Are we really less than eight weeks away?
When Thanksgiving tournament time rolls around -- yes, in less than eight weeks -- the Hoops for Healing Tournament, a joint venture between Oswego and Naperville North, will be high on the must-see list the opening week of the season -- and for more than just a field of promising teams.
Proviso East, which will certainly be a top five team in the Chicago area when the preseason polls come out in November, has signed on to fill out the eight-team field. Coach Donnie Boyce's club, last year's state runner-up in 4A with a record of 32-1, returns highly-regarded Sterling Brown. The 6-5 senior is a coveted high-major prospect and among the top five prospects in the state. Paris Lee, a dynamic point guard and Illinois State recruit, also returns.
It's an impressive, balanced field as far as Thanksgiving Tournaments go with a blend of talented teams and individual players. While Proviso East is the headliner, the field will also include highly-regarded Andrew. The Thunderbolts are coming off a terrific 24-3 campaign, going 24-3 and will be ranked among the top 25 teams in the preseason. Andrew returns Valpo recruit Jubril Adekoya, a 6-6 ½ forward who is among the top 20 prospects in the Class of 2013 in Illinois.
The other six teams include Oswego, Oswego East, Naperville North, Naperville Central, Metea Valley and Benet Academy.
Under coach Gene Heidkamp, Benet has established itself as one of the top programs in the western suburbs over the past three seasons. Benet has won 20-plus games in each of the past three seasons, averaging 25 wins a year, and returns 6-9 Sean O'Mara, one of the top junior prospects in the state of Illinois.
Despite serious injury issues a year ago, Oswego won 18 games and will be a favorite in the Southwest Prairie behind Division I recruit Miles Simelton. The senior guard returns for his fourth varsity season.
Naperville North is the defending DuPage Valley Conference champions. Metea Valley is fresh off a 25-win season, while Naperville Central returns a solid junior group, led by 6-7 Nick Czarnowski, that won the Wheeling Hardwood Classic last December and should be one of the favorites in the DuPage Valley Conference this season. Oswego East, which returns veteran guard C.J. Vaughn, will be under a new head coach in Ron Murphy.
In addition to the basketball, this Thanksgiving tournament helps raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Since 2005, the tournament has raised a whopping $125,000 for Cancer Research at Edward Cancer Center in Naperville. Funds for the tournament now go towards Camp Hope, a unique support program at Edward Cancer Center.
An opening week of basketball with top teams, talent and a tremendous cause. And just eight weeks away.
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