By Joe Henricksen
If you are a high school basketball fan in this state, the four days following Christmas is an absolute delight.
Whether you are at Pekin, Pontiac or Proviso — or the Big Dipper, Elgin, Collinsville or Bloomington-Normal, for that
matter — you will see ranked teams, Division I prospects and the best coaches in prep basketball. Here are five
quick fearless predictions for this holiday tournament season from the City/Suburban Hoops Report.
1. SIMEON WILL CONTINUE ITS DOMINANCE AT PONTIAC
Coach Robert Smith’s club has won back-to-back Pontiac Holiday Tournament titles. A third straight could be a little
more difficult, considering there is no Derrick Rose. There are several teams that see the Pontiac Tournament door
opening. Lockport and West Aurora, a pair of unbeaten teams, along with upstart Curie and a recharged Oak Park,
are primed for a run at the title with a beatable Simeon team as the No. 1 seed. But hold on, Simeon is still the most
talented team in this tournament and will win a third straight behind 6-9 Stan Simpson and unheralded guard Kenyon
2. JEREME RICHMOND WILL NOT BE ENOUGH FOR WAUKEGAN AT ELGIN
Richmond, the state’s premier sophomore and top college prospect regardless of class, will be the tournament’s
best player at Elgin. Still, it won’t be enough as the road to the title is filled with several potential pitfalls, starting at
8:45 a.m. Wednesday. Waukegan will have its hands full with a very strong Neuqua Valley team. It will be fun to
watch Neuqua’s T.J. Jordan, a true defensive lockdown type, battling Richmond. Even if Richmond and Company
get by Neuqua, both unbeaten Highland Park and a strong Wheaton North team are in the same bracket. This is
arguably the second strongest tournament field in the state from top to bottom. And the Hoops Report believes
Waukegan will be playing in the consolation bracket after day one as no one realizes just how good this deep,
balanced Neuqua Valley team is.
3. KEVIN DILLARD WILL BE MVP AT PROVISO — BUT HIS H-F TEAM WON’T WIN IT
Maybe aside from Farragut’s Mike Dunigan, there isn’t a player in the Chicago area that has elevated his game to a
higher level from last year than Homewood-Flossmoor’s Kevin Dillard. The jet-quick Dillard is a playmaker that can
score. He will lead H-F to a third-place finish (Marshall will prove to be too much in the semifinals) and win MVP
honors along the way.
4. ONLY THREE TEAMS WILL REMAIN UNBEATEN AFTER HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT PLAY
This is assuming a lot, so lets get started. Farragut will lose in the Chicago Public League Holiday Tournament in
early January, Marshall and Von Steuben will lose at Proviso West, both Lockport and West Aurora fall at Pontiac,
Highland Park loses at Elgin, and Aurora Central does the same at Waubonsie Valley. That leaves three teams:
Lyons Twp., North Lawndale and Zion-Benton. All three will win their respective holiday tournaments and head into
January unbeaten. Zion-Benton won’t be challenged at Luther North. And North Lawndale will escape Breese
Mater Dei with a close win or two. It won’t be easy, but LT will find a way to get four wins at a competitive — but
not overly strong — York Holiday Tournament.
5. AFTER QUICK, SURPRISING STARTS, THESE TEAMS WILL FIND REALITY THIS CHRISTMAS
Shepard and Leo are a combined 16-2 heading into the Big Dipper. Both will have their hands full in the opening
round — Leo with Crete-Monee and Shepard with Crandall Head and Rich South. And both will struggle to go better
than 2-2 in this tournament, unless they do indeed lose that opening round game and win three straight in the
consolation bracket, which the Hoops Report is predicting will happen. Despite the great starts by Leo and
Shepard, the two will be battling it out — in the consolation bracket. West Aurora will be hard pressed to get out of
Pontiac still unbeaten — or better than 2-2, for that matter. The Hoops Report likes this West Aurora team, but this
team has its limitations and a small margin for error if it wants to beat some of the state’s better teams.