By Joe Henricksen
Imagine what it would have been like if Steve Taylor and Kendrick Nunn were still uncommitted?
Despite the fact two of Simeon's highest profile players -- Taylor and Nunn -- are already committed to Marquette and Texas A&M, respectively, Tuesday night's open gym at Simeon was arguably the busiest open gym in Chicago basketball history and a scene that more resembled the Peach Jam in July or a Final Four in April.
You knew it was a little different when coaches were milling around, enjoying soft drinks and sandwiches and talking hoops in anticipation -- 45 minutes before the players were to take the floor.
"Damn, all this is making me nervous," one college coach joked.
With well over 30 coaches in attendance, including some programs coming in tandems and trios, along with a handful of talent evaluators mixed in and fans in the stands, this open gym turned into an event.
And college programs put all their efforts into this one, with some bringing two and three coaches. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching crew, assistants Jeff Capel and Steve Wojciechowski, rolled into Simeon in a limousine.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber and his assistant Jerrance Howard made yet another trip to Chicago's South Side. Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy and assistant Billy Cyprien were comforted in knowing they already had Nunn locked up.
Ohio State's Thad Matta and assistant coach Jeff Boals teamed up. Kansas coach Bill Self was joined by assistant Kurtis Townsend.
North Carolina's Roy Williams, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, DePaul's Oliver Purnell and Utah's Larry Krystkowiak were all there.
Throw in another 20 or so Division I coaches, ranging from head coaches in Tim Miles of Colorado State, Tracy Dildy of Chicago State and Howard Moore of UIC to assistants from Tennessee, Xavier, Northern Illinois, Illinois State, Ohio, Valpo, Colorado State and a few others, and this was no ordinary September night for the Simeon basketball players and program. We're talking six head coaches in Krzyzewski, Self, Weber, Matta, Williams and Izzo who have all coached in a NCAA National Championship game in the past decade. This was not a typical open gym.
The heavy hitters were obviously in attendance to be seen -- by Simeon coach Rob Smith and the No. 1 junior in the country, Jabari Parker. And as Parker played with his teammates for nearly an hour and a half, you had to wonder if any of this was starting to wear on the extremely talented, yet still humble, kid.
The night on South Vincennes did not disappoint. While the talent on display was worth the trip, how hard the players got after it and competed against one another made it even better. There were no coaches coaching, no uniforms, no refs, no band, no cheerleaders, no scoreboard operator, no won-loss record at stake ... just a bunch of talented basketball buddies hoopin. And a bunch of college coaches taking it all in.