By Joe Henricksen
The City/Suburban Hoops Report Mailbag is back: Part III. Over the last several weeks the Hoops Report has been going through dozens of questions and comments from readers, some of which were well written and highly thought out. So thank you for that! This edition of Hoops Report Mailbag III, unfortunately, will not be able to hit them all. However, another Mailbag will follow shortly so that every question is answered.
There was certainly a heavy dose of Simeon-related questions, so we could call it Hoops Report Mailbag III -- the Simeon edition. We'll hammer out the Simeon questions throughout this mailbag, with plenty of others mixed in. Here we go ...
QUESTION: To be able to coach both Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker in a five or six-year period? Come on, Joe! Is there any man luckier than coach Robert Smith at Simeon?
-- Pilsen Pauly
HOOPS REPORT: Well, Phil Jackson coached MJ and Kobe. Is that good enough? And this dude named Gabriel Aubry (quick, who knows this guy, just off his name, before I reveal who it is ... ???? ... Anyone???) ... Anyway, he was able to father a child with Halle Berry, dated Kim Kardashian and now, reportedly, is being stalked by J-Lo, who is in her absolute prime! Now doesn't that sound like a way luckier guy than Rob Smith?
QUESTION: Is there any way, if healthy, anyone other than Simeon wins a Class 4A state championship?
-- City Boy
HOOPS REPORT: No.
QUESTION: Please tell me there is someone out there who will challenge Simeon in Class 4A. Is there?
-- T.J. from Little Village
HOOPS REPORT: No.
QUESTION: Any chance all the hype and expectations placed on Simeon for this upcoming season will get to them and they disappoint?
-- R. Wills from Tinley Park
HOOPS REPORT: OK, someone is looking for a little different answer from the Hoops Report regarding this Simeon onslaught that will hit us this winter. Disappoint? Highly doubt it. Fall short? Always a possibility. Since there is a run here on "Will Simeon lose?" questions, I'll play the game with you. Lebron, D-Wade and Bosh fell short (Thank you, Mavs!). And while Kanye and Jay-Z's "Watch The Throne" was rock solid, it fell short of expectations just a bit. So Simeon not winning a third straight state championship -- remember, we're dealing with teen-aged basketball players -- is always a possibility.
OK, we'll get back to the Simeon questions later. On to another topic or two ...
QUESTION: I was reading another question from another mailbag. The question was what five NFL players would you purchase a career highlight video of? I love your blog and your take on Illinois high school basketball. So my question is what five players from the past 20 years in prep hoops in Illinois would you purchase a highlight tape of? I'm keeping it the last 20 years because I'm too young to go much past that. Thanks and love reading your stuff!
-- Tyler from Moline
HOOPS REPORT: Great, great question. And fun. I'm assuming you're saying we have full access to all these players and their games via video. But that's going to take some time. (Hmmm ... Thinking ... Thinking ... Thinking ... ). I can not narrow it down to five. No way. But I have a short list (and the reasons why).
OK, have to start with Ronnie Fields. We're talking some legendary stuff that's going to be on that video from the Farragut star. Sick, sick stuff, like Michael Jackson moonwalking for the first time stuff. So that's a no-brainer and easy choice.
Kevin Garnett. That one-year freakshow with Farragut during the 1994-95 season was not appreciated enough at the time. We're talking once-in-a-lifetime stuff that has been overlooked, even if it was for just one season. That was before the whole jumping to the NBA straight out of high school thing became the norm, too. If Garnett was at Farragut in today's world? Can you imagine? Watching that long, gangly 6-11 talent swat shots, dunk on people's heads and run the floor like no big man we've ever seen at the high school level in Illinois before or since. That needs to be on film for eternity.
I suppose we should include Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives. Why? Because if, as projected, Davis is potentially the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, he will have been the least watched high school player that went No. 1 in the NBA Draft since Michael Olowokandi in 1998 (Yes, Olowokandi was a No. 1 pick!). The "Kandi Man" was barely watched in college at Pacific, let alone in high school. And having a little film on Davis would be nice. That's what happens when no one knows who you are until the spring of your junior year and you play at Chicago Perspectives. Here's hoping Davis' career is better than the "Kandi Man's" career.
Oh, I have to include Jon Scheyer just so I can get footage of his Proviso West Holiday Tournament game where he scored 21 points in 75 seconds. The Hoops Report was lucky enough to be in the gym that night but still can't get over it. Have to have that in the video vault, along with his systematic approach to frustrating, toying and dominating more athletic players at the high school level. He was a joy to watch.
I'll put another GBN player on this list: Chris Collins. Sure, he won Mr. Basketball in 1992. But there may have never been a player who put up more shots in state history. I want to see video of the ultimate green light at the high school level.
The name Paul McPherson will only register with some avid fans, some DePaul fans and Chicago Public League fans. He had a few fine moments at DePaul, even a cup of coffee in the NBA (he played in 55 games and saw 595 minutes of NBA action). And even a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters. But I didn't get enough of him in high school when he played at South Shore. McPherson is like the movies "Karate Kid" or "Cocktail". They may be cheesy, really not even that good as far as movies go, but I'll nonetheless stop and watch at least part of them when I come across Daniel-Son working with Miyagi or Brian Flannigan (Tom Cruise) listening to Coughlin's laws. (Plus, I couldn't get enough of Elisabeth Shue in the mid-1980s and she starred in both).
And McPherson was the same way. He wasn't the greatest basketball "player". He was Ronnie Fields athletic wise, only with less fanfare and pub. His emphatic dunks on people were of legendary status. And McPherson was an anomaly. He never had a position, was never tall enough (he was 6-3 or 6-4) and never had ideal skills, yet with his freakishly strong body and athleticism he still managed to play at the highest level and was even good enough to be included in an NBA trade. (How about this: McPherson was in the blockbuster trade that sent himself, Corie Blount and Ruben Garces to Golden State for Vinny Del Negro. Yes, I said blockbuster).
I know you said keep it within 20 years, but I'm going to dip a little past 25 years and include Nick Anderson, simply because he was "my guy" as a high school basketball-loving 8th grader (Yes, even tracked prep hoops then). I want to see his games on my TV, both when he played with Prosser and when he transferred to Simeon for his senior year for the 1985-86 season. Now that I have a little better clue and grasp of basketball as an adult, I want to see how good my favorite player at the time was when he was in high school. I had a little shrine to 'ol Nelison back in the day as a starry-eyed junior high kid.
The most recent? Ryan Boatright. He put on show after show for East Aurora last season. Is it possible to be Mr. Basketball and sign with UConn and be overlooked in the Chicago area? Yes. He was as exciting of a player as you'll see at the high school level with his speed, acceleration and explosiveness. Yet a lot of people didn't see a lot of him.
QUESTION: I'm not very good at phrasing questions but here goes. Give me a player out there in high school who may not get a coach, or maybe even you, excited the first time you see him play, but you keep coming back and you just have to finally admit you like him and that he can play.
-- Charles from Libertyville
HOOPS REPORT: Charles, you did fine with your first trip to the Mailbag. I think I get where you're going with this one. For comparisons sake, it's kind of like those songs you hate to admit to others you like but, nonetheless, crank them up in the car stereo anyway while you're driving, hoping no one really sees or hears you listening to it. Just got caught the other day. Stumbling along the XM Radio dial, stopped and turned up "Escape" by Enrique Iglesias. Dude pulls up next to me at the light, looks over, gives me a more-than-deserved smirk. A day later on a bike ride through the neighborhood, a house wife has the windows open on a summer day and is blasting Enrique's "Escape" while vacuuming. Uh-oh. (In my defense, Anna Kournikova is at her absolute peak in the video.)
But there are players just like that. And, Chuck, there is one right up there in your neighborhood that fits the description -- Robert Knar of Mundelein. At first glance, whether it was his freshman year playing for his dad at Mundelein, a year ago or even this past season, you see he doesn't fit the prototype college coaches are looking for. You say, "Man, you're not supposed to like him when projecting him to the next level." He's not real big. He's not very athletic. He's not the quickest. He just doesn't look the part. But you keep coming back -- just like you listen to that song (maybe with the windows rolled up this time) when it comes on -- because he makes you come back. I wasn't initially a believer. I admit it. Initial reaction was, "Yes, he's going to be a terrific high school basketball player and scorer. And he's going to be a must-have Division II/NAIA type who, in the right fit, could possibly sneak in and play low-Division I. But you know what? Knar does three things that all college coaches look for:
1. He shoots that ball. Really shoots it.
2. He knows how to play with some creative savviness to him, and
3. He has a high confidence level.
I was sold this spring and summer. He's a mid-major player. Now several college coaches are sold with a few very nice offers out there for him. Knar has proven, despite being the kid you're not supposed to like due to the sometimes ill-fated "look test," he's a quality mid-major prospect, especially in the right system. Kudos to the kid! And shame on people like me.
