By Joe Henricksen

Whirlwind weekend for high school hoops

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By Joe Henricksen

There was something for just about everyone in high school basketball this past weekend, highlighted by the Chicago Public Schools Shootout, which was played Saturday at ATTACK Athletics and Sunday at Chicago State. Here is all the City/Suburban Hoops Report gathered from watching a busy weekend of basketball.

The best 0-2 team in Illinois
Despite an 0-2 weekend, coach Robert Smith's Simeon Wolverines will be right there contending for a trip to Peoria once again in March. Simeon lost two heartbreakers to two outstanding teams in national power Oak Hill Academy at the Marshall County Hoopfest on Saturday and then a thrilling, double overtime setback to Thornton at Chicago State Sunday night. Simeon has so much young talent and newcomers still trying to learn the Simeon way. It's going to take time. But there aren't many teams out there that have the potential to grow and mature as much as Simeon will between now and March.

Jeremy Jones, Simeon's 6-1 senior guard labeled as "one of the five seniors you will hear a lot from this winter" in the Hoops Report preseason issue, stole the show in a losing effort. He made big shot after big shot and finished with 33 points. While Jones must still improve as a ballhandler, he is doing so much more off the dribble than he has in the past. He's molded himself into a pretty complete scorer. He now can score from all over the court. He's a poor man's Juan Dixon.

The Hoops Report also loves the potential of Simeon sophomore point guard Tywon Pinckney. Coach Robert Smith noted the young guard was solid in a big-time atmosphere in Kentucky against Oak Hill. And he continued to show flashes of his point guard abilities in the loss to Thornton.

What a weekend
This is likely the best Thornton team since the Rocky Hill era in the 1990s. The Wildcats are jet-quick, athletic and experienced. Thornton also has a very favorable road to Peoria in March. And what a statement Thornton made this weekend by crushing a ranked Bolingbrook team and then knocking off a Simeon team, which has owned the Wildcats in recent years. Although junior Reggie Smith and sophomore Jay Parker receive the hype--and deservedly so--the athletic tandem of Richie Thompson and Jamaal Gray can score, especially with opposing teams putting so much emphasis on neutralizing Smith and Parker. And there may not be a better role player than 6-3 Trevell Rivers, an absolute physical and athletic force around the basket.

Bertrand vs. Randle
A couple of talented perimeter players went at it in Sterling. Rock Island edged Sterling as Joseph Bertrand's shot at the buzzer missed and Randle and Rock Island escaped with a 60-59 win. While Bertrand's lack of assertiveness and passive play has been a knock, the versatile 6-5 guard continues to make small, positive steps in that area. He's putting the ball on the floor more, taking his man off the dribble and trying to get to the basket. Bertrand does so many things to help his team. While he certainly won't be an impact player at Illinois right away, he has the ability to evolve into a Stephen Bardo-type player after possibly redshirting and working his way into the rotation down the road.

Randle, much like Bertrand, has such a strong feel for the game and an impressive overall floor game. Just a sophomore, Randle wants the ball in his hands at crunchtime. Again, like Bertrand, Randle does a little of everything.

The player that is an absolute enigma is Rock Island's 6-6 Brandon Pullman, who can look like a world-beater for stretches. He was huge for Rock Island with 21 points and double-figure rebounds.

How good will they be?
Glenbrook North came to the Chicago Public Schools Shootout without its top two players and headed home with an impressive win over a young but talented Brooks team. Junior star Alex Dragicevich missed the game because of the flu and 6-7 senior Tyler Ponticelli is out for at least a month with a back injury. Once again, coach David Weber showed he's simply one of the best in the business as his team's execution was brilliant in the halfcourt. The Spartans could very well be playing in Peoria in March if Ponticelli comes back at full strength.

Odds and ends....
Hyde Park is not there yet. Coach Donnie Kirksey's club was the flavor of the month when the preseason rankings came out, but they are not quite a major player in the Chicago Public League. Time will tell if things come together. Don't write Hyde Park off just yet.... Meanwhile, T.F. North was off the radar, though the Hoops Report did have Tim Bankston's Meteors No. 34 in the preseason. T.F. North, behind the undervalued 6-7 Kyle Cain, edged Hyde Park. Cain has some bounce and length, runs the floor and showed even more of an offensive game with a jump hook and being active around the basket. And the future looks solid for T.F. North as well, with 6-5 junior Marlin Maxey and sophomore guard Montero Rice playing major roles.... Brooks is still so young. And while sophomore point guard George Marshall did not have his best day against Glenbrook North, the Hoops Report loves this lead guard and the feel he has for the position.... While Payton won't contend for a Public League title, I do like this team. They play hard, especially senior James Gill. And 6-3 senior Dominique Bellamy has the potential to be a solid small school college basketball player at the Division III level.... There may not be a player with a better or more explosive first step than Crane's Crandall Head. When he wants to the 6-4 Head can separate himself quickly from his defender and lets his athleticism take over from there. Head hasn't even scratched the surface yet, which makes his ceiling so high as a prospect. He himself doesn't realize the potential that is there..... H-F freshman guard Tyrone Sherman was impressive. He is not afraid.... After watching St. Patrick, led by senior guards Bryant Smith and Tim Traversa, this is a solid basketball team. But the loss of sophomore star Jacob Williams prevents the Shamrocks from being a potentially elite team.

And finally, Chicago Public Schools Basketball Coordinator Cyrus McGinnis continues to put together a tremendous event. This is arguably the top early season event in Illinois, bringing a unique mix of teams together in a top-notch facility at Chicago State.

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4 Comments

Watch out for Evanston later in the year. It's a very young team but will get better. Also anticipate getting Nic Garcia in the lineup in January. He is the best shooter in the state of Illinois. Also Ryan Frazier-Chambers is underrated as is Garrett Jones. The problem is Evanston has to get better on the boards and if Eric Dortch wakes up out of his slumber it could be another great postseason for the Wildkits. GO E-TOWN!!!!!!

RICH SOUTH HAS A PLAYER WITH AN EXPLOSIVE FIRST STEP
AS WELL, HIS NAME IS MACARI BROOKS, HE JUMPS HIGHER
THAN HEAD, AND HE RUNS THE SETS COACH RITTER IS RUNNING
AND THE POINT GUARD KENDRICK MORSE IS MAYBE THE MOST
UNDERRATED PLAYER IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, HIS GAME
HAS IMPROVED, HE IS A FOUR YEAR STARTER AND BOTH OF
THESE YOUNG MEN ARE THE REAL DEAL, RICH SOUTH WILL MAKE
ALOT OF NOISE THIS YEAR, THE ENTIRE TEAM IS BETTER
WITHOUT THE YOU KNOW WHO'S!
JUST MY HUMBLE OPINION, THE STARS OF RICH SOUTH HIGH
SCHOOL ARE FOR REAL, THEY PLAY RICH EAST AT HOME THIS
FRIDAY AT 6:30! COME SEE FOR YOURSELVES!

Your coomparison of Jeremy Jones to Juan Dixon was right on. Juan Dixon made big shots for Maryland time after time, and it seems as if Jeremy will be doing the same for Simeon this year. Here appears to have worked hard this summer and finding his own shot, and getting to the basket. He looked really good this weekend.

Brandon Orange is a enigma to me. He is supremely athletic and gets you hustle baskets and put backs. However, he does not seemed to have worked on his offensive game (ball handling and shooting) very much this summer. He plays hard on both ends of the floor, but at 6'3" he will have to show the ability to do more offensively. This is my issue with North Lawndale's Jon Mills. From what I hear, he's a great kid and he works hard on the court, be I have not seen much basketball skill. What are your views on the college level prospects for Brandon Orange?

Speaking of not showing very much improvement, what is the story with Deshawn Greer. Last year as a freshman, he was highly touted by many of the rating services, with one having him rated as high as the sixth best player in the class of 2011. Deshawn was allowed to contribute to the team during last years playoff run. This was an aboration at Simeon, as it had been standard for freshmen not to perform on the varsity level, no matter how talented they were. Many still believe that if Derrick Rose was allowed to play on Coach Hambric's final state playoff team, led by Calvin Brock, Simeon may have won state titles in 3 years out of 4. But Deshawn has not seemed to have progressed much at all from year 1 to year 2. He's very athletic and can run and jump. His athleticism allows him to grabbed rebounds and get stick backs, ala Brandon Orange. But when he has the ball out on the floor, he looks totally lost. He seems to have no concept of triple threat position and when he has the ball he is looking to get rid of it as if it was a hot potato. Where do you have Greer ranked in the class of 2011.

Brandon Spearman looks like a kid who has not played enough "system" basketball. Much of his reputation has been made on the AAU curcuit. I don't fell that AAU ball provides a good gauge to determine what type of effect a player will have on his team, unless he is a superstar. Brandon is higher regarded by nationl scouting services because of his willingness to play intense defense on the AAU circuit. But he hasn't really shown any consistent offensive skills. He's a great kid and I'm rooting for him to be successful. He has a great work ethic so I am banking on him putting in the time to improve his outside shooting and ballhandling. He has all the measurables. He's got good length for a 6'3" player, a strong body, and good leaping ability. With hard work on his offensive skills, I am betting on him being one of the top players of the class of 2010.

I look forward to your responses.

IF SIMEON ISN'T CAREFUL, THEY MIGHT PLAY IN THE
CONSOLATION BRACKET IN PONTIAC, THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN
A 9:30 A.M. OPENING ROUND GAME AGAINST WEST AURORA!
THEY MIGHT HAVE OVER-SCHEDULED, IF THEY START LOSING
IN CONFERENCE PLAY, IT'S A WRAP!
THEY JUST LOST TO LEO BY 1 AT THE SHOOT-OUT AT SXU!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on December 7, 2008 11:16 PM.

Plenty to watch in CPS Shootout was the previous entry in this blog.

Look out for Neuqua Valley and Dewayne Evans is the next entry in this blog.

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