At Monday's press conference for the second annual Chicago Elite Classic, the overall sense from the players and coaches involved was maintaining Chicago's title as the best basketball city in America.
"This idea, me and Coach Slaughter came up with is coming into its own," Simeon head coach Robert Smith said. "We travel the country to some of these events and we thought there was no better place to do it than Chicago. We don't think there's any better basketball than there is in Chicago."
The players and coaches from most of the seven Chicago representatives of the field of Saturday's shootout at UIC gathered at Lou Malnati's downtown on Monday afternoon to discuss the field and the press table was an impressive gathering of accomplished players and some of the most decorated coaches in recent state basketball history.
But even though there were many long-standing city rivalries at the table, for this week, the focus was on showcasing Chicago against the nation. The slate of games includes seven games beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday as a team from the Chicagoland area will square off against some of the best high school basketball talent from around the country in each contest.
[RANKINGS: IHSA Boys Basketball Top 25]
CSN Chicago's No. 1 team, Whitney Young, will debut on Saturday, as will the nation's No. 1 player, senior center Jahlil Okafor, and Okafor is looking forward to displaying Chicago's immense basketball talent.
"We always feel that in Chicago we have the best basketball in the country and we're eager to show that," Okafor said at the conference. "I'm hoping we win and these guys too. I think we're all supporting each other this weekend just to represent Chicago in the best way possible and shed some positive light on Chicago with showing the talent that we have and not always all of the negativity with the violence. So I'm just motivated and eager to play on Saturday and get this season kicked off."
Okafor and the Dolphins face stiff competition in St. John Bosco out of California as they feature Connecticut commit Daniel Hamilton, a 6-foot-8 senior, and top-10 national junior guard Tyler Dorsey.
When Whitney Young head coach Tyrone Slaughter co-created the Chicago Elite Classic with Smith, they envisioned a big-time national field like they had played in at other events their programs had been invited to over the years.
"This was something that we had talked about for about three years and we thought, 'Why not? Let's try to do it.' And we've reached out to some people and they've supported it and our vision has actually come to fruition," Slaughter said. "If you look at the field this year, at the top of the program, we have some of the best teams in our state.... We have 17 ESPN Top 100 players and that's an incredible feat to do that right here in Chicago."
The No. 2 Wolverines open with Hamilton High School from Memphis to kick off the second session of games at UIC at 6 p.m. and No. 4 Curie faces Bishop Gorman out of Las Vegas at 7:30. Whitney Young's game with St. John Bosco is scheduled for 9 p.m.
The No. 20 Fenwick Friars open the Chicago Elite Classic against Normal U-High and Illinois Mr. Basketball candidate Keita Bates-Diop at 10 a.m. while No. 8 St. Rita plays Gonzaga High School from Washington D.C. at 11:30 a.m.
Tyler Ulis and No. 7 Marian Catholic face Etiwanda High School (CA) at 1 p.m. and No. 10 Benet closes the first session with a 2:30 p.m. game with Redondo Union (CA.)
We'll have more coverage of Saturday's Chicago Elite Classic throughout the week on CSNChicago.com