QUESTION: I am a basketball junkie like yourself. I go to games all winter, catch a little AAU action in the summer. But I find myself going nuts when, in the winter, I go to games to watch a player, instead of the game, and realize just how bad the game is as I'm only there to see the player. Is it just me, the basketball junkie?
-- Parsons Gredison
HOOPS REPORT: To Parsons and the very few out there like him (and me) who go and see a player, rather than a team or a specific game, here is the way I look at it. Remember the game show "Deal or No Deal"? When I accidentally stopped to watch this How-Did-This-Get-On-Network-Television show as I went up and down the channels, I didn't stop on the channel to see the host, Howie Mandel, the obnoxious, bald-headed knuckle-bumper. I didn't care about that stupid banker in the shadows or even the contestants. There was a draw that made it all tolerable -- the 26 beautiful models holding those briefcases. That's like 26 Vanna Whites in her prime x 2. You are right, Parsons, those nights where the teams are bad, the game is awful and all you're there for is to see that one player are some of the most difficult nights of basketball in the winter months. But like "Deal or No Deal", you're there for the one draw.
QUESTION: Hey, Joe, love your stuff. But I have a couple of questions for your mailbag. Do you read message boards? If so, what's your take on the personalities and content on these boards? Also, how much do you think they impact the players, coaches and families of players and coaches? There is plenty of conjecture on some boards about how much players read what is written. Your take?
HOOPS REPORT: In general, no, I do not read too much of what is on message boards. Honestly, just don't have the time to scour the message boards, but I do have links and posts that are copied and pasted to me by fans, coaches and friends who ask what I think of this or that. And, frankly, there is just so much mis-information on them from what I have read it's tough to spend time on them. While I think it's probably fun for fans to post on message boards and they serve a purpose in that regard (fun and entertaining for some people, I guess?), I'm not a fan.
Here is what is happening. As time goes on, with all the message boards, all the people posting on social media networks and message boards, and all the "recruiting people" on websites popping up by the week, all the information is beginning to have less and less meaning. They all just start running together and fans, players and parents have to start picking out what they view as legit. But with that, they all have less and less of an impact on players, coaches and families of players and coaches. I think they are now seeing all the mis-information and take it all with a grain of salt and are accepting it for what it is.
The problem in answering the second part of your question is that there are so many different scenarios that are played out. Message boards can certainly start up fires when it comes to recruiting, but they are becoming less of a raging inferno than when they first became popular.
QUESTION: My second question ... At the Simeon-Lyons state tournament game during Jabari Parker's freshman year, I made the comment to a friend of mine that I thought he had the potential to do more than D-Rose. My friend looked at me sideways, but I still stand by that statement. Not that he will, but that he can in the end have a better overall game and rep than Derrick. Obviously, they are different kinds of players. But again, what do you think?
HOOPS REPORT: You should definitely stand by your statement. It's certainly not outlandish to think so. And it's even more impressive that you said it when you did -- back during Jabari's freshman year. I believe Parker is, without a doubt, the best prospect the state of Illinois has seen since Kevin Garnett over 15 years ago. And for you to point that out at that stage -- during Parker's freshman year -- pat yourself on the back. I remember several people telling me at that time, including several in-the-know basketball people, how Parker wasn't this, wasn't that (mostly that he wasn't athletic or explosive enough). The kid had just turned 15 and was still physically developing and maturing!!!!!
QUESTION: I hear Hyde Park has seven transfers from other Chicago Public League schools. Are those boys going to be able to play or will they have to sit out a year?
--- Seever Royale from Chicago
HOOPS REPORT: Well, it depends on who you talk to. And the number isn't seven. Derrick Randolph, who was at Whitney Young, is not at Hyde Park as some thought he might be. He's at a prep school out in California. But as of right now, all indications are several of those transfers' eligibility will be up in the air and will likely come down to a case-by-case situation. I did talk to Hyde Park coach Lamont Bryant this week. He believes they will be eligible. The biggest names are Moshawn Thomas from Bogan and Marcus Smith from Mt. Carmel.
