By Joe Henricksen
When it comes to high school basketball events, the Marshall County HoopFest in Kentucky sets the bar. Now in its 13th year, the annual December event in the rural setting of Marshall County High School is a must-see for college recruiters and high school basketball fans.
NY2LA Sports is hoping to bring a little of that top-notch caliber prep basketball to the Chicagoland area with the 2008 Windy City Showdown. The five-game basketball smorgasbord is set for Saturday, Dec. 20 at Loyola University's Gentile Center. The 10 competing teams are a mix of Chicago area powers and some of the premier out-of-state programs and players throughout the Midwest.
Antonio Curro of NY2LA Sports hopes this event becomes a staple in the Chicago area.
"First, Chicago is centrally located and convenient for all the schools involved, " Curro points out. "But equally important is the fact that the players, coaches, and people from Chicago at all levels have been loyal and supportive of the NY2LA Sports brand and organization the past few years, be it at the spring, summer, or even now the high school levels."
Curro said it was important for his organization to do something for the kids and the City of Chicago after all the support they've given NY2LA.
"We wanted to include them in what we feel will be a big-time event in a big-time city," Curro added. "This is the ideal place to do something like this."
And NY2LA Sports is just the right organization to kickstart an event like this in Chicago. NY2LA typically runs first-class events throughout the year, with this event bringing the most individual prep talent the Chicago area will see this season.
The five games are split into two sessions, with Session II being an attractive evening doubleheader as a couple of out-of-state, nationally ranked powerhouses in Michigan's Detroit Country Day and Indiana's Lawrence North take on two of Illinois' top teams. Detroit Country Day squares off with DeLaSalle, the No. 2 ranked team in the most recent Hoops Report, at 6:45 p.m., while Lawrence North and Simeon meet at 8:30 p.m.
Lawrence North, which produced Greg Oden and Mike Conley, oozes with high-major Division I talent with seniors Stephan Van Treese (Louisville) and Jeff Robinson (Purdue) and juniors Dominique Ferguson, who has committed to Kentucky, and Justin Martin, who has verballed to Louisville. Throw in 6-5 sophomore Ryan Taylor and 6-10 Michael Chandler and it's easy to see why Lawrence North is ranked among the top teams in the country.
Simeon, however, is no stranger to holding its own against the nation's top teams. Coach Robert Smith's club has already faced Oak Hill Academy at the Marshall County HoopFest earlier this month. The young but talented Wolverines remain one of the premier programs in Illinois. Senior Jeremy Jones is enjoying a breakout season, while junior Brandon Spearman and sophomore Tywon Pinckney have big upsides.
Chicago DeLaSalle, led by guard Derek Needham and super sophomore Mike Shaw, will have its hands full with Detroit Country Day, which boasts as much talent as anyone. The headliners are dynamic junior guard Ray McCallum, Jr., one of the top players in the Class of 2010, and 6-10 senior Dashonte Riley, who has offers from a number of high-major programs.
The first session tips at 1 p.m., with Milwaukee (Madison) squaring off with St. Joseph. Racine Horlick out of Wisconsin faces Chicago (Brooks) at 2:45 p.m., while Bishop Luers out of Indiana meets Chicago (Curie) in the final game of Session I. The Bishop Luers-Curie matchup should be a dandy. Curie features Wayne Blackshear, arguably the top sophomore in Illinois, while Bishop Luers, the defending 2A champs in Indiana, counters with talented swingman DeShaun Thomas.
The Windy City Showdown is must-see basketball for Illinois high school basketball fans.
For ticket information go to NY2LAsports.com or call (414)-732-3245.