By Joe Henricksen

February 2012 Archives

Scare-O-Meter already running high

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By Joe Henricksen

Goodness. We are only a couple of days into Class 4A and 3A state tournament play and there have already been a few upsets and plenty of big scares throughout the Chicago area and around the state. Here is what transpired in the first batch of regional semifinal games Tuesday night.

• Hey, they're still Thornton. While it may have been an uncharacteristic year in Harvey, the Wildcats, who wrapped up the regular season with a 10-15 record, pulled off Tuesday's biggest upset. Thornton beat Shepard in the play-in game on Monday and then stunned fourth-seeded Crete-Monee and Michael Orris on Tuesday night, 39-37, to advance to Friday's regional championship. The Wildcats are now in position to keep their regional title streak alive as it currently stands at nine straight regional championships.

• In another upset of a No. 4 sectional seed, Waukegan fell to Fremd in the regional semis. Fremd, the No. 13 seed but with 16 wins on the season, fought off rival Palatine 50-48 in the play-in game Monday night and came back Tuesday night and beat up Waukegan 71-54.

• The scare-o-meter was at full throttle at Downers Grove South Tuesday night, where Jerron Wilbut and Company, the No. 2 seed in the East Aurora Sectional, held on for a 69-68 win over Oswego East, the No. 15 seed.

• It wasn't exactly a comfortable win for the top seed in the Lockport Sectional. Bloom did manage to pick up its 25th win and advance to Friday's regional championship, but it did so in a narrow 41-37 win over T.F. North.

• Metea Valley, hosting its own regional after putting together a terrific 22-win regular season, held off upstart Geneva in the regional semifinals. No. 3 seed Metea Valley advanced to the regional title game with a tight 45-42 win over 14th-seeded Geneva.

• Was St. Joseph looking ahead to a regional showdown with Farragut? The Chargers needed a 30-point effort from Reggie Johnson and a terrific game from sophomore Paul Turner to avoid a shocking upset to Nazareth Academy, a team that went just 1-7 in St. Joe's old stomping grounds -- the East Suburban Catholic. St. Joseph held on for a 68-65 win.

• Mt. Carmel had opportunities in the closing seconds to pull off a stunner over Bogan, but the third-seeded Bengals held on for a 65-64 win over the 13th-seeded Caravan. Bogan will face another Chicago Catholic League team in De La Salle, who played without injured 6-8 junior Gavin Schilling Tuesday night, in the regional final.

• Fresh of an exhilarating upset of Hillcrest last week and hoping for another shot at the Hawks in the sectional semis next week, Lemont nearly had its dream season end abruptly. Lemont held off a 9-17 Corliss team and advanced to Friday's regional title game with a 59-55 victory.

• And way down south, Collinsville has seen was too much of Belleville West in the last five days. Last Friday night, a 23-win Collinsville team was shocked by Belleville West as the Kahoks lost a conference championship. Then Belleville West comes right back Tuesday night and ends Collinsville's season with a 61-57 upset of the top-seeded team in the regional.

So what will Wednesday night bring?

Wanna win it all?

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By Joe Henricksen

So you want to win in March? The state tournament tips off around the state for all Class 4A and 3A schools Monday night. If a team has legitimate hopes of capturing a state championship, here are a few do's and dont's of March with a proven track record and trends to back it up.

THE 2 DONT'S
1. Don't show up without future Division I players
Star players play with confidence. These are the players who lead teams and their teammates look to and believe in. And without Division I talent (preferably two Division I players), you're not going to win a state title. Want proof? Since 1990 every big school state champ, including the last four years of 4A and 3A basketball, has had at least two Division I players with the exception of two teams -- Glenbrook North and Rock Island. And they had two special ones in Mr. Basketball winners Jon Scheyer and Chasson Randle.

2. Don't shoot too many three-pointers
Teams have to be careful of shooting too many 3s, even those that live and die with the three-point shot. While the shot has revolutionized the game, historically it does not translate to winning a state title. In a season, one bad shooting night can be overcome; in a single-elimination scenario, it will end a season. In the last 22 years, covering the last 26 state champions, there have only been six teams -- Rock Island last season, Champaign Centennial in 2009, Glenbrook North in 2005, Peoria Central in 2004, Schaumburg in 2001 and Proviso East in 1992 -- with a player that has made 50 or more three-pointers on the season. And two of those five teams needed three games in the Elite Eight to get a player over the 50 three-pointer mark.

THE 3 DO'S
1. Feature a game-plan wrecker
Each team needs five wins to reach Peoria and two more to win it all. In those seven games a team will have a subpar game -- against a quality opponent. And when it's a one-and-done tournament, a true state title contender needs the elite superstar to get them through the scare.

TEAMS THAT FIT THE MOLD: Simeon (Jabari Parker), Downers Grove South (Jerron Wilbut), Whitney Young (Jahlil Okafor), North Chicago (Aaron Simpson)

RULE-BREAKER: Richards, 2008 and Simeon, 2010

2. Rely on experience
Preparation in March is not nearly as long as it normally is, with sometimes only a day (or less in Peoria) to prepare during tournament time. That's one thing that makes experience vital. Warren did reach a state title game a year ago. A big difference, though, between last year's Warren team that finished second and this year's that is expected to return to Peoria? Even more experience. Coach Chuck Ramsey has three seniors who started a year ago and two others that played in every game. And that's good news considering since the 1996 Peoria Manual team that won a state title, which started three underclassmen in juniors Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin with sophomore Frank Williams, every team but two has had at least three senior starters -- the majority with at least four.

TEAMS THAT FIT THE MOLD: Proviso East, Warren, Curie, Plainfield East, Peoria Manual

RULE-BREAKER: Peoria Central, 2003 and Simeon, 2010

3. Rely on your halfcourt offense
The teams you play late in state tournament play are obviously the better teams, so it's more difficult to get transition baskets. The good teams don't turn the ball over as much and usually are better at getting back to defend, so halfcourt offense becomes imperative. There have been few teams that play at breakneck speed, play an angry fullcourt press and thrive in transition that have claimed state titles in the last decade. Over the years, when those matchups have occurred, the team that can control tempo when it needs to and revert back to its halfcourt offense, has fared better. There are elite teams, however (i.e. Proviso East and Curie), that have and can rely on transition baskets.

RULE-BREAKER: Marshall (3A), 2008 and Westinghouse, 2002

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Several seniors still stating their case

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By Joe Henricksen

The regular season is coming to a close this weekend, with Class 4A and 3A regional action tipping off Monday night. With the arrival of state tournament play, it's a final chance for college coaches to take in game action of prospects who remain unsigned and uncommitted. The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at many of the senior prospects who hope to leave one lasting impression on a college coach in the coming two weeks.

• Jerron Wilbut, Downers Grove South
There is a flurry of interest surrounding the athletic 6-3 guard, which will only enhance as Wilbut gets closer to qualifying between now and the end of the school year. Wilbut is the Hoops Report's No. 3 ranked prospect in the senior class in Illinois.
 
Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg was in to see Wilbut Wednesday night and remains very interested. Wilbut took in the DePaul-Louisville game last weekend as the Blue Demons continue to keep tabs, and Oregon has been very active in recruiting Wilbut throughout the season. Cleveland State, Missouri State and Dayton all are in the mix as well, while Maryland is the latest program to show an interest. The Terrapins are expected to make a trip to the Chicago area to catch Wilbut in state tournament action.
 
• Willie Conner, Crane
The interest in the big-bodied, strong 6-4 wing was minimal when the summer concluded, but since Conner has pumped in over 20-plus a night for coach Chris Head's Cougars, the interest has picked up considerably from a wide-range of schools from the low-major and mid-major levels. Conner is now among the top 20 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings and one of the better unsigned players on the board.
 
"When it's all said and done, he's going to be a mid-major, a high mid-major college player," says Head. "Willie's best basketball is ahead of him because he works so hard. He's a student-athlete, a great kid with a solid support system. He's one of the best players in the city."
 
• Akeem Springs, Waukegan
The 6-3 wing brings a lot to the table, including versatility and outstanding academics. After having committed to Tennessee State and then de-committing, then signing with Mississippi Valley State and then being released, Springs is on the open market again.
 
UIC has been heavily involved, recently offering the four-year Waukegan star. Florida A&M has offered and even Mississippi Valley State has remained in the mix. Several Ivy League schools remain in the hunt, with prep school still an option. Springs, who is currently battling a shoulder injury that pops in and out of placed, has received inquiries from Nebraska, Penn State and Ole Miss.

• Devin Foster, Curie
If there was a Most Improved Player Award in high school basketball, Foster would be in the mix when looking at how far he's come as a player since the end of last season. He's been one of the Public League's most productive and consistent players all winter, averaging nearly 19 points a game and having a knack for making plays when his team needs them the most.

"He just does so much and impacts a game is many ways," says Curie coach Mike Oliver, whose team is 24-2 heading into state tournament play.

Eastern Michigan, Valparaiso, Pan American, Western Illinois and IPFW have all shown a growing interest in the 6-3 guard who climbed into the Hoops Report's top 20 prospects in the senior class.
 
• Paris Burns, Proviso East
The City/Suburban Hoops Report has been on the Burns bandwagon since watching him shine with his new Proviso East team this past fall and now throughout the season. He continues to be one of the overlooked talents in the senior class, an unsigned "player" who may not fit any one description or position but just makes plays. The 5-9 Burns, who is blessed with tremendous quickness and athleticism, is a playmaker who constantly puts pressure on opposing guards.
 
"There aren't many players in high school who constantly attack on both ends of the floor," says Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce. "He's a player who loves to compete."
 
Burns, who is averaging just over 13 points a game for the state's No. 2 ranked team, poured in 30 points in a win earlier this season. He has offers from Hampton and Florida A&M, while Niagara, Northeastern, Wisconsin-Green Bay, LaSalle and Valpo have all checked in on Burns. He is among the top 30 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings and should be coveted by low-Division I schools.

• Gabe Levin, Oak Park
Another player whose stock has soared, both in the eyes of the Hoops Report and Division I college coaches. Levin, who the Hoops Report projected as an ideal small college prospect at the Division II/NAIA level following the summer, has proven the Hoops Report and many wrong by solidifying himself as a Division I prospect since the start of the season. The 6-6 senior proved his worth once again Wednesday in a loss to Proviso East, scoring 19 points, pulling down 15 rebounds and adding six blocks and five steals. On the season, Levin  is averaging 19 points, 9 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2 assists a game.
 
"He's improved every facet of his game," says Oak Park coach Matt Maloney. "He has worked tirelessly on becoming a wing player and has shown improved ball-handling, passing, shooting and defensive work on the perimeter. He is much more assertive and confident this year."
 
Loyola, Colgate, South Dakota State and Sacramento State have all offered Levin, while both Bradley and Wright State showing interest.

• Kory Brown, Elgin
The 6-4 senior has put together a stellar career at Elgin and has flown under the radar this season in leading the Maroons to a 21-3 record and an appearance in Friday's Upstate Eight Conference title game. Although Brown has several Division II offers, he has yet to attract at Division I offer at this point. However, led by heavy interest from Loyola, along with Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois, Brown's Division I interest has picked up. A stat sheet stuffer and a top 35 prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings, Brown is averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds a game.

• Donald Moore, Bloom
The jet-quick Moore has grown as a point guard. Just ask his coach, veteran Jasper WIlliams.
 
"In comparison to last year, it's like night and day," says Williams. "He's making such good decisions at the end of basketball games and is doing a better job of getting everyone involved."
 
Moore still has time to score for the 24-3 Blazing Trojans. He's averaging 16 points a game, along with four assists while shooting 41 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the line.
 
The Division I interest has been mild, even though Moore has improved his academic standing and is now a full qualifier. Cal-Poly and Northeastern have been the most active in recruiting Moore.
 
• Tim Williams, Homewood-Flossmoor
The 6-7 versatile forward has been healthy after a junior year in which he missed almost the entire season and splitting time between football and basketball in the offseason. Williams has decided to focus solely on basketball going forward and will be taking an official visit to Florida International this weekend. Both Toledo and IPFW have shown the most interest in Williams, who is averaging 11.5 points and 7 rebounds a game.
 
• Eddie Alcantera, Hales Franciscan
The big-bodied, athletic 6-4 wing has had a solid season and picked up an offer from Pepperdine. Utah has recently been in to check on Alcantera and remains interested, while he's also heard from the likes of Oklahoma, Florida State, Northeastern and La Salle.

Hoops Report's Top 15 Uncommitted Seniors
1. Rashaun Stimage, 6-7, PF, Chicago (Farragut)
A big-time talent with athleticism and upside who will be headed the juco route.
2. Jerron Wilbut, 6-3, 2G, Downers Grove (South)
As his academic standing continues to improve, so does the interest.
3. Marlon Johnson, 6-9, PF, Joliet (West)
After a couple of years of juco, Johnson could emerge as a high-major player.
4. Akeem Springs, 6-3, 2G, Waukegan
A prospect who brings a nice combination of toughness and academics.
5. Willie Conner, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Crane)
Big, strong, physical wing who gets a lot done and plays hard.
6. Devin Foster, 6-3, 2G, Chicago (Curie)
Has put his name on the map with an outstanding senior season.
7. Eddie Alcantera, 6-4, WF, Chicago (Hales)
Absolutely looks the part and could be a big perimeter defender at the next level.
8. Tim Williams, 6-7, PF, Homewood-Flossmoor
Hoping to put together a big senior run this March.
9. Jaleni Neely, 5-10, PG, Chicago (Simeon)
The best pure point guard available in the senior class and Simeon's key in March.
10. Kevin Jordan, 6-10, C, Peoria (Central)
Another promising junior college big man prospect who has really improved his game.
11. Gabe Levin, 6-6, WF/PF, Oak Park-River Forest
Continues to get better and better while impacting games in a variety of ways.
12. Paris Burns, 5-10, PG/2G, Proviso East
Doesn't have the size or a true position, but he's a playmaker and tough as they get.
13. Kory Brown, 6-4, WF, Elgin
May not do any one thing great but does a lot of different things well.
14. Donald Moore, 5-11, PG, Bloom
Has evolved into a solid point guard who brings true speed and quickness to the position.
15. Jawad Adekoya, 6-4, WF, Tinley Park (Andrew)
Has been hampered with an injury of late, but he's been impressive.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Not their type of season

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By Joe Henricksen

Walk into the East Aurora gym a year ago and there was a buzz and electricity. The great, old basketball venue on the East Side of Aurora was rocking, maybe not quite like the Ernie Kivisto days when the Tomcats put up big point totals and excited the masses behind the passionate and entertaining coach, but the "Boat Show" was a draw.

Just one year later and with Ryan Boatright playing at UConn, East Aurora, which reached a sectional final last season, is suffering through the toughest season in the tradition-rich program's history. The Tomcats are a hard-to-believe 2-23 in the final week of the regular season.

East Aurora, in a peculiar twist of fate, is one of several highly-successful programs in the Chicago area dealing with something it has rarely experienced: losing. Thornton has been out of the conference race all season and is 10-13. Defending 2A state champs Hales Franciscan is 11-17. Zion-Benton is in last place in the North Suburban Lake and in jeopardy of having its first losing season in 18 years.

"It's different but it hasn't been as difficult as some would think," says East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries, who took over the program a decade ago. "I'm a coach. Some take losing to heart. I take it as a learning tool and experience. You gain from it as a team -- and as a coach -- and get better."

Thornton basketball has an elite history and has enjoyed enormous success, including a joyride over the past eight years under current coach Troy Jackson. The past eight years in Harvey have produced a whopping 24 wins a season and an overall won-loss total of 195-44. Throw in eight straight regional titles and three trips to Peoria and it's easy for an average fan to do a double-take when seeing the current 10-13 record Thornton has in February.

"It's been very tough, especially when you are so used to the seasons we've had for so many years," says Jackson, who went 76-11 in three seasons at Proviso East prior to taking over the Thornton program. "These are good kids who have worked hard. It's certainly been different, at times a real challenge."

Hales Franciscan is a program that has won two state championships and finished third once since 2003. Plus, there was a state title won in 2005 that Hales was forced to forfeit. The expectations remained high for the 2011-2012 season.

Coach Gary London's club was fresh off winning a Class 2A state championship last year and returned its top player, 6-5 Division I prospect Aaric Armstead. The Spartans were expected to be among the top 10 teams when the preseason rankings came out, but that all changed quickly in August. Aaric Armstead left Hales and moved to California, along with his two brothers -- up-and-coming junior Adam Armstead and talented freshman Austin Armstead.

Losing the Armstead clan has proved to be too much to overcome overnight. The Spartans, who will get a shot at Class 2A favorite Seton Academy in a regional final Friday night, have struggled to a 11-17 record.

And then there is Zion-Benton, a program that hasn't suffered through a losing season in nearly 20 years. The Zee-Bees have been so successful under coach Don Kloth that they have won at least 18 games every year since the 1992-93 season, which was the last time they were under .500. In that nearly two-decade long run, Kloth's teams averaged an astonishing 23 wins a year. Throw in some postseason success -- 13 regional championships, four sectional titles and a state runner-up finish in 2008 -- and Zion-Benton has been one of the state's winningest programs over the past 20 years.

This year? Zion-Benton is uncharacteristically in last place in the North Suburban Lake with a 2-10 record and just 13-14 overall.

The hovering around .500 hasn't been completely unexpected in Zion. The Zee-Bees returned just one regular, super sophomore Milik Yarbrough, from last year's team. Kloth has often started three sophomores and a junior this year in a senior-heavy North Suburban Lake Conference.

"We have faith, we trust our system and we've been quite pleased with how our players have hung in there," Kloth points out. "The attitude has been great, but it's been a learning process. I can't say it hasn't been a little different."

Adds Jeffries, "It definitely poses different challenges, but we have some younger talent. It's not going to last too long."

Maybe more surprising than the struggles of these particular programs is the fact it hasn't happened sooner. It is high school basketball, after all, where new recruits stock the cupboard. A down cycle is bound to happen sooner or later.

"As a high school basketball coach, at this level, you're going to periodically have a year like this where you don't win as much," says Kloth. "You do get used to winning, but this is reality."

