The state football playoffs begin this week, college basketball recruiting continues, awards are being distributed and Marshall's basketball team is playing in a different kind of court. Here's a look at what is impacting on high school sports:
IMAN SHUMPERT PICKS GEORGIA TECH: Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports, who has been evaluating high school basketball players for 30 years, has a grip on the recruiting process like no one else. He has a good explanation why Iman Shumpert, Oak Park's 6-4 guard, chose Georgia Tech over Marquette and North Carolina.
According to Gibbons, Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt sold Shumpert, who wants to be a point guard in college, on the fact that he developed former stars Jarrett Jack and Javaris Crittendon into point guards and sent them to the NBA. And because Hewitt has a need for guards, Shumpert realized he has a better chance of playing earlier than at other schools.
RICHARDSON--ILLINOIS' BEST RECRUIT: How about a future Illinois backcourt of Demetri McCamey and D.J. Richardson? Longtime coach and recruiting analyst Bill Flanagan said Richardson, who raised the level of his game considerably in the last few months, is the second best guard to come out of Peoria--behind Sean Livingston.
"Richardson looks like a long A.J. Guyton, but taller," said Flanagan, who insists Richardson will develop into an outstanding perimeter shooter. "A few months ago, people didn't know if he was tough enough to be a big-timer. Now he is."
HOWARD GETS HIS MAN: It didn't take Jerrance Howard, who Illinois coach Bruce Weber hired to replace Tracy Webster on his staff, very long to make his present felt on the recruiting trail. He could emerge as Illinois' best recruiter since Tony Yates, Jimmy Collins and Bill Self.
Credit Howard for wooing Peoria Central's A.J. Richardson to Illinois. Until Howard arrived on the scene, Richardson was leaning to Indiana, Bradley or Kentucky. Illinois wasn't in the picture.
"Howard is the reason Richardson is at Illinois," said recruiting analyst Bill Flanagan. "He learned from (former Illinois assistant and current Kentucky coach) Billy Gillespie. He is very personable, a very likeable guy. Look for him to make great strides in Chicago, as Yates, Collins and Self did."
LAMONT BRYANT SUES MARSHALL: He signed an agreement to stay at the Proviso West holiday tournament. So what's he doing in Detroit? He boldly declared that Marshall is his program. But doesn't it really belong to the kids? It is apparant that Bryant is on an ego trip. After being fired, he filed a lawsuit against the school (and others), citing Title IX violations.
Marshall has a long and storied tradition in boys and girls basketball. It was built by Lou Weintraub, Spin Salario, Harvey Hartenstein, Luther Bedford and Dorothy Gaters. Bryant could have been a part of it but he got too big for his britches. New coach Courtney Hargrays, a former All-Stater at Marshall, will be more respectful.
JOE BERTRAND HAS GOOD BLOODLINES: In response to several inquiries, junior basketball star Joe Bertrand of Sterling, who recently committed to Illinois, is the grandson of the late Joe Bertrand, a one-time star at St. Elizabeth in Chicago who was the first African-American starter at Notre Dame in 1951 and became the third 1,000-point career scorer in school history.
BEST GAME EVER? I've been watching high school football for 50 years and I can't recall a more exciting game than Wheaton Warrenville South's 42-41 triple overtime victory over Naperville North last Friday in Wheaton. It was 20-20 at the end of the fourth quarter and it might still be going on if WW South coach Ron Muhitch hadn't decided to gamble on a two-point conversion to end the third overtime. Why did he do it? He said he had run out of plays.
For drama and excitement packed into a meaningful game, the standard alwlays has been the 1974 state championship between Glenbrook North and East St. Louis. The underdog Spartans won 19-13 in overtime, rallying from a 13-6 deficit to tie on Don Broadbridge's 50-yard pass to Sam Poulos with 10:53 to play, then winning on Greg Van Schaack's one-yard plunge. The East St. Louis team featured three future NFL players, including Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR, FILER OR TASSIO? Mount Carmel linebacker Steve Filer, who is committed to Notre Dame, and Naperville North's do-everything Jordan Tassio are the leading candidates for Player of the Year honors in the Chicago area.
Filer has led the Caravan to the No. 1 ranking but Tassio's overall brilliance--he plays quarterback, defensive back, punts and kicks-- was never more evident than last Friday when he passed for one touchdown and ran for four consecutive touchdowns, only to be denied by Wheaton Warrenville South 42-41 in a triple overtime thriller.
DON'T OVERLOOK SCHWABE OR THOMAS: Two other players who deserve Player of the Year consideration are Driscoll's David Schwabe and Richards' Tommie Thomas, who pair of quarterbacks who likely will be defensive backs in college.
Driscoll is a Class 4A school with a co-ed enrollment of 408 students and the football program, despite a history of seven state championships, may not have a single Division I prospect--unless an enterprising recruiter checks Schwabe's heartbeat.
Schwabe, a 6-1, 188-pound senior who started at wide receiver and safety on Driscoll's 2004 and 2005 state championship teams, is to Driscoll what Jordan Tassio is to Naperville North. He is a team leader who knows how to win. I'd like to think he can play safety in college. "Some teams have 60 different heartbeats. We have only one," he said, summing up Driscoll's success.
ALL-CHICAGO AREA FOOTBALL TEAM: I haven't seen everybody but I'd go to war with these guys:
Offense: TE--Devin Henderson, Glenbrook South; WR--Danny Benson, Maine South; FL--Ty Kirk, Rolling Meadows; L--Sean Cwynar, Marian Central; Brian Mulroe, Loyola; Graham Pocic, Lemont; Will Matte, Wheaton Warrenville South; Garrett Goebel, Montini; QB--Peter Badovinac, Loyola; RB--Mike Trumpy, Wheaton North; Cordero Gaston, De La Salle; P--Jordan Tassio, Naperville North; K--Jake Wieclaw, Lincoln-Way Central; KR--Brandon Green, Robeson.
Defense: L--Craig Drummond, Morgan Park; Dan Giordano, Lincoln-Way East; Mike Johns, Oak Forest; Darius Fleming, St. Rita; LB--Steve Filer, Mount Carmel; Nick Clancy, Joliet Catholic; Brett Nagel, Lemont; B--Tyler West, Downers Grove South; Russell Ellington, Homewood-Flossmoor; Tommie Thomas, Richards; David Schwabe, Driscoll.