By Joe Henricksen

November 2012 Archives

Chicago Elite Classic highlights big weekend

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Talk about kicking off the season with a bang.

When you combine the Chicago Elite Classic on Saturday with the McGinnis Jump-Ball Showcase on Sunday, the high school scheduling gods put together a stacked opening weekend.

Here is the Hoops Report's look at both of those upcoming weekend events.

CHICAGO ELITE CLASSIC • Saturday, Dec. 1 • UIC Pavilion
Hoops Report's Five 2 Watch
No. 1 Simeon. This will be the first look at the state's top-ranked team -- and MaxPreps' No. 1 team in the country -- looking for its fourth straight state championship. Simeon games have become an event.
Jahlil Okafor vs. BeeJay Anya. Yes, Whitney Young and DeMatha Caholic is a heck of a matchup. But the 6-11 Okafor, the nation's top junior, will go head-to-head with the 6-9, 275-pound Anya, who has signed with N.C. State and is one of the top big men in the country in the Class of 2013.
Stanley Johnson. The 6-5 junior is Rivals.com's No. 14 player in the country. He's ranked No. 21 by ESPN.com and No. 25 by Scout.com. Those high accolades and offers from the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Kentucky are a result of Johnson being a versatile and advanced scorer.
Keita Bates-Diop. No, it's not fair, but downstate prospects always have a little extra to prove to Chicago area basketball enthusiasts. The Ohio State commit will have a chance to showcase why he's considered one of the top 25 players in the country in the Class of 2014.
Nick Emery. Fans will love Emery, a BYU recruit and younger brother of former Cougar Jackson Emery who averaged 22 points a game as a junior. The green light is NEON green for Emery. The smooth 6-2 lefty guard is a big-time scorer with in-the-gym range and brings visions of -- who else? --Jimmer Fredette.

The Matchups
Simeon vs. Milton (Ga.) • 8:00 p.m.
What to watch: The expectations placed on Simeon this season are even extreme for Simeon. Regardless, the quest for a fourth straight state championship season begins at the UIC Pavilion against another defending state champion. Look for the backcourt of Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, a pair of Illinois recruits, to gel quickly. Tate is more comfortable and, as a result, will be thinking less and reacting more. Plus, the two teamed up with one another on the AAU circuit.
The out-of-state visitor: Milton is a defending Georgia state champion that also captured a title in 2010.

Whitney Young vs. DeMatha Catholic (Md.) • 6:30 p.m.
What to watch: The debut of the state's No. 2 ranked team and the newly appointed No. 1 junior in the country, Jahlil Okafor. Will there be a better individual matchup than the 6-11 Okafor going up against 6-9, 275-pound BeeJay Anya, a N.C. State recruit and one of the top big men in the country in the Class of 2013? The Dolphins will also unveil 6-5 L.J. Peak, a talented junior who moved to Chicago from South Carolina, while DeMatha has a game-changer in the backcourt in VCU recruit Jairus Lyles.
The out-of-state visitor: DeMatha is recognized nationally as the program legendary Morgan Wootten built and where he became a coaching icon. All the retired Wootten did was compile the most coaching wins in basketball history with 1.274 career victories and win five mythical national championships.

Proviso East vs. Lone Peak (Utah) • 2:30 p.m.
What to watch: Lone Peak is loaded. Coach Quincy Lewis has a surplus of Division I talent and nationally-ranked players, including a trio of BYU commitments in sharpshooter Nick Emery, 6-8 big man Eric Mika and junior guard T.J. Haws. Proviso East, which was upset by Oswego a week ago, will have its hands full. Coach Donnie Boyce's Pirates will be in unfamiliar territory on Saturday: a big underdog.
The out-of-state visitor: Lone Peak, which has won four of the last six Utah state titles, began the season ranked No. 6 in the nation, according to MaxPreps.

St. Joseph vs. Mater Dei (Calif.) • 12:45 p.m.
What to watch: A pair of coaches in St. Joseph's Gene Pingatore and Mater Dei's Gary McKnight, who are the two winningest coaches in their respective states, meet up. McKnight boasts a ridiculous overall record of 926-83 in 30 years. St. Joseph will have a tough task as it looks to bounce back from its lost last week to St. Charles East.
The out-of-state visitor: The program is a national giant that features one of the top players in the country in Stanley Johnson. The 6-5 forward is among the top 20 prospects in the country in the Class of 2014. Keep an eye on uncommitted Division I senior guard Elijah Brown, the son of former Lakers coach Mike Brown.

Normal U-High vs. St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio) • 11:00 a.m.
What to watch: Normal U-High's Keita Bates-Diop, who just recently committed to Ohio State, is among the top 25 prospects in the country in the Class of 2014. There will be a lot of Chicago eyes on Bates-Diop on Saturday as he plays on the big stage. He led U-High to a state runner-up finish in Class 2A last March, but the Pioneers are making the jump to 3A this season. SVSM boasts one of the top young players in the Midwest, freshman guard V.J. King.
The out-of-state visitor: This Ohio power is best known as the school that produced the world's greatest current player, Lebron James. But it has remained one of Ohio's elite programs post-Lebron. Coach Dru Joyce led his team to a state title in 2011, the program's sixth state championship overall.

De La Salle vs. Phillips • 9:00 a.m.
The lone local matchup of the day tips off the event as the Chicago Catholic League takes on the Chicago Public League. Minnesota recruit Alvin Ellis is primed to put De La Salle on his back this season. Phillips, meanwhile, is in building mode as far as a program with Lawrence Briggs, Jr., leading the way.

MC GINNIS JUMP-BALL SHOWCASE • Sunday, Dec. 2 • Notre Dame
The Matchups
Julian vs. New Trier • 1:00 p.m.
First-year coach Boyd Batts is trying to revitalize the Julian program. New Trier is off to a 3-1 start behind a strong backcourt of Reid Berman and Steven Cook.

T.F. North vs. Bogan • 3:00 p.m.
Bogan lost a pair over Thanksgiving but grew up in falling to two quality teams in West Aurora and Rock Island. But the Bengals have a talented guard tandem in senior Juwan Henry and sophomore Luwane Pipkins and will get better each week. T.F. North may be better than people think with a senior-laden group to lean on, led by point guard D.J. Deere and 6-6 Nick Wood.

Curie vs. Benet Academy • 5:00 p.m.
Curie's 6-9 Cliff Alexander has been a coveted big man in the Class of 2014 and a top 10 player nationally for the past year. After a solid sophomore season, Benet's 6-9 Sean O'Mara enhanced his reputation as much as anyone this past summer and is a high-major prospect. The two will go head-to-head in a battle of premier big men. Throw in the fact Curie is the Hoops Report's No. 4 ranked team and Benet is on the cusp of cracking the Top 25, and this is an early-season delight.

Morgan Park vs. Notre Dame • 7:00 p.m.
Maybe the underrated matchup of the weekend, considering Morgan Park is ranked No. 3 and Niles Notre Dame No. 7 in the most recent Hoops Report Top 25. Thought it's still early, this one is a terrific measuring stick for both teams. Morgan Park, with its potential world-beating backcourt of Kyle Davis and Billy Garrett, Jr., will be tested by a veteran team while playing in what will likely be a difficult environment. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is preparing for the meatgrinder known as the East Suburban Catholic Conference. This one will prepare them well for the likes of Marist, Benet and St. Viator.

Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce gets it

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There are Xs and Os. There is game preparation and halftime adjustments. There is motivating players and making them better. There are gifted leaders and forward thinkers.

Forget all those very important coaching nuances for a moment. How about the simplicity of discipline and doing what's right? Both have quietly slipped a little when it comes to the high school game, resembling more and more like the player-driven NBA and look-the-other-way NCAA.

Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce hasn't let it happen. He hasn't succumbed to the pressure of being an inexperienced coach of a high-profile basketball program. Boyce has maintained a realistic approach and kept things in perspective.

Even in this first week of the high school season, the second-year coach was hit with the unexpected. He had to do something no coach ever wants to do: suspend one of his players. The fact it was his best player, all-stater Sterling Brown, shows more about what Boyce is about and how he views his principles, his team and the Proviso East program more than anything else.

The suspension wasn't due to breaking the school's code of conduct or any serious off-the-court issues. Brown was suspended for two games for something plenty of coaches would have maybe looked past.

Last week's loss to Oswego wasn't a game Brown will sit down and watch a replay of on DVD. He struggled in the overtime defeat, and his frustration resembled more of Ron Artest on a bad day than of a veteran senior leader. He had words for just about anyone who would listen -- and those that didn't.

"He's a teenager who made a mistake in the heat of the moment," says Boyce of his star player. "Sterling is such a competitor, a fierce competitor. He got caught up in the moment. I understand the emotion of the game and the atmosphere we were playing in, but there are certain expectations we have. He will learn from it."

Players have lost their cool, let their emotions get the best of them and have acted out in a negative way before and will again. It happens. Some coaches ignore it all, let it happen. Boyce knows better.

Last season, during an unbeaten regular season and a state runner-up finish, one would think it was smooth sailing for four months; it wasn't all roses. Behind the scenes there was some internal turmoil that Boyce kept in check. Even Zen Master Phil Jackson would be proud.

It was a Proviso East coach, in fact, who instilled many of the coaching philosophies Boyce uses today. Bill Hitt won two state championships while coaching at Proviso East, including the 1991 state championship with Boyce as one of his star players. All those days playing under Hitt helped prepare Boyce for these tough coaching decisions.

"So much of what I do I take from what I learned from coach [Bill] Hitt," says Boyce of the coach he played for in the early 1990s. "I saw how he handled things. He had a way about him. He emphasized the importance of the program and the tradition and history at Proviso East that goes back to coach [Glenn] Whittenberg before him."

Now Boyce is trying to instill that same mindset into his players today. Every group is different; it's not always easy to get each team to buy in. Boyce's familiarity with the Proviso East program and the connection he has with the community and his players has helped, along with the reputation he has as a former player.

"We need everyone on board, on the same page and to understand there isn't one player bigger than the program," says Boyce. "I need to do a better job myself of making adjustments. We'll learn, get better. I think we'll be fine."

With Boyce in charge, the Proviso East program will be fine.

City/Suburban Hoops Report Website
Want more comprehensive, in-depth high school basketball coverage on players, teams and current issues? After 17 years as the only print publication offering up high school basketball coverage throughout the city and suburbs, the City/Suburban Hoops Report is now online. The Hoops Report takes a look back at what we learned during Thanksgiving Tournament play, along with an updated Top 25 rankings, at cshoopsreport.com. For more information go to cshoopreport.com

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Will Class of 2014 push all-time great classes?

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Figuring out national rankings is no easy task. There are several to choose from -- ESPN.com, Rivals.com, Scout.com and other individual recruiting services -- and they can really differ, particularly once you get past the top 25-35 prospects.

The number we've all become fixated on when it comes to national rankings is 100. Is he ranked in the top 100? Is he a a "Top 100" recruit? How in the world is he one of the top 100 players in the country? How are there 100 players in the country better? How many top 100 recruits did a school sign?

Many times we determine how solid a class is in Illinois by how many top 100 players from around Illinois can be found in the national rankings.

By all accounts, the Class of 2012 in Illinois was as weak as we've seen in this state in years. The consensus top 100 list helped prove that as it featured just one Illinois prospect, Simeon's Steve Taylor, among the top 100. Taylor, who is a freshman at Marquette, was the No. 82 player in the country.

The year before, Illinois had nine players ranked among the top 100 players in the country in the Class of 2011, including the nation's top-ranked player, Anthony Davis of Perspectives. Morgan Park's Wayne Blackshear (No. 26) and Whitney Young's Sam Thompson (No. 46) were among the top 50, while Rock Island's Chasson Randle, East Aurora's Ryan Boatright, Orr's Mycheal Henry, Mt. Carmel's Tracy Abrams, De La Salle's Mike Shaw and St. Ignatius' Nnanna Egwu rounded out the nine Illinois prospects in the top 100, who were all among the top 80.

The nine players in the Top 100 in 2011 were the most the state of Illinois has produced since 1998, the class many believe is the best and deepest class in state history. That class also had nine players among the top 100, led by the trio of Whitney Young's Quentin Richardson, Fenwick's Corey Maggette and Peoria Manual's Frank Williams.

Are the national rankings always on the mark? No. National rankings are so difficult, especially knowing, from personal experience, how hard it is to keep tabs on just one state. Rankings are hardly an exact science to begin with, but putting all the players in the entire country into a single 100-player pool? Very difficult.

Locally, the Hoops Report differed quite a bit from what it saw from the national rankings in 2011. The Hoops Report would have had both Boatright (No. 64) and Egwu (No. 78) higher in the national rankings, while Shaw, who was ranked No. 65 in the country, wasn't even among the Hoops Report's top 10 in-state prospects.

This year's senior class, the Class of 2013, has five players currently in the top 100, which is the average amount of Illinois players in the top 100 over the past 13 years. But the Hoops Report will be surprised if the Class of 2014 in Illinois, this year's juniors, doesn't approach the top 100 numbers the 2011 and 1998 classes featured.

It's loaded. And it just gets better and deeper.

The class starts with a bang at the top. Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor is the nation's No. 1 ranked player. Curie's Cliff Alexander is among the top 10 and Normal U-High's Keita Bates-Diop is a top 25 talent. Those three have received all the accolades locally and nationally.

The Whitney Young duo of Paul White and L.J. Peak are already consensus top 100 players, along with Springfield Lanphier's Larry Austin. That makes six.

A seventh top 100 player, St. Rita's Vic Law, who the Hoops Report believes is a clear choice as a top 100 talent, is ranked No. 59 by ESPN.com.

Then you take a look at the most recent Rivals.com top 150 in the Class of 2014 and six more Illinois prospects pop up on the list: Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis (No. 105), Benet's Sean O'Mara (No. 108), Sandburg's Malek Harris (No. 118), Rockridge's Ethan Happ (No. 122), Morgan Park's Josh Cunningham (No. 139) and Champaign Centennial's Michael Finke (No. 149).

Add Orr's Tyquone Greer and Marlon Jones, two up-and-coming, still developing unranked national prospects who could open eyes, and there is a list of 15 players who could all potentially end up as Top 150 players. Now, how many can inch their way up into the Top 100?

In addition to the current six that are already consensus top 100 players -- Okafor, Alexander, Bates-Diop, Peak, White and Austin -- the Hoops Report believes both Law and Finke are destined for consensus top 100 status before long. Law and Finke are too talented and offer the combination of size, skill and upside that Top 100 talents showcase.

Add two of the following four -- Ulis, Cunningham, Greer or O'Mara -- and it's realistic that Illinois could boast 10 percent of the top 100 players in the Class of 2014. Now that would be a special group, one the Hoops Report believes will surpass the Class of 2011 and potentially rival the great group in 1998.

The Hoops Report's updated Class of 2014 player rankings in Illinois can be found here.

City/Suburban Hoops Report Website
Want more comprehensive, in-depth high school basketball coverage on players, teams and current issues? After 17 years as the only print publication offering up high school basketball coverage throughout the city and suburbs, the City/Suburban Hoops Report is now online. The Hoops Report takes a look back at what we learned during Thanksgiving Tournament play at cshoopsreport.com. For more information go to cshoopreport.com

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Illinois prep hoops Fantasy League draft

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Welcome to the Hoops Report's Illinois Prep Basketball Fantasy League Draft.

No, it's not real. So all you high school hoops junkies trying to find out how to get in and be a late entry, relax.

So, yes, in reality this is a fantasy draft about a fake fantasy league. But play along. Team Heinrich Maneuver is on the clock ...

Those that are oblivious to fantasy leagues -- and all those that will go berserk certain players aren't higher due to being a better player or prospect -- they are about statistics, production and building a fantasy team at different positions. This isn't about what player you want leading your team to a state championship or who will be a better college player. In fact, some of the top players on the top teams may not always be the best fantasy players due to team balance.

Relax. Have some fun with it as we head into Thanksgiving weekend.

First, we need some rules. We'll keep it simple, including just points, rebounds, steals, blocks and assists. There will be bonus points awarded for any double-doubles, which for this league will consist of any player who puts up 10-plus points + 10-plus rebounds or 10-plus points + 8-plus assists in a game. Every double-double recorded is five bonus points.

With so few big men in the high school game, the roster (we are only drafting a starting five and one sub for a six-team league) will have six players -- five starters and a sub. Every team must start what we will consider two "bigs," which can be a combination of a forward and/or center. There are a few players that will be particularly valuable because they can go both guard and forward.

Here we go with a live draft dialogue with six owners of the Illinois Prep Fantasy Basketball League, with several team names having a Chicago basketball feel and connection ...

