A quick run around the Chicago area basketball scene with the Hoops Report ...
➥ We throw around "games of the year" loosely these days. But make no mistake about it, one of those true "games of the year" is quickly approaching. The Morgan Park-Simeon battle in the Red-South is set for next Wednesday. It will tip at 7 p.m. at Chicago State. And this one, featuring the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the Chicago area, has so many enticing storylines to follow. Just pick one.
➥ There is no player in the Class of 2014 I receive more calls on from college coaches and repeatedly am asked the exact same question as this one: "Is Tyler Ulis a high-major?" The simple and short answer? Yes. But it would it would also behoove the so-fun-to-watch 5-9 Marian Catholic point guard to choose carefully. And picturing Ulis in, say, the Pac-12 is easy and ideal. It's more free-flowing and less grind-it-out. There will be a number of high-major schools and high-level mid-major plus programs in the mix for Ulis at the end of the day.
➥ Has anyone noticed Neuqua Valley is 15-0? Just wondering. A big school in a solid area of basketball and a program with a certain high-level of success over the past decade, yet there has been little to no buzz surrounding the Wildcats' start. Neuqua Valley has certainly positioned itself as a top four seed in the Bolingbrook Sectional this March. I will say this: Neuqua is definitely the highest ranked team with the best record that we know the least about. The most impressive wins on the résumé at this point are victories over out-of-state Pleasure Ridge Park from Louisville (Ky.) and a 17-point win over a solid Brother Rice back in November.
➥ On second thought, there is another highly-ranked team we still don't know just how good it is -- Orr. The talent is in place. But a handful of out-of-state wins -- and a couple of close in-state wins over average teams, including a one-point win over Rich Central and a three-point win over Marshall -- leaves us guessing for the moment. The big test awaits in a couple of weeks when the Spartans travel to No. 1 Whitney Young.
➥ Have you heard? The Hoops Report is a huuuuuuuuuuge JayQuan McCloud fan. The 6-2 junior pumped in 26 more for North Chicago on Tuesday night. He's legit.
➥ And, yes, I'm STILL going to keep pumping up Miles Simelton of Oswego as the best unsigned senior guard in Illinois. He's quick, springy and difficult to guard. His combination of athleticism, scoring punch and character is why many schools are now jumping on board with added interest. Simelton joins the list of other Hoops Report pet projects of the past, like Marshall's Keifer Sykes (now at Wisconsin-Green Bay), Riverside-Brookfield's Sean McGonagill (now at Brown), Hales Franciscan's Pat Miller (now at Tennessee State) and Mundelein's Ryan Sawvell (now at Evansville).
➥ You wonder what team the rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference slate will take its toll on. It's inevitable with so many teams -- Benet, St. Pat's, Notre Dame, Marian Catholic, Marist and St. Viator -- all either ranked or knocking on the door of the Top 25. Oh, how I wish St. Joseph was still in this league.
➥ With that being said, you wonder how badly that ESCC team will get shafted come sectional seeding time. It's bound to happen, because so many coaches today continue to ignore or appreciate strength of schedule.
➥ Why don't more people talk about Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough?
➥ If the move by West Aurora and Glenbard East to the Upstate Eight goes through as expected, and the divisions line up as one thinks they would with Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley staying put, this becomes one heck of a basketball league. West Aurora, Glenbard East, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley, Bartlett, South Elgin and East Aurora will be fighting for top five basketball league status every year.
➥ And on the other side of things, if the DuPage Valley Conference doesn't replace West Aurora and Glenbard East? Whoa. This football-dominated league becomes irrelevant on the basketball side.
➥ After a 3-3 start to the season, Oak Park-River Forest has quietly won 9 of its last 10 games and sits all alone atop the West Suburban Silver Conference at 4-0. From a pure production standpoint, there haven't been many juniors who have put up the offensive numbers Erick Locke has for the Huskies. In his first season at Oak Park after transferring in from Brooks, Locke is averaging 20 points, 3 assists and 4 steals a game. If Oak Park can take care of a pesky Glenbard West this weekend, it would set up a big league showdown next Friday when York and David Cohn come to town.
➥ The Hoops Report is already hearing rumblings of high-profile transfers for next year.
➥ Speaking of rumblings ... The holiday tournament moving and shaking for next year could be dramatic as several teams and coaches aren't real pleased with their current holiday tournament situation.
➥ Any school or conference that wants to push up the tip times of their games, fine by me. While 7 p.m is way better than 7:30 p.m. tip-offs, 6:30 p.m. starts are even better. For leagues that don't have long travel distances, why 7:30 p.m.?
➥ There won't be many people who will see him play, but Lemont's Juozas Balciunas will impress anyone who watches him. The Lithuanian lefty point guard is going to be a heck of a small college recruit for someone. Balciunas was MVP of the Romeoville Holiday Tournament.
➥ Maine South was really one win away at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament -- the Hawks lost to Stevenson in the quarterfinals -- from grabbing some much-deserved attention and added respect. Although they remain a game back of New Trier in the Central Suburban League South and on the outside looking in of the Top 25 rankings, the Hoops Report expects the Hawks to grab at least a piece of that CSL South title this winter and make a significant run in March. I like this team and its balance. And opponents despise playing them, especially non-league foes who haven't faced their unique style and system.
➥ You think Sandburg is excited to have 6-7 junior Malek Harris back in the lineup? After an 0-11 start to the season, the Eagles are 2-1 since Harris returned to action in late December. Harris remains one of the top 15 prospects in the Class of 2014 and has averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists a game in the three games he's played.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport and online at cshoopsreport.com