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O’Brien: Morgan Park is No. 1

It doesn’t seem to matter if it is high school players, college or pro, the most popular off-time activity for basketball players is playing basketball video games.

That’s what Morgan Park backcourt mates and good friends Charlie Moore and Jarrin Randle spend a lot of their time together doing. But there is one aspect of NBA 2K16 that they can’t take part in, unlike the kids at Young, Simeon, Curie and even Lockport. There is no Morgan Park player in the NBA.

“Yeah, we definitely don’t have one of those to play with,” Moore said. “Not yet anyway.”

That also could be the reason that Morgan Park, no matter how many city and state titles it wins, can’t seem to get much respect from the prognosticators that put together national rankings.

“I can’t say that Jabari Parker went here, or Derrick Rose,” Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said. “We are getting there. Wayne (Blackshear) will be in the NBA possibly next year and Billy Garrett Jr. is coming. We just need that to happen, to say we have a pro. Marcus LoVett Jr. is going to be a pro. When the time comes we will get there. We are producing Division-1 ballplayers year in and year out.”

Moore, a Memphis recruit, is generally regarded as the top player and the top prospect in the senior class. He’s the major reason that Morgan Park is the Sun-Times’ preseason No. 1 team, ahead of a Simeon team that just might have more talent spread across its entire roster.

Randle, a Western Michigan recruit, is a terrific shooter that has patiently waited his turn behind a number of older, talented guards the past three year. This is his time.

“I will have a chance to showcase my full abilities and talents this season,” Randle said. “It’s been a joy to watch and learn from the guards ahead of me, to see what I needed to improve on. It’s been hard at times, but my coaches and family helped me to understand my role. I was willing to sacrifice for the team to win state.

Morgan Park won the Class 3A state title Moore and Randall’s freshman and sophomore years. The Mustangs finished third last season.

As usual, there is a high-profile addition to the team. Guard Ayo Dosunmu, one of the state’s top sophomores, transferred from Westinghouse.

“Sky is the limit with Ayo,” Irvin said. “He’s going to be playing this game for a long time. He has NBA potential. His basketball IQ is just crazy. He’s just an all-around great kid too. I always knew he could play but his attitude and demeanor is what it is really impressive.”

Jamal Burton, a 6-3 senior, is an athletic glue-guy that Irvin calls “the heart of the team.” Alonzo Chatman, a 6-7 forward, came on strong in the playoffs last year. He was a highly-touted incoming freshman, so it is possible he can continue that high level of play.

Moore has been impressed with 6-5 junior Malik Binns so far in practice and Irvin says that 6-7 forward Lenell Henry is another name to watch this season.

Morgan Park and Simeon are more than just intense rivals and neighbors on Vincennes Ave. The teams are intertwined socially and through club basketball. The Wolverines are not used to taking a backseat to the Mustangs in the preseason rankings, even if it is just by one spot.

“I’m gonna hear an earful from (Simeon guard Zach Norvell),” Moore said. “Being number one is nice, but we aren’t overlooking anyone.

Michael O’Brien’s preseason Super 25 basketball rankings

1. Morgan Park

2. Simeon

3. Fenwick

4. Riverside-Brookfield

5. Kenwood

6. Bogan

7. Evanston

8. Curie

9. Marian Catholic

10. Bradley-Bourbonnais

11. St. Joseph

12. Lincoln-Way West

13. Notre Dame

14. Young

15. Oak Park-River Forest

16. Joliet West

17. Stevenson

18. Bolingbrook

19. Downers Grove South

20. St. Ignatius

21. Crete-Monee

22. Niles West

23. Larkin

24. Marshall

25. North Chicago

The full Super 25 breakdown will be released in Monday’s paper (Sunday online), along with the Top 50 players and 20 questions and answers on the upcoming season.