By Joe Henricksen

The best of the four-class era

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Forget the comparisons to 1972 Thornridge. We'll leave 1981 Quincy, 1991 Proviso East, 1998 Whitney Young and all the great King and Peoria Manual teams out of the conversation.

We're going to break down the new four-class era. The City/Suburban Hoops Report ranks the best state champions since the IHSA expanded to four classes in 2008.

1. 2013 Simeon (30-3) • Class 4A
In the eyes of the Hoops Report, when completely healthy and playing at its peak in March, this Simeon state championship team was the best. Yes, 2013 Simeon gets the slight edge over the Derrick Rose state championship team of 2007 -- and last year's state title team. With a senior-dominated group, led by All-American Jabari Parker and Big Ten guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, this team had it all--star power, size and guard play to go with the typical Simeon defense and discipline.

2. 2012 Simeon (33-1) • Class 4A
People forget how good Simeon was last year with Parker, who became a dominating force, and Marquette-bound Steve Taylor, who was the No. 1 ranked player in the Class of 2012 in Illinois. Simeon won a city championship and won every state tournament game by double figures before knocking off Proviso East 50-48 in the state championship game. The only loss came to powerhouse Findlay Prep out of Nevada.

3. 2013 Morgan Park (33-3) • Class 3A
This was an electric, talented team with a dynamite backcourt in Billy Garrett, Jr. and Kyle Davis. The Mustangs split with 4A champ Simeon during the regular season. How many people would have loved to have seen a rubber-match in March between these 4A and 3A state champs? The only thing we didn't get to see was a matchup against one of the elite teams

4. 2009 Whitney Young (26-9) • Class 4A
The national schedule put a dent in Young's won-loss total, but the tough-as-nails, physically strong backcourt of Chris Colvin and Marcus Jordan just beat up opponents on both ends of the floor.

5. 2011 Simeon (30-2) • Class 4A
Jabari Parker was blossoming as a sophomore and led the Wolverines in scoring with 15 points a game. But Simeon was just a balanced and solid team with a mix of underclassmen (Parker and Kendrick Nunn) and upperclassmen (junior Steve Taylor and seniors Rashawn McElrath, Jaleni Neely and Darien Walker).
6. 2008 Marshall (31-4) • Class 3A
The Commandos won both the Chicago Public League playoffs and the 3A state championship behind Ryan Hare and Darius Smith, a pair of all-staters. Coach Courtney Hargrays also had an unheralded supporting cast, led by guard Ardarrius Simmons, 6-6 Eriq Harris and 6-8 Dorian Tyler.

7. 2010 Simeon (25-9) • Class 4A
Of all the Simeon state champions, this was the most surprising and the least talented on paper. But Brandon Spearman, after an up-and-down regular season, turned into a postseason go-to player as the only impact senior on the team. Role players coming up big and coach Robert Smith's best coaching job.

8. 2008 Richards (30-4) • Class 4A
Although Richards snuck up on some people, this was a darn good team with balance and tremendous pieces that just fit. The Bulldogs had steady guard play from Eliud Gonzalez, size in Shaun Pratl, toughness and athleticism from Tommie Thomas and a budding star in Indiana State-bound Carl Richard.

9. 2009 Champaign Centennial (32-1) • Class 3A
A talented trio of senior James Kinney (17.4 ppg), Rayvonte Rice (16.5 ppg) and 6-8 junior Jeff Johnson (13.5 ppg) led the Chargers to wins over a loaded North Lawndale team and Oswego by a combined three points.

10. 2010 Hillcrest (31-3) • Class 3A
The Hawks shed the label of best program without a state trophy behind a team that just got after it defensively and made things difficult for opposing offenses. Senior Eric Gaines and junior point guard Juice Brown were the big names. But the Hoops Report remembers a group of role-playing seniors--Darren Tillman, Herbert Offord, Jeremiah Horne and Nick Oden--that pushed this team over the top.

11. 2009 Seton Academy (31-2) • Class 2A
This was arguably the best "small school" state champ since the famed Providence St. Mel team in 1985. Star point guard D.J. Cooper was the catalyst, but this senior-dominated team also featured 6-5 Tony Nixon, 6-6 Corbin Thomas and 6-6 Jordan Walker.

12. 2008 North Lawndale (30-4) • Class 2A
On paper, the 2009 North Lawndale team the following year was better, but it was upset in the 3A semifinals in 2010. This was a talented group as well, though a little young with junior Jon Mills and sophomores Paul Bunch and Jermaine Winfield. Senior John Taylor was an explosive weapon.

13. 2011 Rock Island (30-3) • Class 3A
Led by Mr. Basketball winner Chasson Randle, Rock Island won the school's first-ever state basketball championship. Guard Royce Muskeyvalley and junior big man Denzel McCauley both provided support.

14. 2012 Peoria Central (28-3) • Class 3A
This team lacked big names -- the leading scorer averaged just 12.6 points a game -- and was nowhere near the Shaun Livingston-led Peoria High teams that won back-to-back state titles, but it was a group of seniors who played hard, were tough and played together. There was size with 6-7 Trey Kellum and 6-9 Kevin Jordan, along with underrated guard play from Aldonis Foote.

15. 2011 Hales Franciscan • Class 2A
This was another big-time small school champ. The speed and athleticism provided from Aaron and Aaric Armstead, jumping-jack Dominique Walls and tough Eddie Alcantera overwhelmed Class 2A foes.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 26, 2013 11:55 AM.

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