Boys Basketball preview: Will Simeon's dynasty continue?2011-12 Simeon basketball, from left, Steve Taylor, Reginald Norris, Ricky Norris, Dwaun Stewart, Kendall Pollard, Jabari Parker, Jaylon Tate, and Kendrick Nunn. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times
Updated: May 9, 2012 10:02AM
Simeon has sucked all the air out of the room, there is no question about that.
Just looking at the raw facts about the Wolverines: two consecutive Class 4A state titles, the best prep basketball player in the country, a coach with four state titles in seven seasons — all at a school rich with hoops tradition, it’s understandable why most observers believe this season is merely a formality.
Yes, Simeon is the best team. But this is high school basketball, and the Wolverines have a long, difficult road in front of them. As talented as this team is, they don’t have the size or the guard experience they had last season.
“For us to try and three-peat it’s going to be hard,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “We have a lot of guys that are coming up with no experience. [Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor and Kendrick Nunn] were gone a lot with other teams and camps this summer. It has hurt us a little bit team-wise. We are just starting to get together.
‘‘You see people saying you are No. 1. It’s solely off talent. It’s not off our chemistry and things we have shown out on the court yet.”
It’s worth noting that Simeon’s two losses last season came to teams with established big men, Young and Benet.
Simeon travels to play games in North Carolina, West Virginia, Massachusetts and Tennessee. One of Chicago basketball legend Mac Irvin’s regular pieces of wisdom is, “Never leave town without a big man.” Parker and Taylor are 6-7, but neither is a post player.
As down as the senior class may be, there are more talented big men in the area than usual. Farragut’s Rashaun Stimage, Young’s duo of Tommy Hamilton and Jahlil Okafor, Warren’s Nathan Boothe, De La Salle’s Gavin Schilling and Hyde Park’s Moshawn Thomas are all dependable post threats who could give the Wolverines problems.
Simeon’s deep and athletic lineup will likely be able to overcome the lack of a true post player, but it’s something that bears watching.
“I’ve told the team since day one, talent doesn’t always win,” Smith said.
After No. 1, here’s a look at the 24 teams with the best chance of dethroning the Wolverines:
1. Simeon : The three-headed monster of Parker, Taylor and Nunn are well known. Keep an eye on Kendall Pollard, who opened a lot of eyes over the summer. Freshmen DJ Williams and Brandon Hutton will open the season on varsity. Smith has said that Williams is capable of starting.
2. Warren: The Blue Devils lost to Simeon by eight points in the final at Pontiac last season and nine points in the state championship game. Can they close the gap? The size and experience is there, with Boothe, Darius Paul, JoVaughn Gaines and Jameris Smith. This is longtime coach Chuck Ramsey’s final season, and it goes without saying his team would love to send him off with his first state title.
3. Young: Point guard Derrick Randolph, who led the Dolphins’ late-season resurgence last season, is apparently at Morgan Park (but probably not playing). That will be a problem. Just like last season, the guard ranks are thin. The season will likely hinge on the development of Jordan Smith, Gabe Snider and Miles Reynolds. But Young has the best front line in the state, college teams included, with 6-10 Jahlil Okafor, 6-9 Tommy Hamilton, 6-8 Paul White and 6-7 Jermaine Morgan.
4. Proviso East: Former Pirates star Donnie Boyce will try to shed the school’s recent label of talented underachiever. The talent is there. Keith Carter is one of the state’s best point guards, Sterling Brown is an all-around talent and Treshaun Carroll provides the muscle.
5. Curie: Cliff Alexander announced his arrival in the Public League semifinals last season, and then blew up nationally over the summer. The 6-9 sophomore will be one of the state’s best for the next three seasons. Another soph, 6-10 Detalion Jackson, is a developing project. Devin Foster and Mount Carmel transfer Malcolm Hill-Bey are capable scoring guards and keep an eye on sophomore Joseph Stamps, who scored 63 points in a club game this summer.
6. De La Salle: Jaylon Tate transferred to Simeon, but plenty of talent remains with guard Alvin Ellis, 6-7 junior Alex Foster and Gavin Schilling, a 6-8 transfer who spent eight years in Chicago before playing last year in Urspring, Germany.
7. Bogan: The Bengals have been the talk of the city this fall. Despite losing Moshawn Thomas and Juwan Savage to Hyde Park, there is an abundance of talent left with senior guards Ronnell Buckner and Devaughn Johnson. Watch for freshman Luwane Pipkins.
8. Downers South: Senior guards Jerron Wilbut and Jamall Millison comprise one of the state’s best backcourts. Kevin Honn, a 6-5 senior, 6-6 Greg Garro and 6-7 Robert Mara provide the size.
