By Joe Henricksen
The Thanksgiving tournaments are in the books and conference play is ready to start up, but this weekend the season heats up with an abundance of top-level matchups featuring many of the elite teams and best players in Illinois. Cyrus McGinnis, the Chicago Public League basketball coordinator, continues to put together two days of must-see basketball. The Chicago Public Schools Shootout at Chicago State kickstarts the season and whets the appetite of the prep basketball fan.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report offers a quick rundown of what's on tap at Chicago State this Saturday and Sunday.
11:00 a.m. Crane vs. U-High .... Crane wants to show it's more than a middle-of-the-pack Red-West team, while U-High returns seven players, including promising 6-7 Michael Turner.
1:00 p.m. Hyde Park vs. Peoria Richwoods .... Coach Donnie Kirksey's team features one of the underrated players in the state in point guard Fabyon Harris. Although Richwoods, which is off to a 3-1 start after winning the Rock Island Thanksgiving Tournament, is an experienced group, freshman guard Preston Wells is a promising young player.
3:00 p.m. North Lawndale vs. Seton Academy .... Interesting battle between two teams that had a ton of success a year ago and are trying to reload rather than rebuild. A great opportunity for uncommitted players like Seton's Chris Olivier and North Lawndale's Jermaine Winfield to shine.
5:00 p.m. Morgan Park vs. East Aurora .... The most entertaining matchup of the day with two electric talents in Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear and East Aurora's Ryan Boatright facing off with one another.
7:00 p.m. Brooks vs. Mt. Carmel .... A pair of South Side powers collide that boast all kinds of young talent. Brooks junior guard George Marshall and Mt. Carmel junior guard Tracy Abrams, who has been out with an ankle injury, are the headliners.
11:30 a.m. Marshall vs. Von Steuben .... Life after Darius Smith begins for Marshall, while steady Von Steuben looks to show its ready to challenge Foreman in the Red-North.
1:00 p.m Curie vs. T.F. North .... A couple of programs that probably haven't received the respect they deserve and feature some under-the-radar players. Underappreciated 6-5 Sean Montgomery of T.F. North just gets things done and junior guard Montero Rice is a talent. Curie, which features junior guards Asante Smiter and Greg Travis, has a few senior prospects (6-3 Jeremy Price, 6-7 Jason Dorsey, 6-5 Dennis Hodges) hoping to open eyes.
2:30 p.m. Farragut vs. Crete-Monee .... Coach Rocky Hill's Crete-Monee team, led by 6-4 junior Jamie Crockett and 6-6 Mario Redmond, comes in with a lot of talent and high expectations. Farragut, led by junior D.J. Tolliver, looks to pull off an upset.
4:00 p.m. Foreman vs. Hillcrest .... The perimeter talent on display in this one is special. Foreman, with four Division I recruits, boasts the trio of Mike McCall (Saint Louis), Lavonte Dority (South Florida) and Tommy Woolridge (Eastern Illinois). Hillcrest counters with Eric Gaines (Kent State) and junior point guard Julius Brown.
5:30 p.m. Simeon vs. Thornton .... There aren't many teams as talented as Simeon. Dayton-bound Brandon Spearman is ready to emerge, while young stars Jelani Neely and Jabari Parker will be heard from. Thornton has the exciting tandem of Reggie Smith and Jay Parker in what should be an entertaining matchup.
7:00 p.m. Whitney Young vs. Homewood-Flossmoor .... H-F, stocked with young talent, looks to bounce back from loss to Hillcrest. The curtain is raised for Whitney Young, a team ranked No. 1 in the state and with players anxious to show it's their time. Senior Ahmad Starks becomes the leader for a loaded Dolphins team, featuring 6-6 junior Sam Thompson, Purdue recruit Anthony Johnson and freshman Tommy Hamilton.
Derrick Rose Winter Classic at Curie
Highly-regarded Homewood-Flossmoor will join seven Chicago Public League teams as Curie plays host to four games Saturday, Dec. 5. Hope Academy faces Manley in the opener at 11 a.m. Coach Vince Carter's Von Steuben club squares off with Farragut at 12:30 p.m. Marshall takes on H-F at 2 p.m., while Curie and Bogan meet in the final game at 3:30 p.m.