Preps Talk

Curie hopes national wins can lead to state tournament run


Curie hopes national wins can lead to state tournament run

In the last two weeks, the CSN Preps Power Rankings have seen five teams in the top 20 lose to out-of-state opponents. Morgan Park, the best high school basketball team in Chicagoland, lost in Detroit along with top-10 teams in the Public League like Bogan and Kenwood last Monday. Riverside-Brookfield and Marian Catholic -- both preseason top 10 teams -- also fell to out-of-state opponents at the Chicago Elite Classic.

The top teams in the area losing to teams from outside of Illinois helps point to something that we already knew entering this season: that it was going to be a down year in Chicagoland high school basketball without a bonafide superstar.

There is no consensus top-50 national player in the area in the junior or senior class, and the field of teams who can win a state title is more open than ever this season.

Which is why Curie's win over Thon Maker and Athlete's Institute, an elite high school program in Canada with multiple high-major players, at the Marshall County Hoop Fest in Kentucky was a huge win for the Condors in building their confidence this season.

[MORE: Latest preps power rankings]

If you haven't seen Maker, he's the 7-foot YouTube sensation who could be a future top-5 pick in the NBA Draft.

Curie head coach Mike Oliver has done a great job of getting his program to win games at national events against elite competition the last few seasons. The wins have continued even without former McDonald's All-American Cliff Alexander the last two seasons.

The Condors beat a McDonald's All-American in Purdue's Caleb Swanigan and Homestead High School last season as Homestead went on to win Indiana's state title in Class AAAA last season.

The win over Maker, a consensus, five-star top-ten player in a loaded national Class of 2016, is another statement for Curie, who has hopes to carry this over to the state tournament this season.

"I really believe that we can make it downstate and win a Class 4A state championship," Oliver said to CSN.

"We have a lot of talent but we're young. [The win in Kentucky] helped show that we can play at the highest level of high school basketball."

[MORE: High School Lites roundup Week 2]

In the last few seasons, Curie has defeated star players like D'Angelo Russell (Ohio State/Lakers) and Ben Simmons (LSU) with Montverde (FL), Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV) and Chase Jeter (Duke) with Bishop Gorman (NV) and Carlton Bragg (Kansas) with Villa Angela-St. Joseph (Ohio). All of those guys were McDonald's All-Americans and the Condors also defeated Jahlil Okafor and Whitney Young as well.

But the national success and wins over future pros hasn't carried over to deep state tournament runs in Illinois. Curie had a nice road win at Fenwick to win a Class 4A regional last season before falling to Riverside-Brookfield in the sectional semifinals. But they need to make a trip to Peoria to always be mentioned among the city and state's elite teams.

They return most of the roster from last season -- minus graduated senior Josh Stamps -- including senior guard and DePaul commit Devin Gage and junior guard Elijah Joiner, who had a very good summer. The sophomores who helped fill out the roster last season have now grown together for another season and feel more comfortable in big games around Gage and Joiner. And the Condors added a talented sophomore transfer in 6-foot-5 Landers Nolley.

Oliver likes the national showcase events because it gets his players seen by national talent evaluators and college coaches. His team also bonds on the road and veterans like Gage respect when younger players show up for a big opponent. The time together in different states has helped Curie build confidence in new players that step up in the spotlight.

"I tell the guys, 'How many times do you get to play nationally-ranked teams in front of a few thousand people?'" Oliver said. "I usually explain the history of that game, we work hard for it in practice and we believe we can come out and win."

As Oliver pointed out, Curie is often the underdog in these games against national teams.

"They have nothing to lose; the pressure comes on the nationally-ranked teams," Oliver said. "A lot of teams take us for granted because we might not be nationally ranked but we're going to be ready to play in the spotlight."

Curie is off to a 4-0 start on the season and they'll compete in a very tough Red-Central with ranked teams like Kenwood and Hyde Park. The Condors are hoping the conference tests prepare them for the Class 4A Riverside-Brookfield Sectional, which might be the deepest in the state in terms of overall talent.

In a down year in Illinois, Curie is off to a solid start and the Condors will be a team to keep track of in the Class 4A state title race.

95 Days to Kickoff: Waubonsie Valley

95 Days to Kickoff: Waubonsie Valley 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: Waubonsie Valley

Head coach: Paul Murphy

Assistant coaches: Ron Griffin, Tom Baumgarnter, Chris Genslinger, Brad Caldwell, Josh Cuttone, Noel Soto, Ryan Voitik, Duane Butts and Ken Anderson

How they fared in 2017: 4-5 (4-4 DuPage Valley Conference). Waubonsie Valley failed to qualify for the IHSA playoff field.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Oak Park-River Forest

Aug. 31 vs Libertyville

Sept 7 @ Neuqua Valley

Sept. 14 @ Edwardsville

Sept. 21 vs Naperville North

Sept. 28 vs Neuqua Valley

Oct. 5 vs Prairie Ridge

Oct. 12 @ Naperville Central

Oct. 19 @ Metea Valley

[MORE: 96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs]

Biggest storyline: It's all about the schedule. Can the Warriors survive a challenging lineup --which includes playing Neuqua Valley twice-- and make the playoffs?

Names to watch this season: WR Julian Cain and DL Avante Rogers

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will have several new faces on both the offensive and defensive lines in 2018. 

EDGY's Early Take: It's not often that veteran head coach Paul Murphy and his Warriors view the playoffs from home. But that's what happened last year. They were the first Waubonsie team since 2006 to do just that. Look for the Warriors to rely on a strong group of receivers to bounce back this fall. They also feature a good group of underclassmen ready to step up. Also, they will need to get used to life in the newly-realigned DuPage Valley Conference. The 2018 schedule includes two games against big district rival Neuqua Valley and a loaded non-conference slate which includes some heavy hitters. 

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs 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: Jacobs

Head coach: Bill Mitz

Assistant coaches: Bubba Smith, Mike Warren, Brian Zimmerman, JM Foote, Ryan Arndt and Bob Mackey

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (5-3 Fox Valley Conference). Jacobs made the Class 7A playoff field. The Golden Eagles lost to Lincoln-Way West in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 Hampshire 

Aug. 31 @ Huntley 

Sept. 7 Dundee-Crown 

Sept. 14 @ McHenry 

Sept. 21 Neuqua Valley 

Sept. 28 Prairie Ridge 

Oct. 5 @ Cary-Grove 

Oct. 12 Crystal Lake South 

Oct. 19 @ Crystal Lake Central

Biggest storyline: Can the Golden Eagles move up in the Fox Valley Conference pecking order in 2018?

Names to watch this season: OT Joacheim Price and OL Nick Zonta

Biggest holes to fill: The Golden Eagles will need to replace its entire starting linebacker group from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Year in and year out, Jacobs is always a factor in the rugged Fox Valley Conference (seven playoff appearances in the last eight years). The Golden Eagles return some starters in several key spots. If the underclassmen group can step up this summer, look for Jacobs to challenge for the FVC conference title and a higher seed in 7A come IHSA playoff time.