Will Williams choose to stay at Bloom?

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Will Williams choose to stay at Bloom?

This is Jasper Williams' 10th year as head basketball coach at Bloom in Chicago Heights. And it could be his last...unless someone or something comes along to persuade him to remain on the job.

"I'm retiring from teaching after 35 years. This is it," Williams said. "I probably won't coach next year. I just want to do other things, spend time with my family, do some traveling. If the administration asks me to stick around, I might consider another year or two."

Williams is a 1972 graduate of Parker (now Robeson), where he played with Bo Ellis and Steve Washington. He joined Bob Sullivan's staff at Thornridge in 1982, then served as Mike Flaherty's assistant for 20 years before moving to Bloom.

Last year, his 28-5 team finished fourth in Class 4A. This year's team might be better. And next year? Williams describes 6-foot-3 junior Jared Johnson as "the next great player at Bloom."

That might be enough to persuade Williams to stick around for a year or two.

The Blazing Trojans, led by 6-foot-4 senior Johnny Griffin and 6-foot senior Dejahown Freeman, are 13-3 going into Friday night's game against Kankakee.

Last Friday, they crushed highly regarded Crete-Monee 61-45 in a game that Williams said "will show us how good we are." Griffin scored 22 points and 6-foot-3 senior Nhyree Mitchell had 12. "For four quarters, this was our best game. We just need to keep building on this," the coach said.

On Tuesday, they dismantled Joliet Central 55-34 as Zerrell Jackson had 11 points and four steals, James Coleman had 10 points and five rebounds and Griffin had eight points and nine rebounds.

"This team has the potential to be as good or better than last year," Williams said. "We only have one starter back but four kids saw quality playing time. If we come together and accept our roles. We could do well like last year. We had no ego problems last year. We haven't got to that point yet this season but I see improvement.

"I expected us to be further along this year at this point. The strength of this team is we defend well and we have the potential to be an exceptional rebounding team with no one taller than 6-foot-5. This team has more guys who can score quality points. Last year, only three guys scored."

Last year's powerhouse was led by Donald Moore and Lejavius Johnson, who combined for 25 points per game. This year's squad features Griffin (12 ppg, 9 rpg), Freeman (14 ppg), Mitchell (7 ppg), 5-foot-10 junior point guard Zerrell Jackson (7 ppg, 5 assists) and 6-foot-3 junior center James Coleman (5 ppg, 5 rpg). Johnson (5 ppg) and 6-foot-3 senior Jateryn Dejareaux come off the bench.

"Freeman should have more assists and Jackson must be better on defense," Williams said. "I knew they would be Johnson and Moore offensively but I thought they'd be better on defense."

At tradition-rich Bloom, there is always someone waiting to step up. Job security always is at stake. Freeman backed up Moore and Johnson last year Dejareaux was the starting center a year go but struggled early this season and Coleman took his spot.

"At Bloom, we like to keep underclassmen in the starting lineup to build for next year," Williams said.

Griffin knows all about the tradition. "What I think about is the earlier teams and how good they used to be, the great players they used to have and the conference and Thornton," he said.

As the leader of this year's team, he thinks last year's experience will be a big plus as they prepare to make a return trip to Peoria.

"Last year, everybody had a role on the team and knew what it was," Griffin said. "We jelled, had good chemistry and started 13-0. Everyone knew who the scorers were and who to get the ball to at the end of a game. And the main thing was to play defense.

"It was a good experience at Peoria. Now we know what it takes to get back down there. I'm the leader this year and I have to push my teammates.

"We know our roles now. It took this team some time to find them out. But in the second half of the season, we know what is expected of everyone."

Bloom has some advantages that give Griffin & Co. an edge over most opponents. "We have the most athletic team in the suburbs and one of the best rebounding teams in the suburbs. Everyone is over 6-foot tall and everyone plays hard and defends," Griffin said.

The leadership role isn't new to Griffin. A year ago, he was the team captain. But he said he was ready to handle it when Williams approached him with the important assignment which is usually given to a point guard.

"As the leader, I have to be the finisher. I have to be aggressive and rebound on both ends of the court," he said. "I have to keep my teammates going and be an example for the team by working hard every day."

High School Lites Week 8 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 8 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. This week's show has a lot of action between ranked teams as we have some important conference matchups on High School Lites. I'll be between two games this week with a solid rematch in the Mid-Suburban West between No. 20 Conant and No. 10 Fremd while No. 9 Marist heads to No. 24 Benet for a good game in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. We'll also have highlights from the Red-South, Central Suburban South, SouthWest Suburban Red, South Suburban Blue and Kishwaukee River. Our's Viewer's Choice Game of the Week heads to the Catholic League South as No. 23 Brother Rice heads to Bishop McNamara. And this week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is Fremd senior Grace Tworek as the Harvard commit is coming off of a career-high 29-point performance last week.

THURSDAY

No. 1 Simeon at Bogan, 5:00 p.m. -- The Wolverines (17-0, 7-0) are already coming off of two wins this week over Fenwick and Harlan as the starters rested over Harlan in that win. The Bengals (12-6, 4-3) remain a dangerous team as they've played better ball since Jerome Bynum became eligible. 

FRIDAY

No. 20 Conant at No. 10 Fremd, 6:00 p.m. -- A big rematch in the Mid-Suburban West that saw Fremd win on the road earlier this season. The Vikings (16-0, 5-0) have one of the best defenses in the area as Ryan Martin did a great job defending Jimmy Sotos from Conant in the last matchup. The Cougars (15-3, 4-1) are trying to bounce back after a loss to Prospect as they're hoping to tie the MSL West race.

No. 9 Marist at No. 24 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The East Suburban Catholic Conference remains one of the toughest conferences in the Chicagoland area as this one should be good. Marist (19-1, 3-0) had their unbeaten streak broken on Tuesday against Brother Rice but senior big man Justin Brown had a huge game and should be a factor. Benet (14-5, 2-1) is trying to stay in the ESCC picture as seniors Jack Nolan and Liam Lyman are both playing good ball.

No. 16 Thornton at Thornwood, 6:30 p.m. -- The SouthWest Suburban Blue rivalry game should be a good one. Thornton (12-4, 4-0) is led by senior Alonzo Verge as he's putting together some big performances this season. Thornwood (7-8, 1-2) is trying to stay in the conference race at this point as they're coming off a loss to T.F. North.

Hillcrest at T.F. South, 7:00 p.m. -- Two 7-0 teams clash in the South Suburban Blue in this one. Hillcrest (12-5, 7-0) is looking to climb back into the CSN Preps Power Rankings as they're still a big threat in Class 3A. T.F. South (10-7, 7-0) is the surprise team in the mix in the conference as both teams are tied with T.F. North in the standings.

Marengo at Burlington Central, 7:00 p.m. -- We make a trip to the Kishwaukee River as the top two teams in the conference clash. But this game comes with a twist: Marengo (14-4, 2-0) lost at Burlington Central (16-1, 2-0) on Monday in the championship game of the Rockets' annual event. This time, the game counts in the standings as Burlington Central stopped Marengo's seven-game winning streak earlier this week.

No. 2 Evanston at Niles North, 7:30 p.m. -- The Wildkits (14-2, 4-0) are still unbeaten against Illinois teams as they have one of their tougher Central Suburban South games on the road at Niles North. Senior Nojel Eastern has plenty of weapons around him this season as Evanston continues to look very balanced. The Vikings (12-7, 2-2) are coming off of a 1-1 Monday at the Lake Zurich tournament as they try to stay with the Wildkits in league play.

Viewer's Choice Game of the Week

No. 23 Brother Rice at Bishop McNamara, 7:15 p.m. -- Our Viewer's Choice Game of the Week goes to the Catholic League South as the red-hot Crusaders (16-3, 4-0) head to Bishop McNamara. Brother Rice earned a huge win over previously-unbeaten Marist  on Tuesday as Mike Shepski and Josh Niego continue to have strong seasons. McNamara (13-4, 3-1) is right there with Brother Rice and Leo in the Catholic South race as they try to make a move here.

AP Illinois girls basketball rankings: Week 8

AP Illinois girls basketball rankings: Week 8

Here are the girls prep basketball polls with rank, team, first-place votes, record, total points and previous rank.

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Montini (12) 21-0 120 1
2. Rock Island 22-1 96 2
3. Edwardsville 20-0 94 4
4. Homewood-Flossmoor 13-2 82 3
5. Benet 18-2 67 5
6. Rockford Boylan 19-1 48 6
7. Springfield 17-2 41 7
8. Hersey 18-2 33 8
9. Geneva 14-3 22 9
10. Oswego East 19-3 21 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Bradley-Bourbonnais 12, Evanston Township 11

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Chicago Marshall (7) 18-0 132 2
2. Morton (4) 19-2 123 1
3. Mattoon (1) 21-0 92 4
4. Highland (2) 16-3 87 3
5. Bethalto Civic Memorial 17-3 85 5
6. Richwoods 18-3 73 6
7. Rochester 14-3 56 8
8. Effingham 18-2 34 7
9. Normal University 16-3 32 NR
10. North Lawndale 14-3 13 10

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Litchfield 13, Peoria Central 8

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Byron (11) 19-2 127 1
2. Eureka (1) 19-2 105 2
3. Teutopolis 20-2 96 3
4. Sherrard 20-2 92 4
5. Camp Point Central 19-2 72 5
6. Kewanee 21-3 50 9
7. Hall 18-5 47 6
8. Sesser-Valier (1) 19-1 41 8
9. Hillsboro 18-4 35 7
10. Gilman Iroquois West 18-2 11 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Auburn 11, Arthur-Lovington-Hammond-Atwood 9, St. Edward 8

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Lebanon (12) 19-0 135 1
2. Winchester (2) 20-0 123 3
3. Ashton-Franklin Center 18-2 97 2
4. Colfax Ridgeview 19-2 87 5
5 Mount Olive 19-2 81 6
6. Okawville 16-4 58 7
7. Danville Schlarmann 13-5 40 8
8. Calhoun 13-4 34 4
9. Princeville 21-2 29 9
10. Heyworth 20-1 26 NR

Others receiving 12 or more votes: Annawan 21, Galena 15