By Joe Henricksen
After taking in the Illinois-Ohio State game Sunday afternoon and watching the NBA All-Star game later that evening, the high school basketball fan that I am couldn't help but have flashbacks.
There are any number of reasons why so many enjoy high school basketball in this state. The idea of watching future college -- and in some cases -- NBA stars at the early stage of their career, is one of them. The whole "I remember watching so and so when they were playing here or there" has been a topic of discussion from gyms to playgrounds to barber shops to message boards for years.
This is why, with the long-standing and always-strong City-Suburban Showdown being played at UIC's Pavilion this Saturday, the memories came swirling back on Sunday. Was it really only three years ago when current basketball stars -- NCAA Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner and NBA All-Star Derrick Rose -- went at it in an epic battle that featured both play and trashtalking at a level we maybe haven't seen since?
Simeon and Rose knocked off Turner and St. Joseph 74-66. But it was the matchup between these two stars-in-the-making that fans remember and think back to. This is where we should have all realized these two talents would ultimately be -- wow, really? -- the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft (Rose) and possibly the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft (Turner). Rose was a prodigy from the time he was 13 or 14 years old, with stardom forecasted for him at every level he's entered. And while everyone believed Turner had a chance to be a legitimate high-major basketball standout, he was a late bloomer who has now shocked people in how great and dominating he has become.
In a losing effort that February night in 2007, Turner was sensational, a prelude to what we are now seeing from the 6-7 versatile point forward in Columbus. He scored 29 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. At one point he scored 20 consecutive points for St. Joseph. Rose was equally impressive and, like he always seemed to do, had a win to show for it. The Simeon point guard came out of the starting lineup line and promptly hit four three-pointers in the opening quarter, answering those critics who said he couldn't shoot. He finished with 29 points, seven assists and four steals.
Turner came out of his shell at Welsh-Ryan Arena on the campus of Northwestern in that loss to Rose and Simeon. He jawed, did some trash-talking and grabbed the attention of anyone who would listen. He came out of the halftime lockerroom jawing to the media on press row about what he thought of D-Rose.
Then there was more talking following the game.
How about this little quip from Turner: "I was better than [Rose]. With me guarding him he didn't do much. He knows that and I know that."
The stoic and humble Rose also came out of character for a rare moment in his career. "We both know who is better," Rose told the Chicago Sun-Times following the game. "He's just doing this to get a little bit of publicity. We'll see who does more on the next level. They called a lot of soft fouls on us when he had the ball. It wasn't like he did anything that impressive."
This was a moment typically not seen in high school basketball, with two great, talented stars putting on a show on the floor and continuing it afterward. This was Ali-Frazier, Leno-Letterman. Pure entertainment. Turner later came out and apologized for the war of words between he and Rose, saying it was just the competitive side coming out in him and noting how much respect he has for Rose.
What an avid basketball fan friend of mine asked recently, after watching Evan Turner and Demetri McCamey of Illinois play one another on Sunday, was, "How did that high school team not make it downstate? Are you kidding me? Turner and McCamey together?"
Did we forget the Rose factor? Again.
There was a rematch in the supersectional at UIC a few weeks later, where Rose & Company again handled St. Joseph. Despite a terrific performance -- this time by McCamey -- Simeon won 75-61 to advance to Peoria where it would go on to win its second straight state basketball title.
The winter of 2006-2007? Derrick Rose, Evan Turner and Demetri McCamey were reasons to watch. And they keep us watching today.
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