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Henricksen: Chicago Elite Classic headlines big weekend

The third annual Chicago Elite Classic, which has been one of the must-see prep basketball events in Illinois the past two years, will tip off this weekend at the UIC Pavilion.

Chicago Public League powers Young and Simeon have once again teamed up together off the court to host the event, which will be a two-day basketball smorgasbord for high school basketball fans.

Here is a breakdown of the Chicago Elite Classic, as well as the Mac Irvin Diabetes Classic this Saturday at Larkin and a few other matchups around the Chicago area this weekend.

CHICAGO ELITE CLASSIC

Friday, Dec. 5

Oak Park-River Forest vs. Fenwick • 6 p.m.

A rivalry game moves to a bigger venue and kickstarts the Chicago Elite Classic. And who doesn’t enjoy a neighborhood rivalry? Unbeaten Fenwick, led by junior point guard Mike Smith, junior shooter Mike Ballard and rising sophomore Jamal Nixon, is off to an impressive start. OPRF lost four starters from a year ago but the trio of Elliot Greffin, Dallis Flowers and junior Connor Fuller all saw considerable action and has led the Huskies to a 3-1 start.

St. Joseph vs. Redondo Union (Calif.) • 7:30 p.m.

There is talent, hype and expectations all rolled into one when talking about St. Joseph and its trio of Glynn Watson, Jordan Ash and Nick Rakocevic. After sweeping through a tough St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament last week, coach Gene Pingatore’s boys get a tough out-of-state test. Redondo Union, which is off to a 3-1 start, has a pair of Division I prospects in Billy Preston (17 ppg), a highly-regarded 6-9 sophomore, and junior guard Leland Green (12 ppg).

Young vs. Memphis Southwind (Tenn.) • 9 p.m.

The post-Jahlil Okafor era begins. Young is still receiving some love, ranked No. 36 in the country by USA Today, despite being young and inexperienced. There is talent in place and a chance for fans to get reacquainted with Joseph Toye, a Vanderbilt recruit who transferred back to Young after a year at La Lumiere, and a host of talented young guards. MaxPreps has Southwind, which won a Tennessee state title in 2013, ranked No. 23 in the country.

Saturday, Dec. 6

Plainfield East vs. Hillcrest • 4:30 p.m.

A local matchup and a great opportunity for a Plainfield East program –– and Illinois recruit Aaron Jordan –– to show well on a big stage. With Jordan, 6-7 junior Elyjah Goss and 6-8 James Claar the Bengals have enough size and length to battle a Hillcrest team featuring senior Taylor Adway, a 6-8 Toledo recruit.

Bogan vs. Lone Peak (Utah) • 6 p.m.

Arguably the most intriguing matchup over the two days of action. This isn’t the Lone Peak team from two years ago, which won a national championship and impressed everyone in the 2012 Chicago Elite Classic. But it’s a talented, well coached team led by the exciting young backcourt of junior Frank Jackson and sophomore Christian Popoola, who moved in from Las Vegas this past summer. Jackson is among the top 35 prospects in the country in the Class of 2016.

St. Rita vs. Christ the King (N.Y.) • 7:30 p.m.

Christ the King, ranked No. 27 in the country by USA Today, has been a recognized national power for decades. How about this alumni lineup: Lamar Odom, Derrick Phelps, Khalid Reeves, Speedy Claxton, Omar Cook, Erick Barkley and Omar Calhoun are just a few of the many Division I players the program has produced. The newest star is 6-5 junior Rawle Alkins, who has offers from the likes of Kansas and Louisville. Kentucky recruit Charles Matthews leads St. Rita, which knocked off Curie in its season opener this past weekend.

Simeon vs. Lancaster (Texas) • 9 p.m.

The finale will showcase a top 30 player in the country, 6-9 senior Elijah Thomas of Lancaster, who spurned Illinois this past fall and signed with Texas A&M. Simeon, an Illinois pipeline, will debut with a host of big-time talents, led by 6-7 D.J. Williams (Illinois) and 6-7 Ed Morrow (Nebraska). It’s also a chance to see how much progress the likes of Iowa recruit Isaiah Moss and juniors Zach Norvell and Ben Coupet have made since last season.

MAC IRVIN DIABETES CLASSIC at Larkin • Saturday, Dec. 6

St. Viator vs. Proviso East • 5:00 p.m.

Despite personnel losses, St. Viator is off to a quick 4-0 start and still the favorite in the East Suburban Catholic with the tandem of scorer Pat McNamara and point guard Mark Falotico. Proviso East counters with SIUE recruit Kalin Fisher and athletic junior Antonio Williams.

Morgan Park vs. Larkin • 6:45 p.m.

There will be some serious talent on display in this one. The Morgan Park backcourt Charlie Moore and Marcus LoVett is an exciting pair and arguably the best backcourt in the state of Illinois. In what amounted to basically a public scrimmage Wednesday night in an 80-point, running clock win, Moore put up a whopping 49 points. Super sophomore Christian Negron of Larkin, among the top five prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2017, is one to watch.

Other games of interest …

Zion-Benton at Lake Zurich • Friday, Dec. 5

A program in Zion-Benton with a new look –– first-year coach and no more Milik Yarbrough –– traveling to a program in Lake Zurich that is trying to climb the basketball social ladder of the North Suburban Lake. Tennessee recruit Admiral Schofield leads the Zee-Bees, while little-known 6-2 guard Mike Travlos, a Division II recruit headed to Hillsdale, anchors a Lake Zurich team that went unbeaten last week.

Thornwood at Thornton • Friday, Dec. 5

What better way to kick-off the start of Southwest Suburban Red play than with this south suburban rivalry? Thornwood’s conference winning streak –– the T-Birds were unbeaten in league play a year ago –– will be put to the test in this road date in Harvey. In what should be a tight conference race, an early win here would be one big step forward.

Geneva at Batavia • Saturday, Dec. 6

For all the talk about Geneva, St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Larkin in what should be a terrific year of basketball in the Upstate Eight River, Batavia heads into December 4-0. The Bulldogs, led by senior Chasen Perez and junior Canaan Coffey, will get a much bigger test Saturday night. An underrated rivalry packs a little punch early in the year as Geneva is also unbeaten after winning the Crystal Lake South Tournament. Although the Vikings are still without senior guard Pace Temple (football injury), 6-7 senior Nate Navigato and Geneva’s size will be too much.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport