By Joe Henricksen
A few quick, random thoughts following the big Simeon-Whitney Young battle at UIC on Thursday night, which the Wolverines won 62-55 to move to 8-0 on the season ...
• Simeon did not look like the No. 1 team in the country. Not on this night. But coach Rob Smith's team isn't going to look like the No. 1 team in every game it plays. The No. 1 college team in the country, no matter who it is, doesn't always look and play like the No. 1 team. And these are high school kids we're talking about, so to expect a show every game is unrealistic.
• With that being said, while Simeon did not play its best and its star didn't have his best game, the Wolverines still managed to pull away and beat arguably the second most talented team in Illinois.
• And with that being said, it's going to take a lot to beat this Simeon team. That's not a surprise. As an opponent here in Illinois, you just hope and pray it's an off night for one or two of its Big Three -- Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor and Kendrick Nunn -- when you do face them.
• Give credit to Whitney Young's defense in that the size and length of the Dolphins did give Simeon very few open looks on the perimeter or easy at-the rim baskets.
• Those that wrote off Whitney Young after the Orr loss last week may need to re-evaluate. Did the Dolphins look awful against Orr? Yes. But it was one game, on the road, early in the season with three sophomores starting and a few key components in dress clothes on the bench.
• The difference in this Simeon-Young game? The veteran, senior Steve Taylor, along with junior star Kendrick Nunn, made plays when the Wolverines needed them most. Those two stepped up in a big way and showed why they are so highly regarded. Taylor, who scored 16 points, was very active and scored four huge points down the stretch, is a really solid pick up for a Marquette team in need of a player who can knock perimeter jumpers down.
And Nunn is a terrific talent as a scoring 2-guard who has athleticism, shooting ability and toughness. He scored 19 points and rebounded well with six boards. When Simeon really needed someone to step up in the first half, he delivered, helping turn an early first half deficit into a one-point Simeon lead by the half.
• Another reason to love Derrick Rose as a Chicago sports fan: The NBA MVP and Bulls star sported a Simeon letterman's jacket as he took in the action. Smooth.
• Head coaches John Calipari of Memphis, Rick Pitino of Louisville and Oliver Purnell of DePaul were all in attendance, along with a dozen or so college assistant coaches.
• A very good crowd in attendance with roughly 6,000 fans in the 8,300 seat UIC Pavilion.
• Even in what was a somewhat quiet game for Simeon star Jabari Parker, the 6-8 junior still filled up a stat sheet and contributed to a big victory.
• Whitney Young sophomore big man Jahlil Okafor is special. There just aren't 6-10 players who have that type of ability, potential and advanced feel as a post player at this age. There are areas Okafor needs to clean up, just as any high school player must do, but he's the rare quality big man coaches around the country search high and low for.
• How about a little credit to Whitney Young? When the Dolphins were down by 15 in the second half, there was no doubt everyone in the gym believed the game was over. That game could have really slipped away for the Dolphins. But Whitney Young didn't roll over. The Dolphins clawed themselves back into it and put a bit of a scare into the state's top-ranked team. No one is really into moral victories, but this was a step in the right direction for this Whitney Young team.
• The person with the biggest smile in the Pavilion should have been University of Chicago coach Mike McGrath, who took in the action and watched two of his future players -- Whitney Young's Nate Brooks and Jordan Smith. Both Brooks and Smith looked the part, with Brooks showcasing his athleticism with a few dunks and Smith being assertive and aggressive in his return from injury. Both Brooks and Smith are the ultimate Division III recruiting steals.
• It's not as if the Simeon-Young battle is a long-lasting rivalry with great history and tradition. But it's a rivalry that has certainly started to bloom in the past few years but in a respectful, healthy way. These two programs attract the most attention, the most talent and play on the biggest stages, both locally and nationally, but they also appreciate the type of growth and atmosphere this type of game can provide both their players and programs.
• This could be the first of three meetings between these two, with each potential meeting a little bigger than the next. Simeon and Young could collide in the city playoffs in February and could meet in a Class 4A sectional in March.
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