9. Homewood-Flossmoor: This is the year that the long-touted trio of Tim Williams, Delvon Rencher and Tyrone Sherman must deliver on their promise. Antonio Bishop, a 6-7 senior and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, a 6-7 junior, will also contribute. The Vikings are the most talented team in the south suburbs and anything less than a trip to Peoria will be considered a failure.
10. St. Rita: This should be the year that New York coaching legend Gary DeCesare makes his mark here. AJ Avery (Western Michigan) and Tony Hicks (Pennsylvania) are D1 recruits. Sophomores Vic Law and Dominique Matthews are electric talents and 6-4 freshman Charles Matthews will contribute immediately.
11. Crete-Monee: How scarred will the Warriors be after their tumultuous off-season? Having a successful veteran coach like Tom Cappel step in and take the reins should help a lot, as will point guard Michael Orris, an Illinois recruit.
12. St. Joseph: Senior guard Reggie Johnson is rock-solid. Paul Turner, a 6-4 soph, is an intriguing talent and 6-7 junior A.J. Patty is brimming with potential. This is the most talent legendary coach Gene Pingatore has had in a couple seasons.
13. Farragut: Stimage is one of the few seniors in the state with a legitimate shot to wrestle the player of the year award from Parker. The 6-7 senior came on strong late last season. Guard Lavell Boyd complements him on the outside and big things are expected of 6-6 soph Sire Carroll.
14. Crane: Former Morgan Park star Markee Williams has transferred in, but it’s unknown when he will become eligible. With new coach Chris Head at the helm and Williams on the court, the Cougars will be a major threat in the Red-West. Willie Conner, a 6-4 senior, should have a big year and 6-8 Kaylen Shane should be much improved.
15. Morgan Park: The Mustangs are talented but young, and probably a year away from being a real force. DePaul recruit Billy Garrett Jr. will run the show. Junior Xzavier Taylor is growing into all 6-8 of his potential and the list of talented sophs is large: Josh Cunningham, Kierre Perkins, Eddie Miles, Lamont Walker and Torry Johnson.
16. Andrew: Junior Jubril Adekoya played like a budding star last season. His brother, 6-4 senior Jawad Adekoya, is capable and if the rest of the supporting cast steps up the Thunderbolts will have one of their best seasons in a long time.
17. New Trier: Connor Boehm, a 6-7 Darmouth recruit, is a great high school basketball player. He doesn’t get the attention he deserves because his skill set doesn’t transfer well to high-major D1 basketball, but there are few players in the state that are a bigger force on the gcourt. Senior Austin Angel is extremely talented and Reid Berman is a floor general with toughness and smarts. Keep an eye on soph Jordan Thomas.
18. Oak Park-River Forest: The ingredients are all in place. The Huskies have a D-I point guard in Ka’Darryl Bell (Bradley) and an above-average big man in 6-7 Gabe Levin. Alex Nesnidal, a 6-3 senior, can light it up from outside.
19. Hyde Park: Three talented transfers have arrived (Thomas and Savage from Bogan, Marcus Smith from Mount Carmel). It’s unknown when they will be eligible. Thomas is the best of the bunch. He’s 6-8, strong and plays with an aggressive attitude unmatched by many others in the state. Two guards, Kyle Smith and Phillip Lee, have D1 talent. It may take awhile to mesh all the parts together, but coach Lamont Bryant is fully capable of doing that.
20. Hillcrest: There are no superstars here. Just a lot of hard-working, quality high school basketball players. Coach Don Houston has proven that his system gets the job done. Seniors Jalen Loving and Jayone Troutman and juniors Kyle Oden and Jovan Mooring lead the way.
21. Elgin: The Maroons laid the groundwork last season and should be ready for some bigger success. Kory Brown, a 6-4 senior, leads the way. Senior guard Dennis Moore is solid and 5-7 junior Arie Williams is a special high school basketball player that’s worth a trip to watch.
22. Waukegan: The Bulldogs were one of last season’s biggest disappointments. Akeem Springs, a 6-4 guard, is a great kid to have the keys to your team and that alone should lead to some big wins. Talented juniors Devonte Taylor, Jordan Johnson and Emmanuel January will contribute. Watch for 6-5 soph Jerome Davis.
23. North Chicago: Aaron Simpson is a well-known quantity. The future Illinois State guard should be one of the most consistently productive seniors in the area. Javairius Amos-Mays, a 6-2 transfer from Zion-Benton, turns the Warhawks into legitimate contenders in Class 3A.
24. Oswego: The Panthers return a solid core (Elliot McGaughy, Miles Simelton, Ryan West) from a squad that went 18-9 last season.
25. St. Charles North: Quinten Payne is a possible star in the making and 6-8 senior Kyle Nelson is a dependable option in the paint.