First Round
Team 1 (Heinrich Maneuver): Jahlil Okafor, C, Whitney Young. No-brainer. Big men are a premium and hard to find in real life and in the fantasy world. There will be a quick drop-off in production from bigs, so I just got me the big one! Plus, that double-double bonus each game will be a gimme for the big fella. Could put up ridiculous fantasy points for me. This is my fantasy aircraft carrier!!! This is Shaq-Fantasy-World circa mid-1990s!
Team 2 (Unibrow's): Jabari Parker, F, Simeon. I know fantasy rule No. 1 is not to draft a player who has been on the shelf for some time in the first round. But it's Jabari! A little worried about getting out of the gate slowly with this whole foot thing, but I'll live with it. Even if he does have to miss some time, survive, get him back healthy and have him ready. JP will be big come fantasy playoff time. He'll put up points, rebounds, blocks and throw some double-doubles in there. Plus, I get one of the two mandatory bigs on my roster.
Team 3 (Deng Girl!): David Cohn, G, York. Surprise pick?!?!? During halftime of some West Suburban Silver game in mid-January, I can see it now. Some York opponent sitting in the locker-room at halftime telling his coach, "I can't do it anymore! I give up! I can't guard him!" And THAT is when you know you have a fantasy player worth drafting this high! Cohn averaged 20 points a game last year as a junior. I mean he scored 47 points in a single game! He's going to put up some big numbers and be a fantasy dream.
Team 4 (Maggette & Meatballs): Cliff Alexander, F, Curie. I'll get my guards later. I'm taking a big here. I was hoping he would fall to me here. It's like getting Kevin Love in my NBA fantasy league last month after Lebron, Durant and Chris Paul were taken. (Crap! I lost Kevin Love to injury two days after I drafted him. Hope I didn't curse Big Cliff). I'm banking on Big Cliff giving me 18 points, 10 boards and 5 blocks on a consistent basis.
Team 5 (Apocalypse Noah): Kyle Davis, G, Morgan Park. I know he's going to share touches, shots and points with Billy Garrett. And from a fantasy perspective, that worries me. But Davis is too big of scorer and plays in a system that's going to get me fantasy points. I love his potential for exploding numbers in certain games.
Team 6 (LeBrontourage): Malcolm Hill, G/F, Belleville East. Versatile fantasy performer due to being a guard/forward, so I can slide him wherever I want. He's a high-end fantasy performer in all leagues.

Second Round
Team 6: Ben Moore, F, Bolingbrook. I took a guard in Malcolm Hill in the first round and will take a big with my wrap-around pick. Fantasy wise, the numbers were solid but modest last season. But certainly something to build on now that he's more confident and assertive. Moore is a potential double-double player on a regular basis. He's going to get me some assists and steals, too. And he's going to get me some blocks. I've got two players now who will be filling a stat sheet in Hill and Moore.
Team 5: Tyler Ulis, G, Marian Catholic. I should take a big but I'm going with another guard to team with Kyle Davis because I'm surprised Tyler Ulis fell this far. High-majors are overlooking him and now fantasy owners are, too?!?!?! I can't believe I get Ulis in the second round. He averaged 20 points, 4.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2 steals as a junior! I may have just won the league with this pick.
Team 4: Milik Yarbrough, F, Zion-Benton. Who are these guys in this league? These fools are going to let me have Yarbrough this late? In the third round? Come on! He counts as one of my forwards, has a green light and freedom, can score any way he wants and had games of 40 and 44 points last season en route to averaging 23 points a game. Gotta be the steal of this fantasy draft, right?
Team 3: Sean O'Mara, C, Benet. Could start slow due to the football run and late start to the hoops season. But with a high-scoring guard in Cohn already locked up, I need a big this late in the second round. O'Mara will be the focal point for Benet. Will get plenty of touches.
Team 2: Kendrick Nunn, G, Simeon. This is like drafting Durant and Westbrook in my NBA Fantasy League. I just want to watch OKC. And I just want to go watch Simeon games. So I'll live with the unselfishness of Parker and Nunn on the same fantasy team. Just a couple of steady producers.
Team 1: Jared Brownridge, G, Waubonsie Valley. With Okafor as my cornerstone who will give me big fantasy points each night out, I'm going with a guard who is capable of 20-plus regularly. That's Brownridge. Plus, I have my wrap-around pick in the third round coming ...

Third Round
Team 1: Keita Bates-Diop, F, Normal U-High. I am going to add another big and maybe trade one when all these saps that are taking guards will come calling me. Bates-Diop isn't selfish enough for fantasy purposes. Still, he's considered a big in the fantasy world, and I think I can get 18-20 a night from him with 7-8 boards and some blocks. Now I have Okafor and Keita.
Team 2: Jubril Adekoya, F, Andrew. Now I've got a high-scoring guard in Cohn, Nunn and Adekoya, who averaged a DOUBLE-DOUBLE as a junior with 16 points and 11 rebounds a game. Big-time value in the third round!
Team 3: Alec Peters, F, Washington. I've got Cohn, O'Mara and Peters in the first three rounds. I'm too white!!!!! Oh, wait, it's just fantasy. I did have Michael Orris, Connor Boehm, Mike Latulip, Gabe Levin and Robert Knar last year.
Team 4: Billy Garrett, Jr., G, Morgan Park. Solid pick when you look at his numbers from last year. But Morgan Park going to be more balanced this year with KD and that talented group. Still, I think he will still put up solid numbers. Garrett teaming up with Big Cliff and Yarbrough? I like this as long as I don't screw up my last two picks.
Team 5: Alex Foster, F, Seton Academy. A big senior year from Foster numbers-wise could mean a fantasy title for me. I had to go big here with Tyler Ulis and Kyle Davis already on my roster.
Team 6: Malachi Nix, G, Niles North. Size certainly doesn't matter in fantasy! So I'll take my productive 5-6 terror this high. My team is versatile with G/F Malcolm Hill. And I have my big in Ben Moore. Nix is a perfect fit for me here. He averaged 19.5 points and nearly 4 assists as a junior. Underrated pick for me, if I say so myself.

Fourth Round
Team 6: Jovan Mooring, G, Hillcrest. The Hoops Report calls him a mini-version of Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson for a reason. He's going to get that green light all winter long after scoring over 15 points a game as a junior.
Team 5: Sterling Brown, G/F, Proviso East. Hey, I get an all-stater with versatility who I can slide in at different positions AND who averaged 13 points and 9 rebounds a game last year? He's too unselfish to put up 25 a night, but the fantasy points will pile up when I add in all the work he gets done with points, rebounds, steals, blocks and assists.
Team 4: Kevin Kozan, G, Providence. There has been a run on underrated, high-scoring fantasy guards. I better get me one. And Kozan isn't afraid to put up a shot or two (or three or four or five). He can flat-out score.
Team 3: Peyton Allen, G, Chatham-Glenwood. He's sure to put up numbers playing in the Central State Eight, right? I mean it's the Central State Eight! He could pop for 30 in matchups with Rochester, Taylorville, Jacksonville and Sacred Heart Griffin.
Team 2: Evan Boudreaux, F, Lake Forest. Yes, I have Jubril Adekoya and Jabari Parker already. But with a trio of Parker, Adekoya and Boudreaux, I have three potential players who will get me double-double bonus points regularly. Boudreaux is a rebounding machine and will surely put up 13-15 points a night.
Team 1: Charles Matthews, G, St. Rita. I know you're a young fella, but boy are people talking big about you! And I know it might be risky to count on a sophomore for fantasy-type numbers, but I'm rolling the dice on this one.

Fifth Round
Team 1: L.J. McIntosh, G, Marist. People forget the numbers he put up as a junior, averaging 15.6 points a game. He also rebounds a little (3.6 rpg) and will get me some assists and steals. A stat-sheet stuffer who is a year older. Love this pick to round out my team.
Team 2: Miles Simelton, G, Oswego. I see your Nix and Mooring and Kozan and all the other underrated guards who can score and up you with Miles Simelton, who is going to slice up the Southwest Prairie this year. He could potentially put up some big offensive numbers for me for a fifth-round fantasy pick.
Team 3: Sean O'Brien, G, Mundelein. Fantasy wise, how did he stumble to the sixth round? If my top pick, Jabari Parker, comes back strong and healthy, my "Unibrow's" team HAS to be the favorite. Already have the best fantasy logo and jersey (think Anthony Davis' menacing eyes with the 'Brow stretching across the front of the jersey, just above the numbers). Now I have the best team. O'Brien? With Knar out? And playing in that Mundelein system? I've struck GOLD!
Team 4: Kendall Stephens, G, St. Charles East. I know he dropped to me here in the fifth round because of the torn labrum. But until he's not on the floor -- they say he's going to play through it -- I can't fathom not taking a potential 20-plus scorer who is going to get 7-8 rebounds, block a shot or two, get a steal and a few assists. If he plays and stays healthy, this pick may win me this fantasy league.
Team 5: Ethan Happ, F, Rockridge (Taylor Ridge). I have no clue where Taylor Ridge or Rockridge or Ridgerock or Taylor Rock is. ... All I know is I have some kid committed to a Big Ten school (Wisconsin) who plays in some conference called the West Central who I picked up in the last round!!!!! That's gotta be good for 20 and 10 every night out, doesn't it?
Team 6: Andrew McAuliffe, F/C, Glenbrook North. If he can stay healthy he's a big man that is going to deliver numbers for sure.

