Scary thought: Orr can get better

Scary thought: Orr can get better
March 14, 2013, 9:45 am
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Orr's basketball program doesn't trigger instant recognition that has been afforded Simeon, Whitney Young, Morgan Park, Marshall, Crane, Carver, Hirsch, Phillips, Du Sable, Westinghouse and other Public League teams. A lot of people don't even know where the school is located.

But Orr is on the map, thanks to coach Louis Adams' 2012-13 team that will meet Cahokia in the Class 3A semifinals on Friday in Peoria. It is Orr's first trip to the state finals and Adams has a message for one and all: "We haven't played our best basketball yet."

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That's a scary thought. Orr has played the entire season without arguably its best player, Marquise Pryor, who was declared ineligible after being charged with gun possession and spending several weeks in jail. How much better can the Spartans get?

"I don't know if this is as good as we can get," Adams said. "That's the scary part. We have been winning but we haven't played Spartan basketball yet. Our defense will pick up. We're not firing on all cylinders. We have good perimeter players. But we haven't put it all together yet. We're missing some things...some offensive assignments and picks. We're not getting to our spots on defense. We're not closing out well."

Adams had to think his brand of Spartan basketball was good enough on Tuesday night as Orr (28-3) ousted North Chicago, last year's state runner-up, by a 63-49 margin in the supersectional at Hoffman Estates.

Tyquone Greer paced the Spartans with 16 points and seven rebounds while Marlon Jones had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Orr's backcourt also was very effective. Louis Adams Jr. netted 12 points and Jamal McDowell had 12 points, 11 assists and three steals.

Orr, located at 730 N. Pulaski on Chicago's West Side, is making its first appearance in the state finals. Three years ago, the Spartans lost in the sectional. Last year, they lost in the regional to Wheaton St. Francis, an Elite Eight qualifier this year.

They made a statement last month by beating Whitney Young in a Red-West engagement. But they lost to the Dolphins in the Public League playoff. But Adams thinks his club has an edge for the Class 3A finals.

He is 6-foot-8 junior Marlon Jones, a transfer from Crane. A Division I prospect, Adams predicts Jones will rank among the top 10 players in the state in the class of 2014. And he will have a chance to showcase his skills and his potential on the big stage in Peoria this weekend.

"He is our edge. He will be a difference-maker," Adams said. "His size makes a difference. He had problems at first getting used to our system. Now he has bought into it. We keep him down low. He is a double-double player every night in the playoffs. He just had to get his mind together. He gives us length, a shot-blocker, a good jump shot. He gives us a threat down low. We're a lot bigger with him."

Jones is surrounded by 6-foot-7 junior Tyquone Greer, another Division I prospect who is an All-Chicago Area selection, 5-foot-10 senior point guard Jamal McDowell, 6-foot-3 junior Louis Adams Jr., the coach's son, and 5-foot-11 senior Brandon Clemons, a transfer from Simeon.

"This is the best team I've had," said Adams, in his fifth year at Orr. "We are good enough to win state if we do the thins we are supposed to do and stay disciplined."

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Adams believes Greer is one of the top five players in the state in his class and McDowell/Clemons are vastly underrated as one of the best backcourt combinations in the state. Greer already has at least nine scholarship offers, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Marquette, Florida State, DePaul, Baylor and Bradley.

"We are working together and believing in each other," Greer said. "As the coach says: 'Trust in each other.' We can only beat ourselves."

Greer was committed to enroll at St. Patrick as a football player. His dream was to play football at Ohio State. But after playing football as a freshman, he quit to concentrate on basketball. After meeting coach Adams at an all-star game, he decided to transfer to Orr as a sophomore.

"We truly believe as of now neither Greer nor Jones have any idea how good they can ultimately become," said recruiting analyst Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye. "Given their tremendous upsides and the enormous potential that each player has, once they understand the importance of playing hard on every possession it could prove to be scary."

Meanwhile, coach Adams looked ahead to his first trip to the state finals. "Greer is playing well. McDowell is steady. So is Clemons. These guys don't want to lose right now. We finally got over the hump. Our guards will get us by. We anticipated being here," he said.