At the Proviso West Holiday Tournament a few weeks ago, I was standing with Bogan head coach Arthur Goodwin following the Bengals' easy win over Hillcrest when he felt the need to further promote just how good Bogan really was.
The Bengals had already beat Morgan Park on the road and were a favorite at Proviso West, but Goodwin still felt it necessary to let everyone know that he and his team felt slighted by the local media.
"We don't get any respect in the rankings from the local media," Goodwin said. "We were out there beating these top teams in summer leagues and tournaments, and nobody took notice."
To be fair, both CSN (11) and the Sun-Times (12) ranked Bogan in the top dozen teams in the area in the preseason, but maybe knowing how good his team and junior guard LuWane Pipkins looked heading into the year, Goodwin had every right to believe his Bogan team should be inside the top 10.
And the 5-foot-10 Pipkins is a big reason why.
Playing with a team of mostly juniors and underclassmen, Pipkins, a junior, is a major part of Bogan's 17-2 start and 5-0 start in the Red-South.
While the preseason was spent discussing Red-South favorites Class 4A champion Simeon and Class 3A champion Morgan Park, Bogan quietly waited in the wings and got better and continued to play hard.
Now the Bengals have taken road wins at both Simeon and Morgan Park and swept the Mustangs in Red-South play. Though Morgan Park beat Bogan in the semifinals at Proviso West, the Bengals still had a positive overall showing, knocking off a very good St. Joseph team for third place while also besting Providence-St. Mel, Hillcrest and Glenbrook North.
And Pipkins has been playing like a major Player of the Year candidate throughout.
While Pipkins didn't make the first edition of the Preps Player of the Years Power Rankings last week, with his play this week — and the way the Bengals beat No. 5 Simeon and No. 7 Morgan Park in the same week — he's now squarely in the conversation.
In recent games, he put up 40 against T.F. South on Sunday, 33 points in a win over Simeon and a team-high 20 points in the win over Morgan Park. A versatile two-way guard that can score or defend, the junior also has incredibly quick hands on the defensive end and is a tenacious on-the-ball defender.
But Pipkins' leadership of this Bogan team is also strong. The floor general described the Bengals as a "grimey team" to me at Proviso West, and the young Bengals really take after their leader with how hard they play.
With the way Pipkins and Bogan playing, they are one of the favorites for the city championship and a state championship in Class 3A.