By Joe Henricksen
In the winter of 1998 the City-Suburban Showdown produced what was commonly billed as the “Game of the Decade” when Fenwick and star Corey Maggette squared off with Whitney Young and Quentin Richardson. The game, played before a sellout crowd at Northwestern, didn’t disappoint and lived up to the hype.
The Integrity Group’s annual City-Suburban Showdown next February may lay claim to at least the “Game of the Year” during the 2009-2010 season as Waukegan, led by Mr. Basketball favorite and Illinois recruit Jereme Richmond, will meet defending state champion Whitney Young. The game, which will be a rematch of last year’s Class 4A state championship game in which Whitney Young won 69-66, will be Saturday, Feb. 20 at the UIC Pavilion.
While we are still three months away from the preseason rankings coming out and six months away from the highly-anticipated rematch between these two powers, it’s expected that Waukegan and Whitney Young will certainly be ranked among the top two or three teams in Illinois when the season tips off in late November — likely No. 1 and No. 2 in most polls.
Whitney Young did lose some experience, talent and toughness with the graduated departures of Marcus Jordan and Chris Colvin, along with some size in Stan Brown. However, coach Tyrone Slaughter’s program, from top to bottom, is absolutely loaded. Senior point guard Ahmad Starks, fresh off a terrific summer and set to sign with Oregon State in November, will be the catalyst. Senior Anthony Johnson, who is committed to Purdue, and highly-regarded junior Sam Thompson are both back. Thompson is among the premier talents in the Class of 2011. Add talented sophomores in 6-7 Jermaine Morgan and 5-6 Derrick Randolph, along with freshman phenom Tommy Hamilton, and the Dolphins will be making another run at a state championship — this season and for a few years to come.
Waukegan, meanwhile, has the state’s most decorated player returning in the versatile 6-7 Jereme Richmond. Coach Ron Ashlaw’s club will have to try and find a way to replace senior leader and scorer Colin Nickerson, but the Bulldogs do have four starters back in Richmond, point guard Mike Springs, scorer Aaron Johnson and hard-nosed athlete Quan Conner. When you add promising sophomore Akeem Springs, who played off the bench a year ago as a freshman, Waukegan is poised for another run at Peoria and potentially topping last year’s state runner-up finish.
The highly-anticipated Whitney Young-Waukegan matchup is not the only game on the docket. Mt. Carmel and talented junior Tracy Abrams will go up against St. Patrick, a terrific Chicago Catholic League vs. East Suburban Catholic League battle. It is expected 6-5 junior Jacob Williams, one of the highly-rated players in the Class of 2011, will be back playing with St. Pat’s, while Illinois commit Abrams leads a loaded Caravan team that features junior Adonis Filer, sophomore Malcolm Hill-Bey and 6-7 senior Jon Gac.
In addition, De La Salle, led by the return of 6-8 junior Mike Shaw and the arrival of promising 6-7 freshman Alex Foster, will take on a Simeon team brimming with talent in the first game of this tripleheader. Coach Robert Smith has an abundance of veteran and young talent returning for Simeon. Athletic senior Brandon Spearman, who has committed to Dayton, is the headliner. The guard tandem of junior Tywon Pinckney and sophomore Jelani Neely should be one of the best in the Chicago Public League, while the arrival of freshman Jabari Parker is highly anticipated.
The City-Suburban Showdown will not only feature six teams that all figure to be ranked in the preseason, including arguably the top two teams, the City-Suburban Showdown will offer fans a glimpse of the three precocious freshman phenoms that have been all the rage even prior to playing a game of high school basketball. Whitney Young’s Tommy Hamilton, Simeon’s Jabari Parker and De La Salle’s Alex Foster are all sporting high-major offers and are among the top players nationally in the Class of 2013.
4:30 p.m. St. Patrick vs. Mt. Carmel
6:30 p.m. De La Salle vs. Simeon
8:30 p.m. Whitney Young vs. Waukegan