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Previewing the Public League’s opening night

No. 2 Morgan Park vs. No. 3 Young. The season starts with a bang, thanks to these two city and state heavyweights agreeing to tip off on opening night.

Morgan Park’s Isaiah Burrell (10) dunks ahead of Simeon’s Andre Casey (23).
Morgan Park’s Isaiah Burrell (10) dunks ahead of Simeon’s Andre Casey (23).
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

Morgan Park vs. Young.

The 2019-2020 high school basketball season starts with a bang, thanks to these two city and state heavyweights agreeing to tip off on opening night.

The two powerhouses will meet Monday night at Chicago State at 7:30 p.m.

Morgan Park and Young, with a combined seven state championships between them since 2009, begin the season ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the Sun-Times preseason Super 25 rankings.

If that wasn’t enough to get the basketball juices flowing, how about a showcase game featuring the state’s top two seniors –– Young’s DJ Steward, a Duke recruit, and Morgan Park’s Adam Miller, who recently committed to Illinois. The Player of the Year frontrunners will get an early crack at what should be a highly entertaining four-month POY race.

Throw in an additional handful of Division I prospects, along with the debut of three of the top five freshmen in the state, and this one has a smorgasbord of individual talent and early-season drama.

In addition to Miller, Morgan Park flaunts a pair of high-major players in Wake Forest recruit Marcus Watson and 6-5 Brandon Weston. Young counters with Division I prospects Tyler Beard, an uncommitted senior guard, and emerging 6-7 junior Grant Newell.

It’s also a chance for three hyped freshmen, Young’s Dalen Davis and Morgan Park’s Darrin Ames and Javonte Taylor, to be thrown immediately into the fire and get their first taste of high-stakes Public League basketball.

Top programs in the city have regularly started off the year with a bang by playing their season opener in the high-profile Chicago Elite Classic. But that’s following Thanksgiving Tournament week.

The genesis of a match up of this magnitude began when Young coach Tyrone Slaughter sought to find an opening night match up that would bring attention to the sport.

“We’ve been talking about it over the years, to do something that emulates what we’ve seen in college,” Slaughter said. “When I brought it up with Nick [Irvin], he was equally excited about it. I think it’s a positive, a chance to bring a little shock to the start of the high school basketball season.”

A rocking Thanksgiving week in Chicago Heights

There is no Thanksgiving Tournament in the area better than this special south suburban event held at both Bloom and Marian Catholic this week. There are four teams ranked among the top 14, including top-ranked Bloom.

As a result, there is going to be a very good, highly-ranked team coming out of the holiday week with a pair of losses.

The tournament tips off Monday and continues Tuesday and Wednesday with championship play set for Friday.

Bloom is led by four players who signed with Division-I programs last week: big man Martice Mitchell (Minnesota) and guards Keshawn Williams (Tulsa), Donovan Newby (UW-Milwaukee) and Dante Maddox (Cal-State Fullerton).

The Blazing Trojans, however, will have their hands full in the opening week. No. 6 Marian Catholic, No. 10 Hillcrest and No. 14 Homewood-Flossmoor are all primed and ready for the Chicago Heights Classic.

Marian Catholic welcomes back Iowa recruit Ahron Ulis from a team that won 27 games a year ago. Hillcrest, led by 6-5 forward Julius Rollins, features a junior class stocked with Division I talent. College of Charleston recruit R.J. Ogom, who began his high school career at Marian Catholic, leads Homewood-Flossmoor.

The headline games will be Wednesday night. Homewood-Flossmoor will play at Marian Catholic at 6 p.m., while Hillcrest travels to Bloom for a 6:30 p.m. tip. Friday’s championship game is set for 3:30 p.m. at Marian Catholic.