Does Jabari Parker belong on all-time Top Five?

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Does Jabari Parker belong on all-time Top Five?

How good is Jabari Parker?

Better than his father?

Better than Derrick Rose?

Good enough to rank among the top five players in Public League history?

Good enough to rank among the top five players in state history?

How good is Simeon's 6-foot-8 junior?

For openers, Simeon coach Robert Smith, who coached Rose and Parker, cast his vote for Parker, claiming he is a better all-around player than Rose, the best he has ever coached.

He almost certainly will be the first junior to be named Mr. Basketball in Illinois since the voting began in 1981.

Longtime recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye, who have observed Rose and Parker and many other elite players over the last 25 years, said Parker "already has sealed his legacy as one of the all-time great players in Chicago Public League history."

"But whether or not he belongs in the top five remains to be seen," Roy Schmidt said. "That is because the final chapter is still unwritten. We need to see what he does between now and the time he is finished playing at Simeon."

At the moment, the Schmidt brothers argue that Parker isn't as good as Isiah Thomas was as a junior. "But, then again, we aren't sure anybody from Chicago since then has been better than Isiah. But that doesn't mean that Jabari isn't a great player," Harv Schmidt said.

"We would also say that as of now Jabari probably ranks just a tad behind Derrick Rose. However it is almost an unfair assessment because it is also based on what Rose has done since leaving Simeon -- at Memphis and now in the NBA."

Is Parker capable of achieving the same level of greatness as Rose and all of the others? "Absolutely. He has continued to develop and improve upon significant facets of his game each and every year. And he has a work ethic that is second to none," the Schmidts said.

"With that in mind, we will be as anxious as anybody to see how Parker progresses over the course of the next year. As long as he continues to go about things in the manner that he has, we think that when it is said and done Parker could make a very strong case for ranking among the top 5 or 10 All-Time great players in Chicago. We would not bet against him."

I have observed high school basketball in Illinois since the 1950s. As of this date, my all-time top five are Marshall's George Wilson (1960), Carver's Cazzie Russell (1962), St. Joseph's Isiah Thomas (1979), Farragut's Kevin Garnett (1995) and Simeon's Derrick Rose (2007).

In good conscience, I dropped my all-time favorite player, Thornridge's Quinn Buckner (1972), from my original list to make room for Rose.

That puts four former Public Leaguers on the all-time list. The fifth member of the all-time Public League team? My choice would be Westinghouse's Mark Aguirre (1978).

So where does Parker rank?

Old-timers might argue that he isn't as good as his father, Robert "Sonny" Parker, who starred at Farragut in the early 1970s, was a two-time All-America at Mineral Area Junior College, led Texas A&M to back-to-back Southwest Conference championships, was named to the Southwest Conference's all-decade team, was the 17th pick in the 1976 NBA draft and played for six years with the Golden State Warriors.

At the moment, it is difficult to find a spot on my all-time first five for Jabari Parker. But he still has another year to get better.

How about the second five?

It would include Aguirre, Buckner, Proviso East's Glenn "Doc" Rivers (1980), Collinsville's Tom Parker (1968) and Centralia's Bobby Joe Mason (1955).

I can hear critics from the Public League hollering: Who is Parker? Who is Mason? They rarely concede that anyone south of Altgeld Gardens or west of Austin or north or Rogers Park can play the game as well as a city kid.

After all, I still haven't mentioned other Public League icons, including Parker's Tom Hawkins and Bo Ellis, Dunbar's Bernie Mills and Ronnie Lester, Simeon's Ben Wilson, Deon Thomas and Nick Anderson, King's Marcus Liberty and Jamie Brandon, Hirsch's Rickey Green, Crane's Tim Robinson and Jerome Freeman, Westinghouse's Hersey Hawkins, Eddie Johnson and Kiwane Garris, Vocational's Juwan Howard and Carver's Tim Hardaway and Terry Cummings.

There are some people who are already touting former Chicago Perspectives star Anthony Davis, now a freshman sensation at Kentucky, for all-time status in the Public League. My argument? Did they feel the same after his senior year, putting up big numbers against woefully weak competition? If an all-timer is evaluated on his high school performance, I don't think Davis rates with Wilson, Russell, Garnett, Rose and Aguirre.

I admit a partiality toward Tom Parker, a 6-foot-6 forward whom I covered while working for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1966-68. He was the best of four All-Americans produced by legendary coach Vergil Fletcher. In his senior year, he averaged 33 points per game. Later, he starred at Kentucky and was the SEC's co-player of the year in 1972.

Mason is one of three basketball players to have his jersey retired at tradition-rich Centralia, following Lowell Spurgeon and Dike Eddleman. He was an All-Stater in 1954 and 1955, was named to Bradley's 15-member All-Century team and played for 12 years with the Harlem Globetrotters.

"He was the best player I ever saw -- until I saw Earl Monroe in the NBA," said legendary coach Duster Thomas of Pinckneyville.

So how good is Jabari Parker?

"Parker is a better high school player at the same stage of their careers," said Simeon coach Robert Smith. "Derrick didn't understand how good he was until his junior and senior years. Jabari knew it as a freshman. He can play all five positions. He is a better all-around player.

"Sure, it is a hard comparison because they play two different positions. But Jabari had a better understanding of the game at an early age, when to score, how to score. Derrick was more of a passer. He didn't become a shooter until last year (in the NBA)."

Smith pointed out that Rose wasn't a dominant scorer in high school. "But he could have been. In his junior year, we had to make a rule for him. If he didn't take at least 10 shots in a game, the other players had to run in practice. Guys on the bench counted his shots. We wanted him to be more of a scorer. They had to run twice that season," he said.

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school basketball games across Chicagoland for another basketball edition of High School Lites. Catch the show live at 11 p.m. Friday on CSN and streaming at CSNChicago.com

The show will feature numerous teams in the CSN Preps Power Rankings. The best game on Friday night could be No. 16 Benet traveling to No. 15 Notre Dame in a clash of unbeatens in the ESCC but there will be plenty of other highlights to check for.

The Red-West, North Suburban and Southland are all prominently featured on the show this week while High School Lites will also have highlights from the SouthWest Suburban.

This week's Viewers' Choice Game of the Week generated over 5,000 votes as Von Steuben will travel to Taft to represent the Red-North.

We'll also have a Getting to Know feature on Conant senior guard Jimmy Sotos.

Thursday's Game

Hyde Park at No. 7 Kenwood, 4:30 p.m. -- Kenwood will try to keep its momentum going as they host Hyde Park in a Red-Central battle. Kenwood (5-1, 1-0) is coming off of a Red-Central win over Dunbar earlier this week while Hyde Park (3-1, 1-0) defeated Lindblom for a conference victory as well. The Broncos are still unbeaten in Illinois as they're relying on senior big man Manny Patterson and his talented group of teammates. Hyde Park is trying to figure things out in head coach Jevon Mamon's first season as Andrew Anderson had a nice game against U-High at the Chicago Elite Classic.

Friday's Games

No. 11 North Lawndale at Westinghouse, 4:30 p.m. -- The Red-West is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season as this should be an interesting game. The Phoenix (5-1, 1-0) knocked off Marshall for a Red-West win on Wednesday while Westinghouse (3-3, 0-1) is coming off of a tough double-overtime loss to Farragut. Westinghouse is going to have to slow down Carlos Hines and Martrell Barnes but they can counter with a talented senior of their own in Coreyoun Rushin.  

Kankakee at Crete-Monee, 6:00 p.m. -- We also head to the Southland on Friday night as Kankakee (1-3, 0-1) travels to Crete-Monee (3-2, 1-0). The Warriors survived a high-scoring, double-overtime win over Rich East on Wednesday as they're led by senior and Toledo commit Dwayne Rose, the nephew of Derrick Rose. Kankakee is off to a sluggish start as they've lost some close games and they could use a conference road win here.

Rich East at No. 19 Bloom, 7:00 p.m. -- Keeping it in the Southland, Rich East (2-4, 0-1) will try to shake off a double-overtime loss this week as they travel to face No. 19 Bloom. Rich East has two one-point losses and the double-OT loss to Crete-Monee this year, so they could be better than the 2-4 record indicates. Bloom (4-1, 1-0) was impressive during Thanksgiving week at the Chicago Heights Classic as they look like one of the premier teams in the South Suburbs this year.

No. 24 Thornton at Lincoln-Way West, 7:00 p.m. -- These two teams battled in the SouthWest Suburban Red last season and both programs return some key pieces. Lincoln-Way West (2-4, 1-0) is led by senior Marco Pettinato as he's an All-Area candidate and big-time scorer. Thornton (3-2) will counter with a big scorer of its own with senior Alonzo Verge.

No. 16 Benet at No. 15 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. -- This could be the best matchup of Friday night as two unbeatens clash in the ESCC. Benet (5-0) is coming off of a runner-up finish in Class 4A as they bring back some talented players like Jack Nolan, Liam Lyman and Justin Enochs. The Redwings have looked very good early this season as they've piled up a lot of double-digit wins. Notre Dame (6-0) is also off to a hot start as they picked up an overtime win over Loyola and another victory over Bartlett last weekend. The Dons have a lot of size on the inside as Chris Heinichen, Jeameril Wilson and Sean Johnson are all 6-foot-5 or bigger.

No. 12 Stevenson at Mundelein, 7:00 p.m. -- Stevenson is off to a great start as they try to carry that into Mundelein in this North Suburban contest. The Patriots (6-0, 2-0) are led by Indiana commit and senior Justin Smith as he's one of the best players in the state this season. Mundelein (2-4, 0-1) dropped one to Zion-Benton earlier this week as they try to get back on track in the North Suburban race.

Lake Zurich at Zion Benton, 7:00 p.m. -- Two team with high expectations in the North Suburban face each other in this one. Zion-Benton (2-1, 1-1) dropped a conference game to leader Stevenson last weekend but recovered with a double-digit win over Mundelein during the week. Lake Zurich (4-1, 0-1) dropped its conference opener to Waukegan after a 4-0 start to the season.

Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Von Steuben at Taft, 6:30 p.m. -- This week's poll was a tight one as over 5,000 people voted and this game barely beat Lane at Uplift. The Panthers (0-2, 0-1) are trying to pick up their first win of the season after losing to an out-of-state opponent and No. 9 Uplift. Senior Rafael Cruz put up monster numbers last season as he's the player to watch for Von Steuben. Taft opened its Red-North slate at home against Lincoln Park as they're facing two tough opponents right out of the gate at home. They'll try to capitalize on those early conference home games with a win here.