Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bullseye pose an interesting question: Is Simeon's Derrick Rose the best player ever produced in the Chicago Public League?
Why not take it a couple of steps further? Is Rose the best player ever to come out of the Chicago area? The best player ever developed in Illinois?
It is wonderful fodder for debate. Can you compare the great players of the 1950s and 1960s to the recent Rose era? How many people who marveled at Rose's athleticism also saw Centralia's Bobby Joe Mason or Parker's Tommy Hawkins or Carver's Cazzie Russell?
As a child of the 1950s, I believe the best players of that generation--Du Sable's Paxton Lumpkin and Sweet Charlie Brown, Russell, Hawkins, Marshall's George Wilson and Rich Bradshaw--could make the transition to today's game. They didn't call it "athleticism" at the time. But they had it. Not as many as today. But if you think Cazzie Russell couldn't play today, well...clearly, you didn't see him.
Rose is an enormous talent, much better as a senior at Simeon than he was as a junior. And he's even better as a freshman at Memphis. NBA scouts see the same potential in his skills that they saw in 1995 when they were evaluating Farragut's Kevin Garnett.
He doesn't have the leadership qualities of Thornridge's Quinn Buckner.
He doesn't have the speed of Hirsch's Rickey Green.
He isn't as good a perimeter shooter as Dunbar's Billy Harris.
He isn't as good a ball-handler as St. Joseph's Isiah Thomas.
He isn't as good a playmaker as Du Sable's Maurice Cheeks.
But put it all together, the whole package, and none of them, even Isiah, compares to Derrick Rose. And he probably will be better in the NBA than he was in high school and college.
Isn't it fun to make comparisons? I didn't see Bobby Joe Mason play in the 1950s but those who did, including legendary Pinckneyville coach Duster Thomas, insist he was the best. "The best I saw until I saw Earl Monroe," Thomas said. Of course, he never saw Thomas or Rose.
But how do you evaluate them all?
Russell and Westinghouse's Mark Aguirre were No. 1 picks in the NFL draft. As seniors, they were selected as college basketball's players of the year. Rose probably won't achieve either honor.
Isiah Thomas, Joliet's George Mikan, Roxana's Harry Gallatin, Batavia's Dan Issel and Granite City's Andy Phillip have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Cheeks probably will earn a spot, too.
So will Farragut's Kevin Garnett. Many choose to dismiss Garnett in the "Who's best in Illinois?" debate because he played only his senior year in Chicago. But I disagree. He clearly was the most dominant player ever to graduate from a high school in this state.
If you want to play coach for a day and name the five players you'd like to put on the floor, you'd be pressed not to include Rose with Garnett, Russell, Isiah Thomas and Marshall's George Wilson.
If you're stubborn and don't want to include Garnett, Aguirre would be a worthy substitution.
My bench? Nobody was more dominating on the boards and a more prolific shot-blocker than Manley's Russell Cross. King's Jamie Brandon was instant offense. Buckner, Thornton's Lloyd Batts and Collinsville's Tom Parker, who averaged 35 points per game in 1967-68, always have been personal favorites of mine.
Can you put a better team on the floor?