Preps Talk

Simeon stays at No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

Simeon stays at No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

Now that the holiday tournaments are in the books, the latest edition of the Preps Power Rankings has a host of new teams in the mix. While the rankings have already been very fluid during a chaotic first month of the season, some surprising holiday tournament showings have completely changed the outlook for some teams as we begin 2018. 

1. Simeon (11-2, 3-0) (1) -- Clearly the No. 1 team in the state right now, Simeon dismantled quality competition in winning the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. The Wolverines still have some difficult games against local and national competition, but they look like the clear favorite in the city and state title race. 

2. Orr (11-2, 4-0) (8) -- The Spartans have their swagger back after winning the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. The beatdown of Uplift was one of the most eye-popping wins of the season and beating rival Whitney Young for the title was a huge step in Orr being viewed as a potential No. 1 team in the state. 

3. Curie (10-2, 3-0) (3) -- The Condors hadn't lost in Illinois until they fell to Simeon for the Pontiac title as Curie continues to look really good. You could make the case for the Condors being the No. 2 team in the state with wins already over Morgan Park and Orr. Curie's balance is scary.  

4. Niles North (13-0, 3-0) (5) -- Still undefeated on the season, the Vikings claimed the crown at Wheeling with a tough overtime win over Libertyville for the title. Now that Jamal Stephenson is back in the lineup, this team gets an additional scoring threat. 

5. Whitney Young (13-3, 3-1) (2) -- Solid week for the Dolphins at Proviso West as they advanced to the title game before falling to Orr. After relying so heavily on Javon Freeman earlier in the year, Whitney Young has figured out a more balanced approach as others are beginning to step up. 

6. Morgan Park (10-5, 2-2) (6) -- The short-handed Mustangs still earned the title at Rich South as sophomore Adam Miller is finally starting to figure things out with his new team. Senior Cameron Burrell also deserves a lot of credit for elevating his play since the beginning of the season. 

7. Oak Park-River Forest (9-2, 2-0) (7) -- Running into some of the state's best competition at Pontiac, the Huskies held their own against powerhouse Curie before also falling to state title contender Danville in the third-place game. Beating a tough Bloomington team was a major positive from the week at Pontiac.

8. Fenwick (11-4, 2-0) (13) -- Solid week for Fenwick at Proviso West as they earned good wins over Bogan, Larkin and Proviso West. A close loss to Orr was tough, but the Friars now have three close losses against the area's top seven teams. 

9. Bolingbrook (10-2, 1-0) (4) -- The Raiders placed second at Hinsdale Central after a disappointing championship loss to St. Rita. Still a threat in Class 4A, Bolingbrook has to find scoring help outside of the guard trio of Tyler Cochran, Kaleb Thornton and Joseph Yesufu. 

10. St. Rita (9-7, 1-0) (NR) -- The major story of the week is St. Rita as they went from under .500 to tournament champions at a very deep Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic. Knocking off Bolingbrook, DePaul Prep and Maine South, the Mustangs looked like the team that was in the preseason Preps Power Rankings before the slow start. 

11. Lincoln Park (11-4, 3-1) (NR) -- The emergence of Lincoln Park continues to be a solid storyline in the Public League as the Lions picked off Marian Catholic and gave Bolingbrook everything they can handle. Showing well against top-ten competition, Lincoln Park is a team that nobody will want to face in the next few weeks. 

12. Marian Catholic (10-2, 1-1) (18) -- Marian Catholic fell in its Hinsdale Central opener to Lincoln Park but rallied to win three straight and claim the consolation title. Sophomore point guard Ahron Ulis is growing more and more comfortable as the team's floor leader while juniors Malik Tidwell and Chris White have also been solid. 

13. DePaul Prep (11-3, 1-0) (15) -- The Rams finished fourth at Hinsdale Central after an up-and-down week that included good wins over Crete-Monee and Stevenson and double-digit losses to St. Rita and Lincoln Park. Junior Perry Cowan had some cold shooting during the event, but when he's on track, DePaul Prep can compete with anyone. 

14. Conant (11-4, 2-1) (NR) -- Winning five games at York is always incredibly tough as Conant had one of the best weeks of any team in the area. Senior big man Ryan Davis is a big Player of the Year candidate while the Cougars received some clutch shooting around Davis to help win at Jack Tosh. 

15. Marist (14-1, 2-0) (NR) -- Time to start keeping an eye on Marist as an impressive 14-1 start and third-place finish at Centralia a great start. Senior Morgan Taylor is hooping at a very high level right now as Marist looks like a factor in the ESCC race. 

16. Evanston (11-3, 2-1) (21) -- Good week at Centralia for the Wildkits as they lost to a quality opponent in Champaign Central before finishing in fifth. Junior guard Lance Jones made a clutch shot to beat Carmel and fellow junior Jaheim Holden also had some bright moments in the event as well.  

17. North Lawndale (11-2, 2-1) (NR) -- Finishing in second place in Bloomington, the Phoenix lost to a tough Normal team in the championship. A win over Joliet Central was very notable as North Lawndale will be a factor in the loaded Public League Red North/West. 

18. Uplift (9-5, 3-1) (NR) -- One of the area's most puzzling teams, Uplift looked good earning double-digit wins over Hillcrest and Larkin at Proviso West. Then there's the ugly semifinal loss to Orr in which the Titans were down 38 points at halftime. Which Uplift team will we see the rest of the season? One thing is for sure, when Uplift is focused, they are capable of competing with most of the area's top teams. 

19. Loyola Academy (11-2, 1-1) (NR) -- Winning a holiday tournament in Florida, the Ramblers shot the ball well from the perimeter while defending at a high level. Kevin Cunningham was named MVP in Naples as he continues to fly a bit under the radar in the area. 

20. Hillcrest (11-4, 4-0) (22) -- The Hawks played one of the toughest schedules of any team during holiday tournament week as they placed fourth at Proviso West after a 2-2 finish. Close wins over New Trier and Bogan was a great start before losses to Whitney Young and Uplift.

21. Libertyville (8-5, 3-1) (NR) -- After being ranked in the Power Rankings to start the season, Libertyville is back in the mix after a solid second-place showing at Wheeling. Senior Drew Peterson is starting to generate more high-major interest with his strong season and his supporting cast is coming together around him. 

22. Joliet Central (11-2, 4-0) (NR) -- The Steelmen always seem to emerge as more of a threat after Bloomington and this season is no different. Joliet Central's triple OT win over Wheaton Warrenville South was one of the better matchups of the week. 

23. Wheaton Warrenville South (10-2, 4-0) (23) -- Some tough losses for the Tigers down in Bloomington as they fell to eventual champion Normal by a point before falling to Joliet Central in three overtimes. Very good at dictating the slow pace they want to play, Wheaton-Warrenville South showed that they can be competitive with some of the state's better teams.

24. Brother Rice (10-6, 0-2) (NR) -- If it weren't for some last-second losses to ranked teams like Fenwick and Conant then Brother Rice would be sitting at a really strong 12-4 right now. Instead, the Crusaders had to settle for second place at York as this team is starting to come together. 

25. Batavia (11-3, 3-1) (NR) -- Finally at full strength after the deep run in football, the Bulldogs looked feisty and dangerous in taking third place and going 4-1 at York. The win over previously-unbeaten Naperville North was perhaps the signature moment of the week for Batavia. 

Recruiting news and notes: Nazareth Academy's Devin Blakley verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

devin_blakely.jpg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Recruiting news and notes: Nazareth Academy's Devin Blakley verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

Nazareth Academy junior three star ranked defensive back Devin Blakley (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) decided to give Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment earlier this week.

"Miami of Ohio is just a great fit for me so I decided to commit," Blakley said. "I've known for a while now that Miami was the place for me. I just didn't see any reason to keep waiting so I called up the coaches and committed."

Blakley, who had offers from the likes of Iowa State and Air Force long with multiple Mid American Conference schools is the second State of Illinois pledge for the Redhawks Class of 2019. Blakley joins Simeon QB Alante Brown who earlier this month gave Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment. 

New Trier junior three star ranked athlete recruit Duke Olges (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) has been looking harder at his multiple college offers and options. Olges, who has been playing baseball for the Trevians this spring will make two unofficial visits this weekend then will begin to narrow down his favorite schools.

"My plan is to go see Duke and Virginia this weekend and see how everything goes with those visits," according to Olges. "After that I'm either going to narrow things down to a top schools list or I might even make a decision. I just feel that I have some great offers right now and don't want to wait too long in making a decision. Playing the waiting game is a risk because kids are already starting to make decisions. I don't want to miss out and lose some great offers."

