With nine days to go before the high school basketball season tips off in Illinois with Thanksgiving tournaments across the state, the City/Suburban Hoops Report cleans out its notebook with news and notes on this and that in Chicago area prep hoops and recruiting.
➤ Proviso East has its coach
Proviso East, one of the highest profile high school basketball programs in the state, began practice this past week without a head coach officially in place.
By late Tuesday night, however, it became official as Cedric McCullough was named the Pirates coach. McCullough, who starred at Proviso East in the late 1980s, has been an assistant coach at Proviso East and took over the program in December last year when former coach Donnie Boyce was fired.
It’s been a turbulent time and disorganized mess at Proviso East for the past 12 months, which is a big reason the Pirates struggled last season, finishing 13-14 overall and in fourth place in the West Suburban Gold.
With practice beginning this past Monday, it was still believed there was a chance Boyce would be brought back. But his run is officially over after taking two teams to Peoria and winning over 90-plus games in three-plus years on the job.
➤ Public League takes on Oakland
A large contingent from the Chicago Public League will travel to California just before Christmas to play in the Oakland Legends Basketball Classic.
The Dec. 22 event will include Simeon, Young, Curie, Kenwood and Von Steuben taking on schools from Oakland and the immediate area.
The current Deputy Chief of the Oakland Unified School System is Bernard McCune, a Whitney Young graduate who played club basketball for Von Steuben coach Vince Carter decades ago.
“They are looking for ways to build up the sports programs here and the interest,” says Carter, who has assisted McCune and the Oakland schools in putting the event together. “It’s a win-win for everyone. Our kids need to get out of the city, experience new things, and it’s an opportunity to play on the campus of Cal and in Haas Pavilion.”
There are events planned for the teams while in California, while the event will bring back former local stars and big names with ties and connections to Oakland and the immediate area.
Among the stars who will be on hand will be former NBA all-star Gary Payton, who prepped at Skyline High School in Oakland, and Sonny Parker, the father of former Simeon star and current Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker. Sonny Parker was a first-round pick of the Golden State Warriors, where he played for six seasons.
➤ Simeon to face Illini recruit in Chicago
Illinois Fighting Illini basketball fans will have a chance to see 2016 point guard recruit Te’Jon Lucas this winter when Lucas’ Milwaukee Washington High School team comes to the Chicago area to face Simeon.
Lucas, who signed with Illinois this past week, will meet Simeon in a Jan. 30 doubleheader at Whitney Young, with the host school, Young, facing Milwaukee Vincent.
➤ Huge blow for Geneva
After a record-breaking season and memorable run to Peoria last March, Geneva had high hopes this season with the return of 6-8 big man Loudon Vollbrecht.
The Vikings, however, will be without Vollbrecht, a Division I prospect in both basketball and football, after suffering an ACL injury in his team’s final football game. Sadly, the injury occurred in Geneva’s final play of its football team’s playoff loss.
Vollbrecht, who played a key role in Geneva’s 30-5 season a year ago, showed marked improvement this summer and figured to be a dominating figure this coming season.
➤ Best available? St. Joe’s Nick Rakocevic
With this week’s commitment of Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore to Memphis, all of the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects in the Class of 2016 have been accounted for when it comes to college commitments –– except one. The lone uncommitted prospect among the top 10 is former No. 1 prospect Nick Rakocevic of St. Joseph, the 6-11 senior who helped lead the Chargers to a Class 3A state championship last March.
➤ Zion Morgan back on the open market
He was committed for a little over a month. Now Kenwood senior Zion Morgan, a top 20 prospect in Illinois in the senior class, is back on the open market after the 6-3 guard de-committed from Valparaiso on Thursday.
➤ Micah Bradford takes in Valpo opener
Bradley-Bourbonnais point guard Micah Bradford, one of the top five available prospects remaining in Illinois in the senior class, received an offer from Valparaiso earlier this month. The 6-0 senior took in Valpo’s season opener Friday night when the Crusaders hosted IPFW.
➤ Red-hot recruiting class for UIC Flames
The City/Suburban Hoops Report highlighted the rebuild at UIC in a story earlier this month –– and that was before the Flames added K.J. Santos, a skilled 6-8 forward who can stretch the floor with his shooting ability.
Santos took a long, roundabout road to UIC. He originally started his high school career at Geneva, transferred to South Kent Prep School in Connecticut, reclassified along the way from the Class of 2015 to the Class of 2016, and is now playing this year at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas.
If Santos were in Illinois and a part of the Class of 2016, he would be among the top dozen prospects in the state. From a talent level perspective, that would have given UIC two players among the top 12 in-state prospects –– Santos and 6-3 guard Tarkus Ferguson of Belleville Althoff.
In addition, UIC coach Steve McClain and his staff inked promising Jordan Blount, a versatile 6-7 perimeter player who is originally from Ireland and is playing at SPIRE Institute in Ohio.
The Flames have hit the Class of 2017 as well, with the staff welcoming red-hot West Chicago junior point guard Tai Bibbs attending the UIC home opener Friday night.
➤ Former Class of 2015 stars ruled ineligible
The Public League pair of Marcus Lovett of Morgan Park and Luwane Pipkins of Bogan provided so many highlights last season. They won’t be playing this season.
Lovett and Pipkins, two of the state’s biggest stars a year ago, have been ruled ineligible at St. John’s and UMass, respectively.
Lovett has been ruled as a partial qualifier by the NCAA, meaning he will be allowed to practice with the team, but cannot play in games this season.
The NCAA has ruled Pipkins as a non-qualifier. If Pipkins’ academics are in order following the first semester, he will be allowed to practice during the second semester and will have four years of eligibility remaining when he becomes eligible again in 2016-2017.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport