High school hoops: South side vs. West side

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High school hoops: South side vs. West side

A documentarian came to see me the other day. He is doing a study on high school basketball in Chicago, specifically the heated competition between the West Side and the South Side, and he wanted to get my impressions dating back to the 1950s and 1960s.

The subject raises several questions about how the game was played and who played it, how the game has changed in the city over the last 60 years, before the demographics changed, before blacks began to immigrate from the south to Chicago in the 1950s.

Prior to 1953, when Al Willis, then the executive secretary of the Illinois High School Association, desegregated the state basketball tournament, the Chicago Public League was rarely represented. Most of the star players in the city were white. There was one significant exception, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton of Du Sable.

In fact, there were so few opportunities for blacks in the 1920s and 1930s that some of the elite players opted to compete on semipro or traveling teams. One of them eventually evolved into the Harlem Globetrotters.

Until Willis forever changed the complexion of the state's signature event, the all-black schools in southern Illinois had formed their own conference and conducted their own state tournament. The championship game was played between the IHSA's semifinals and finals on Saturday afternoon in Huff Gym. Hardly anyone noticed.

But all of that changed in 1953. The 1950s were a breakout decade for city schools. Du Sable finished second in the 1954 state tournament with three All-Stater players, Sweet Charlie Brown, Paxton Lumpkin and Shellie McMillon. The Public League also produced Abe Booker, Tommy Hawkins, Art Day, Mel Davis, Frank Burks and Bernie Mills. And Marshall, led by sophomore George Wilson, became the first all-black team to win the state title in
1958.

CraneMarshall was the most exciting rivalry on the West Side. On the South Side, it was DunbarDu Sable. Carver, which was a state runner-up in 1962 with Cazzie Russell and won a state title in 1963, also emerged as a power.

In later years, Westinghouse, Collins, Farragut, Whitney Young and Manley emerged as powers on the West Side. Westinghouse featured Mark Aguirre and Eddie Johnson. Manley, led by 6-foot-10 Russell Cross, won a state title in 1980. Whitney Young, behind Quentin Richardson, won a state title in 1998.

On the South Side, Hirsch, Phillips and Morgan Park won state titles in the 1970s. Harlan won three city titles. CVS also was a factor. SimeonKing dominated the 1980s and King extended its mastery into the 1990s while Simeon has been the state's premier program over the last 10 years.

There were great players, to be sure, but they were molded by great coaches who were able to blend talent and egos and create winning teams. Tony Maffia, Eddie O'Farrell and Bill Postl got the ball rolling in the 1940s. Jim Brown and Spin Salario followed in the 1950s.

Larry Hawkins came along in the 1960s and Herb Brown, Lee Umbles, Wardell Vaughn, Harvey Hartenstein, Charles Stimpson, Willie Little, Jim Foreman, Frank Lollino and Bill Warden made their mark in the 1970s.

The 1980s were dominated by Bob Hambric and Landon Cox, who turned the SimeonKing rivalry on the South Side into a high school version of LakersCeltics. Roy Condotti and Luther Bedford did the same for WestinghouseMarshall on the West Side.

Today, Simeon's Robert Smith, who played and coached under Hambric, has turned the Public League into his own private fiefdom. The Wolverines, with Derrick Rose and now Jabari Parker, have won four state championships in the last six years and are heavily favored to win again this season.

What happened to King? It was converted into one of eight selective enrollment schools in the CPS, which means its 900 students must apply for acceptance based on academic achievement and test scores. It no longer is a basketball power.

The same thing happened to Westinghouse, which was converted into a selective college preparatory school with a college to careers program. Like King, it no longer is a basketball power.

On the West Side, Whitney Young has emerged as the pre-eminent program under former coaches George Stanton and Lamont Bryant and current coach Tyrone Slaughter. Stanton produced a state champion in 1998, Slaughter in 2009.

Young is a highly selective public school that opened in 1975 as the city's first public magnet high school. Admission is based on an entrance exam and elementary school grades and is open to all residents of Chicago. Each year, 10,000 apply for 450 freshman openings.

Marshall and Crane, two of the oldest and most storied programs in the city, are seeking to restore their old glory under coaches Henry Cotton and Chris Head, who won a state title at Westinghouse in 2002.

In fact, until Simeon's recent domination, Westinghouse enjoyed the most success of any Public League program until its reconstitution. From 1992 to 2005, Westinghouse won seven city titles.

While Simeon and Whitney Young have emerged as the city's strongest programs in recent years, they haven't become a rivalry a la MarshallCrane and SimeonKing or even KingWestinghouse.

From 1984 to 1990, King won four city titles, Simeon three. From 1955 to 1982, Marshall won four city titles, Crane three. In the 1980s, King beat Simeon twice and lost once. In the 1990s, King beat Westinghouse twice and lost once.

It isn't like it was for many reasons. In the old days, kids shoveled snow off the playgrounds to play at Gladstone, Murray Park, Davis Park, Meyerling, Beasley, LeClaire, South Park, Garfield Park and Altgeld Gardens. Today, they play on AAU teams that travel from coast to coast and are subsidized and sponsored by shoe companies.

"Teams in Illinois aren't half as good as they used to be...not the players, either," said veteran girls coach Derril Kipp of Maine West, who has won more than 600 games and a state championship in 1988.

"There isn't as much interest in basketball as before. There are too many other things for kids to do. For many of them, it is too much hard work. Schools aren't pushing basketball as they once did. There aren't as many good players or teams as before. It isn't as competitive."

Prairie Ridge OL Jeff Jenkins commits to Iowa

Prairie Ridge OL Jeff Jenkins commits to Iowa

Prairie Ridge junior offensive linemen recruit Jeff Jenkins (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) made an unofficial Sunday Junior Day visit to the University of Iowa and came away verbally committed to the Hawkeyes.

"I didn't want to wait," Jenkins said. "I knew I wanted to be a Hawkeye when I met the coaches at Iowa and got on campus."

Jenkins, an All-State linemen for the 2016 Class 6A state champion Wolves, received a scholarship offer from Iowa back on Jan. 13. He pointed towards the Hawkeyes history of developing NFL caliber offensive linemen as one of several keys in his early decision.

"Iowa has a great tradition of offensive linemen," Jenkins said. "I was also just really impressed with the coaches at Iowa along with the facilities and everything that they have to offer. I just knew that I couldn't pass up the opportunity at Iowa. I knew it was home."

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

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USA TODAY

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

It's not something that's been said often over the decades, but Northwestern is one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

That's the story the standings tell, and with another week of the 2016-17 season in the books, the Wildcats sit at 5-2 in conference play, good for the second-best mark in the league.

That fifth conference win came Sunday afternoon with a 74-72 defeat of Ohio State. It was the first time Northwestern won in Columbus since 1977.

This is the first 5-2 start to Big Ten play for the Cats since 1968. So is this the first time ever the Cats get an invite to the NCAA tournament?

Of course that remains to be seen, but Chris Collins' squad sure seems to be setting itself up for inclusion in the field of 68. Sunday's win was just the latest to come away from Evanston, and in seven conference games, four of the team's five wins have come in road games, including three straight at Nebraska, Rutgers and Ohio State.

Northwestern had to find a way to win Sunday. A couple surges in the first half took the Cats from modest deficits to a lead that grew as big as eight. The halftime advantage was five, but that slipped away quickly as Northwestern shot poorly after halftime. Ice cold is a better descriptor, the Cats struggling to get their field-goal percentage above 30 percent over the final 20 minutes. It got there eventually, the team finishing shooting 32.3 percent in the second half, but it was the work from the free-throw line that made the win possible. Over the final 20 minutes, Northwestern was 14-for-16 from the charity stripe, including going 11-for-12 over the final minute and a half.

The key stretch came when a Scottie Lindsey 3-ball broke a 56-all tie with four and a half minutes to play. Ohio State countered with a bucket, but freshman point guard Isiah Brown turned in back-to-back scores of his own, the second a breakaway layup off a steal. That made it a five-point lead, and though the gap shrunk over the game's final three minutes, Northwestern's free-throw shooting allowed the Cats to hold that lead the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot themselves in the foot at the free-throw line. They were 12-for-23 on the game, and all but one of the attempts came in the second half, making for 10 missed free throws over the game's final 20 minutes. Northwestern committed a lot of fouls, but Ohio State couldn't capitalize, something that has to be quite painful for the Buckeyes, considering they had edges in other statistical categories. They shot 45.6 percent from the field compared to the Cats shooting 37.5 percent. Ohio State also had 16 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint. But Northwestern had 17 points off 13 Ohio State turnovers.

Lindsey finished with a game-high 21 points and has scored in double figures in every game this season. Bryant McIntosh had 17 points, and Vic Law had 10. Jae'Sean Tate scored 14 points for Ohio State, with JaQuan Lyle adding 13, Trevor Thompson scoring 11 and Cam Williams putting in 10.

The win was Northwestern's fourth straight and boosted its overall record to 16-4 to go along with the 5-2 mark in the conference. The Cats next play Nebraska on Thursday.

The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for Ohio State and dropped the Buckeyes' record to 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten. They next play Minnesota on Wednesday.