By Joe Henricksen
When all the rankings come out in November, it's a three-team team race for the frivolous distinction of being preseason No. 1. Whitney Young, North Lawndale and Zion-Benton will all be in the mix - and probably all be in the top spot at some point in the season. However, with the addition of St. Rita star Terry Johnson, who has made the move to Chicago Public League's Red-West, North Lawndale just may be the one.
North Lawndale is the defending Class 2A state champs. They return nearly everyone from that team, including the high-profile inside tandem of 6-4 Jonathan Mills and 6-10 Paul Bunch. But coach Lewis Thorpe's depth and experience is downright scary. Athletic 6-4 wing Jermaine Winfield is back after averaging over 12 points a game last season, along with 6-3 Miles Mayfield (6 ppg) and guards Zilijan Jones (7 ppg) and Stephen Thorpe. The talented John Taylor, an explosive 5-11 guard that averaged 14 points in the 13 games he played last season before running into some academic issues, is expected to be eligible again. Now add Johnson, who becomes a potent scorer on the perimeter after averaging 21 points a game as a junior, and North Lawndale just may be the top team in the state.
"It's a great feeling knowing how competitive the practices are going to be," says Johnson of the talent he will face each day at North Lawndale. "It's a chance to get better as a player. Hopefully I can finish off my senior year with a bang and win a state championship."
Johnson, who sports a 4.1 grade-point average and was among the top 20 in his class at St. Rita, attended North Lawndale on the first day of classes on Thursday.
"It was definitely different going from a Catholic school to a public school," Johnson said.
Although Johnson and his family are excited about a new opportunity, Terry's father, Terry Johnson, Sr., says they are "sad and disappointed because St. Rita is a great place." However, personal reasons came up and the family felt this move would be best for Terry at this point in time.
Other transfer rumors
The talk in the south suburbs has been that Reggie Smith of Thornton would be leaving and heading to DeLaSalle. That rumor is apparently dead as the talented and athletic Smith is supposed to be staying in Harvey.... Could Foreman star Lavonte Dority be on the move? There have been a few schools mentioned for the dynamic Class of 2010 point guard, most noteably Crane and Proviso East being mentioned as possible destinations. If Dority stays put he will team up with classmate Mike McCall to form one of the top backcourts in the state.
Here is a look at the five biggest transfers this offseason and the impact each one will have on the upcoming season.
Crandall Head (Rich South to Crane) .... After the Sherron Collins era the program took a hit and looked to be heading downward. Then came along Crandall Head (and his brothers) to elevate the program. No, Crane will not be among the top two or three teams in the Chicago Public League, but it's one worth watching again.
Diamond Taylor (St. Joseph to Bolingbrook) .... Many people felt this was going to happen last year. Taylor is exactly what an already talented Bolingbrook team needed - a go-to type player that provides a lot of versatility for them on the perimeter. Taylor solidifies the Raiders as a Top 25 team.
Terry Johnson (St. Rita to North Lawndale) .... A big-time talent and pure scorer joining a defending state champ. Johnson, who just committed to Illinois State, just might make North Lawndale the top team in Illinois and an overwhelming favorite in Class 3A.
D.J. Cooper (Hales Franciscan to Seton Academy) .... The talented point guard makes Seton Academy the top team in Class 2A - and one of the best teams in the state regardless of class.
Nik Garcia (Niles West to Evanston) .... This transfer scenario may not be finished yet. The question is will Garcia, one of the best shooters in the state, ever wear a Wildkit uniform? The odds look as if he will end up at a prep school for his senior year. Stay tuned.