By Joe Henricksen
The holiday tournaments are always a special time for the high school basketball fan, with different feels and atmospheres to each of the many holiday tournaments across the state. The City/Suburban Hoops Report hopped around the state the past two weeks and offers a quick recap of holiday tournament play. A complete post-holiday tournament review will be in the next issue of the Hoops Report publication, which is due out late next week.
BEST TEAM: Simeon
While it comes as no surprise, Simeon headed into the holidays as the best team and remains the team everyone thought it was after capturing the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. A nearly two-week layoff prior to the Pontiac Holiday Tournament did bring a little rust to Rob Smith's team, but it was a workmanlike performance for Simeon as the Wolverines knocked off Lockport and Warren on the final day.
BEST TEAM NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT: Peoria Notre Dame
Fans and basketball followers around Peoria are well aware of unbeaten Notre Dame, but those north of I-80 may not get a glimpse of what is one heck of a basketball team before March. Coach Eddie Mathews club knocked off previously unbeaten Rock Island in the semis of the State Farm Holiday Classic and followed it up by handing talented Glenbard East its first loss of the season. Notre Dame is now 14-0 with five wins over teams that have had a state ranking this season. The Irish get after it defensively, play extremely well together, have a mismatch every night out at the high school level with big Max Bielfeldt inside and are very well coached. This is a Class 3A state title contender.
BEST PROSPECT: Jabari Parker, Simeon
When it comes to basketball prospects in the state of Illinois, Parker is the best -- regardless of class. He may not put up the gaudy numbers others do and he may only be a sophomore, but the 6-7 Parker is one of those unique talents at a young age whose is blessed with great size, skill, instincts, basketball I.Q. and drive. And the Hoops Report continues to be so impressed with how he carries himself.
SENIOR STOCK RISER: Max Bielfeldt, Peoria Notre Dame
As college programs across the country scurry around and check under every stone for a big man with any ability, especially during the April signing period, Bielfeldt is surely becoming a hot commodity. While it's true much of Bielfeldt's dominance at the prep level does not translate to the college ranks, he remains an old fashioned player who is about productivity. After taking in his 31-point performance against Glenbard East and 28-point effort against Rock Island, Bielfeldt has shown there is a lot he can do at the mid-major level with his strength, instincts, shooting touch and will to succeed. In the final three games of the tournament, Bielfeldt scored 30, 28 and 31 points. While he's still not a pure shooting big man, Bielfeldt has that ability to step out and knock down perimeter shots and draw contact around the rim and make free throws (14 of 15 from the line in the win over Glenbard East).
Other seniors whose stock rose over the holidays
• Julian Lewis, Homewood-Flossmoor ... A couple of big games at Proviso West opened up eyes, with Lewis putting up 31 points and 10 rebounds against Proviso West and then 28 points and 7 rebounds against Proviso East. While the interest was mild throughout the summer and fall, there is a place for Lewis at the Division I level with his combination of size and length on the perimeter and a willingness to defend and do a lot of dirty work.
• Quinton Chievous, Notre Dame ... The 6-4 wing was already the Hoops Report's top uncommitted prospect in the state heading into the holidays, but an MVP performance in leading his team to a Wheeling Tournament title just adds to the resumé. Chievous led the tournament in scoring and rebounding with 22.5 points and 9.8 rebounds a game in four tournament wins.
• Brian Greene, Thornton ... The athletic guard was poised for a breakout senior year. And he's doing just that, showing a knack for producing on a big stage and in big games in the first half of this season. Strong, bouncy athlete on the wing whose shot has improved, Greene has seen his recruiting interest rise over the past several weeks. He scored 22 points in the title game win at the McDipper and was named tournament MVP.
• Mike Powell, Brooks ... With an impressive MVP performance at the Waubonsie Valley Holiday Tournament, Powell's stock is rising. In the title game, Powell was magnificent. He was calm, poised, ran the show and put up a heck of a stat line with 20 points, 10 assists and four steals. He penetrated, knocked down shots consistently and was a leader on the floor. Powell can play somewhere at the Division I level.
• Karrington Ward, Lockport ... Boy, does Ward look the part. Long, agile and athletic with an ability to impress with a big-time dunk down the lane and then rising up with a three-pointer or blocking a shot. Consistency, production and maximizing his talent have always been the knock on Ward, but he was solid at Pontiac with 19 points a game and being more assertive.
• D'Lando Carter, Danville ... A little well-kept secret outside the Chicago area, the 5-11 guard is just a flat-out scorer with his ability to break people down and get hot from beyond the three-point line. Carter is a little streaky from the perimeter, but he can put points on the board for a better-than-you-think Danville team that went 3-1 at Pontiac. Carter averaged 20 points a game at Pontiac and hit 10 three-pointers. He was constantly in attack mode on the offensive end and in transition.
JUNIOR STOCK RISER: Denzel McCauley, Rock Island
You talk about a sleeper breaking out as a college prospect! McCauley was the biggest of the holiday season for the Hoops Report. He's a legit 6-8 with a big body and frame who can run the floor and has gone from a raw prospect this past summer to a productive performer with size this winter. With good instincts and coordination, especially for a big man, and an ability to face up and knock down shots, McCauley will be a big recruiting target going forward for mid-major Division I programs.
Other juniors whose stock rose over the holidays
• Michael Orris, Crete-Monee ... A prospect in the junior class that probably isn't appreciated enough. He's an old school floor general with size at 6-3 who sees the floor and makes those around him better. He averaged 12 points and 6 assists a game in nearly leading the Warriors to a tournament title at the McDipper. Orris even knocked down six 3-pointers in four games at the McDipper, an area of his game that has shown improvement.
• Marcus Posley, Winnebago ... Another underrated prospect in the Class of 2012. The 6-1 guard put together solid performances in the DeKalb Holiday Tournament, including a 23-point effort with three 3-pointers against DeKalb and 20 points against Hinsdale South. Posley plays hard, competes, can get to the rim and continues to show an improved perimeter jumper with nine 3-pointers in five tournament games.
SOPHOMORE STOCK RISER: Jared Brownridge, Waubonsie Valley
There are a lot of players being touted in the strong Class of 2013. And despite a lack of fanfare, Brownridge is a better player and prospect than a lot of them. Believe the Hoops Report on this one -- this kid is for real. The 6-1 Brownridge may lack ideal athleticism, but he is among the best young shooters in the state and his shot is pure. He put on a show in a title game loss to Brooks at the Waubonsie Valley Holiday Tournament. Brownridge's shot is quick and accurate for a young kid, which is a big reason he's averaged over 17 points a game as a sophomore thus far. Look for the college interest in Brownridge, who the Hoops Report believes will top out at the mid-major level, to increase this offseason.
Other sophomores whose stock rose over the holidays
• Kendall Stephens, St. Charles East ... The Hoops Report has pumped up Stephens enough over the past several months, putting him among the top five prospects in the loaded Class of 2013 this past summer, but he still continues to see his stock and interest rise. Stephens, who has that feathery release and touch, will only get better as he showed flashes throughout the York Holiday Tournament.
• Jalen James, Chicago Hope ... A new name to add to the prospect list in the Class of 2013. The 6-3 guard impressed with his skill and versatility when the Hoops Report caught him in action at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament. James has a chance to be a heck of a prospect before it's all said and done, with a solid handle and a nice looking jumper for a sophomore. Overall, James is just a smooth looking player who is set to blossom, especially if he shows an ability to be a point guard with size.
OUT OF STATE, OUT OF MIND?
De La Salle didn't participate in any of the top holiday tournaments that are covered like a blanket here in Illinois, but the Meteors did roll to three wins at the WBY Classic Milwaukee. Though a trip Jan. 13 to the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Missouri will provide another measuring stick, it may be February before the Meteors receive another test from an Illinois team.
And Orr's Mycheal Henry went off for 42 points (on 19 of 24 shooting), 13 rebounds and five steals in a 71-67 win over Detroit Country Day and Ohio State recruit Amir Williams.
AND FINALLY ...
There are so many terrific holiday tournaments across the state, with several stepping up over the years to bolster their respective events in various ways. While the Pontiac Holiday Tournament remains the measuring stick when it comes to the combination of unique feel, quality teams, organization and hospitality, both the McDipper Tournament at Rich South and the State Farm Classic in Bloomington-Normal are right there at the top. And anyone who can send the chili recipe from the Jacobs Holiday Tournament to the Hoops Report it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks to all the holiday tournament organizers around Illinois.
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