By Joe Henricksen
You never know how our teams from the state of Illinois will fare when they cross the state border and head out all over the country. There has been a lot of toe-stubbing over the years by our state’s elite programs in national games. This past weekend, Morgan Park came home with an impressive win over Garfield High of Seattle in a matchup of two of the premier guards in the country.
Led by Wayne Blackshear’s 26 points, Morgan Park beat Garfield and Washington-bound Tony Wroten 78-67 in the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass. Wroten was one of the Hoops Report’s favorite out-of-state players it watched this offseason. In fact, it was the 6-4 Wroten who led Seattle Rotary to a win over Blackshear and the Mac Irvin Fire this past summer on the club circuit. Blackshear and coach Nick Irvin got a little revenge Saturday night.
Now Blackshear, who tweaked a knee in the first quarter when he came down awkwardly after a dunk, will host No. 1 Simeon this Saturday in one of the marquee matchups of the season.
Blackshear, who has emerged as the Mr. Basketball favorite, could add a big piece to the resumé with a victory over Simeon. On the season the 6-5 Blackshear is averaging 32 points, 15.6 rebounds, 5.4 blocks, 4.4 assists and 4 steals a game for a team that has lost just once this season.
• The state’s top teams had a solid weekend against out-of-state teams. Top-ranked Simeon handled its business with a win in Dayton, beating Dunbar (OH) 53-39 Sunday night, while De La Salle went 2-1 and finished third in the Bass Tournament of Champions in Missouri over the weekend. If Whitney Young can claim a win in Dayton on Monday, Morgan Park, Simeon, De La Salle and Young — the top four teams in the Hoops Report’s preseason rankings — will have gone 5-1 over the weekend against out-of-state competition.
• Back to Morgan Park. … The Hoops Report is a huge fan of sophomore point guard Markee Williams and all that he brings to the table as a lead guard. Strong, tough, competitive and fearless in that he isn’t afraid of key situations.
• Proviso East and sophomore Sterling Brown were very impressive in Saturday’s win over Glenbard East. Coach David Chatman’s club got after it on the defensive end, using its great quickness to force turnovers and create points. Offensively, the Pirates were patient and received a big effort from Brown (22 points). The 6-4 guard knocked down perimeter shots, both with a great looking and comfortable mid-range game and stepping out and knocking down a three-pointer. When Brown is an impact player and active, Proviso East is capable of playing at a higher level and he looks like a top 10 player in the class.
•How impressive has Benet Academy been this season? Point guard David Sobolewski goes down and coach Gene Heidkamp’s club cruises. A tender back kept Sobolewski out of Saturday’s game with Oswego, a lopsided win at the Naperville North Shootout, and he is questionable for Tuesday’s matchup with St. Viator. Big man Frank Kaminsky stepped up with a big performance and kept the Redwings unbeaten heading into a busy upcoming week — St. Viator on Tuesday, Marist on Friday and a big one with Glenbard East on Saturday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.
• Despite the fact Niles Notre Dame was upset by St. Patrick this past weekend, the Notre Dame battle in Peoria on Monday (Peoria Notre Dame vs. Niles Notre Dame) should be a good one. Peoria Notre Dame will resemble Benet Academy in some ways to coach Tom Les’ Dons when they square off with the top-ranked team in Class 3A.
• Speaking of Niles Notre Dame, freshman guard Daunte Stephens is one of the more promising and impressive players in the Class of 2014.
• Want one fun freshman to watch? Marian Catholic’s 5-5 Tyler Ulis is a good one and an entertaining point guard. He’s put together a solid year for a player his age and size at the varsity level.
• Just a heads up: St. Ignatius may not always look the part, but the Wolfpack will be dangerous for top teams to play down the stretch. First, big man Nnanna Egwu is becoming a dominant factor on both ends of the floor. And second, Rich Kehoe can coach. With a win over Orr and Illinois recruit Mycheal Henry on Sunday, the Wolfpack are now 12-3 on the season. Up next is another key Catholic League game Friday night against yet another Illinois recruit — De La Salle and Mike Shaw. There is no doubt that since Christmas the most impressive Illinois signee has been Egwu, who has averaged 22 points a game over his last five games to go along with being a defensive menace with his shot blocking ability.
• When Jerron Wilbut of Downers Grove South is focused and on the same page with his coach and teammates he is easily one of the top four or five prospects in the Class of 2012. And DGS is a different team.
• As stated in a previous blog, the Hoops Report really likes Farragut and its potential going forward, especially if it can get 6-7 junior Rashaun Stimage back from injury sooner than later. You have to love seniors, which Farragut is blessed with, and the all-around floor game of 6-5 D.J. Tolliver.
• Wheaton Academy is off to a similar start as last year, winning 14 of its first 15 games with its lone loss coming to an out-of-state opponent. It will be interesting to see how the seeds shake out in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional in a few weeks if Wheaton Academy marches in with a 17 or 18 wins. Right now the top-seed should be Crane. But where does a team like Wheaton Academy, which hasn’t played the schedule many of the teams in the sectional have, get seeded? After watching Wheaton Academy this year, the Hoops Report doesn’t believe this team is as strong as last year’s team that was awarded the No. 4 seed and finished 24-3 overall. Wheaton Academy was stunned in the regional semis last March by Wheaton St. Francis.
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