By Joe Henricksen
Simeon tangling with Proviso East in the title game of the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this past weekend was no surprise. Simeon will be the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the state next November, while Proviso East is clearly a top five team.
After taking in two days of action at R-B, the Hoops Report came away impressed and mildly surprised with a few other teams that have a chance to build something this summer in hopes of a successful winter of basketball in 2012-2013. Yes, the likes of Simeon, Proviso East, St. Joseph, Whitney Young, De La Salle, Curie, Morgan Park and St. Rita all feature top-level talent and will be on everyone's radar heading into next season. But here is a quick rundown of several better than expected teams that showed promise this past weekend at R-B.
Another ESCC team to watch: Marist will be the favorite in a deep, talent-filled East Suburban Catholic Conference next season. Defending champ St. Viator has good, young players returning, Marian Catholic features dynamic point guard Tyler Ulis, Benet Academy brings back prized big man Sean O'Mara and Niles Notre Dame will contend. But it was St. Patrick that pulled off a surprise or two at the R-B Shootout and showed they will be yet another team to watch in what should be a heck of an ESCC in 2012-2013.
After a somewhat surprising and overachieving 17-9 season a year ago, which included a No. 3 seed in the Glenbrook South Sectional, people shouldn't be looking past coach Mike Bailey's club next season. The Shamrocks reached the semifinals of the R-B championship bracket this past weekend, where it fell in a close one to eventual champ Proviso East.
Senior veterans Royale Ewing and 6-4 Parish McCullum are two mainstays that return. But St. Patrick could be better than a year ago if promising sophomore Nicholas Coleman makes an expected jump forward and senior Keith Langston, a transfer from Whitney Young, emerges.
Don't forget Bloom: Fresh off a 28-5 record and a season that saw Bloom reach Peoria and bring home a fourth-place trophy in Class 4A, coach Jasper Williams is looking to keep the Blazing Trojans among the top teams in the south suburbs. If Bloom's showing at R-B was any indication, Williams will have a team very capable of putting together a 20-win season. Although Bloom graduated three key senior starters, including point guard catalayst Donald Moore, there is some size, athleticism and experience returning in 6-4 Johnny Griffin and 6-5 Jataryan Dejaraux, a pair of starters a year ago. Senior guard Dejahown Freeman, a lefty shooter who can score, and 6-3 senior Nhyree Mitchell will see their roles expand from a year ago. Griffin, Dejaraux, Mitchell and Freeman give Williams a solid nucleus to build around.
One talented 2A team: Quietly, Providence St. Mel won 23 games last season and reached the Class 2A supersectional, where it lost 61-51 to Seton Academy. Look for Tim Ervin's Knights to be a player once again in Class 2A and a league favorite in the Chicago Prep. St. Mel went 2-1 in pool play, losing in overtime to De La Salle, and then finished second in the second-place bracket on Sunday, where it fell to Morgan Park.
Rugged, hard-nosed junior guard Tevin King remains the big name and the heart and soul for St. Mel. But the Knights have talent beyond King, including guard Khalil Small and sophomore point guard Ant Mosley. Like King, Small is a tough, physical guard. The 6-2 senior had games of 27 and 28 in the R-B Shootout, while the slender Mosley is a skilled young prospect. The three-guard attack of King, Small and Mosley will be one to watch next season.
Good news for Mundelein: After winning a combined 55 games the past two seasons, expectations remain high for Mundelein. There remains plenty of good news for coach Dick Knar and his Mustangs. First, Warren, which ended Mundelein's season in the sectional championship this past March, will fully come back to the pack in the North Suburban Lake. Second, Knar has a veteran team with a whole bunch of talent and offensive punch.
The catalyst is high-scoring guard Robert Knar. The Northern Iowa commit is a prolific scorer who will finish as the all-time leading scorer in Lake County history as long as he stays healthy. Sean O'Brien, a skilled 6-6 perimeter threat, is ready to blossom and is a certain Division I prospect. Chino Ebube is one of the elite athletes in the state with mega-explosiveness off the floor. Quinn Pokora is a solid role-playing senior guard, while junior guard Nate Williams adds quickness and depth in the backcourt.
Clear DVC favorite: West Aurora lost the DuPage Valley Conference title in the final regular-season game of the year this past season. The Blackhawks then promptly ran off four straight wins to capture regional and sectional titles, before falling to Proviso East in the supersectional. The Blackhawks went 3-0 in pool play at R-B before falling to eventual champ Proviso East in the opening round of tournament play.
Legendary coach Gordie Kerkman has a huge void to fill with the graduation of Juwan Starks, West Aurora's all-time leading scorer, but he has enough pieces to claim a DVC title next winter. Junior guard Jontrel Walker and emerging big man Josh McAuley, a 6-7 senior, both return, along with role players Spencer and Chandler Thomas. And keep an eye on sophomore guard Roland Griffin.
H-F isn't done: A senior group that led Homewood-Flossmoor to back-to-back Southwest Suburban Blue titles (combined league record of 26-2), two regional championships and 45 victories the past two seasons has graduated. While 6-7 Tim Williams, 6-6 Antonio Bishop, guard Tyrone Sherman, 6-5 Delvon Rencher and guard Willie Lipsey have all moved on after being such a huge part of the program. the Vikings showed at R-B they will still need to be heavily accounted for with relatively unknown pieces in place.
Coach Jim McLaughlin's club played without its top player, Maurius Hill. But even with the blue collar 6-5 senior out with an injury, H-F went 3-0 in pool play. With Hill and the always-intriguing 6-7 Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, H-F will have talent on the block. Plus, the trio of 6-4 guard Rashaan Surles, Ricky Bullock and 6-3 Jason Scott all took turns impressing at different moments over two days of action. H-F lost to De La Salle in overtime in tournament play.
Andrew's 1-2 punch: Yes, Andrew surprised many last year with a monumental season in T-Bolt basketball history. Andrew won 20-plus games for just the second time in the school's 35-year history. With the return of 6-6 Jubril Adekoya, the best player in school history, and underrated guard Glorind Lisha, the Thunderbolts could be looking at their third 20-win season. Adekoya is a coveted mid-major college prospect, while Lisha is confident scorer who can shoot it and space the floor with his perimeter jumper.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport