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Joe Henricksen: October 2011 Archives

St. Rita's Avery commits to Western Michigan

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By Joe Henricksen

Western Michigan has made a big dent in recruiting the Chicago area this month. And St. Rita's A.J. Avery is the latest to offer coach Steve Hawkins a commitment as the 6-7 forward gave Hawkins and the Broncos a Halloween commitment today.

In addition to Avery's commitment, Western Michigan will sign Warren big man Darius Paul and Lake Forest Academy athlete Charles Harris in November.

Avery, who made two visits to Western Michigan's Kalamazoo campus this fall, appreciated the comfort level he felt.

"The entire team, coaching staff and the administrative and academic advisors all made me feel comfortable," said Avery. "The campus is nice and it's pretty close to home. Plus, there is a chance for me to play early since they are graduating their starting 4-man."

Avery suffered an injury last season and only played in three games for coach Gary DeCesare's Mustangs. According to DeCesare, the injury and sitting out the majority of the season slowed the recruiting process down. But the veteran coach believes Avery has found an ideal fit.

"They [Western Michigan] fell in love with A.J., and it's a great choice for him," says DeCesare. "I really do think there are going to be some college coaches who will see him this season and say, 'Why didn't we recruit him?' But that's how recruiting goes."

Avery's size, length and versatility will be a plus, according to DeCesare.

"He can do so many different things for you," DeCesare points out. "He can go inside, step out, guard multiple positions and that fits perfectly in the MAC [Mid-American Conference]. Western Michigan did a really nice job recruiting in this class."

Western Michigan, which finished 21-13 a year ago, also has three other Illinois products on its roster: Bloomington Central Catholic's Hayden Hoerdemann, who is a freshman guard, sophomore guardDavid Brown of Rockton-Hononegah and Tim Brennan of Lincoln Park.

Where 2012's uncommitted stand

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By Joe Henricksen

While the Class of 2012 in Illinois may not be considered a recruiting bonanza for college basketball coaches, there is still plenty of talent and some key, valuable building blocks for college programs. Many of the top players in the senior class are sorting out where they will play next year. With the November signing period just around the corner, the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at where the top 10 uncommitted senior prospects stand with their respective recruitments.

• Rashaun Stimage, Farragut
There aren't many who like Stimage and his potential as much as the Hoops Report. The bouncy and athletic 6-7 Stimage, who is the Hoops Report's No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2012, continues to have high-major programs sniffing around on the West Side. "A lot of them are still involved in the recruiting process," says veteran Farragut coach Wolf Nelson of the several high-major and mid-major plus programs who have come in to see Stimage work out this fall. "People don't realize until they see him how good he is. He doesn't even realize how good he can be." Stimage, however, will likely end up as a highly coveted junior college recruit.

• Jerron Wilbut, Downers Grove South
The versatile and athletic Wilbut has been among the Hoops Report's top five prospects in the Class of 2012 for quite some time. The physical tools and potential are all there while he matures as a player. The plan for Wilbut will be to play out his senior year as he becomes consistent and productive, both on the floor and in the classroom. Wilbut, who will lead a Downers Grove South team that will likely be ranked among the top 10 teams in the Chicago area in the preseason, will wait for the spring signing period. Currently, a dozen-plus schools are monitoring Wilbut's progress, including strong interest from the likes of Dayton, DePaul, Florida State, Cleveland State, Missouri State, Indiana State and TCU.

• Marlon Johnson, Joliet West
Last spring Johnson burst on the scene after showing strides in the second half of the season for Joliet West. The long, 6-9, athletic Johnson is the Hoops Report's No. 5 ranked prospect in the Class of 2012 and oozes with upside. The cliché "his best basketball is ahead of him" fits Johnson to a T and makes him such an intriguing prospect. Illinois State has offered Johnson, with Missouri State, Valparaiso and Eastern Illinois showing a lot of interest. Johnson, who is planning on visiting Illinois State and Valparaiso soon, will likely end up a prized junior college recruit.

• Keith Carter, Proviso East
The former Loyola commit will be visiting Saint Louis officially on Thursday. Although Saint Louis has yet to offer Carter, the interest is high and the interest is mutual. Northern Illinois and Ohio remain involved, while TCU has started to inquire on the 6-0 point guard who put together a solid and consistent summer on the AAU circuit with Team NLP. "I know Keith is in no rush," says Keith Carter, Sr. But with a visit to Saint Louis on deck -- and if an offer were extended -- who knows how quickly things could materialize.

• Akeem Springs, Waukegan
A top 15 prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 rankings, Springs has a whole lot going for him as he's also an outstanding student academically. A host of mid-major programs are waiting to see if Springs lands at his preferred school -- Yale. Springs visited Yale in June and is awaiting to see if his stellar academics and test score match up with the high Ivy League standards. Siena, Canisius, Gardner Webb and the University of Long Island are all in the mix as well.

• Tim Williams, Homewood-Flossmoor
The recruitment of Williams is different than all the others on this list as he's also a very recruitable football prospect. Williams, who plays quarterback, will lead the H-F football team into a Class 8A playoff game Friday night at Marist, so the immediate focus is finishing the football season strong -- and staying healthy. The 6-8 Williams plans to sit down after the football season and first decide if he's going the football or basketball route. "I will probably wait a few weeks after football and then decide what sport," says Williams. "It will be based on my personal preference and what schools have offered and are recruiting me." As a skilled 6-8 forward, Williams is an intriguing prospect, with Indiana State and IPFW having offered and actively involved, with Saint Louis showing interest.

• Eddie Alcantera, Hales Franciscan
The plan for the big-bodied, athletic 6-4 wing was to play out his senior year and wait until the April signing period. That plan is intact, especially after Alcantera missed nearly all of the July evaluation period with an injury and he becomes an even bigger focal point at Hales with the departure of Aaric Armstead.

• Denzel McCauley, Rock Island
The big 6-8, 225-pound McCauley has been somewhat of a forgotten man after transferring out of Rock Island following the basketball season and then returning to coach Thom Sigel's program this fall. McCauley offers size, skill, upside and takes up space in the paint after helping lead the Rocks to the Class 3A state title last March. He averaged 10.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and shot 60 percent from the field as a junior. In the last four postseason wins last March, McCauley averaged over 13 rebounds a game, including 17 boards in the state title game victory. The interest is mild right now for McCauley, who expects to wait until the spring signing period.

• Jaleni Neely, Simeon
Aside from Proviso East's Keith Carter, Neely is the best available point guard prospect in the class. The 5-10 lead guard, however, suffered a knee injury in June that kept him out of action all summer and fall. He is expected to be cleared to play sometime in November and be an integral part of Simeon's run to a potential third straight state championship and national title as the No. 1 team in the country, according to ESPN. Look for Neely's recruitment to heat up among low-major plus and mid-major programs this winter.

• A.J. Avery, St. Rita
There have been plenty of inquiries and a host of schools who have popped in to see the 6-7 Avery this fall, but Western Michigan has clearly made the biggest push. Avery took an unofficial visit to Western Michigan last weekend and returned to Kalamazoo for an official visit on Wednesday. Western Michigan has already landed Illinois prospects Darius Paul of Warren and Charles Harris of Lake Forest Academy this past week.

The most uneventful recruiting fall ever

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By Joe Henricksen

A friend of mine named Jonesy, a knowledgeable basketball junkie who follows college and prep basketball religiously -- and all the recruiting news that goes with it -- called the other day and said, "This is the most boring stretch leading up to signing day ever. There isn't one interesting recruitment to follow of any senior in Illinois."

Now Jonesy can be a bit dramatic as he has been known to call in a midday panic needing help deciding between Culver's, Subway and Jimmy John's for lunch. But for the most part, he's exactly right. This has been a total yawner when it comes to recruiting news, commitments and buzz leading up to the signing period. The rare combination of a lackluster class, several players without grades and/or test score in the class, and a few of the top players having been committed for quite some time, has led to the recruiting boredom.

Despite what you read and hear each time a prospect offers up a verbal commitment, every commitment isn't a recruiting "steal" or recruiting "coup" or "great get." Sure, those adjectives and descriptions juice things up a bit, but the players have to go somewhere. And in some cases, especially in the Class of 2012, they are just nice, ordinary recruits. Maybe a college program reaches a bit. Or maybe it was the best offer the kid had -- or the only offer still left on the table. But we don't talk about that as newsworthy recruiting information.

Maybe it's the fact last fall featured some tantalizing recruiting storylines for fans to follow in Illinois and in the Midwest, some of which had fans checking the internet for reports on a daily basis.

East Aurora's electric Ryan Boatright committed to West Virginia last Oct. 18, de-committed Oct. 23 and then committed to Connecticut two weeks later in a wild recruiting ride.

Stanford, Illinois and Purdue, along with all their fan bases, awaited Chasson Randle's decision in late October. Everyone was giving predictions and guesses on this one as it seemed to go back and forth. The Rock Island star, who would go on to lead the Rocks to a state title last season, gave Stanford a verbal commitment Oct. 27.

And although the secret leaked out after a hard-fought recruiting derby between Illinois, Marquette and West Virginia, De La Salle's Mike Shaw's press conference a day after Randle committed provided another buzz in the recruiting world and ended plenty of twisting and turning.

Remember the fall of 2009 when coveted big man Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius was deciding between Illinois and Purdue? That was about about as 50/50 of a recruitment as there could possibly be in the final days before he offered up his verbal. He ended things Oct. 9, 2009 with a phone call to Bruce Weber and committing to Illinois during his junior year.

This September and October? We sit and wait for, what? ... The next Mid-American Conference commitment? (Hey, I love the MAC, but it's not what feeds the recruiting geeks' appetite, creates recruiting waves and makes headlines).

We could sit on the edge of our seats for the next round of ACT scores to come back -- or maybe first quarter grade reports. After all, several uncommitted prospects may need to decide on jucos or prep schools at the end of the day due to academics, while some of the committed players in this class still aren't qualified yet.

We could also sit and wait for reality to set in for many of the seniors who, maybe stubbornly, unknowingly, mistakenly or misguided, wait for scholarship offers that just aren't going to come their way. Hey, kid, take that low-Division I or Division II offer! Take it now!

There is a chance -- and a very likely one -- that just two seniors sign in November with high-major conference teams: Simeon's Steve Taylor with Marquette and Crete-Monee's Michael Orris with Illinois. A year ago, 18 players in the Class of 2011 signed (either in November or April) with schools in high-major conferences. The year before the Class of 2010 saw 13 players sign with high-major schools. This year we may still be at two high-major recruits when the April signing period rolls around.

This has been a recruiting process we haven't seen in this state in quite some time. But that's what happens when you have just one top 100 player in the class (Simeon's Steve Taylor is ranked No. 56 by Scout.com, No. 64 by ESPN.com and No. 108 by Rivals.com). The high-major schools have been virtually non-existent, instead focusing on the bumper crop coming up in the 2013 and 2014 classes. The Chicago Public League has just four Division I commitments to date -- total. And while some commitments are now trickling in, it's been at a snail's pace, due to the various factors already listed (lack of talent in the senior class, poor academics, waiting for bigger and better offers).

But my buddy was right when he said it's been a little boring on the recruiting front. There have hardly even been any intense mid-major recruiting wars. In fact, some of the players committing have hardly had much to choose from when they've made their decision.

Yes, the November signing period is just around the corner. But between now and then there isn't a whole lot to pay attention to or get overly excited about. And, no, the Hoops Report doesn't see too many Class of 2013 or 2014 early commitments from high-profile players on the horizon, either.

New faces, new places

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By Joe Henricksen

When the official start of the 2011-2012 season begins with the first practice in three weeks--and games tipping off the week of Thanksgiving--there will be new looks to several basketball programs throughout the Chicago area.

Among those job openings this past offseason, there were a few high-profile openings with some big names filling them, including Tom Cappel at Crete-Monee, Chris Head at Crane and Donnie Boyce at Proviso East (for a blog on the fortunes of those three coaches go to the "Big jobs, big names" blog).

Today, the City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at many of the coaching changes in the Chicago area as we quickly approach the 2011-2012 season.

St. Charles East
Former Coach: Brian Clodi
New Coach: Pat Woods
The controversial removal of Clodi as head coach is in the rearview mirror as Woods takes over a program that features one of the premier players in the state--Purdue recruit Kendall Stephens. The 6-4 junior guard is the cornerstone of a program that hopes to challenge Elgin and St. Charles North in the Upstate Eight River. Woods was most recently the athletic director at Ridgewood, but he spent nine years as head coach before taking over the athletic department. His 97-148 career record is misleading as he took over a woeful Ridgewood program in 2001. He built the program to respectability by the time he stepped down in 2010, including a 17-11 season in 2007-2008.

Rich Central
Former Coach: Terrone Parham
New Coach: Bobby Smith
Smith becomes the fourth different head coach at Rich Central in the last nine years, following Glenn Heffernan, Mike Curta and Parham, who has been the head coach the past three seasons and finished 11-14 a year ago. The Rich Central basketball program enjoyed its greatest success in the mid-1980s. The Olympians hope a key figure from those glory days can restore a program that hasn't had a whole lot of success of late. Smith was a star at Rich Central, helping a Kendall Gill-led Rich Central team to a 31-2 record and second-place finish in state his junior year.

York
Former Coach: Dominic Cannon
New Coach: Tom Kleinschmidt
Under Cannon, an interim coach who took over for former York and current UIC assistant coach Al Biancalana, the Dukes won 20 games and finished second in the West Suburban Silver last season. Now Kleinschmidt, a huge name in Illinois prep basketball and a former star at DePaul, takes over the program. Kleinschmidt, who was a McDonald's All-American as a prep player at Gordon Tech, is familiar with the York program after serving as an assistant last year. He has a building block in junior guard David Cohn, one of the top 25 prospects in the Class of 2013 in Illinois.

Hoffman Estates
Former Coach: Bill Wandro
New Coach: Luke Yanule
While Hoffman Estates has struggled of late (6-20 a year ago), Wandro built the program into one of the most successful in the Mid-Suburban League in his 20 years before retiring. He won 337 games, eight regional titles and took two teams to the Elite Eight. Yanule has been an assistant coach at both Niles Notre Dame and Schaumburg, where he's been since 2007, coaching under successful Bob Williams (now at Niles West) and Matt Walsh.

St. Viator
Former Coach: Joe Majkowski
New Coach: Mike Howland
After 24 years of Majkowski in charge of the basketball program at the private school in Arlington Heights, St. Viator kept it in the family with the hiring of Howland. The former star player at St. Viator, who led the program to its only conference title in 1997 as a junior, has served the past eight years as an assistant. He's well versed in all things St. Viator, which finished 14-13 a year ago, and was a part of the program's biggest success--the 24-win, supersectional season in 2010. Howland will welcome back some experience, including point guard D.J. Morris and shooting guard Kevin Walsh.

Wheaton-Warrenville South
Former Coach: Mike Healy
New Coach: Robert Szorc
Healy stepped down as head coach to concentrate solely on his athletic director duties. Szorc, a west suburban native originally from West Chicago and who attended Benet Academy, led Rock Island Alleman to back-to-back regional titles the past two seasons. He won't have it easy, however, coaching at a football factory and losing all five starters from last year's team.

Wheaton St. Francis
Former Coach: Shawn Healy
New Coach: Bob Ward
A blast from the past in Wheaton as Ward, who served as head coach at Wheaton North for seven seasons, takes over for Healy. Ward has 17 years of head coaching experience, including stints at Spring Valley Hall, Round Lake and Wheaton North. He has compiled a 250-225 record in those 17 years but hasn't been a head coach since resigning at Wheaton North in 2000. Ward and St. Francis will welcome back the return of talented and versatile Ryan Coyle.

Deerfield
Former Coach: Bret Just
New Coach: J.J. Pearl
All Just did the past two seasons was lead Deerfield basketball to a 44-15 record and a pair of regional championships. Just, however, has moved on to the sports agency world, working with CAA Sports Agency, and Pearl, a longtime high school assistant coach, moves into his first head job. Pearl spent nine seasons as an assistant at Stevenson and the past two as an assistant for Just at Deerfield. The Warriors return just one starter, senior Mack Watts, from last season's overachieving 20-win, regional title team.

Lincoln Park
Former Coach: Brian Murphy
New Coach: Fil Torres

While Murphy led Lincoln Park to 34 wins in two seasons and a share of the Red-North title a year ago, he stepped down this offseason after taking over for Tom Livatino in 2009. Torres has spent the past two years at Chicago Talent Development School. He prepped and starred at Naperville North a decade ago, leading the Huskies to a sectional title his junior year and 22 wins his senior year. He then made the Arizona team as a walk-on and played three seasons for coach Lute Olson.

Oak Lawn
Former Coach: Scott Atkins
New Coach: Jason Rhodes
In the past two seasons, Atkins guided Oak Lawn to records of 14-13 and 15-12. No big deal? Those were the first winning seasons at Oak Lawn in 24 years. Now that Atkins has brought Oak Lawn basketball back to respectability and the lower levels have been competitive, Rhodes takes over. He spent nine seasons coaching at Kenwood Academy in Chicago, including two years as the head coach. He led Kenwood to a regional title in 2008.

Bremen
Former Coach: Matt Meany
New Coach: Brian Flaherty
Flaherty returns to the job he held just two years ago. The son of highly successful prep coach Mike Flaherty, Brian Flaherty was the head coach at Bremen for four seasons before stepping down following the 2009-2010 season. His assistant and friend, Matt Meany, took over for one season while Flaherty attended to a family medical issue at home. Then Meany volunteered to step down as head coach so Flaherty could return to his original job. The Braves went just 6-20 a year ago, but the coaching tandem that led Bremen to a 18-11 season in 2009-2010 is back.

Evergreen Park
Former Coach: Brian Scaduto
New Coach: Pat Flannigan
Scaduto resigned from coaching boys basketball and took over the Evergreen Park girls basketball job after compiling a 165-226 record in 14 seasons as the boys head coach. Flannigan has been an assistant to Scaduto for the past 11 years.

Yorkville
Former Coach: Jerry Farber
New Coach: Dan McGuire
McGuire takes over for Farber, who retired from teaching and coaching after leading the Yorkville program for the past 12 seasons as head coach. McGuire has served as Farber's varsity assistant for the past four years.

Loyola nabs Peoria Manual's Keke White

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By Joe Henricksen

Loyola basketball recruiting rolled up another commitment on Friday as Peoria Manual's Keke White, a 6-0 combo guard, committed to coach Porter Moser on his unofficial visit to the Loyola campus. White is among the Hoops Report's top 25 prospects in the senior class.

The opportunity to be a part of something new is what really intrigued White when it came to Loyola.

"The whole re-construction of the entire basketball program is what was exciting to me," says White. "I am looking forward to being a part of that rebuilding. The program really looks to be going in a great direction."

White, who played on the AAU circuit with the Illinois Wolves, is a tough-minded guard who provides a team more than what a box score will tell you and has a knack for simply making plays. He's a basketball "player," with competitiveness and toughness that permeates throughout whatever team he plays on. While he's more shifty and creative than athletic, White is a terrific defensive player.

White is the fourth Loyola commitment in the senior class, with the Ramblers already having three highly-regarded commitments locked up in the Class of 2012. Darrell Combs, a smooth 6-1 scorer from Thornwood, is among the top dozen senior prospects in Illinois. Nick Osborne and Matt O'Leary, both prep players from Indiana, committed in early August and bring both size and upside. Osborne is a big-bodied 6-8 power forward from Muncie, Ind., while O'Leary, a 6-7 face-up power forward from Terre Haute, Ind., with terrific shooting ability, boosted his stock with an impressive July.

The recruiting roll also includes the Class of 2013 as St. Charles North's Quenten Payne, a 6-4 junior and younger brother of Cully Payne, who transferred from Iowa and is sitting out this year at Loyola. Both Payne brothers have the potential to be a Horizon League difference-makers.

Big names, big jobs, big expectations

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By Joe Henricksen

When the start of the 2011-2012 season officially begins with the first practice in three weeks--and games tipping off the week of Thanksgiving--there will be new looks to several basketball programs throughout the Chicago area.
 
Among those job openings this past offseason, there were a few high-profile openings with some big names filling them. The names include a pair of highly successful coaches in new spots--Tom Cappel to Crete-Monee and Chris Head to Crane--and two former basketball stars getting their feet wet as head coaches in Tom Kleinschmidt (York) and Donnie Boyce (Proviso East).
 
Today, the City/Suburban Hoops Report focuses on the three biggest jobs that were filled this offseason. On Friday the Hoops Report will take a look at many more coaching changes in the Chicago area as we quickly approach the 2011-2012 season.
 
