Simeon’s backcourt has more skill and depth than any area team in recent memory. Michigan recruit Isaiah Barnes and DePaul recruit Ahamad Bynum are both nationally-ranked players.
Junior Jaylen Drane is one of the most gifted passers the area has seen in years. Junior Aviyon Morris is tough as nails and unselfish. Sophomore Jalen Griffith is already an assured ball-handler and capable scorer.
With all of that speed and ability, there is only one realistic way for an opponent to gain an advantage: dominate in the post.
No. 22 Homewood-Flossmoor came close to pulling off that strategy, but it still wasn’t enough. The No. 2 Wolverines took control in the fourth quarter and won 59-51 on Tuesday in Flossmoor.
Barnes has been as good or better than any player in the area this season. He scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Vikings.
Barnes started high school at Romeoville and played at Oak Park the past two years. He’s always flashed high-level potential, but was inconsistent. That’s not the case anymore.
“I’m finally able to play on a team where I can showcase my skills every game,” Barnes said. “The last few teams I wasn’t always put in the best situations. But [at Simeon] they care for me and they want to see us be great. So I’m doing whatever it takes to help them win and bringing it every game.”
Bynum added 15 points and six rebounds. Barnes is 6-6 and Bynum is 6-3, but they spend most of the game on the perimeter, so it’s concerning for the Wolverines that they are the leading rebounders.
Simeon (5-0) has several capable bigs and in a normal season they would be ready to make major contributions by January. Wolverines coach Robert Smith doesn’t have that kind of time this season.
“[Our bigs] have quarantine weight on them,” Smith said. “And it is affecting the way the play. Two weeks isn’t enough time to get them in shape. It’s just not working. The other guys have to step up and make those plays. Bynum and Barnes are seniors. They have to step up and do it.”
Homewood-Flossmoor (8-3) was without lead guard Daniel Reed, who was out sick. The Vikings led by three late in the third quarter. Simeon senior Fred Poole drained a three just before the buzzer to tie the game at 41 heading into the fourth quarter.
Barnes opened the fourth with a three-pointer and then Drane showcased why he’s such an intriguing player. He has the ball handling ability, speed and creativity to keep the entire gym guessing. He worked and found Bynum for a three-pointer, then had a steal and fastbreak layup and followed with a take to the basket and mid-range jumper.
“[Drane’s] ceiling is very high,” Smith said. “He’s grown and can play multiple positions now. He can rebound and make plays in the post. He’s able to finish at the rim and by next year he’s probably going to be dunking those.”
Senior Chad Readey led Homewood-Flossmoor with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Tai Walters had nine points and six rebounds and Javery Johnson, Christian Meeks and Wesley Rubin each scored eight. H-F outrebounded Simeon 35-32.
“Not having [Reed] obviously impacted things but we showed some growth,” H-F coach Marc Condotti said. “A couple of guys stepped up and really filled his spot very well. That was nice to see. We grew up a little bit. They stuck together and did what they were supposed to do. We just needed a couple of things to go our way and that didn’t happen.”
Watch the final minute of Simeon at Homewood-Flossmoor: