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.
• 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.
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.
• 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.
• 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.
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
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