By Joe Henricksen
There are several circle-the-date matchups this winter in the Chicago area, but there won't be any single game this season with as much individual talent on the floor than the Whitney Young-Simeon showdown a little over a month from now.
The two basketball superpowers and winners of the last three Class 4A state titles will collide Friday, Dec. 23 at the UIC Pavilion. The two teams met twice last season, with Simeon winning a late January regular-season game and Young winning a February city playoff matchup.
Simeon, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in Illinois and the top-ranked team in the country, according to ESPN.com, features the top-ranked senior prospect in the state in Marquette-bound Steve Taylor and the state's top two junior prospects in Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn. Whitney Young's talented trio of 6-10 super sophomore Jahlil Okafor, 6-8 sophomore Paul White and 6-9 junior Tommy Hamilton are all among the top prospects in the country in their respective classes.
Friday, Dec. 2 • St. Rita at De La Salle
The Thanksgiving tournaments are over and the real action heats up in the Chicago Catholic League in this early December matchup with plenty of Division I talent, young and old, in the gym.
Saturday, Dec. 3 • New Trier at Warren
This early-season clash features arguably the two best teams in the north suburbs and a preview of what could be a supersectional matchup in March.
Sunday, Dec. 11 • Team Rose Classic at Collins
There will be six games in all, including a blockbuster nightcap. There will be talent on hand with sophomore Cliff Alexander and Curie, St. Mel's Tevin King, Farragut's Rashaun Stimage and Marshall's Milton Doyle all in action. But the final game of the event will be a good one, with highly-regarded Homewood-Flossmoor taking on talented Crane.
Tuesday, Dec. 13 • Curie at Hyde Park
There aren't many December matchups better than this as two extremely deep and loaded teams, highlighted by Hyde Park's Kyle Davis and Curie's Cliff Alexander, battle for Red-Central supremacy.
Friday, Dec. 23 • Simeon vs. Whitney Young
With the NBA in a lockout, just move it to Dec. 25, play at the United Center and televise it so have some basketball on Christmas Day.
Friday, Jan. 13 • Morgan Park at Simeon
A young but very talented Morgan Park team may not quite be ready for the top-ranked team in the country, but this is a Red-South battle with intensity and plenty of talent.
Friday, Jan. 13 • Marist at St. Patrick
In what will be a balanced and wide open East Suburban Catholic Conference, this midseason matchup could go a long way in tilting the balance of power as Benet Academy has come back to the pack.
Saturday, Jan. 21 • High School Hoops Showdown
Elgin will face Huntley and rivals Batavia and Geneva will hook up in a tripleheader at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, but the marquee matchup is Downers Grove South and Warren. Both teams are among the top 10 teams in the Hoops Report preseason rankings and could be playing in Peoria in March.
Saturday, Jan. 21 and Sunday, Jan. 22 • Young Shootout
This two-day event will attract 20 quality teams in 10 solid matchups. But all eyes will be on the Whitney Young-Curie tilt as the state's two best big men and top two prospects in the sophomore class, Young's 6-10 Jahlil Okafor and Curie's 6-8 Cliff Alexander, go head-to-head.
Tuesday, Jan. 24 • Hillcrest at Crete-Monee
Both Hillcrest and Crete-Monee are among the top south suburban teams and clash in a heavy-hitting, non-conference game.
Thursday, Jan. 26 • St. Charles North at Elgin
Elgin, the Upstate Eight Conference's River Division champs from a year ago, will take on a strong St. Charles North team and star Quenten Payne for the second time. A conference title could be at stake in this late January showdown.
Friday, Feb. 17 • Downers Grove South at Proviso East
This will be the second matchup between these two highly-regarded teams and the one that could very well decide the West Suburban Gold title.
Saturday, Feb. 18 • City-Suburban Showdown
This tripleheader is still three months away, but the UIC Pavilion will host one of the best nights of basketball of the year. The headliner is a battle of two preseason top five teams -- Simeon and De La Salle. The added twist will be Simeon's talented guard, Jaylon Tate, will face his old teammates after his offseason transfer from De La Salle to Simeon.
Another matchup featuring two preseason top five teams, Proviso East and Warren, will be quite an undercard, while the opening game of the event showcases two more ranked teams with high expectations in St. Rita and New Trier.