Joe Henricksen’s 3-pointer: Tuesday preview, Hillcrest’s season, Jason Mead steps down

Simeon and Young will have high-profile matchups Tuesday night against teams loaded with young talent. Simeon will host Kenwood, and Young will travel to St. Rita.

SHARE Joe Henricksen’s 3-pointer: Tuesday preview, Hillcrest’s season, Jason Mead steps down
Curie’s Phillip Berryhill (15) defends as Simeon’s Isaiah Barnes drives to the basket.

Curie’s Phillip Berryhill (15) defends as Simeon’s Isaiah Barnes drives to the basket.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Public League heavyweights Simeon and Young will have high-profile matchups Tuesday night against teams loaded with young talent. Simeon will host Kenwood, and Young will travel to St. Rita.

After thrashing Bowen, Clemente, Morgan Park and Perspectives, Kenwood and first-year coach Mike Irvin are set for their first big test. The Broncos scored 86 points or more in those four routs with an average margin of victory of 38, but Simeon is clearly a step up. And that’s probably an understatement.

The state’s top sophomore, JJ Taylor, has had 41, 33, 38 and 37 points in those lopsided wins. That type of scoring will be tougher to come by against Simeon.

Young and AJ Casey, the state’s No. 1-ranked junior prospect, rolled past two quality south suburban programs last week. The Dolphins hammered Homewood-Flossmoor 66-42 and beat Thornton 67-51.

St. Rita, led by senior Christian Henry and the best freshman group in the state, can use this matchup with the second-ranked Dolphins as a true measuring stick in this abbreviated season.

Talented team, limited schedule

Hillcrest never has dodged any of the heavy hitters in putting together its non-conference schedule. Last season, coach Don Houston’s team played Homewood-Flossmoor twice, Bloom, Curie, Bloomington, Simeon, Evanston and Joliet West.

This year, he returned five starters from a team that won 23 games and a regional championship and was prepared to give emerging 6-7 junior Kamryn Thomas a bigger role.

If there’s a team itching to be tested that simply doesn’t have a chance to show its full worth, it’s Hillcrest. The school district is only allowing the Hawks to play South Suburban Conference foes this season.

After a bit of a topsy-turvy season, the experienced and talented Hawks were set to impress this year. They’re off to a 7-0 start, albeit against a schedule that doesn’t include a ranked team.

With 6-6 Julius Rollins (a Kent State recruit), Thomas, 6-6 Jakobi Heady and 6-5 Hamahrie Bowers, Hillcrest is as big and long as any team in the Chicago area. Plus, Mar’Keise Irving, the high-level football player who’s headed to Minnesota, is a four-year varsity player in the backcourt.

This talented, senior-dominated Hillcrest team’s inability to showcase itself against other elite teams is yet another consequence of a basketball season in the midst of a pandemic.

Waubonsie Valley coach steps down

When Jason Mead took over the Waubonsie Valley program in 2016, the Warriors were fresh off a 5-22 season.

In what was a complete overhaul of a dilapidated program, Mead went 8-19 in his first season and improved to 13-18 in his second. After going 27-5 in each of the last two seasons and getting off to a 7-2 start this year, Mead is stepping down as coach at the end of the season.

Mead, who led Waubonsie Valley to its first regional title in 11 years in 2019, cited “personal reasons” for his departure. He said he was in need of a “break from the grind for success and winning.” It’s a fine line many coaches deal with and struggle with at times.

“It’s time to refocus and recalibrate personally,” Mead said.

In a short time, Mead’s impact was felt and an identity was formed. His teams impressed with their discipline at both ends of the floor.

In addition to the regional title, Waubonsie Valley won back-to-back Thanksgiving Tournament championships and captured the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs in 2019, when the Warriors began the season with an eye-opening 16-1 start.

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