Proviso East
THE PROGRAM: This is a storied basketball program. Proviso East has won 45 regional championships, 12 sectional titles and captured four state championships in school history. Plus, the program has produced an endless list of all-time greats, including Doc Rivers, Michael Finley, Dee Brown and Shannon Brown to name just a few. But this great basketball program has not been past the supersectional since 1993.
THE FORMER COACH: David Chatman
He was respected, was a good man and had some success, especially early on in his coaching tenure in Maywood (54-10 and two sectional titles in his first two seasons), but Chatman was not going to last in Maywood. No, not with politics involved and a couple of uncharacteristic seasons, including the first losing season in 50 years, bringing the vultures out.
THE NEW COACH: Donnie Boyce
The former Proviso East star, Donnie Boyce, comes home. He takes over a heralded basketball program that figures to be among the state's elite teams this winter. He has surrounded himself with "Proviso East guys" on his staff. There may be no coach who will face more pressure in his first season than Boyce, but Boyce recognizes, understands and welcomes the high expectations that come with Proviso East basketball.
THE FORECAST: The Pirates don't have much size, but they're loaded with speed, quickness, experience and added depth with the arrival of Curie transfer Paris Burns. This is one of the premier teams in Illinois. Senior Keith Carter is a talented veteran to rely on, while junior Sterling Brown's emergence could put the Pirates at a different level than a year ago. Look for Boyce's team to turn up the heat with constant pressure.

Crete-Monee
THE PROGRAM: Prior to the arrival of coach Rocky Hill in 2006, this basketball program was non-existent in the south suburbs. He led the Warriors to 64 wins and three regional championships in his four years. Hill was pushed out, Matt Ryndak took over and the Warriors, fresh off their best season in school history (25 wins and a sectional championship), have now won four straight regional championships and averaged 22 wins the past three seasons.
THE FORMER COACH: Matt Ryndak
The program, school and community were hit hard when Ryndak, after just one season as head coach, was charged with eight counts of aggravated sexual criminal assault on a minor. Ryndak was fired in June and the school and basketball program needed immediate stability.
THE NEW COACH: Tom Cappel
Cappel will bring the stability and presence needed at Crete-Monee. The highly successful veteran coach was the perfect hire for Crete-Monee, particularly under the circumstances. Cappel, 64, built Hillcrest into a power in his 23 years at the Country Club Hills school, winning 502 games overall and averaging 25 wins a year in his last 10 seasons. He guided two teams (1991 and 1999) to the Elite Eight.
THE FORECAST: The return of heralded point guard and Illinois recruit Michael Orris is quite a building block for Cappel in his first season. Crete-Monee will remain one of the strongest teams in the south suburbs and will be a threat once again in March. Although the Warriors lost both 6-8 Greg Mays and athletic all-stater Jamie Crockett from last year's team, Cappel has talent surrounding Orris, including a pair of impressive juniors in guard Marvie Keith and athletic LaQuan Treadwell, who is also a terrific football prospect.
 
Crane
THE PROGRAM: Crane has enjoyed plenty of on-and-off again success since the 1960s, figuring prominently in Chicago Public League basketball over that time. Coach Anthony Longstreet elevated the Cougars a decade ago and led Crane to the Elite Eight in 2005 behind junior star Sherron Collins. Over a seven-year run (1998-2005), Crane averaged 23 wins a season. A year ago Crane captured Class 3A regional and sectional championships.
THE FORMER COACH: Tim Anderson
College coaching came calling for Tim Anderson, who left Crane to become an assistant at Pan American University in Texas. Anderson did a solid job in maintaining the Crane basketball success, winning 25 games a year ago and claiming a share of the rugged Red-West title in addition to the sectional championship last March. In three seasons, Anderson's teams went 61-22.
THE NEW COACH: Chris Head
Head is accustomed to winning basketball games. He has compiled a 213-70 record, led Westinghouse to a state title in 2002 and runner-up finish in 2000. He also built the Brooks program from scratch and went 87-41 in four seasons. Head is demanding, successful and coaches with a certain commanding style.
THE FORECAST: If the Cougars adapt to Head's style quickly, Crane could be a big sleeper in the city and state this season. There is plenty of talent returning, along with the arrival of highly-regarded junior point guard Markee Williams, who transferred from Morgan Park.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report will begin its 17th year of publication, with the first issue of the year out in late November. For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

After the Buzzer with former prep star Davis

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By Joe Henricksen

There are so many former athletes who talk a great game. They want to give back. They want to inspire. They want to bring attention to the problems they see with our youth. They want to make a difference. But so many don't follow through or simply don't have the means, a plan or vision to do so.

Through the eyes and voice of Rodney Davis, a former prep star at East Aurora in the early 1980s and one of the all-time greats to play basketball at Northern Illinois, the former athlete is following through and making that all happen. And in this day where more and more kids' heads are in the clouds and in need of a reality check, Davis is a role model to bring them back to earth while still having the ability to inspire and instill the drive and motivation to succeed in life.

"For so many of these kids they think that's the way out," says Davis of the belief so many kids have that basketball -- and other sports -- will lead them to fame, fortune and the pros. "This book is for the 99.9 percent of those that aren't going to make it. I would never tell a kid he can't make it, but it's important to open a dialogue and have them start thinking of a backup plan."

Davis admits he was one who thought basketball was what would take him to great heights, with thoughts of playing professionally as a kid.

Davis was brought up to the varsity at East Aurora as a freshman by the late Ernie Kivisto, one of the legendary coaching icons in Illinois basketball history. Davis put together a tremendous high school career before being part of what is considered the greatest recruiting class in Northern Illinois basketball history. Davis was part of a star-studded class of local stars that headed to DeKalb in 1984, including West Aurora star Kenny Battle, who would later transfer to Illinois.

Davis went on to become one of the best players in NIU history. He's among the top 20 all-time scorers and ranks third all-time in career assists. He was inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007 and named to the NIU All-Century Basketball Team.

After free agent tryouts with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, while playing in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), Davis worked eight years in the retail management industry and five years in the investment banking industry.

The corporate world, however, wasn't for Davis. And fortunately for so many young kids today, Davis' exit from corporate America and the vision he had a little over six years ago came to fruition.

"There just came a time where I asked myself, 'What really is fulfilling for me?'" says Davis. "I wanted to create something that was fulfilling."

So in 2005, Davis launched L.I.F.E. Support Incorporated, which is a non-profit services organization providing numerous social services and recreational activities for individuals in the immediate Aurora area.

With what is called the Academic and Athletic Empowerment Program (AAEP), L.I.F.E. is focused on enhancing both academics and athletic skills of middle and high school student athletes and empower individuals through continued education and training. L.I.F.E. focuses on three major components: mentoring/tutoring, health and physical fitness and life skills field trips.

"After six or seven years we're still grinding it out," says Davis of the not-for-profit organization. "We are on the right track. It was certainly a leap of faith at the time, but there are no regrets. I enjoy working with these kids so much. It's been so fulfilling."

Davis, who is also an assistant basketball coach at Aurora University, says L.I.F.E. continues to look for partnerships with corporations, school districts, colleges and universities. And part of building those partnerships and relationships is getting the word out, which Davis continues to strive to do.

Hopefully, a new book written by Davis is another avenue for L.I.F.E. Davis' new book is a terrific, realistic and easy-to-read book titled, "After The Buzzer -- 7 Steps for Winning the Big Game (Life, After the Cheering Stops)."

