By Joe Henricksen
Simeon has reached Peoria three straight years and made the most of its time there, winning back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007 while finishing second in 2008. Marshall has three state trophies in the last three years, including a state title last March in Class 3A. And even North Lawndale, which finished second in Class A two years ago, brought home a 2A state title last season.
But there is something to be said about what Whitney Young has accomplished and the current state of its basketball program.
Oh, there are naysayers out there for sure. Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter even admits there are people who don't believe his program won enough -- or big enough -- last year when the Dolphins were everyone's preseason pick. This is a program that featured a ridiculous abundance of individual talent but fell short, losing to Mt. Carmel in last year's sectional final. And when the season officially tips off in a couple of weeks, Whitney Young will once again be near the top of everyone's rankings -- if not No. 1 again.
But how about these numbers? Of the seven seniors on last year's team, which included Division I guards A.J. Rompza and Bryan Hall, six received scholarships between basketball and baseball, with a seventh walking on to play basketball at Tennessee State. The combined average ACT score of the seven seniors was 25.6, while all seven had a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
"There are people that will say our accomplishments weren't enough last year, that we didn't win enough," says Slaughter. "But all these guys won. They all are going to college."
At Whitney Young, getting these young men into college is the objective, the expectation. At Whitney Young, things are done at a high level.
While the program may be lacking that signature postseason win since capturing the state title in 1998 behind the likes of Quentin Richardson, Cordell Henry and Dennis Gates, the state of the program is rock solid. In reality, it's on a completely different level than other Chicago Public League basketball programs. It's respected, if not the envy of others.
The academics have always been there, with Young ranking once again among the elite schools academically in the state of Illinois. There is a definite commitment to academics. The schedule is eye-popping. The Dolphins play in high-profile games all year, including games in six different states -- Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Kentucky. It's the place to play in the city. The school itself includes a beneficial ethnic and social mix.
And then there is the talent.
There actually may be too much talent on board. Any coach may find it awfully difficult to manage that many high-profile players, keep them all happy and on the same page.
The seniors include Chris Colvin, arguably the top prospect in the senior class (No. 2 currently in the Hoops Report rankings) and a dynamic point guard. Marcus Jordan comes with the name, reputation and is a high-level Division I talent. Stan Brown is a 6-7 post player committed to Lamar. The junior class features the guard tandem of 6-3 Anthony Johnson, who is committed to Purdue, and Oregon State-commit Ahmad Starks. And then there is super sophomore Sam Thompson, a long, lanky, 6-6 electrifying talent who just may end up the best of all.
"We have been fortunate," says Slaughter. "We have the best of both worlds between our academics and athletics. We are so competitive in both. And so many of our kids come from families where their parents are still so involved in their lives and offer support."
Slaughter and his program do covet a state championship, saying "we salivate at having the type of success on the court that Simeon has had."
Maybe that time has come.