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 firstname.lastname@example.org