The book is a sincere and honest look at dealing with life -- athletically, academically and socially -- through the eyes of a former prep and college basketball star. The book focuses on topics such as respect, responsibility, sacrifice, competition, perseverance and trust, with thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter and a workbook journal to write down your own thoughts. He addresses the topic of "When is it time to move on?" and what lies ahead in life, both athletically and outside of the game. It's a book that makes so much sense and should be in the hands of student-athletes.

"The time will come when playing is over," Davis reiterates. "And you have to have a plan. That plan should include building yourself up as an all-around person. You can use athletics in so many ways, including all the success you have with it and all that you learn from it, and then apply it to life."

For more information on the "After The Buzzer," email rdavis@lifesupportinc.org or go to afterthebuzzer.com or lifesupportinc.org.

Hoops Report's Top 25 in 2013

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By Joe Henricksen

Yeah, yeah, there are some who get tired of it all. They get sick of hearing all the praise thrown at young players. And they get irritated by the annual over-hype created by the media and the now two-dozen plus "talent evaluators" in Illinois. It happens. But that's not the case with the Class of 2013 in Illinois.

When this class entered high school a little more than two years ago, the talk centered mostly around the trio of Simeon's Jabari Parker, Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton and De La Salle's Alex Foster. Now the junior class as a whole is set to make its mark on the high school basketball season this winter -- and show it's as good as advertised.

"I do think there are times when Chicago kids get a little too much hype, maybe even overrecruited," says one high-major college coach. "But not with this group. Plus, there is some great depth in that class in Illinois that will trickle down to the mid-major level."

There are some who made a name for themselves last season as sophomores, but this group, collectively, is poised to blossom as players and prospects over the next five months when things finally matter again.

Parker, one of the most coveted players in the country, is obviously at the top. And that's not changing. Derrick Rose, the former Simeon star and current NBA MVP, entered high school as clearly the best prospect in his class and remained the best prospect throughout his high school career. The same goes with Parker.

The next group that rounds out the top five, including Simeon's Kendrick Nunn, St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens, Belleville East's Malcolm Hill and Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, are pretty much interchangeable at this point. And looking down the list of prospects, there will be double-digit players from this junior class who end up in high-major conferences. Now we finally get to see and enjoy them as veterans at the varsity level.

Here is a look at the Hoops Report's top dozen college prospects (the list will be added to later this week) in the Class of 2013 in Illinois.

1. Jabari Parker, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
When it's all said and done, Parker will be one of the top five prospects ever produced out of the state of Illinois -- ever. Now it's a matter of just where the versatile Parker falls among the all-time greats as he builds his Chicago hoops legacy. No player in the state can affect a game in more ways. He has the entire package -- size, skill, basketball I.Q.and intangibles -- which is why he's the No. 1 player in the country in his class.
2. Kendrick Nunn, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
He may be an undersized 2-guard, but Nunn is explosive off the floor and can stretch a defense with his shooting ability. Look for Nunn to blossom this winter in comparison to his role-playing ways of last season; Nunn will rarely be less than effective and frequently brilliant this season for the No. 1 team in the state (and country?). With his de-commitment from Texas A&M, Nunn is a highly coveted prospect nationally.
3. Kendall Stephens, 6-4, 2G, St. Charles (East)
Long and smooth with a beautiful, consistent shooting stroke and size on the perimeter that allows him to get his shot off. He's still physically developing and maturing as a player, which is why his upside remains so high. The Purdue recruit will put up some big offensive numbers this season and only get better as he adds to his game over the next two years.
4. Malcolm Hill, 6-5, WF, Belleville (East)
Has the look of a big-time prospect with size, length, body and bounce of a high-major wing player. In the last 12 months he's blossomed as a player but with that untapped potential and high ceiling still present. Hill's dimensions, athleticism and versatility ensures he will be a matchup nightmare at the prep level. The Illinois commitment never seems to overdo things and uses his strengths to his advantage. If Hill's perimeter shot ever gets to the point where it needs to be respected and a still developing killer instinct completely evolves, this could be the best prospect in the class not named Jabari Parker.
5. Tommy Hamilton, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
A big five months ahead for the talented but enigmatic Hamilton, who is looking to finally put together an impressive stretch of basketball. Enormously skilled -- he can draw opposing big men out to the three-point line and make a no-look pass with the best of them -- Hamilton hopes to quiet critics with a big junior year playing alongside Jahlil Okafor.
6. Billy Garrett, 6-4, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with his combination of size, smarts and shooting ability. Garrett, a DePaul commit, is a heady lead guard and confident player who simply makes the right plays at the right time. He's a player who is perfectly content with playing distributor -- as long as his team is playing well -- for 31 minutes, but he wants to take that big shot and make the key play with the clock winding down.
7. Gavin Schilling, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Look for Schilling, who missed most of the summer with an injury, to emerge as one of the elite prospects in the class this winter. An underrated athlete with a great looking body for a 4-man. He possesses nice length and bounce off the floor, runs the floor fluidly and features touch and feel around the basket.
8. Jalen James, 6-3, PG, Chicago (Hope Academy)
James needed July to enhance his skills and further his development, but the pure point guard, who loves to pass and is at his his best making those around him better, missed most of the summer with an injury. The Illinois commit, unfortunately, won't be tested or pushed a whole lot playing at Hope, but he's a promising all-around talent at his position. He's more interested in setting up his teammates than chucking shots.
9. Sterling Brown, 6-4, WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
Slowly but surely Shannon Brown's little brother gets better and better. He's long, agile and is certainly a promising prospect who has not yet come close to maximizing his talent. Still developing that killer instinct and aggressiveness to take over a game, but he's starting to become more consistent, assertive and productive as he matures.
10. Kyle Davis, 6-0, 2G, Chicago (Hyde Park)
There aren't many players more explosive in getting to the basket or in the open floor than Davis. He's not a point guard at the next level as others insist. And though he's an undersized 2-guard with a suspect jumper, Davis is a player who could thrive in the right system and style of play. Davis is an energetic athlete who makes plays and constantly puts pressure on opponents at both ends of the floor.
11. Russell Woods, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Leo)
An athletic 4-man who will rebound, run the floor and has a body that will evolve into the type of college basketball physique coaches covet. Right now, though, his offensive game must take a big step forward if he wants to take his game to another level. Woods needs to get back to being a no-nonsense player and a rebounding and defensive presence.
12. Jaylon Tate, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Simeon)
The talented Tate makes the move from De La Salle to Simeon, where his role will certainly be different than the past two years. Tate may lack the ideal burst and athleticism, but at his best he is a calm, composed, distributing lead guard. If Tate's shooting accuracy improves, his versatility will become a strength and his stock will rise.
13. Marquise Pryor, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Orr)
While everyone has bigger and more familiar names ranked higher than Pryor, the Hoops Report will take this undervalued warrior and rebounding machine over most of them. Pryor is always around the ball, making things happen. Strong body, frame, plays hard, tough and has the demeanor you want in a guy who is going to play around the basket.
14. Alvin Ellis, 6-4, WF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Lacks a clearly defined position at the next level, but he's long, agile, really runs the floor, finishes and will find a role regardless. He gets his paws on balls and disrupts defensively. He must continue to make strides with his perimeter jumper and feel for the game.
15. Quinten Payne, 6-4, 2G, St. Charles (North)
Talented perimeter player with size and good strength. The Loyola commit still isn't the quickest player, but he will surprise you with his athleticism. He uses his good size and underrated athleticism to his advantage. When he becomes a more consistent shooter, Payne will be a load on the offensive end.
16. Alex Foster, 6-7, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Size is still valued and coveted and Foster does have the look with a good frame and a basketball body. When he plays physical and gets after it, Foster shows good timing, coordination and production on put-backs, rebounds and second-chance opportunities.
17. David Cohn, 6-2, PG/2G, Elmhurst (York)
There are guards out there who are called combo guards because they really can't play either guard spot. Cohn can play both as he can shoot, score, handle the ball and distribute. Physically, there are questions, but he's tougher and more athletic than he looks. Highly underrated prospect in the class.
18. A.J. Riley, 6-2, PG, Peoria (Manual)
There weren't many players who enhanced their stock more this past summer than Riley, who is a point guard with size, strength and a rapid-improving feel for the position. Perimeter shot is still in question, but Riley is an ideal Missouri Valley-type point guard.
19. Jubril Adekoya, 6-5, PF, Tinley Park (Andrew)
He may not be a prototypical 4-man at the next level, but he brings a lot to the table. Adekoya just gets stuff done with tenacity and desire. He rebounds, hustles, takes contact and uses his body extremely well. Brings visions of former Thornton star Joevan Catron, who played at Oregon.
20. Kendall Pollard, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
Here is your junk yard dog in the class, capable of locking up players with his defensive mindset, toughness and rugged style. His offensive game needs to expand, but he slashes, finishes and his mid-range game is coming along.
21. Xzavier Taylor, 6-9, PF/C, Chicago (Morgan Park)
A much-improved big man whose focus is better and upside jumps out at you when you envision him as a 5-man at the next level. The still raw big man is learning his way on the offensive end, but he's a major player on the glass and defensively.
22. Nathan Taphorn, 6-6, WF, Pekin
A solid mid-major prospect with height, length and shooting ability on the perimeter. He's come a long way in the past year. Physically he has a ways to go with his weight, strength and overall aggression, but the skill package and jumper make him intriguing.
23. Jared Brownridge, 6-1, 2G, Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)
When you talk about Brownridge, you're talking about arguably the best shooter in the junior class. The footwork, squaring up and quick release are so consistent. He may lack the type of quickness and size you would like for a 2-guard, but he offers up that special something not many can -- the ability to knock down shots all day long.
24. Andrew McAuliffe, 6-8, PF, Northbrook (Glenbrook North)
A true, developing big man with some skill and a little versatility. He can score around the basket with both hands and will knock down shots facing up. And to his credit, he's not enamored with drifting away from the basket, focusing instead on matchups and situations. He's not real athletic and lacks any real bounce.
25. Alec Peters, 6-6, WF/PF, Washington
Another Hoops Report favorite -- and under-the-radar player -- who is easy to like with his old school ways. He's crafty, strong, moves well without the ball, works extremely hard and can really shoot the basketball and put the ball in the hole. Biggest obstacle he faces is an overall lack of true athleticism and foot speed.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report begins its 17th year of publication this season, with the first issue due out in late November. For more information or to subscribe to the Hoops Report, email hoopsreport@yahoo.com or call (630)-408-6709

Time to enjoy Class of 2013

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By Joe Henricksen

Yeah, yeah, there are some who get tired of it all. They get sick of hearing all the praise thrown at young players. And they get irritated by the annual over-hype created by the media and the now two-dozen plus "talent evaluators" in Illinois. It happens. But that's not the case with the Class of 2013 in Illinois.

When this class entered high school a little more than two years ago, the talk centered mostly around the trio of Simeon's Jabari Parker, Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton and De La Salle's Alex Foster. Now the junior class as a whole is set to make its mark on the high school basketball season this winter -- and show it's as good as advertised.

"I do think there are times when Chicago kids get a little too much hype, maybe even overrecruited," says one high-major college coach. "But not with this group. Plus, there is some great depth in that class in Illinois that will trickle down to the mid-major level."

There are some who made a name for themselves last season as sophomores, but this group, collectively, is poised to blossom as players and prospects over the next five months when things finally matter again.

Parker, one of the most coveted players in the country, is obviously at the top. And that's not changing. Derrick Rose, the former Simeon star and current NBA MVP, entered high school as clearly the best prospect in his class and remained the best prospect throughout his high school career. The same goes with Parker.

The next group that rounds out the top five, including Simeon's Kendrick Nunn, St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens, Belleville East's Malcolm Hill and Whitney Young's Tommy Hamilton, are pretty much interchangeable at this point. And looking down the list of prospects, there will be double-digit players from this junior class who end up in high-major conferences. Now we finally get to see and enjoy them as veterans at the varsity level.

Here is a look at the Hoops Report's top dozen college prospects (the list will be added to later this week) in the Class of 2013 in Illinois.

