Holiday hoops primer: Part I

By Joe Henricksen

Holiday tournaments across the state of Illinois tipped off this week, with the majority of the tournaments beginning next Monday. Here is a quick look (Part I) at a few of the top tournaments in the state.


Projected title game matchup: Benet Academy vs. Morgan Park

Top players to watch

• Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, Morgan Park (Sr.)

• Billy Garrett, Jr., 6-3, Morgan Park (So.)

• Markee Williams, 5-9, Morgan Park (So.)

• David Sobolewski, 6-1, Benet Academy (Sr.)

• Frank Kaminsky, 6-11, Benet Academy (Sr.)

• Juice Brown, 5-8, Hillcrest (Sr.)

• Keith Carter, 6-0, Proviso East (Sr.)

• Montero Rice, 6-1, T.F. North (Sr.)

• Cameron Harvey, 6-3, St. Joseph (Jr.)

• Connor Boehm, 6-7, New Trier (Jr.)

Underclassmen to watch

• Markee Williams, Morgan Park … Whether or not you think he’s an elite prospect or not doesn’t matter, the sophomore point guard knows how to play and is a tough leader for coach Nick Irvin.

Andrew McAuliffe, Glenbrook North … The big 6-7 sophomore is skilled around the basket and continues to get better and better. He’s one of the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2013.

Sterling Brown, Proviso East … Long, athletic and oozing with potential, the brother of current L.A. Laker Shannon Brown is an exciting young talent.

Most to prove:

T.F. North … How good are the unbeaten Meteors and how far can the backcourt of Montero Rice and DeAndre Lowery carry them? If T.F. North can knock off New Trier in the opener and pull off a grind-it-out, physical, defensive tussle with Benet in the second round, we may have our answer.


• Glenbrook North … Quite possibly the least talked about ranked and unbeaten team in the Chicago area. They may lack the big names, but an underrated player, senior shooter Tommy Hanrahan, spaces the floor nicely for big men Andrew McAuliffe and Peter Szostak.

• Proviso West … The host school has more talent — and experience — than people realize and has a shot to pull off an upset. The Panthers lone loss came to a ranked East Aurora team.

• Antonio Bishop, Homewood-Flossmoor … When it comes to H-F prospects, he’s the least talked about. But the Hoops Report continues to be intrigued by his combination of size and upside.

What a difference a year makes: Last year St. Joseph won its opening round game, played Whitney Young tough in a second-round loss and went 3-1 to finish fifth. The Chargers head into Proviso West in 2010 with a 1-5 mark with the unenviable task of facing the defending 3A state champs, Hillcrest, in the opening game.

Most intriguing potential matchup

• Benet Academy vs. Morgan Park … If the title game features these two teams, it will be the perfect test and measuring stick for both and a battle of unbeaten teams who have been ranked in the top five all season.

Other potential matchups of interest

• Morgan Park vs. Proviso East … Plenty of individual talent, young and old, on display in this potential second-round matchup in the final game Tuesday night.

Hillcrest vs. Benet Academy … A potential semifinal showdown between two top teams and two of the premier point guards in the state in Benet’s David Sobolewski and Hillcrest’s Juice Brown.

• Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Morgan Park … This would be a rematch of a game earlier this season. Morgan Park edged H-F in a tight game that was decided in the final minute. H-F is a dangerous team, even without injured star Tim Williams.


Projected title game matchup: Simeon vs. Warren

Top players to watch

• Akeem Springs, 6-3, Waukegan (Jr.)

• Jabari Parker, 6-7, Simeon (So.)

• Steve Taylor, 6-7, Simeon (Jr.)

• Jelani Neely, 5-10, Simeon (Jr.)

• Darien Walker, 6-2, Simeon (Sr.)

• Ka’Darryl Bell, 6-0, Oak Park (Jr.)

• Jacoby Roddy, 6-5, Peoria Manual (Jr.)

• Jeff White, 6-1, Peoria Manual (Jr.)

• Remy Roberts-Burnett, 5-11, Joliet West (Sr.)

• Karrington Ward, 6-5, Lockport (Sr.)

Underclassmen to watch

• Kendrick Nunn, Simeon … The 6-1 shooting guard plays a valuable role for the top-ranked team in the state, but he’s an elite prospect as well — the No. 3 ranked sophomore in the Hoops Report’s Class of 2013 rankings.

• Cliff Alexander, Curie … He’s 6-8, 240 pounds and just a freshman. The big young prospect has helped lead Curie to an unbeaten start.

