After watching Simeon beat Farragut 47-45 Saturday night in the championship game of the Public League Holiday Tournament at Chicago State, I still believe Homewood-Flossmoor is the best team I've seen this season.
H-F has the best point guard in the state in Southern Illinois-bound Kevin Dillard--leadership can't be underestimated at any level in any sport--and two superb athletes in Supo Sanni and Russell Ellington, who will play football at Illinois. The 6-4 Sanni is rapidly emerging as one of the best players in the state.
But Simeon can't be taken lightly. Three state titles in a row? Don't dismiss the notion. Coach Robert Smith learned under Bob Hambric, a legend in the city. Despite winning two state titles in a row, he hasn't received the respect that he deserves. Maybe this year.
Like his old boss and mentor, Smith doesn't toot his own horn. But he is proving that he can win without two all-staters, Derrick Rose and Tim Flowers. This year's squad has a lot of good players but no great ones. "Team effort," Smith said, explaining why his team has won two major tournaments (Pontiac, Public League) back-to-back. And team effort it is.
Simeon is all about discipline, defense and fundamentals, no matter who is on the floor. Most of all, the Wolverines know how to win. Pressure doesn't seem to bother them. And they never are intimidated, even when being tested by Farragut's 6-10 Mike Dunigan.
Manley's Russell Cross was the best big man I've ever seen in this state, not counting Kevin Garnett, who played on the perimeter as much as he did in the post. Dunigan is good but he isn't another Russell Cross. He isn't as polished as Cross was as a junior and senior, not as athletic or as quick or as much of an offensive threat.
But Dunigan is a superb rebounder and shot blocker. If coach William Nelson makes his supporting cast realize that nobody else in the state is 6-10 and they give Dunigan more touches in each game and learn to make a higher percentage of free throws, Farragut will be a serious contender for the state title in March.