Please, basketball gods, give me Simeon-Proviso East

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By Joe Henricksen

Any religious Hoops Report readers out there (Where are you? Make yourself seen!), especially those that hit the Hoops Report trifecta regularly -- reading this blog, the City/Suburban Hoops Report column in every Friday Sun-Times and subscribes to the Hoops Report publication -- have heard my 2011-2012 ramblings. The season just hasn't been all that, well .... what's the word? Energizing? Memorable? Enticing? Fun?

Yes, there are some great feel-good stories that have emerged (Keep it up, Plainfield East! ... Time for Donnie Boyce to run for Mayor of Maywood! ... Metea Valley? ... St. Rita's Tony Hicks to the Ivy League ... Andrew's basketball significance arriving ... Coach Chuck Ramsey's final run at Warren), but the overall quality and depth of talented teams out there is just lacking.

There is Simeon. There is Proviso East. And we'll throw Curie and Warren in there much like NBA analysts like to add the Pacers and Sixers into the Eastern Conference mix with the Bulls and Heat. But outside of Maywood and the corner of 83rd and Vincennes on the city's South Side, it's a muddled mess of slightly above average teams looking up at the two giants.

Which brings me back to Simeon and Proviso East, a pair of storied high school basketball programs that have been ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, pretty much all season long.

But first, a sincere Hoops Report apology to all those teams around the state with dreams of playing the final game on the final night of the season. And, specifically, a big advanced apology to those teams in the Argo and Schaumburg sectionals. But the Hoops Report wants, needs, has to have a Simeon-Proviso East state championship game March 17. No ifs, ands or buts about it, just the mere possibility of this one has me so energized I have gone back to thinking it's 1997 again.

While the anticipation of a potential Simeon-Proviso East showdown in 2012 doesn't really come close to the magnitude of when everyone from Cairo to Rockford wanted -- and desperately hoped for -- a one-for-the-ages Peoria Manual-Thornton rematch in 1997, we can at least call this one Manual-Thornton Lite.

Simeon-Proviso East would be an action-packed affair with real drama (the defending champs going for a dynasty vs. the re-charged elite program trying to revive one) and never-ending storylines (read on).

(Off topic here, but this just popped into my head ... What if we had the magical ability to pit an all-time Simeon team vs. an all-time Proviso East team where all 10 players were able to play together in their prime? We could see a Simeon five of Ben Wilson, Nick Anderson, Deon Thomas, Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker take on a Proviso East five of Michael Finley, Doc Rivers, Dee Brown, Shannon Brown and Jim Brewer. Oh, yeah, that works. Doc and Derrick going at it! Oooooohhhhhh! We could even have the two current coaches, Rob Smith and Donnie Boyce, still on the bench, though Boyce would be a helluva sixth man. With a little Simeon size advantage, I'm making Simeon a three-and-a-half point favorite.)

Now, imagine two teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 all season long actually being bracketed up by the IHSA so that they can actually face one another in a championship game? Wait, that actually happened that way this year? The hoops gods have cooperated early on.

This battle of Illinois prep titans would boast a Simeon team that would roll in to that final night in Peoria sporting a 32-1 record (and the only loss to an out-of-state prep school basketball factory), while Proviso East would still be perfect at 31-0. We haven't had a big school team playing for a state championship with an unbeaten record since Thornton came into the 1996 matchup with Peoria Manual with a 31-0 record. And we haven't had two teams meet in a state title game with a combined one loss since unbeaten King played 30-1 Gordon Tech in 1990.

Imagine two programs with a combined nine state championships squaring off? Imagine those two storied programs running on to the Carver Arena floor with all that history and lore?

We would have two coaches and two great guys in Boyce and Smith, who are as much a part of their respective program's history as we've ever seen matched up in a title game. And the coaching storylines would follow: Boyce returning home and leading his beloved Pirates to a state championship game in his first season on the job; Smith going for an unprecedented fifth state title, which would probably give him a record that will never be broken -- especially when he could very well add No. 6 in 2013.

The TV production people can start putting together some memorable video montages. Cue up the highlights of the "Three Amigos" dunking on everyone's heads en route to the 1991 Proviso East state championship. Throw in some classic D Rose footage in the never-ending comparisons to current great, Jabari Parker.

Imagine the game unfolding as many would expect it to -- Simeon clinging to a four or five-point lead very late in the game -- and watching the Wolverines do their thing: spread the floor, whittle the clock down while fighting off the jet-quick, pesky Proviso East guards in a life-support, do-or-die closing two minutes.

There would be Parker, the junior phenom, fighting for a career-turning title and adding to his illustrious prep basketball résumé. There would be Proviso East junior Sterling Brown trying to accomplish something his more ballyhooed brother, Shannon Brown, never could. There would be those Proviso East guards, those-oh-so-fun-to-watch Proviso East terriers who Mrs. Hoops Report can't even keep track of or tell one Paris from another. ("I LOVE watching this team," she says as she watches them hustle all over the floor and pick the pocket of another helpless guard Saturday night. "But I love Simeon, too! When will these two play each other?")

And there it was! That's when I earnestly started thinking how we need this Simeon-Proviso East matchup.

Are you seriously not excited about watching this game right now? Abso-freaking-lutely! This matchup would do for this 2011-2012 Illinois prep basketball season what Linsanity has done for an ordinary NBA regular season.

The good news is this potential matchup, which could demand real historical significance in what has been a rather bland season, is a real possibility. The bad news is by writing this and requesting it -- no, demanding it -- the Hoops Report has just jinxed it.

Follow the Hoops Report and Joe Henricksen on Twitter @joehoopsreport

A few points from a busy night ...

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By Joe Henricksen

How about a little instant analysis from a busy night of basketball? Here are a few Hoops Report points from Friday action around the Chicago area ...

☛ Simeon is a machine. They played without their point guard at 100 percent for the first month of the season. They discipline and sit stars. They keep players in foul trouble on the bench and don't get greedy. They play a tough schedule. And they just keep on cruising. With the way the Wolverines are playing on the defensive end right now, it's not only difficult for opponents to beat Simeon, it's a challenge to score on them.

☛ You do have to feel for Curie, a program that has come so far under Mike Oliver over the past couple of decades. But it's still a program trying to get over that hump and claim its first city or sectional title.

☛ While Curie's Cliff Alexander is a terrific prospect, it's time to put the 2014 Alexander-Jahlil Okafor debate to rest for the time being. It's clear the Whitney Young sophomore is the top prospect in the class with his advanced skill, instincts and understanding of the game for a true and massive on-the-block big man. There is no debate, really.

☛ The old "we can take something out of this loss" adage holds true for Downers Grove South. The Mustangs were smacked around at home in a January loss to West Suburban Gold foe and unbeaten Proviso East. DGS, however, traveled to Proviso East Friday night and held its own, falling 65-62. If Downers South, led by Jerron Wilbut, can take care of business in the East Aurora Sectional, which won't be easy with upstart Plainfield East as the No. 1 seed, it can get a third shot at Proviso East in the supersectional. And knowing how well it played the Pirates on the road Friday night will pay dividends for coach Jay Baum's team if the two were to meet again.

☛ That Class 3A sectional at Glenbard South just gets more and more appetizing by the week. St. Joseph's win over St. Rita Friday night shows how tough a No. 6 seed the Chargers will be this March. Coach Gene Pingatore's team has won six of its last seven games, losing only a close one to the top-ranked team in Class 3A, Peoria Central. The likely Farragut-St. Joseph regional final at Nazareth Academy will be a slugfest.

☛ How will St. Rita bounce back from a very damaging Catholic League loss to St. Joseph? The Mustangs square off with a talented but struggling New Trier team at Proviso West Saturday night in the opening game of the City-Suburban Showdown.

☛ West Aurora must have came out with a chip on its shoulder Friday night in Naperville. The Blackhawks sent a message with an easy win over DuPage Valley Conference leader Naperville North. West Aurora, which lost at home to Naperville North earlier in the season, is now tied for the top spot in the DVC. Has it really been six years since West Aurora last won a DVC title? Naperville North, which is in a 14-year league title drought, must regroup quickly from this emotional loss as rival Naperville Central is waiting for them Saturday night. West Aurora and overachieving Naperville North could meet in a rubber-match in the final of the Oswego regional.

☛ With only last-place Kankakee remaining on the league schedule, Bloom's win over Crete-Monee Friday night virtually wrapped up the Southland Conference title for the Blazing Trojans. What an impressive season for coach Jasper Williams and point guard Donald Moore as Bloom improves to 22-3 on the season. As for Crete-Monee, it's difficult seeing this team put together a long tournament run in March with such an inconsistent perimeter shooting team.

☛ What a first-year coaching job turned in by Mike Howland of St. Viator, who has led the program to its first-ever outright East Suburban Catholic Conference championship. St. Viator also completed its first unbeaten season at home. Hopefully star sophomore Ore Arogundade will return quickly from an ankle injury and be ready to go come regional time.

☛ By the way, Marist, which knocked off Benet Academy by one Friday night, is hot and getting dangerous.

☛ Although it came in a losing effort to Bolingbrook, Joliet West's 6-9 senior Marlon Johnson with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Hoops Report absolutely loves this kid's upside.

