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Simeon’s expanding NBA legacy

Wolverines coach Robert Smith has four players in the NBA and a fifth battling for a roster spot.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker, left, is defended by Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker, left, is defended by Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago.
AP Photos

Simeon’s Robert Smith is the only active coach in Illinois with six state championships.

He’s also the only coach in the state with four active NBA players and a fifth battling for a roster spot.

“I have the NBA League Pass just for that reason,” Smith said with a proud laugh.

This has been an extremely busy — and, for some, very lucrative — offseason for a bunch of former Illinois prep basketball products, especially for a trio of Simeon grads.

During the first week in August, when NBA free agency opened, Simeon greats Derrick Rose (Class of 2007), Kendrick Nunn (Class of 2013) and Talen Horton-Tucker (Class of 2018) signed multiyear contracts.

After rejuvenating his career, Rose is headed back to the Knicks with a three-year deal worth $43 million. The 2011 MVP with the Bulls will have made just under $200 million at 35 when his contract expires in 2024.

Horton-Tucker and Nunn signed with the Lakers, teaming up with LeBron James and another former Chicago high school star, Anthony Davis.

Horton-Tucker re-signed for three years and $32 million, and Nunn got a two-year, $10 million deal. Considering Nunn averaged 15.3 points two years ago when he was the NBA Rookie of the Year runner-up and put up 14.6 points this past season, the Lakers’ signing of the lefty guard appears to be a free-agency steal.

The second year on Nunn’s contract is a player option, so he could test the free-agency market again next offseason.

“I think it’s a luxury that those two will be playing together,” Smith said.

When you add what’s left on Jabari Parker’s contract with the Celtics, the four Simeon players will have just over $87 million owed to them over the next several years.

Zach Norvell (Class of 2017) continues to fight for an NBA roster spot. The 6-5 guard who starred at Gonzaga has played in five NBA games — all during the 2019-20 season with the Lakers and Warriors.

Norvell played last month for the Spurs’ Summer League team and will try to hook on with a team this fall.

These Simeon players join a list that includes past Wolverines Nick Anderson and Bobby Simmons as NBA players.

“I feel so proud of them,” Smith said. “Watching them all grow up as kids, seeing the hard work they have put in and to reach their dreams? It’s pretty amazing.

‘‘And not taking anything away from Derrick and Jabari, but they were phenoms, top-five kids in the country. But with Talen, Kendrick and Zach, those are three who other people never gave a chance to make the NBA.”

Smith plans to be in Los Angeles for opening night to catch Nunn and Horton-Tucker when the Lakers face the Warriors next month. He also lucked out with Simeon playing in Boston in the afternoon on Jan. 15. The Celtics and Parker will play that night at home.

“This isn’t just big for Simeon; it’s big for the city of Chicago,” Smith said. “These are kids from a basketball program at a public school on the South Side of Chicago.”