Simeon prospects attracting college coaches


Simeon prospects attracting college coaches

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.

Kendrick Nunn, 6-foot-2 junior: Nunn, who committed early to Texas A&M, demonstrated his big-time athleticism early in the session with a powerful thrown-down over one of his teammates on the fast break. More of a combo guard than a pure point, the top-50 junior is an explosive scorer with the ability to score from deep, hit shots off the bounce and capitalize on crafty drives. The lefty is also a solid decision-maker and willing passer, enabling him to play either backcourt position.

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.

Aggrey Sam is's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.