By Joe Henricksen
Without any preseason or exhibition games in high school basketball, Thanksgiving tournaments serve a purpose -- to allow teams to work out the kinks while some sluggish basketball is played. Coaches learn a lot about their teams in those three or four games, while fans and the media can put a little too much stock in that opening week of play.
What Thanksgiving tournament time doesn't allow high school teams is very much practice time. Thus, coaches find it difficult to make corrections and point out the dozen or so items on the to-do list. Coaches are anxious to get back in the gym and putting three or four practices in succession before playing their next game.
There are some intriguing clashes between city and suburban teams that will highlight the first regular-season weekend. The Chicago Public Schools Shootout at UIC features four games on Saturday, while the McGinnis Jump Ball Showcase at Thornton will bring six programs together for sophomore and varsity games. Here is a quick look at those two events next weekend.
Chicago Public Schools Shootout at UIC, Saturday, Dec. 3
St. Charles North vs. Crane @ 1:00 p.m.
• A rough start for St. Charles North -- the North Stars went 1-3 in the St. Charles East Tournament -- and it won't get any easier facing a very talented and a bit overlooked Crane team on Saturday afternoon. But it's a chance to see St. Charles North junior Quenten Payne, a Loyola commit, take on coach Chris Head's club.
Gary Bowman vs. Curie @ 3:00 p.m.
• The lone out-of-state school will get a crack at one of the top teams in the Chicago Public League. Coach Mike Oliver's Curie club is a veteran group that also features 6-8 super sophomore Cliff Alexander and Mt. Carmel transfer Malcolm Hill-Bey.
Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Morgan Park @ 5:00 p.m.
• Wayne Blackshear may be at Louisville, but there is still plenty of talent at Morgan Park, albeit some young talent. This is young vs. old as the youth of Morgan Park, which is led by standout junior guard and DePaul commit Billy Garrett, faces a veteran H-F team that lost to Bloom in double overtime in the title game of the Chicago Heights Classic.
Hillcrest vs. Simeon @ 7:00 p.m.
• The Hawks will have their hands full with the state's top-ranked team and two-time defending state champs, but it will be an early measuring stick for coach Don Houston's team. Hillcrest may not be a star-laden team, and it's still getting used to not having Juice Brown around, but the Hawks are deep, balanced and off to a 3-1 start. Simeon, meanwhile, tips off a highly anticipated season.
McGinnis Jump Ball Showcase at Thornton, Sunday, Dec. 4
• The highlight of the day will be the presence of the state's best team, Simeon, which boasts the state's top player in junior Jabari Parker. The top-ranked Wolverines will take on a Niles Notre Dame team that is young but talented. Coach Tom Les, whose team won 23 games a year ago, replaced all five starters and went 4-1 in the Lane Tech Tournament. The Dons have a pair of talented sophomores in Jon Johnson and Duante Stephens.
Westinghouse vs. T.F. North @ 4:00 p.m.
Farragut vs. Thornton @ 5:30 p.m.
Simeon vs. Niles Notre Dame @ 7:00 p.m.
(The sophomore teams for each of these six teams will play at 11:30 a.m. (Westinghouse vs. T.F. North), 1:00 p.m. (Farragut vs. Thornton) and 2:30 p.m. (Simeon vs. Notre Dame)