While Derrick Rose was christening his renovated neighborhood Tuesday, the league MVP's alma mater, Simeon Career Academy, was bustling. School was already over for the day, but the parking lot was filled, as college basketball coaches and other observers packed the high school's auxiliary gym to watch an open gym.
Unlike the Wolverines' first open gym this fall, no limousines pulled up 81st Street and Vincennes Avenue, but the likes of DePaul's Oliver Purnell and Washington's Lorenzo Romar were on hand to evaluate the two-time defending state champion's prospects. And although Rose had prior obligations, another former Simeon star with an NBA resume stopped by, as alumni Bobby Simmons caught a glimpse of the young talent.
Expected to be a top-10 nationally-ranked team heading into the high school season, even the non-varsity players and reserves at Simeon can play and would have a chance to be impact players for the average high school basketball program. But the school that produced Rose, Simmons, the late Ben Wilson and other Chicago schoolboy stars isn't the average program.
It should be noted that incumbent starting point guard Jelani Neely, a 5-foot-11 senior, sat out as he continues to recover from offseason ACL surgery. Neely, a heady type with playmaking ability, projects as mid-major Division I prospect.
Also, while they likely won't see significant varsity minutes, two of Simeon's freshmen stood out. Brandon Hutton, a hard-nosed forward with slashing ability and defensive prowess, has skills that translate to him being a big contributor throughout his prep career, while Dennis "D.J." Williams, a lanky wing, has considerable upside and the tools to one day develop into a star.
That said, here are quick evaluations of five of the most impressive players from Tuesday's session.
Jabari Parker, 6-foot-8 junior: Regarded by some as the nation's top overall prospect, Parker showed why, as his all-around game looks poised to reach another level. Easygoing off the court, his intensity was noticeable as he played all-out throughout the session and quietly encouraged his teammates. As Romar, his father Sonny's former NBA teammate watched, he dominated with his play, showing more explosiveness athletically on powerful dunks in both transition and half-court, using finesse on drives through traffic, showcasing a polished post-up game, consistently hitting both shots from behind the three-point arc and stop-and-pop jumpers, rebounding the ball at a high level on both ends, setting up for his teammates for scoring opportunities and digging in defensively.
Steve Taylor, 6-foot-8 senior: It's evident the Marquette commit has continued to develop and get stronger, as his back-to-the-basket game, powerful finishes and rebounding all looked much improved. Additionally, his ball handling has become more fluid, complementing his already potent shooting range, which means he'll have a chance to play both forward positions at the next level, if he can stay in front of quicker wing players. The assertiveness and leadership Taylor showed were good signs for the state's lone top-100 recruit nationally, who also looked bouncier athletically.
Jaylon Tate, 6-foot-2 junior: A transfer from Catholic power De La Salle, it's apparent that the top-100 national prospect is adjusting from a more rigid half-court system, as he plays very unselfishly, makes pinpoint passes and seems to understand the concept of ball movement and spacing, lost arts among many young players. His playmaking ability should benefit Simeon, as he'll have plenty of distribution options. Tate is also a strong on-ball defender, possesses good size for his position, finishes well in transition and can knock down pull-up jumpers.
Kendall Pollard, 6-foot-5 junior: Due to the star power of some of his teammates, Pollard flies under the radar a bit, but his defensive acumen, willingness to battle inside, overall hustle, finishing ability and improving perimeter skills bode well for his future. Already a mid-major prospect at the present, Pollard is in the process of transitioning from an undersized interior player into a versatile wing with excellent toughness. His eye-catching blocked shots in transition garnered the attention of the entire gym.