After state title No. 4, Parker in all-time top-five

After state title No. 4, Parker in all-time top-five

March 16, 2013, 11:45 pm
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After watching eight games in two days -- I really miss the two-class format and the Elite Eight, don't you? -- there is no question in my mind that the most significant thing that happened during the Class 3A and 4A finals was how much Simeon and Morgan Park dominated the field.

Did anything or anyone else jump out at you and grab you by the throat?

Was there an Anthony Smedley moment? Jay Shidler? Laird Smith? Mike Hampton? Derek Boyd? Vincent Jackson? Brian Vance? Derrick Rose? Bruce Raickett? Thornridge 1972? Quincy 1981? La Grange 1953?

Probably not. But Simeon and Morgan Park, who finished one and two in the Chicago Public League's Red-South Division, respectively, demonstrated why they are the class of Illinois in 2013. Simeon boasts at least seven Division I players, Morgan Park five. And Morgan Park beat Simeon in the city semifinals.

Makes you wonder what would have happened if Morgan Park, which showed up wearing the wrong uniforms (home) for Friday's semifinal, hadn't packed its green uniforms (away), thus being able to make a jiffy change in the locker room. The snafu certainly didn't seem to affect the Mustangs. They went out and undressed Bartonville Limestone.

Here are some other observations of the 2013 finals:

* The most important question of all: Will Whitney Young principal Dr. Joyce Kenner and coach Tyrone Slaughter authorize All-Access to the Chicago Tribune to cover the boys basketball program in 2013-14, as Simeon did this season?

* Is there a basketball team that doesn't have at least one transfer? Bartonville Limestone, for one, didn't start a single player who enrolled as a freshman.

* The all-3A tournament team: Keenan Minor, Cahokia; Billy Garrett Jr., Kyle Davis, Xzavier Taylor, Morgan Park; Hank Mathews, Limestone.

* The all-4A tournament team: Jabari Parker, Kendall Pollard, Kendrick Nunn, Simeon; Jalen Brunson, Stevenson; Sterling Brown, Proviso East.

* Best player who didn't get to Peoria? Josh McAuley, West Aurora's 6-foot-7 senior center.

* Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin was a big-time scorer at Carver. But he preaches defense now--"Pressure busts pipes," his father Mac told him--and his team's belly-to-belly pressure cooked seven straight opponents in the state playoff.

* Simeon's Jabari Parker may become the first two-time recipient of Illinois' Mr. Basketball award. So does the Duke-bound star deserve a spot among the all-time top five players in state history?

Does Parker belong with Cazzie Russell, George Wilson, Isiah Thomas and Kevin Garnett? Ahead of Derrick Rose, Mark Aguirre and Quinn Buckner? Cast your ballots. Next year, make room for Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor.

Personally, I have seen all of them. Some people don't include Garnett in the discussion because he played at Farragut for only one year. I don't agree. My top five? Russell, Wilson, Thomas, Garnett and Parker. But it's an awfully good second unit, isn't it?

Until Rose came along, Buckner was my fifth choice. But I have to give Parker an edge over Rose. Why? Four state titles. Overall skills...scoring, rebounding, passing, defense, leadership. He is a better shooter than Rose was in high school. At 6-foot-8, he has more potential.

It can also be argued that Parker is the most decorated high school athlete in state history, more celebrated than such legendary heroes as Lou Boudreau, Dike Eddleman, Bill DeCorrevont, Dick Butkus and Quinn Buckner.

* Most Chicagoans probably don't know where Cahokia is. It is located south of East St. Louis. The Southwestern Conference (Collinsville, Edwardsville, East St. Louis) historically has been one of the most competitive basketball conferences in the state. East St. Louis Lincoln won four state titles in the 1980s. Now Cahokia.

* Give me a team or a player that excels in a semifinal or championship game, not a consolation game.

* If Simeon coach Robert Smith opts for a college position, he will leave behind a great legacy. He coached more state championship teams (six) than any coach in state history (Lawrenceville's Ron Felling and East St. Louis' Bennie Lewis each won four). And he is the only coach to produce four state championship teams in a row.

* But Smith failed to achieve two of the goals he set for himself when he succeeded his mentor Bob Hambric in 2004: He didn't win a national championship and none of his teams were rated in a class with Thornridge's 33-0 powerhouse of 1971-72 as the greatest in state history.

* In case you didn't see the Thornridge team of Quinn Buckner/Boyd Batts/Mike Bonczyk/Greg Rose/Ernie Dunn, the difference between them and everybody else was (1) they never suffered a scoring or shooting lapse in any game and (2) the Falcons' 1-2-1-1 zone press never failed to terrorize opponents.

* Remember, in 33 games, no opponent came within 14 points of the Thornridge team, a mark that no other state champion has approached. And the Falcons' 104-69 victory over Quincy remains the gold standard of all state finals.

* Two of the nation's leading underclass players, 6-foot-5 junior L.J. Peak of Whitney Young and 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson of Stevenson, may be leaving the Chicago area.

Peak reportedly will return to Gaffney, South Carolina, for his senior year. He played at Gaffney as a freshman and sophomore before moving to Chicago last summer. Brunson may move to Charlotte, North Carolina, to join his father Rick, a former NBA player who currently is an assistant coach with Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats in the NBA.

* It was a disastrous weekend for Orr. The Spartans' top player, 6-foot-7 junior Tyquone Greer, never showed up. Greer shot 0-of-6 and was scoreless in the semifinal loss to Cahokia. It should be a never-to-be-forgotten lesson and motivation for 2013-14.

* Attendance was a pleasant surprise, considering three of the eight participants were from the Chicago Public League, which usually doesn't travel well. Bartonville Limestone brought a big crowd, of course. And Class 4A was well supported.

"I am guessing we had a lot of walk-ups for people wanting to see Jabari Parker," said Matt Troha, an assistant executive secretary of the Illinois High School Association.

* According to Rivals, Simeon's D.J. Williams ranks No. 34 and Stevenson's Jalen Brunson ranks No. 45 among the top 50 players in the class of 2015 nationally. It is hard to imagine a better sophomore point guard than Brunson.

* Finally, a note regarding last week's Class 2A final between Harrisburg and Seton Academy: Seton coach Brandon Thomas has vowed he never will talk to me again--as long as he continues to coach at the South Holland school, he said--because Alex Foster was described as "one of the most disappointing players" of last summer's competition in one of my blogs.

But after observing the 6-foot-8, Minnesota-bound Foster in last week's Class 2A finals, you have to wonder if he will be capable of competing in the Big 10. If he can't dominate opponents in Class 2A, what did Minnesota coach Tubby Smith see in him to offer a scholarship? Potential?

Let's hope Smith knows what he's doing. Let's hope Foster has a successful career at Minnesota. But anyone with an objective point of view must concede that Foster hasn't played up to expectations that were heaped on him as a freshman when he was compared to Jabari Parker.

However, it must be noted that Foster and teammate Mark Weems Jr. were named to the Associated Press' five-man Class 2A All-State team. It also must be noted that coach Thomas' behavior during the post-game awards ceremony was totally unprecedented and truly unsportsmanlike.

Seton officials and parents can excuse away the loss to Harrisburg--but they can't excuse the coach's behavior, which was exhibited on television for all to see. The Illinois High School Association can't excuse it away, either. Thomas should be suspended for one year.