By Joe Henricksen
Man, the city's Red-West is fun.
While the Chicago Public League's Red-South has garnered most of the attention this winter in the city, the always-competitive and rugged Red-West is stirring again. And the latest is Farragut and its underrated star Demetrius "D.J." Tolliver, an overlooked 6-5 do-it-all type who has led Wolf Nelson's team to a 13-2 start.
Tolliver led the Admirals, who are still missing 6-7 junior Rashaun Stimage (injured hand), to a 51-49 upset road win over Whitney Young Thursday night. Although the 2007 team went 9-1 and shared the Red-West title with Marshall, this Farragut team is the best since the unbeaten Red-West champs of 2004 that won 29 games overall and reached the Elite Eight. That physically imposing and talented group was led by all-stater Ollie Bailey, Chris Singletary, Emmanuel Little and Johnny Logan.
This year's Farragut team may not be at that level, but Nelson's Admirals have certainly gained some notoriety in January, highlighted by the huge win over Whitney Young. This is a West Side team full of heart, hustle and seniors. In addition to the versatile and talented Tolliver, Gabe Williams and Alphonse Matthews are a pair of tough-minded senior guards, while 6-2 Jonathan Collins has a knack for making key plays. All four are seniors who finished in the middle of the pack of the Red-West a year ago and are looking to go out with a bang.
Those four seniors, along with the play of Stimage, opened eyes in December with a Public League Holiday Tournament title. But with many of the city powers not competing in the tournament, the title was met with little reception. But following consecutive wins over Crane, Marshall and Young, the Admirals are back in the thick of things in the Red-West after falling to Orr earlier this month.
And this much we know. The York Sectional this March will not just be De La Salle, Whitney Young and everyone else. With a senior-laden team and a healthy Stimage, Farragut will be one tough out for anyone in March.
And then there is Tolliver, who most everyone, including the Hoops Report, has overlooked.
He has quietly put together a terrific year by doing just about anything a player can do to help his team win. The problem is that on the summer circuit, the attributes Tolliver brings aren't always appreciated or glamorized. Thus, Tolliver has lived in relative obscurity on the recruiting trail.
But the rangy 6-5 Tolliver is a jack-of-all-trades. That was evident in Farragut's win over Marshall earlier this week when he filled the stat sheet: 13 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks, 5 steals and 4 assists. Then he capped off the week with a 21-point performance against Whitney Young. Tolliver is on old fashioned basketball player, who is versatile enough to create for himself and others. He goes out and makes plays and disrupts passing lanes with his wingspan, athleticism and instincts. Tolliver is a Division I player who should -- and will -- start receiving more and more interest.
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