Preps Talk

Big test for Simeon against No. 1 Montverde on Saturday

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Big test for Simeon against No. 1 Montverde on Saturday

Simeon has come a long way in a very short time. After opening the season a little over a month ago as the No. 1 high school team in the country, the Wolverines looked like a shell of the squad who won the last three 4A state championships in Illinois.

But since then, the Wolverines have shown much better chemistry and continuity on the court.

After losing their second game of the season and their No. 1 ranking in a nationally televised contest against DeSoto (Texas), Simeon put together a string of seven consecutive victories, including capturing the title last week at the ultra-competitive Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

Much of the Wolverines' improvement can be directly attributed to the overall health of the team and specifically, their All-American, Jabari Parker. Since making his return to the court on Dec. 1 and struggling in the process Parker has improved his conditioning and dropped much of the weight hed picked up since his injured foot kept him sidelined and unable to play since the summer.

While at Pontiac, Parker proved why he is one of the best prep players in the country as he led Simeon to the championship and earned the tournament's MVP award. Coach Robert Smith was pleased with his superstar and his team as a whole, feeling confident that his squad has made great strides in a short amount of time.

I think we played well in Pontiac. I still think we have some room for improvement, but guys were sharing the basketball and we got some wide-open shots as a result. We just looked like we were playing Simeon basketball again, but we still have a long way to go, opined Smith at his teams final practice on Thursday afternoon before departing for West Virginia Friday morning to compete in the Cancer Research Classic.

One of the big issues for Simeon has been their overall health as theyve had key players like Parker and Kendrick Nunn banged up in the early part of the season. But Smith feels those concerns are behind them and now that the team is whole again, they can continue to work on their chemistry and becoming more familiar with each other as a group.

Kendrick is fine now. He was a little banged up going into Pontiac, but those two days we had off after the tournament really helped him, said Smith. And Jabari is getting healthier and healthier, getting more in shape, and as time has gone on weve started to get better as a team.

We saw our rhythm start to come together in Pontiac and we knew thats where it would happen. Our offensive flow has gotten a little bit better, our execution has gotten a little bit better, weve still got to get some guys to understand their roles, but were starting to pick that part up as well.

The improvements the Wolverines have made will be put to the test this weekend as they face another top-ranked high school program in No. 1 Montverde Academy (Fla.), in yet another nationally televised contest on Saturday evening at 5:00 CT on ESPN2.

Simeon will have their hands full with a Montverde team that boasts three players in the top 100 of the 2013 class including point guard Kasey Hill (No. 9) who signed with Florida, 6-10 center Dakari Johnson (No. 12) who is still undecided and 6-0 power forward Devin Williams (No. 85) who will play his college ball at West Virginia next season.

Coach Smith knows hes facing a formidable opponent Montverde knocked off Whitney Young in overtime en route to a championship at the City of Palms Classic in Florida but feels his team is ready for the challenge and has a good chance to win as long as his guys come to play.

To be able to beat Montverde, were going to have to have guys step up and bring their A game, said Smith on the matchup. Its not going to be able to be a B or C game from us if were going to beat those guys. They have some great, talented players some high-major, Division I guys were going to have to really step up and play well to have a chance to win.

Despite their demanding travel schedule, Coach Smith isnt concerned with it affecting his team. In fact, he knows these tough matchups will only help Simeon when the local action here in Chicago becomes much more intense.

These games, where we have to travel, just gets us ready for March and some of the bigger games we have down the line, like the Whitney Young and Morgan Park games, said Smith. The games were playing now against national opponents are a good test to see where we are. If we can compete with these teams, well be able to compete with everybody locally.

Recruiting News and Notes: Wynston Russell verbally commits to Oregon State

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Rivals

Recruiting News and Notes: Wynston Russell verbally commits to Oregon State

Homewood-Flossmoor’s senior three star-ranked defensive back Wynston Russell (5-foot-10, 160 pounds) announced his verbal commitment to Oregon State via his Twitter account.

"I really like the coaches at Oregon State a lot and they played a big role in my decision," Russell said. "Coach Tibs (Tim Tibesar) and head coach (Jonathon) Smith along with the rest of the coaches at Oregon State are a newer staff and they are going to win a lot of games at Oregon State. On my official visit I was able to learn more about the great academic support system in place. The academic support that is offered at Oregon State is great and they also work hard on career planning and placement."

"Everyone on the official visit really bonded last weekend, and the guys already on the team also made us feel like part of the team already. The guys on the team are great guy. I also really liked the campus life at Oregon State. You have plenty of things to do but you can also focus on academics and you don't have a ton of distractions. I just felt very comfortable at Oregon State and that was another big part of my decision. I just felt like I fit in there."

Russell was holding multiple scholarship offers and also considered Wisconsin, Western Michigan and Toledo before giving the Beavers his commitment. 

Chicago Mount Carmel senior offensive guard recruit Marcelo Mendiola (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) impress the University of Cincinnati coaches at a recently-held North Central College satellite camp. A few weeks later Mendiola added a Bearcat offer, visited the campus and then gave Cincinnati his verbal commitment.

"It's (Cincinnati) just a great fit for myself and my family," Mendiola said. "We talked it over and I just have a lot in common with the coaches and the philosophy in the football program at Cincinnati. I looked hard at things like the overall depth chart and I'll have a chance to come in and earn early playing time."

Joliet Catholic senior offensive tackle Dave Monnot III (6-foot-6, 285 pounds) decided to give Purdue his verbal commitment after adding a camp offer from the Boilermakers. Monnot III camped at Purdue last Monday, added a Boilermakers offer last Thursday and immediately gave the Purdue staff his verbal commitment.

"One of the big things that sold me on (Purdue) was the coaching staff," Monnot III said. "I love the way Coach (Dale) Williams coaches. He's an Ohio guy and he's going to hold me accountable if I mess up, and that's something I look for in a coach. The final factor was the players (at Purdue). I didn't get a chance to talk to any of the players while I was there, but at my gym here at home, Rudy's, Evan Panfil used to go there, so I had his number. I gave him a call and asked him about his experience there and he sold me."

Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin senior three star-ranked offensive tackle Nick Broeker (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) decided earlier this week to give Ole Miss his verbal commitment. Broeker, who was holding 18 scholarship offers this summer pointed towards his connection to Ole Miss as one of his reasons on giving the Rebels his commitment.

"Ole Miss just has so much to offer," according to Broeker. "It's a great fit for me in so many ways. They play in the best conference in the nation in the SEC West. My goal has always been to play at the highest possible level in college and you can't find a higher level of college football than the SEC. Ole Miss offers a good education plus I just feel at home. Ole Miss offered and recruited me as an offensive tackle. I looked at several schools and in the end I found myself comparing everyone else to Ole Miss. My family is also really excited about Ole Miss and they also really loved it.

 

65 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

65 Days to Kickoff: Elmwood Park

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Elmwood Park

Head coach: Dylan Mack

Assistant coaches: Gabe Ostrander, Tim Eberhard, Mario Fiorito, Chad Nardi, Joe Kraft and Dwayne French

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (4-1 Metro Suburban Red Conference), Elmwood Park made the Class 4A state football playoff field. The Tigers lost to Genoa-Kingston in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs St. Joseph

Sept. 1 vs Foreman

Sept. 7 vs Ridgewood

Sept. 14 @ St. Edward

Sept. 21 @ Fenton

Sept. 28 vs Leo

Oct. 5 @ Guerin Prep

Oct. 12 vs Chicago Christian

Oct. 19 vs Bishop McNamara

[MORE: 82 Days to Kickoff - Ridgewood]

Biggest storyline: An encore performance. Can the Tigers make back-to-back playoff appearances this season?

Names to watch this season: FB/DE Luciano Martino and WR/DB Kris Diallo

Biggest holes to fill: The Tigers will need to replace eight graduated starters on defense this fall.

EDGY's Early Take: Elmwood Park head coach Dylan Mack is looking to keep the winning momentum found last season going into 2018. The Tigers will rely on an experienced offense with eight returning starters back in the fold and if the defense can gel sooner rather than later, look for Elmwood Park to once again challenge for another state playoff bid this fall.