Simeon's upcoming road trip will focus on more than basketball


Simeon's upcoming road trip will focus on more than basketball

The Simeon Wolverines will board a plane on Wednesday afternoon heading south to Dallas, Texas to play Prestonwood High School on Thursday evening. That contest will be the school's first since opening the season last Saturday night at the Chicago Elite Classic.

During the teams extended layoff, head coach Robert Smith took that time to get his team into a better offensive and defensive rhythm during practice, and to get his superstar, Jabari Parker, into better playing shape after his nearly five-month layoff from the game because of a foot injury.

MORE: Parker to announce college decision next week

After Saturdays game, we took a couple of days and just went kind of light in practice, then we went hard two days, explained coach Smith. Were just trying to get them in a good rhythm offensively and defensively and get them into a flow. I didnt think we were in a great rhythm in the first game and it kind of threw us for a loop.

After the game in Texas, Simeon then travels to Memphis, Tenn. for a game on Saturday in the Penny Hardaway Classic before returning home and facing off against Carver on Monday. Smith doesnt feel the travel will affect his team negatively and says the trip will be about much more than just basketball.

Going out of town to play isnt an issue. These kids play AAU basketball, so theyre out of town all the time, says Smith. And actually, on this trip, we have to go to the JFK Museum in Dallas for a history project. So its not just about the games. Well implement school stuff in there with it, too.

One of the coaches is a teacher so hell have the kids for two hours in the morning everyday and theyll take all of their schoolwork with them and get it done. Well have laptops and things like that for them to use, so well still have school even though were on the road.

As for Parker, who is set to announce next week where hell attend college after graduation from high school, hes been taking advantage of the Wolverines' layoff and has been working hard to get himself back into game shape. Coach Smith has approached playing his star with caution and will continue to closely monitor Jabari to make sure hes not overworking himself so as not to risk re-injury.

Were just trying to get him back into rhythm first before we get him into actual contact. Against Milton, he made a couple of plays where we wondered if he should really be out there or not because we didnt want him to get hurt again, said the coach. So we just want to get him back into rhythm, and get his timing and his stroke down.

WATCH: DRIVE Simeon basketball

Last week, Parker spent nearly all of the teams practice time on the sidelines doing those very things; from working out with a weighted rope, to finishing plays at the rim with a weighted ball. But this week, he resumed full practices including a full-court scrimmage on Sunday and he says both he and the team are looking forward to the Dallas and Memphis trip.

Were looking forward to the competition and getting acclimated with each other, said Parker. I think we can build as a team when were on the road and playing a team in their home town because that creates a bond. So Im just looking forward to us being a family.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Austin O'Connor

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Four years, four state championships. 

That's what St. Rita senior wrestler Austin O'Connor accomplished over the past four years, becoming the 15th wrestler in IHSA history to do so. The Mustangs' grappler went undefeated this season and finished his IHSA career with a record of 181-4. 

O'Connor is planning on continuing his time on the mat at the University of North Carolina next season. Learn more about O'Connor in the video above. 

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In the latest installment of In the Gym at EFT, performance specialist Kerry Neal teaches some valuable techniques to improve an athlete's vertical jump. 

Former Western Michigan Linebacker Grant DePalma gives an assist by demonstrating the drills. An athlete's vertical is an important tool and can be the difference during evaluation.

Learn some valuable tips above and be on the lookout for the next edition of In the Gym at EFT.