By Joe Henricksen
A year ago the Chicago Public League's Red-South stood out from the rest of the pack, with 4A champ Simeon, 3A third-place finisher Brooks, Wayne Blackshear and Morgan Park, 19-win Carver and upstart Bogan. This year? While it's not in the class of last year's Red-South battles, the Red-West is flexing its city muscle.
Despite the lackluster performance turned in by Whitney Young in a loss to Orr last week, where the Dolphins scored just 29 points in the defeat, the Red-West features depth with six teams ranked among the top 25 teams in the Chicago area.
Marshall, led by active and underrated wing Milton Doyle, is off to a 8-1 start. Crane looks as if it will be a Class 3A threat in March. Orr is young but dangerous. Farragut features guards who can score and a talented Rashaun Stimage, the Hoops Report's No. 2 prospect in the senior class. And North Lawndale has come out of nowhere with a 5-1 start.
The Hoops Report still doesn't know what to make of the Whitney Young loss to Orr last week. Losing to its Red-West foe was one thing, but anyone in attendance saw a Whitney Young team no one expected to see.
And the rest of the weekend rewind ...
• The Hoops Report has said it before and will say it again, Orr has some of the most overlooked, least talked about players and prospects in the city and suburbs. Give me 6-6 junior Marquis Pryor, junior point guard Jamal McDowell and 6-5 sophomore Tyquane Greer any day. Pryor is among the top dozen prospects in the Class of 2013. Greer, who received his first offer last week from Providence, will see his stock explode soon. And McDowell is the type of point guard you win games with as he's tough, under control and a winner.
• Although the Hoops Report highlighted the talent, potential and legitimacy of St. Viator in last week's blog, no one could have expected what the 9-0 Lions did to Marist last Friday night. Coach Mike Howland's club was sporting a 47-17 lead by the half en route to a big 78-39 East Suburban Catholic Conference victory.
• Speaking of Marist, it was a weekend to forget. Aside from the thumping it took from St. Viator, the Redhawks lost to Chicago Taft on Saturday. That loss is going to be a tough sell come sectional seeding time with Marist in a city-dominated sectional. No one is going to want that No. 8 or No. 9 seed as it will be paired up with Simeon in a regional championship game.
• Staying in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, what Benet Academy has been able to do this season has been pretty impressive in the early going. Sophomore big man Sean O'Mara really has a chance to be a heck of a player.
• It's tough to see a program with such great tradition as East Aurora suffer the way it has in the first third of the season. The Tomcats, who could count on superstar Ryan Boatright and some valuable role players to support him the past four seasons, have been through the wringer. Coach Wendell Jeffries, who was already dealt a young, inexperienced team, is trying to survive injuries and suspensions as well. East Aurora is 0-9 following a 73-42 blowout loss to rival West Aurora.
• Fastforward 11 days and fans in the south suburbs could be treated to a battle of unbeaten teams ranked in the top five if both Bloom and Seton Academy can take care of business at the McDipper. How about a 14-0 Seton taking on an 11-0 Bloom in the McDipper title game? Bloom point guard Donald Moore has been absolutely huge for the Blazing Trojans this year, both in his production and ability to carry his team when needed.
• Why does it always seem like everyone forgets about Morton every year? The Mustangs, who have averaged 19 wins a season over the past seven years playing a very competitive schedule, are off to a 6-1 start heading into the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. The Morton-Hillcrest battle in the first round at Proviso West is one of the better opening day games you will find in any tournament across the state.
• Although it's a team of no-namers, Naperville North is 6-1 after its season-opening loss to De La Salle. The Huskies (6-2) have quietly jumped out to a 3-0 start in the DuPage Valley and are tied with West Aurora for the top spot heading into the holidays. If Naperville North can get by unknown but unbeaten Kenwood and then Waubonsie Valley in the York Tournament, it could get another crack at De La Salle in the semifinals.
• How about the Lake Division of the North Suburban Conference? The top four teams in the league -- Stevenson, Warren, Libertyville and Mundelein -- are now a combined 29-5.
• Rolling Meadows did share a Mid-Suburban League East title in 2005, but the program hasn't spent a lot of time in the top spot over the years. But the Mustangs are 3-0 in the MSL East after their 65-47 weekend win over Elk Grove. Don't underestimate the value of solid guard play, which four-year varsity performer Brian Nelms provides coach Kevin Katovich. With the steady and valued Nelms at point guard, along with Tyler Gaedele as his sidekick -- the two have combined to average just over 25 points a game -- Rolling Meadows could better last year's 7-3 and second place finish in the league.
• Playing without 6-9 junior Tommy Hamilton has been a burden for Whitney Young. Now it appears the Dolphins will be without the skilled 4-man for quite a bit longer as Hamilton will have surgery this Friday on the patellar tendon injury he's been battling. Hamilton's injury is not a complete tear, such as the one NBA player Caron Butler had last season.