1. Jabari Parker, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
When it's all said and done, Parker will be one of the top five prospects ever produced out of the state of Illinois -- ever. Now it's a matter of just where the versatile Parker falls among the all-time greats as he builds his Chicago hoops legacy. No player in the state can affect a game in more ways. He has the entire package -- size, skill, basketball I.Q.and intangibles -- which is why he's the No. 1 player in the country in his class.
2. Kendrick Nunn, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
He may be an undersized 2-guard, but Nunn is explosive off the floor and can stretch a defense with his shooting ability. Look for Nunn to blossom this winter in comparison to his role-playing ways of last season; Nunn will rarely be less than effective and frequently brilliant this season for the No. 1 team in the state (and country?). With his de-commitment from Texas A&M, Nunn is a highly coveted prospect nationally.
3. Kendall Stephens, 6-4, 2G, St. Charles (East)
Long and smooth with a beautiful, consistent shooting stroke and size on the perimeter that allows him to get his shot off. He's still physically developing and maturing as a player, which is why his upside remains so high. The Purdue recruit will put up some big offensive numbers this season and only get better as he adds to his game over the next two years.
4. Malcolm Hill, 6-5, WF, Belleville (East)
Has the look of a big-time prospect with size, length, body and bounce of a high-major wing player. In the last 12 months he's blossomed as a player but with that untapped potential and high ceiling still present. Hill's dimensions, athleticism and versatility ensures he will be a matchup nightmare at the prep level. The Illinois commitment never seems to overdo things and uses his strengths to his advantage. If Hill's perimeter shot ever gets to the point where it needs to be respected and a still developing killer instinct completely evolves, this could be the best prospect in the class not named Jabari Parker.
5. Tommy Hamilton, 6-9, PF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
A big five months ahead for the talented but enigmatic Hamilton, who is looking to finally put together an impressive stretch of basketball. Enormously skilled -- he can draw opposing big men out to the three-point line and make a no-look pass with the best of them -- Hamilton hopes to quiet critics with a big junior year playing alongside Jahlil Okafor.
6. Billy Garrett, 6-4, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with his combination of size, smarts and shooting ability. Garrett, a DePaul commit, is a heady lead guard and confident player who simply makes the right plays at the right time. He's a player who is perfectly content with playing distributor -- as long as his team is playing well -- for 31 minutes, but he wants to take that big shot and make the key play with the clock winding down.
7. Gavin Schilling, 6-8, PF, Chicago (De La Salle)
Look for Schilling, who missed most of the summer with an injury, to emerge as one of the elite prospects in the class this winter. An underrated athlete with a great looking body for a 4-man. He possesses nice length and bounce off the floor, runs the floor fluidly and features touch and feel around the basket.
8. Sterling Brown, 6-4, WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
Slowly but surely Shannon Brown's little brother gets better and better. He's long, agile and is certainly a promising prospect who has not yet come close to maximizing his talent. Still developing that killer instinct and aggressiveness to take over a game, but he's starting to become more consistent, assertive and productive as he matures.
9. Jalen James, 6-3, PG, Chicago (Hope Academy)
James needed July to enhance his skills and further his development, but the pure point guard, who loves to pass and is at his his best making those around him better, missed most of the summer with an injury. The Illinois commit, unfortunately, won't be tested or pushed a whole lot playing at Hope, but he's a promising all-around talent at his position. He's more interested in setting up his teammates than chucking shots, but his perimeter jumper and lack of any real explosiveness is cause for concern at the high-major level.
10. Kyle Davis, 6-0, 2G, Chicago (Hyde Park)
There aren't many players more explosive in getting to the basket or in the open floor than Davis. He's not a point guard at the next level as others insist. And though he's an undersized 2-guard with a suspect jumper, Davis is a player who could thrive in the right system and style of play. Davis is an energetic athlete who makes plays and constantly puts pressure on opponents at both ends of the floor.
11. Russell Woods, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Leo)
An athletic 4-man who will rebound, run the floor and has a body that will evolve into the type of college basketball physique coaches covet. Right now, though, his offensive game must take a big step forward if he wants to take his game to another level. Woods needs to get back to being a no-nonsense player and a rebounding and defensive presence.
12. Jaylon Tate, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Simeon)
The talented Tate makes the move from De La Salle to Simeon, where his role will certainly be different than the past two years. Tate may lack the ideal burst and athleticism, but at his best he is a calm, composed, distributing lead guard. If Tate's shooting accuracy improves, his versatility will become a strength and his stock will rise.

Everything in place for Boyce, Proviso East

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By Joe Henricksen

When it came down to it, Proviso East wanted one of its own. And a big name would be all the better for a basketball program that can match up with any in the state since 1960.

Donnie Boyce wanted to be on the sideline coaching. But only at the school he played at and calls home. Sounds like a perfect match.

Now Boyce, who replaces former coach David Chatman, is a month away from the start of his first season as head coach at Proviso East. He inherits a program that will enter the season with enormous expectations, the same expectations -- sometimes unrealistic -- that doomed Chatman. But Boyce is ready and has a plan.

He admits he will dial in to his past to gain some knowledge from the mentors, role models and coaches he has had throughout his life and playing career, which included a terrific college career at Colorado in the mid-1990s. He will take a piece from each one of those influential people in his life and add to his plan.

Boyce will start with what he learned under the highly successful Bill Hitt, who took three teams to the Elite Eight, won back-to-back state titles and averaged nearly 24 wins a season in his 10 years as coach at Proviso East. Boyce remembers how early the work and belief started during the successful state title run in 1991.

"I remember out state championship team and that run and how it really all started and began with preseason conditioning," says Boyce. "That was our first step. I remember challenging ourselves, starting to mentally prepare ourselves at that time, before a game had even been played.

"I think the biggest challenge this first year is getting everyone on board early and buying in immediately."

Boyce's first order of business as head coach was to fill out his staff with Proviso East "guys" who understand "Pirate Pride" and the expectations at the Maywood powerhouse. So enter the likes of Sherrell Ford, Kenny Davis, Everette Stubblefield and Cedric McCullough. Even former Proviso East star Michael Finley, who teamed with Boyce in high school and went on to have a long, stellar career in the NBA, will help when he can.

Ford teamed with Boyce and Finley -- the famed "Three Amigos" -- on the memorable 1991 Proviso East state title team that finished 32-1. He was an all-stater who went on to play at UIC and was a NBA first-round pick of the Seattle Supersonics.

Davis was one of the biggest winners in Proviso East history. The 5-9 guard was also a part of that easy-to-remember state title team as a sophomore, then as a junior was the leader of the surprising 32-0 state title team in 1992 and led the Pirates back to the Elite Eight as a senior in 1993.

McCullough starred at Proviso East in the 1980s and went on to play at Northern Iowa. Stubblefield, who played at Proviso East in the late 1990s, has been a part of the Pirates program as a successful coach at the sophomore level.

"I wanted to have guys who have been through the tradition of Proviso East basketball, guys who have lived it, have familiarity with what Proviso East basketball is all about," said Boyce of his staff.

With virtually everyone back from last year's 22-6 team, including savvy veteran Keith Carter and rising 6-5 junior Sterling Brown -- the brother of former Proviso East star and current L.A. Laker Shannon Brown -- Boyce has a team that will be in everyone's preseason top five. The Pirates will be small. But after watching them throughout the summer and in fall open gyms, there may not be a faster or quicker team than Boyce's group.

"We are going to get after it, use that quickness and the parts that we have to our advantage, especially on the defensive end with constant pressure," says Boyce. "I've watched these guys from afar the past couple of years, but I've known most of them since they were little kids coming to the gym. Now it's their turn."

And it's Boyce's turn to take over a program that hasn't been beyond the supersectional since 1993 and has stubbed its toe several times in March.

"A dream come true," says Boyce of his new job. "This is the only high school job I would have ever taken. I've had a few opportunities to coach in the city, but this is the only place I want to coach."

Boyce states it's a "special and supportive community" and a chance to provide opportunities, guidance and support for kids in the community.

"This is a chance to give back," says Boyce, who was an all-stater at Proviso East and helped lead a memorable Pirate team to the 1991 state championship and a 32-1 record. "This is a chance to help the kids from where I am from and pass along what was given to me when I went through here. It's been like walking back in time."