☛ Finally, word out of Whitney Young is the entire team will be dressed and ready to play when regional play opens in 10 days. That means a return to action for not only 6-9 sophomore Paul White, who has missed the past couple of games, but also 6-9 junior Tommy Hamilton and 6-8 Colorado State recruit Jermaine Morgan.

City title tilt and much more this weekend

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By Joe Henricksen

Simeon and Curie.

No. 1 vs. No. 2.

The two teams with identical 24-1 records have already met in one huge game, going at it in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament championship back in December. The two Public League powers will decide another title Friday night, with the winner being crowned city champs.

And the two could very well meet with the season on the line in a few weeks in the championship game of the Argo Sectional.

But first, the first of a potential two rematches between these two city powers.

Simeon took care of Curie pretty easily at Pontiac, with the Wolverines claiming a 44-27 win over the Condors. Simeon out-rebounded Curie 32-23 and harassed the Condors into a brutal night of shooting (11 of 48 from the field).

The bad news for Curie is Simeon superstar Jabari Parker was extremely quiet in the first matchup, with Parker scoring just six points on only five shot attempts and four rebounds. Have you SEEN what Parker has done in the last two city playoff games? Curie didn't see that Jabari Parker back in December, and that has to be worrisome. With Parker, you have to fear the ability, when all things fail, that he just goes and makes plays when needed.

But nearly two months later, both teams are clearly better. In the first half of both a big Red-South showdown with Bogan last month and in a city semifinal win over Orr Wednesday, Simeon turned up the defensive pressure and looked pretty darn unbeatable in those first halves of play. And Curie hasn't lost a game since falling to Simeon, gaining a bigger impact from star sophomore Cliff Alexander by the week and continuing to thrive with depth and the don't-you-worry, I-got-you-big-play ability from senior Devin Foster.

Curie is deeper, especially with the addition of Maurice Fleming and the spark sophomore scorer Joseph Stamps is capable of providing in spurts. Neither Fleming or Stamps played in the first Simeon matchup. Fleming, a physical, tough guard who is a star football player heading to Iowa, provides a very valuable lift for coach Mike Oliver. He was a big factor in the semifinal win over Bogan Wednesday night and is a veteran senior the Condors can lean on.

Plus, simply put, Alexander is growing up quickly and becoming a force. He is playing at a higher level in the middle of February than he was in late December. Alexander scored just two points and had only six rebounds in that Simeon loss. In the last three playoff wins over Crane, Morgan Park and Bogan, the 6-8 sophomore has put up 41 points and 40 rebounds while become more assertive and effective offensively.

But at the end of the day, Simeon is playing on the stage it is so used to playing on and is motivated to win a city title after a brief post-Derrick Rose hiatus.

Hoops Report Pick: Simeon 58, Curie 50

Big weekend of hoops ahead
The City/Suburban Hoops Report's snapshot of the big games on tap for this weekend around the Chicago area.

West Aurora at Naperville North
The DuPage Valley Conference title is on the line, with Naperville North holding a one-game lead and already owning a win over West Aurora in DVC play. Barring an upset, the two will meet again for the Oswego Regional championship in a couple of weeks. Can the surprising Huskies claim their first conference championship since 1998?

St. Rita at St. Joseph
Coach Gene Pingatore's club could very well play the role of spoiler in this one. The Chargers, already with three Catholic League losses, will host the league-leading Mustangs and star guard Tony Hicks. There will be plenty of young talent on display in this one, including St. Joe's sophomores Paul Turner and Karriem Simmons, along with St. Rita freshman Charles Matthews and sophomores Dominique Matthews and Vic Law.

Bloom at Crete-Monee
A pair of talented south suburban point guards go at it one more time as Bloom's Donald Moore and Crete-Monee's Michael Orris square off in what could decide the Southland Conference title. Bloom holds a one game lead over both Crete-Monee and Rich South. But Bloom will have to find a way to beat Crete-Monee a third time, having already knocked off the Warriors 52-45 in the title game of the McDipper and winning 43-38 back in January.

Downers Grove South at Proviso East
The last big test for a Proviso East team that is hoping to cap off its first unbeaten regular season since the 1992 team, which went on to claim a Class AA state championship. Proviso East went into Downers Grove in January and beat the Mustangs 78-70 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. Will DGS be able to handle the Proviso East defensive speed and quickness better than it did in the first meeting? Proviso East holds a one game lead over Downers Grove South in the West Suburban Gold.

City-Suburban Showdown at Proviso West • Saturday, Feb. 18
• St. Rita vs. New Trier @ 4:30 p.m.
• Warren vs. Proviso East @ 6:30 p.m.
• De La Salle vs. Simeon @ 8:30 p.m.

A trio of appetizing games as all six teams and fans gear up for state tournament play in March. All six teams are currently ranked in the Hoops Report's Top 25, with the Warren-Proviso East matchup a battle featuring the No. 4 and No. 2 teams, respectively.

Will the state's top two teams, Simeon and Proviso East, be susceptible to upsets following Friday night's monster matchups -- Proviso East vs. Downers Grove South to decide the West Suburban Gold and Simeon vs. Curie in the city championship? Warren, led by 6-9 Nathan Boothe and 6-8 Darius Paul, hopes to utilize its size against a small but ultra-quick Proviso East team.

St. Rita, New Trier and De La Salle all come in with something to prove. St. Rita is looking to strut its stuff on the local scene after playing a heavy out-of-state schedule. New Trier hopes to show it resembles the team that went 18-2 in its first 20 games rather than the one that has lost its last three. And talented but enigmatic De La Salle, led by a big-named junior group, hopes to simply show it can play with the state's elite in preparation for a rugged Argo Sectional. The Meteors, who have lost to Hillcrest, St. Rita twice and St. Ignatius, have not beaten a ranked team yet this season.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Seeds, city and downstate talk

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By Joe Henricksen

The sectional seeds are out and the scouting and analyzing truly begins in preparation for regional and sectional play. While sectional showdowns typically are the most intense, enjoyable and well played games all season long, there are some tantalizing regional matchups to look forward to based on last week's IHSA seeds and draws. Here are a few of those matchups and thoughts the Hoops Report put together.

➥ How about an opening round regional game featuring neighborhood private schools Brother Rice and Marist? These two are right down the street from one another on Pulaski and will bring out the best in one another in what should be as intense of regional semifinal as you'll find anywhere.

➥ Staying in that Argo Sectional, where will you find three potential better regional finals in any one sectional than Curie-Marist, Bogan-De La Salle and Young-St. Rita?

➥ It will be Round IV in the regional opener for rivals St. Charles East and St. Charles North. The two will meet for a fourth time in the regional semis, with the winner likely squaring off with top-seeded Elgin in the regional final. St. Charles North has won two of the three matchups.

➥ The Hoops Report realizes Schaumburg was missing arguably its top player when the Saxons fell to York, 53-40, without the services of Christian Spandiary. But York still beat the Saxons just three weeks ago and had won 12 straight games heading into the seeding week. Yet Schaumburg was awarded the No. 3 seed and York the No. 4 seed. No, it's not a huge deal until you consider who the No. 1 seed is: unbeaten and powerful Proviso East. The No. 3 seed gets to avoid Proviso East for at least an extra round.

➥ It was good to see Waukegan rewarded for its recent strong play, receiving the No. 4 seed in the Barrington Sectional even with a 13-8 record heading into the week. Barrington, Stevenson, Prospect, Libertyville, Rolling Meadows and Grant all had more wins than Waukegan heading into sectional seeding week, but the Bulldogs deserved that No. 4 seed and received it.

➥ On the other end of the spectrum, the Hoops Report realizes Grant, with 16 wins on the season, doesn't play the schedule other teams in the sectional have played. But Grant did have January wins over sectional foes Barrington, Stevenson and Rolling Meadows in non-conference action, yet couldn't do better than a No. 12 seed and was seeded lower than all three? Grant's only loss in the last four weeks came to state-ranked North Chicago, 81-70.

➥ This much we know about the No. 1 seeds throughout the Chicago area: There isn't a No. 1 seed scuffling more right now than New Trier. And the Hoops Report is shocked by the stumbling Trevians, who have dropped three straight and lost the Central Suburban League South lead.

➥ Seriously, is that St. Ignatius sectional field for real? I just bet my mortgage in Vegas on Iggy winning that thing.

➥ While the St. Ignatius Sectional is dreadful, at least the sectional does have St. Ignatius in it. The Sycamore Sectional in Class 3A? Yowza! Johnsburg is a No. 1 regional seed with a current record of 8-15. And there won't be a single 20-game winner heading into regional play among the three other No. 1 regional seeds -- Yorkville, Kaneland and Rockford East. Yes, four-class basketball is terrific.

➥ Hoops Report is really interested to see how Lemont fares in the Rich East 3A sectional. This team has floated along all season, piling up wins -- sitting at 20-2 as I write -- yet has received little to no fanfare. The hope was they would avoid conference foe and sectional favorite Hillcrest until the sectional final, but if it can beat Providence in the regional championship, Lemont would meet Hillcrest in the sectional semis.

➥ Orr will be heavily favored to win its regional as a No. 1 seed, but beating either Wheaton St. Francis or Wheaton Academy at Wheaton Academy will be no picnic.

➥ The best 3A regional championship matchup in the Chicago area will be St. Joseph-Farragut at Nazareth Academy.

Please, Public League, change things!
The city coaches can have their say and beef about how they are grouped, bracketed and assigned to the various IHSA sectionals, but can't they first find a way to fix an archaic and asinine way of seeding and bracketing their own city playoffs?

For starters, Kenwood is a No. 7 seed, while Marshall is a No. 8 seed, Whitney Young a No. 9 seed and Farragut a No. 13 seed? Huh?

Lets see ... Taft, the city's No. 3 seed, is seeded ahead of Bogan and has to beat Jones and Perspectives-Calumet to reach the quarterfinals, while Marshall has to beat Whitney Young, Curie has to beat Crane and Orr has to beat Farragut to reach the quarters? And Foreman, a No. 5 seed, has to beat Julian and Lane to get to the quarters?

Nonetheless ...
Even with the screwy playoff setup, the Public League's four most impressive teams all season long -- Simeon, Bogan, Orr and Curie -- all made it through the first three rounds and will go at it in the city's Final Four Wednesday night. Simeon (22-1) will face Orr (19-3), while Bogan (23-2) takes on Curie (23-1). All four teams are ranked among the top eight in this week's Hoops Report rankings.

The Simeon Way
You better believe there would be a lot of programs that may have looked the other way or come up with "other" forms of discipline for its players heading into a big city quarterfinal game. But that's not how Simeon works. Coach Robert Smith did what he needed to do and suspended several key players for the matchup with Marshall Sunday night. This is just another reason why Simeon has had so little trouble in its program over the years and why this program has won with class, even as they've dominated the prep basketball landscape.

Life in central Illinois
It's good to get out of the Chicago area once in a while and there was no better time to for prep fans than this past weekend to catch two central Illinois showdowns. Springfield Lanphier, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 3A, knocked off Chatham Glenwood in a raucous, sold-out gym to grab its first conference title since the Andre Igoudala-led team back in 2002.

The game featured a pair of the top sophomores in the state. Springfield Lanphier sophomore star guard Larry Austin, who traveled to catch the Missouri-Baylor game on Saturday and received an offer from Mizzou, made just one field goal and finished with four points. Chatham-Glenwood's Peyton Allen led the way with 18 points, including some big plays and a huge 3-pointer in the closing minute.

Then on Saturday, despite a sterling performance from Hoops Report Class of 2013 favorite Alec Peters (Why again aren't more schools on this kid? And why isn't this kid ranked higher?), Washington fell at home to Peoria Central, 51-50, in a battle between two teams ranked among the top four in the state in Class 3A. Peters continues to impress, scoring 27 points on four 3-pointers in a losing effort. Peoria Central (19-2) may not have a marquee player, but it's such a big, strong and athletic group. The Lions now own recent wins over Peoria Manual, St. Joseph and Washington.

Great cause at LT
There is a truly special night planned in LaGrange this Friday when Hinsdale Central travels to Lyons Township for a West Suburban Silver matchup.

The game will be part of a fundraiser to donate money to the Kelli O'Laughlin Memorial Scholarship fund. The O'Laughlin family and the Lyons Township Community suffered a horrific tragedy this past October with the murder of O'Laughlin, who was a freshman student-athlete at LT. The community will unit together Friday night to raise as much money as possible for the scholarship fund.

Ray Clay, the former Chicago Bulls public address announcer, will be behind the microphone and calling the game. There will be raffles throughout the game with various prizes that have all been donated by members of the community, including a hockey stick autographed by the entire Blackhawks team, a Carlos Boozer autographed basketball, $500 in gift cards to various restaurants in the LaGrange area, Sox-Cubs tickets, tickets to a Notre Dame football game next fall against Pitt and many more items. The headliner is the chance for three people in attendance to shoot a halfcourt shot for a new 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer.

Follow the Hoops Report and Joe Henricksen on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Illinois McD's All-Americans breakdown

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By Joe Henricksen

The McDonald's All-American team was announced yesterday, and though it was a surprise to no one, Illinois will not have a representative in the game, which will be played in Chicago for the second straight year.

The startling statistic, however, is the fact this is just the second time in history no player from Illinois has been selected as a McDonald's All-American. The only other year Illinois was shutout was 1998. The top players that season included Mr. Basketball winner Brandon Paul of Warren, Drew Crawford of Naperville Central, Darius Smith of Marshall and Jack Cooley of Glenbrook South. Thus, that makes two out of the last four years Illinois has been without a McDonald's All-American after a three-decades long run of representation.

The Hoops Report breaks down the McDonald's All-Americans from Illinois by the numbers.

Schools with the most McDonald's All-Americans
King leads the way with five McDonald's All-Americans, including Efrem Winters, Marcus Liberty, Jamie Brandon, Teddy Grubbs and Rashard Griffith.

And those with three ...
Simeon: Derrick Rose, Deon Thomas, Nick Anderson
Peoria Manual: Frank Williams, Marcus Griffin, Howard Nathan
Farragut: Michael Dunigan, Ronnie Fields, Kevin Garnett
Proviso East: Dee Brown, Shannon Brown, Glenn Rivers
St. Joseph: Deryl Cunningham, Daryl Thomas, Isaiah Thomas

Look for Simeon to close the gap on Kind and add a fourth McD's All-American with the likely selection of Jabari Parker.

McDonald's All-American game MVPs from Illinois
Russell Cross, Manley (1980)
Efrem Winters, King (1982)
Kevin Garnett, Farragut (1995)
Eddy Curry, Thornwood (2001)

On a side note, current Chicago Bulls assistant Rick Brunson, the father of Stevenson freshman standout guard Jalen Brunson, was co-MVP of the 1991 McDonald's All-American game with Chris Webber.

Chicago Public League McDonald's All-Americans: 19
Wayne Blackshear, Morgan Park (2011)
Anthony Davis, Perspectives (2011)
Michael Dunigan, Farragut (2008)
Derrick Rose, Simeon (2007)
Sherron Collins, Crane (2006)
Sean Dockery, Julian (2002)
Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young (1998)
Ronnie Fields, Farragut (1996)
Kevin Garnett, Farragut (1995)
Rashard Griffith, King (1993)
Juwan Howard, Vocational (1991)
Jamie Brandon, King (1990)
Deon Thomas, Simeon (1989)
Marcus Liberty, King (1987)
Nick Anderson, Simeon (1986)
Efrem Winters, King (1982)
Russell Cross, Manley (1980)
Teddy Grubbs, King (1979)
Mark Aguirre, Westinghouse (1978)

Chicago Catholic League McDonald's All-Americans: 7
Bobby Frasor, Brother Rice (2005)
Michael Thompson, Providence (2002)
Andre Brown, Leo (2000)
Corey Maggette, Fenwick (1998)
Antoine Walker, Mt. Carmel (1994)
Tom Kleinschmidt, Gordon Tech (1991)
Eric Anderson, St. Francis De Sales (1988)

'Downstate' McDonald's All-Americans: 15
Shaun Livingston, Peoria Central (2004)
Darius Miles, East St. Louis Sr. (2000)
Brian Cook, Lincoln (1999)
Frank Williams, Peoria Manual (1998)
Marcus Griffin, Peoria Manual (1997)
Michael Robinson, Peoria Richwoods (1996)
Richard Keene, Collinsville (1992)
Howard Nathan, Peoria Manual (1991)
LaPhonso Ellis, East St. Louis Lincoln (1988)
Ed Horton, Springfield Lanphier (1985)
Roger McClendon, Champaign Centennial (1984)
Barry Sumpter, Lovejoy (1983)
Bruce Douglas, Quincy (1982)
Michael Payne, Quincy (1981)
Chuck Verderber, Lincoln (1978)

Hoops Report's Best McDonald's All-American from Illinois
Isiah Thomas, St. Joseph
We'll go with the recent ESPN ranking of the 35 greatest McDonald's All-Americans, where the superstar point guard Thomas was ranked No. 9 on the list from his 1979 McDonald's game appearance. A year later, Thomas was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, which wasn't able to compete in Moscow.

Also on ESPN's list of Greatest McDonald's All-Americans were Derrick Rose of Simeon, ranked No. 20, and Doc Rivers of Proviso East, who was No. 30 on the list. Rose's 2004 West team was ridiculously loaded, with Eric Gordon, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Cole Aldrich and Blake Griffin all joining Rose on the West squad.

Rivers scored 20 points in the 1980 All-American game and, along with Derek Harper of Florida, was considered the best guard in the country that year after averaging 22.3 points a game his senior year.

Hoops Report's Most Obscure McDonald's All-American from Illinois
Remember Bill Heppner of Crystal Lake Central? The 6-8 forward made the McDonald's All-American team in 1987 with the likes of Marcus Liberty, Larry Johnson, Dennis Scott and Sean Higgins. Heppner battled injuries throughout his career and never did become much of a factor at DePaul.

McDonald's All-Americans Staying Home
The state of Illinois has produced 60 McDonald's All-Americans. However, only a third of those 60 chose to stay home and play high-major college basketball within the state coming out of high school -- and only three of 18 since 2000.

Jereme Richmond, Waukegan (Illinois) • 2010
Dee Brown, Proviso East (Illinois) • 2002
Andre Brown, Leo (DePaul) • 2000
Brian Cook, Lincoln (Illinois) • 1999
Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young (DePaul) • 1998
Frank Williams, Peoria Manual (Illinois) • 1998
Marcus Griffin, Peoria Manual (Illinois) • 1997
Richard Keene, Collinsville (Illinois) • 1992
Tom Kleinschmidt, Gordon Tech (DePaul) • 1991
Howard Nathan, Peoria Manual (DePaul) • 1991
Deon Thomas, Simeon (Illinois) • 1989
Bill Heppner, Crystal Lake Central (DePaul) • 1987
Marcus Liberty, King (Illinois) • 1987
Nick Anderson, Simeon (Illinois) • 1986
Lowell Hamilton, Providence St. Mel (Illinois) • 1985
Bruce Douglas, Quincy (Illinois) • 1982
Efrem Winters, King (Illinois) • 1982
Teddy Grubbs, Westinghouse (DePaul) • 1979
Raymond McCoy, Bloom (DePaul) • 1979
Mark Aguirre, Westinghouse (DePaul) • 1978

Public League coaches boycott sectional seeds

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By Joe Henricksen

The Chicago Public League has certainly produced its share of basketball talent and memories over the years. But along with the big names, special teams and magical moments, plenty of controversy has come with it. A little more is on its way.

All Class 4A and 3A sectional seeds from high school coaches from around the state were due in electronically to the IHSA by Thursday at noon. Although it's not required by the IHSA for coaches to submit seeds, many Chicago Public League coaches have apparently joined forces in an attempt to make a statement by not submitting seeds in their respective sectionals.

In the rugged Class 4A sectional at Argo, as an example, only one school from the Chicago Public League, Hyde Park, submitted their seeds. And that program has an interim coach after Lamont Bryant resigned last month. The majority of the city coaches in the city-dominated Glenbard South Sectional, including Crane and Farragut, didn't seed. And five of the eight city schools in the Glenbrook South Sectional didn't submit seeds.

The issue at hand -- or "frustration," as city coaches say -- is the constant realignment of state sectionals and what brackets city teams are placed in leading up to Peoria from year to year.

Maybe even more important, according to many city coaches, is the lack of communication the IHSA has with the Chicago Public League. City coaches have concerns and questions they want answered regarding the changes from year to year, and the coaches claim they have had little to no dialogue with the IHSA.

"Our No. 1 concern with all of this is we have not managed to get a clarification of how and why sectionals change dramatically from year to year," says Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter. "What is the answer to that question? And it's more than just a few changes in school enrollments and schools going from 3A to 4A and 4A to 3A.

"I can't speak for everyone, but it's frustrating that our voice is basically ignored."

Simeon coach Rob Smith was one of many city coaches who elected not to submit seeds, stating "our opinions don't really matter to them anyway."

"They [IHSA] make all the decisions without listening and do whatever they want, so they can go ahead and make these decisions too," says Smith of the seeding process. "I just want to have some dialogue so we can understand it. When are they going to move teams? Why and how are they moving them? They [IHSA] make statements like they don't care who wins games, and that's fine. But we do care."

Farragut coach Wolf Nelson has been around for decades and has watched the city give up its automatic state bid and has seen the changes from year to year. He believes things are going in the wrong direction, which is why he opted to join in on the seeding boycott.

"This isn't a major thing. It's not like we're pulling out of the state tournament or anything," says Nelson of the seed boycott. "But things have been going in the wrong direction, not just with city teams but throughout the sectionals in Chicago. And no matter how much complaining you do, they don't listen. Hopefully this leads to something, maybe a chance to have some dialogue."

For decades and up until 2003, the Chicago Public League produced one team that reached the Elite Eight via an automatic qualifier from the city playoffs. In 2003 the automatic city representative was eliminated, which would allow more than one Chicago Public League school to reach the state tournament.

The first year city teams were placed in various sectionals throughout the city and suburbs, Von Steuben was the lone city representative in the Elite Eight in 2003. Hubbard also reached a supersectional that year, losing to Evanston.

The following year three city teams reached a supersectional, with both Simeon and Farragut qualifying for the 2004 Elite Eight in Peoria, the first year the Chicago Public League sent two teams to state. And since the break from the automatic qualifier in 2003, the Chicago Public League has sent two teams to Peoria every year but two -- Von Steuben in 2003 and Crane in 2005.

Simeon and Marshall reached Peoria together in 2006, 2007 and 2008, playing each other for a Class 3A state title in 2008. Simeon and Whitney Young met in the 2010 Class 4A state championship.

There have been multiple avenues for the top city teams to reach Peoria, including a best-case scenario for the Chicago Public League in 2010. Simeon and Whitney Young both reached Peoria in 4A that March. Marshall and Crane met in a 3A supersectional, with Marshall advancing to Peoria with the win. Plus, Robeson was one game away from making it four teams in Peoria from the Chicago Public League before falling to Hillcrest in the supersectional.

Now, according to city coaches, those opportunities for multiple representation are drying up, and they want to know why? They believe it's more than simply some schools switching up classes, thus the IHSA is forced to move teams to keep things geographically balanced.

"I would love to have heard the dialogue,the conversation and the reasons for the change back when [former Chicago Public Schools CEO] Arne Duncan and the IHSA got together and decided to open up things for city teams in the state tournament," Slaughter said of the major decision that changed the landscape of the state tournament. "But I bet the plan wasn't for it to eventually get back to being closer to what it originally was, which is what we are slowly seeing happen."

City coaches have questions.

While it's just one example -- and it does involve two of the highest profile programs in the state -- many Public League coaches wonder why is it that Simeon and Whitney Young were able to meet in a state championship game just two seasons ago but two years later it's possible they could meet in a regional? These two schools have never even been in the same sectional until this year.

They wonder why the two Class 4A sectionals boasting Chicago Public League schools, one with South Side schools in one sectional and North Side schools in another sectional, play one another in a supersectional? They wonder why St. Ignatius, which dropped from 4A to 3A this year, is hosting what is arguably the weakest sectional in the state while city powers like North Lawndale, Orr, Farragut, Marshall and Crane are all grouped together and sent to Glen Ellyn for a sectional at Glenbard South?

But the fact of the matter is the city still has three clear roads to Peoria -- two in Class 3A and one in Class 4A. But the city powers, along with a few suburban schools, continue to wonder what is the rhyme and reason for the switches from year to year?

The other question is just what does this seeding boycott actually accomplish? In the grand scheme of things, probably not much at all. The seeds were not going to be altered all that much as a result. But really, all the city coaches have stated is that they hope it at least grabs the IHSA's attention and lets the organization know they have concerns and want to be heard.

Veteran Von Steuben coach Vince Carter pointed out the action was taken as a "silent protest."

"Hopefully it creates some dialogue," says Carter.

"At the end of the day we have to play the games, no matter where you're seeded," Smith adds. "But when you don't feel like something is right, we're going to ask questions, but we never get any answers."

But as a suburban coach stated to the Hoops Report earlier this week, "It's not just the Chicago Public League the IHSA ignores. They ignore everyone. They don't care. They do their own thing."

Hoops Report seeds the 4A, 3A sectionals

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By Joe Henricksen

Coaches across the state will be going to the computer this week and submitting their seeds for the Class 3A and 4A sectionals around Illinois. There is still no viable reason why the IHSA has eliminated the traditional seeding meetings, where all the coaches meet together and present their cases, and gone exclusively to coaches submitting their seeds online.

With all the time a coach puts in to prepare his team in the offseason (traveling to shootouts and team camps around the state) and throughout the regular season (upgrading schedules in preparation for their sectional, traveling to scout opponents and breaking down film), it's only right to have a chance to state his case in a seeding meeting. And, most importantly, for all coaches to be held accountable among their coaching peers when submitting those seeds. Now it's just hiding behind a computer when a few coaches carelessly seed their sectional and hit "send."

Do you think all those coaches at the end of the season, those that are headed for a 14-20 seed, are all really going to take the time and do some quality research on their own before punching in numbers on a computer? If those coaches are in a meeting, at least they can be held accountable in front of their coaching peers. There are coaches who have actually forgotten to submit their seeds online.

Everything you do as a coach, when it comes to wins and losses, is geared toward earning that seed and putting your team in the best possible position. Coaches can't travel one night a year and put in a couple of hours to hammer out sectional seeds? You want to get the seeds right.

As the City/Suburban Hoops Report has done every year, here are the Hoops Report's Class 4A sectional seeds (the Class 3A sectional seeds will be out on Monday). Coaches throughout the state will be submitting their seeds to the IHSA up until Thursday. There will always be debate, but the Hoops Report looks at everything -- schedule strength, win totals, injuries, head-to-head results and how a team is playing over the past month -- in sorting out the top eight seeds in each Chicago area sectional.

CLASS 3A SECTIONALS
Glenbard South Sectional
1. Orr
2. Marshall
3. Farragut
4. St. Joseph
5. Crane
6. Riverside-Brookfield
7. North Lawndale
8. Wheaton Academy

The breakdown: Orr has beaten Marshall, Marshall has beaten Farragut and Farragut has beaten Orr. But Orr has been the hottest team in the sectional and has wins over Whitney Young, Crane, Marshall and Seton Academy. St. Joseph gets the No. 4 seed as it has gone 10-3 in its last 13 games, losing to state-ranked teams St. Ignatius, Peoria Central and Marshall by a total of 11 points.

Grayslake Central Sectional
1. North Chicago
2. Lakes
3. Grayslake Central
4. Ridgewood
5. Grayslake North
6. Vernon Hills
7. Prosser
8. Elmwood Park

The breakdown: North Chicago is an overwhelming favorite to win this sectional once again. Lakes has quietly won 15 games and beaten Vernon Hills, Grayslake Central and Grayslake North this season to grab the No. 2 seed. Grayslake Central is 16-5, won nine straight and recently knocked off Grayslake North. Ridgewood (14-6) has upgraded its schedule but still has losses to Crane, Morgan Park and Niles Notre Dame.

St. Ignatius Sectional
1. St. Ignatius
2. Dunbar
3. Jones
4. Robeson
5. DuSable
6. King
7. South Shore
8. Urban Prep Bronzeville

The breakdown: There isn't a team that will be more heavily favored to win its sectional than St. Ignatius in what is the state's weakest. In fact, the Hoops Report can not remember the last time a team was this heavily favored heading into a sectional.

Rich East Sectional
1. Hillcrest
2. Rich South
3. Morgan Park
4. Lemont
5. Harlan
6. Providence
7. Brooks
8. Rich East

The breakdown: This south suburban 3A sectional is nowhere near as strong as it's been in comparison to past years. Hillcrest is the team to beat. Rich South has surprised, while Morgan Park is young and dangerous. The question is where to seed a 19-2 Lemont team that in its toughest test lost to Crane 58-54.

CLASS 4A SECTIONALS
East Aurora Sectional
1. Plainfield East
2. Downers Grove South
3. Metea Valley
4. Naperville North
5. West Aurora
6. Benet Academy
7. Hinsdale Central
8. Neuqua Valley

The breakdown: Plainfield East is the No. 1 seed with a 20-1 record and a few impressive wins, including an early-season victory over Downers Grove South. Metea Valley has just two defeats, both overtime losses to Waubonsie Valley and Hinsdale Central, but Downers Grove South's four losses have come to four highly-ranked teams with a combined record of 72-6. The Hoops Report gives DGS the No. 2 seed.

Naperville North and West Aurora are interchangeable as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, but North did knock off West in their first matchup and owns a win over Benet Academy. Hinsdale Central's big weekend, beating both Oak Park and Metea Valley, vaults the 13-7 Red Devils into the No. 7 hole. The No. 8 and No. 9 seeds will be up for grabs among Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central, Bolingbrook and Oswego. Neuqua gets the edge with the recent win over Waubonsie Valley, knocking off Bolingbrook earlier in the year and playing a very competitive schedule.

Schaumburg Sectional
1. Proviso East
2. Oak Park
3. York
4. Schaumburg
5. Lake Park
6. Glenbard West
7. Morton
8. Glenbard North

The breakdown: Proviso East is the no-brainer in the top spot, while Oak Park is the No. 2 seed with a 14-5 record and having played a large portion of the season without standout guard Ka'Darryl Bell. York is as hot as anyone with 12 straight victories and nudges its way to the all-important, miss-Proviso East-in the-sectional-semis-No. 3 seed. Although Schaumburg was missing its top player, Christian Spandiary at the time, York did beat Schaumburg 53-40 in January and hasn't lost since Dec. 29.

Then it gets dicey. Morton has played a large portion of its season without senior Rocco Belcaster, but it did lose to Schaumburg a few weeks ago. Belcaster has returned and the Mustangs have played their typical tough schedule. Lake Park, which will host a regional, has quietly put together a 15-6 season. And although Glenbard West has scuffled since early January after a hot start, the Hilltoppers are still 13-5 and do own early-season wins over both Glenbard North and Glenbard East.

Barrington Sectional
1. Warren
2. St. Viator
3. Mundelein
4. Waukegan
5. Libertyville
6. Barrington
7. Grant
8. Rolling Meadows

The breakdown: While Warren is the easy choice as the top seed, St. Viator and Mundelein settle in at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. The biggest debate in this sectional is where to put Waukegan? The Bulldogs are 13-8 but have played one of the toughest schedules of any team in the sectional, knocked off a top five team in New Trier Friday night and have won five straight. Waukegan makes the jump and earns the No. 4 seed.

Barrington is 15-7 and Libertyville is 14-8 but Libertyville has clearly played a tougher schedule, thus earning the No. 5 seed with Barrington settling in at No. 6. The final two seeds are tricky with the likes of Rolling Meadows, Prospect, Grant, Stevenson, Lake Zurich and Lake Forest all having knocked one another off this season and all posting similar win totals. But surprising Grant (15-7) has played well in January and beaten both Stevenson and Rolling Meadows.

Lockport Sectional
1. Andrew
2. Bloom
3. Homewood-Flossmoor
4. Crete-Monee
5. Joliet West
6. Thornwood
7. Marian Catholic
8. Sandburg

The breakdown: Although there are some quality teams and balance in this sectional field, there is a clear pecking order based on season results. Andrew is 17-1 and the No. 1 seed. Bloom has wins over H-F, Crete-Monee and Marian Catholic and is the clear No. 2 seed, followed by H-F and Crete-Monee.

Although Marian Catholic beat Thornwood back in November, Thornwood has played better of late, playing No. 1 seed Andrew to a tight game, while Marian Catholic has gone just 4-5 in its last nine games. Both Minooka and Lockport have more wins than Sandburg, but Sandburg has beaten Lockport twice and Minooka.

Glenbrook South Sectional
1. New Trier
2. Niles North
3. Glenbrook North
4. St. Patrick
5. Niles Notre Dame
6. Maine South
7. Taft
8. Evanston

The breakdown: Niles North picked up a big win over Glenbrook North two weeks ago but then promptly dropped two straight to Maine West and Maine South. But a recent 10-game winning streak keeps Niles North (15-7) in the second spot. Glenbrook North sports a solid record, despite playing much of the season without its best player, 6-8 Andrew McAuliffe. The Spartans hold on to the No. 3 seed as a result.

St. Patrick is playing very well, winning eight of its last nine games, and owns January wins over Taft and Niles Notre Dame, but Glenbrook North beat St. Patrick 60-34 back in December. The Shamrocks are the No. 4 seed. Maine South and Evanston have split two games this year, but Maine South won the most recent, lost to New Trier by two points and has gone 9-1 since Jan. 14. Evanston (14-8) beat both Niles Notre Dame and Maine South early in the year but are stumbling heading into seeding week.

Argo Sectional
1. Simeon
2. Curie
3. Bogan
4. St. Rita
5. Whitney Young
6. De La Salle
7. Marist
8. Hyde Park

The breakdown: The state's toughest sectional is also a difficult one to seed due mostly to the fact two of the top teams, Whitney Young and St. Rita, have compiled so many out-of-state losses to quality opponents. Simeon and Curie have locked in the top two seeds, respectively, while Bogan slides into the No. 3 hole with an impressive 20-2 record.

St. Rita has beaten De La Salle twice, including a convincing win this past weekend, and has yet to play an entire game with its full roster of healthy players. The Mustangs have earned the No. 4 seed.

What's interesting in this sectional is the No. 6 seed is more favorable than the No. 5 seed. Both seeds will have similar regional foes, but the No. 6 seed will avoid Simeon for another round and not face the No. 1 team in the state until the sectional final. With that being said, Whitney Young and De La Salle will be penciled in as the Hoops Report's No. 5 and No. 6 seeds. De La Salle's most impressive win came against Farragut, a team Whitney Young beat as well. Whitney Young, which owns a win over Crane, has played a brutally tough national schedule and gets the edge.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Sectional seeding time

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By Joe Henricksen

Coaches across the state will be going to the computer this week and submitting their seeds for the Class 3A and 4A sectionals around Illinois. There is still no viable reason why the IHSA has eliminated the traditional seeding meetings, where all the coaches meet together and present their cases, and gone exclusively to coaches submitting their seeds online.

With all the time a coach puts in to prepare his team in the offseason (traveling to shootouts and team camps around the state) and throughout the regular season (upgrading schedules in preparation for their sectional, traveling to scout opponents and breaking down film), it's only right to have a chance to state his case in a seeding meeting. And, most importantly, for all coaches to be held accountable among their coaching peers when submitting those seeds. Now it's just hiding behind a computer when a few coaches carelessly seed their sectional and hit "send."

Do you think all those coaches at the end of the season, those that are headed for a 14-20 seed, are all really going to take the time and do some quality research on their own before punching in numbers on a computer? If those coaches are in a meeting, at least they can be held accountable in front of their coaching peers. There are coaches who have actually forgotten to submit their seeds online.

Everything you do as a coach, when it comes to wins and losses, is geared toward earning that seed and putting your team in the best possible position. Coaches can't travel one night a year and put in a couple of hours to hammer out sectional seeds? You want to get the seeds right.

As the City/Suburban Hoops Report has done every year, here are the Hoops Report's Class 4A sectional seeds (the Class 3A sectional seeds will be out on Monday). Coaches throughout the state will be submitting their seeds to the IHSA up until Thursday. There will always be debate, but the Hoops Report looks at everything -- schedule strength, win totals, injuries, head-to-head results and how a team is playing over the past month -- in sorting out the top eight seeds in each Chicago area sectional.

East Aurora Sectional
1. Plainfield East
2. Downers Grove South
3. Metea Valley
4. Naperville North
5. West Aurora
6. Benet Academy
7. Hinsdale Central
8. Neuqua Valley

The breakdown: Plainfield East is the No. 1 seed with a 20-1 record and a few impressive wins, including an early-season victory over Downers Grove South. Metea Valley has just two defeats, both overtime losses to Waubonsie Valley and Hinsdale Central, but Downers Grove South's four losses have come to four highly-ranked teams with a combined record of 72-6. The Hoops Report gives DGS the No. 2 seed.

Naperville North and West Aurora are interchangeable as the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds, but North did knock off West in their first matchup and owns a win over Benet Academy. Hinsdale Central's big weekend, beating both Oak Park and Metea Valley, vaults the 13-7 Red Devils into the No. 7 hole. The No. 8 and No. 9 seeds will be up for grabs among Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central, Bolingbrook and Oswego. Neuqua gets the edge with the recent win over Waubonsie Valley, knocking off Bolingbrook earlier in the year and playing a very competitive schedule.

Schaumburg Sectional
1. Proviso East
2. Oak Park
3. York
4. Schaumburg
5. Lake Park
6. Glenbard West
7. Morton
8. Glenbard North

The breakdown: Proviso East is the no-brainer in the top spot, while Oak Park is the No. 2 seed with a 14-5 record and having played a large portion of the season without standout guard Ka'Darryl Bell. York is as hot as anyone with 12 straight victories and nudges its way to the all-important, miss-Proviso East-in the-sectional-semis-No. 3 seed. Although Schaumburg was missing its top player, Christian Spandiary at the time, York did beat Schaumburg 53-40 in January and hasn't lost since Dec. 29.

Then it gets dicey. Morton has played a large portion of its season without senior Rocco Belcaster, but it did lose to Schaumburg a few weeks ago. Belcaster has returned and the Mustangs have played their typical tough schedule. Lake Park, which will host a regional, has quietly put together a 15-6 season. And although Glenbard West has scuffled since early January after a hot start, the Hilltoppers are still 13-5 and do own early-season wins over both Glenbard North and Glenbard East.

Barrington Sectional
1. Warren
2. St. Viator
3. Mundelein
4. Waukegan
5. Libertyville
6. Barrington
7. Grant
8. Rolling Meadows

The breakdown: While Warren is the easy choice as the top seed, St. Viator and Mundelein settle in at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. The biggest debate in this sectional is where to put Waukegan? The Bulldogs are 13-8 but have played one of the toughest schedules of any team in the sectional, knocked off a top five team in New Trier Friday night and have won five straight. Waukegan makes the jump and earns the No. 4 seed.

Barrington is 15-7 and Libertyville is 14-8 but Libertyville has clearly played a tougher schedule, thus earning the No. 5 seed with Barrington settling in at No. 6. The final two seeds are tricky with the likes of Rolling Meadows, Prospect, Grant, Stevenson, Lake Zurich and Lake Forest all having knocked one another off this season and all posting similar win totals. But surprising Grant (15-7) has played well in January and beaten both Stevenson and Rolling Meadows.

Lockport Sectional
1. Andrew
2. Bloom
3. Homewood-Flossmoor
4. Crete-Monee
5. Joliet West
6. Thornwood
7. Marian Catholic
8. Sandburg

The breakdown: Although there are some quality teams and balance in this sectional field, there is a clear pecking order based on season results. Andrew is 17-1 and the No. 1 seed. Bloom has wins over H-F, Crete-Monee and Marian Catholic and is the clear No. 2 seed, followed by H-F and Crete-Monee.

Although Marian Catholic beat Thornwood back in November, Thornwood has played better of late, playing No. 1 seed Andrew to a tight game, while Marian Catholic has gone just 4-5 in its last nine games. Both Minooka and Lockport have more wins than Sandburg, but Sandburg has beaten Lockport twice and Minooka.

Glenbrook South Sectional
1. New Trier
2. Niles North
3. Glenbrook North
4. St. Patrick
5. Niles Notre Dame
6. Maine South
7. Taft
8. Evanston

The breakdown: Niles North picked up a big win over Glenbrook North two weeks ago but then promptly dropped two straight to Maine West and Maine South. But a recent 10-game winning streak keeps Niles North (15-7) in the second spot. Glenbrook North sports a solid record, despite playing much of the season without its best player, 6-8 Andrew McAuliffe. The Spartans hold on to the No. 3 seed as a result.

St. Patrick is playing very well, winning eight of its last nine games, and owns January wins over Taft and Niles Notre Dame, but Glenbrook North beat St. Patrick 60-34 back in December. The Shamrocks are the No. 4 seed. Maine South and Evanston have split two games this year, but Maine South won the most recent, lost to New Trier by two points and has gone 9-1 since Jan. 14. Evanston (14-8) beat both Niles Notre Dame and Maine South early in the year but are stumbling heading into seeding week.

Argo Sectional
1. Simeon
2. Curie
3. Bogan
4. St. Rita
5. Whitney Young
6. De La Salle
7. Marist
8. Hyde Park

The breakdown: The state's toughest sectional is also a difficult one to seed due mostly to the fact two of the top teams, Whitney Young and St. Rita, have compiled so many out-of-state losses to quality opponents. Simeon and Curie have locked in the top two seeds, respectively, while Bogan slides into the No. 3 hole with an impressive 20-2 record.

St. Rita has beaten De La Salle twice, including a convincing win this past weekend, and has yet to play an entire game with its full roster of healthy players. The Mustangs have earned the No. 4 seed.

What's interesting in this sectional is the No. 6 seed is more favorable than the No. 5 seed. Both seeds will have similar regional foes, but the No. 6 seed will avoid Simeon for another round and not face the No. 1 team in the state until the sectional final. With that being said, Whitney Young and De La Salle will be penciled in as the Hoops Report's No. 5 and No. 6 seeds. De La Salle's most impressive win came against Farragut, a team Whitney Young beat as well. Whitney Young, which owns a win over Crane, has played a brutally tough national schedule and gets the edge.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

R-B an underrated basketball program

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By Joe Henricksen

There would be plenty of reasons for any coach at Riverside-Brookfield to accept mediocrity.

R-B is nestled in the middle of a basketball hotbed in the near-western suburbs, just west of the city of Chicago and a quick car ride from the likes of St. Joseph, Proviso East, Morton and Lyons Twp. Yes, it's pretty easy to get lost in the basketball discussion there.

The conference the Bulldogs play in, the Metro Suburban, has improved recently, but it's like the Ohio Valley Conference in the NCAA -- the league doesn't generate much basketball conversation and receives very little fanfare or respect. Fortunately, R-B has evolved into the Murray State of the Metro Suburban and flourished by winning 10 consecutive league titles.

Even with the obstacles (thank goodness, too, for the four-class system for a landlocked community and school district that is R-B), coach Tom McCloskey and his staff have done a marvelous job of promoting the program within the school and community. The basketball program has generated interest and excitement.

Riverside-Brookfield is home to arguably the best high school basketball summer shootout in the state in early June. The schedule is upgraded each year, with the Bulldogs willing to play just about anyone, anywhere while providing new and different experiences for the kids in the program, both in-season and out-of-season. The Bulldogs play a fun style for players in the program. All of that creates relevance, gets the R-B basketball name out there and helps in building success.

R-B has been very competitive since McCloskey returned as head coach in 2001 (he was also the head coach at R-B from 1989-1994). The Bulldogs have averaged 19 wins a season since his return, including a 23-win, regional championship season in 2002. But the success has come at a higher level the past few years. R-B has won 24, 22 and 23 games the past three seasons with back-to-back regional titles.

Now McCloskey's Bulldogs are off to a 17-4 start, riding a 10-game win streak and well on their way to a fourth consecutive 20-plus win season. And with a recent road win over Ridgewood last week, R-B is in position to capture its 11th straight league title.

McCloskey is doing it a little differently this year. He had to replace the entire starting five from a year ago, including star Ryan Jackson. The wins, however, keep on coming. Steady, do-it-all senior Luke Nortier is averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists a game, while a pair of juniors, guard Damonta Henry and 6-7 Miki Ljuboja, average 18 and 15 points a game, respectively.

While the Bulldogs have had some quality individual players over the years, including Jackson and Sean McGonagill, who is starring in the Ivy League for Brown, arguably the best prospect to come through R-B in a long time is Ljuboja. The junior big man is among the Hoops Report's top 30 prospects in the Class of 2013 and has blossomed. Ljuboja is big, skilled with a soft touch, a great nose for the ball and is still just 15 years old. He has a surprising tough, relentless style that puts him in position to make plays.

When you add another impressive junior like Henry, along with a sophomore team that is currently 17-2 on the year, the fortunes for next season remain extremely bright. That talent pool will keep R-B basketball humming along while it gains more and more respect.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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