all-star games in Illinois. And after catching my first AAU action of the season this weekend, I realized just how much I already miss the high school season.

In defense of the AAU teams I saw play this past weekend, they have had little -- if any -- time playing together. But from a pure basketball perspective, the play was absolutely brutal, sloppy and, aside from some talented individual play, difficult to watch at times. Again, this is coming on the heels of watching NCAA Tournament basketball and the IHSA state tournament, where you see offensive execution, team defense and unselfishness as teams advance. Even better, you get used to seeing players and teams raise the level of their play. That's basketball in March.

There are a few AAU programs out there that will show some continuity and structure a month or two from now after getting a few weeks of practice under their belt. That couldn't come soon enough.

Big-time talent on display
The Chicago Hoops Spring Tip-Off Classic boasted an abundance of individual talent over the weekend. Here are a few observations taken from some of that talent on display. This blog entry focuses on one AAU program in particular -- the Illinois Fire. For more analysis on this past weekend's opening of the AAU season, check back to the City/Suburban Hoops Report blog in the near future.

Mac Irvin's Fire loaded
The talent on both the Mac Irvin 16 and Mac Irvin 17 teams is ridiculous. The big names are Rich South's Crandall Head and DeLaSalle's Mike Shaw, the top-ranked Hoops Report players in the Class of 2010 and 2011, respectively. But the depth the Fire has is second to none as far as pure individual talent. We'll see how -- if? -- those talent-laden Fire teams put it together and function as a unit.

I still think Terry Johnson of St. Rita, the 6-0 junior guard, is the perfect mid-major combo-guard. I've stated this before, but his build and style of play reminds me of former Oklahoma star guard Hollis Price, who led the Sooners to the Final Four several years ago. He's a versatile scorer who is still learning the nuances of running a team.... Farragut's 6-5 junior Troynell Adams, who showed his freakish athletic ability while playing a minor role this past season, showed a little of a face-up game, even looking comfortable knocking down the 15-foot jumper. Although still clearly an undersized 4-man at this point, Adams could elevate his status if his perimeter skills improve.... Jonathan Mills may not have an outside shot and has very limited ball skills, but the North Lawndale star is an absolute force on the glass. His Dennis Rodman-like act around the basket is awfully impressive. He's so active, gets his hands on everything up and around the backboard and continues to show his tenacious nature. He's another undersized 4-man, yet is the type of player you win games with -- both at the high school level and college level. He's undersized, yes. But productive and gets things done.... Seton Academy's Tony Nixon, a long, great-bodied 6-4 junior, remains one of the overlooked and underrated players in the Class of 2009.... Sophomore Reggie Smith of Thornton is a talent, but he's a 5-10/5-11 2-guard with limited perimeter skills and shooting ability. His overall game and individual weaknesses have not matured since he burst upon the scene a year ago. Yet he's still an offensive weapon in the halfcourt.... The younger Fire team also features some of the finest individual talent in the state. A player just scratching the surface is Whitney Young freshman Sam Thompson. The long, skinny 6-5 talent showed some tantalizing potential and athleticism, throwing down a jaw-dropping alley-oop dunk in the middle of the lane. Add Thompson to the growing list of potential stars in the Class of 2011. This Fire team features Thompson, Curie's 6-4 Wayne Blackshear, Thornton's Jay Parker, DeLaSalle's 6-3 Dre Henley and Simeon's 6-5 DeShawn Greer. Add Shaw, who played up an age level, and the Fire have six of the Hoops Report's top nine freshmen prospects in its program.

Big-time sleeper
If all of the above talent wasn't enough for Mac Irvin's Fire, there is also Zeke Upshaw. He's a relative unknown due to playing at Chicago Lab, where he put up big numbers and is an outstanding student. Upshaw is a highly-skilled 6-4 junior wing who knows how to score and in a variety of ways. He still lacks strength and toughness, which he should gain a little of playing and practicing with the Fire, but he's a legit prospect who could truly blossom this offseason if he's not overshadowed by the bigger-named stars.

Check back as the Hoops Report will have more analysis from this past weekend's basketball in the near future.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/7784

16 Comments

JUST THINK IF TERRY JOHNSON HAD REMAINED AT SETON
ACADEMY, SETON MADE IT TO THE SECTIONAL WITHOUT THE
YOUNG MAN. TERRY MAKES ST. RITA A CONTENDER IN THE
VERY SIGNIFICANT CATHOLIC LEAGUE!

THERE'S THAT NAME AGAIN, CRANDALL HEAD!
MARK MY WORDS AT ILLINOIS THIS YOUNG MAN HELPS THE
FIGHTING ILLINI GET TO THE FINAL FOUR!
HE MAKES EVERYBODY BETTER, HE SHINES IN THE LIGHT!
HE HAS THE POWER OF A RONNIE FIELDS, OTHER PLAYERS
BECOME BETTER, BUT HE HAS THAT HIGH BASKETBALL IQ,
AND MOST OF ALL, HE IS VERY, VERY COMPETITIVE!
WORD IS- HE AND THE YOUNG MAN SHAW FROM DELASALLE ARE
BUDDIES, SO THE FIGHTING ILLINI MAY GET HIM AS WELL!

THERE IS A YOUNG MAN AT RICH SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL WHO
WILL BE A STAR, MACARI BROOKS, A MAN-CHILD, POWERFUL
ATHLETE IN FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL.
THIS PAST SEASON HE HAD MORE FANS WATCHING THE SOPHOMORE TEAM PLAY, AND HE'S ONLY A FRESHMAN, BY THE
WAY THE RICH SOUTH STARS SOPHOMORE TEAM CAME IN FIRST
PLACE. THE TEAM HAD AN EXCELLENT COACH AS WELL,
MR. TERRONE PARHAM.
SCOT RITTER IS THE COACH OF THE VARSITY TEAM, WITH
CRANDALL HEAD AND KENDRICK MORSE, THEY PLACED SECOND
IN THE CONFERENCE!

The Fire's best prospect you forgot to mention is Phillip Jackson of providence St Mel. He is 6-8, can shoot the ball better than anyone on the Fire 16&under squad and is athletic. He truly is a big time talent and prospect. After watching them at the chicagohoops tip off classic it is a shame he doesn't touch the ball more.

Tony Nixon is a beast on the hardwood who is very underated, and overlooked by everyone come on he led Seton Academy to a Regional Championship, He should ba ranked in the top 10 for the class of 09, and come on now reggie Smith starting over Tony dont get me wrong Reggie's good, but Tony's better just compare their jumpshots.

Joe,
I don't know if you're in Vegas or not, but I just watch the Fire on Grassroots TV live from the Main event and they are totally loaded just like you said. They play in the Final Four of the Platinum division tomorrow at 11am CDT. Thanks for the great reporting...

Tony Nixon gets as hot and cold as anyone I've ever seen....but when he's hot he can carry a team....he hit a 3 on 5 straight possessions in a game at Desert Duel

Rodman-like is a great description of J. Mills

Mike Shaw is a future lottery pick if all goes right....has the potential to be Rasheed Wallace w/out the bad attitude if he puts on a few inches....

Lets see.......One person you forgot was Derrick Needham who is way underrated....also had an outstanding Desert Duel....carried them to a 2nd half 20 point comeback with 23, all in 2nd half.......

Blackshear also could play in the league one day........

Little Village Lawndale's Travis Allison is a very Athletic and powerful Swingmen/Bigmen with his diverse skill he should be a prospect in Illinois. I think with his 6'2 frame as a Sophomore by his Senior year he will be a powerful force in Illinois

The 16U Peoria Irish just beat the 16U Mac Irvin for the Championship!! You want to see a great team? You should watch the Peoria Irish, they are totally unselfish and play like a TEAM!! Unbelievable amount of talent on that squad. Good job Peoria Irish, I will be following you the rest of AAU season.

Just curious... anyone got any stats and or info on Tracy Abrams? Any chance at all some of these big time players follow this guy to Illinois?

Today in my basketball practice we had to dribble the ball. Just playing these are all good prospects~!

what everbody's missing out on is Reggie Smith I think Yall sleeping and need to wake up Because the young mans a beast..

This underrated player Demetri Poole out of a very small school Hancock. He is a slick slasher and an okay shooter from what I seen at the curie freshmen tourny last year. When they defeated Bogan he drained two three pointers and scored 18 in their win.

there aint never going to be no one as great as Kevin Dillard from the class of ,08 he is the best ever. THE NEXT LEBRON!

I reaLLY agree with all of this well looky looky at Blackshear now the kids a beast heading to louisville next fall. sit back and watch this kid take the Big East by storm my fellow basketball lovers!.

if they want to improve their game, they need to play Alex Austin from Mt. carmel,
he is a tram player, this team has to man selfish players. It is al about them

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 30, 2008 5:17 PM.

How do those November signings look now? was the previous entry in this blog.

Fifty to watch in '08-'09 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.