Sixth Round
Team 1: Miki Ljuboja, F, Riverside-Brookfield. You know those fantasy drafts that are done during the first week of the season, an unsuspecting player goes off in a game or two, you hope no one else really noticed and you push the envelope and draft him high? That's this pick right here. Ljubuja goes for 30 points and 17 rebounds Tuesday night in 19 minutes of action. He's a big. And he will put up some potential big numbers in some of those Metro Suburban Conference games.
Team 2: Erick Locke, G, Oak Park-River Forest. The classic fantasy stat stuffer. He's going to put up numbers. I wonder if this is a Keeper League? I could stash this junior away for two years.
Team 3: Michael Finke, F, Champaign Centennial. And this wraps up my second consecutive All-Caucasian fantasy basketball team with Cohn, O'Mara, Peters, Allen, O'Brien and Finke. I sure hope this works out better than my NBA Fantasy team of Kevin Love, Steve Nash, Andrew Bogut, David Lee, Luke Ridnour and Jimmer Freddette.
Team 4: Marlon Jones, F, Orr. A bit of a roll-of-the-dice here as I need some backup support at the forward position with just two players, Big Cliff and Milik Yarbrough, on the roster. Jones is a wild card. He didn't play last year. But I think he could potentially put up some big numbers for the Spartans this year.
Team 5: Ore Arogundade, G, St. Viator. This is my stat-sheet stuffer right here. Last year he averaged 14.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2 assists a game. If those numbers even slightly improve as a junior, that's going to be close to 30 fantasy points a game from my sixth round pick!
Team 6: JaVairius Amos-Mays, G, North Chicago. It's just stupid NOT to have a player from North Chicago on a fantasy basketball team. They play free, loose, with a green light and pile up points.

So who will be the favorite? What team brings the most fantasy points value?

Team 1 • Heinrich Maneuver
Jahlil Okafor, C, Whitney Young
Jared Brownridge, G, Waubonsie Valley
Keita Bates, Diop, F, Normal U-High
Charles Matthews, G, St. Rita
L.J. McIntosh, G, Marist
Mike Ljuboja, F, Riverside-Brookfield

Team 2 • Unibrow's
Jabari Parker, F, Simeon
Kendrick Nunn, G, Simeon
Jubril Adekoya, F, Andrew
Evan Boudreaux, F, Lake Forest
Miles Simelton, G, Oswego
Erick Locke, G, Oak Park

Team 3 • Deng Girl!
David Cohn, G, York
Sean O'Mara, C, Benet
Alec Peters, F, Washington
Peyton Allen, G, Chatham-Glenwood
Sean O'Brien, G, Mundelein
Michael Finke, Champaign Centennial

Team 4 • Maggette & Meatballs
Cliff Alexander, F, Curie
Milik Yarbrough, F, Zion-Benton
Billy Garrett, Jr., G, Morgan Park
Kevin Kozan, G, Providence
Kendall Stephens, G, St. Charles East
Marlon Jones, F, Orr

Team 5 • Apocalypse Noah
Kyle Davis, G, Morgan Park
Tyler Ulis, G, Marian Catholic
Alex Foster, F, Seton
Sterling Brown, G/F, Proviso East
Ethan Happ, F, Taylor Ridge (Rockridge)
Ore Arogundade, G, St. Viator

Team 6 • Lebrontourage
Malcolm Hill, G/F, Belleville East
Ben Moore, F, Bolingbrook
Malachi Nix, G, Niles North
Jovan Mooring, G, Hillcrest
Andrew McAuliffe, F/C, Glenbrook North
JaVairius Amos-Mays, G, North Chicago

City/Suburban Hoops Report Website
After 17 years as a one-of-a-kind print publication offering up high school basketball coverage throughout the city and suburbs, the City/Suburban Hoops Report is now online. For more information go to cshoopreport.com

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Catholic League basketball adds its own playoffs

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The Chicago Catholic League, about as traditionalist of a league as there is, just got progressive.

With the pushing from several coaches and the approval of school athletic directors and principals, the Chicago Catholic League, much like the Chicago Public League, will have its very own end-of-year tournament. It's a step that will enhance the competitiveness just prior to the start of the postseason while also shining the spotlight on Catholic League basketball in the Chicago area.

"It's fantastic for the kids," says St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare. "This gives them a chance to play for a championship. I think we need to look at what is best for the kids, what is best for the league, and maybe not what is best for individual programs."

DeCesare, the former DePaul assistant who coached at powerful St. Raymond in the Bronx for 16 years, is very familiar with the road the Chicago Catholic League is about to go down. During his highly-successful run at St. Raymond, his teams competed in the ultra-competitive New York Catholic High School Athletic Association, which conducted its own Catholic League Tournament.

"The Chicago Catholic League, along with the New York Catholic League, the Washington D.C./Baltimore area and Philadelphia, are the two, three or four best in the country," DeCesare points out. "All those cities and leagues have tournaments. Why not have one of our own here in Chicago?"

Loyola Academy coach Tom Livatino has experienced a conference tournament while he was the head coach at Lincoln Park. He and his players thoroughly enjoyed all that came with being a part of the Chicago Public League playoffs.

"I think the Catholic League coaches felt it was time for a change, to try something new," says Livatino. "We are proud of all the programs in the Catholic League and this is an opportunity to showcase all our teams. It's a chance to show prospective students what Catholic League basketball is all about while also raising the stakes."

Currently the Catholic League is split up into two divisions with two separate champions, hardly the model any unified league would embrace. This tournament -- and, more importantly, a single champ -- brings the Catholic League together while also bringing a new focus. The Catholic League Tournament will begin with the 2013-2014 season.

The league will continue to have two separate divisions. But at the the conclusion of conference play, there will be two separate tournaments, with the top four teams in the Catholic League South and the top four teams in the Catholic League North all playing in one eight-team bracket to crown the league champion. The bottom four teams in each division will play one another in another eight-team bracket.

During his time at Lincoln Park, Livatino experienced the Chicago Public League playoffs. While the reward for being the city champ isn't what it once was when a trip to state was on the line, the intensity and importance remained.

"The Public League model is a great thing," Livatino says of the city playoffs. "Those kids and teams go through an experience of the city playoffs which, win or lose, has them locked in and ready for state tournament play. Our kids [at Lincoln Park] were so excited about playing in that tournament. It's a huge thing within the Public League to play in that, to get to the city quarterfinals, to play in the semis at UIC or DePaul, the chance to play for a city championship."

As Livatino indicated, one of the hopes is that by revving up the latter part of the season, it may result in a post-season carry-over for Catholic League teams. That's been an issue over recent years.

There are some tradition-rich programs in the Chicago Catholic League. There are others on the uptick. There are elite coaches in the state headlining various programs. The league has produced some big-time individual talent. There is competitive depth. And there are always teams ranked among the top 25 every single season.

What's missing from the league? Big-time success in March. Well, big-time success among the big schools as both Hales Franciscan and Leo have had their share of dominance in the old Class A and also in 2A in the four-class system.

Want some sobering statistics, Catholic League basketball fans?

The Chicago Catholic League hasn't won a big school state championship in more than 25 years, with the last coming in 1985. Remember that Mt Carmel team, led by big Melvin McCants and guard James Farr, that stunned Springfield Lanphier on Derrick Boyd's buzzer-beater?

Leo's 0-2 trip to Peoria and fourth-place finish in 2009 is the only top-four finish and only state trophy brought home by a Catholic League school from the big school state tournament since Gordon Tech's second-place finish in 1990.

In the last 20 years, only Fenwick (1998), Gordon Tech (2000), Brother Rice (2005) and Leo (2009) have reached the state tournament in Champaign or Peoria -- and their combined record at state was 0-5.

"Time will tell if it helps, but I really do think this will prepare us for the tournament in March," Livatino says.

City/Suburban Hoops Report Website
After 17 years as a one-of-a-kind print publication offering up high school basketball coverage throughout the city and suburbs, the City/Suburban Hoops Report is now online. For more information go to cshoopreport.com

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Signing Day review

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There isn't a better or more fitting song on National Signing Day than Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." The lyrics are PERFECT.

For the the indecisive prospect, maybe even the de-commit, re-commit who comes crawling back to the original schools that offered, Stevie blasts ...

"Then that time I went and said goodbye,
Now I'm back and not ashamed to cry."

For the college coaching staff that spent way too much time on a recruit they were really never going to get, yet still believed they could get him, Stevie offers wise words ...

"Like a fool I went and stayed too long,
Now I'm wondering if your love's still strong."

For the college coach describing the first time he saw the player HE HAD TO HAVE ....

"Oowee baby, you set my soul on fire,
That's why I know you're my heart's only desire."

And, of course, for the trusting player and parents who sign with the coach and program they believe in on this day ...

"Here I am baby.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm yours.
You got my future in your hands."

Signed, sealed, delivered. Well, maybe not exactly delivered yet when it comes to the November signing period as there are a few little things to be taken care of like ACT, GPA and high school graduation.

But fans of college basketball programs across the country celebrate it. (Ahhhh, what it must feel like every year at this time for Kentucky basketball fans). Fans get a little giddy when one of the national recruiting services puts their school's recruiting class among the top 10 in the country.

Players, along with their parents and coaches, both celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief that it's over. The process can wear on all of them over the course of their high school career with never-ending phone calls, the unofficial visits, the official visits, the indecision, the pressure of if all.

