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. 

1-on-1 with East St. Louis safety Antonio Johnson

1-on-1 with East St. Louis safety Antonio Johnson

While many top Chicagoland underclassmen took part in the third annual EDGYTIM MLK Underclassmen Showcase powered by EFT Football Academy last week, several others from outside the area participated and made waves of their own. Athletes from Central and Southern Illinois made statements, while others from a dozen states and Canada turned heads as well. 

East St. Louis sophomore safety Antonio Johnson (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) was one of several Flyers who made a very positive impression and made the most of his experience. 

Johnson, who started at wide receiver and safety for the Flyers (10-2 in 2017), is already appearing on several college radar screens. Johnson remains one of several underclassmen to watch for head coach Darren Sunkett over the next few years. 

I caught up with East St. Louis sophomore safety prospect Antonio AJ Johnson at the showcase and discussed his winter plans, his recruiting and why he made the nearly-300 mile trek in the dead of winter to compete at this event.

Three new teams enter latest Preps Power Rankings

Three new teams enter latest Preps Power Rankings

Three new teams enter the picture in the Preps Power Rankings this week as some shakeups occured due to a lot of ranked matchups. While many of the top teams remain the same, a lot of changes went down towards the back end of the rankings this week.

1. Simeon (17-3, 7-0) (1) -- The Wolverines made quick work out of Vocational and Brooks to maintain its conference lead. Big week ahead for Simeon as they play Dunbar, No. 3 Curie and head to Baltimore to face Polytechnic (MD). 

2. Orr (16-3, 7-0) (2) -- Orr took down North Lawndale and Westinghouse during the week to remain unbeaten in conference play. The Spartans face Marshall before hosting Vashon (MO) at their own shootout on Saturday. 

3. Curie (17-2, 7-0) (3) -- The Condors had another strong week, beating Hyde Park, Vocational and North Lawndale. Curie has another busy week as they play Brooks, Simeon and North Chicago. 

4. Whitney Young (17-4, 6-1) (4) -- Whitney Young handled a very tough week, taking down Uplift, North Lawndale and Bloomington. The Dolphins get another week of quality opponents as they play Westinghouse and Chaminade (MO). 

5. Bolingbrook (15-2, 4-0) (5) -- Huge week for Bolingbrook as they followed up a win over Morgan Park with wins over Joliet Central and Homewood-Flossmoor. The Raiders play Joliet West and Lincoln-Way East this week. 

6. Morgan Park (15-7, 6-2) (6) -- Adam Miller looked like a potential star as the sophomore made nine three-pointers in a Morgan Park win over Fenwick. The Mustangs have been without Ayo Dosunmu and Tamell Pearson but still look like a top team. The Mustangs face Harlan and St. Frances (MD) this week. 

7. Niles North (18-2, 4-2) (10) -- Blowout win for the Vikings over crosstown rival Niles West as they get another conference game against Glenbrook South during the week.

8. Fenwick (14-6, 5-0) (8) --  Fenwick lost to Public League powers Simeon and Morgan Park but they remained unbeaten in the Catholic League with an overtime win over St. Rita. The Friars get a huge conference game this week when they take on DePaul Prep.

9. Marist (18-2, 3-1) (9) -- The RedHawks beat Brother Rice for a quality win before falling to Benet in overtime. Still looking like a major contender, Marist face Joliet Catholic this week.

10. Marian Catholic (14-3, 2-2) (12) -- The Spartans took down Notre Dame in ESCC play as they prepare to play St. Patrick during the upcoming week. 

11. DePaul (18-4, 3-1) (13) -- DePaul Prep continues to pick up quality wins as they beat St. Joseph and Evanston during the weekend. The Rams have a huge Catholic League game against Fenwick during the week.

12. Loyola (17-3, 4-1) (14) -- Loyola held off St. Ignatius for a close win as they played in the first high school game at Wintrust Arena. The Ramblers play De La Salle and Detroit (Jesuit) this week. 

13. Evanston (14-4, 5-1) (11) -- The Wildkits needed overtime to outlast Glenbrook South before falling to DePaul Prep. Evanston has another busy week ahead as they play Maine South and Geneva. 

14. Oak Park-River Forest (14-4, 5-0) (15) -- The Huskies bounced back with a conference win over Hinsdale Central as they've easily looked like the best team in the West Suburban this season. OPRF plays Proviso West and Lyons this week. 

15. Hillcrest (16-4, 8-0) (16) -- Making quick work of Tinley Park in South Suburban play, the Hawks remain undefeated in the league. Hillcrest gets T.F. South and Homewood-Flossmoor next week. 

16. Lincoln Park (14-5, 6-2) (8) -- Lincoln Park dropped a conference game to Farragut and won a close game against Marshall as they prepare to face La Lumiere (IN), one of the premier high school teams in the country. 

17. New Trier (14-3, 4-1) (21) -- The Trevians had the week off after Monday as they try to regroup to face Niles West and St. Viator during the week. New Trier is still right in the mix in the CSL South race.

18. Benet (15-4, 3-1) (24) -- Fresh off of winning a Martin Luther King event at Wheaton Warrenville South, the Redwings took down Marist in overtime in ESCC play. Benet has Nazareth coming up in ESCC play this week.

19. West Aurora (14-4, 5-0) (25) -- Another solid week for West Aurora as they took down Bartlett in conference play before rolling past a talented Romeoville team. The Blackhawks have Glenbard East this week before facing Willowbrook at the Batavia Night of Hoops. 

20. Joliet Central (15-3, 8-0) (18) -- Tough loss for Joliet Central as they fell to a red-hot Bolingbrook team. The Steelmen came back with a double-digit win over crosstown rival Joliet West. Joliet Central hosts Romeoville in a huge Southwest Prairie clash of unbeatens this week while also playing Lincoln-Way East this weekend. 

21. Wheaton Warrenville South (16-4, 7-1) (NR) -- Impressive DuPage Valley Conference win for the Tigers over Naperville North as they are tied for first in the league. Wheaton Warrenville South has a road game at Wheaton North before taking on Lake Park in conference play this week.

22. North Lawndale (13-7, 3-4) (17) -- Tough week for the Phoenix as they dropped three games to top-5 teams. North Lawndale played Orr to the limit in a four-point loss before losing to Whitney Young in overtime. Curie also got the best of the Phoenix with a weekend clash. North Lawndale gets another tough game against Uplift this week.

23. Naperville North (15-2, 7-1) -- The Huskies dropped a DuPage Valley Conference clash against Wheaton Warrenville South as the league continues to be one of the toughest to win in the suburbs. Naperville North has winnable game coming up this week against Metea Valley as they try to stay with the Tigers. 

24. St. Viator (16-4, 4-0) (NR) -- With four consecutive double-digit wins and the only unbeaten conference record in the loaded ESCC, the Lions re-enter the Power Rankings. St. Viator has plenty of quality wins this season, including Marian Catholic, Benet, Prospect, Conant and Libertyville. 

25. Aurora Christian (16-0, 6-0) (NR) -- The area's only remaining unbeaten team, Aurora Christian joins the Power Rankings after a solid win over Mooseheart during the week. Our Team of the Week last week, senior Jake Wolfe leads Aurora Christian as the Lipscomb commit is an All-Area candidate.