Talk about kicking off the season with a bang.
When you combine the Chicago Elite Classic on Saturday with the McGinnis Jump-Ball Showcase on Sunday, the high school scheduling gods put together a stacked opening weekend.
Here is the Hoops Report’s look at both of those upcoming weekend events.
CHICAGO ELITE CLASSIC • Saturday, Dec. 1 • UIC Pavilion
Hoops Report’s Five 2 Watch
• No. 1 Simeon. This will be the first look at the state’s top-ranked team — and MaxPreps’ No. 1 team in the country — looking for its fourth straight state championship. Simeon games have become an event.
• Jahlil Okafor vs. BeeJay Anya. Yes, Whitney Young and DeMatha Caholic is a heck of a matchup. But the 6-11 Okafor, the nation’s top junior, will go head-to-head with the 6-9, 275-pound Anya, who has signed with N.C. State and is one of the top big men in the country in the Class of 2013.
• Stanley Johnson. The 6-5 junior is Rivals.com’s No. 14 player in the country. He’s ranked No. 21 by ESPN.com and No. 25 by Scout.com. Those high accolades and offers from the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Kentucky are a result of Johnson being a versatile and advanced scorer.
• Keita Bates-Diop. No, it’s not fair, but downstate prospects always have a little extra to prove to Chicago area basketball enthusiasts. The Ohio State commit will have a chance to showcase why he’s considered one of the top 25 players in the country in the Class of 2014.
• Nick Emery. Fans will love Emery, a BYU recruit and younger brother of former Cougar Jackson Emery who averaged 22 points a game as a junior. The green light is NEON green for Emery. The smooth 6-2 lefty guard is a big-time scorer with in-the-gym range and brings visions of — who else? –Jimmer Fredette.
➤ Simeon vs. Milton (Ga.) • 8:00 p.m.
What to watch: The expectations placed on Simeon this season are even extreme for Simeon. Regardless, the quest for a fourth straight state championship season begins at the UIC Pavilion against another defending state champion. Look for the backcourt of Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, a pair of Illinois recruits, to gel quickly. Tate is more comfortable and, as a result, will be thinking less and reacting more. Plus, the two teamed up with one another on the AAU circuit.
The out-of-state visitor: Milton is a defending Georgia state champion that also captured a title in 2010.
➤ Whitney Young vs. DeMatha Catholic (Md.) • 6:30 p.m.
What to watch: The debut of the state’s No. 2 ranked team and the newly appointed No. 1 junior in the country, Jahlil Okafor. Will there be a better individual matchup than the 6-11 Okafor going up against 6-9, 275-pound BeeJay Anya, a N.C. State recruit and one of the top big men in the country in the Class of 2013? The Dolphins will also unveil 6-5 L.J. Peak, a talented junior who moved to Chicago from South Carolina, while DeMatha has a game-changer in the backcourt in VCU recruit Jairus Lyles.
The out-of-state visitor: DeMatha is recognized nationally as the program legendary Morgan Wootten built and where he became a coaching icon. All the retired Wootten did was compile the most coaching wins in basketball history with 1.274 career victories and win five mythical national championships.
➤ Proviso East vs. Lone Peak (Utah) • 2:30 p.m.
What to watch: Lone Peak is loaded. Coach Quincy Lewis has a surplus of Division I talent and nationally-ranked players, including a trio of BYU commitments in sharpshooter Nick Emery, 6-8 big man Eric Mika and junior guard T.J. Haws. Proviso East, which was upset by Oswego a week ago, will have its hands full. Coach Donnie Boyce’s Pirates will be in unfamiliar territory on Saturday: a big underdog.
The out-of-state visitor: Lone Peak, which has won four of the last six Utah state titles, began the season ranked No. 6 in the nation, according to MaxPreps.
➤ St. Joseph vs. Mater Dei (Calif.) • 12:45 p.m.
What to watch: A pair of coaches in St. Joseph’s Gene Pingatore and Mater Dei’s Gary McKnight, who are the two winningest coaches in their respective states, meet up. McKnight boasts a ridiculous overall record of 926-83 in 30 years. St. Joseph will have a tough task as it looks to bounce back from its lost last week to St. Charles East.
The out-of-state visitor: The program is a national giant that features one of the top players in the country in Stanley Johnson. The 6-5 forward is among the top 20 prospects in the country in the Class of 2014. Keep an eye on uncommitted Division I senior guard Elijah Brown, the son of former Lakers coach Mike Brown.
➤ Normal U-High vs. St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio) • 11:00 a.m.
What to watch: Normal U-High’s Keita Bates-Diop, who just recently committed to Ohio State, is among the top 25 prospects in the country in the Class of 2014. There will be a lot of Chicago eyes on Bates-Diop on Saturday as he plays on the big stage. He led U-High to a state runner-up finish in Class 2A last March, but the Pioneers are making the jump to 3A this season. SVSM boasts one of the top young players in the Midwest, freshman guard V.J. King.
The out-of-state visitor: This Ohio power is best known as the school that produced the world’s greatest current player, Lebron James. But it has remained one of Ohio’s elite programs post-Lebron. Coach Dru Joyce led his team to a state title in 2011, the program’s sixth state championship overall.
➤ De La Salle vs. Phillips • 9:00 a.m.
The lone local matchup of the day tips off the event as the Chicago Catholic League takes on the Chicago Public League. Minnesota recruit Alvin Ellis is primed to put De La Salle on his back this season. Phillips, meanwhile, is in building mode as far as a program with Lawrence Briggs, Jr., leading the way.
MC GINNIS JUMP-BALL SHOWCASE • Sunday, Dec. 2 • Notre Dame
Julian vs. New Trier • 1:00 p.m.
First-year coach Boyd Batts is trying to revitalize the Julian program. New Trier is off to a 3-1 start behind a strong backcourt of Reid Berman and Steven Cook.
T.F. North vs. Bogan • 3:00 p.m.
Bogan lost a pair over Thanksgiving but grew up in falling to two quality teams in West Aurora and Rock Island. But the Bengals have a talented guard tandem in senior Juwan Henry and sophomore Luwane Pipkins and will get better each week. T.F. North may be better than people think with a senior-laden group to lean on, led by point guard D.J. Deere and 6-6 Nick Wood.
Curie vs. Benet Academy • 5:00 p.m.
Curie’s 6-9 Cliff Alexander has been a coveted big man in the Class of 2014 and a top 10 player nationally for the past year. After a solid sophomore season, Benet’s 6-9 Sean O’Mara enhanced his reputation as much as anyone this past summer and is a high-major prospect. The two will go head-to-head in a battle of premier big men. Throw in the fact Curie is the Hoops Report’s No. 4 ranked team and Benet is on the cusp of cracking the Top 25, and this is an early-season delight.
Morgan Park vs. Notre Dame • 7:00 p.m.
Maybe the underrated matchup of the weekend, considering Morgan Park is ranked No. 3 and Niles Notre Dame No. 7 in the most recent Hoops Report Top 25. Thought it’s still early, this one is a terrific measuring stick for both teams. Morgan Park, with its potential world-beating backcourt of Kyle Davis and Billy Garrett, Jr., will be tested by a veteran team while playing in what will likely be a difficult environment. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is preparing for the meatgrinder known as the East Suburban Catholic Conference. This one will prepare them well for the likes of Marist, Benet and St. Viator.