By Joe Henricksen

Setting the bar high... really high

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By Joe Henricksen

Ho-hum, just another night in the Chicago Public League.

Yeah, right.

All eyes will be on the Whitney Young-Simeon showdown Saturday night, featuring the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the most recent issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report. But more than Saturday's showdown is the fact these two programs have set the bar for prep basketball in the city and state. They should be easy to recognize. These are the two programs who offer it all in terms of success, tradition, current talent, big-named players of the past, high-profile coaches, expectations every season and style.

History and tradition
This is where it starts. We're not talking a couple of up-and-coming, hot new programs. While Simeon's history and tradition is greater and longer, Whitney Young became a basketball giant under George Stanton in the 1990s. Stanton's teams went 60-3 in back-to-back seasons in the late 1990s, including a state championship team in 1998 that is considered one of the better teams of all-time.

But there really is no argument that Simeon has stood the test of time more than any other basketball program in Illinois. There are dips and valleys in every program when you're talking three decades. Not at Simeon. The legendary and late Bob Hambric took over the program in 1980, went 27-2 in his first season and never looked back. Want some ridiculous numbers? How about this: Since 1980 Simeon has never won fewer than 17 games in a season and has won 20 or more games in 24 of the last 29 years.

Recent success
Whitney Young is the defending Class 4A state champs and, under coach Tyrone Slaughter, the Dolphins are on pace for a fifth-straight 20-plus win season and ranked No. 1 in the state. Simeon has made three trips to Peoria in the last five years, including back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007. All Smith did in his first five years was go 142-24. Simeon has been a nationally-recognized high school program for decades. Now Whitney Young is as well.

Players
Again, Simeon's stable is deeper, with the legend of the great Ben Wilson, current NBA star and hometown hero Derrick Rose and the likes of Nick Anderson, Deon Thomas, Mario Bailey, Bryant Notree, Bobby Simmons and countless others in between. Since the great 1998 Whitney Young team, which included current NBA player Quentin Richardson, Dennis Gates and Cordell Henry, the Dolphins have produced a number of Division I players. And, they did have a kid named Jordan lead them to a state title last year.

Coaches
Maybe it comes with the territory, but Simeon coach Robert Smith and Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter are probably the two highest-profile coaches in Illinois right now. Smith always puts the program above himself, understanding and recognizing what Hambric did before him and appreciating the Simeon way. He has pride in Simeon. The sharp and articulate Slaughter recognized the opportunity at Whitney Young, where he could take a program to another level and that would coincide with the academic prowess the school is noted for.

Current talent
Depending on your projections as an evaluator, the varsity rosters of these two teams include as many as 14 or 15 Division I prospects. Whitney Young's senior trio of Anthony Johnson (Purdue), Ahmad Starks (Oregon State) and J.R. Reynolds (Rice) are already signed, as well as Simeon's Brandon Spearman (Dayton). But it's the young talent in the ... well, that's next ...

The future
Regardless of the talent you see on the floor Saturday night, there is a lot more coming through the pipeline. The younger classes are absolutely loaded at both schools, which includes two of the most highly-regarded freshmen in the country--Simeon's Jabari Parker and Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton. Both sport numerous high-major offers and are already key pieces for the top two teams in Illinois.

Style
The all-important style points. The two programs are flat-out pretty cool, with sweet-looking, stylish uniforms and warm-ups, personality and fun and creative scheduling. Simeon going from playing in Madison Square Garden a few years ago to being a regular visitor at Pontiac over the holidays? Cool. Whitney Young's traveling roadshow last season, stretching across the country with a stop in Hawaii? Cool. The two teams getting together again this Saturday? Really cool. There is just a bit of an aura about these two programs when they are in the gym that others don't have.

So now, finally, these two programs hook up again after too long of a layoff. As the Hoops Report notes in the issue that went out to subscribers this week, this could be the first of three matchups between these two powerhouses this season: Round I Saturday night, followed by the Public League playoffs in February and a potential for-all-the-marbles battle in Peoria in March. Maybe, just maybe, Simeon-Young can evolve into a rivalry we haven't seen in the city since the great King-Simeon rivalry of the 1980s.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

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18 Comments

Great look at these two programs. I remember those King-Simeon days. That was actually part of Chicago sports back then.

And Whitney Young's players typically all qualify, get good grades, go to college. This program should be the standard for all others. Should be a fun game but I give the edge to Young because they have some seniors in Starks and Johnson.

Just read the Hoops Report cover to cover as always with fantastic holiday tournaemnt previews. Was wondering, though who you pick to win the Whitney Young-Simeon game, Joe?

"These are the two programs who offer it all in terms of success, tradition, current talent, big-named players of the past, high-profile coaches, expectations every season and style."

Joe, you also forget to mention both programs are full of scandals.
Last year, WY coach Slaughter was suspended (finally) for his illegal recruiting practices (Which he has not stopped despite the slap on the wrist). Likewise, Simeon is full od scandal for the whole Rose "grade-changing, file-losing" scandal.
Each of the programs has that to compare as well.
(NOTE: the Impotent IHSA did nothing to reprimand either program, yet they jump all over Hales and Mt. Carmel at every chance.)

Who is the better cheater? Slaughter or Smith?

You decide America!

To Phil K:

Interesting comments. I moved to the area recently and am the parent of a promising young player. I would like to learn more. Please e-mail me at lmund23@gmail.com

Oh, the old cheating topic. Come on Phil! They all cheat as it's basically OK to recruit in the city. they all know it, and most do it. At least Young graduates players, high ACT scores, go to class, etc. And last year's suspensions to the coaches that received them over the CrandalL head thing was ridiculous. Coaches that did much worse didn't get suspended, while coaches that did hardly did anything.


Phil K

Whats your point? This article is about two great H.S. basketball programs, none of your accusations have anything to do with what happens on the court! How can there be illegal recruiting practices when a student has to apply, be tested, and accepted to a school?

Grade changing / file losing? I'm pretty sure coaches aren't in charge of records maintenance! The kids from both schools are well rounded hard workers on and off the court and both coaches do great jobs representing themselves and their programs!

Its a shame that you are cheating these kids with your irresponsible comments.

Right on Traditionalist! Phil K, this was a great piece highlighting two great programs with a ton of sucess and stories behind their success. Enjoy these teams and their talent and keep your skepticism away, please! Thanks Hoops Report for a great read.

To "Big PC",

Its OK to recruit 8th grader, but not kids already in high school. You think the Crandall Head thing was rediculous, remember the IHSA did NOTHING. Yet they took a state title away from Hales because of missing paperwork.
Did the IHSA take two titles away from Simeon because of the fraudulant D Rose grades? NO. That is my point, the IHSA is so scared of being called a racist that they allow the CPS schools to do whatever they want. My point is that the IHSA administration are all cowards.

To "Traditionalist"

My comments have everything to do with what happens on the court. Without the players, the facade that they are great coaches would fade away. They are great RECRUITERS. If the IHSA had NCAA level rule enforcement, which they could if they wanted to do it, Simeon and Whitney Young would be suspended from tourney play almost every year. Hence, their players would not be able to play... hence the players would not want to go there.
As far as students applying , testing and being accepted, WY principle Helen Kelleher uses her principal vetoes to allow athletes who academically do not belong to go to WY so they can have great sports programs. look at the results... While a few mediocre students will not bring the overall test results down too much, Whitney Young has dropped slightly in the academic rankings since Dr. Kelleher took over. Besides, getting into the school was not my point.
Regarding “grade changing/file losing”, you obviously were not watching the news when the D Rose – Memphis fiasco happened. Someone who works at Simeon went into the records and changed D Rose’s grades so he would be eligible to play basketball.
If you were such a traditionalist, you would believe in following the rules. “Everyone else does it” is not an acceptable excuse.

I have a problem calling something a great program based solely upon what happens on the court. It is common knowledge that plenty of the athletes coming from Simeon are under-prepared academically to the degree of cheating on standardized tests. Can anyone answer the question as to why Derrick Rose took the SAT 5 or 6 six times in search of a qualifying score? Counting AAU, I'll bet that kid played upwords of 500 basketball games while barnstorming the country in the spring and summer at the expense of being prepared to pass a simple and rudimentary college entrance exam. The fact that no one in that supposed 'great' program made being prepared for college a priority,seeing as though that was his next step, speaks volumes to what the 'program' is truly about.

Also, both coaches have an, in my mind, unfair advantage in the sense that they can attract and recruit the best athletes to respective schools. Both coaches have an abundance of talent that neither one has developed. It's easy to win when you have superior talent than your opponent every nite. I'll be impressed when these coaches can field good teams based upon their ability to develop and coach kids versus attracting all of the best athletes and just putting them out on the floor.

so Phil actually knows how to write not using all caps. amazing.

interesting that Notree is there. One might argue Kevin Turner ended up as a much better college player.

Phil... can you please stop the preaching! Are you at the Simeon practices? Do you know what Robert Smith does for kids off the court? While I'm not comparing these coaches to these guys, but does that mean Roy Williams, John Calipari and Bill Self can't coach, either, because they have all the talent and just win?

I love guys that know everything like Phil and has all the inside information, throws people under the bus. It's really easy to generalize.

PHIL K AND PHIL SMITH JR ARE TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT PEOPLE, THAT IS WHY I BLOG IN MY FULL NAME!
CRY ME A RIVER ABOUT RECRUITING, MAYBE IF ALL THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS RECRUITED, WE WOULDN'T HAVE ALL THE PROBLEMS WE HAVE IN THE CITY, SCHOOLS THAT I LOVED AS A TEENAGER ARE NOW CHARTER SCHOOLS, THE NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS ARE GONE!
TO CONTINUE TO JUMP ON SIMEON AND WHITNEY YOUNG SERVES NO PURPOSE, REMEMBER ANTHONY LONGSTREET, LOOK AT WHAT HAS HAPPEN TO CRANE HIGH SCHOOL, LOOK AT WESTINGHOUSE, IT IS A COLLEGE PREP SCHOOL, REBUILT BY THE WAY, TO CRY ABOUT RECRUITING IS MOOT, LOOK AT ST.RITA, MT. CARMEL, LEO, THESE SCHOOLS WOULD DRY UP LIKE A CACTUS IF THEY DID NOT RECRUIT, SO I DON'T KNOW WHY PHIL K, WOULD BRING THIS UP AGAIN AND AGAIN!
SIMEON AND WHITNEY YOUNG TRAVEL AND PLAY TOP-FLITE COMPETITION, THEY GRADUATE THEIR PLAYERS, AND SOME PLAY COLLEGE BALL, THEY ALL DON'T GET TO PLAY ON THE NEXT LEVEL!
TALENTED PLAYERS ARE NOT GOING TO PLAY AT ANY HIGH SCHOOL!
SIMEON AND WHITNEY YOUNG ARE THE REAL DEAL!
SO PHIL K, WHY FIGHT CITY HALL, YOU CAN'T STOP IT!
I RATHER HAVE A YOUNGSTER PLAYING BALL THAN HANGING OUT ON
A CORNER DOING NOTHING WITH THEIR LIVES!

Phil K,

You Make a lot of accusations without any proof! Your opinions do not count as facts, and just because something is reported or printed by the media does not make it credible! You have to remember news stations need viewers & print media need sales. The IHSA has no worries about racism claims, facts are facts; if someone cheated and the proof was there, how can that be argued?

I still do not understand what you're getting at with your recruiting issue; you keep mentioning Crandall Head and he attends neither school. Maybe since the varsity teams get all the headlines you don't know that both Simeon & WY have great Fr, Soph and Varsity programs that all compete for championships every year. They don't have to recruit! Kids want to go to these schools because they have a history in excellence sort of like UNC, Duke, Kansas!

Since you watch so much TV, you should know the correct name for WY principal (not principle) Dr. Joyce Kenner.

P.S. - You can't have multiple State titles without following the rules!

Simeon - '84, '06, '07
W. Young - '98, '09


Traditionalist,

Recruiting 8th graders is perfectly legal for non-boundaried schools. recruiting 9th, 10th and 11th graders IS NOT. If there was no "proof", then why did Slaughter get suspended last year by the CPS? If the lax, win-at-all-cost CPS does something to punish a coach, there is a lot of evidence.

"You can't have multiple State titles without following the rules!" - BULL!

How many of the key players on the 98 and 09 WY teams were at WY their Freshman year? How many of the 09 guys were allowed to attend WY because of Dr. KENNER's "principal's exception"? How many of the '07 Simeon starters ARE ON TRACK TO graduate college? ---- 0! How many dropped out of college? 3 (not counting D-Rose, one went JUCO then DII) How many have been apart of a major NCAA investigation? 1.

There's some numbers for ya!

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on December 16, 2009 10:30 PM.

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