A busy week of high school basketball is in the books, with coaches using the three, four and sometimes five games in six days as a big open-book test to see just where they are, what needs to improve and address going forward.
The real value in the week is what it provides those coaches, which is an up-close look at their team and learn about their strengths and weaknesses. Just make sure you don’t overanalyze Thanksgiving week results.
Here are 28 random Thanksgiving thoughts (because that’s the number of thoughts I have right now, at this very moment) –– Thanksgiving leftovers, if you will.
➥ Was Hales Franciscan the most overlooked team in the Chicago area in the preseason? It sure looks that way after going 4-0 in the Chicago Heights Classic, including wins over Hillcrest, Bloom and Thornwood. They may not have a big-named player, but coach Gary London has plenty of players, balance and talent back from last year’s team, including big man Johnny Fox and guards Erion Moore and Joseph Larry. Hey, St. Rita and DeLaSalle! You’ve been warned.
➥ What a performance Cole Gentry put on in a loss to St. Joseph. The 5-9 St. Charles East point guard was brilliant, scoring 23 impressive points in a variety of ways while in full control for 32 minutes. On this night, Gentry was the best player on the floor in a game featuring several high-major players. It’s laughable this pure point guard has just one scholarship offer up to this point –– from Division II Lewis University.
➥ Stevenson star Jalen Brunson surpassed 2,000 career points in his team’s Thanksgiving tournament title win over Glenbard West. That’s a significant milestone because that’s a whole lot of points in a career, especially when you consider he could have 30 games left this season.
➥ There is always a lot of talk about transfers. But one coming-and-going that didn’t get much ink was Lake Forest losing Adam Wolfe, who transferred to a high school in Wisconsin this past summer. Wolfe scored 31 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in his debut in Wisconsin, leaving you wonder just how good would an already-good Lake Forest team be with him? Wolfe provided size at 6-6 and is an outstanding perimeter shooter with range.
➥ Speaking of transfers, it’s too bad Marist lost prized sophomore Romelo Burrell, who transferred to Morgan Park. If you mix in the talented Burrell with junior Chamar Hawkins and sophomore Malik Parker, the RedHawks would appear more than just intriguing. Nonetheless, coach Gene Nolan’s team is 4-0 as Hawkins and Parker, the cousin of Jabari Parker, scored 29 and 27 points, respectively, in a championship game win over Eisenhower.
➥ Stevenson’s Justin Smith continues to get better and better –– as any young player with the talent he possesses should. It will be interesting to see, as well as beneficial for Stevenson, how far the 6-5 sophomore comes along between now and March.
➥ A player to keep an eye on in the Class of 2017: Craig Beaudion of Foreman. The 6-3 guard is an exciting talent who can really shoot it and is the best Hornet since Mike McCall and Lavonte Dority played at the North Side school. Beaudion is a legit talent in the sophomore class.
➥ Speaking of the Class of 2017, it’s a budding one with new names popping up and players taking off. There is a lot of depth developing in the sophomore class.
➥ Jeremiah Tilmon of East St. Louis, who looks now to be close to 6-10, remains the top prospect in the Class of 2017. It was nice to see an appearance from ESL and Tilmon in the Chicago area, where the Flyers took apart Morton Sunday afternoon. There is clear upside to go with what he already possesses: good feet, hands, touch around the basket and the ability to move, get up and down the floor.
➥ I think Tennessee State really got a good one in St. Rita’s Armani Chaney, a 5-9 senior point guard.
➥ Kentucky-bound Charles Matthews, a top 50 player nationally, really struggled over the first 20 minutes of St. Rita’s season-opening win over Curie. But he fought through it, stepped up in the fourth quarter and was there when his team needed him at the end. That is what ultimately led to the St. Rita win.
➥ It was low key because it was out of state, but Curie’s win over Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Homestead was impressive. Curie beat Homestead, led by likely McDonald’s All-American Caleb Swanigan, a 6-8, 245-pound manchild, 49-36 in the Bluegrass Festival in Lexington, Ky. Mike Oliver’s club narrowly missed a very impressive week, losing a tight one to St. Rita on Sunday.
➥ I really like Curie sophomore guard Elijah Joiner. He might be, like, top 20 prospects in the class good.
➥ Something we already knew: Bogan is really good. But a clean sweep of the Rock Island Tournament, which included the likes of West Aurora and the host school, gives us a quick reminder.
➥ Aaron Jordan is Aaron Jordan. The Illinois recruit is a true, reliable scorer. James Claar, a 6-8 senior, is one of the more improved players in the Class of 2015. And junior Elyjah Goss, a wiry and athletic 6-7 junior, is blossoming. But Plainfield East must find a way to get quality guard play, something that held them back from being among the elite last year.
➥ While it was mentioned in a story early last week on some sleepers to watch this season, it’s worth mentioning again: Riverside-Brookfield has a chance to be a very dangerous team over the next two years. The Bulldogs, with a vast array of weapons, went 4-0 to claim its own tournament title.
➥ The combination of an emerging point guard at the most important position on the floor (Mike Smith) and a terrific coach (Rick Malnati) in his second year of instilling his methods and expectations, is a recipe for success at Fenwick this year.
➥ Even in victory, there still seems to be a disconnect on that St. Joseph team. But at the end of the day the Chargers won it all at St. Charles East, one of the better Thanksgiving Tournaments in the state.
➥ With Geneva, Larkin, St. Charles East and St. Charles North, the Upstate Eight River is going to be a battle and one of the most interesting and entertaining conference races to watch this winter.
➥ Aside from the Public League’s Red-South, the best conference in the Chicago area is the North Suburban Lake. Stevenson, Lake Forest, Zion-Benton and Lake Zurich all proved their worth and are all unbeaten after one week of play. Yes, Stevenson is a heavy favorite, but there’s going to be a big-time battle for second place in that league.
➥ A pair of college coaches in attendance at the Team Rose Classic, at separate times, had this to say about Evanston’s Nojel Eastern: “He reminds me a of a Jalen Rose-type.” It’s easy to see why.
➥ Evanston is going to be good, probably dangerous by the time February and March get here. But the youth of the Wildkits really showed on Sunday in a loss to Crete-Monee.
➥ Another sophomore who opened eyes Sunday at the Team Rose Classic: Dwayne Rose. The poised Crete-Monee guard is the nephew of Derrick Rose.
➥ Man, Thanksgiving Tournament play can look awfully ragged. But remember, there are no exhibition games or a preseason in high school basketball.
➥ If the athletic 6-5 Rhashaun Epting continues to showcase an improved perimeter jumper, the stock in the Immaculate Conception junior forward will soar. Already showcasing length and bounce, Epting, who scored 42 points in a game last week, had back-to-back games where he knocked down five three-pointers.
➥ Both Brandon Hutton (Iowa) and Karl Harris (LaSalle) are Division I recruits and receive the most attention as senior leaders for De La Salle. But in one game the Hoops Report took in, it was junior guard George Wilborn who was the best player on the floor for one night.
➥ Glenbard West likely isn’t ready to compete for a West Suburban Silver title, the Hilltoppers, led by 6-5 junior Justin Pierce, have their best team since the John Shurna days seven years ago.
➥ Head about 60 miles northwest of Chicago and you’ll find Genoa-Kingston, a school with an enrollment of 626 students. And there you will find junior Tommy Lucca, a 5-11 junior guard who put up some big numbers over Thanksgiving week. Lucca, a shooter and playmaker who plays with the Illinois Wolves on the club circuit, averaged 26 points and 6 assists a game as his team went 3-1.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport