By Joe Henricksen

What I learned this basketball season

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A lot can be learned over four months of high school basketball action. Along the way, while bouncing from tournament to tournament over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, weeknight matchups, weekend shootouts and state tournament play, you witness busts, overachievers, breakout teams and players, surprises and realize the word overrated is used far less than it really should be.

And after a week sitting on a beach in Mexico. (Oh, I can't lie. I'm sitting here typing this looking out at the waves right now), you sit and ponder and digest all that went down over the last four months, including how Florida Gulf Coast is still playing basketball in late March.

I thought back to previous conversations with Simeon coach Rob Smith when just discussing basketball in general. When Smith took over Bob Hambric's high-profile program, he knew exactly what he envisioned for the future, especially with the fortune of having one Derrick Rose rarin' and ready to go as a sophomore in Smith's first season as head coach. Smith wanted to take Simeon basketball to another level. He wanted Simeon to be a national program at the high school level.

I digress for a moment from Simeon and its place nationally.

As expected, Simeon dominated the headlines from start to finish. But we all knew about Simeon. We were aware of the talent in place, led by All-American Jabari Parker, the most ballyhooed of the many ballyhooed Chicago prep hoop stars of the past several decades. The quest for four straight state championships this season was chronicled, really, like no other high school basketball team.

Starting today, picking back up on Monday and continuing through next week, the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the many things it learned and confirmed over the course of the 2012-2013 high school basketball season. Today, we start with No. 9 and No. 10 on the list ...

#9: Simeon's place nationally is solidified
Rob Smith really doesn't need any further validation that his goal of becoming a national program has been accomplished, but here is some anyway.

You know the notion of Simeon being recognized nationally is valid when you're at a swim up bar in a resort pool in Mexico and, without any provoking, Simeon basketball pops up in the conversation. When a man sipping a Bahama Mama finds out you're from Chicago, he brings up -- of all things -- Simeon.

The conversation with this Boston sports fan -- who I can't even put in the avid sports fan category since he forgot his very own Celtic Rajon Rondo was out with an injury (Although he was a wee bit inebriated) -- began casually. But within minutes of Boston/Chicago conversation, he brings up Jabari Parker, how he was aware of Parker and Simeon with all the media attention thrown their way, and "Isn't that where Derrick Rose went to high school as well?"

Simeon is arguably -- no, not arguably anymore -- Simeon basketball IS, nationally, this state's most recognizable high school athletic program in history. Prior to Simeon basketball, that distinction probably went to Frank Lenti and Mt. Carmel football when the Caravan played in 10 state championships from 1989-2003, winning nine, and were prominently mentioned nationally.

Now it's Simeon, thanks to Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, mass media exposure, national TV appearances and championships. The Wolverines reached the national level prior to this season, but the program reached new, greater heights during this 2012-2013 campaign.

#10: The IHSA needs set rules for state tournament dates and cancellations
Now that we have been reminded that snowstorms can occur in March, can the IHSA -- no, the IHSA must -- put something in place to properly handle the cancellation of regional and sectional games?

The fact teams had to play sectional semifinal games Thursday night, while the other sectional winner had the night off while waiting for its sectional final opponent, is ludicrous.

Every step of the way along the state tournament trail becomes more taxing and emotionally draining. There is no question there was a distinct disadvantage for any team that played and won the Thursday night sectional game this year.

While one sectional semifinal winner had the luxury of "coming back down" emotionally from its win, having a night off and preparing for the sectional final with an actual practice, the other winner had to come back and play less than 24 hours later the following night for a sectional championship.

You can say teams play back-to-back nights all season or they do it for the State Finals in Peoria the very next weekend. But EVERYONE is doing it then, not just one of the two teams, so it remains competitively fair.

These high school teams--the players and the coaches--put in so much time and energy, both out of season and during the season to prepare for this moment. The least we can do is when games mean the most and they are playing for what they've worked so hard for is give them all a balanced playing field and an equal, fair shot.
 
The IHSA can claim this was the only way due to scheduling conflicts and availability with sectional sites, facilities and workers. Maybe scheduling snafus were an issue at a sectional site or two--I know the Class 3A sectional at Nazareth was one (the sectional was moved to Riverside-Brookfield as a result).

I also know I called three sectional hosts and asked if moving the championship game to Saturday night would have been a problem. Each one said there would be no problem in moving the title game one day back.
 
But the bigger question is why isn't there something more concrete already in place for situations like this?

I guess that shouldn't be a surprise since the IHSA leaves regional scheduling to the discretion of the host school. Huh? This is a whole other story, but look at the various regional scheduling around the state. They're all different from regional to regional with the opportunity (power) to add competitive advantages when they see fit. Why wouldn't they all be uniform across the state?

When it comes to hosting a sectional, would it be that difficult to put in writing that sectional hosts must, in the rare event there is a cancellation, have their gym available all week, including Saturday night?

What took place this past year can't happen again. And I would think every high school coach would agree.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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4 Comments

'Simeon is arguably -- no, not arguably anymore -- Simeon basketball IS, nationally, this state's most recognizable high school athletic program in history.' Joe, gonna have to disagree with you on that one. King HS in the 80's and early 90's was widely recognized as a national program. In fact, that 1990 team with Jamie Brandon, Thomas Hamilton and Rashard Griffith won the mythical national championship that year.

THANKS for bringing the nonsense of the IHSA to the forefront. That re-scheduling of the sectional games was so swept under the rug. Just awful.

Joe, I wasn't making comparisons, just simply making a point that King was, in fact, a 'national' program. And that is illustrated by the fact that they 'won' the national title.

However, I do agree with you that the game is way more hyped do the social media than ever before. What I find comical though is the fact that you think its better. In the end, it just hype and in real life it has no real value.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 29, 2013 7:59 AM.

The best of the four-class era was the previous entry in this blog.

What I learned this basketball season: No. 8 is the next entry in this blog.

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