By Bryan Crawford
Simeon has had no problem reinforcing basketball history lessons in recent years. And school will be in session for their opponents from Saturday until possibly March.
The question is: can Simeon keep acing the tests themselves?
The Wolverines kick off their 2012-13 season Saturday night at the Chicago Elite Classic (8 p.m. vs. Milton GA) at the UIC Pavilion. It will be the team's first step in a march towards history. The South Side powerhouse has won the last three 4A state championships. Should they win it all this year, they would become the first Chicago Public League team to win four consecutive Illinois state titles.
To say that the Simeon basketball program has bulls-eye on their collective backs is an understatement. Like any elite squad with a strong tradition of winning, no matter who they play, theyll get every opponents best game. But given what theyre trying to achieve this season, opposing squads are going to come at them even harder and do whatever they can to keep the Wolverines from accomplishing their goals.
It will be an uphill climb and a tough road, for sure, but Simeon appears to be ready for the challenge.
This years Wolverine squad is not just senior-heavy, theyre also deep. Led by All-American Jabari Parker and fellow senior standouts Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate, Kendall Pollard and Ricky Norris, all of these players have tasted the ultimate victory of being the last team standing in Peoria. Each player is not only hungry to get back there, but they want to achieve an even greater goal in the process.
We want to make history by winning a city championship, another state championship and also a national championship, said Ricky Norris after a recent practice. But at the end of the day we know that we have to go out there and play just like every other team. So were just going to play hard and try to get it done.
We know what were trying to do, but we dont really talk about it that much, point guard Jaylon Tate, a University of Illinois commit, said. We just want to go out there and play each game game by game and just win. Well let everything else just fall into place. But the main goal is to win state and it would be real good to make history, too.
Saturdays contest will be Simeons first game of the season while their opponent, Milton High School (GA), already has five games under its belt. But Wolverines head coach Robert Smith isnt too concerned about his squad not having played any official games yet, and has complete confidence in his groups ability to play hard and, most importantly, win.
With this being our first game of the season, its huge for us to get off to a good start, Smith said. Milton will probably be in a little bit better rhythm that well be in since theyve played a few more games than we have, but I have a lot of confidence in these guys. I know how badly they want to get to where they want to go, so I think well pull out the victory.
Kendrick Nunn, who will join Jaylon Tate at the University of Illinois next year, echoed his coachs sentiment.
Its definitely going to take us a little while to get our rhythm because itll be our first game, opined Nunn. We just have to get all of the jitters out. But when we do, well be fine.
Unfortunately for Simeon and for those attending the Classic as well missing in action on Saturday night will be their superstar, Parker. The senior is still sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot and has yet to be cleared by doctors to play.
His teammates know what he brings to the team on the court, but being forced to play this weekend without him doesnt bother them one bit. Theyre a confident bunch and believe they can still win with Jabari cheering them on from the sideline.
Its not going to be tough playing without Jabari. Were used to it we played without him all summer, said senior Kendall Pollard whos committed to play his college ball at Dayton next season. But hell be on the bench to cheer us on, so itll be good to seem him there.
Said Tate, Jabari is a really good player and hes a really big help for our team. But we have other good guys on this team, too. Having Jabari is definitely a big plus, but without him, weve still got guys that can step up. Its going to show just how deep we are as a team.
By Bryan Crawford