And the media outlets dissect it all, which is what the Hoops Report will do today in a Class of 2013 recruiting rewind.

Biggest Recruiting Coup
• Washington's Alec Peters to Valpo
When you live the life of a true, competitive mid-major, these programs need to beat out rivals and beyond -- like the mid-major plus types and a high-major or two -- on occasion. That's what Valpo did by landing Peters, a longtime Hoops Report favorite. Coach Bryce Drew locked up a player who was courted by the Missouri Valley, Atlantic 10 and picked up offers from the likes of Boston College and Washington State. The Hoops Report regards Peters as the best perimeter shooter in the Class of 2013 in Illinois with all-Horizon League potential.

Most Important Recruit
• Illinois landing Simeon's Kendrick Nunn
With a new staff in place and a need for a high-level recruit with name recognition and reverence, coach John Groce and his staff secured a consensus top 75 talent nationally. More importantly, the signing of Kendrick Nunn opens up a pipeline to the Chicago Public League and powerhouse Simeon, while signaling a major step forward in recruiting for the program. Most importantly, Nunn brings intangibles and strengths the current roster lacks. Aside from Tracy Abrams, no current Illini brings the type of toughness Nunn brings to a team. He also brings the needed combination of knocking down a shot and being a big-time finisher at the rim.

Most Important Recruit: Part II
• Illinois State landing Proviso East's Paris Lee
It's remarkable that despite being one of the catalysts for a team that went unbeaten in the regular season and finished second in the state as a junior, while also playing with the high-profile Mac Irvin Fire in the offseason, Paris Lee was overlooked. When July rolled around, Lee had a total of two offers on the table. Plenty more were on the horizon as the interest picked up quickly. Illinois State, however, moved briskly in the month of July, offering Lee and securing a commitment before the final evaluation period even started.

While the Hoops Report isn't comparing Lee to former Proviso East star Dee Brown in terms of talent, the 5-10 point guard does bring many of the same intangibles and characteristics. Like Brown's impact while at Illinois, Lee will inspire and push teammates. He will raise the level of competitiveness. He will help recruit and energize those around him. In the end, Lee will mean a great deal to the ISU basketball program and coach Dan Muller in providing a pulse and presence.

Biggest Statement
• SMU landing two top 10 talents from Illinois
SMU basketball? Lets see, in the last 25 years SMU has won 20-plus games a total of three times. In that time, only the 1993 team reached the NCAA Tournament. There was Jon Koncak in the 1980s. Does that help? No, SMU basketball hasn't exactly resonated anywhere at any time, aside from a brief run in the 1980s under coach Dave Bliss.

That didn't stop legendary coach Larry Brown and his staff from targeting the Chicago area in upgrading this downtrodden program. SMU netted two of the Hoops Report's top eight prospects in the Class of 2013 in Illinois in Proviso East's Sterling Brown, arguably SMU's biggest recruit in years, and the red-hot Ben Moore of Bolingbrook. SMU held off a host of high-major programs in the Midwest for Moore's services, including Missouri, DePaul, Illinois, Northwestern and Minnesota.

Most Underrated Signing
• York's David Cohn at Colorado State
People in the Chicago area still don't realize just how good this kid is and all that this 6-2 combo guard brings to the table. Cohn can score (he averaged just over 20 points a game as a junior), play both guards spots effectively, and you're not going to find a high school player who plays as hard, from start to finish, as Cohn. Cohn is the type of player the local mid-major and mid-major plus programs can't afford to let slip away but did.

Most Underrated Signing: Part II
• Davidson landing GBN's Andrew McAuliffe
While this commitment didn't receive a lot of buzz, the fact is a program out of the Southern Conference was able to land a true big man with size, ability and academics -- from the state of Illinois. The difficulty in finding a competent player with size, in this case one who can play both the 4 and 5 spots in the Southern Conference, is well documented each year. Davidson secured a key piece for the future.

The Rising Recruit
• Bolingbrook's Ben Moore
We haven't seen a recruitment like Bolingbrook's Ben Moore around here in quite some time. We've seen players raise their stock during the season, sometimes in the spring and regularly during July. The craziness of Moore's recruitment, however, didn't reach a fever-pitch until fall open gyms. Less than nine months ago Moore had one offer -- from IPFW. The mid-major programs got on board in the spring. SMU and Colorado State, both of which made his final three, offered in July. And then the likes of Missouri, Illinois, Northwestern, DePaul and Minnesota offered in September. Due to the timing and late arrival of so many high-majors, Moore had to start shutting the door on them.

Biggest Surprise
• Jaylon Tate landing at Illinois
Last season was difficult for college coaches to evaluate Jaylon Tate, who transferred from De La Salle to Simeon for his junior year after two highly-productive seasons at the South Side private school. Tate was in an unfamiliar role, playing as a backup on a state championship team during his junior year. Although Tate began to grab some high-major interest this past fall, Tate to Illinois went down about as quickly as any recruitment you will ever see. Combine Illinois' need at point guard with the improved comfort level and confidence Tate showed this fall, and the match was made.

Best Fit, Best Level
• Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge to Santa Clara
When talking the individual player who found the right fit, style, level and league to play in where plenty of success can be had, there are two players that stand out: the aforementioned Alec Peters of Washington, who signed with Valpo in the Horizon League, and Brownridge. The 6-1 sharpshooter should be able to excel in the competitive but fitting West Coast Conference.

Best Small College Signing
• Lewis signing Harrisburg's Capel Henshaw
There weren't many small college (Division II, Division III and NAIA) signings or commitments; those typically don't occur until after the calendar turns to the new year. But coach Scott Trost signed a ready-made college player as Henshaw has strengths that immediately translate to finding his way on the floor early in his college career: tremendous shooting ability, strength and a competitive nature.

Most Recurring Recruiting Theme
• Out-of-state programs landing multiple recruits
Led by Valparaiso, which came across the Illinois/Indiana border to steal away three separate recruits -- Washington's Alec Peters, Andrew's Jubril Adekoya and Marist's Lexus Williams -- there were several different programs that landed multiple Illinois products. Dayton signed Simeon's Kendall Pollard and Morgan Park's Kyle Davis; Minnesota inked De La Salle's Alvin Ellis and Seton Academy's Alex Foster; SMU will welcome Bolingbrook's Ben Moore and Proviso East's Sterling Brown next fall.

The college basketball programs in the state of Illinois have struggled mightily over the past few seasons. In-state talent leaving Illinois -- so far 13 of the top 20 committed prospects in Illinois -- is a big reason why.

The Best Unsigned Player
Oh, yeah, that Jabari Parker kid. We still, of course, have the state's best senior prospect, Jabari Parker of Simeon, still on the board. As with any recruitment, the process is fluid, especially as the official visits come and go and Parker takes it all in. Here is how the Hoops Report sees the Parker Sweepstakes as of Nov. 14, with percentages attached to each of the five finalists.

Florida ... 36%
Michigan State ... 30%
Duke ... 28%
BYU ... 3%
Stanford ... 3%

Season in jeopardy for Kendall Stephens?

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When the City/Suburban Hoops Report rolls out its preseason rankings, St. Charles East is expected to be among the top 25 teams in the Chicago area. That's with a healthy Kendall Stephens, who will sign with Purdue on Wednesday.

Stephens' season is in jeopardy, however, as a likely torn labrum could keep the four-year starter out of action for an extended period of time, potentially the entire season.

"We remain optimistic," says coach Pat Woods, who begins his second season as head coach at St. Charles East. "He could be dressed and ready to play next week, take time off for rehab or miss the entire season. At this point we just have to wait and see."

Although early indications are the labrum is torn, there are some labrum tears athletes play with. Stephens has continued to attend practice since the injury, conditioning with the team and shooting with no contact. The type of tear will determine the treatment Stephens will need. Stephens, who was injured in practice, had a MRI taken on Monday. He will know more after meeting with his doctor on Thursday.

Stephens, one of the best perimeter shooters in the state and one of the Hoops Report's top five prospects in the Class of 2013, averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds a game as a junior.

With the return of Stephens, up-and-coming junior guard Dom Adduci, who averaged 13 points and 3 assists a game as a sophomore last season, and plenty of size, St. Charles East is favored to win the River Division of the Upstate Eight Conference.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Austin Colbert rounds out Illini class

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Illinois coach John Groce put the finishing touches on his 2013 recruiting class Wednesday with a commitment from Austin Colbert, a 6-9, 205-pound power forward out of Gladstone, NJ.

Colbert, who had Miami-Florida, Seton Hall and Villanova among his final four, is currently the No. 91 ranked player in the country by Rivals.com. With Colbert in the fold, along with Simeon's Kendrick Nunn and Belleville East's Malcolm Hill, Groce has nabbed three players who are ranked in at least one national top 100 list.

Big man Maverick Morgan, a 6-10 center out of Ohio who is in Rivals.com's top 150, and Simeon point guard Jaylon Tate round out the five-player class.

Colbert visited Illinois in late September, added Villanova to his list late in the game and was early on considered a slight Miami lean. But Groce and assistant coach Dustin Ford continued to pursue the athletic 4-man and wrapped up what is a solid recruiting class.

On signing day next week, Groce will welcome a balanced, well-rounded class that includes a player at all five positions. In just a little over seven months on the job, here's how balanced and well-rounded Groce's class is in 2013 and all that he and his staff accomplished:

• Locked up two of the top three prospects in the state in Nunn and Hill in what is a very solid class in Illinois.
• Opened the pipeline to the state's top program, Simeon, with the addition of Nunn and Tate.
• Tapped into both the Chicago Public League and downstate Illinois/St. Louis area.
• Landed the always-coveted, difficult-to-find true 5-man in Morgan, who is all of 6-10 and 240-plus pounds.
• And went the distance in a recruiting battle with a second out-of-state recruit at a much-needed position.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Kenwood hoops story, model worth looking into

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Kenwood basketball. Heard of it?

The Kenwood neighborhood, along Lake Michigan just north of Hyde Park on Chicago's South Side, is likely recognizable. But Kenwood Academy basketball?

Aside from the fact current Chicago Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed went to Kenwood Academy, the basketball program has rarely been mentioned. Chicago Public League basketball irrelevance.

But take notice as second-year coach Jim Maley is beginning to piece together a program that is climbing its way past respectability -- on and off the floor. Might Kenwood become a player in city hoops?

A year ago Kenwood went 16-9 overall, including 8-1 in the competitive Red-Central. Maley's boys even took division heavyweight Curie down to the wire in the Red-Central finale, leading by five points heading into the fourth quarter before falling and settling for second place.

Hardly earth-shattering, juggernaut talk. But we're talking a program that has bounced between the Chicago Public League's Blue and Red Divisions over the past couple of decades. There have been some winning seasons, sure, but those winning records all came with Kenwood playing in the city's inferior Blue Division. Prior to last season, Kenwood went 55-96 overall in the last six seasons it played in the Red Division.

Now Kenwood is fresh off a momentum and confidence-building season. It returns All-Red Central senior Remy Price, a jet-quick guard who averaged 12 points and 2.5 steals a game last season. And this fall when classes began, Kenwood welcomed one of the top freshmen players in the city, 6-4 Nick Robinson, who was courted by all the Public League powers. The fact a player the caliber of Robinson, who in time should be the best prospect to come out of Kenwood since Muhammed, ignored the city's big boys says a lot.

We're not talking a prep sports miracle here. We're not talking about a program ready to join the elite and bang heads with Simeon and Whitney Young. What we're talking about is a program that is making a complete metamorphosis, even possibly becoming a viable option for players in the city. Kenwood is combining modest success on the floor with a stable environment off of it.

The transformation didn't happen without a plan in place. Maley laid the groundwork immediately. He and his staff implemented a strict code of conduct the players in the program were expected to abide by with rules and regulations.

"We emphasized it daily, and our willingness to stick to it completely changed the culture of discipline and commitment of the athletes in our program," says Maley. "We followed it religiously, regardless of what it might do to our won-loss record."

Maley and his coaching staff enforced heavy sanctions for tardiness to class, disrespect to teachers and failure to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average (higher than the CPS' mandated 2.0). Maley sat his best player in the biggest game of the season due to two of his grades dropping and leaving him with a 2.2 grade-point average.

It wasn't exactly the epic turnaround Morgan Freeman turned in while playing Eastside High principal Joe Clark in the movie "Lean on Me," but you get the point. Maley's plan for success came quickly.

The change in the culture and success between the 2010-2011 season and Maley's first year as head coach in 2011-2012 was significant. The staff calculated a discipline and academic report and compared the two years.

During the 2010-2011 year the players on the team averaged 60 class tardies with seven total suspensions from school. The team's grade-point average was a 2.1. In one year with the Code of Conduct in place and an entirely new culture established, Maley saw the suspensions drop from seven to just one player suspension; the tardies dropped from 60 to seven; and the grade-point average rose from 2.1 to 2.7.

"What our kids began to realize was that our discipline off the court and in the classroom directly correlated with their on-court success," Maley pointed out. "The best part about it is that we did things the right way. Instead of allowing academically ineligible kids to play so we could win, we held our kids to a higher academic standard. The kids respected what we did and thrived as a result."

Maley soon had proof to show young players in the program going forward how things were going to work in the Kenwood basketball program. And parents who were considering sending their kids to Kenwood and playing for Maley are starting to take notice.

"If you hold the kids accountable, coach them, and are willing to lose a game instead of your integrity, your kids can have success on and off the court," says Maley.

Maybe it's a mantra other Public League programs could adapt, follow and execute. Although certainly not easy, discipline, values and the importance of showing respect can happen anywhere if the commitment to it is there and the carrot being used is basketball. If Maley can implement a successful plan at Kenwood, what's the excuse at some other programs?

"We still have a long way to go," says Maley. "But we are starting to see the fruits of our labor."

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Wolverine Madness unveils No. 1 team

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When you're Simeon, winners of three straight state championships, preseason ranked No. 1 in the state again, topping the charts of national rankings and boasting the likes of Jabari Parker and over a dozen-plus Division I prospects in the program, it's plausible.

It's plausible that Simeon is, for a lack of a better word, unveiling the next product off this basketball assembly line. Simeon is kicking off the season Friday night with a madness of its own, something you would see in a college program, but typically not in the prep ranks. It's going to be a night of celebration for a team and program that has dominated of late but also brings a rich and memorable basketball history and tradition dating back three decades.

Wolverine Madness, which will be held from 7-9 p.m. at the high school, will include both a sophomore and varsity scrimmage and various contests during the night.

Prior to the Wolverine Madness, Simeon will have a tribute to Ben Wilson. The recent "30 for 30" documentary presentation by ESPN on Wilson's talents and young life brought one of the more tragic and iconic stories in Chicago history back to life.

At 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium there will be a showing of the 1984 state semifinal game between Simeon and the Kenny Battle-led West Aurora team. Following the showing of that game, there will be an official dedication in honoring the late Ben Wilson with a plaque that will be unveiled in officially naming the gym "Benjamin Wilson, Jr. Gymnasium".

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Weishar injury will be felt at Marist

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The news of Nic Weishar's potential season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this week was greatly felt, particularly around the East Suburban Catholic Conference where Weishar's Marist Redhawks are the preseason favorite.

Marist is not only picked to win the ESCC, but it plays a killer schedule that includes a rugged ESCC slate, a holiday trip to Centralia, rival Brother Rice and a matchup with talented St. Rita. Marist even upgraded its schedule with a date with No. 1 Simeon in the City-Suburban Showdown in February. The Redhawks would have been a consensus top 10 team in the preseason rankings.

In all likelihood, Marist will remain among the top 10-12 teams in the preseason with the Division I backcourt duo of Lexus Williams (Valpo) and L.J. McIntosh (Pan American) returning. Those two, who will likely combine for 35-40 points each night out this winter, helped lead Marist to a 26-6 record a year ago and postseason upset wins over Curie and Bogan to reach the sectional championship.

So the Weishar injury is certainly not a death sentence for Marist, not with the talent and chemistry coach Gene Nolan has coming back. But it's a huge loss, nonetheless.

Weishar, one of the state's elite football prospects, had surgery on Tuesday. Although it's described as a "routine surgery" by Nolan, with healing and rehab it will likely keep Weishar out for the season.

The problem for Marist is that the 6-5 junior was more than just numbers for Nolan's Redhawks. Yes, he averaged 13.2 points and 7.6 rebounds a game last season as a sophomore. But his presence as a versatile athlete with experience and size was so valued, along with all the intangibles and toughness he brought.

If there is a glaring weakness with Marist as it heads into the season it is a lack of size and rebounding strength -- and that was before Weishar's injury. Add in the competitiveness he brought to the floor each night out and suddenly there is a lot less margin of error for Marist against quality opponents.

Each fall high school coaches around the state with players on the football team keep their fingers crossed and count down the games on the gridiron. They dread the thought of losing a player to a football injury just prior to the season or starting the season shorthanded due to a football playoff run. They often will wait a month for players to get their basketball legs back.

As schools like Loyola Academy and Benet Academy continue to advance in the football playoffs, coaches like Benet's Gene Heidkamp, Loyola's Tom Livatino -- and plenty of others around the state -- hope they get their players back in one piece.

Sadly for Marist, a team with such high expectations, that wasn't the case.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

A few burning questions as practice begins

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And we're off!

Practices officially began Monday for high school basketball teams across the state. The storylines from a year ago -- Simeon's three-peat, Bloom's first state trophy since 1975, Proviso East's return to glory and prominence, Andrew's first conference title, second 20-win season and second regional title in 35 years of existence, Evanston's Cinderella run in March, Marist's upsets in March, St. Viator's record-breaking season, the arrival of Metea Valley and Plainfield East on the scene, and the likes of Lemont and DuSable basketball actually being talked about -- will soon be replaced.

