Simeon looks like the team to beat in 2012

The biggest question after the basketball season is how many titles will Simeon star Jabari Parker win in four years with the Wolverines.

Simeon (30-2) bounced from back-to-back losses to Young (20-11) and Benet (29-1) to win back-to-back state basketball championships.

Parker, who is only a sophomore, has emerged as one of the top players in the country. Parker raised his scoring average from nine points a game to 15 points per contest this past season. Parker scored 12 points as Simeon beat Warren (31-4) 48-39 for the Class 4A championship.

“He’s the best player in Illinois,” Simeon head coach Robert Smith said after winning the school’s fifth state title.

Speaking of legacy, Smith is building an impressive resume that could lead to a college coaching job. Smith, who played at Simeon under Bob Hambric, has now won four state titles in seven seasons while winning 197 games.

Simeon figures to be the preseason favorite next year with nine players including Parker returning for a run at a three-peat.

The best thing that Smith does is to get his team to play disciplined and under control on offense while playing solid team defense.

My choice for Player-of-the Year in the Chicago area is East Aurora guard Ryan Boatright, who will attend Connecticut. Boatright led the Tomcats to a 24-6 mark averaging 31 points per game before losing to Glenbard East (28-4) in the East Aurora sectional championship.

Glenbard East coach Scott Miller is my choice for Coach-of-the-Year. The Rams beat East Aurora in the sectional championship as Miller guided the school to a third place finish in Class 4A. Most high school teams don’t recover from emotional wins. Just ask Young and East Aurora who lost its next game after a huge upset.

Gordon’s Dave Andrews is a player to watch next season, but my choice for best player in our area is St. Benedict’s Krys Gago.

St. Ben's Gago, earlier this year against Crane. Photo credit: Jack Lydon

Gago is solid on and off the court with a 3.0 GPA and an ACT score of 22. Gago would score even with opposing teams knew he was going to shoot the basketball for the Bengals. Gago will play at the college level in 2012.

My choice for Coach-of-the-Year in this area is Mather’s Glen Heffernan. Heffernan brought new life into the Rangers’ basketball program the past two seasons.

Basketball in this area was down besides Mather as none of the neighborhood teams advanced past the first week of the state playoffs. Gordon and St. Benedict lost regional championship games while Mather lost to Simeon in the Public League quarterfinals before losing to Glenbrook North in the state playoffs.

Gordon appears to have the brightest future for next season with four starters returning including Andrews who was named All-Catholic League.

The game of the year in my mind was Bolingbrook’s(28-2) 50-49 overtime win over Public League champ Young in the Girls’ Class 4A semifinals. Not only was it the best game I saw this past season, but the state playoff game is one of the best I have ever seen in 33 years of covering hoops in Illinois.

My fab five from this past season are Boatright, Parker, Morgan Park’s Wayne Blackshear, Rock Island guard Chasson Randle, and Perspectives star Anthony Davis who will play at Kentucky.

Keep an eye next season on Mundelein’s Robert Knar who will be a junior.

Finally, I believe the Public League made a mistake giving up its automatic bid in all sports. The only sport that city teams do well in basketball. The Public League can compete in basketball so they only should have dropped the automatic bid for hoops.

It’s highly unlikely that city athletes in baseball, volleyball, softball, and soccer will advance downstate on a regular basis. City teams have had isolated success in a soccer, volleyball, and wrestling. In most cases, teams in those various sports don’t advance past the first week or first  game of the state playoffs.

In football, only one city team has advanced to the state championship game. Just a thought.


Riley O’Toole tops in football: Montgomery

Time to look back at the 2010 football season.

Fans couldn’t be too surprised at the success of Curie. Curie had a talented trio of Maurice Fleming, Kevonta McIntrye, and Brandon Barker.

This reporter was impressed after watching Curie beat Lane 37-7.

The Condors (9-6) eventually won the Public League beating perennial contender Morgan Park 40-34 in one of the most exciting title games ever at Gately Stadium.

Curie’s dream season ended in a 6-0 loss to Fenwick(8-5) in the Prep Bowl last Friday at Soldier Field. Curie was making their first appearance in the city championship game.

Curie had chances to win this contest gaining over 250 yards. Curie drove inside the Fenwick 20-yard line five times and failed to score.

This was a physical game as Fleming was knocked out of the game twice.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to celebrate in our circulation area. No area team had a winning record and all four squads failed to make the playoffs.

My choice for Player of the Year in our area is Lane running back Fred Williams. Williams was one of the few bright lights in as 4-5 season for the Indians who were adjusting to a new coach and new offense.

Amundsen (2-7) received great fan support despite playing atough section against Morgan Park, Hubbard, and CVS.

A storyline for next year will be Lake View linebacker Ashley Diaz. Diaz played on the sophomore team and has caught the attention of the CHICAGO FORCE women’s football team.

Lake View won only once in 2010 after losing nine players.

Another player to watch next season will be Gordon quarterback Julian Russell. Russell rushed for 871 yards on a 2-7 team. The Rams were unable to make the big play in critical situations this past season.

The news on the North side wasn’t all bad as Senn (9-1) made the state playoffs and lost to Grayslake Central in the opening round.

Will a Public League team ever win a state football championship? Simeon(11-1) certainly showed they had the right stuff after upsetting Mt Carmel in the opening game at Soldier Field. Simeon lost in the state quarterfinals to Lake Zurich 17-14.

My choice for Player of the Year in the Chicago area is easy. Wheaton South quarterback Reilly O’Toole had a magnificent season throwing 42 touchdown passes to lead the Tigers(14-0) to their seventh state football title.

Many fans and observers wondered how Maine South would do after the graduation of running back Matt Perez. All Perez did in 2009 was rush for 34 touchdowns to lead Maine South to back-to-back state titles.

Maine South (12-2) won its third straight Class 8A state title over Mt Carmel (11-3) last Saturday night in Champaign.

The Hawks lost their first two games of the season. The Hawks have won three straight titles with three different quarterbacks.

The future looks bright with sophomore Matt Alvitti.

My choice for Coach of the Year in the Chicago area is Homewood-Flossmoor’s Craig Buzea. HF went from 1-8 to 10-3 and a berth in the state football semifinals where they were beaten by Mt. Carmel.

Congratulations to eight state football champions.

Finally, team to watch in basketball will be Simeon. The player to watch will be Anthony Davis who plays for Perspectives in the Public League and the 6-10 senior who is going to Kentucky is considered one of the top players in the country.