By Joe Henricksen

Simeon sophomore Zach Norvell tops in 2016

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The likelihood of Simeon, a monster basketball program with national name recognition and four straight state titles, producing another player the caliber or magnitude of either Derrick Rose or Jabari Parker is slim to none.

So don't go thinking there is another one.

But the program on Vincennes Ave., with just two coaches over the past 33 years grooming and overseeing dozens of Division I prospects, is still churning out top-level talent.

There were plenty of Division I players prior to Rose and Parker walking into Simeon's gym as freshmen in 2003 and 2009, respectively. Remember, this is the place where high-profile stars Ben Wilson, Deon Thomas, Nick Anderson and Bobby Simmons all played. There was Ervin Small, Bryant Notree, Kevin Turner, Calvin Brock, Stan Simpson and Brandon Spearman.

There have been plenty in between the two as well: Steve Taylor was the No. 1 prospect in the state in the Class of 2012, while just last year both Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate landed at Illinois, and Kendall Pollard signed with Dayton.

And there are more to come.

Current junior D.J. Williams has been groomed slowly, as coach Rob Smith has allowed his versatile but still maturing 6-7 wing time to grow into the player he will ultimately become. But his name it out there, an Illinois recruit and recognizable as the No. 29 ranked player in the country in the Class of 2015 by ESPN.com.

But the next name to get accustomed to at Simeon, the one who hasn't been talked about or even seen at the varsity level, is super sophomore Zach Norvell. The 6-4 Norvell has yet to be pumped up much, but he's coming -- and fast.

Norvell isn't buying into any superlatives thrown his way.

"I've learned a lot at Simeon by being around a lot of great players and coaches, but I have a lot more to learn," says the so-easy-to-talk-to Norvell.

In a culture that provides elite players myriad opportunities to play the game rather than work at it, Norvell seems fixated on sharpening his skills and getting better. You listen to him and you hear -- and see through him -- the importance in earning and acting with genuine respect. He's grown quite a bit in a short time at Simeon, and he understands what it takes to follow in the footsteps of the great players before him.

"I learned and took a lot from those guys," says Norvell of watching Parker, Nunn, Tate and Pollard last season. "What I really learned was how to carry yourself and how to be humble. Those guys received a lot of hype, but they always stayed humble. I watched how hard they played, how hard they practiced and what it took to win. And I saw through them how to be respectful."

When talking with Norvell, he is what he says he wants to be: humble, respectful and, even at this young age, an outgoing and classy kid. And at a Simeon open gym earlier this fall, Norvell impressed anyone who was watching. Though Simeon open gyms are a little different than most due to the talent level and competitiveness, it was an open gym, nonetheless. And anyone in that open gym couldn't help but come away talking about Norvell.

Norvell drained a pair of three-pointers from the volleyball line. He made clear, crisp, smart passes you don't see from sophomores. He used his solid frame and true 6-4 size to take contact and finish at the rim. He rebounded. He even made the effort to defend.

Most importantly, he was the player willing his team to wins in games up to seven with his know-how and a strength of purpose -- even on a Tuesday night in October.

Throw-down dunks, blazing speed and raw athleticism is what seems to draw the eyes and wows from fans, evaluators and coaches. Norvell is not that. He has a more savvy way about him, with an old school game and an understanding of who he is as a player.

"He's just a player," says Smith. "You don't have to even say he's a 1 or a 2, he's just a player. Right now, he might be our most complete player."

Norvell is ready. He's ready to be part of a basketball power and step into a new and bigger role. He's ready to start living up to the promise, to learn, to get better as a player.

"I'm excited," says Norvell. "I'm excited to be a key piece of what we are trying to accomplish and to just be out there contributing. I'm comfortable playing either guard spot and can play both based on the matchup."

Norvell, the Hoops Report's top prospect and player in the rather non-descript Class of 2016 -- and it's really not even close -- is a 2-guard by trait. But his progression as a prospect and development as a player will be enhanced quickly, thanks to Smith putting the ball in his hands at the point guard position as a sophomore. When he walks out of Simeon in three years he will be your ideal high-major combo guard.

And right now he's the best sophomore prospect in the state and another prime talent in the Simeon pipeline.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on November 21, 2013 6:49 AM.

Hoops Report's preseason rankings: No. 16-25 was the previous entry in this blog.

Hoops Report's preseason rankings: No. 11-15 is the next entry in this blog.

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