By Joe Henricksen
The first thing to remember as the calendar turns to December this week is not to take too much from Thanksgiving week as it relates to high school basketball. So if your team is off to a surprising 4-0 or 3-1 start, great, enjoy it. And if your team with high expectations didn't look so hot, don't sweat it or judge too quickly.
It's so difficult to get a good read on high school basketball in November. Remember, it's not like college where they get several weeks to practice and get a couple of exhibition games under their belt. The high school coach starts with his team Nov. 9 and is playing games exactly two weeks later. The play can be a little ragged, even ugly at Thanksgiving and leave an unwarranted bad taste in your mouth. It's a time to get the kinks out and find out a little something about your team.
With that being said, the highlight of the week for the Hoops Report was watching the East Aurora-Hales Franciscan game Friday afternoon at the St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament. It's not too often you are treated to this kind of basketball, especially at this point in the season.
Hales Franciscan beat East Aurora 98-97 in overtime. The game included several lead changes (13 ties and 13 lead changes), dramatic turns, big shot after big shot, high intensity and some star-studded play, especially from some young players. Just when you thought one team had gained control it was swiped away. In the end, the game showed that both teams will be big threats to the favorites in their respective leagues -- East Aurora to Neuqua Valley in the Upstate Eight and Hales to Mt. Carmel in the Catholic League.
East Aurora junior guard Ryan Boatright continues to get better and better. He's a dynamic offensive player at the high school level and a lot of fun to watch. He's a special talent who will be a high-major college recruit. Boatright and junior Snoop Viser, a transfer who had a solid but under-the-radar season last year at Oswego East, is the perfect complement to Boatright. Viser, a 6-0 junior guard, has showed off his shooting abilities in the past and has elevated his game this season.
On the other side, Hales guard Patrick Miller continues to show why he's so valued by the Hoops Report. A top 25 player in the Class of 2010, Miller poured in 35 points in the win over East Aurora. His shooting has improved and his strength remains getting by people and getting to the basket using his strength. He has a knack for drawing contact and getting to the line. His lack of height and on-again, off-again playmaking ability as a point guard put doubt in college coach's minds. But he's a player who Tennessee State was able to lock up in November before others would have surely come calling this winter.
Last June the Hoops Report vaulted Hales Franciscan's Aaron Armstead, a smooth and skilled wing, into the Class of 2011's top 25. He's a player that will surely get a lot more pub in the next two years. The 6-3 wing didn't disappoint, opening eyes with a 24-point performance that included a pair of last-second shots. He hit a runner to send the game into overtime and knocked down the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. Armstead has an easiness about him, with a great shooting stroke and size on the perimeter. And his brother, 6-4 Aaric Armstead, is a talented sophomore who scored 20 points in the win and has gained more attention at times than his older brother.
OTHER THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS ....
• Hillcrest came out and played like the team that is ranked in City/Suburban Hoops Report's preseason top 10. The Hawks went 4-0 and won the Chicago Heights Classic, beating highly-regarded Homewood-Flossmoor in the title game. This is a veteran group with depth, quickness and athleticism.
• The West Suburban Silver race was expected to be an exciting one to watch this winter. With Oak Park's impressive run at the Lane Tech Tournament, the Huskies may have emerged as the team to beat with York and Lyons Twp. certainly in the discussion. Oak Park rattled off four wins, including impressive victories over Niles Notre Dame and Zion-Benton.
• Speaking of Notre Dame, coach Tom Les has a couple of rapidly improving and unsung players in senior Shawn Wallace and 6-4 junior Quinton Chievous. Wallace, the MVP of the Lane Tech Thanksgiving Tournament, is poised for a breakout year after playing a smaller role a year ago. Chievous has made great strides, is coming off a very solid summer and is emerging as a legitimate college prospect in the Class of 2011. He is the son of Derrick Chievous, who was the No. 16 pick in the 1988 NBA Draft after a stellar career at Missouri. In addition to his scoring abilities, basketball junkies will remember Derrick "Band-Aid" Chievous for his trademark talkative ways and the Band-Aid he wore on the floor during games.
• Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear? Wow! The junior star is certainly going to be showcased this season.
• Peoria Manual's Andrew Jordan has really turned the corner. After a rocky 12 months and a transfer to Peoria Manual, the 6-6 junior is beginning to push his way into the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2011. His feel for the game and passing ability have gotten better and his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers is getting more consistent.
• Prospect can be labeled an up-and-coming program or simply underrated. Coach John Camardella, who led the Knights to a 21-win season that included conference and regional titles last year, is one of the better young coaches in the Chicago area. And now Prospect is riding high into December after beating highly-regarded St. Patrick and going 3-0 in the Max Kurland Tournament behind point guard Joe LaTulip.
• While DuPage Valley favorite Glenbard East did cruise to a Thanksgiving Tournament title, another DVC team impressed as well. Naperville North went 4-0 in the Hoops for Healing Tournament in Oswego. The Huskies are huge, with a starting frontline of 6-9 Matt Hasse (Austin Peay), 6-6 Joe McNicholas and 6-4 James O'Shaughnessy, the tournament MVP. Plus, coach Scott Powers brings size, strength and energy off the bench in 6-6 junior Matt LaCosse.
• And the shootout between Evanston's Garrett Jones and Mundelein's Ben Brust went down in the record books and certainly will stay there. Jones scored 51 and Brust 50 to become the first two players to ever score 50 points in the same game in IHSA history. Don't expect that to happen again.
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