Phillips has conquered Illinois football, can it become a national powerhouse?

SHARE Phillips has conquered Illinois football, can it become a national powerhouse?
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Phillips head coach Troy McAllister gets drenched after winning the Class 5A state championship against Dunlap at Huskie Stadium, November 25, 2017 Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Phillips has become a state football powerhouse under coach Troy McAllister and things aren’t slowing down. The Wildcats seem to be headed for even bigger things (including Class 6A eventually) and it isn’t difficult to imagine them becoming a nationally prominent program sometime in the future.

The evidence is mounting. Phillips has a number of highly-recruited players. Jahleel Billingsley, Joseph Thompson and Fabian McCray highlight the class of 2019. But even bigger things are on the horizon.

Dominic Bass, a 6-4, 250-pound freshman, is a special talent.

“If Dominic takes care of business he will be the biggest recruit in Chicago Public League history,” McAllister said. “There are a lot of things that have to fall into place for that to happen. He’s a phenomenal player.”

That’s quite a statement from McAllister, but college coaches seem to agree. Bass, who started all season for the Wildcats on the defensive line, already has offers from Auburn, Florida, Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi, Purdue, Toledo and West Virginia.

“This is the earliest we have ever had a recruit get offers,” McAllister said. “It is difficult to know how to handle it because he’s a freshman, it is just going off potential. He will have a chance to go wherever he wants.”

In the past, a talent like Bass would have wound up at a Catholic League schools. The success of Phillips and the star power of McAllister has now made the Public League a legitimate option for elite players.

McAllister was recently one of two coaches (nationwide, in all high school sports) to win the 2018 Gatorade Coaching Excellence Award.

“It was surprising to say the least,” McAllister said. “I really look at it as a program award. It is great for CPS, our school and our community.

“The kids were really excited. Gatorade came in and did the awards and had a film crew, it was a really fun experience. As a coach it was refreshing to see the enjoyment the young men took in it.

McAllister will walk the red carpet at ESPN’s ESPY awards in Los Angeles in July.

“Hopefully I get a chance to meet some famous athletes and not be too starstruck,” McAllister said.

McAllister didn’t sound starstruck at all earlier this month on Rahm Emanuel’s podcast, “Chicago Stories.”

McAllister told his personal story and talked about the rise of Phillips as a football powerhouse. One exchange in particular probably hit home with a lot of the city’s athletes.

“Every young man and every young person wants to belong and part of what we’ve created is a place where everyone belongs,” McAllister told Emanuel. “For the kids who have more difficult home lives, they’ve got teammates they can count on and if they need a place to stay or they need some food or just whatever they need they can count on each other.

“We love each other and at the end of the day I’m not afraid to tell a young man that I love him and they’re not afraid to say it back because they understand what that word means. We’re not using that word lightly, but we’re saying it in a way of respect and care and to know that we’ve got each other and we’ll always be there.”

Phillips was expected to open the season at Loyola, a rematch of last season’s thrilling game at Gately, but that arrangement fell apart. Instead the Wildcats will travel to Ohio Week 1 and play Pickerington, which won a state title last season.

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