By Joe Henricksen
Go ahead and mark Dec. 1 on the calendar. The city of Chicago will showcase five of the top teams in the Chicago area, including three-time defending state champion Simeon, and match them up with five out-of-state prep powers in what promises to be an elite event.
The Chicago Elite Classic, which was created by both the Whitney Young and Simeon basketball programs, has officially announced all 10 teams that will be competing in this high-profile national event next season.
The star-studded lineup is headed by Simeon, which is led by the nation's top-ranked player, Jabari Parker. The Wolverines, who also boast 6-1 high-major talent Kendrick Nunn and the tandem of 6-5 Kendall Pollard and Jaylon Tate, will be shooting for a fourth consecutive state championship next season.
The out-of-state contingent includes some monster national names in high school basketball, including DeMatha Catholic out of Maryland and Mater Dei out of California. Milton (Ga.), Lone Peak (Ut.) and St. Vincent-St. Mary (Oh.) -- yes, the SVSM program that produced Lebron James -- round out the five out-of-state powers.
"This event will bring in top, nationally-recognized high school programs," says Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter. "Plus, there will be a plethora of Division I talent, including high-level talent who could be future McDonald's All-Americans and playing in the game that returns to Chicago next year."
Famed DeMatha Catholic, which legendary coach Morgan Wootten -- the coach with the most wins in basketball history with 1,274 -- made famous, is the most storied of all the programs with five mythical national championships under its belt. This year's DeMatha team will welcome back Syracuse recruit Jairus Lyles, a 6-2 guard, and 6-8, 270-pound Beejay Anya, one of the top 25 players in the country in the Class of 2013.
All Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight has done in 30 years is compile a 926-83 record. (Yes, you read that right). The winningest coach in California prep history has a high-profile young star in Stanley Johnson, one of the top 25 players in the country in the Class of 2014, and a Division I guard in Elijah Brown, the son of Lakers coach Mike Brown.
Milton, Lone Peak and St. Vincent-St. Mary are all about winning championships as well. Milton and Lone Peak are the defending state champions in Georgia and Utah, respectively, while St. Vincent-St. Mary tied a state record in 2011 for the most state championships with six. Lone Peak has won four of the last six state titles in Utah.
Then there are the locals. Yes, all eyes will once again be on Simeon and Jabari Parker next season. But the foursome of Whitney Young, Proviso East, St. Joseph and De La Salle bring quality credentials as past and current Chicago area powers. All five Illinois representatives boast high-major college talent and instant name recognition.
Whitney Young boasts 6-10 sophomore Jahlil Okafor, a consensus top five player nationally in the Class of 2014. Slaughter will pair junior stars Okafor and 6-9 Paul White together in what figures to be one of very best teams in Illinois next winter.
Proviso East is fresh off a 32-1 season, losing only to Simeon in the 4A state championship game. With the return of rising star Sterling Brown, a 6-5 senior, and senior point guard Paris Lee, the Pirates are expected to once again be among the top five teams in the state of Illinois.
Legendary coach Gene Pingatore, the winningest prep coach in Illinois state history, has an abundance of talent. A.J. Patty, a 6-8 senior, and a pair of juniors, 6-4 Paul Turner and 6-5 Karriem Simmons, are all Division I talents and return from a team that won 20 games and a regional championship last season. In addition, a pair of highly-regarded young guards in sophomores Jordan Ash and Glynn Watson are on their way.
De La Salle will enter the season ranked among the top teams as well with a talented and experienced senior group leading the way. The duo of 6-8 Gavin Schilling and 6-4 Alvin Ellis are coveted players in the senior class and, along with guards Marcus White and DeMarcus Richardson, are among several key players returning for coach Tom White.
"We are honored to be involved," says White. "It shows there is a respect for our program to be involved in an event like this. It's great to have these types of teams coming to Chicago. These are some distinguished national programs and an outstanding opportunity for De La Salle."
Follow all the teams and all the Chicago Elite Classic news online at www.chicagoeliteclassic.com
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