By Joe Henricksen
There will be 11 games played this weekend at Chicago State in the Chicago Public Schools Shootout, which is bigger and better than ever. Chicago Public Schools basketball administrator Cyrus McGinnis has put together a total of 18 teams that were ranked among the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Top 50 in the preseason issue. And the amount of Division I prospects will be in the dozens. Yes, that's plural.
While it's still early and a lot will be determined weeks and even months after this action-packed weekend of hoops at Chicago State is completed, the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a closer look at five storylines to follow over the two days.
Whitney Young and its blossoming stars
You would think the departure of several key players, including Chris Colvin, Marcus Jordan and Stan Brown, would remove the pressure to repeat. But those departures certainly didn't siphon the talent. This is the first look at the team that is preseason No. 1 with burgeoning new talent. While the talent is there and expectations remain high (they are No. 1 for a reason), this is clearly a No. 1 team with a ton of upside that should surely be better in February than December. It will take time to establish frontcourt power and a post scorer, for young talent to emerge and the new go-to players to be comfortable in their unfamiliar roles.
In the offseason, stories drift from the city that Harris is tiny and too small. And yet he continues to prove himself as one of the best guards on the floor whenever he plays. In the eyes of the Hoops Report he's one of the best-kept secrets out there when it comes to unsigned prospects in the Class of 2010. College coaches should be keeping close tabs on the 5-8 point guard. The interest has picked up, according to coach Donnie Kirksey. But it will increase the more college coaches get out and see Harris show off his improved jumper, see how he puts pressure on opponents on both ends of the floor, make clutch plays, bring toughness to the floor and compete his derrière off. He fun to watch and easy to appreciate.
Ryan Boatright vs. Wayne Blackshear
The Morgan Park-East Aurora matchup Saturday at 5 p.m. should be a dandy. While the stars in the game -- Boatright and Blackshear -- won't likely ever be paired up against one another, it will be fun and entertaining to watch arguably the two most explosive offensive players in the state regardless of class. They are two players that can showcase abilities and possess the potential to dominate that few players can.
This may be the city's most motivated team. This has been a work in progress for a talented group that was upset in the opening round of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, finished second in the Red-North and was stunned by York in the regional final last season. That's a lot of sting for the Hornets. But it's a new year. Coach Terry Head has taken a program many felt would never amount to anything to one that is among the top 10 teams in the Chicago area and boasting four Division I recruits. But that's on paper -- both the ranking and those signed letters-of-intent. Now the time has come for Foreman to make a splash and cash in on a budding group of talented players who are anxious to show how far they've come and do so on a big stage.
The Class 3A powers
If the postseason pairings look identical to last year, then there will be a familiar look in what is the toughest road to get to Peoria. All three of the major players will be on display at Chicago State, with Brooks, Crete-Monee and Hillcrest all hoping to return to Chicago State in March for a Class 3A supersectional game. All three are ranked; all three are state title contenders. Crete-Monee faces Farragut, while both Brooks and Hillcrest have beastly matchups with Mt. Carmel and Foreman, respectively. But don't sleep on T.F. North, a team flying under-the-radar and one that makes the fortunate move from 4A to 3A this season and will likely be placed along the same road as the three aforementioned powers. T.F. North meets Curie at the CPS Shootout.
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