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Henricksen: Holiday tournament primer

The holiday tournament run is ready to begin, a stretch where teams find out where they stand and pretenders are separated from the contenders. Here is a brief rundown of a few of the top tournaments.


Favorite: Stevenson.

With Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Connor Cashaw (Rice) and rising sophomore Justin Smith, the experienced and talented Patriots are the one to beat.

Top contenders: Kenwood, St. Joseph and St. Rita

If Kenwood’s guard play continues to progress, coach Marlo Finner’s team becomes that much more dangerous, though big man Manny Patterson is out of action due to a shoulder injury. … St. Joseph has looked very impressive when healthy. Glynn Watson, Jordan Ash and Nick Rakocevic a talented trio. … Hello, St. Rita! Fresh off a sterling effort in a win over Simeon, the Mustangs hope follow it up with a run at Proviso.

Sleepers: Rockford Auburn and Hinsdale Central

Those in the Chicago area tend to forget how good the Rockford Auburn program has been over the years. This year’s team, led by Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit Antoine Pittman, enters tournament play as a talented mystery once again. … Hinsdale Central plays so well together behind a senior group led by Matt Rafferty and George Kiernan.

Thoughts, storylines and what to watch …

◆ After knocking off Simeon Friday night, St. Rita is suddenly looked at a little differently. Now, can this team string together three tough wins to get its shot at Stevenson in the championship?

◆ Can Charles Matthews, fresh off a big-time performance in the win over Simeon, springboard a Player of the Year run with a title run over Jalen Brunson and Stevenson?

◆ The state’s top-rated senior prospect, Jalen Brunson of Stevenson, and the state’s highest ranked junior prospect, St Joseph’s Nick Rakocevic, will be on display.

◆ Is Kenwood ready for the bright lights at Proviso? We all should learn a whole lot about this talented team , led by the junior combo of Nick Robinson and Zion Morgan, with potential matchups with Hinsdale Central and Stevenson in the quarterfinals and semifinals –– if it takes care of business against Morton.

◆ Proviso West is always an opportune time for uncommitted prospects to strut their stuff. And one productive player looking to prove himself yet again is Hinsdale Central’s Matt Rafferty.

Hoops Report Pick: Stevenson over St. Joseph


Favorite: Simeon

You have to feel for host Pontiac, which will face a Simeon team that will have been sitting on a loss to St. Rita for 10 days.

Top contender: Curie

Sleeper: Plainfield North

Thoughts, storylines and what to watch …

◆ How does Simeon respond from its first loss of the season to St. Rita this past weekend? Pontiac has been a Simeon playground over the years, but it lost in last year’s final to Curie. Expect a rematch and a whole lot of fire out of Rob Smith’s Wolverines.

◆ Curie no longer has Cliff Alexander, but the defending champs are still dangerous and capable of repeating with the trio of Joshua Stamps, Devin Gage and Elijah Joiner on the perimeter.

◆ There is no team who is more anxious to see just how good they are than Plainfield North, which suffered its first loss of the season Friday night to rival Plainfield East. Can Plainfield North and high-scoring Trevor Stumpe make a run?

◆ The up-and-down start for West Aurora could be described as downright poor by some. The Blackhawks, led by Roland Griffin, simply need to get back on track in their three-day stay at Pontiac.

◆ Aside from Simeon-Pontiac and Curie-Danville, with so much parity throughout the rest of the field the first-round games will be appetizing from a competitive standpoint.

◆ Peoria high school basketball has been in a downward spiral. But one bright spot is the talented DaMonte Williams of Peoria Manual, a promising sophomore who is the son of former Illinois superstar Frank Williams.

Hoops Report Pick: Simeon over Curie


Favorite: Hales Franciscan

Top contender: Bolingbrook and Thornton

Sleeper: Crete-Monee

Thoughts, storylines and what to watch …

◆ The rise of Hales in the first month of the season has been one of the eye-openers this season. Hales may not have a big name, but coach Gary London’s team has balance, experience and a group that plays hard and together. Big man Johnny Fox has blossomed over the first month of the season.

◆ Bolingbrook is rich in talent, led by the Division I tandem of Prentiss Nixon and 6-8 Julian Torres, along with budding senior Broderic Thomas. In what is a very winnable tournament, it’s time for Bolingbrook to rise to the occasion and grab a headline with a championship run.

◆ Crete-Monee and Thornton are likely headed toward a quarterfinal tilt, with the winner having the inside track at a title game appearance. Crete-Monee, led by unheralded senior Tyler Williams, is fresh off a big win over Bradley-Bourbonnais.

Hoops Report Pick: Hales over Thornton


Favorite: Lake Forest

Top contenders: Riverside-Brookfield, Lyons Twp.

Sleepers: Highland Park, Hinsdale South, DePaul Prep, St. Patrick, St. Ignatius

Thoughts, storylines and what to watch …

◆ How good is Lake Forest? There was a lot of hype and a high ranking in the preseason. And up to this point the Scouts have lived up to it with a 9-0 start. While the field isn’t loaded with heavyweights, we’ll learn a lot about this Lake Forest team.

◆ Speaking of Lake Forest, go out and watch its star, 6-7 senior Evan Boudreaux, battle and compete. Boudreaux is one of the most productive high school players in the state and recently became the all-time leading scorer in Lake Forest history, climbing over 1,500 career points in his career.

◆ Is there a better team no one is talking about than unbeaten Riverside-Brookfield? The Bulldogs have several weapons, with five players easily capable of scoring double figures on a nightly basis. This is a dangerous and fun team to watch going forward.

◆ A trio of teams are ready to challenge R-B in the top bracket, including St. Patrick (6-3), DePaul Prep (7-2) and St. Ignatius (7-1).

◆ Unsung senior Harrison Niego of Lyons Twp. will take another opportunity to attract some admirers, preferably a few more Division I coaches. Niego is a scrappy, competitive combo guard who can fill it up from the perimeter.

◆ Fans at York get a chance to see one of the top prospects in the junior class, 6-10 Barret Benson of Hinsdale South, a high-major prospect. He’s big, improved and getting better by the week.

◆ Don’t sleep on Highland Park, a well coached, experienced team with solid guards and a style of play teams don’t like to face. With two wins, Highland Park would get a shot at Lake Forest in the quarterfinals.

◆ The team that can put together five consecutive wins in this balanced, 32-team field will be heading into January with a whole bunch of confidence.

◆ If both Riverside-Brookfield and Lake Forest can get through with four wins leading up to the title game, it would pit a pair of unbeatens in the championship. Fun.

Hoops Report Pick: Riverside-Brookfield over Lake Forest

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport