Previewing the Big Dipper holiday tournament

Can this year’s tournament grab enough headlines, though, to help build towards a full revival in coming years?

SHARE Previewing the Big Dipper holiday tournament
Thornton’s Tiyuan Mcdaniel, use the pick from Thurman Thomas (13) to get around Kankakee’s CaRon Johnson (1).

Thornton’s Tiyuan Mcdaniel, use the pick from Thurman Thomas (13) to get around Kankakee’s CaRon Johnson (1).

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Big Dipper at Rich

When: Dec. 27-30

Team to beat: Hillcrest

A team that up to this point has probably been even better than advertised. With just one loss on the season, a tough 68-63 defeat to Class 3A power East St. Louis, the Hawks (11-1) appear to have something special brewing and are a heavy favorite to win the Dipper.

There were major defections as a pair of Division I players transferred out over the summer. But this team has bonded and is playing with a chip on its shoulder, led by the senior trio of 6-9 Darrion Baker, 6-5 Quentin Heady and point guard Bryce Tiller.

Top challenger: Hyde Park

The defending tournament champs knocked off Hillcrest in last year’s title game. Although this year it appears to be Hillcrest’s tournament to lose, don’t underestimate Hyde Park and its starting backcourt of Cameron Wiliford and Damarion Morris. Jurrell Baldwin is a 6-6 junior who has been a big help for first-year coach Jerrel Oliver after transferring in from H-F.

Darkhorses: Perspectives-Leadership, De La Salle, Thornton and Rich

Perspectives-Leadership has battled some inconsistency in the early going but is a dangerous team. There is quite a bit of firepower in the backcourt with juniors Gianni Cobb and Tim Handy to go with seniors Jakeem Cole and KJ Cobb.

Coach Gary DeCesare’s De La Salle team is 8-3. The Meteors have size, young talent and are looking to see just where they stand in their development. The balance they’ve shown has been a plus.

Richard Lindsey has led the way for the Meteors with 12.6 points and five rebounds, while Evan Jackson adds 10.6 points and 7.1 rebounds. Anthony Davis (8.5 points, four assists) has been steady in the backcourt. Promising 6-5 junior Tavariyuan Williams is expected to get his first action of the season at the Dipper.

Thornton has the high-scoring Vincent Rainey, while Rich, under first-year coach Lou Adams, is playing on its home floor and has won six of its last seven.

Five players to watch: Darrion Baker, Hillcrest; Tim Handy and Gianni Cobb, Perspectives; Cameron Wiliford, Hyde Park; Vincent Rainey, Thornton

Underrated player to watch: Bryce Tillery, Hillcrest

Ask Hillcrest coach Don Houston just how important the pint-sized point guard is to his team. Tillery is tough, competitive, harrasses opposing point guards with his in-your-face defense and has become a better decision-maker and shot-maker as a fourth-year senior.

Storyline to follow: The revival of the Big Dipper

This proud tournament, which was once one of the must-see holiday tournaments in the state, certainly isn’t all the way back from its heyday. But after becoming virtually non-existent for a number of years, it’s taken a nice step forward in 2022.

We are looking at some compelling and competitive second-round games in this year’s tournament.

Can this year’s tournament grab enough headlines, though, to help build towards a full revival in coming years?

Title game pick: Hillcrest over Hyde Park

Big Dipper bracket

The Latest
The strike came just days after Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on Israel.
Women might be upset with President Biden over issues like inflation, but Donald Trump’s legal troubles and his role in ending abortion rights are likely to turn women against him when they vote.
The man was found with stab wounds around 4:15 a.m., police said.
Send a message to criminals: Your actions will have consequences — no matter how much time passes. We can’t legislate all our problems away, but these bills now pending in the Illinois Legislature could pave the way for bringing closure to grieving families.
Matt Eberflus is under more pressure to win than your average coach with the No. 1 overall pick. That’s saying something.