By Joe Henricksen

November 2010 Archives

Whole lot of Thanksgiving leftovers

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By Joe Henricksen

No one should get too excited or perplexed over Thanksgiving Tournament results. That goes for fans, media and those that understand and get it the most -- coaches. A 4-0 start? Great. But there is a lot of basketball to be played. The same can be said for those 1-3 or even winless teams.

Thanksgiving Tournament play is typically a little ragged, sometimes ugly, due to the fact there are no exhibition or preseason games in high school basketball. Plus, with so many games and so few practices last week, there is little time for a coach to teach and regroup. With the first week of play in the books, the Hoops Report takes a quick look back at what did transpire during Thanksgiving Tournament play.

BEST TOURNAMENT
• Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament at St. Charles East
As expected, the five-day event at St. Charles East featured the best basketball in the Chicago area, with several ranked teams and high-profile players going at it in front of some good Thanksgiving week crowds. The crowd on Friday included Division I college coaches from Illinois, Nevada, Bradley, UIC and Tennessee State to name a few.

This tournament typically leaves fans with a signature moment. Last year it was Hales beating East Aurora in a memorable 98-97 overtime game that featured a pair of buzzer-beaters. This year it was Ryan Boatright's 55-point performance in a win over St. Charles North that left fans with a vivid memory.

In the end, Hales Franciscan worked its way to the championship game, despite a loss to East Aurora, and beat up on talented Proviso East to capture the tournament title. Although Hales lost a pair of good ones in the backcourt in Pat Miller and Jamie Adams to graduation, there aren't many teams that have the length and athleticism that the foursome of 6-5 junior Aaric Armstead, 6-4 Aaron Armstead, 6-4 Eddie Alcantera and 6-4 Dominique Walls that coach Gary London has at his disposal.

MOST IMPRESSIVE
• Hillcrest
In a tournament featuring H-F, Mount Carmel and Bloom, the defending Class 3A state champs showed they are poised to make a run at another title this season. Coach Don Houston's club was impressive in capturing its second straight Chicago Heights Classic, dismantling Thornwood, beating a ranked H-F team and finishing 4-0.

BIGGEST SURPRISE
• Proviso West
A balanced attack, featuring seniors Tyrone McDonald, Nick Frazier and Ryan Woods, led the Panthers to a 4-0 record at a strong Loyola/New Trier Thanksgiving Tournament. Coach Tommie Miller's club now looks as if it may be Lyons Township's biggest threat to a repeat in the West Suburban Silver.

OTHER SURPRISES
• Niles Notre Dame
The Dons will be in the East Suburban Catholic picture, along with Benet and St. Patrick, after a 5-0 run in the Lane Tech Thanksgiving Tournament. Notre Dame, led by tournament MVP Quinton Chievous, won five games in a six-day grueling stretch to beat Taft, Evanston, Northside Prep, Lane and Zion-Benton. Chievous dropped in four 3-pointers and scored 17 points in the title game win.

• Plainfield North
This program, under coach Nick DiForti, is beginning to earn a reputation as an upset specialist and for coming up huge in big games. While all the focus in the preseason has been on Plainfield Central and Plainfield East, Plainfield North won the Joliet West Tournament with impressive wins over Rich South and Joliet West.

• Oswego
While the Oswego/Naperville North Hoops for Healing Tournament may not have featured any ranked teams, a young Oswego team showed it will be a factor sooner than later. The Panthers, who start four sophomores and a junior, won the Hoops for Healing Tournament with a 4-0 record. Oswego was led by junior Ryan West, the tournament MVP, and the sophomore tandem of Miles Simelton and Elliot McGaughy.

• Neuqua Valley
Coach Todd Sutton may not have the big names and overall talent he's had in recent years, but the Wildcats went 4-0 to win the York Thanksgiving Tournament for the fourth straight year. The Wildcats, who returned just one starter from a year ago, handled Morton, Hersey and York. With the senior tandem of Sam Johnson and Jim Stocki, the Wildcats will remain a factor in the western suburbs.

• Metea Valley
The new kids on the block -- playing its first varsity season with no seniors on the roster -- went 3-1 in its first week of action. The Mustangs topped off tournament play with an eye-opening 68-41 drubbing of Joliet West.

• Harlan
Simeon and Morgan Park will hog the headlines in the Red-South this winter. But with a 3-1 record over the first week of play, including wins over New Trier and Loyola, Harlan will be a city sleeper.

• Oak Park
Coach Matt Maloney lost a lot of talent from last year's team, but the Huskies jumped out of the gate quickly with three wins over Thanksgiving weekend to win the Max Kurland Thanksgiving Tournament. Oak Park knocked off the host school, St. Patrick, in the final to finish 3-0. The West Suburban Silver had three teams cruise to tournament titles, with Oak Park, Lyons and Proviso West all unbeaten after one week of play.

• Tinley Park
The Titans aren't ready to unseat Hillcrest atop the conference standings, but behind the play of blue-collar workhorse Tony Core, a transfer this season to Tinley Park, the Titans went 3-0 to capture the St. Rita McGovern Classic. Tinley Park has already won a third of the games the Titans won a year ago.

TOP PERFORMANCES
• Julius "Juice" Brown, Hillcrest
The vastly overlooked and underappreciated Brown, a Hoops Report favorite, did what he does best: win. The Hawks went 4-0 to win the Chicago Heights Classic as Brown scored 25 points in a title game win over highly-regarded Homewood-Flossmoor. Earlier in the tournament, Brown pumped in 40 in a win over Thornwood.

• Max Bielfeldt, Peoria Notre Dame
The downstate big man elevated his status in the Tournament of Champions with 105 points in three wins, including a tournament record 40 points in a win over McCluer (Mo.). In a Saturday morning game, Bielfeldt recorded another double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The 6-7 rock-solid Bielfeldt sports offers from Illinois-Chicago, Ball State, Western Michigan and Wright State.

• Anthony Davis, Chicago Perspectives
No, his team may not win very many big games, but the 6-10 star will do all he can to carry them. In a matchup with talented Gary Lew Wallace (Ind.), Davis recorded a triple-double with 37 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks in a 97-63 loss.

• Ryan Boatright, East Aurora
The 5-11 guard put on a show with his 55-point performance in a win over St. Charles North. After four games at St. Charles East, Boatright is averaging 29.7 points a game.

• Jack Krieger, Plainfield North
The senior averaged just over 31 points a game as he poured in 125 points in four wins in leading his team to a tournament title at Joliet West and capturing tournament MVP honors.

• Jordan Nelson, Lincoln
The Hoops Report continues to believe the 5-11 senior guard has been overlooked. In five tournament games at Lincoln, Nelson scored 135 points and has already knocked down a whopping 27 three-pointers on the young season. He had a 37-point, 9 three-pointer performance in a win over Morton. Lincoln was impressive in beating Belleville Althoff, Champaign Centennial, Morton and Danville by an average victory margin of 21 points.

NEW FACES and ARRIVALS
• Milik Yarbrough, Zion-Benton
The 6-4 freshman is certainly a part of the hyped up Class of 2014 in Illinois. In a 86-75 title game loss to Notre Dame, Yarbrough poured in 30 points and grabbed five rebounds.

• Lance Whitaker, Bartlett
The Upstate Eight is blessed with a terrific group of sophomore players. And Whitaker is one of them. The 6-3 sophomore scored 33 points, pulled down 8 rebound and dished out 5 assists in a win over Grayslake Central. He followed it up with 23 points in a win over Carmel.

• Jarred Brownridge, Waubonsie Valley
Add another Upstate Eight sophomore to the list as the 6-1 guard is a scorer and shooter with a bright future.

• Dante Bailey, Glenbard East
The 6-6 junior has size and consistent range out to the three-point line. He scored 18 in his second varsity game and will be key in Glenbard East's success going forward.

MIA
There were several players for ranked teams that missed time during the opening week of the season, with some out for the next several weeks.

• Tim Williams, Homewood-Flossmoor
The talented 6-7 junior will be lost for at least half the season with a fractured bone in his foot. This is a huge hit for H-F as Williams is one of the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2012.

• A.J. Avery, St. Rita
The Hoops Report's sleeper in the Class of 2012 is sidelined 6-8 weeks with a broken wrist. The 6-7 junior is a key cog for a St. Rita team with high expectations this season.

• Jeron Wilbut, Downers Grove South
The Mustangs played without their most talented player the first three games at the St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament. Wilbut, a 6-2 combo guard, returned for the final game of the tournament after sitting out the first three due to undisclosed reasons. Wilbut made the most of his first appearance, scoring a game-high 22 points in a win over Schaumburg.

• Kevin Priebe, Glenbard East
The Rams rolled through three opponents in impressive fashion despite not having their third option behind the talented tandem of Johnny Hill and Zach Miller. Priebe, who had a terrific offseason, has mono and will likely be out until Christmas.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 16th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Those that should be most thankful

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By Joe Henricksen

A holiday list from the City/Suburban Hoops Report of those who should be most thankful in the Illinois high school basketball world this Thanksgiving. As we sit around the table with the turkey and stuffing, we all have plenty to be thankful for. Here is the high school basketball version of giving thanks.

• Illinois Prep Basketball Fans
There's not a sport in Illinois high school athletics as special or with as much history and tradition as boys basketball. There is so much to be thankful for, including great individual talent, a genuine interest in the sport and traditions like holiday tournaments and March Madness. Imagine loving high school basketball and having to move to South Dakota, Idaho or Nebraska?

• Morgan Park
As the Irvin family sits down for its Thanksgiving feast, coach Nick Irvin should offer up some thanks for being a Class 3A school this coming March. It's a golden ticket to the school securing its first hardware since 2001 and potential first state championship since 1976.

• Pontiac Holiday Tournament
This great, venerable, tradition-rich tournament that ranks among the top one or two holiday events every year should be thankful for Simeon. This program brings instant credibility to Pontiac every year and is a major draw. The tournament should be thankful Simeon is true to its word and hasn't left for bigger venues, greener pastures and larger dollar amounts. Simeon will bring the state's top team and a bonafide superstar in Jabari Parker to Pontiac this December.

• West Aurora
As the years go by and the coaching career of legendary Gordie Kerkman gets closer to its end, every basketball player and fan on the West Side of Aurora should say, "Thank you, coach Kerkman." Since the 1976-77 season when Kerkman led his first West Aurora team to a 22-win season, there have been few coaches that have been as successful or as classy as Kerkman.

• St. Joseph
Did you read the West Aurora "give thanks" above? Ditto for St. Joseph and its thankfulness for Gene Pingatore. He's an absolute institution, coaching at the school in Westchester for 40 years and counting.

• All Of Those Four-Class Lovers
Yes, you are in the minority. But all of you that wanted to diminish the sport, try to fix something that wasn't broke, win slightly unwarranted plaques and trophies and throw a dagger in my heart, you got your way. Be thankful for those four classes.

• Hillcrest
The Hoops Report understands and believes coach Don Houston is terrific and a great fit in Country Club Hills. And, yes, Juice Brown was so important in leading Houston's team last year to the school's first-ever state title and is back for another run at it this winter. But can the Hillcrest fans and basketball program give a thank you "shout out" this Thanksgiving to former coach Tom Cappel, who put this program on the map? Cappel put together a signature program in the south suburbs with a particular system that is still thriving today. After all, he won 13 regional titles, four sectionals, reached the Elite Eight twice and averaged 22 wins a season over 23 years.

• Crete-Monee
This basketball program was in need of a player that provided a presence with the ball in his hands, a player with a calming effect on the game and who can run the point. Presto! Transfer Michael Orris, a talented junior guard, arrives this fall. The Warriors can be thankful and dream big.

• Benet Academy
The Redwings can give thanks to the arrival of Gene Heidkamp as head coach. This once proud basketball program that was once a powerhouse in the late 1970s and early 1980s toiled in obscurity throughout the past two decades. Heidkamp has pumped life into Benet basketball once again, winning a sectional title last year and a preseason top 10 team this season.

• Benet Academy coach Gene Heidkamp
The 2010 City/Suburban Hoops Report Coach of the Year can be thankful for having a point guard like David Sobolewski who can handle such a large and integral role for one of the state's top teams. Heidkamp, one of the best-kept secrets in high school coaching, is forced to lean heavily on the savvy Sobolewski.

• Glenbard East
The school and program can be thankful for the hiring of Scott Miller in 1999. The ultimate rebuilding project began when Miller took over. This is a program that in the previous 19 years had suffered through 14 losing seasons, including 13 seasons of fewer than 10 wins and an abysmal 57-144 record in the nine years prior to Miller's arrival. The culture has changed, with Glenbard East posting five 19-plus win seasons and four regional championships in the last six years. Plus, it didn't hurt Miller has a Northern Illinois-bound son running the point guard position.

• Anthony Davis
The state's top player and one of the nation's elite can thank club basketball this Thanksgiving. If there was ever the perfect scenario and example of a player benefitting so greatly from AAU basketball, Anthony Davis is the posterchild. An absolute unknown with his high school team as a junior -- and in a city like Chicago -- to becoming a household name and coveted by college programs across the country before he even heads back to school for his senior year.

• Chicago Perspectives
Is there any question where this one is going? Would anyone reading this have ever even heard of Chicago Perspectives without the talented Anthony Davis?

• Southwest Prairie Conference
Basketball fans in the communities of Southwest Prairie Conference schools need to give thanks for the arrival of .... basketball. For years it was known as an area with great farmland and some solid football. Among a group of schools and towns that had little to no basketball tradition or talent, the Oswego and Plainfield schools have suddenly churned out success and individual players in recent years. And the present and future is bright with more talent in the pipeline.

• Illinois coach Bruce Weber
If there was ever a time to be thankful for Illinois prep basketball talent, this would be it for the coach of the major state university basketball program. Weber landed the foursome of Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, Orr's Mycheal Henry, De La Salle's Mike Shaw and St. Ignatius' Nnanna Egwu -- all from Chicago Public League and Chicago Catholic League schools. Go ahead and thank that assistant coach sitting on the bench to your left while you're at it.

• De La Salle
If there was one constant rumor heard throughout the last four years that never came to fruition, it was the banter of Mike Shaw transferring out of the South Side private school. But with the vultures out since the day he entered high school, Shaw showed his integrity, character and loyalty by staying with coach Tom White and the Meteors. Give thanks, De La Salle.

• Joe Henricksen
The editor and publisher of the City/Suburban Hoops Report should give thanks to having a wife that puts up with the basketball ridiculousness she encounters -- and enjoys it!

Northwestern offers super sophomore Stephens

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By Joe Henricksen

The Class of 2013, which is highlighted by sophomore superstar Jabari Parker of Simeon, is booming with emerging talent. The City/Suburban Hoops Report began raving about St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens earlier this fall as one of the top talents in the class. Now Stephens has his first high-major scholarship offer.

Northwestern and coach Bill Carmody extended the offer to the 6-3 combo guard. Stephens, the son of former Evanston and Purdue star Everette Stephens, has been gaining a ton of interest from high-major college programs. Northwestern is the first of those high-major programs to offer. Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan, Butler and DePaul were among the many schools that came in this fall to check in on Stephens.

Stephens averaged a modest 6.3 and 2.1 rebounds a game as a freshman. However, major strides were made since the conclusion of his freshman season. He poured in 25 points in a Tuesday night loss to Proviso East.

St. Charles East and Stephens, who will play this offseason with the Illinois Wolves on the club circuit, face St. Joseph Wednesday night at 8 p.m. and then plays Schaumburg Friday at 8 p.m.

For more on Kendall Stephens, see the Hoops Report's Sept. 13 blog:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/hoopsreport/2010/09/another_big_thing_in_2013.html

The 20 reasons to like Simeon

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By Joe Henricksen

The Simeon basketball program has been a fixture in Illinois high school hoops since the early 1980s. The late Bob Hambric, a legendary coach for 24 years, built a powerhouse that averaged 26 wins a season in the 1980s and captured a state title in 1984. Robert Smith took over in 2004 and, with the help of superstar Derrick Rose, has elevated the program to another level.

Now Simeon may have its best team in school history. Yes, the Hoops Report believes that -- on paper -- Simeon is better than the Derrick Rose-led Simeon team in 2007. There is more depth, more size and clearly more college basketball prospects and overall talent. While that 33-2 team in 2006-2007 was certainly special, it didn't have the overwhelming talent this group has. But the greatness of Rose clearly lifted that team and covered up weaknesses and made everyone better.

This Simeon team is just plain better. State champion a year ago, even better this year. Some would say that's unfair. The Hoops Report says, "That's just Simeon." This group still has to go out and earn it and prove it can be among the all-time great teams. The Hoops Report provides 20 reasons to like Simeon as it tries to win a second consecutive state championship and fourth in six years.

1. Rob Smith. Since Simeon elevated its status in the last decade, players have come and gone. But the one constant with Simeon has been coach Rob Smith, who is the pulse of the program.

2. Jabari Parker. There could be an argument made that Parker, who is just a sophomore, is the best college prospect in the state of Illinois -- regardless of class -- not named Anthony Davis. This kid just gets it, while also possessing a skill package and size at 6-7 that simply makes him special. He's a Paul Pierce clone who puts winning and getting better before everything else on the floor.

3. History. Simeon is drenched in history. There isn't a program in Illinois right now with a better combination of recent and past history. Yes, there were the Bob Hambric years over the 1980s and 1990s that included 500-plus wins, a state title in 1984, multiple trips to the Elite Eight and big names in the program like Ben Wilson, Deon Thomas and Nick Anderson. But think about the staggering success Simeon has had under Robert Smith. In the last six years Simeon has gone 168-33 with three state titles and a second-place finish.

4. Seniors. There isn't a high-major player in the group, but a half dozen seniors in this program have gained valuable varsity experience. The veteran group of Darien Walker, Rashawn McElrath, Ahman Fells, Tywon Pinckney, Kevin Hunter and Terrell Green have already been through a state title run as juniors.

5. Depth. Simeon's second team would be a preseason Top 25 team. The only program in the state of Illinois that can match the depth Simeon has to offer is Whitney Young. No one else comes close. Simeon can go 12 deep.

6. Size. The previous Simeon juggernauts, including last year's state title team, wasn't blessed with enormous size. While Simeon has had an inside presence on the block with those teams (i.e. Tim Flowers), they didn't have the overall size and length of this one. Even the Derrick Rose-led teams didn't have a lot of height. But Parker is 6-7, Steve Taylor is 6-7, Ahman Fells is 6-6 and Rashawn McElrath is 6-6. That is great size and length.

7. Talent at every position. Yes, it's a loaded team. But it's also a team loaded at every position with various strengths.

8. Improved point guard play. Simeon won a state championship a year ago without a truly experienced point guard. Inexperience and youth are no longer an issue at the point guard position as the combination of junior Jelani Neely and senior Tywon Pinckney have gained big-game experience.

9. Ability to play different ways. Simeon has always been known as the one city team that can handle playing at a slower pace. At times it's almost a negative for the Wolverines, who have let teams stick around as Simeon chose to slow the tempo offensively or stay content in their zone. The fact is, however, Simeon doesn't freak out when the pace of a game changes.

10. A defensive stopper. When Darien Walker, Simeon's 6-2 strong-bodied guard, puts his mind to it he can be a difference-making defender on the perimeter. He is strong, physical and brings toughness.

11. Well prepared. The Simeon schedule is loaded again, with dates set with the No. 2 team (Whitney Young), No. 3 team (De La Salle) and No. 4 team (Morgan Park) in the Hoops Report's preseason Top 25. Simeon plays in arguably the state's toughest conference and travels to Pontiac for the holidays to get a different vibe, feel and style of basketball. Simeon is always prepared for March having played different styles and in different atmospheres.

12. Improved players. There are several players that have made significant jumps from a year ago, including the improved play of the senior duo of Darien Walker and Ahman Fells. Both Walker and Fells are clearly two steps ahead of where they were a year ago. Plus, the big-named young talent, like Jabari Parker and Steve Taylor, are a year older, wiser and better.

13. Role players abound. Sure Simeon has the big names in young stars like Parker and Taylor, the top-rated prospects in their respective classes. But we're talking players no one talks about that will provide big plays this season. Keep an eye on guard Terrell Green, who could evolve into the ultimate role guy this season.

14. Versatility. When a coach has Parker at his disposal he can go a lot of different ways. Parker can literally play all five positions on the floor if he needs to. Simeon can go big with Parker in the backcourt, create mismatches, play in the halfcourt or get out and put pressure on opponents. Simeon has the ability to go 12 deep if it wants with a combination of Rob Smith's choosing: experience, youth, size, athleticism or quickness.

15. Discipline. Aside from some of the great talent Simeon has had over the years, an underrated part of the success has been the discipline this program has instilled into each one of its teams. The Wolverines typically don't force up poor shots and are religious with their defensive assignments in the halfcourt.

16. They just play. Watch Simeon over and over again and you appreciate the nature in which they go about things. There are rarely pouty looks, few quick or ill-advised shots, hardly ever a lack of hustle. Part of it is the fact Smith has the respect of his players, while also having the ability to go immediately to his bench and find a quality replacement.

17. Stability. In a little over 30 years Simeon has had just two coaches in Bob Hambric and Robert Smith. And Smith is a Hambric protégé, keeping many of the same values and principles in the program. This is an underrated value and strength in any program at any level and in any sport.

18. Cool uniforms. Each year Simeon is one of the best-dressed teams in the state. Hey, there are some bad high school uniforms out there. Style counts for something.

19. Commitment to excellence. The program consistently aspires for the top, not settling for average of even being just good.

20. Swagger and confidence. Simeon plays with a confidence that doesn't boil over to cockiness. There is a little bit of an aura surrounding the program, with the history, the recent state titles and of course the legend of Derrick Rose growing by the day while starring for the Bulls.

So what's not to like? How could things possibly go awry?

If anyone wants to nitpick it could say Simeon may lack terrific perimeter shooting. However, Walker is much improved from the perimeter, Parker has range out to the three-point line and sophomore Kendrick Nunn, while a little inexperienced, can certainly fill a role with his perimeter shooting.

And of course players are going to have to be accepting of their roles with so much talent within the program. But that's where Simeon has differed from other great teams. The players in this program, when it's all said and done, typically do settle into their roles and have their eyes on the prize: a state championship.

For more information on how to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 16th year of publication, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

Tournament with a cause

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By Joe Henricksen

There are dozens and dozens of Thanksgiving Tournaments tipping off next week. All offer a little something different, from the talent level (at St. Charles East and Chicago Heights) to neighborhood rivalries (at the Glenbard District Tournament where all four high schools meet in a round robin) to helping a cause, which brings us to the Hoops For Healing Tournament in Naperville and Oswego.

Naperville North and Oswego will play host to a tournament next week that in the last several years has helped raise awareness and funds for cancer research. The original idea began when Woodstock and Belvidere high schools teamed up in 2001. That tournament has raised over $90,000 for cancer research as it heads into its 10th year. Naperville North athletic director Doug Smith, who helped with the inaugural tournament when he was the athletic director at Woodstock, brought the idea to Naperville North.

In its first year in 2005, when Smith teamed up with former Oswego athletic director Craig Watson to begin a similar tournament in the western suburbs, Hoops For Healing raised over $6,000 for Cancer Research at Edward Cancer Center in Naperville. Soon the tournament was expanded to include a sophomore tournament. And since 2005 the tournament has raised over $50,000. Funds raised from the tournament now go towards Camp Hope, a unique support program at Edward Cancer Center.

Camp Hope helps kids who have a parent or grandparent undergoing cancer treatment and allows them to get to know other children who are undergoing similar experiences. In addition, Camp Hope gives kids a chance to be kids with others who are in the midst of similar difficulties at home. Not only is Camp Hope great for the kids, it's therapeutic for the cancer patient and the other adults in the family as well.

While high school basketball fans are always looking for the best matchups, watching the top players and catching a glimpse of the elite teams, there are other reasons to attend games next week as well. The balanced field at Naperville North and Oswego will not only be competitive, but the proceeds from all the fans that attend go towards a terrific cause.

Those wishing to donate to the cause can send a check made payable to Camp Hope to Naperville North High School, Attention: Doug Smith, 899 N. Mill St., Naperville, IL 60563

Here is a schedule of the games to be played in the 2010 Hoops For Healing Tournament.

Monday, Nov. 22 at Oswego
5:30 p.m. Aurora Christian vs. Marmion
7:00 p.m. Waubonsie Valley vs. Oswego
Monday, Nov. 22 at Naperville North
5:30 p.m. Oswego East vs. DeKalb
7:00 p.m. Geneva vs. Naperville North

Tuesday, Nov. 23 at Oswego
5:30 p.m. Marmion vs. Waubonsie Valley
7:00 p.m. Oswego vs. Aurora Christian
Tuesday, Nov. 23 at Naperville North
5:30 p.m. Geneva vs. Oswego East
7:00 p.m. Naperville North vs. DeKalb

Wednesday, Nov. 24 at Oswego
12 noon Geneva vs. DeKalb
1:30 p.m. Naperville North vs. Oswego East
3:00 p.m. Waubonsie Valley vs. Aurora Christian
4:30 p.m. Marmion vs. Oswego

Friday, Nov. 26 at Oswego
12 Noon 7th Place Game
1:30 p.m. 5th Place Game
3:00 p.m. 3rd Place Game
5:00 p.m. Championship Game

Save the date for these 40

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By Joe Henricksen

The Illinois high school basketball season tips off this Monday with the opening of Thanksgiving Tournament play. With the season upon us, the City/Suburban Hoops Report highlights 40 games involving Chicago area teams for fans to get to and watch this winter. This list includes 40 games (non-Christmas tournament games) of varying degrees of interest and intrigue.

Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Mt. Carmel, Tuesday, Nov. 23
• A little early to be hyping a game with just a couple of weeks of practice under their belt, especially since H-F could still be without arguably its top player, 6-7 Tim Williams. While Williams is quarterbacking the Vikings football team, coach Jim McLaughlin's crew will gear up for Tracy Abrams & Company next week.

East Aurora vs. Hales Franciscan, Wednesday, Nov. 24
• A year ago this one was an "Instant Classic," with hustle, intensity, big plays and even bigger shots as Hales Franciscan won an absolute wild one. Aaron Armstead hit two buzzer-beaters to lift Hales to a 98-97 overtime win. Both Aaron and Aaric Armstead return for a ranked Hales team, while East Aurora's Ryan Boatright is certainly capable of some offensive fireworks of his own.

Loyola Academy vs. New Trier, Wednesday, Nov. 24
• A North Shore battle in November featuring two talented teams. Coach Tom Livatino, now in his second year at Loyola, has a sleeper with size. Rockford Boylan transfer Austin Angel arrives for New Trier to help out 6-7 big man Connor Boehm.

Warren vs. Waukegan, Friday, Nov. 26
• Maybe the top game in the North Chicago Thanksgiving Tournament as the post-Jereme Richmond Era begins for coach Ron Ashlaw and Waukegan. The Bulldogs will still be tough with the tandem of Aaron Johnson and junior Akeem Springs. Plus, it's an intriguing Central Suburban League vs. North Suburban League contest.

De La Salle at St. Rita, Friday, Dec. 3
• The Catholic League favorites, De La Salle, travel into what will likely be a hornets nest as St. Rita is anxious to show it has arrived as a basketball program. St. Rita is ranked in the Hoops Report's Top 25 and has an opportunity to open eyes early in the season in this Catholic League showdown.

St. Joseph at Hales Franciscan, Friday, Dec. 3
• No, St. Joseph may not be ranked in the Hoops Report's preseason Top 25 and isn't one of coach Gene Pingatore's juggernaut teams of the past, but it's a bit of history for a storied program. St. Joseph takes on a ranked Hales Franciscan team in the first Chicago Catholic League game in school history.

Benet Academy at St. Patrick, Friday, Dec. 3
• This East Suburban Catholic Conference tilt, which features the top two teams in the league, comes too early in the season. Thankfully they meet again in early February. St. Pat's, led by the experienced tandem of Kourtney Darby and Jacob Williams, looks to regroup after a tough 7-6 ESCC season a year ago. A win here for Benet will go a long way in capturing a second straight conference title.

Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Morgan Park, Sunday, Dec. 5
• A barnburner at Chicago State in the CPS Showcase event, which features two teams ranked in the Hoops Report's preseason top five. H-F has the size, length and athleticism to potentially give Wayne Blackshear and the Mustangs problems.

Simeon vs. De La Salle, Saturday, Dec. 11
• Last February De La Salle took it to Simeon, beating the Wolverines 64-46 in the City-Suburban Showdown at UIC. That loss helped turned the corner for Robert Smith's Wolverines. Simeon didn't lose again, capturing the Class 4A state title. Now both teams enter the season ranked among the top five teams in the state.

Lyons Twp. at Downers Grove South, Saturday, Dec. 18
• A dandy of a West Suburban League crossover game as LT (West Suburban Silver) squares off with DGS (West Suburban Gold) in a marquee matchup featuring talented guards. Keep an eye on DGS junior Jeron Wilbut against LT's Nick Zeisloft, a pair of outstanding 2-guards.

Evanston vs. New Trier, Friday, Jan. 7
• The talented tandem of Garrett Jones and 6-7 James Farr will help lead Evanston first-year coach Mike Ellis into his first Evanston-New Trier war.

Brooks at Simeon, Tuesday, Jan. 11
• When coach Bobby Locke took over at Brooks, you better believe he took an immediate look at the schedule to see when his talented team would get a shot at the defending state champs. A big opportunity for a group of Brooks seniors. Simeon can't afford to look ahead to ....

Simeon at Morgan Park, Thursday, Jan. 13
• If there are five games to circle on the prep basketball calendar this season, this is certainly one of the five. Even my sister is marking this one down on her calendar. Simeon and Jabari Parker take on Morgan Park and Wayne Blackshear in a mid-January showdown that could decide the state's best conference.

Farragut at Whitney Young, Thursday, Jan. 13
• After a sub-par season a year ago, Farragut looks to bounce back and make a run at its first Red-West title since 2007. The Admirals are hungry, play hard and will be flying under the radar a bit heading into big, bad Whitney Young.

Proviso East vs. Glenbard East, Saturday, Jan. 15
• A couple of ranked teams with big expectations highlight the Downers Grove North Shootout, with two outstanding perimeter attacks squaring off. The Glenbard East veteran tandem of point guard Zach Miller and Johnny Hill will get all it can handle from the likes of junior Keith Carter, rugged junior Treshaun Carroll and super sophomore Sterling Brown.

Homewood-Flossmoor at Crete-Monee, Tuesday, Jan. 18
• Arguably the two best teams in the south suburbs go at it with no shortage of athletes. Crete-Monee big man Greg Mays will be back for this one after missing the first month of the season. There will be no shortage of talent or athleticism.

Orr at Whitney Young, Thursday, Jan. 20
• Orr is a year older, wiser and boasts one of the great talents in the state, 6-6 scorer Mycheal Henry. Whitney Young is ... well, Whitney Young. A pair of future Big Ten players in Henry (Illinois) and Young's Sam Thompson (Ohio State) highlight what could very well decide the always-tough Red-West.

Downers Grove South at Proviso East, Friday, Jan. 21
• West Suburban Gold supremacy will be at stake as two teams loaded with junior talent take center stage in a big mid-season showdown.

Hyde Park at Curie, Friday, Jan. 21
• These two programs have shared the Red-Central title in each of the last two seasons and will be the frontrunners again this season. First-year Hyde Park coach Lamont Bryant would like nothing more than to

Glenbard East vs. Benet Academy, Saturday, Jan. 22
• Arguably the two best teams in the far western suburbs meet with a No. 1 sectional seed on the line. Benet beat Glenbard East in the sectional final a year ago. The rematch between these two preseason top 10 teams is the featured attraction in the High School Hoops Showdown, which also includes a Lockport-Schaumburg matchup.

Crete-Monee at Hillcrest, Tuesday, Jan. 25
• If Crete-Monee wants to make a statement in the south suburbs there are a couple of ways of going about it: 1. Going out and winning the Big Dipper in late December or 2. Beating the defending Class 3A state champs on the road in late January.

Whitney Young vs. Simeon, Saturday, Jan. 29
• The "Game of the Year" during the regular season as the Hoops Report's preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams meet in a regular-season showdown at UIC. The two teams last met in last year's Class 4A state title game in Peoria. There will be 20-plus Division I prospects in the scorebook for this one.

Plainfield Central at Plainfield East, Tuesday, Feb. 1
• Oswego, Oswego East and Plainfield North have ruled the headlines in the Southwest Prairie the past couple of years. Now these two Plainfield schools take center stage, with Central boasting the league's top player in Boise State-bound Derrick Marks and East possessing a talented junior-dominated team ready to blossom.

Homewood-Flossmoor at Joliet West, Friday, Feb. 4
• The old Joliet (the schools have split into Joliet West and Joliet Central) took two from H-F last year by a combined 10 points. If Joliet West, led by the backcourt of Remy Roberts-Burnett and Morris Dunnigan, wants to capture a league title, it will have to handle H-F again.

Schaumburg at Conant, Friday, Feb. 4
• While the Mid-Suburban League West could be a tangled mess this year with so many contenders, the Hoops Report believes this matchup in early February will go a long way in deciding the MSL West champ.

St. Patrick at Benet Academy, Friday, Feb. 4
• Will this decide the East Suburban Catholic Conference?

Hillcrest at De La Salle, Saturday, Feb. 5
• The defending Class 3A state champs get what may be its biggest challenge this winter, a road date with a Class 4A heavyweight in a terrific non-conference battle. Can the young De La Salle guards handle the vaunted Hillcrest trapping defense? And can the Hawks hold their own against the De La Salle frontline of 6-8 Mike Shaw, 6-7 Alex Foster and 6-6 Dre Henley?

War on the Shore, Saturday, Feb. 5
• An impressive tripleheader at Loyola Academy will bring six teams all ranked in the Hoops Report's preseason top 35. Evanston will square off with Nnanna Egwu and St. Ignatius in the opener, followed by New Trier-Mount Carmel and Loyola Academy-St. Patrick.

Warren at Glenbrook North, Saturday, Feb. 5
• It could be argued these two programs have been the most successful in the north suburbs over the past decade. These two split the last two seasons.

Neuqua Valley at East Aurora, Thursday, Feb. 10
• Will Neuqua's three-year dominance finally come to an end? The Upstate Eight has shuffled things up with two divisions, but the East Aurora-Neuqua Valley battles have meant a lot over the years. Last year East Aurora stunned Neuqua Valley in the regional championship game with Ryan Boatright nearly dropping a half-a-hundred on the Wildcats.

Evanston vs. New Trier, Saturday, Feb. 12
• Round II -- and once again at Northwestern. The wounds of the first battle are always still lingering. This one, though, may have CSL South title implications as both teams head towards the home stretch.

West Aurora at East Aurora, Saturday, Feb. 12
• How fitting to have East-West on the same night as New Trier-Evanston, which are without question the two best rivalries in the state of Illinois. While West Aurora gave up its home game last year to play at the NIU Convocation Center, no way will East Aurora give up its home game in this great rivalry. The Tomcats hope to get a win while star Ryan Boatright is still roaming the halls on the East Side.

Homewood-Flossmoor at Rockford Boylan, Saturday, Feb. 12
• Great test for talented H-F team as they travel to a tough environment and play a traditional program with some talent.

Rockford Auburn at Waukegan, Tuesday, Feb. 15
• Jereme Richmond may have moved on to the University of Illinois, but Waukegan has still put together a rugged schedule. Talented Rockford Auburn, led by Division I point guard prospect Fred Van Fleet, travel to the Dog Pound for an interesting non-conference tilt.

Warren at Stevenson, Friday, Feb. 18
• Although the likes of Libertyville, Mundelein and Zion-Benton will have a say in things in the North Suburban Lake, favored Warren will get its biggest test from Stevenson. And this road date may be the final step in running the table for the Blue Devils in league play.

Lyons Twp. vs. Proviso East, Saturday, Feb. 19
• A couple of teams picked to win their respective divisions of the West Suburban Conference meet in one of three City-Suburban Showdown games at UIC. This will be a beneficial tuneup for two ranked teams as March approaches.

Rock Island vs. Morgan Park, Feb. 19
• The middle game of the City-Suburban Showdown could be a preview of a Class 3A state championship in March, along with a look at two Mr. Basketball candidates -- Rock Island's Chasson Randle and Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear.

Benet Academy vs. Simeon, Saturday, Feb. 19
• The City-Suburban Showdown at UIC offers up a rematch plenty of fans are anxious and hyped to see. Simeon beat Benet Academy in a supersectional thriller last March. The majority of the key figures in that game return, including Benet's Big Ten tandem of David Sobolewski (Northwestern) and Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin).

West Aurora at Glenbard East, Saturday, Feb. 19
• There is a real possibility Glenbard East could be riding a 26-game DuPage Valley Conference win streak when coach Gordie Kerkman's Blackhawks roll into Lombard.

Perspectives at De La Salle, Tuesday, Feb. 22
• The game may not be a contest but Anthony Davis vs. Mike Shaw sure will be fun.

The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 16th year of publication, is out this week. For more information or to subscribe, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Waukegan's Springs commits to Tennessee State

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By Joe Henricksen

While the Class of 2011 is in the process of signing their letters of intent, the Class of 2012 prospects are beginning to commit. Waukegan standout Akeem Springs, who has played a key role in helping the Bulldogs to Peoria in each of the last two seasons, committed to Tennessee State on Monday.

The Tennessee State staff has been on Springs hard since this past summer and had him down for an unofficial visit two weeks ago. Springs and his family felt the comfort level at Tennessee State and wanted to end the recruitment process early.

"Really, it was just how I felt about Tennessee State," Springs said. "For me it was a place I felt extremely comfortable and believed it was the best fit for me academically and for me to reach my full potential as a basketball player. I'm not a player who is out looking for the biggest school. I found what I liked. I want to concentrate on my basketball season and not have to worry about the recruiting part of it."

In response to offering up such an early commitment to a school in the Ohio Valley Conference, Akeem Springs' father, Dwayne, reiterated what his son had to say as far as comfort and fit.

"We asked him 'Where would you feel comfortable going to school if basketball wasn't even in the equation,'" Dwayne Springs said. "He said, 'Tennessee State.' We don't see it as settling at all. We're not trying to commit to draw attention. Akeem really wanted to get the recruiting out of the way, concentrate on getting better as a player, continue to do well academically and enjoy high school. We didn't want it to be a circus or play games in the recruiting process."

Ball State and Indiana State offered Springs, according to his father, while Southern Illinois, Missouri State and Northwestern had shown interest.

Springs, who is an excellent student in the classroom, has been an impressive football prospect as well, but he gave up the sport to concentrate on basketball. Last year as a sophomore he averaged just under 10 points and 4 rebounds a game for a team that finshed third in the state.

Springs continues to improve his skill level, including a much better looking perimeter jumper and a tighter handle. While his skill level still needs refinement, it's his size, length and athleticism for a perimeter player that jumps out at college coaches. The 6-3 Springs is a specimen athletically with length and quickness that will help him evolve into a lockdown type of defender, especially in the Ohio Valley Conference where his athleticism will be off the charts. He plays with a high motor and is always in attack mode, finishing at the rim and attacking the offensive glass.

Tennessee State, with assistant coach Dana Ford leading the charge, has hit the Chicago area extremely hard. Proviso West's Robert Covington and current freshman Pat Miller of Hales Franciscan are already playing big roles, while former Hillcrest star Kellen Thornton is sitting out this season after transferring in from Illinois State. And securing an early commitment from a rising prospect like Springs is a big recruiting plus and will give the Tigers four talented players from the Chicago area.

"We really think they are going to be a talented team in coming years," said Dwayne Springs.

Where are all the transfers?

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By Joe Henricksen

The transfer in high school basketball has become as common to the game here in Illinois as the three-pointer, Division I prospects signing in November and holiday tournament hoopla. But not this year.

Over the past decade the transfer has become a much larger issue, with the number of transfers increasing and certainly the number of high-profile players changing (well, sometimes) addresses. Think about the names that have moved from school to school over the last several years.

Wayne Blackshear from Curie to Morgan Park was the biggest one in the last couple of years. But there were so many others, including Jereme Richmond from North Shore Country Day to Waukegan. Marcus Jordan from Loyola Academy to Whitney Young. Cully Payne from Burlington Central to Schaumburg. Ben Brust from Hersey to Mundelein. Dyricus Simms-Edwards from Peoria Central to Washington. Stan Simpson from Leo to Simeon. Jordan Walker from Champaign to Hales to Seton Academy. D.J. Cooper from Hales to Seton Academy.

How about a few more?

Crandall Head from Rich South to Crane and back to Rich South. Diamond Taylor from St. Joseph to Bolingbrook. Jacob Williams from St. Patrick to Bartlett and back to St. Patrick. Nik Garcia from Niles West to Evanston. Jamie Crockett from Rich Central to Crete-Monee. Brandon Spearman from Hales to Simeon. Terry Johnson from Seton to St. Rita to North Lawndale.

The list goes on and on, but the aforementioned list of players gives an idea of the transfer significance in high school basketball. And this list isn't going back too far.

This season, however, figures to be a little different. There are very few high-profile transfers and the overall numbers of players moving are certainly down in comparison to recent years. The reasons? The economy and poor housing market, maybe? The IHSA cracking down? Kids accepting where they're at? Who knows why the cycle has turned -- for the better, I might add -- but the fact is the move of players will have less of an impact on this upcoming season than in seasons past.

Here is a quick look at the small amount of impact transfers around Illinois.

Michael Orris may be the missing piece at Crete
Perhaps no move was more significant this offseason than junior point guard Michael Orris transferring from Palatine to Crete-Monee. The 6-3 Orris may be just what the doctor ordered for first-year coach Matt Ryndak, who now has Orris, veteran Kentrell King and young sophomore Marvie Keith all capable of providing point guard minutes. But make no mistake, Orris could be the missing piece that propels the Warriors to a new level as he has the makeup, mindset, size and skill to be a difference-maker at the point guard position.

New Trier gets an Angel
The graduation of 6-5 guard Alex Rossi and 6-10 Fred Heldring, who are playing at Cal and William and Mary, respectively, left a void for a New Trier team that won 22 games and a regional title year ago. While New Trier does have a promising junior to build around in rugged 6-7 Connor Boehm, along with some solid young talent in the program, the arrival of transfer Austin Angel is a huge lift. Angel is a strong 6-4 junior guard with scoring ability. Last season as a sophomore at Rockford Boylan he averaged 12.3 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds a game. Angel's arrival makes New Trier one of the favorites in the CSL South.

Wheaton Academy re-stocks
Star player Tim Rusthoven may have graduated, but Wheaton Academy is in position to repeat in the Suburban Christian Gold with the arrival of two transfers -- scoring guard Wes Koral from Joliet Catholic and athletic 6-3 junior Larry Reynolds from East Aurora. Those two will join returning big man Luke Johnson, a 6-8 senior, to give Wheaton Academy three talented and athletic players.

Downstate impact transfers
The addition of T.J. Bell at Charleston and Travis Britt at Rantoul are simply two players returning home after attending school and playing last season in the state of Indiana. The pair of 2012 standouts are among the top 15 junior prospects in the state. Bell is a 6-8 power forward while Britt is a talented 6-3 combo guard.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report's first issue of the year is out this week. For more information or to subscribe to the Hoops Report, now in its 16th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

UWGB lands another one as Armstead commits

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By Joe Henricksen

Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle's homestate has been awfully good to him since taking over the program last spring. Wardle, a Hinsdale Central graduate and the 1997 City/Suburban Hoops Report Player of the Year, was able to nab another talented prospect out of Chicago -- Hales Franciscan's Aaron Armstead.

The 6-3 shooting guard committed to Wisconsin-Green Bay on Sunday and will sign this week. He will join a recruiting class that already includes Crete-Monee's Greg Mays, an athletic 6-8 specimen, and Marshall point guard Keifer Sykes.

"They definitely made an impression on me," Armstead said of the coaches and the program at Wisconsin-Green Bay. "It's a great staff. I enjoyed my visit to the school, the campus, the players on the team."

Armstead is also excited about the fact he will be playing with some Chicago natives, which he says adds a familiarity and an atmosphere he is accustomed to.

"I've grown up with Keifer, so that definitely was a little part of the decision," Armstead noted. "But it's exciting and comfortable to know that there are other guys from Chicago up there."

Armstead has steadily improved and gained more consistency since making a splash as a sophomore at Hales. He's blessed with a high skill level and smooth game, including a pretty looking jumper that extends out to the three-point line. After expanding his shooting and scoring repertoire this past summer, the Hoops Report expects Armstead to have a big finish to his high school career playing for a strong Hales Franciscan team this season. Armstead's brother, 6-5 Aaric Armstead, is one of the top junior prospects in the state of Illinois.

Signing Day 2011 highlights

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By Joe Henricksen

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look back at Signing Day 2011, a year that featured over a dozen high-major prospects signing letters-of-intent and two dozen more Division I players.

Biggest Winner
Illinois
Point guard? Check.
Future leader? Check.
Potential star? Check.
Influx of toughness? Check.
Developing big man? Check.
Knockdown perimeter shooter? Check.
Blue-collar rebounder? Check.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber and his staff were the biggest winners on Signing Day when it came to securing Illinois prep basketball talent. Weber signed the best recruiting class in the Big Ten. Weber was also able to fill so many future--and even immediate--needs for his program with the addition of Orr shooter/scorer Mycheal Henry, Mount Carmel point guard Tracy Abrams, De La Salle rugged, blue-collar rebounder Mike Shaw and St. Ignatius improving big man Nnanna Egwu.

While Illinois will try to get things done in the next week--or throughout the upcoming season--with Alabama prep star Devin Langford, who looks as though he may wait and sign late, the attention now turns to the alpha dog: Simeon's Jabari Parker. When Parker's recruitment ends on Signing Day in two years, there is no doubt Bruce Weber and Jerrance Howard will have put more time and energy into the recruitment of Parker than any other prospect past, present or future.

Best Signing
Anthony Davis to Kentucky
Well, duh! When a program can go out and nab a consensus top 10 player nationally -- and the No. 1 player, according to some -- it's an obvious recruiting high. Davis, who also gets the nod as the most likely to see an NBA uniform first, won't likely be around Lexington for very long. He's an instant difference-maker on the defensive end at the next level, while his skill and feel will allow him to survive at the highest level offensively while he adds some much-needed weight and strength.

Most Important Signing
Illinois landing Mycheal Henry
Illinois needed a player like Henry, the talented 6-6 wing from Orr. For starters, Henry is the best prospect of the bunch and is a true knockdown perimeter shooter with size who can stretch a defense--something the program has lacked. He's also a kid from the city and the first big impact signing from the Chicago Public League in years. In addition, Henry's recruiting would have taken off had he remained uncommitted through the summer, so getting it done when Illinois did was . Henry, though, found the fit he liked and jumped on it last spring. Now Illinois has a potential star down the road, who brings zero baggage or attitude -- as proven by the fact he was never caught up in grabbing all the hoopla that he could have received had he waited it out. Plus, he is as likeable of a kid as you'll find and has the personality that teammates -- and future recruits -- will gravitate to.

Best Recruiting Fit
Wayne Blackshear to Louisville
When you look at Morgan Parks's Wayne Blackshear -- his style, his game, his size, his position -- it's so easy to envision him in a Louisville uniform playing for Rick Pitino. Maybe it's because he reminds the Hoops Report so much of former Cardinal Terrence Williams, but Pitino's teams breed the 6-5, 6-6 type of athletes on the wing. Blackshear will be a perfect fit for Pitino's Cardinals.

Biggest Recruiting Surprise
Abdel Nader doesn't sign
There was very little talk and discussion leading up to Signing Day regarding Niles North's Abdel Nader and his commitment to New Mexico. Now it appears there should have been as the 6-7 face-up 4-man has decided to wait until the spring to sign or possibly re-classify. Nader instantly becomes the best available prospect remaining on the board out of Illinois.

Biggest Signing Sleepers
Derrick Marks to Boise State
Johnny Hill to Illinois State
Juice Brown to Toledo
While we rave about the recruiting class the University of Illinois reeled in, marvel at the rise of Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives and count the number of high-major prospects the Class of 2011 produced, there are a few other talented recruits who could pay huge dividends for their respective schools.

Derrick Marks of Plainfield Central, who de-committed from Albany this past summer, picked a great spot to showcase his strength, power, size and athleticism. With the strengths Marks possesses, he will be playing in a league he can flourish in. Boise State picked up a huge recruiting coup. Every college coach wants to believe they signed a future all-league pick on Signing Day. With Marks and Boise State, it's a reality.

Glenbard East's Johnny Hill, who flew under the radar of most college programs throughout his junior year, is a player who is just scratching the surface and realizing how talented he can be. The 6-3 guard, who is a basketball player with skill, length and athleticism, has a chance to be a special Missouri Valley Conference player down the road. Hill, who has a great feel for the game, averaged 18 points a game as junior for a 27-2 team and nearly four steals a game.

Although Julius "Juice" Brown is an unheralded recruit, he will be so important for the Toledo program going forward. The Rockets are in a major rebuilding mode. Keep in mind that Toledo is coming off a 4-28 season playing in the often-forgotten Mid-American Conference. Now first-year coach Tod Kowalczyk will welcome with open arms a proven winner and point guard to run the show for the next four years. The Hoops Report has been a bigger fan of Brown than most, who led Hillcrest to the school's first-ever state title last March. He's small but strong, has a burst and can score from his point guard position.

Biggest Recruiting Steal
Greg Mays to UW-Green Bay and Ryan Jackson to Lewis
The recruitment of Greg Mays was the classic perfect storm for a program like Wisconsin-Green Bay. Mays is a 6-8 athletic big man who, due to injury, lack of opportunities and blooming late, was greatly overlooked on the recruiting radar for much of his high school career.

While he had his moments this offseason, Mays still has not put together the type of long stretch of high-level playing that would warrant bigger and better interest, though it was certainly picking up. That's good for UW-Green Bay. Mays would have been a hot commodity next April had he stayed on the board. But give credit to the kid and those around him in feeling comfortable with a program and staff and not getting caught up in playing at the highest level possible.

The same could be said for Riverside-Brookfield's Ryan Jackson. Division II Lewis University was able to land a Division I player. Jackson, who had multiple Division I offers and should have had more, stayed with his plan of combining basketball with the field he wanted to study in college. Fortunately for Lewis, basketball and aviation are both available to Jackson. Now coach Scott Trost has a key building block for the next four years in Jackson, a scoring guard who is poised to have a big year for R-B this winter.

Wildest Recruiting Ride
Ryan Boatright
Maybe East Aurora's Ryan Boatright has some USC and West Virginia shirts and hats still in the wardrobe, but the talented 5-11 guard is officially off to Connecticut. The Boatright recruitment ended early, with a commitment to USC and coach Tim Floyd in the summer before his freshman year. Floyd was canned and Boatright opened things up again. After going through the process, Boatright committed to West Virginia. However, a day later West Virginia took another point guard and Boatright soon de-committed. Now it's off to UConn.

A hand full of wild cards

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By Joe Henricksen

Some of last year's most important players on a few of the breakthrough teams weren't the biggest stars; they only reinforced their team's rise. Now those players have to be replaced. They weren't the big names found in newspaper articles or heavily courted by college coaches. But these types of players are the names high school coaches remember and wish they had more of no matter what year or season it is.

We're talking the glue guys, the unheralded players who just make teams better and often have a unique ability to provide various ingredients a team needs to succeed. Despite not being the star, these players are important "spokes in the wheel." And several top teams with heavy expectations this winter must find ways to replace these exact type of players.

The expectations at Benet Academy are sky high. A year after reinvigorating the basketball program with a run to the Class 4A supersectional, coach Gene Heidkamp welcomes back the three best players from that team, including Division I recruits David Sobolewski and 6-10 Frank Kaminsky. However, the aforementioned key parts to the success of Benet Academy -- and several other top teams in the Chicago area -- will be missed and have to be replaced in order to maintain the level of success each of these teams enjoyed a year ago. The search for those replacements begins Monday when the high school basketball season officially starts with the opening of practice.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at several teams in the precarious position of having to fill valuable minutes that were not always recognized by the average fan. These are teams fresh off big seasons and who return big-named talent, yet those close to and within the programs know themselves what important elements were lost.

BENET ACADEMY
The Hype: The Redwings snapped St. Joseph's string of consecutive titles in the East Suburban Catholic Conference last year while rolling through league play with an unbeaten record. Now Benet, with the return of the trio of future Northwestern point guard David Sobolewski, shooter/defender Matt Parisi and Wisconsin-bound big man Frank Kaminsky, will be in everyone's preseason top 10 rankings and favored to repeat in the ESCC.
The Absence: Aside from the emergence of Sobolewski as a star last season, no other key ingredient was as important as Benet's halfcourt defense. Benet was better than their look test due to that stingy defense. That physical style of defense was often overlooked by fans and opponents and it's what allowed the Redwings to surpass everyone's expectations. While Parisi will be back as Benet's top on-the-ball defender, no one realizes how important the senior tandem of 6-3 Dylan Flood and 6-3 Mike Runger were to Heidkamp's team. No, they didn't put up big numbers, but they were so instrumental in providing defense, toughness and some size. This Benet team will be better offensively than a year ago, but the defensive success will determine if it can match last year's success.

HILLCREST
The Hype: First, Hillcrest reloads. Every year. Second, the team's best and most influential player, point guard Juice Brown, returns. But this is a little different. The Hawks are coming off the first-ever basketball state championship in school history. Nonetheless, coach Don Houston's club figures to be one of the top teams in the south suburbs and a threat to reach Peoria again in Class 3A.
The Absence: The loss of Kent State-bound Eric Gaines will be obvious and noticed by everyone, but the loss of some of the unheralded seniors from a year ago should not go unnoticed. The trio of 6-4 Darren Tillman, versatile Nick Oden and do-what-it-takes Herbert Offord made an impact on each and every game in some way and fashion. Whether it was their defense, rebounding, second-chance scoring opportunities or simply their infectious attitude, Tillman, Oden and Offord provided a constant for the Hawks that will be awfully difficult to replace.

GLENBARD EAST
The Hype: Coach Scott Miller's club won a school record 27 games last season, went 14-0 in the DuPage Valley and won a regional title before falling to Benet in the sectional championship. The Rams return their top two players in four-year starter Zach Miller, a point guard headed to Northern Illinois, and 6-3 all-state candidate Johnny Hill, who will sign with Illinois State next week.
The Absence: Everything that three-year starter Jack Merrithey brought to the table last season rarely showed up in the box score, though he was capable of popping for 20-plus on a given night. Glenbard East will be hard pressed to match Merrithey's ferocious competitiveness, toughness, leadership and incessant man-to-man defense. More than anything, Merrithey provided a presence last season and found ways to make important plays in big moments.

DE LA SALLE
The Hype: The De La Salle fanbase and alums have been anticipating this season -- Mike Shaw's senior year -- for quite some time. The belief is this is the season the Meteors make the next jump and bring home some state hardware. Coach Tom White's club has talented Division I veterans to go along with a bevy of promising young players, including sophomores Alex Foster and Jaylon Tate who gained valuable varsity time a year ago.
The Absence: Yes, the talent in the program is certainly abundant. However, the graduation of D.J. Bland, a football-playing tough guy with some basketball skill, and 6-3 Troy Torrence will be felt. In some of De La Salle's biggest moments last year, it was Bland and Torrence providing huge, unheralded lifts. It was Bland's 14 points that helped fuel the romp over Simeon in late February. It was Bland and Torrence combining for 30 points in the regional title victory. Bland and Torrence were underrated and productive players and will be missed.

The first issue of the season of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 16th year of publication, will be due out next week. For more information or to subscribe to the Hoops Report, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

Bobo Drummond commits to SIU

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By Joe Henricksen

Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery is set to get back to putting hard-nosed, tough-minded teams on the floor. With a commitment from junior point guard Bobo Drummond this weekend, Lowery took a big step in that direction.

Drummond, who played his first two years at Peoria Central, is now at La Lumiere Academy in LaPorte, Indiana. Prior to leaving the state, Drummond was considered among the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2012 in Illinois and arguably the top point guard in the class.

A lot of credit goes to SIU assistant coach Brad Korn, who has now tapped into what hopefully will become a Peoria pipeline to Carbondale with this early commitment. This is an impressive early commitment for the Salukis. SIU has also offered a pair of tough Peoria Manual standouts in guard Kiki Stokes and 6-5 Jacoby Roddy.

Drummond is an ideal Missouri Valley Conference fit -- a true lead guard who can run the show and take some pounding in what is typically a physical mid-major conference. He's a strong, compact guard who had a very solid summer with the Illinois Wolves on the AAU circuit. While his perimeter shot is still developing and gaining consistency, there aren't many who better understand the nuances of the point guard position better than Drummond. He has a natural feel and doesn't know what it is to back down from anything.

Plus, Drummond fits the mold of the type of player Lowery wants to coach. Lowery, who went 78-26 with three straight NCAA Tournament apperances his first three years as head coach in Carbondale, is looking to get back to those tough-minded, stellar defensive teams that included a Sweet 16 appearance in 2007. Drummond's early commitment is a jumpstart for the Salukis in recruiting underclassmen.

Southern Illinois has a pair of 2011 commitments from out-of-state prospects -- 6-5 Dantiel Daniels of Holt (Mo.) and 6-8 Treg Setty of Mason County (Ky).

Mycheal Henry, C.J. Jones ready to get Orr rolling

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By Joe Henricksen

As this season unfolds in the coming months, high school basketball fans will be hearing about a new name on the prep basketball front: Orr Academy. But how does a basketball program get noticed when it shares a city with the likes of Simeon and a conference with Whitney Young and Marshall?

Thus far, Orr's basketball reputation has been carried by the emergence of 6-6 star Mycheal Henry, a University of Illinois commitment who is among the top three players in the senior class. But after falling to Hyde Park in the second round of the Public League playoffs and then losing to St. Joseph in the regional championship, the bar has been set high.

Orr will be one of the Class 3A favorites this coming March. If the IHSA doesn't switch things up in Class 3A, Orr and coach Lou Adams will find itself battling the likes of Marshall, St. Joseph, Riverside-Brookfield and Wheaton Academy in sectional play. And since the expansion to four classes, this sectional winner has made it to Peoria in each of the last three seasons, winning a state title and finishing third twice in those three seasons.

Orr's goals are pretty simple. But again, the bar has been set high and this Lou Adams-led team is ready to put the school on the corner of Pulaski and Chicago on the map.

"We want to win our conference, win the city and win state," said junior guard C.J. Jones. "But if we want to have a shot at doing that we have to come together and we have to compete and get after it on the defensive end. We know we're going to be able to score points."

It wasn't too long ago when another Lou Adams-coached team took the city by storm. The 2007-2008 Englewood team, also coached by Adams, came out of nowhere to go 24-4, reach the city semifinals, where it fell to Marshall, and reach a sectional title game.

This Orr team won't be sneaking up on people as that Englewood team did a few years ago. No, not with the return of a Mr. Basketball candidate in Henry and the talented Jones. While Henry and Jones have the ability to make Orr special, the supporting cast must rise to the occasion, including point guard Santino Siggers and 6-5 rebounder/defender Malik Logan.

Orr is preparing itself for the city playoffs in February and state tournament play in March with an upgraded schedule. In addition to a huge Chicago Public League Red-West battle with Whitney Young Jan. 20, Orr will play talented Bowman Academy out of Indiana in the Shootout at the Hall in Champaign Dec. 11, head to a shootout in Dallas Dec. 18 and travel to the Detroit Country Day Holiday Tournament Dec. 27. Plus, Orr will travel to play Saginaw, Mich., in mid-January and play in the Brandon Jennings Shootout in Milwaukee Jan. 22.

City tough Jones
While Henry is the man, Jones has the capability of setting the tone for Adams and the Spartans. Jones is an easy one to like. He plays hard, is an in-your-face defender with toughness and doesn't take games -- or even trips down the floor -- off. And now plenty of college basketball programs are showing the appreciation and the love. While several high-major programs are keeping tabs on Jones, the 6-0 guard says mid-major programs Central Michigan, Southern Illinois, UIC and Ball State have all offered in recent weeks.

Getting tired of watching an opposing guard abuse your team off the dribble? Throw C.J. at them. Getting tired of watching your lifeless team play with little or no energy? Throw C.J. in there. Just want to see some old fashioned hustle? Just let C.J. play.

The 6-0 junior fits every description of tough guy from his defensive mentality and willingness to taking on anyone at anytime. Jones has the type of toughness most high school players either don't know or have never had with all the pampering that goes on with today's prep stars. Any coach who takes in just one game sees the infectious attitude that spreads through any team Jones plays on. He plays off adrenaline and just has that all-out-desire when he hits the court.

While he continues to work and improve on his skill level, which must include tightening up his handle against pressure and becoming a better perimeter shooter, Jones has a knack for putting points on the board in flurries. Whether it's getting the little pull-up game going or getting out in transition and scoring off of steals, Jones will find a way to fill a scorebook.

With Jones filling that scorebook and Henry putting points on the board, this may be the year Orr basketball is finally recognized.

STC East Tourney tips season off with a bang

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By Joe Henricksen

November is here and Thanksgiving Tournaments are just three weeks away from tipping off the 2010-2011 season. And there may not be a better place to be Thanksgiving week for the high school basketball fan than the 52nd annual Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament at St. Charles East High School.

The eight-team field will feature at least three teams that will be ranked among the top 20 in the Hoops Report's preseason rankings, with three others on the cusp of being ranked among the top 25. The trio of Proviso East, Hales Franciscan and Downers Grove South figure to be the teams to beat. In addition, the tournament will boast East Aurora with star Ryan Boatright, Upstate Eight Conference favorite St. Charles North and perennial power St. Joseph.

How about this list of talented Division I prospects who will be playing at St. Charles East over Thanksgiving week:
• Ryan Boatright, East Aurora (Sr.) ... The 5-11 guard is one of the most talented and exciting seniors in the state of Illinois with UConn looking more and more like the school to beat.
• Aaron Armstead, Hales Franciscan (Sr.) ... Remains one of the top uncommitted prospects in the Class of 2011.
• Aaric Armstead, Hales Franciscan (Jr.) ... A 6-5 wing who already sports several offers and is among the top dozen juniors in Illinois.
• Jeron Wilbut, Downers Grove South (Jr.) ... A blossoming 6-2 guard who showed great promise a year ago and followed it up with a solid summer.
• Jamal Millison, Downers Grove South (Jr.) ... Another Division I guard prospect for the Mustangs and coach Jay Baum.
• Keith Carter, Proviso East (Jr.) ... Burst on the scene as a freshman and is the leader of one of the top teams in the Chicago area.
• Sterling Brown, Proviso East (So.) ... The talented 6-4 brother of L.A. Laker Shannon Brown and one of the better sophomore prospects in Illinois.
• Treshaun Carroll, Proviso East (Jr.) ... Strong, athletic warrior and part of a talented trio of young players for the Pirates.
• Kendall Stephens, St. Charles East (So.) ... One of the most promising young players in a loaded sophomore class.
• Quinten Payne, St. Charles North (So.) ... Moved back from Florida and is considered to be one of the top young players in the state.
• Cameron Harvey, St. Joseph (Jr.) ... Another Division I prospect coming through the St. Joe's basketball pipeline.

Here are the pools and schedule of games at St. Charles East.
Orange Division: East Aurora, Downers Grove South, Hales Franciscan, St. Charles North
Black Division: Proviso East, Schaumburg, St. Joseph, St. Charles East

Monday, Nov. 22
5:45 p.m. East Aurora vs. Downers Grove South
7:15 p.m. Hales Franciscan vs. St. Charles North
Tuesday, Nov. 23
5:00 p.m. Downers Grove South vs. St. Charles North
6:30 p.m. Schaumburg vs. St. Joseph
8:00 p.m. Proviso East vs. St. Charles East
Wednesday, Nov. 24
5:00 p.m. Hales Franciscan vs. East Aurora
6:30 p.m. Proviso East vs. Schaumburg
8:00 p.m. St. Joseph vs. St. Charles East
Friday, Nov. 26
2:30 p.m. St. Joseph vs. Proviso East
4:00 p.m. Hales Franciscan vs. Downers Grove South
6:00 p.m. St. Charles North vs. East Aurora
7:45 p.m. St. Charles East vs. Schaumburg

Saturday's games will be determined by pool play, with the first game scheduled to tip off at 2:30 p.m. and the championship game set for 7:45 p.m.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now beginning its 16th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

R-B's Jackson commits to Lewis

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By Joe Henricksen

With Division I schools recruiting him and offering, Riverside-Brookfield's Ryan Jackson decided to do what was best for him -- commit to local Division II school Lewis University and head coach Scott Trost.

Jackson, a strong 6-1 combo guard, committed to Lewis Monday night after visiting South Dakota State, North Dakota and Army in recent weeks. Chicago State and Utah Valley State also offered Jackson, who just returned from an official visit to North Dakota this past weekend.

The opportunity to play close to home, his relationship with the Lewis coaching staff and being able to study aviation at Lewis played a big part in looking past the Division I offers.

"Lewis was just the perfect fit for me," said Jackson. "They have want I want to major in, which is aviation, and it was the place I felt most comfortable. Plus, my mom and dad have been so supportive of me for so long. I didn't want my parents to have to travel so far to see me play ball."

In the never-ending talk and hype of "recruiting steals," Lewis actually did land a legitimate recruiting steal. There certainly wasn't a school that recruited Jackson more heavily than Lewis and Trost, who has been following his future guard throughout the spring and summer.

"I really get along with the players there and have built a great relationship with coach Trost and the staff," Jackson added. "Hopefully, with hard work, I can be an impact player there."

Jackson had a terrific year as a junior playing off the ball, with current Brown point guard Sean McGonagill running the show for R-B last winter. He averaged 16 points a game, along with a team-leading 6.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Plus, Jackson has proven to be a winner, with his R-B teams that he's played on going 69-9 overall in his career (23-0 as a freshman on the sophomore team; 24-3 as a sophomore on varsity; 22-6 last season with conference titles each year and a regional championship last season). In last year's sectional loss to Marshall, Jackson scored a game-high 31 points.

Now Jackson should flourish this upcoming season with the ball in his hands and a much-improved perimeter jumper. After a strong spring and summer on the AAU circuit with Old Gold, Jackson opened the eyes of low-Division I schools. Nevertheless, Jackson has been one of the more overlooked players in the Chicago area, constantly producing for both his high school team and with his Old Gold club team. He brings a winning attitude, intangibles and is a high character student-athlete.

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