The Chicago Elite Classic, which has quickly established itself as one of the premier high school basketball events in the country, is set for year No. 4. Here is all you need to know about this weekend’s event.
For the fourth straight year, the Chicago Elite Classic will bring together many of the state’s and nation’s top programs and players to the UIC Pavilion in a must-see two-day event.
Both Young coach Tyrone Slaughter and Simeon coach Robert Smith, along with their respective schools, have teamed together over the past four years to put together this basketball smorgasbord. The Chicago Elite Classic has grown in numbers, interest and prestige while this year boasting its biggest and most wide-ranging field.
Tickets are available at participating schools through Wednesday. While tickets are going quickly, you will be able to purchase tickets at the UIC Pavilion box office on the day of the event while tickets last.
“This is the best field of teams we’ve had since the first year of the event,” says Simeon coach Robert Smith of the event that began in 2012. “This is a chance for national guys, both teams and media, to see Chicago basketball, and for some of our teams here in Illinois, who aren’t able to go to national events, to be seen and receive some national exposure.”
THE STAR ATTRACTION
■ Jayson Tatum of Chaminade Prep
Chicago area basketball fans have been spoiled in recent years by their own –– Anthony Davis, Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker, etc. The Chicago Elite Classic continues to provide the rare chance to watch one of the country’s very best basketball talents in Jayson Tatum of Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis. Tatum, a smooth 6-8 do-it-all headed to Duke, is ESPN’s No. 2 ranked player in the country and the No. 3 ranked player in both the Rivals.com and Scout.com rankings.
TOUGHEST IN-STATE TESTS
■ Riverside-Brookfield vs. Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.)
Fresh off its best season in school history, R-B is unbeaten after winning its own Thanksgiving tournament this past weekend. Now the Bulldogs have the tall task of facing Gonzaga College High School out of Washington, D.C., which began the season ranked No. 23 in USA Today’s national preseason rankings. Gonzaga is led by tiny but jet-quick point guard Chris Lykes. The 5-6 dynamo has offers from Old Dominion, Richmond, VCU, George Mason, Siena and George Washington.
■ Marian Catholic vs. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
The local boys get a shot at MaxPreps.com’s No. 12 team in the country. While Marian Catholic is 3-1 on the young season, this will be the season opener for Mater Dei and coach Gary McKnight, who has built this program into a California giant. McKnight’s career record is a ridiculous 1,024-90 as he begins his 34th season.
10 IN-STATE STARS TO WATCH
■ Charlie Moore, Morgan Park.This Memphis recruit is the state’s top senior prospect. The 5-11 point guard is one of the top 100 players in the country and his appeal stretches across the city.
■ Zach Norvell, Simeon. Before the strong-bodied 6-5 guard heads off to Gonzaga, a defining senior season awaits. This is now Norvell’s team.
■ Nojel Eastern, Evanston. A big stage and a big matchup for the versatile 6-5 junior guard who is arguably the top in-state prospect in the junior class.
■ Christian Negron, Larkin. While he’s still in the process of earning his stripes, the 6-6 highly-athletic forward is among the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2017.
■ Mike Smith, Fenwick. A four-year varsity player and the top uncommitted point guard prospect in Illinois in the senior class.
■ T.J. Smith, Marian Catholic. After missing all of last season, the 6-7 junior forward is anxious to show once again the promise he displayed as a freshman.
■ Daniko Jackson, Riverside-Brookfield. A catalyst as the point guard for a team that won 28 games and a sectional championship last year. He led the Bulldogs to a 4-0 start as he was named tournament MVP.
■ Xavier Castenada, Whitney Young. A top five prospect in the sophomore class, this point guard is talented, poised and ready to be seen.
■ Evan Gilyard, Simeon. After a big summer the 5-9 point guard is now among the top 10 junior prospects in Illinois.
■ Jarrin Randall, Morgan Park. The running mate of Moore in the backcourt, this sharpshooter is headed to Western Michigan.
SUPER SIX OUT-OF-STATERS
■ Jayson Tatum, Chaminade Prep (St. Louis).The headline player in this year’s Chicago Elite Classic, the ultra-talented Tatum is expected to be a one-and-done type player at Duke.
■ Alterique Gilbert, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.).This dynamic senior guard is headed to Connecticut and is ranked by ESPN as the No. 28 prospect in the country. He leads a nationally-ranked team that has won six state championships in the past seven years.
■ Markelle Fultz, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.).This senior guard headlines a team that was ranked No. 7 nationally by USA Today when the season began. Fultz, who averaged 16 points a game as a junior, is one of the top 15 players in the country and headed to Washington.
■ D.J. Harvey, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.).If Fultz wasn’t enough for perennial power DeMatha, there is Harvey, a 6-6 wing and one of the top 15 players in the country in the Class of 2017. Harvey has a dozen-plus offers, including Duke, Louisville, Maryland, Connecticut, Texas, Villanova and Georgetown.
■ Tyler Cook, Chaminade Prep (St. Louis).Teams up with superstar Tatum to form a terrific 1-2 punch for one of the best teams in the country. Cook, a 6-8, 240-pound power forward, is a top 100 recruit headed to Iowa.
■ M.J. Cage, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).A consensus top 100 prospect and the son of former NBA player Michael Cage is headed to Oregon next year.
Friday, Dec. 4
■ Oak Park-River Forest vs. Fenwick • 6:00 p.m.
A rivalry game between two schools that sit less than 10 miles from the UIC Pavilion and boast enough talent to contend for conference championships this winter.
■ Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) vs. Marian Catholic • 7:30 p.m.
The in-state Spartans get a crack at a storied name in high school hoops. The perennial California state power has won state championships in four of the past five years and will be making its second trip to the event.
■ Maine South vs. Loyola Academy • 9:00 p.m.
A pair of north suburban teams that together have averaged 23 wins a year the past two seasons.
Saturday, Dec. 5
■ Beasley Academic Center vs. Arial Community Academy • 11:00 a.m.
A chance for obsessed local fans to get a sneak peak at the future as some of the top 8th grade players square off in this grammar school battle.
■ Larkin vs. East St. Louis •1:00 p.m.
While ESL did lose star junior Jeremiah Tilmon, the Flyers still boast some talent in 6-3 senior Antonio Johnson and 5-9 senior point guard Marquise Chairs. Larkin features Christian Negron and a team that should compete for an Upstate Eight Conference River title this winter.
■ Riverside-Brookfield vs. Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) • 2:30 p.m.
The R-B program and backcourt of Daniko Jackson and Jalen Clanton get a chance to play a national foe on a big stage. Gonzaga is one of the most recognizable prep programs in the country.
■ St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) vs. DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) • 4:00 p.m.
No team in the event has a better 1-2 punch than DeMatha’s Fultz and Harvey, who lead a team that’s ranked No. 9 in the country. SVSM is the high school that produced Lebron James has remained an Ohio power under coach Dru Joyce, winning state titles in 1984, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2009 and 2011.
■ Evanston vs. Morgan Park • 5:30 p.m.
One could argue this game features the top college prospect in Illinois in both the senior (Charlie Moore of Morgan Park) and junior class (Nojel Eastern of Evanston).
■ Chaminade Prep (St. Louis) vs. Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) •7:00 p.m.
A pair of nationally-ranked teams square off with two big-time talents in Tatum and Gilbert. Chaminade currently checks in as the No. 3 team in the country and Miller Grove at No. 25, according to MaxPreps.com.
■ Whitney Young vs. Simeon • 8:30 p.m.
When these two meet it’s Chicago Public League royalty. The season opener for both as the two host schools cap off this event the right way.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport