By Joe Henricksen
There are some definite similarities between Simeon coach Robert Smith and Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter. Aside from having won a state title and coaching arguably the two premier basketball programs in the state, they will put just about anyone on their schedule -- including one another.
The two Public League powers will meet in what will be one of the most highly-anticipated showdowns of the season. Simeon will travel to Whitney Young and square off with the defending state champions Saturday, Dec. 19. This will be the first matchup between the two powers in eight years. Whitney Young will also face Waukegan and Jereme Richmond in the City-Suburban Showdown at UIC in late February.
Smith, in just five years as head coach, has already won two state championships (2006 and 2007) and finished second (2008) once. Smith has averaged a remarkable 28 wins a season in five years.
In Slaughter's four years as head coach, the Dolphins have never won fewer than 20 games in a season, have averaged 25 wins a year over the last three seasons and captured a state title last March.
When the City/Suburban Hoops Report's preseason rankings come out in November, the two programs will surely be among the top five teams. Plus, Whitney Young and Simeon boast arguably the best young talent in the state. While it will be an early showcase of two of the most talked about young players in Illinois -- Simeon freshman Jabari Parker and Whitney Young freshman Tommy Hamilton -- the game will include a host of Division I recruits and prospects.
Whitney Young will rely heavily on the trio of senior point guard Ahmad Starks (Oregon State), shooting guard Anthony Johnson (Purdue) and one of the premier juniors in the state, 6-6 Sam Thompson. When you add Rice-bound J.R. Reynolds, 6-7 junior Luke Hager, 5-7 sophomore Derrick Randolph, 6-8 sophomore Jermaine Morgan and a host of others, it's easy to see why the Dolphins will be making a run at a repeat.
Simeon's Brandon Spearman, who has committed to Dayton, is looking for a breakout year. The backcourt tandem of junior Tywon Pinckney and super sophomore Jelani Neely should be special, while up-and-coming 6-6 sophomore Steve Taylor and unheralded junior Darien Walker add to the talented mix.
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