By Joe Henricksen

This Simeon title a little different

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By Joe Henricksen

Simeon as the underdog? Simeon as the team with something to prove? Simeon with labels like unheralded attached to it? It's rare, if ever, when coach Robert Smith's Simeon basketball program is in the position it was in over the past three weeks.

As the calendar turned to March, no one was predicting a trip to Peoria for Simeon. And no one imagined this particular Simeon team winning it all. In the Hoops Report state tournament preview issue, seven different avid basketball observers and analysts threw their picks for Peoria on paper. There wasn't a single one that even had Simeon getting to Peoria. The Hoops Report did predict seven of the eight teams correctly. The one missing team? Simeon.

First, the reasons why.

Simeon had a difficult time winning key games throughout the regular season. There was the highly-anticipated loss to Whitney Young Dec. 19. After reaching the final at Pontiac, Simeon fell to top-ranked Waukegan in the championship game. There was a low point in late January with back-to-back Red-South losses to Vocational and Bogan, which included Smith becoming so frustrated with what he was seeing he didn't even coach his team in the Bogan defeat.

Then there were the late-season losses. There was the tough loss early in the CPS Playoffs to Morgan Park, followed up by what Smith labeled "an embarrassing loss and effort" to De La Salle in the final regular season game of the year. Simeon was blown out, 64-46, in a state tournament tune-up in the City-Suburban Showdown at UIC. In the basketball lexicon, this is one of those "don't try this at home" warning labels if you're a coach trying to find the right way to make a strong tournament push.

Through it all, though, there should have always remained a glimmer of hope, even if the flicker was nearly extinguished. After all, despite the nine regular-season losses, this was the No. 3 team in the City/Suburban Hoops Report preseason rankings back in November. And it is Simeon. This is a program that won more games than any other over the last decade and has now started this new decade with a bang.

The light turned on. Senior Brandon Spearman stepped up and became an aggressive difference-maker. Smith finally was able to get this particular group to buy into the Simeon way. The Wolverines then went on to win their first three state tournament games by an average victory margin of 25 points. They took care of Mt. Carmel in the sectional final and then stunned Benet Academy with a come-from-behind, double overtime victory in the supersectional.

Perhaps no state champion in history has peaked later in the season than this Simeon team. The Wolverines were on life support. They not only made a state tournament run, the Wolverines went on to win the whole darn thing, capturing their third state title in five years, along with a second-place finish in 2008.

This title, though, was particularly special. This was unexpected. This came without a star named Derrick Rose on the floor. This came against another Chicago Public League rival. This came with legendary coach Bob Hambric, who made Simeon basketball, proudly looking down on his program. Hambric, who led Simeon to its first state championship in 1984, passed away last August after a long battle with cancer.

That first state title in 1984 marked the arrival of Simeon as a basketball giant. The following two titles in 2006 and 2007 were geared around a star player in Rose. This championship centers around its coach, Robert Smith.

The Hoops Report has sang the praises of Simeon coach Robert Smith a number of times. He doesn't need any validation. Sure, he had the presence of Derrick Rose his first three years on the job, maximizing that luxury by winning 94 games and two state titles in three years, but Simeon came right back the first year without Derrick Rose and played for a state title. Simeon fell to Marshall in the 2008 title game, finishing second, but proved the program is bigger than a player. And now Smith has yet another state championship.

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4 Comments

I AM ASKING DEPAUL UNIVERSITY TO GIVE COACH ROBERT SMITH AN INTERVIEW FOR THE VACANT COACHING POSITION!
WHAT COACH SMITH DID THIS PAST WEEKEND WARRANTS THIS TYPE OF ACTION, PLEASE GIVE HIM AN INTERVIEW, THANK YOU!

REMEMBER THE MOVIE WITH PAUL NEWMAN, WHEN HE PLAYED THE ROLE OF ROCKY GRAZIANO, THE MOVIE WAS CALLED, SOMEONE UP THERE LIKES ME, WELL SOMEONE UP THERE LIKES ROBERT SMITH, BECAUSE IF HE ISN'T AT DEPAUL UNIVERSITY NEXT YEAR, HE HAS SUCH A YOUNG TEAM, THAT THEY CAN BE IN THE MIX FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS, THE MAN BROUGHT TWO FRESHMEN DOWNSTATE, AND BOTH OF THEM PLAYED ALOT!
P.S. DON'T COUNT OF WHITNEY YOUNG EITHER, THEY ARE LIKE A TIMEX WATCH, THEY KEEP ON TICKING, THEY GRADUATE 3 DIVISION ONE PLAYERS, AND THEY WILL STILL BE LOADED!
LAST YEAR CHRIS COLVIN GRADUATES, HE IS AT IOWA STATE, MARCUS JORDAN GRADUATES, HE IS AT CENTRAL FLORIDA, MAN THESE TWO, SIMEON AND WHITNEY YOUNG HAVE PROGRAMS!
LOOK AT WHAT IS HAPPENING THOUGH, MARSHALL MADE IT DOWNSTATE, BOGAN HAD A GREAT SEASON, CRANE IS BACK ON THE MAP, HYDE PARK PLAYED WELL, AND CHRIS HEAD HAS BROOKS, WITH WISCONSIN BOUND GEORGE MARSHALL!
WILL FOREMAN BE COMPETITIVE NEXT YEAR, WILL NEXT YEAR BE THE YEAR OF THE CURIE CONDORS, AND WHAT ABOUT MORGAN PARK, THOSE TWO GUARDS WILL BE SOPHS AND A YEAR WISER, AND BLACKSHEAR, WILL HE STILL GO TO LOUISVILLE IF PITINO HEADS BACK TO THE LEAGUE, WHAT ABOUT RICH SOUTH, WHAT DOES SCOT RITTER HAVE UP HIS SLEEVE, CAN ROCKY HILL REVAMP HIS CRETE TEAM?
AND LAST AND CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, THE STATE CHAMPS, THE HILLCREST HAWKS, CAN THEY MAKE IT BACK DOWNSTATE?
WHAT A SEASON!

MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN!
WHAT ROBERT SMITH DID THIS PAST WEEKEND WAS NOTHING SHORT OF A MIRACLE, BUT WATCHING HIS DEMEANOR ON THE SIDELINE, HE KNEW THIS WAS ALL POSSIBLE, I WILL SAY THIS UNTIL I LOSE MY VOICE, THE MAN DESERVES AN INTERVIEW FOR THE VACANT DEPAUL UNIVERSITY COACHING JOB!
SPECIAL PEOPLE DESERVE SPECIAL THINGS, COACH SMITH IS IN THIS CATEGORY, THIS IS RIGHT OUT OF CENTRAL CASTING, SOMEONE SHOULD DO A MOVIE ON HIS LIFE AND THE SIMEON PROGRAM, BECAUSE THIS IS TRUELY SOMETHING SPECIAL!
HE SAID IT BEST, WE DON'T PLAY WITHOUT A PLAN, AT SIMEON WE HAVE A PLAN, AND AFTER THIS WEEKEND, I DON'T THINK THERE IS ANY DOUBT!
DID YOU GUYS SEE HOW POISED HIS SOPHOMORE POINT GUARD, MR. NEELY WAS ALL WEEKEND, THAT COMES FROM THE COACH, YOU CAN'T DRAW UP X AND O'S ON CONFIDENCE, THAT YOUNG MAN WAS THE MAN IN PEORIA, WHEN THE ANNOUNCER SAID JELANI NEELY WAS A SOPHOMORE, I ALMOST FELL OFF MY COUCH, THAT'S WHEN I HAD THE REVELATION THAT COACH ROBERT SMITH SHOULD HAVE AN INTERVIEW FOR THE VACANT DEPAUL UNIVERSITY COACHING JOB!

Simeon did it and nobody expected them to. This proves how great a coach Robert Smith is. And this is a young team that is not going anywhere anytime soon. Most of the team is back but this is a case of Brandon Spearman taking a team on his back and carrying them to the Title. Weird season but exciting none of the less. Waukegan got screwed by the officials versus Young. Would have been interesting to see Simeon-Waukegan final but alas IHSA decided it wanted a Public League Final. Congrats to Simeon and Jereme Richmond finishes a great career with Waukegan. Blessings to you Jereme in college and you will be a pro in the future.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 21, 2010 2:42 PM.

Primed for Peoria was the previous entry in this blog.

Some sizzle but plenty of fizzle in Peoria is the next entry in this blog.

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