Curie riding Cliff Alexander to the top early in the season

Curie riding Cliff Alexander to the top early in the season

December 20, 2013, 10:15 am
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Cliff Alexander is off to a truly remarkable start this season.

The Curie senior center was expected to put up big numbers for the No. 3 Condors (5-0, 3-0) this season — being a Kansas commit and consensus top-five national prospect — but did anyone predict what we're seeing out Alexander at the start of this season?

Alexander is averaging 25.8 points, 17.2 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per game through five contests this season, and next week, Curie will be in line to be the new No. 1 team in the CSN Preps Basketball Power Rankings with losses to No. 2 Morgan Park and No. 1 Simeon during the week.

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In Red-Central conference play in particular, Alexander has been terrifying.

The 6-foot-8 center went for 33 points, 24 rebounds and seven blocks against Hyde Park; 35 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks against King; and 21 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks against DuSable.

But Alexander has also been cleaning up against the big boys as well. Against St. Rita, Alexander had 18 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks before being ejected with two technical fouls in the fourth quarter, and at the Chicago Elite Classic, Cliff stood toe-to-toe with elite junior big man Stephen Zimmerman of Bishop Gorman (Nv.) and went for 22 points and 20 rebounds and five blocks.

Curie doesn't have to worry about a lack of production from its cornerstone player, but it should please head coach Mike Oliver that the Condors have been so focused on getting Alexander touches early in the season.

Sophomore guard Devin Gage and the Stamps brothers — junior Joshua and senior Joseph — are all talented perimeter players, but at times they can be a bit shot happy and forget that they have a major force playing in the post.

If those three are committed to getting Alexander the ball inside, Curie becomes incredibly dangerous because they have enough of an inside-outside threat between Alexander and the aforementioned perimeter players to keep defenses honest and space the floor.

If Cliff can find those perimeter guys for open shots, it limits the amount of double-teams defenses can throw at Alexander while also building the confidence of the perimeter players that will truly need to step up around Alexander come playoff time.

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For now, Curie is likely the new No. 1 team in the area and Alexander is off to a special start, but for the Condors to cement their legacy with a city or state championship later in the season, they'll need their guards to continue to step up, get Alexander as many touches as possible, and knock down open shots when the defense collapses.

Morgan Park takes Part I of the Battle of Vincennes

Morgan Park's road win over Simeon on Thursday night was a significant early-season victory for head coach Nick Irvin and the Mustangs.

Although the matchup of No. 1 (Simeon) vs. No. 2 (Morgan Park) was spoiled a bit with the Mustangs' Tuesday loss to No. 12 Bogan, the Battle of Vincennes still remains one of the biggest high school basketball rivalries in the area and Irvin has to be pleased to earn a road win at Simeon — Irvin's first win in Simeon's gym and Simeon's first home loss since 2010.

The Mustangs were missing starting sophomore point guard Charlie Moore and senior forward Lamont Walker, but they still held off Simeon 58-55 thanks to their outstanding depth. Senior forward Josh Cunningham had 18 points and 11 rebounds and junior guard Kain Harris came up big in the fourth quarter on his way to 17 points, including six in the game's final two minutes.

For Simeon, this loss will sting a bit, but it is still only the middle of December and there will be plenty of time for Robert Smith and the Wolverines to bounce back. The Pontiac Holiday Tournament looms next week and Simeon still has a conference, city and state championship to compete for later in the season as they continue to integrate five new starters coming off of four consecutive Class 4A Illinois state titles.