By Joe Henricksen
With a win over city heavyweight Simeon Wednesday night in the championship game of the Chicago Public Schools Holiday Classic, coach Terry Head and his Foreman program earned arguably the biggest win in the school's basketball history and took a big step forward. And oh, by the way, silenced some critics.
Head has been building towards this season, with a nucleus that includes four Division I recruits that have been through the growing process at Foreman. There have been some misses the last couple of years, whether it be in Red-North play, Proviso West Holiday Tournament action or in the postseason. While the program has risen from the ground to being one ranked among the top 10 in the Chicago area in just three-plus years, the Hornets -- pardon the pun -- have lacked the buzz created by a signature win. Now they have one.
There are more opportunities ahead, including at Proviso West this coming week, the CPS playoffs in February and the state tournament in March, but for the time being Foreman has a monkey off its back. With the talented perimeter trio of Mike McCall (Saint Louis), Tommy Woolridge (Eastern Illinois) and Lavonte Dority (South Florida) leading the way, Head's club has proven it can play with anyone. What Foreman hasn't been able to do is show they can beat the elite. And though Simeon is young and still putting the pieces together, Foreman got the job done when a lot of people didn't think they could.
Henry, Greene shine in defeat
With all the young talent on display at Malcolm X College during the CPS Holiday Classic, a couple of players in the Class of 2011 were quite impressive in losing efforts. Orr's Mycheal Henry and Julian's Phillip Greene are clearly two of the top 15 players in the Class of 2011, with Henry a player who will be among the top half dozen players in the class when the new Hoops Report rankings come out. Yes, he's that good.
While Foreman got the best of Orr in the quarterfinals, Henry provided the best individual performance in the two days the Hoops Report took in games. Henry has the size at 6-5, the body and athleticism to automatically draw looks and interest. However, Henry was active around the basket, both with his rebounding and altering shots (8 rebounds and 4 blocks). He stepped out on the perimeter and showed off a vastly improved perimeter shot, with great elevation and release point on his jumper. He knocked down six three-pointers en route to a game-high 30 points. Henry still has to develop a better feel for the game and comfort on the wing, but his improvement in his shot shows things are coming along for the talented junior.
And speaking of talented juniors, Greene, a 6-2 guard, is a flat-out player with a great combination of speed and a flare for scoring. The game can speed up a little too fast at times, which is when Greene can become a bit erratic, but when he dials it down and stays in control he is comfortable handling the ball as he weaves through defenders with his speed and handle. In ISO situations he is so difficult to defend because of a great first step and a variety of moves he can use off the dribble, including a very effective and smooth pull-up jumper.
Marks commitment a surprise
The Hoops Report took in a Plainfield Central game earlier in the week at the Waubonsie Valley Holiday Tournament and again came away impressed with junior guard Derek Marks, a strong 2-guard with a mature game. The 6-2 Marks, who has range that extends to the three-point line, has a developed mid-range game and consistently can stop on a dime and knock down the 14-17 foot jumper. He has made considerable strides since last season and is among the top 30 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2011 player rankings. He's helped Plainfield Central to a 8-2 start and an appearance in Saturday's championship game at Waubonsie Valley.
With all this being said, it was a surprise to see Marks make an early commitment to Albany this week in that his star is just beginning to take off. Playing at Plainfield Central, the notoriety can take some time. Plus, a lot of college programs were just beginning to evaluate Marks closely as the interest was surely to pick up. However, if the feel and fit seemed right, kudos to Marks and his family for being content with the decision. And the same can be said for Albany, who was able to get into Illinois once again and secure a player very early in the recruiting process.