Previewing the Chicago Elite Classic

The Chicago Elite Classic has been a fixture on the high school basketball schedule for the past 10 years.

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Young’s Dalen Davis’ (3) attempt at the basket is blocked by Kenwood’s Calvin Robins (0).

Young’s Dalen Davis’ (3) attempt at the basket is blocked by Kenwood’s Calvin Robins (0).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The Chicago Elite Classic has been a fixture on the high school basketball schedule for the past 10 years.

With coaches Tyrone Slaughter and Robert Smith leading the way, Chicago basketball powers Young and Simeon have worked together each year for the past decade to bring national talent to Chicago the first weekend of December. That list has included nationally-ranked programs and future college stars and pros.

But the 11th edition of the Chicago Elite Classic this weekend at Credit Union 1 Arena at UIC is a little different than past ones. There are some familiar national powerhouses, including Missouri’s best program, St. Louis Vashon, Gonzaga out of Washington, D.C., and National Christian in Maryland. But this year’s event is bringing more local matchups to the table that will get people talking and fans in the stands.

The Saturday night slate is a must-see, highlighted by a doozy of a doubleheader featuring the four teams — Simeon, St. Rita, Kenwood and Joliet West — that began the season ranked one, two, three and four in the preseason rankings.

Here is a brief rundown of the schedule and a preview of the nine matchups on the docket.

Friday, Dec. 2

Lane vs. Taft, 6 p.m.

A couple of North Side schools — one in the Red Division and one in the White Division — square off in an event that is a boon for their respective programs. Lane’s 6-4 Shaheed Solebo is a rising prospect in the junior class. As the young players in the program gain experience, Taft, playing with a White Division chip on its shoulder, will lean on seniors Julian Martinez and Armin Aliloski.

Oak Park vs. Fenwick, 7:30 p.m.

This rivalry has been an integral part of this event over the years. Oak Park is led by the backcourt of senior Christian Marshall and junior Max Johnson. A youthful Fenwick team, which starts four sophomores and a junior, will get some seasoning in a big-time environment.

No. 13 Benet vs. Riverside-Brookfield, 9 p.m.

Benet has the perimeter trio of Niko Abusara, Brady Kunka and Brayden Fagbemi to lean on early, while Riverside-Brookfield, though very talented, will need some time to gel. But keep an eye on Arius Alijosius, one of the state’s elite shooters, and the junior duo of guard Will Gonzalez and 6-10 Stefan Cicic.

Saturday, Dec. 3

No. 23 Hyde Park vs. U-High, noon

First-year coach Jerrel Oliver and the Thunderbirds are off to a 2-0 start and get the early tip. Catch a glimpse of one of the underrated backcourts in the state in Hyde Park’s Cameron Wiliford and Damarion Morris.

No. 18 Mount Carmel vs. North Lawndale, 1:30 p.m.

North Lawndale would love to show people they’re an overlooked team in the city, and they get a chance to do just that against ranked Mount Carmel. DeAndre Craig and Angelo Ciaravino lead a Caravan team that’s primed and ready for a big season.

No. 8 St. Ignatius vs. Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), 3 p.m.

A big test for a St. Ignatius team off to a terrific 4-0 start with wins over New Trier and Lake Forest. The Wolfpack will face perennial national power Gonzaga in what will be a huge early-season measuring stick. The Division I tandem of Richard Barron (George Mason) and Jackson Kotecki (Miami-Ohio) is one to watch.

No. 10 Curie vs. St. Louis Vashon, 4:30 p.m.

Coach Mike Oliver’s program gets a shot at the premier program in Missouri. All Vashon has done is win 16 state championships, including five titles since 2016. This year’s Vashon team is led by SIU recruit Kennard Davis, a 6-6 senior forward. Curie counters with junior star Carlos Harris and under-appreciated senior Jeremy Harrington.

No. 5 Young vs. National Christian (Maryland), 6 p.m.

Dalen Davis, who is headed to Princeton, leads a Young team that is no stranger to the big stage. Davis, 6-7 Daniel Johnson and Marcus Pigram are three seniors who have all played in big games — and have three games under their belt this season.

No. 1 Simeon vs. No. 4 St. Rita, 7:30 p.m.

There is endless, high-level talent, but the battle inside between seniors Miles Rubin (Loyola) and Wes Rubin (Northern Iowa) of Simeon and St. Rita juniors James Brown and Morez Johnson is one to watch. The 6-8 Johnson has committed to Illinois while the 6-9 Brown trimmed his list to Duke, Eastern Michigan, Howard, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Missouri, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

No. 3 Kenwood vs. No. 2 Joliet West, 9:00 p.m.

Michigan State recruit Jeremy Fears, Jr. leads Joliet West. Kansas State-bound Darrin Ames headlines the talent at Kenwood. They are a pair of elite players and two of the most dynamic guards in the state.

Sunday, Dec. 4

It’s a full day of girls basketball. Simeon vs. Oak Forest at noon, Phillips vs H-F at 1:30, Butler vs. Lincoln-Way Central at 3, Kenwood vs. St. Louis Vashon at 4:30 and Young vs. Barrington at 6.

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