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Simeon prospects attracting college coaches

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Simeon prospects attracting college coaches

While Derrick Rose was christening his renovated neighborhood Tuesday, the league MVP's alma mater, Simeon Career Academy, was bustling. School was already over for the day, but the parking lot was filled, as college basketball coaches and other observers packed the high school's auxiliary gym to watch an open gym.

Unlike the Wolverines' first open gym this fall, no limousines pulled up 81st Street and Vincennes Avenue, but the likes of DePaul's Oliver Purnell and Washington's Lorenzo Romar were on hand to evaluate the two-time defending state champion's prospects. And although Rose had prior obligations, another former Simeon star with an NBA resume stopped by, as alumni Bobby Simmons caught a glimpse of the young talent.

Expected to be a top-10 nationally-ranked team heading into the high school season, even the non-varsity players and reserves at Simeon can play and would have a chance to be impact players for the average high school basketball program. But the school that produced Rose, Simmons, the late Ben Wilson and other Chicago schoolboy stars isn't the average program.

It should be noted that incumbent starting point guard Jelani Neely, a 5-foot-11 senior, sat out as he continues to recover from offseason ACL surgery. Neely, a heady type with playmaking ability, projects as mid-major Division I prospect.

Also, while they likely won't see significant varsity minutes, two of Simeon's freshmen stood out. Brandon Hutton, a hard-nosed forward with slashing ability and defensive prowess, has skills that translate to him being a big contributor throughout his prep career, while Dennis "D.J." Williams, a lanky wing, has considerable upside and the tools to one day develop into a star.

That said, here are quick evaluations of five of the most impressive players from Tuesday's session.

Jabari Parker, 6-foot-8 junior: Regarded by some as the nation's top overall prospect, Parker showed why, as his all-around game looks poised to reach another level. Easygoing off the court, his intensity was noticeable as he played all-out throughout the session and quietly encouraged his teammates. As Romar, his father Sonny's former NBA teammate watched, he dominated with his play, showing more explosiveness athletically on powerful dunks in both transition and half-court, using finesse on drives through traffic, showcasing a polished post-up game, consistently hitting both shots from behind the three-point arc and stop-and-pop jumpers, rebounding the ball at a high level on both ends, setting up for his teammates for scoring opportunities and digging in defensively.

Steve Taylor, 6-foot-8 senior: It's evident the Marquette commit has continued to develop and get stronger, as his back-to-the-basket game, powerful finishes and rebounding all looked much improved. Additionally, his ball handling has become more fluid, complementing his already potent shooting range, which means he'll have a chance to play both forward positions at the next level, if he can stay in front of quicker wing players. The assertiveness and leadership Taylor showed were good signs for the state's lone top-100 recruit nationally, who also looked bouncier athletically.

Kendrick Nunn, 6-foot-2 junior: Nunn, who committed early to Texas A&M, demonstrated his big-time athleticism early in the session with a powerful thrown-down over one of his teammates on the fast break. More of a combo guard than a pure point, the top-50 junior is an explosive scorer with the ability to score from deep, hit shots off the bounce and capitalize on crafty drives. The lefty is also a solid decision-maker and willing passer, enabling him to play either backcourt position.

Jaylon Tate, 6-foot-2 junior: A transfer from Catholic power De La Salle, it's apparent that the top-100 national prospect is adjusting from a more rigid half-court system, as he plays very unselfishly, makes pinpoint passes and seems to understand the concept of ball movement and spacing, lost arts among many young players. His playmaking ability should benefit Simeon, as he'll have plenty of distribution options. Tate is also a strong on-ball defender, possesses good size for his position, finishes well in transition and can knock down pull-up jumpers.

Kendall Pollard, 6-foot-5 junior: Due to the star power of some of his teammates, Pollard flies under the radar a bit, but his defensive acumen, willingness to battle inside, overall hustle, finishing ability and improving perimeter skills bode well for his future. Already a mid-major prospect at the present, Pollard is in the process of transitioning from an undersized interior player into a versatile wing with excellent toughness. His eye-catching blocked shots in transition garnered the attention of the entire gym.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

Trust the Rookie: Wendell Carter Jr. draws Opening Night start against Joel Embiid, Sixers

In a five-game span Wendell Carter Jr. saw preseason action against Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner. The 19-year-old rookie had his share of expected ups and downs but performed well enough that Fred Hoiberg officially announced him a starter for the team’s season opener tomorrow night.

His reward for all that hard work? A matchup against All-Pro center Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It’ll be an eye-opening experience for the Duke product, who just a year ago was readying himself for his first season of college basketball and a season-opening matchup against Elon. It’s safe to assume Embiid will pose a few more problems than did Phoenix center Tyler Seibring.

“Joel Embiid was one of my role models growing up,” Embiid said before practice Wednesday. “He was someone I always wanted to pattern my game after. Just to go up against him is a remarkable feeling. He’s a very physical player. He’s a very talented player. I’m going to be able to stack up and see what all I need to work on to last in this league.”

While it’s no easy task against a talent like Embiid, who was named All-NBA Second Team last season, Carter’s most important job will be staying out of foul trouble. Carter piggy-backed an impressive Summer League with a preseason that included averages of 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. But those numbers also included 7.7 fouls per 48 minutes. He racked up 17 fouls in five games, and had at least three in each.

Embiid only went to the line five times in Tuesday’s season-opening loss to the Celtics, but that was primarily against Defensive Player of the Year candidate Al Horford. Embiid won’t face as much resistance against Carter, putting the pressure on the rookie to stay on the floor.

“He’s going to have to navigate that without using his hands,” Fred Hoiberg said. “We have to be all five aware. It’s just not a one-man problem with Embiid. We have to have great awareness of him and try and mix up coverages and hopefully make him take tough shots, knowing that he’s going to hit some of those. You just can’t get deflated when he does.’’

The decision was a mere formality – Bobby Portis will start at power forward – after the frontcourt combination played considerably better in the Bulls’ final two preseason games. Though Jabari Parker was initially slotted in at power forward following Lauri Markkanen’s elbow sprain, Portis’ impressive preseason forced Hoiberg’s hand. Portis averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field in just 22.4 minutes.

“It’s all about combinations out there and we felt like Bobby gave us a great start with the way he was playing,” Hoiberg said. “And then we kind of changed things up with that second unit and put the ball in Jabari’s hands, so it was more that in trying to get guys out there with the right combinations.”

Lopez may have an expanded role if Carter gets into foul trouble early, while Parker will be the facilitator on a second unit that doesn’t have much in the way of a point guard. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the frontcourt will play out once Markkanen returns in roughly a month; if Portis and Carter continue playing well, Hoiberg could opt to keep them together on the second unit and put Lopez back in the starting lineup.

But for at least Opening Night – the Bulls also get Andre Drummond and the Pistons on Saturday – it’ll be the seventh overall pick getting his NBA feet wet with a matchup against arguably the best center in basketball. But’s it a role he’s earned, and on a Bulls defense looking for any sort of improvement, Carter is the player who can anchor it.

“His defense is always going to be important for us. He’s the guy that’s the anchor in that starting unit at the rim,” Hoiberg said, “and he’s done a really solid job of making perimeter guys taking contested shots when he gets switched off, or staying vertical at the rim and trying to make a big finish over the top of him, so yeah, again it’s a great challenge, great opportunity for Wendell.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: