With Jabari Parker off to Duke and four-time defending state champ Simeon coming back to earth, the focus in 2013-2014 will turn to the likes of Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor, Curie's Cliff Alexander and a pair of dynamic point guards -- Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis and Stevenson junior Jalen Brunson.
Ulis vs. Brunson.
Now THAT'S a matchup people -- college coaches, reporters, fans from around the state and the Hoops Report -- would love to see in a gym this winter. Plus, both will be leading teams that won a combined 56 games last year and will be consensus top 10 teams when the preseason rankings are released in November.
When Stevenson and Marian Catholic meet Jan. 25 in the headline game of Glenbard East's "When Sides Collide Shootout," presented by the City/Suburban Hoops Report, it will be the first time the two highly-regarded point guards will go head-to-head in a high school game.
The two stars and top teams nearly met this past March in Peoria in a Class 4A state semifinal game. While Stevenson won its super-sectional showdown with Rockford Boylan, Marian Catholic fell one game short of a matchup with Stevenson, losing to Edwardsville in the super-sectional.
"It's good for us in that it's a different opponent from what we normally would see," says Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose. "Marian Catholic has a lot of talented pieces back and is an up-and-coming team. This game will give us a different look and a chance to challenge ourselves in a non-conference game. And the matchup at point guard will be special."
"It's a chance to put Tyler and Jalen on the floor together, which is a great opportunity for everyone, including both Tyler and Jalen," says Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor. "For us as a team, it's just a great measuring stick. Our kids were so close last year and to play a team like Stevenson, that did what they did last year, it's a great opportunity for us."
Ulis, the top point guard prospect in the state in the Class of 2014 and now among the top 40 players in the country, has won everyone over. He averaged 22 points, 4.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals a game while leading Marian Catholic to its greatest season in school history last year. Ulis, who already holds the career scoring mark at Marian Catholic with 1,612 points, will surely become a 2,000-plus point scorer at some point during his senior year.
Brunson, meanwhile, led Stevenson to a state runner-up finish as a sophomore. Brunson's statistics are eerily similar, putting up nearly 22 points and 4 assists a game while knocking down 65 of 155 from beyond the arc.
While the featured matchup of Glenbard East's "When Sides Collide Shootout," presented by the City/Suburban Hoops Report, will bring the tantalizing Stevenson-Marian Catholic showdown to fruition, the two undercard games will be worth watching as well.
➥ Sandburg vs. Palatine
A pair of up-and-coming teams with elite players will hook up when Sandburg faces Palatine in the shootout opener.
With size, depth and the return of star Malek Harris, Sandburg figures to be one of the more improved teams in the Chicago area this season. The 6-7 Harris, who saw his stock rise as much as any player in the Class of 2014, recently committed to Marquette.
In addition to having a difference-maker in Harris, Sandburg returns the backcourt of Alec Martinez and Niko Kojiones, who started last year as sophomores. Niko Cahue, a 6-6 senior, has had a terrific summer, while 6-7 junior T.J. Vorva transferred in from Marist.
Palatine, meanwhile, won 17 games a year ago and welcomes back a terrific talent in 6-3 junior Roosevelt Smart and junior point guard Chris Macahon (10 ppg, 3.6 apg). Smart is among the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2015 in Illinois and put together an impressive sophomore season, averaging 18.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.
➥ Glenbard East vs. Plainfield East
Glenbard East, the defending DuPage Valley Conference champs who have averaged 21 wins a year over the past nine seasons, will square off against Plainfield East. Aaron Jordan, Plainfield East's 6-3 sophomore, has burst on the scene and is among the top 10 prospects in the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2015 player rankings and recently received an offer from Wisconsin.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport