By Joe Henricksen
The much-hyped, blockbuster game between Simeon and Morgan Park is in the rearview mirror. Morgan Park and Wayne Blackshear may have fallen short in making a statement -- both as a team and in the Mr. Basketball race -- but opportunities await. If coach Nick Irvin's Mustangs take care of business, another shot at Simeon in the Chicago Public League playoffs in February awaits and would provide additional prep basketball theatre. Remember, it's Morgan Park's title to defend. Plus, the move down to Class 3A this season surely places Morgan Park among the top two or three state title contenders -- if not the favorite.
Simeon, meanwhile, is just good 'ol Simeon -- the premier team in the state of Illinois and one of the best in the country. Everyone brings their best shot at the defending champs but coach Rob Smith's club handles what is thrown at them and can beat you in a number of ways.
Sophomore Kendrick Nunn was terrific in the win over Morgan Park and provided a big lift off the bench. Nunn's performance against Morgan Park, along with a solid effort in a win over Carver earlier in the week, is a great sign for the Wolverines going forward. The promising young guard struggled throughout the four games in late December at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. In four games at Pontiac, Nunn scored a total of 16 points (7 of 22 shooting and just two 3-pointers) and had just one assist and 16 turnovers.
His overall handle, especially his off-hand, is still developing, but the young lefty already has a high-major quality: shooting the basketball. He's a sniper on the perimeter with above-average athleticism and is clearly among the top five prospects in the sophomore class.
CRETE IS CROCKETT-CHARGED: When DePaul recruit Jamie Crockett's motor is running and he's playing with a vengeance, Crete-Monee is a different team. In two big wins this past week over Homewood-Flossmoor and Bloom, the 6-4 highly-athletic Crockett scored a combined 46 points, including 11 big points in the fourth quarter conference win over Bloom.
Crete-Monee has weathered a big storm, playing a tough schedule and having to deal with injuries at some point in this season to starters Greg Mays, Kentrell King and Marvie Keith. Through it all the Warriors stand 15-3 and in position to claim a Southland Conference title. Things don't get any easier, however, with defending Class 3A champ Hillcrest up next for coach Matt Ryndak's club on Tuesday night.
NNANNA'S VALUE: After taking in the De La Salle-St. Ignatius game Friday night, the player Nnanna Egwu has become is so impressive. The St. Ignatius big man looks so comfortable and confident with his 12-17 foot face-up jumper and even establishing position with his back to the basket. So what we have here is a player who is 6-10, plays hard, coachable, willing to go on the block, runs the floor better than 90 percent of big men, is a defensive presence and is now adding more and more to his offensive game. Those are hard to come by.
No, we're not talking a true alpha-dog big man here in the scope of a Hakeem Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing, but we're talking a true, traditional center. And I repeat: Those are hard to come by. There isn't even one true, high-major center prospect in the entire state in the Class of 2012 or the Class of 2013. College coaches covet them and get them when they can. That's why that whole Illinois-Purdue flip-of-the-coin that went Bruce Weber's way (No, we're not talking literal flip of the coin) was so critical in recruiting the Class of 2011.
Here is a prediction: When it's all said and done, Egwu will be better and a more productive college player than many of the current senior prospects ranked ahead of him in the national rankings.
With Egwu being the best true big man in the state, it shows the quality of talent across the board in the Class of 2011 here in Illinois. With the state's top prospect, Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives, as a multi-talented face-up 4-man (or even a wing down the road with his skill level), along with Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear on the wing, that is one heck of a frontline coming out of the state of Illinois in this senior class.
HELLO, MY NAME IS PAT BOYLE: Let me introduce myself. "My name is Pat Boyle. I am a 6-foot, floppy-haired, tough son-of-a-gun who plays second fiddle to ... (Wait, who am I kidding?) ... fifth fiddle for the state's No. 2 ranked team.
Benet Academy's romp over Glenbard East Saturday night included a stellar performance from senior Pat Boyle. In four games at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, Boyle scored a grand total of 13 points and was 0-for-3 from the three-point line. By halftime at the Sears Centre against Glenbard East, he had 13 points and a trio of three-pointers en route to a game-high 22 points.
There were certainly questions as to whether Benet would be able to replace some key role players from a year ago. Those questions have been answered, particularly due to the selfless play of Boyle and the steady play of sophomore Pat McInerney. The strong 6-4 McInerney, who gained some valuable experience a year ago during Benet's run to the supersectional as a freshman, has provided a presence on the boards and around the basket. He's proven to be a nice complement to fellow big man Frank Kaminsky.
ON THE MARK: Highly-regarded Derrick Marks of Plainfield Central, who is headed to Boise State next season, must have had enough of seeing Plainfield North's Jack Krieger's name splattered across the headlines in the Southwest Prairie. While Krieger has had a breakout senior year, Marks went out and scored 38 in a win over their district rival on Friday night.
NORTH vs. NORTH in CSL NORTH: Niles North made things interesting in the Central Suburban League North with its upset win over Glenbrook North Friday night. But despite the loss, Glenbrook North remains in control with a 5-1 league mark and is on track to capture -- get this -- its 10th straight shared or outright CSL North title. The last time Glenbrook North didn't finish on top? The Spartans finished second in 2001 as Maine East captured the league title.
LIL' DERRICK CLOSE?: The long-awaited return of Whitney Young junior Derrick Randolph is getting closer. The Dolphins could have their talented 5-6 point guard back as soon as this coming week. Randolph will make a huge difference for coach Tyrone Slaughter down the stretch run. He puts pressure on opposing teams at both ends of the floor and just brings an entirely different dimension to Whitney Young.
MORE YOUNG: Ohio State-bound Sam Thompson was solid in Whitney Young's win over Orr on Thursday night. Although he had help in shutting down Orr's high-scoring Mycheal Henry, he again showed what a weapon he can be defensively with his length, quickness and overall athleticism. Thompson also put down what may have been arguably the best dunk the Hoops Report has seen this season, a flying, down-the-lane tomahawk over a couple of Orr defenders.
Whitney Young did suffer a setback this past week as it was learned UNC-Wilmington recruit Luke Hager is out with a foot injury that he had been playing through. Hager is in a walking boot and will miss a month.
ORR'S STRUGGLES: After taking in the Whitney Young-Orr game Thursday night, it's apparent this team is going to go how Mycheal Henry goes. When Henry is off the mark, this team really has trouble scoring points. Orr has struggled more than most people thought (Orr lost in Milwaukee on Saturday), but if it can right the ship before March the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional in Class 3A is still winnable for them.
RED-HOT DGS: There aren't many teams playing better basketball right now than coach Jay Baum's Downers Grove South Mustangs. With a win over Proviso East Friday night, Downers South has won eight straight and moved into a tie for first place in the West Suburban Gold. This is a balanced team with a difference-maker in junior Jerron Wilbut.
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