Proviso East Greatness
The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a quick look at the best players to ever come out of the Proviso East basketball program.
• Glenn "Doc" Rivers
Regarded as one of state's all-time best prep players. Played 13 seasons in the NBA after starring at Marquette in the early 1980s. Hailed as one of best NBA coaches (Orlando and Boston). Led Celtics to world championship in 2008.
• Michael Finley
Won state title at Proviso East in 1991. Second all-time leading scorer (2,147 points) at Wisconsin. NBA world champion, 15-year NBA veteran who averaged over 15 ppg and played in 129 postseason games.
• Shannon Brown
Mr. Basketball winner in 2003. Starred at Michigan State and valuable member of world champion Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.
• Jim Brewer
First-Round NBA Draft pick in 1973 after four stellar seasons playing collegiately at Minnesota. Played in NBA from 1973-82. Won NBA title with Lakers in 1982. Member of 1972 U.S. Olympic team.
• Dee Brown
Mr. Basketball winner in 2002. The face of the University of Illinois basketball program for four years, including the 2005 run to state title game. Enjoying successful career overseas after brief NBA stays with the Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns.
• Steven Hunter
Starred at Proviso East in the late 1990s. Played two seasons at DePaul before enjoying an eight-year NBA career.
• Donnie Boyce
A member of the famed "Three Amigos" that led Proviso East to state title in 1991. The second all-time leading scorer at Colorado. Enjoyed a brief NBA stint with the Atlanta Hawks and played in 30 NBA games.
• Sherrell Ford
The top player on the 1991 state title team. Starred at UIC, where he averaged 18.8 ppg as a sophomore, 24.3 as a junior and 26.2 as a senior. Played in 28 NBA games with the Seattle Supersonics.
• Joe Ponsetto
Led Proviso East to 1974 state title and went on to star at DePaul, where scored over 1,200 career points.
• Jacob Pullen
Just capped off a brilliant career at Kansas State, where he was a fourth-team All-American and finished as the school's all-time leading scorer. Playing overseas.

Take another look at these four

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By Joe Henricksen

College coaches are scurrying around the Chicago area and peeking in gyms throughout Illinois. They are all hitting as many open gym workouts as possible in the city, suburbs and around the state. It may be a talent-filled gym at Whitney Young on the West Side of Chicago or a remote high school in the central part of the state with a sleeper.

Whether it's getting a look at an up-and-coming youngster or getting in one last-ditched effort to secure a senior commitment before the signing period in November, coaches try to use the limited time they have wisely.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report has a select few players who coaches may just want to take another look at as November approaches.

Paris Burns, Proviso East
This 5-9 guard is without question the most talented player in Illinois who no one talks about. Burns is just a player. When the summer began, Burns, who transferred from Curie to Proviso East this year, wasn't even among the top 75 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings. Oops. Burns is now a Division I talent and among the top 25 prospects in the class.

While Proviso East is loaded with a bevy of talented guards, including senior Keith Carter and junior Paris Lee, Burns offers another dimension -- a combination of big-time athleticism and quickness with scoring ability. Burns should flourish this season in the system and style of play new coach Donnie Boyce wants to instill in Maywood.

Although Burns can be streaky with his jumper, he will knock down shots and, when in rhythm, is capable of putting points on the board in bunches and in a variety of ways. The speedy, athletic guard can defend on the perimeter while putting pressure on opposing defenders with his explosiveness off the dribble and shooting ability.

Jordan Smith, Whitney Young
A high-profile, high-major head coach was in the gym recently at Whitney Young checking in on the likes of uber-talented youngsters Jahlil Okafor, Tommy Hamilton and Paul White when he asked, "Who's that kid? He's a player." That player was Jordan Smith.

While Smith is not a high-major talent, it's easy to see why he would grab a college coach's attention. The big-bodied 6-3 guard shows flashes of being a no-brainer Division I player who can find a spot at the mid-major level when he puts it all together. However, the college interest has not matched up with the player the Hoops Report envisioned Smith to be.

What Smith has battled is inconsistency, both with Whitney Young and on the club circuit. But he is big, strong, has some athleticism, shoots it pretty well with solid form and can take some contact when getting to the basket. Smith is a quality kid and an elite student who brings a lot to the table. Now all he's looking for is a breakout season and a little more interest.

Kyle Nelson, St. Charles (North)
With big men at such a premium in college recruiting, the skilled 6-8 Nelson is certainly one to watch and a sleeper in the Class of 2012. In the eyes of the Hoops Report, Nelson is the quintessential undervalued player heading into the November signing period. He played on a low-key St. Charles North team last winter and didn't play for a high-profile AAU program this past summer.

He is among the top 40 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings and is certainly better and offers more as a player and prospect than several of the more talked about names in the class.

Army has offered and Nelson did enjoy his visit to West Point last month. Nelson, who is very strong academically, has also visited Penn and Lafayette. He plans to visit both Western Michigan and South Dakota State this month. And both Lewis, a strong Division II program that has recruited the area extremely well, and Brown out of the Ivy League are also in the mix.

Nelson, who averaged 13.5 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks a game last season for coach Tom Poulin, is one of the most improved players in the class over the past couple of years. He's become more productive and offers a blend of back-to-the-basket and face-up ability. Nelson isn't real strong yet and lacks ideal athleticism for a Division I prospect, but he brings size and an extremely soft touch, both around the basket, from mid-range and even out to the three-point line.

Jaleni Neely, Simeon
Neely is often the forgotten man on a loaded Simeon team. While his numbers were very modest last season (4.1 points and 4.8 assists per game), Neely played a valuable role for coach Rob Smith's state champion Wolverines. And he's expected to be a critical piece this season--when he's healthy--as he and his teammates go for their third straight state championship.

Just when Neely began playing the best basketball of his career this past spring and was set to blossom as a prospect, a knee injury sidelined the 5-10 point guard for 5-6 months. Neely has made great progress in his rehab and is expected to be ready to play in late November. Look for a lot of eyes to be on Neely this season as he will likely wait until April to sign. The likes of Indiana State, Colorado State, Bradley, Dayton, Iowa, Northern Illinois have been involved with Neely in some capacity.

While his scoring ability and perimeter shot both improved, his point guard abilities are what makes Neely so appealing. Neely's ballhandling, quickness and smarts allow him to get where he needs to on the floor.

"These types of players have gone out the window -- the true, pass-first point guard who distributes and runs a team," says Simeon coach Rob Smith.


Five-Star Coaching Clinic at St. Rita
St. Rita will host the Reebok Five Star Basketball Coaches' Clinic this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Confirmed speakers for the clinic are Loyola head coach Porter Moser, UIC head coach Howard Moore, Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff and Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins.

The cost is $75 per coach or $125 per staff (up to four coaches). Current Five-Star staff cost is $60.

For more information, call (914)-964-6540 or email info@five-starbasketball.com

UIC lands out-of-state pair

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By Joe Henricksen

Coach Howard Moore and the UIC basketball program headed out of state to secure a pair of commitments on Monday, landing two big men in 7-0, 225-pound Matt Gorski and 6-8, 225-pound Jake Wiegand. Both Gorski and Wiegand, who visited UIC the last weekend in September, are from Fishburne Military Academy in Virginia.

Fishburne Military Academy coach Ed Huckaby believes Moore and the Flames have landed a pair of prospects who will be ready to play immediately.

"UIC and Howard [Moore] made these kids a priority," said Huckaby. "And they really did beat some people out for them. Matt isn't a 7-foot stiff. He's a really, really skilled 7-footer who can step away from the basket and shoot it. And Jake has size, athletic, shoots the ball and will post you up."

Current UIC freshman, 6-10 Will Simonton, is also a product of Fishburne. Simonton was part of Moore's first recruiting class that includes Jerome Brown of Morgan Park, Ahman Fells of Simeon, Rob Robinson of St. John's Military Academy and a Simeon product, junior college point guard Gary Talton, Greg Travis of Curie and Marc Brown of Dallas.

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