Boys Basketball: ‘Wolverine Madness’ sweeps through Simeon

Story Image Jabari Parker recieves a warm welcome from cheerleaders, the mascot, and students at Simeon's kick-off event. | Patrick Gleason~For the Sun-Times
Story Image

Updated: November 9, 2012 11:31PM

Standing at center court of Simeon’s gym, Arisa Johnson was knocked out by what she saw. “This is triple what it was last year,” the president of Simeon’s basketball booster club said.

The Wolverines took their show prime time with “Wolverine Madness,” a nearly three-hour basketball jamboree Friday night that unveiled some dazzling emerging prospects and a deep and re-stocked line up for the three-time defending Class 4A state champions.

A crowd estimated at 1,300 watched separate scrimmages of the varsity and sophomore programs. “We started doing this in Derrick [Rose’s] junior year,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said, “and it’s just grown and grown every year since then.”

It proved a show-stopping mixture of basketball, music and dance. The only note of caution was the appearance of star Jabari Parker, the state’s reigning Mr. Basketball, who was the last player introduced. He entered the court in a walking boot. He is still recovering from a fracture in his right foot he suffered playing last summer.

His father, Sonny Parker, said Jabari Parker is scheduled to have a second MRI on Nov. 19. “We’re just waiting to see if the bone has properly healed,” Sonny Parker said. “If it has, he’ll play. If not, he won’t play.”

Simeon’s senior class boasts at least seven Division 1 players. Starting guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate have committed to Illinois. Power forward Kendall Pollard has committed to Dayton and reserve center Quron Davis is set to play at Chicago State.

Sonny Parker said Jabari Parker, following the November MRI, is scheduled to make the last of five official visits to BYU and Stanford before announcing his college choice.

The scrimmage marked the public unveiling of three transfers: senior 6-8 center Russell Woods, 6-2 shooting guard Sean Moore, Jr., who played at Leo, and 6-4 Danville junior transfer Dante Ingram. “This might be the most talent we’ve had here in quite a while,” Smith said.

Nunn delighed the crowd with highlight reel dunks and Tate showed off a markedly improved outside jumper.

Simeon has won an IHSA state record five championship titles. They are attempting to join Peoria Manual as the only program in state history to win four consecutive state crowns. Simeon, Manual and East St. Louis Lincoln are the only programs to win three straight titles.

The separate open runs were billed as “scrimmages,” but they were more accurately described as showcases. In the preliminary game, highly-regarded 6-6 freshman Ben Coupet and Zach Norvell, a dangerous, smooth-shooting left-hander, are the foundation of the next great generation of Simeon standouts. Coupet and Norvell led Beasley Academy, Rose’s alma mater, to the city’s grammar school championship.

Smith said Coupet, Norvell and a third freshman, Joshua Thomas, are likely to see varsity minutes.

Simeon also formally dedicated its court, Benjamin Wilson Jr., in honor of the legendary 6-8 player who helped the Wolverines capture their first state title, in 1984, against Evanston. The No.1-rated player in the country, Wilson was shot to death during an argument on the eve of his senior season 28 years ago. His story was the subject of the lauded ESPN documentary, “Benji.”

Simeon’s varsity players wore specially designed shirts in his memory.

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