Its official.Simeon basketball standout Jabari Parker, theNo. 2 ranked player in the nation, has decided to play basketball forMike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils next year.While Michigan State had long been considered a frontrunner Tom Izzo has been recruiting Parker the longest of any school Duke representedthe "best fit" for Parker, given his skillset, ability, personality and the BlueDevils' style of play. Parker chose Duke over Michigan State,Florida, BYU and Stanford.The high school senior said that the quality of education hewould receive in the classroom was just as important as the quality ofcompetition he would face on the basketball court.At Duke, hell receive both.Its been a blessing just to get an opportunity to be ableto go to school for free. Its a good thing for me as well as my family to beable to save them a couple of dollars in their pocket, said Parker during hisThursday afternoon press conference to announce his college decision.MORE: National recruiting expert Eric Bossi breaks down Parker's decisionParker said he was undecided up until the early afternoon onThursday when he finally made his decision. Despite the entire basketball worldwaiting on pins and needles to see which college he would be attending next fall,the Simeon senior wanted it to be just like any other day.Today, I was just focused on class and let everything elsehandle itself. I probably got my answer at 1 o'clock this afternoon. Everythingcame together and I was confident. You just feel that emotion in your heartthat tells you its time to decide and my heart gave me the right decision.What brought me to the decision was, of course, thehistory. Duke is always going to be a team in the tournament. You cant gowrong at that program. Also, most importantly, was the long-term investment. Ifeel like if I go there I can get a good degree.Parker said that ultimately his decision came down to the Blue Devils, the Spartans and the Florida Gators. Long known for his thoughtfulness andtendency to think of others before himself, Parker gave some insight into whyone of the schools didnt make the cut and his reasoning was something youdont often hear from elite athletes.Branden Dawson is the main reason why I didnt pickMichigan State today, remarked Parker. I dont want to mess up his thing his groove. Hes been there two years so me coming in there would be kind ofdisrespectful to him and the program. I just want Branden to do well. Hes alocal kid, from the area Gary, Ind. and me coming in at the last minutewould kind of ruin everything.Parker is the third top 100 recruit that Coach K has hassigned thus far, but hes also one of the best. He now joins a recruiting classfeaturing guard Matt Jones of DeSoto High in Texas (who beat Simeon last weekin a nationally televised contest) who is ranked No. 36nationally,and Semi Ojeleye of Ottawa High in Kansas who is ranked No. 42in thenation.Surprisingly enough, Parker said that out of all the college visits hetook, his trip to Duke was the one he least enjoyed.RELATED: Newspaper has its 'Dewey defeats Truman' momentTo tell you the truth, that was probably the worst on-campusvisit that I had, said Jabari of his trip to the Duke University campus inDurham, N.C. I didnt do what I wanted to do, and thats be a kid have fun.But I know that being in college is all business and thats what they wanted toshow me. I didnt have a good time, but they wanted to tell me and prepare meand give me a little taste of how its going to be in college.When asked howKrzyzewskiresponded to the phone call he madeon Thursday afternoon letting him know that he was coming to Duke, he said thecoach handled it with his typical cool demeanor.Coach K just said congratulations. He didnt sound like itover the phone but I know he was pretty excited in his mind even though Dukelands players like me all the time.
The truth will reveal itself beginning Saturday at 11 a.m. in Chicago, but the Lincoln-Way East Griffins may finally be hitting their stride just in time for the postseason.
A team of 115 players from two high schools assembled on the fly in January said all the right things over the summer, that team chemistry was flourishing and that the common bond of football had naturally brought them together following the closing of nearby Lincoln-Way North High School.
The reality was the unique transition was going to take time. Calling out blocking assignments, throwing routes, and calling out defensive assignments to teammates who you didn’t know existed six months earlier didn’t happen overnight, and no amount of time spent in the film room or on the practice field could have simulated what it would be like under the Friday night lights. For the more than 50 North transfers, learning an entirely new scheme as well as the tendencies and tempers of a new coaching staff provided their own challenges.
Throw in the fact that all eyes were going to be on the Griffins this year – both because they were chosen as CSN’s Drive team and because they were expected to be among the state title contenders in 8A – and that learning process was only expedited further.
Head coach Rob Zvonar was honest in his assessment of his team following their impressive 28-0 victory over Lockport, admitting that he wasn’t sure if his group was ready for the postseason. It certainly wasn’t an indictment on his team, nor was it a coach being uncertain about his team’s potential.
“I don’t know if we’re ready, to tell you the truth,” he said. “But I know this team can still do more than we’ve done. And I truly believe we haven’t had our best out here, and the challenge for us is to get our best out next week.”
The Griffins accomplished plenty in nine weeks. A deep offense with three threats at running back and four versatile receivers averaged nearly 40 points per game behind Jake Arthur, with dual threat Max Shafer spelling him when he wasn’t running routes. A defense found its identity behind a scary-good defensive line and playmakers in the secondary.
Their low points were a double-edged sword. The two losses they suffered in the regular season came at the hands of Homewood-Flossmoor and Bradley-Bourbonnais, two teams that finished the year with perfect records; the 8A Vikings are the most dangerous No. 4 seed in the state, and the Boilermakers are the top seed in 7A.
The other side of that reality is those were the Griffins’ only real tests in the regular season. Their seven wins came against teams that finished the regular season a combined 27-29. Then again, Zvonar’s group can only play the teams on their schedule. And they more than took care of business against those teams, as they were expected to do, outscoring their opponents in seven wins 308-62, or an average score of 44-9.
But the majority of those teams will be on their couches this weekend. And while Illinois’ largest playoff class is never an easy one, Class 8A will be an absolute nightmare to get through for whichever team eventually hoists the trophy Thanksgiving weekend in Champaign. On last Saturday’s Playoff Pairing Show on CSN, preps analyst Dave Bernhard said the 8A bracket “may be the most powerful class we have ever seen.”
Seven teams finished with undefeated records, while 10 others went 8-1. That slotted the 7-2 Griffins, ranked by Edgy Tim as the No. 13 team in the state, as the No. 18 seed in the 8A bracket.
A whopping 17 of Edgy Tim O’Hallaran’s top 25 teams in this week’s preps rankings are in the 8A field, including the entire top five and 13 of the top 16. The Griffins found a little bit of luck on their side of the bracket thanks to the seeding procedure, as No. 1 Loyola, No. 2 Homewood-Flossmoor and No. 3 Brother Rice are all on the other side of the bracket. Still, a likely path to Champaign would pit the Griffins against the likes of No. 5 Hinsdale Central, No. 18 Barrington and No. 4 Palatine.
“Wherever we go we’ll have to be at our best or we’ll be talking about turning in our pads,” Zvonar admitted of what he called a “juggernaut” of an 8A field.
So why are the Griffins ready for the postseason and ready to make a run at their second state title?
The Week 9 trashing of Lockport was a good start. But earlier in the week the team held a players-only meeting to get back on track and get back to the fundamentals that made them the top-seeded team in the state when the season began.
“We regrouped,” junior defensive lineman Devin O’Rourke said. “We had a great team meeting, and now I feel like everyone is really buying in to what we’re doing here. I think that’s great.”
The team also made a vow to each other, that Friday’s senior night against Lockport wouldn’t be their final home game of the year. They’ll need to beat a talented Taft team to return home in the second round of the playoffs, but the fight they’ve shown in both overcoming adversity and responding to early-season deficits has them in the right frame of mind as they begin their second season.
“(We’re ready for the postseason) because we’re fighters,” quarterback Jake Arthur said. “We’re going to fight every down, every play for the rest of the year. We know we’re not going to make it our last game until Champaign.”
CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school football games across Chicagoland on the Week 10 edition of High School Lites, coming your way Saturday night at 11 p.m. after Cubs Postseason Live. Can Maine South beat West Aurora in this terrific Class 8A opening game? Can Lyons Township upset Naperville North on CSN Friday night in Naperville? Who wins the unofficial Tyson LeBlanc Bowl when Curie takes on Oswego East? And can the T.F. South Rebels extend the coaching career of retiring head coach Tom Padjen with a win over Rock Island?
No. 19 Lyons Township (7-2) at No. 14 Naperville North (8-1) Friday 7 p.m.
Live broadcast on CSN, plus a live stream available on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app.
EDGY's Take: Lyons Township features one of the top junior quarterbacks in the state in Ben Bryant and the Lions also have plenty of skills. Naperville North and head coach Sean Drendell will unleash its Thunder and Lightning backfield in senior RB Cross Robinson and senior RB Eric Wright and the Huskies also have a very good senior led offensive line. Biggest matchup to watch here? The Naperville North offensive line versus a very good Lyons Township defensive line.
EDGY's Pick: Naperville North 28, Lyons Township 21
No. 23 Leyden (7-2) at No. 10 Barrington (8-1) Friday 7 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Leyden and head coach Tom Cerasani are back in the state playoff field for the first time since 2012. The Eagles will look toward standout athlete Jalen Moore (SIU) and a strong running game to center their attack. Barrington will also run the football. They’re led by a big, strong and physical offensive line and a speedy backfield with senior RB Logan Moews and senior QB Ray Niro. Can Leyden's defense contain the Broncos’ speedy backs? Can Barrington get a handle on Moore?
EDGY's Pick: Barrington 29, Leyden 13
No. 26 Maine South (6-3) at No. 7 West Aurora (9-0) Friday 7 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Maine South is never shy when it comes to having its spread offense scoring points in bunches. Keep an eye out for senior QB Nick Leongas along with junior RB Fotis Kokosioulis. It also features a solid offensive line led by senior four star-ranked OL Kevin Jarvis (Michigan State). Coach Nate Eimer’s West Aurora Blackhawks feature speed on both sides of the ball. You'll be impressed with the Cross twins: senior RB/DB DaQuan Cross and senior RB/DB DaVion Cross. Can the Blackhawks defense slow down Maine South? Can the Maine South defense avoid allowing the Warriors from breaking open big plays?
EDGY's Pick: Maine South 36, West Aurora 34
No. 17 Curie (8-1) at No. 16 Oswego East (8-1) Saturday 1 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc coached at Curie from 2007-11 and guided the Condors to the state playoffs in all five seasons. This season, Curie is led by head coach Jay McDonagh. Keep an eye out for senior RB/LB Anthony Watson. Oswego East can score points in a hurry with senior RB Ivory Kelly-Martin (Iowa). They also boast a solid defense, featuring senior DE Elijah James (Central Michigan). Can Curie win away from the city of Chicago? Can Oswego East handle the physicality from the Condors?
EDGY's Pick: Oswego East 24, Curie 19
No. 18 Lincoln-Way East (7-2) vs. No. 15 Taft (8-1) at Lane Stadium Saturday 11 a.m.
EDGY's Take: Lincoln-Way East will hit the road in the opening round, heading to the North Side to take on Taft, which won the Chicago Public League’s Big Shoulders conference. East is led by senior QB Jake Arthur, senior RB Nigel Muhammed and a roster of well over 100 players. Taft is led by QB Abdullah Ahmad. Also, keep an eye on senior OL/DL Adam Gago for the Eagles. Can Taft go toe to toe with Lincoln-Way East for four quarters?
EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way East 37, Taft 13
No. 24 Carmel (5-4) at No. 9 St. Charles North (8-1) Saturday 1 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Carmel and veteran head coach Andy Bitto has had an up-and-down season. But when the Corsairs’ option attack is clicking — led by senior QB Jeremy Strutzel and junior WB/S Zaire Barnes — look out. St. Charles North's only loss came back in Week 4 to rival St. Charles East. Can the North’s defense find the football against Carmel’s option game? Can the Corsairs defense slow down a North Stars offense led by senior QB Zach Mettetal and senior WR Griffin Hammer (Colorado State)?
EDGY's Pick: St. Charles North 28, Carmel 24
No. 21 McHenry (6-3) at No. 12 Batavia (7-2) Saturday 1:30 p.m.
EDGY's Take: McHenry is back in the state playoff field for the first time since 2007. The Warriors and first year head coach Nat Zunkle feature a passing attack led by QB Colton Klein. The defense is led by senior LB Colton Folliard. As for coach Dennis Piroon’s Batavia Bulldogs, it’s all about getting the running game in gear. Junior RB Reggie Phillips will run behind a big and physical offensive line led by senior OT Evan Day (Illinois State). Can McHenry slow down the Batavia running game? Can the Batavia defense rebound from a rough Week 9 performance and raise its game another level against McHenry?
EDGY's Pick: Batavia 27, McHenry 21
No. 11 Rock Island (7-2) at No. 6 Thornton Fractional South (7-2) Friday 7 p.m.
EDGY's Take: T.F. South veteran head coach Tom Padjen announced earlier this week that this will be his last season leading the Rebels football program, wrapping up his 40-year coaching career. The Rebels will look to extend Padjen’s final season — and they’re led by the coach’s nephew, senior QB Reis Padjen, along with senior WR Bron Hill and a very quick defense. Rock Island is led by former Lake Zurich head coach Bryan Stortz and the Rocks rely on senior QB Alek Jacobs. He has thrown for nearly 4,000 career passing yards and his main target is WR Jacob Ellis (6-foot-7, 215 pounds). So which defense can slow down the other team's passing game?
EDGY's Pick: TF South 31, Rock Island 28
No. 10 Metamora (6-3) at No. 7 Kankakee (6-3) Saturday 2 p.m.
EDGY's Take: Both Metamora and Kankakee want to run the football and both can play strong defense. Hall of Fame head coach Pat Ryan has led the visiting Redbirds to 23 state playoff appearances. Their playmakers include RBs Jon Brunton and Ethan Hodel, while sophomore QB Thomas Hall is more than capable in the play-action passing game. Kankakee is back in the state playoff for the first time since 2009. The Kays and head coach Omar Grant will give the football to RB DeAndre Caldwell early and often. Can Metamora win on the road and avoid the turnover monster that's followed them quite a bit this season? Can the Kays win time of possession and also break open a big special teams score or two?
EDGY's Pick: Kankakee 28, Metamora 21