There are many questions to be answered over the next four months, but in these first few days of practice, the Hoops Report looks at a few pressing questions in forecasting the 2012-2013 season.

What league race will be the most competitive and exciting to watch this season?
While the Public League's Red-South and Red-West are the two toughest leagues in the city and suburbs, there are clear-cut favorites in both: Simeon in the Red-South and Young in the Red-West. The East Suburban Catholic, on the other hand, has a favorite in Marist but a lengthy list of contenders, including Niles Notre Dame, Benet Academy, St. Viator, St. Patrick and Marian Catholic who all boast enough talent to beat anyone on any given night in the ESCC. This will be the deepest, most competitive league race to watch this winter.

What is the team no one is talking about now but will be sooner or later?
We won't be confusing this Providence St. Mel team with the ones that grabbed every basketball fan's attention in the mid-1980s, but the Knights are going to be better than last year's 23-win team that won regional and sectional championships.

Coach Tim Ervin doesn't have much size, but he has a whole bunch of talent with seven key players returning. An exciting four-guard attack with junior star Tevin King (16 ppg), sophomore Ant Mosley and seniors Khalil Small (18 ppg) and Teadric Anderson makes St. Mel a serious threat in Class 2A.

Go ahead and circle Jan. 15 on the calendar. That's when fellow 2A power Seton Academy, which beat St. Mel 61-51 in the supersectional last March, faces off with the Knights.

Will Whitney Young, the Hoops Report's preseason No. 2 team, have the depth and point guard play to challenge Simeon?
With 6-11 Jahlil Okafor, 6-9 Paul White and 6-5 L.J. Peak, all ranked among the top 65 players in the country in the Class of 2014, along with a seasoned junior in Miles Reynolds, the Dolphins have elite talent that can play with anyone. But point guard play will be imperative for coach Tyrone Slaughter's team. The combination of Reynolds and Ausar Madison, a point guard transfer from California, must provide the type of backcourt that understands their role and recognizes who butters the bread on this team. Depth on the Dolphins is still evolving, but promising 6-5 sophomore Joseph Toye could provide it with his size, length and athleticism.

Who will be the area's most improved team?
With the amount of returning players back at places like Eisenhower (10-18), Lincoln-Way North (10-19), Conant (14-14) and Fenwick (12-14), these four will be much better than their records last season. But the most improved team will be Loyola Academy.

First, coach Tom Livatino must get some of his key players off the football field as he will open practice on Monday shorthanded as the Ramblers continue to advance in the Class 8A football playoffs.

Last season Loyola went 9-18 (4-6 in the Catholic League). Those records could be flip-flopped this season as the Ramblers return almost everyone, led by 6-1 sharpshooting junior Jack Morrissey. There will be solid guard play with junior combo guard James Clarke, senior Rich Wehman, junior point guard Kevin Kucera and Morrissey. There will be added depth and, most importantly, this group knows and understands Livatino's system and expectations after spending the last three years in the program.

What mega-star will have to carry the biggest load this season? Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor or Cliff Alexander?
Answer this question: Would Simeon be a state title contender if Jabari Parker was not on the roster? While obviously not an overwhelming favorite as they are with Parker, the Wolverines would still be ranked either No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 in the state. So the answer is yes.

Okafor, meanwhile, is surrounded by two players, Paul White and L.J. Peak, who are among the top 65 players in the country in the Class of 2014. Okafor will be dominant but should receive ample support from those two juniors who have varsity experience.

Meanwhile, there will certainly be times where Alexander will have to carry the Condors this season, especially when matched up against the state's elite teams. Coach Mike Oliver has talent around the 6-8 junior star, but Alexander is going to need to expand his presence, going from a rebounder/shot blocker who scored off dunks and putbacks as a sophomore to a consistent offensive threat that makes those around him better as a junior.

What underclassman who has yet to play varsity will make the biggest impact this season?
As far as freshmen go, it's going to be a year where the impact is minimal in the state. And the majority of the most highly-regarded sophomores received some varsity experience last year as freshmen. The biggest impact from a varsity newbie should come from St. Joseph, where the super sophomore tandem of Jordan Ash and Glynn Watson will be the difference between the Chargers being good and very good. If Ash and Watson don't resemble first-year varsity players, St. Joe's will be just fine. Relying on young players has not been the norm at tradition-rich St. Joseph, but legendary coach Gene Pingatore may need to lean on Ash and Watson more than he would like -- or is at least used to.

What is the one event you can't miss?
Every year the state of Illinois offers intriguing individual matchups, enticing shootouts and must-see holiday tournaments. This year, however, starts with a bang. No, make that a massive KABOOM! The Chicago Elite Classic on Dec. 1 at the UIC Pavilion is the only event where you will be able to see the state's top three teams -- Simeon, Whitney Young and Proviso East -- and the likes of Simeon's Jabari Parker, Young's Jahlil Okafor and Normal U-High's Keita Bates-Diop all together in one day and on one floor.

Nationally-ranked teams like Mater Dei out of California and DeMatha Catholic out of Maryland highlight five out-of-state powers who will take on five of the top programs in Illinois. For more information go to www.chicagoeliteclassic.com.

And finally ... Will (or can?) anyone in Illinois beat Simeon?
Almost two questions in that one question, as there is a difference between "will" and "can" when it comes to whether or not anyone is beating Simeon this season. Yes, Simeon is once again the favorite -- a big favorite. But it's not as if coach Rob Smith is getting his players sized for rings on the first day of practice. It's still high school basketball with teen-aged kids. There are still things like injuries and chemistry. Simeon just happens to have a dozen-plus players in the program that will play Division I basketball. So, can someone beat Simeon? Yes. Will someone beat Simeon? The Hoops Report says no. Too good, too deep, too disciplined.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Anthony Longstreet is back, hired at Manley

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A one-time big name in Chicago Public League coaching is taking over a program that was once considered big time.

Anthony Longstreet, who led Crane to prominence in 13 years as head coach at the West Side school, is the new head coach at Manley. He has been out of coaching since the 2007-2008 season.

It's been over 30 years since the program was a power. Behind All-American Russell Cross, Manley reached the Elite Eight in 1979 and won a state championship in 1980. Since then, aside from a brief return of success 10-plus years ago under coach Bo Delaney and star guard Luther Head, Manley has been irrelevant. After going 0-9 in the Red-West last season, Manley will drop into the Public League's Blue Division this winter.

Longstreet has been actively trying to get back into coaching. Controversy, rumors and criticism followed Longstreet during his career at Crane, which prevented him from getting jobs at Kenwood, Julian, Farragut, Robeson and a couple of other city programs over the past four years. But all the allegations throughout his career were never substantiated.

Now Longstreet feels refreshed. More importantly he feels healthy, excited and thankful he has another shot at coaching and is back working with kids.

"I had health issues in the past, but I feel better than I have in 20 years," says Longstreet. "I missed the kids. I missed being around them and seeing how they progress from the time you get them as freshmen to four years later."

When Longstreet took over at Crane in 1995, the Cougars, just like Manley is today, were in the Blue Division of the Chicago Public League. Within three years he won 20 games and rattled off six consecutive 20-plus win seasons.

While coaching stars like Tony Allen, Sherron Collins and Will Bynum at Crane, Longstreet became the school's all-time winningest coach. He compiled a record of 268-100. Behind Collins, a McDonald's All-American who later starred at Kansas, and Tyrone Kent, Longstreet guided Crane to the Elite Eight in Peoria in 2005.

He's well aware of the job ahead of him, though, and believes he can get Manley back into the Red Division and competitive again.

"For me this job is a challenge I want and I'm prepared for," says Longstreet. "I'm a West Sider my whole life. You win with horses. The challenge now is to get those horses."

Before Longstreet gets the horses, he needs games.

"We're looking for games," says Longstreet of Manley's incomplete schedule.

The rebuilding job starts Monday as Manley and every high school basketball team officially begins practice.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

High-major talent, depth highlights Class of 2014

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Now this is a class worth getting excited about. And college coaches around the Midwest and the country are doing just that.

While the Class of 2013, headed by Simeon's Jabari Parker, was a breath of fresh air after a less-than-memorable Class of 2012 the previous year, the Class of 2014 offers big-time talent at the top and some high-major depth.

With Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor, Curie's Cliff Alexander and Normal U-High's Keita Bates-Diop at the very top of the class, the state of Illinois has a trio of players ranked among the 25 best talents in the country. These three are fixtures on the national scene when it comes to rankings and their recruitments.

And debate all you want about the next dozen prospects and where they should rank and what level they can play at in college, the fact is this class could very well have 15-plus players who sign with high-major programs. Currently, 13 of the top 16 players in the class have already been offered by a program that plays in a high-major conference. Plus, there is a prospect outside the Hoops Report's top 16 that was offered by a high-major program.

By comparison, here is how the previous three years have stacked up in terms of signing with the highest-level conferences in the country:

• From last year's senior class, only Simeon's Steve Taylor (Marquette) and Crete-Monee's Michael Orris (Kansas State) are playing at the high-major level this year.

• The highly-regarded Class of 2011 in Illinois, who are now sophomores in college, ended up having 17 players sign with high-major conference programs (15 of those 17 actually landed where they signed). That 2011 class was the best the Hoops Report has seen in Illinois since 1998, arguably the best class in state history. And this Class of 2014 has the makings of being better than the Class of 2011.

• In the Class of 2010, there were 12 players who signed with high-major conference schools in the class, which featured Waukegan's Jereme Richmond and Robinson's Meyers Leonard at the top.

This Class of 2014 is deep. When you look at the top 25 prospects in this class, there may be as much quality in those two-dozen-plus players as we've seen in years. There are a group of guards in that 17-25 range that are talented and intriguing, including Decatur MacArthur's Marcus Bartley, Belleville East's Darreon Reddick, Proviso East's Jevon Carter, St. Rita's Dominique Matthews, St. Viator's Ore Arogundade, Simeon's Donta Ingram and Chatham-Glenwood's Peyton Allen among others in the class.

That 17-25 group, which are all mid-major prospects or better, also boasts size in 6-7 Amanze Egekeze out of Huntley and an athletic wing in 6-6 Darius Austin of Cahokia.

The Class of 2014 has yet to play a minute of their junior year, yet the Hoops Report has already identified 40-plus Division I prospects in the class.

Here is how the Hoops Report sees the top 16 prospects in the Class of 2014 heading into their junior year, with a handful of others receiving high-major interest and capable of climbing the rankings and raising their stock over the next 18 months of their high school careers.

1. Jahlil Okafor, 6-11, C, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Really, we're talking an anomaly here in Okafor in that he's huge, skilled and a true back-to-the-basket dominant presence in this guard-oriented era. He's a special talent and program-changer at the next level with advanced footwork and feel on the block. He catches everything with his big, soft hands. Plus, he's a terrific kid who wants to get better, is a very good student and brings zero superstar baggage. That's what you call the total package.
2. Cliff Alexander, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Curie)
He just looks like an elite prospect when you watch him with his build and frame, combined with his growing strength. When he turns that raw talent into anything resembling polished, look out. Prototypical 4-man at the college level with size, strength, athleticism and an ability to run the floor. Already an advanced rebounder who will block a shot. Offensively, he's still in the development stage.
3. Keita Bates-Diop, 6-8, WF/PF, Normal (U-High)
Difficult not to get excited about how far he's come and where he will be three or four years down the road. When talking prospect, Bates-Diop is closer to Alexander and the No. 2 spot than you think. With Bates-Diop, just about every area of his game has improved, including his assertiveness and competitiveness. His terrific size and length alone helps him impact games on both ends of the floor. When he becomes a high-level shooter for his position, which will happen in time, the sky is the limit.
4. L.J. Peak, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
In the small sample size the Hoops Report has had of Peak, the kid is legit. Big-bodied wing who seems to play hard and have an understanding of the game. Possesses good body control as a slasher to the basket with an ability to drop in a 3-pointer. He was receiving high-major interest and offers in the south before his arrival from South Carolina. A well-rounded wing who will certainly bolster Whitney Young this season as he does a lot of things well.
5. Tyler Ulis, 5-8, PG, Chicago (Marian Catholic)
Even at his diminutive size, there are few players, if any, that impact the game more than Ulis. The purest of point guards, Ulis is poised and features an off-the-charts basketball I.Q. He makes those around him better. Outstanding ballhandler with a nasty crossover. His feel and imagination on the floor helps overcome his lack of size, though that size remains a concern at the highest level.
6. Michael Finke, 6-8, PF, Champaign (Centennial)
The Hoops Report's biggest stock riser of the summer, Finke is a natural "fit" 4-man at the next level whose best days are clearly down the road. While he lacks the fluid agility and foot speed you would like and must get physically stronger, he can really pass the ball and step out and knock down shots with consistency. At the end of the day he's going to be a big, filled-out 6-8 or 6-9 stretch 4-man with skill. Wisconsin has made a living off Finke-type 4-men. And he's only getting better.
7. Larry Austin, 6-1, PG/2G, Springfield (Lanphier)
There are two aspects that jump out at you when watching Austin. He plays with a great motor and he just might be the best defensive player in the class at this time. He will get in a stance and wants to guard, getting in passing lanes and is consistently disruptive. He's not a point guard -- yet. Will get his chance to finally have the ball in his hands as the point guard at Lanphier this winter, which will dictate how high his game will reach over the next couple of years. Shooting remains a concern.
8. Paul White, 6-9, WF/PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
A big year ahead for the always-promising White who is looking to take his game to another level, particularly with his consistency and productivity. His skill set and versatility at his size opens eyes and keeps you coming back. The goal this season should be to avoid the days of where people leave the gym wanting more from the talented White.
9. Vic Law, 6-6½, WF, Chicago (St. Rita)
Always promising, always talented since entering high school, but he's just needed to take the next step forward. Look for Law to do that this season. The perimeter jumper has gotten better and more consistent. Brings terrific size, athleticism and activity for a perimeter player. The arrow certainly pointing up once again for the versatile Law, who will be a high-major recruit at the end of the day.
10. Tyquone Greer, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Orr)
Still a bundle of talent and upside waiting to be tapped into and polished. Looks the part with his body, length and athleticism, along with the ability to step out and knock down a shot from beyond the arc. But he's still in the process of figuring it all out. Needs to improve his handle, which will allow him to create more for himself and others off the dribble. Absolutely love the upside in Greer.
11. Sean O'Mara, 6-8½, C, Lisle (Benet Academy)
Really increased his stock with his play in July, showing just what he is: an on-the-block, back-to-the-basket big man with good size. Everyone complains about not having a guy like that. Well, here he is. Also an underrated passer for a big man. But he does have his limitations mobility wise and athletically.
12. Ethan Happ, 6-7, WF, Rockridge (Taylor Ridge)
Wisconsin snuck into Illinois and nabbed a sleeper who flew under the radar early in his career. He has some bounce in him and does a little of everything as a combo forward with good versatility. He's tougher, more competitive than you think.
13. Josh Cunningham, 6-6, WF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
He oozes potential, yet remains a little on the raw side. When he's out running in the open floor and finishing in transition, he's awfully good, looks the part and is a big-time finisher. Explosive athlete with length and capable of becoming a difference-making perimeter defender. Must take better care of the ball on the perimeter and find a way to knock down shots at some point.
14. Marlon Jones, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Orr)
One of those classic long, wiry, active, athletic 4-men who will beat players at his size and position down the floor. Plus, he plays with a ticker. What will surprise you with Jones is his better-than-you think skill level, particularly with his turnaround and face-up jumper from 12-15 feet. Jones, who sat out last season, must get stronger, fill out that body and continue learning and adjusting to the game.
15. Milik Yarbrough, 6-5, WF, Zion-Benton
The kid who has been on the radar since his freshman year is a multi-talented scorer. Yarbrough puts the ball in the hole. He's produced at a high level in high school during his first two seasons, extending his shooting range while using his big body to his advantage around the basket. Still must get after it and learn to play hard consistently. And how well does his body type, athleticism and overall game translate to the next level?
16. Malek Harris, 6-7, WF/PF, Orland Park (Sandburg)
He looks the part with his body and dimensions. Although he doesn't have eye-popping athleticism, he's agile, moves well, plays hard and competes at a high level. Plus, he handles the ball well for his size. But he's still trying to morph into a true wing as his perimeter shot must become a consistent threat and a bigger part of his game.
17. JayQuan McCloud, 6-2, 2G, North Chicago
An absolute dream scorer with the ability to knock down jumpers from 15, 17 or 20 feet with regularity. Missed almost all of last season with an injury but is poised to break out during his junior year. He's a smooth scoring guard and arguably the most under-the-radar talent in the class.
18. Dominique Matthews, 6-2½, PG/2G, Chicago (St. Rita)
A big-bodied combo guard with the ability to attack the rim and shoot it from beyond the arc. When he adds a mid-range game to his arsenal, Matthews will be one heck of an offensive force. Forms one of the state's top backcourts with brother Charles Matthews.
19. Amanze Egekeze, 6-7, PF, Huntley
Unfortunately, he's out until midseason as he recovers from knee surgery. A workhorse around the basket who will battle for rebounds and second-chance scoring opportunities. Now he's showing a better ability to step away from the basket and knock shots down.
20. Darreon Reddick, 6-2, PG/2G, PG/2G, Belleville East
Easy to appreciate his versatility in the backcourt, along with the size and strength he brings to the position. He's not a blow-by guard, but he's physical, can take contact features a developed mid-range game and feel.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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