QUESTION: It goes without saying Simeon is the premier basketball program in the state of Illinois. Tell me why. Tell me why it's this school over others and why the Wolverines have ? And who is most responsible, the players or the coaches?
-- Big Pontiac Holiday Hoop Fan
HOOPS REPORT: Another great question. Of all the schools and basketball programs currently out there, no one can combine history and both team and individual success -- and I'm talking three decades worth -- with current team and individual success more than Simeon. Other than a brief lull in the early 2000s (and we're talking 17 and 18 wins seasons as a lull), Simeon has been an Illinois prep basketball monster. King? Came and went. Westinghouse? Came and went. Quincy? Lost its luster. Whitney Young? Too recent. Thornton and Proviso East are probably the closest we can get, but they still don't match Simeon's three-decades long run of playing at the highest level. Now as to why?
Look, think of Simeon as "Saturday Night Live." (Stay with me here). While it's true SNL is not what it once was -- or even close -- the fact is this show had a phenomenal decades-long run. The show produced its share of stars, but no one was more important to the rise of "Saturday Night Live" than Eddie Murphy. And no one is more responsible for the dominating success at Simeon -- past and present -- more than the late Bob Hambric, the legendary coach who was in charge of the program from 1980-2004. And, coincidentally, the Simeon/Hambric rise coincided at the same exact time as the Eddie Murphy/SNL rise -- from 1980-1984.
Hambric took over at Simeon in 1980 and promptly went 27-2 that first year and by 1984 won a state title with a 30-1 record. Murphy elevated (maybe even saved) SNL while a regular cast member from 1980-84, then rose to box office fame with blockbuster movies "48 Hours", the "Beverly Hills Cop" series and "Trading Places."
While the likes of John Belushi and Chevy Chase came before Eddie Murphy, the show took off during Murphy's presence in the early 1980s and set the stage for an endless list of breakout performers like Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, Dennis Miller, Jon Lovitz, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, David Spade, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Adam Sandler.
And while Hambric set the tone and instilled his way on and off the floor at Simeon -- and current coach Rob Smith has maintained many of Hambric's strong influences and principles -- the program produced its own stars to keep the program in the spotlight. When you throw a half dozen names together like the late great Ben Wilson, Nelison "Nick" Anderson, Deon Thomas, Derrick Rose and now Jabari Parker into the Illinois prep basketball conversation, those are names that will last forever. And the second list is headed by Bobby Simmons and would include Tim Bankston, David Knight, Deon Butler, Cody Butler, Kevin Turner, Bryant Notree, Calvin Brock, Tim Flowers, Stan Simpson and current Wolverines Kendrick Nunn and Steve Taylor.
QUESTION: What do you think of Glenbard West this year as they have an upperclass starting five? And they have the [Mache] twins.
-- Randall from Romeoville (by way of Glen Ellyn)
HOOPS REPORT: As I'm sure you will recall, Glenbard West struggled last year. But the Hilltoppers, who certainly played with some youth last season, stepped up as the No. 21 seed and upset No. 11 seed Oswego East and No. 6 seed Waubonsie Valley to reach the regional final, where it was walloped by Glenbard East in the title game.
But Glenbard West (11-17) is in good shape heading into this season with both size and experience. It starts with 6-6 veteran Michael Mache, who had a solid season a year ago and put up some impressive numbers. Plus, his twin brother, 6-6 Matthew Mache and 6-6 senior Pat Mazza are back. The key could be the development of junior guard Jeff Levesque, who contributed significantly as a sophomore. Oak Park will certainly be the favorite in the West Suburban Silver heading into next season, but that second spot will be up for grabs.
To read previous City/Suburban Hoops Report Mailbags ...
Illinois Spot-Lite Showcase next weekend
Illinois Spot Lite's annual Fall Showcase for Illinois high school basketball prospects will be this Sunday, Sept. 18, at Ackerman Sports & Fitness in Glen Ellyn. Games will begin at 11 a.m. and run throughout the day. There are still openings for players. For more information, contact Larry Butler at (708)-574-2457.