Most to prove:

Curie … The Condors are unbeaten with a nice mix of veterans and youth. Coach Mike Oliver has a pair of tricky games with Danville and the winner of Waukegan/Lockport before it can get its shot at Simeon.


• Juwan Starks, West Aurora … After making a big splash as a freshman, Starks plateaued a bit as a sophomore. With an improved and more consistent jumper, a solid finish to the summer and looking confident and smooth this season, Starks has shown he’s a much-improved player as a junior.

Rashawn McElrath, Simeon … An overlooked player for the state’s best team. He’s long, active, runs the floor and makes an impact defensively and with the intangibles he brings to the floor.

Nick DiForti, Plainfield North … Out of the limelight, this young coach does a nice job with a team that has maximized its talent this season — and surprised in the past.

What a difference a year makes: Last December Waukegan rolled into Pontiac with all eyes on them as a state-ranked power led by Mr. Basketball leader and Illinois recruit Jereme Richmond. A year later? Coach Ron Ashlaw’s Bulldogs look to play the roll of spoiler at Pontiac. And with the firepower still leftover, Waukegan could surprise.

Most intriguing potential matchup

• Peoria Manual vs. Warren … No one will touch Simeon. But a Manual-Warren semifinal, if it materializes, would be a good one that features a boatload of talented players in the junior class.

Other potential matchups of interest

Lockport vs. Waukegan … You would be hard pressed to find an opening game of any tournament (9:00 a.m. on Tuesday) better than this one. Lockport’s deliberate, patient style against Waukegan’s pressure, up-and-down style.

• Simeon vs. Curie … A couple of Chicago Public League teams are seeded No. 1 and No. 4 and could meet in one of the semifinal matchups, though Curie has a tough road in getting there. And while Curie would likely need to play a perfect game to pull off the upset, the Condors would love to get a shot at mighty Simeon.


Projected title game matchup: Glenbard East vs. Peoria Notre Dame

Top players to watch

• Chasson Randle, 6-2, Rock Island (Sr.)

• Johnny Hill, 6-3, Glenbard East (Sr.)

• Zach Miller, 5-9, Glenbard East (Sr.)

• Aaron Simpson, 5-10, North Chicago (Jr.)

• Max Bielfeldt, 6-7, Peoria Notre Dame (Sr.)

• Darrell Combs, 6-1, Thornwood (Jr.)

• Josh Piper, 6-7, Champaign Centennial (Sr.)

• Anthony Beane, 6-1, Normal (Jr.)

• Willie Wiley, 6-6, Springfield (Jr.)

Underclassman to watch

Tevin King, Providence St. Mel … The 6-1 freshman will play in the small school bracket, but King is one of the Hoops Report’s top 10 freshman in the Class of 2014 player rankings.

Most to prove:

Max Bielfeldt, Peoria Notre Dame … The big kid from Peoria has put up big numbers this season and elevated his stock. In order to continue to generate more and more interest, the rugged 6-7 senior must continue to produce. Leading his team to a tournament title and coming up big will only enhance his growing reputation.


Rockton-Hononegah … A program that has lived in the shadows of Rockford Boylan in the Rockford area, coach Mike Miller’s program has averaged a whopping 24 wins a season over the last five years.

Darrell Combs, Thornwood … Slick, smooth scoring guard has flown a bit under the radar, but he’s among the better guards in the junior class.

David Molinari, Peoria Notre Dame … Heady, smart senior guard has added a much-needed dimension to a Notre Dame team that is among the top 3A teams in the state.

What a difference a year makes: Champaign Centennial enters the tournament with a solid 6-3 record. A year ago? Led by all-stater Rayvonte Rice, Centennial headed into the State Farm Classic as the defending 3A state champs with a 29-game win streak and ranked No. 1 in Class 3A.

Most intriguing potential matchup

Glenbard East vs. Peoria Notre Dame … Both will have to take care of their own business first, but this potential title game would feature two teams that could be sitting at 12-0 and 13-0. Plus, from a style standpoint it will pit fast, up-tempo Glenbard East against a Notre Dame team with size and strength inside.

Other potential matchups of interest

Peoria Notre Dame vs. Rock Island … A semifinal tilt between two teams that could very well stand in the way of one another this March in Class 3A. Both enter the tournament unbeaten and on a semifinal collision course.

North Chicago vs. Glenbard East … Those that like offense, get out and check on this second-round affair that could see 180-plus points put on the board between the two.

Normal vs. Rock Island … If these two were to meet in the second round they would have a combined record of 19-1 between them, with Normal’s lone loss coming to Bradley-Bourbonnais, 64-61.

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