Stevenson junior inside linebacker recruit Maema Njongmeta (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) has continued to add scholarship offers this spring including recent offers from both NIU and Toledo. Njongmeta was also able to head out east over his recent spring break and made a handful of college visits.

"I was able to go out to visit Princeton, Army and Penn over my spring break then we headed up to Canada to visit with some family," Njongmeta said. "All three visits I felt went very well and overall it was a fun trip. I thought it was very beneficial to see all three schools in person. Army has the whole military stigma but it was good to see the academy in person. It was great to see what West Point and academy life is all about in person and it was super cool. Every school brings something different to the table. I was able to definitely get a better feel for each school I visited."

Njongmeta has reached also out to someone very familiar with the recruiting process in former Stevenson and current Northwestern super back Cameron Green.

"We have a wonderful lady who works at our school who was able to get me in touch with Cameron Green. I knew of Cameron since I was in eight grade but didn't know him at all. He's a great guy and has been a big help for me. He's given me some good advice and is someone who's been through the process and knows what I'm going through with the recruiting process."

Urban Prep Bronzeville junior defensive back Jeremiah Webb (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) was able to add his first scholarship offer earlier this week from Northern Illinois University. 

"I'm still really excited (about adding his first offer from NIU) and my phone has been blowing up," Webb said. "I've been working hard for a long time now and it just feels good to add my first offer from NIU."

Webb has been eyeing the NIU Huskies program for some time now.

"I've been looking into NIU for a long time. They have a great, winning program and have been to multiple bowl games over the years. NIU is also close to home and I've been to NIU for a camp last summer and I also went to the NIU spring game. It's great to get my first offer from such a good program like NIU."

Webb has also drawn recruiting attention from Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Cornell and Holy Cross so far this spring. 

Recruiting news and notes: Simeon's Alante Brown verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

alanta_brown_01-26_1920x1080_1147163203668_0.jpg
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Recruiting news and notes: Simeon's Alante Brown verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

Simeon junior quarterback Alante Brown (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) earlier this week decided to give Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment. Brown, who narrowed down his Top 4 schools to the Redhawks along with NIU, Western Michigan and Toledo pointed towards a few key reasons he gave Miami of Ohio his commitment.

"I was able to see everything that Miami has to offer," Brown said. "They offer a great education and very strong overall academics. The football program is heading in the right direction plus they already have a younger team. I'm hoping to help bring in even more kids in my class and I've already started to work on a few guys from here about Miami."

West Aurora sophomore defensive tackle Denver Warren (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) has been one of the top recruit names to watch in the Class of 202 in Illinois. Warren, who has scholarship offers from the likes of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and Iowa State made a recent visit to Illinois.

"I had a good visit to Illinois," according to Warren. "They have a great overall energy and I just liked it. Illinois also has a strong brotherhood between the players and the coaches. The coaching staff at Illinois is pretty amazing. It was my first time ever at Illinois and I liked the facilities and the stadium. Illinois is also pretty close to home. I just came away impressed with the bond between the players and the coaches at Illinois."

Warren is also planning to transfer at the end of the spring semester to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. 

"It's a great opportunity and I want to go and get better and take my game to the highest level. My Mom and I have looked really hard at everything and I made my final decision and talked to my coaches about it. I'm going to visit IMG Academy on May 10th and 11th and I'll go back to register for school on July 14th."

St. Charles North junior three-star ranked defensive back Tyler Nubin (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) made a verbal commitment to Minnesota Thursday morning.

"I had a really good visit to Minnesota," Nubin said. "I spent the day with Coach (PJ) Fleck and the defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae. Their coaching staff is just unbelievable and the facilities are top notch."

Nubin held 16 scholarship offers this spring, including six offers from the Big Ten conference.  

Momence junior three-star ranked athlete Jason Bargy (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) has drawn nine Power 5 scholarship offers so far this spring and made a recent visit to Illinois.

"I wanted to see the tempo and how the coaches get after the players," Bargy told Orange and BlueNews.com's Doug Buschon. "How the guys interact with each other. "

Bargy, who doesn't plan to announce any Top schools list is planning to make a college decision "over the next few months."