Illinois prep hoops: What to look for in 2012-13


Illinois prep hoops: What to look for in 2012-13

The 2012-13 high school basketball season in Illinois shapes up as one of the most promising and entertaining and competitive and combustible in recent memory...great teams, great players, controversial issues...and a lot of questions to be answered along the way.

1. Who will win the Jabari Parker recruiting sweepstakes?

"At this point, we're not sure he will play a second of college basketball," said longtime recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye.

"The Mormon Church has lowered its age limit to 18 for members (Parker is a member of the Mormon Church) to go on a mission. So Parker could opt to fulfill his two-year service as soon as he graduates from Simeon, then could go directly to the NBA."

The Schmidts argue that might be why the 6-foot-8 senior is wavering over his college decision. Sonny Parker, Jabari's father, recently said his son won't sign during the Nov. 14-21 signing period and won't make an oral commitment until December.

"We can't think of any legitimate reason why Jabari would wait otherwise. It is the only logical explanation for waiting until spring," Roy Schmidt said.

If Parker doesn't go on a two-year mission, what will he do? The Schmidts believe he will choose Duke or Michigan State. "We give a slight edge to Michigan State because of the geographical proximity and Jabari's special relationship with coach Tom Izzo," Roy Schmidt said.

Another scenario is Parker will go to college for one year--he always has stated that one of his primary goals is to win an NCAA championship--then go on his mission before declaring for the NBA.

2. Why didn't Parker include Kentucky among his five finalists?

Because he is image conscious. He is worried what his public perception would be in light of all he has laid out from the beginning with respect to the criteria for his recruitment, above Kentucky coach John Calipari's perceived persona. It explains why Illinois isn't in the picture. Jabari never felt a close relationship with coach John Groce.

3. Is any team good enough to prevent a SimeonProviso East rematch for the Class 4A championship?

Yes. Whitney Young with Jahlil Okafor and Paul White and the addition of highly touted transfer L.J. Peak, a 6-foot-5 small forward from South Carolina. Unlike last year, coach Tyrone Slaughter's team has an emerging point guard in Miles Reynolds. Talent-wise, the Dolphins will be in the hunt.

4. How good is L.J. Peak and how much of a difference will he make at Whitney Young?

"He is a huge addition," Roy Schmidt said. "He is a top 50 player nationally. He adds another dimension, an athletic wing who can score in transition and on the fast break. He gives Whitney Young more versatility and athleticism and speed, things they lacked a year ago."

Peak already has scholarship offers from Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina State, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia Tech and can be expected to accumulate more once he gains more exposure in the Midwest.

5. Which team will go from the outhouse to the penthouse?

Hinsdale Central. Coach Nick Latorre, in his third year, went from 5-1 to 17-10 last season. His 2012-13 squad should be better. He lost Tom Garvin, an all-conference pick, and Brad Anlauf, his leading scorer, but he has a solid core of returnees in 6-foot-5 junior Ian Bunting, 6-foot-6 sophomore Matt Rafferty, Chase Hamilton and point guard Brian Owens.

6. Who is the unknown, underrated and unappreciated player that will make the biggest impact?

Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic's 5-foot-8 point guard. "He hasn't gotten his just due from a national standpoint, probably because of his lack of size. He doesn't rank in the top 100 nationally but he should. He is the quintessential point guard. We haven't seen a better one in Illinois," said Roy Schmidt.

7. Who is the coach that will make the biggest name for himself?

Marist's Gene Nolan or St. Viator's Mike Howland. "Nolan can make a huge jump. He has been around for a while but he isn't a name that is immediately mentioned in the upper echelon of coaches. Howland is younger and less established," Harv Schmidt said.

Three other coaches who could enhance their reputations are Brett Nishibayashi of Taft, Jim Maley of Kenwood and Bob Vozza of Matea Valley. Nishibayashi has a Division I prospect in 6-foot-5 junior John Joyce. Maley played on Lyons' 2001 team that finished fourth in the state tournament. And Vozza, who reached the East Aurora sectional final last year, returns with 6-foot-9 senior Hayden Barnard.

8. The five best players in the class of 2013?

Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn, Simeon; Sterling Brown, Proviso East; Malcolm Hill, Belleville East; Alvin Ellis, De La Salle.

9. The five best players in the class of 2014?

Jahlil Okafor and Paul White, Whitney Young; Cliff Alexander, Curie; Keita Bates-Diop, Normal University High; and Tyler Ulis, Marian Catholic.

10. The five best players in the class of 2015?

D.J. Williams, Simeon; Charles Matthews, St. Rita; Jordan Ash, St. Joseph; Prentiss Nixon, Bolingbrook; and Jalen Brunson, Stevenson.

Another player to watch is 6-foot-6 Joseph Toye of Whitney Young, who played so well in the recent Pangos All-Midwest FroshSoph Camp that he landed a scholarship offer from Illinois-Chicago coach Howard Moore. "He has as much upside as any 2015 wing prospect in the state," Roy Schmidt said.

11. Which player will climb the highest on the recruiting chart?

According to the Schmidt brothers, 6-foot-9 Sean O'Mara of Benet already is starting to move up the charts but will continue to climb. "He is a true back-to-the-basket post player, which is probably the most coveted position as far as recruiting goes with the possible exception of point guard. He is a hard worker who is physical," Roy Schmidt said. O'Mara is being recruited by DePaul, Notre Dame, Marquette and Iowa State.

12. Which transfer will have the biggest impact?

Peak. However, in terms of making a difference on his team, the Class 2A championship is for the taking at Seton Academy with the arrival of 6-foot-8 Minnesota-bound Alex Foster, who transferred from De La Salle.

"It is up to Foster to finally live up to the hype that was thrust on him from time he was in eighth grade," Roy Schmidt said. "Now is the time for him to rise to the occasion. He has been an underachiever for three years. Now he is a senior. This is his time. Now or never."

The other major underachiever, 6-foot-9 Tommy Hamilton, left Whitney Young for the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He is under the tutelage of former Julian and Boys To Men coach Loren Jackson. Bradley, DePaul and Marquette are recruiting him.

13. Will the Illinois High School Association admit that adopting the four-class system was a serious error in judgment?

"They won't ever admit it but it would be nice if we saw some changes in the state format," Roy Schmidt said. "Even if they stick to four classes, they could improve the format by seeding all teams after the regional round to get more balance and not stacking the regionals and sectionals on the basis of geographic proximity."

Remember, Indiana also went from one class to two, then to four. Now it has admitted a mistake and has voted to return to two classes.

"When IHSA administrators continue to see shrinking attendance figures, they will see the error of their ways," Roy Schmidt said. "To them, it is all about giving out as many trophies as possible. The four-class system has been in place for four years. Each year, there are more empty seats. That should be a warning that the system isn't working."

14. What is the No. 1 problem with the recruiting process?

"The aspirations of kids and their parents to go to the NBA. It drives recruits today more than anything else," Harv Schmidt said. "They usually are false aspirations. The kid isn't as good as he and his parents think he is. It explains why parents are more out of control than ever before and explains why there are so many influence peddlers and handlers trying to get involved in a player's recruitment."

15. What would it take for anyone to dethrone Simeon?

"Any team that faces them has to play a perfect game to prevent them from winning another state title, like when Villanova beat Georgetown and Patrick Ewing for the NCAA title, a perfect storm," Roy Schmidt said.

"You have to make sure you have plenty of depth to match Simeon, go 9-10 players deep and keep fresh bodies on the floor at all times. Try to get Simeon to play at a frantic pace, which tends to create more turnovers. Proviso East did it for a while in the 2012 final but couldn't maintain it all the way through."

16. Who will win the Class 3A title?

Favorites are Normal University High, St. Joseph, North Chicago, Marshall, Orr and Washington, Illinois.

17. Class 2A champion?

Seton is the early choice with Foster and guards Mark Weems and Khalil Sashi.

18. What will be the biggest controversy of 2012-13?

This is pure grist for the rumor mill but it is being speculated that considerable changes in the infrastructure of the Public League's sports administration in general and the basketball program in particular are being proposed. Cyrus McGinnis is out as basketball supervisor and former King star Levertis Robinson is in. There are been significant staff cuts. Better officiating and additional security are priorities.

"There used to be 32 to 36 coordinators in the sports administration. Now there are only six," one Public League administrator said. "All of them are overworked. (Sports supervisor) Calvin Davis is doing time sheets. They cut sports administration every time they need to make cuts. They moved the coordinators from 35th Street to an elementary school near the United Center. They fired the stadium supervisors. Now they're being run by part-time people.

"Calvin Davis has been told that he can't make any decisions or even talk to the newspapers. People are working hard but they are spread too thin. They would cut out all sports if they didn't think they'd get such an outcry, especially in football and basketball. It is a shame what they have done to the minor sports like tennis and volleyball. Football players aren't safe. They have no adequate equipment, no trainers. It all has to do with cutting costs."

19. Why are there so many in-season shootouts?

It might not seem like it, but the IHSA still has limitations on the number of games a school can participate in during a season--16 games and three tournaments, 18 games and two tournaments, 19 games and one tournament or 21 games and no tournaments outside the state series.

But a school can play in as many shootouts as it wants to. "It gets back to the fact that you have so many promoters who see it as a "get rich quick" scheme and parents and coaches see it as another opportunity to maximize exposure for their players from a national standpoint. During season, the greater the number of games, the greater chance of national media and scouts showing up," Harv Schmidt said.

20. How could holiday tournaments in Illinois be affected as result of Proviso West's expansion to 32 teams?

Historically, as good as it is, one of the unique things about high school basketball in Illinois has always been the number of high quality holiday tournaments being conducted throughout the state in December. But times have changed. In the past, there were six or seven big-time events that attracted great teams and great players, now only two or three.

"I can't help but wonder because of the expansion at Proviso West that we will see other meets more watered down," Roy Schmidt said. "Look at where other teams came from, from York and Normal. Those tournaments and others could be in trouble."

Dwyane Wade saves the day in debut as Bulls top Celtics

Dwyane Wade saves the day in debut as Bulls top Celtics

The dream opening was turning into a nightmare as the ball rolled out to Dwyane Wade in the corner with the shot clock headed toward danger zone and the Bulls firmly there as a collective.

Three seconds later, Wade was signaling to the United Center crowd that it was okay to exhale after a contested, step-back triple over Avery Bradley with 26.3 seconds left, giving the Bulls a five-point lead.

Moments later, he trailed Gerald Green down the sideline before the ensuing inbounds pass, telling the Celtic some things he certainly didn’t want to hear before stripping Green of his 3-point attempt and knocking it off Green’s hands to seal the 105-99 season opening win over the Boston Celtics Thursday night.

It was a small reminder that just in case the Chicago Cubs need some help in the ninth inning Friday night, The Closer can step into the phone booth and save the day.

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It finished Wade’s 22-point, six-rebound, five-assist performance in his official debut as a Chicago Bull, hitting four triples and in effect, masking some serious fourth-quarter questions about shot-creation and continuity that need to be answered over the next several months.

Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 24 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes, as the night began with a bang but nearly fizzled after the Bulls blew a 15-point lead—with the Celtics threatening to ruin a festive and hopeful atmosphere.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas lived up to his namesake, nearly becoming a Bulls’ killer with 25 points on just 15 shots, carrying the Celtics’ offense as it rallied to take advantage of a stagnant Bulls’ showing before Wade saved the night.

The Bulls shot just 39 percent from the field compared to the Celtics’ 50, but the Bulls dominated the offensive glass, with seven Bulls picking up six rebounds or more and outrebounding the Celtics by 19.

Taj Gibson scored four quick points when the Celtics first began to threaten midway through the fourth, and the Celtics were about to steal a win before Wade did what he does best.

Why Cubs won’t risk playing Kyle Schwarber in the outfield during World Series

Why Cubs won’t risk playing Kyle Schwarber in the outfield during World Series

Kyle Schwarber plays baseball with the same run-through-a-brick-wall mentality that once made him an All-Ohio linebacker in high school. The Cubs feed off that energy and the explosive power that’s already made him a legendary playoff hitter, even though he still hasn’t played a full season in the big leagues yet, and even after a layoff that lasted more than six months. 

As bad as Schwarber wanted this – and as much as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein senses the chance to eliminate the Cleveland Indians and make history – the Cubs couldn’t make such an important decision based on emotions.

After consulting with Dr. Stephen Gryzlo, the team’s orthopaedist, and Dr. Daniel Cooper, who performed the surgery on an extremely valuable left knee, the Cubs couldn’t get medical clearance to start Schwarber in the outfield for World Series Games 3, 4 and 5 at Wrigley Field this weekend.

“Of course, we’re all disappointed,” Epstein said. “We’d love to see Kyle out there getting four-plus at-bats a game. But I think it was important to talk to a medical professional, who’s objective and detached from the situation.

“We’re all wrapped up in seeing how well Kyle swung the bat and how it impacted us and the stage that we’re on and our desire to win.

“There is the possibility of us getting carried away and throwing caution to the wind. But that’s why you have to consult the doctors and follow their professional judgment.”

[MORE: Why Cubs won’t risk playing Kyle Schwarber in the outfield during World Series]

Whatever disappointment he may have felt after initially getting the news, Schwarber buried it by the time he followed Epstein into the makeshift interview room after Thursday’s workout at Wrigley Field, vowing to be ready to pinch-hit at any time and giving future Hall of Fame manager Terry Francona something to think about in the visiting dugout. 

“It’s not disappointing at all,” Schwarber said. “It was a long shot at the most. Obviously, I want to be out there for my teammates and everything. It’s just the competitor inside me. But facts are facts. I just can’t physically do it.”

Schwarber refused to concede after a full-speed collision in the outfield on April 7, attacking his rehab process with the same intensity that made him the fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft and such a force on last year’s 97-win team (16 homers in 69 games plus five more in the playoffs).

Showing virtually no signs of rust, Schwarber went 3-for-7 with two walks and two RBI as the designated hitter while the Cubs split Games 1 and 2 at Progressive Field. 

“The doctors were very convicted that there’s just too much risk in playing the outfield,” Epstein said, “because of the dynamic actions involved, the instantaneous reactions, the need to cut in the outfield, the dynamic, athletic movements that are unanticipated in the outfield. 

“This was not just an ACL tear. This was a complete blowout of his knee, multiple ligaments (involved and) an expected eight-month, return-to-play, best-case scenario.

“We have to look out for Kyle’s long-term interests. We have a lot of confidence in other guys, too. We won 103 games. We have all the faith in the world in our other outfielders. And on top of that, we now have Kyle off the bench to take maybe the most important at-bat in the game at a given point.”

One of those outfielders – Chris Coghlan – understands the big-picture concerns for Schwarber after tearing the meniscus in his left knee during an on-field pie-to-the-face celebration with the Florida Marlins in 2010. 

“That’s my biggest worry for him personally,” Coghlan said. “I rushed back and reinjured it. And I don’t say that to scare him. They got doctors. They got a million people running over it. But what he’s doing is remarkable.

“To be able to go in there and just put competitive at-bat after competitive at-bat on the biggest stage (after) being out six months and only having maybe eight at-bats (in the Arizona Fall League) – it’s just a testament to his character and his perseverance. And that’s what makes him a special player.”

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Knowing how Schwarber is wired, the Cubs probably couldn’t have cut a deal where he gave something less than a maximum effort in the outfield and conserved his body to take vicious left-handed swings. But the medical experts did not present that option. 

“There would not have been a player to be cleared under this scenario,” Epstein said. “But that said, if we had been able to clear him only under the condition that he only go 60 percent: a.) I don't think Kyle knows how to go 60 percent, especially in a World Series-type game; and b.) At 60 percent, you’re such a tremendous defensive liability, it’s probably not worth the offense that you get on the other side, anyway.

“But that wasn’t the case. It was black and white. He simply is not medically cleared to play, regardless of his effort level.”

A crowd already delirious from the franchise’s first World Series at Wrigley Field in 71 years will still create a deafening roar at the sight of Schwarber walking up to home plate with a bat in his hand.

“Deep down in my heart, I really wanted to,” Schwarber said. “But there’s obviously the doubts (about) the injury. It was a huge injury. And that’s the facts. Not many people get this opportunity that I’m in right now, so I’m embracing (it). I’m going to cheer my teammates on. And when my time comes, I’m going to be ready.”