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High school basketball notebook: Pandemic taking toll on holiday tournaments

Several holiday tournaments have been canceled or are in jeopardy; so many transfers; and a look at Longwood.

Thornton celebrates winning the 36th Big Dipper Tournament over Rich East Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at Rich South.
Thornton celebrates winning the 36th Big Dipper Tournament over Rich East Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at Rich South.
Sun-Times file photo

Football season has been moved to spring. At this point, it seems unlikely that there will be anything close to a state tournament in any sport.

Over the last week, another staple of high school sports was faced with cancellations because of COVID-19: holiday basketball tournaments.

Centralia, Bloomington, Marseilles and Effingham all canceled last week. The Big Dipper, hosted by Rich South, canceled Thursday.

The Big Dipper field consists of south suburban and South Side schools, so there was a little hope that it would be one of the tournaments that would find a way to -exist.

“We tried to see if there was any way to possibly have it,” Rich Township athletic director Omari Garrett said. “But as the days and weeks went on, we realized we wouldn’t be able to put it on the way we wanted to. We didn’t want just two teams in at a time and then everyone leaving. The Dipper is about the experience, and we wanted it to be the full experience or nothing at all.”

The Big Dipper has been on the decline in the last decade, but things finally were starting to look up. Garrett had added Hillcrest, Hyde Park, TF South and Lincoln-Way Central to this year’s field.

Proviso West officials say they have not made a decision on their holiday tournament. There also has been no word from Pontiac, York and Hinsdale Central.

The Chicago Elite Classic event traditionally held at Wintrust Arena will likely look much different. Nothing is official, but there clearly won’t be any out-of-state teams involved. Don’t be surprised if host coaches Tyrone Slaughter of Young and Robert Smith of Simeon figure something out to keep the brand alive, though, perhaps a Young vs. Simeon showdown to tip off the season.

On the move

Several talented players have recently decided to move out of state. Kankakee’s AJ Storr and Bolingbrook’s Kai Evans left for schools in Las Vegas. Lincoln Park’s Ismail Habib is now in Maryland, and Fenwick’s Trey Pettigrew moved to Arizona.

There also has been the usual movement around the area. Jalen Houston has left Hyde Park for Bogan, and Walt Mattingly left Deerfield for Lake Forest. Amarion Osborne has transferred from Vocational to Kankakee.

Mike Irvin’s arrival at Kenwood is already making an impact. Darrin Ames, who played at Morgan Park as a freshman, is now at Kenwood, and 6-7 Davius Loury has left Simeon to play for the Broncos. The Wolverines picked up a major piece, though, adding Michigan recruit Isaiah Barnes from Oak Park, one of the state’s top seniors.

The biggest local transfer story has yet to play out. AJ Casey, the state’s top junior, is not enrolled at Tinley Park.

Casey played his freshman year at Simeon and was with the Titans last season.

Rumors have swirled for a year that Casey would wind up at Young, but the family hasn’t confirmed anything.

A new name

Few high school basketball fans have seen Longwood play. That could change this year, assuming fans are ever allowed at games.

Former Washington star Keyon Smothers took over the program last season and was an instant success, leading the Panthers to an 18-9 record, 8-1 and first place in the White-South.

Smothers has two key players back, Jamarion Walker and Adam Claybourne. And he has added some transfers to help out in the school’s first season in the Red.

Junior Damarcies Moore, a 6-5 wing, transferred from Bogan. He received positive reviews from scouts after playing at a Pangos Showcase in Utah last month.

Two new guards have arrived, as well. Lionel Wilson transferred in from Collins and DaQuan Hargrove from Julian.