Preps Talk

Curie is new No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

Curie is new No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

The busy holiday tournament swing is complete as 2020 begins. We learned a lot about where the best local teams stand after many ranked teams faced each other during the holidays.

We see four new teams enter the Power Rankings this week, while there is also a new No. 1 and a lot of other overall movement. We'll see plenty of ranked matchups in the coming weeks with conference play heating up.

1. Curie (11-0, 3-0) (2) -- The Condors proved themselves as the No. 1 team by capturing the title at Pontiac and beating previous No. 1 Bloom in the title game. Ramean Hinton is firmly in the Player of the Year mix and this is a balanced team full of weapons.

2. Evanston (13-0, 3-0) (3) -- Staying unbeaten is the Wildkits as Evanston won the title at Centralia. Blake Peters took MVP honors while Jaylin Gibson was also a first-team all-tournament selection. 

3. Bogan (14-1, 4-1) (4) -- Bogan took down the field at Proviso West to claim another title there. The Bengals get scoring from all over and remain one of the city's elite teams entering the new year.

4. Bloom (12-2, 3-1) (1) -- Falling short at Pontiac after losing to Curie in the title game, Bloom will have to recover quickly with a very difficult conference slate in the Southland. Even with some early slip-ups the Blazing Trojans are still a major state title hopeful.

5. Morgan Park (6-5, 1-1) (5) -- The Mustangs had a difficult week playing in the prestigious Beach Ball Classic facing national competition. Although Morgan Park was 1-3 in the event against national competition, Adam Miller did drop 52 points in a Morgan Park win to close the event.

6. Whitney Young (7-6, 4-0) (6) -- The Dolphins went 2-2 at Beach Ball coming off of another national week at City of Palms. Whitney Young's closing Beach Ball win over Millenium (AZ) is a strong one as that program beat Lincoln Park by 19 earlier this season.

7. Loyola (14-1, 4-0) (7) -- Loyola saw its holiday tournament streak snapped in Naples, Florida with a loss in the title game to Santa Fe Catholic (FL). The Ramblers are still unbeaten against Illinois competition as they remain the frontrunners in the Catholic League. 

8. Notre Dame (14-2, 2-0) (8) -- Impressive week for the Dons in winning at Wheeling. They knocked off some strong teams including a ranked Glenbrook South in the finals. Louis Lesmond earned MVP at Wheeling while Anthony Sayles and Troy D'Amico were all-tournament selections. 

9. Thornton (13-0, 4-0) (9) -- The Wildcats won all four games at Big Dipper by at least 11 points in easily capturing the title. Demarco Minor took home MVP honors of the event while Brandon Hall and Derrick Williams also made the all-tourney team.

10. Homewood-Flossmoor (11-1, 0-0) (13) -- Huge week for the Vikings winning at the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic. H-F knocked off two ranked opponents in Stevenson and DePaul Prep to earn the title as they look like a major state title sleeper. Senior R.J. Ogom is strong on the interior and the guard play of Joel Watts, Josiah Palmer and Brandon Brewer is very good.

11. Lincoln Park (12-3, 3-1) (11) -- The Lions went 2-1 in Michigan playing in the Motor City Roundball Classic. With only an in-state loss to Whitney Young so far, Lincoln Park is still in solid position entering the new year. 

12. DePaul Prep (12-2, 5-0) (12) -- Nice week at Hinsdale Central for DePaul Prep as they placed second after falling to H-F in the title game. The win over Marian Catholic was strong. The Rams only have losses to top-ten teams so far this season. Junior guard TY Johnson continues to develop.

13. Mundelein (13-1, 3-0) (16) -- Mundelein had a solid trip to Collinsville, advancing to the title game and losing to the hosts for their first loss of the season. Conor Enright, Scottie Ebube and Trey Baker all made the all-tournament team. The Mustangs could be the favorites in the North Suburban.

14. Marian Catholic (10-3, 1-1) (10) -- The Spartans finished third at Hinsdale Central as they fell to DePaul Prep before bouncing back against Stevenson. The Spartans also have a win over HCHC champion Homewood-Flossmoor earlier this season. 

15. Lake Park (13-1, 3-0) (17) -- After falling on the road to Mundelein before the holidays, Lake Park had an impressive week in taking the title at Pekin. Luke Sgarbossa and Trevor Montiel both made the all-tournament team for the Lancers. Lake Park has a major conference clash with St. Charles North on Saturday.

16. Glenbrook South (13-1, 3-0) (18) -- Glenbrook South's strong start maintained by making the title game at Wheeling before losing to Notre Dame. Although senior Dom Martinelli generates most of the attention he's had plenty of help. Sophomore Coop Noard continues to emerge and Justin Leszynski had a strong event. 

17. Bolingbrook (11-3, 0-0) (NR) -- Nice bounceback effort from the Raiders in winning the Jack Tosh at York. Wins over the hosts and Hinsdale South were impressive. Darius Burford also showed why he made the preseason All-Area team with a strong week.

18. Stevenson (11-3, 3-0) (15) -- The Patriots fell twice at Hinsdale Central to ranked opponents, falling to Homewood-Flossmoor and Marian Catholic. Stevenson is still figuring out how to play against more athletic teams. The Patriots have no bad losses on the season and will look to bounce back in North Suburban play.

19. York (12-2, 2-0) (25) -- The Dukes made the finals of Jack Tosh after four wins, falling to Bolingbrook in the title game. With only losses to the Raiders and Patriots, York has quietly put together a very strong season.

20. Kankakee (11-1, 3-1) (23) -- Quietly winning its own holiday tournament, Kankakee still only has one loss on the season to Bloom. LaVell McIntosh won MVP honors as his good season continues.

21. Niles North (12-2, 3-0) (20) -- The Vikings placed third at Wheeling after falling to Glenbrook South in the semifinals. The win over Joliet West earlier this season looks even better now. Aquan Smart continues to draw considerable buzz.

22. Joliet West (11-2, 5-0) (NR) -- Joliet West made a strong impression at Pontiac by knocking off Simeon and taking Curie to the limit. The balanced Tigers had strong weeks from Jamere Hill, Jaiden Lee and Trent Howland.

23. Waubonsie Valley (12-1, 2-1) (NR) -- Entering the Power Rankings for the first time is the Warriors after winning at Jacobs. Marcus Skeete is putting up a big season while Ben Schweiger is another weapon to watch.

24. Orr (7-5, 3-1) (24) -- Winning third place at the King Cotton Classic in Arkansas against national competition, the Spartans are an intriguing team at the back of the Power Rankings. Orr faces T.F. South this weekend.

25. Oak Forest (12-1, 4-0) (NR) -- The Bengals are back in the Power Rankings after winning the event at Maine East. The win over Crane in the title game is a good one. Sophomore Robbie Avila continues to blossom into a star and must-see college prospect.

Max Christie selects Michigan State over Duke, several Big Ten schools

Max Christie selects Michigan State over Duke, several Big Ten schools

Sparty Nation got another reason to flex. And it may have Coach K seeing green.

Max Christie, a five-star shooting guard (Rivals) and the top Illinois player in the Class of 2021, is headed to play for Michigan State and legendary head coach Tom Izzo. The Rolling Meadows High School product made his decision Tuesday in an interview with Fox’s Andy Katz.

“It just felt like it was a place that I was needed and a place I wanted to go to,” Christie said. “I think Coach Izzo and his staff and all my teammates there can push me to be the person I want to be, not just on, but off the court.”

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Christie selected Michigan State —his only official visit— over, namely, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. Also on his list of potential choices were Villanova, Virginia, Purdue, Ohio State, Northwestern, Illinois and several others. While Christie is excited for Izzo to help improve his game, he also prides himself on his versatility and making an immediate impact.

“I think I can be a great facilitator and a great scorer,” Christie said. “I feel like I can do anything that Coach Izzo or the players need be to do if that means rebounding, pushing the ball, setting up an offense or coming off screens, I feel like I am versatile enough of anything that is asked of me.”

The 6-foot-6 Christie may get another boost on the court a few years down the line, as Class of 2022 phenom Emoni Bates, the top player in the current junior class, committed to play for MSU on June 30. All of this assumes Bates keeps his commitment to East Lansing and doesn’t hop the NBA. Christie remains steadfast in his committed to Michigan State and is not exploring any G-League options at the moment.

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Christie has grabbed headlines in Chicagoland since his freshman year. He has tallied a 50-point game and a triple double and had several clutch moments during his junior season. He is coming off the first 20-win campaign at ‘Meadows in nearly 30 years.

And there’s more Christie magic in the pipeline. Cameron, his younger brother, is one of the quickly-rising sophomores in the area.

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

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USA Today

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

It’s time to party like it’s 1995 —especially if you’re a high school basketball fan who likes watching the game in the Champaign-Urbana area.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) board of directors voted Monday to move the host venue for the boys state basketball finals from Peoria to Champaign’s renovated State Farm Center for the next three seasons.

“We see this as the passing of the torch from Peoria to Champaign-Urbana,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “It is bittersweet because there is incredible passion from high school basketball within these two communities, and both have done so much to elevate the state final experience as hosts. The State Farm Center is one of the best arenas in the country, and we are excited to crown state champions there once again. The timing simply felt right to make a change as the tournament format shifts in 2021."

The boys tournament will run on March 11-13, 2021, March 10-12, 2022 and March 9-11, 2023.

“We are thrilled with today’s news that the Illinois high school boys basketball state finals will return home to the campus of the University of Illinois, Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “We are grateful to the IHSA and its leadership for choosing State Farm Center and Champaign-Urbana to host the state finals.

The boys tournament, which had been located in Champaign for 77 years, moved to Peoria’s Civic Center (Carver Arena) starting in 1996. The girls tournament was also in Champaign until 1992 before moving to Redbird Arena. The girls tournament will remain in Normal.

The Champaign area was steeped in prep basketball glory for generations. The first televised championship came in 1952 when Hebron, a school of 98 students defeated a Quincy school boasting an enrollment over 1,000. Six years later, the first Chicago school —Marshall— won state. In 1972, the tournament was split into Class A (small schools) and AA (large schools). The late Ben Wilson helped Simeon win in a title in Champaign in 1984 while future NBA stars (Kevin Garnett, Melvin Ely) and NFL receivers (Antwaan Randle El and Tai Streets) graced the floor at Assembly Hall during the 1995 tournament.

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The next year was a perfect one for the city of Peoria to grab the reins for the boys tournament. Hometown Manual High School won their third and fourth consecutive state titles in 1996 and 1997. Later, Derrick Rose guided Simeon to back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007. A four-class system was instituted for the 2007-08 season. Simeon dominated again from 2010-13 with Jabari Parker in the spotlight.

This year’s basketball tournaments were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.