By Joe Henricksen
Simeon is still, by far and away, the premier team in the state of Illinois. In fact, on paper, when this 2012-2013 Simeon juggernaut takes the floor next November, it may be the most talented of any Rob Smith coached Wolverines team.
But after spending two full days taking in action at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, the elite prep summer event in Illinois, Proviso East showed it will be better than many people thought. Coach Donnie Boyce's club claimed the R-B title with a 72-69 win over Simeon, which played without the No. 1 player in the country, Jabari Parker.
As far as summer play goes, the championship game -- and a few others in tournament play on Sunday, including the Simeon-De La Salle matchup -- were played at a high level. Simeon, which played several of its young players in the program (including two of its high-profile incoming freshmen), battled back from a double-digit deficit. Proviso East's Sterling Brown knocked down a pivotal three-pointer late in the game. With former Proviso East star and NBA player Shannon Brown watching his younger brother, Sterling Brown pumped in 30 points, controlled the game for the Pirates in the closing minutes and was named co-MVP of the event.
"It's always good to get an early look at what areas we need to work on," said Boyce about his team after the game.
Proviso East has a similar look to last year's 32-1 state runner-up team. Although it did lose its leader and point guard, Saint Louis-bound Keith Carter, and two other starters in Trashaun Carroll and Paris Burns, the Pirates have a chance to be just as good as a year ago.
Although Brown put together an impressive junior year in which he averaged 13 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, the 6-5 versatile wing is poised to take his game, production and assertiveness to another level this winter. Brown continues to fill out physically and polish his overall game.
In addition to having a star-like player in Brown, the ball will be in the hands of the dangerous Paris Lee more next season. The 5-10 jet-quick point guard, who was co-MVP of the shootout with Brown, was sensational throughout the two days of action at R-B and has bumped his way among the top 20 prospects in the Class of 2013. He's disruptive defensively, an established perimeter shooter with range to the three-point line and a nice little mid-range, pull-up game.
The Hoops Report continues to be impressed with the development of 6-3 athletic wing Branden Jenkins and up-and-coming guard Javon Carter. Jenkins played a key role for the Pirates over the final 15 games last season, averaging 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds a game while providing athleticism and energy off the bench. Look for those numbers to double this season.
Carter has the potential to be an offensive force. The 6-0 junior guard can knock down shots with range and regularity with a pretty release, while getting better and more comfortable off the dribble. He's an underrated player in the Class of 2014.
As was the case last season, Proviso East won't have much size -- at least experienced size. However, Boyce hopes the development of a couple of players without much experience, 6-6 senior Rashad Williams, who did play minimal minutes a year ago, and 6-4 junior Jesse Shaw, can provide at least a presence inside and play an important role for this guard-dominated group.
Look for more on two days at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout in a future blog this week.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport