We’re in the heart of shootout season, where events across the state draw high-profile teams together and match them up in non-conference showdowns.
Here is a look at the top events and games this weekend.
When Sides Collide at Glenbard East • Saturday, Jan. 23
This four-game event, presented by the City/Suburban Hoops Report, features three extremely attractive matchups involving five ranked teams and a surplus of individual talent.
The Hoops Report’s top two prospects in the sophomore class, Champaign Central’s Tim Finke and Young’s Xavier Castaneda, will be on display.
There is the Kenwood tandem of Nick Robinson and Zion Morgan, two of the best uncommitted prospects in the senior class.
Evanton’s Nojel Eastern is among the top five prospects in the Class of 2017, while senior guard Mike Smith of Fenwick is as hot as they come after pouring in 38 points in a win over Simeon earlier this week.
And then there are the matchups.
▪ Champaign Central vs. Kenwood @ 2:30 p.m.
The top sophomore prospect in Illinois, Tim Finke (19.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg), and his senior brother, Army recruit Nick Finke (10 ppg, 8 rpg), head to the Chicago area as they lead a Champaign Central team coached by their father, Jeff Finke. The uncommitted senior tandem of Nick Robinson and Zion Morgan fuel Kenwood, a team that is probably deserving of more attention than its received. A local high-profile game like this should help the cause.
▪ Fenwick vs. Riverside-Brookfield @ 4:00 p.m.
Fresh off a huge, emotional win over Simeon earlier this week, Fenwick is feeling pretty good right now. Senior point guard Mike Smith has thrown himself into the player of the year conversation after arguably the best individual performance of the season. With 38 points, many of which were of the momentum-changing, backbreaking variety, Smith was dominating in the win over Simeon. R-B, led by the backcourt of Daniko Jackson and Jalen Clanton, is in search of that signature win that matches up with its top 10 preseason ranking.
▪ Evanston vs. Young @ 5:45 p.m.
A couple of stars in their respective classes, junior guard Nojel Eastern of Evanston and sophomore point guard Xavier Castaneda of Young, lead a pair of ranked teams in what should be a fun non-conference showdown. Junior Lucas Williamson has stepped for Young over the past several weeks. Evanston, meanwhile, has just one in-state loss –– to No. 1 Morgan Park back in early December –– and has ripped off seven straight wins.
▪ Bradley-Bourbonnais vs. Glenbard East @ 7:15 p.m.
The host school, Glenbard East, is tied for the top spot in the Upstate Eight Valley and is led by junior Michael Finley and senior Terrance Lakes. Bradley-Bourbonnais boasts a pair of Division I players in Valpo-bound point guard Micah Bradford and 6-8 Zach Hollywood, a James Madison recruit.
Hoops Showdown at Hinsdale Central • Saturday, Jan. 23
After the undercard of Aurora Christian and Wheaton St. Francis wraps up, the two frontrunners for player of the year, Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore and St. Joseph’s Nick Rakocevic, take the floor for what is a terrific pair of individual talents.
It’s a rematch of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament semifinal, where Morgan Park jumped out to a quick lead and cruised to a 69-55 win behind Charlie Moore’s 25 points and 5 assists. Morgan Park shot 50 percent from beyond the arc (7 of 14). Even with an impactful Nick Rakocevic (18 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals in the first meeting), the Chargers will need composure and help from its young perimeter players.
Other top games this weekend …
▪ Glenbrook North at Deerfield • Friday, Jan. 22
For years it was GBN dominating the Central Suburban League North. But others have taken over in recent years, including defending champ Deerfield. A chance for GBN to take it back in this battle between two teams tied for first.
▪ Benet at St. Viator • Friday, Jan. 22
After playing five games in five days, going 4-1 along the way, Benet hopefully has some legs left in this key East Suburban Catholic Conference road game. St. Viator has quietly put together a 12-3 record and is unbeaten in the ESCC.
▪ Ronald “Chops” Billinger Memorial Shootout at Young
Saturday, Jan. 23 and Sunday, Jan. 24
There will be five games on Saturday and five more games on Sunday, with games beginning at 1 p.m. on each day.
A good test and measuring stick for a couple of Class 2A schools who could meet this March in the Robeson Sectional: University High (10-4) and Seton Academy (14-4). Both will tangle with Red-West programs as U-High, led by promising 6-7 junior Jameel Alausa, meets Marshall, and Seton and sophomore Javon Freeman squares off with Farragut.
A few other things to watch: The Jacobs brothers for Uplift –– junior Demarius (20.8 ppg) and freshman Davarion (14.8 ppg); Can St. Ignatius get untracked and gain some turnaround momentum with an upset win over Curie? And a good city-suburban matchup between Glenbrook North (11-4) and Vocational (12-6).
St. Benedict vs. Wells @ 1:00 p.m.
Highland Park vs. Lindblom @ 2:30 p.m.
Glenbrook North vs. Vocational @ 4:00 p.m.
University High vs. Marshall @ 5:30 p.m.
Oak Park-River Forest vs. Uplift @ 7:00 p.m.
Providence St. Mel vs. Prosser @ 1:00 p.m.
Seton vs. Farragut @ 2:30 p.m.
St. Laurence vs. Von Steuben @ 4:00 p.m.
Geneva vs. Foreman @ 5:30 p.m.
St. Ignatius vs. Curie @ 7:00 p.m.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport