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Michael O’Brien’s notebook: Justin Time coming to Kenwood

New Kenwood coach Justin Bowen.

Justin Bowen, an assistant at Young the past four years, is not your typical high school coach. He’s an active participant at practice, a force in the post that is easy to confuse with an actual player.

“At Young sometimes the first string going against the second string isn’t competitive enough,” Bowen said. “I had to step in and play on that second string sometimes to push that first group even harder.”

Bowen, 35, is a Marshall grad with a rock-solid basketball resume. He played at UIC, had a stint on the Bulls’ summer league team and played professionally in Europe.

Bowen’s next challenge will come at Kenwood. He recently took over as head coach for Marlo Finner, who stepped down after the season.

“I’m really excited,” Bowen said. “The foundation of the program is good. The administration is committed to turn this thing around. Basketball has been up and down and never really hit the stride the community of Hyde Park and the people of Kenwood has wanted to see.”

Finner was 87-43 in five seasons. The Broncos won 19, 22 and 21 games his first three seasons but were just 12-12 and 13-11 the last two years.

Bowen, who will work as a counselor at Kenwood, will have some rebuilding to do in his first year. Seryee Lewis, a highly-regarded 6-8 junior, transferred to Morgan Park after the season. Junior guard Rowland McCoy returns.

“We have some other pieces,” Bowen said. “I feel good about some of the guys. We don’t have any 6-9 or 6-10 guys but we have some length and some athletes. The biggest thing will be the transformation of the mind and helping them understand what is required to succeed at this level.”

NEW RANKINGS

Chicago players were all over the recently updated ESPN recruiting rankings. Morgan Park’s Adam Miller is No. 25 in the class of 2020 and Young’s DJ Steward is 76. Two area natives that started high school at Morgan Park before moving west also placed in the top 100. Nimari Burnett (Prolific Prep, Cal.) is No. 23 and Shon Robinson (Eduprize, Ari.) checked in at No. 88.

Rolling Meadows sophomore Max Christie, who is off to a terrific start with the Illinois Wolves this spring, was ranked No. 10 in the 2021 national class and Simeon’s AJ Casey grabbed the No. 13 spot in the class of 2022.

SIMEON DRAFT DAY

Two Simeon alums, Talen Horton-Tucker and Zack Norvell, have declared for the NBA draft and signed with agents. Both players could be drafted in the first two rounds on June 20.

Zach Norvell Jr. of the Gonzaga Bulldogs drives against Matt Mooney of Texas Tech during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Getty Images.
Zach Norvell Jr. of the Gonzaga Bulldogs drives against Matt Mooney of Texas Tech during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Getty Images.

Horton-Tucker, the 2017 Sun-Times Player of the Year, had an excellent freshman year at Iowa State and Norvell led Gonzaga to a number one ranking as a junior. He’s one of the best shooters in the draft pool.

Over the past few days Simeon coach Robert Smith has been fielding phone calls from several NBA teams interested in Horton-Tucker and Norvell.

The Wolverines already have three players in the NBA, Jabari Parker, Derrick Rose and Kendrick Nunn.