Preps Talk

Dream on? Some fantasy-like HS matchups could become a reality

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Dream on? Some fantasy-like HS matchups could become a reality

With two more weeks left until the IHSA state playoffs, here are some fun dream matchups to consider.  I would love to see some of these happen-- and in some cases, a few of these actually have a chance to occur.

Homewood-Flossmoor vs East St. Louis: The 8A Vikings, coached by Craig Buzea, have a ton of playmakers. They feature a speedster in NIU-bond senior RB Justin Hall; plus, their speed and athleticism on both sides of the football is eye-catching. As for East St Louis, the Flyers (Class 7A) also have a ton of talent and speed including senior dual-threat QB Christian Perez and a big, very physical offensive line. This would be an excellent back-and-forth game-- a possible 'last possession wins' type of finish.

Marist vs Lincoln-Way East: Both 8A schools could very well see each other on the IHSA playoff road. Coach Rob Zvonar's Griffins feature one of the state's top defensive lines, built around senior Northwestern commit Devin O'Rourke. They also have a strong running game and good overall depth. Marist, under first-year head coach Ron Dawczak, also boasts a fantastic defensive line led by Indiana commit DE Gavin McCabe and Minnesota pledge Elijah Teague. The Redhawks' offense can beat you with the run and the pass. QB Mike Markett, RB Delonte Harrell and a ton of quality receivers are helping Marist rack up nearly 45 points per game. I'd pay to see these two teams compete in any postseason playoff round.

Barrington vs Huntley: It's another matchup that could potentially happen in 8A this postseason. How much fun would it be to see both do-it-all quarterbacks (Barrington's Ray Niro and Huntley's Eric Mooney) battle each other for four quarters?

[MORE: Edgy Tim's Week 8 Power Rankings]

Maine South vs a Rochester/Sacred Heart-Griffin CO-OP team: Since 4A perennial power Rochester and 5A-sized Sacred Heart-Griffin are both smaller than Maine South (from an enrollment standpoint) I'd allow a CO-OP for both schools here. How wild would a combined Leonard Family-led team be? Maine South has great balance on offense with QB John O'Sullivan, NIU commit RB Fotis Kokosioulis and a ton of quality receivers. Team Leonard's offense would undoubtedly be equal to the task. 

Glenbard West vs Loyola: Sort of like Godzilla meets Godzilla? Both Loyola (8A) and Glenbard West (8A/7A bubble team) pride themselves on defense first, but both are pretty diverse on offense as well. How cool would this be: two of the top overall programs in Illinois over the past decade going head to head? We can only hope. 

Lake Zurich vs Prairie Ridge: It's the unstoppable force (6A's Prairie Ridge offense with QB Samson Evans) against the immovable object (The 7A Lake Zurich defense). The matchup between the Bears' offense, which has opened up considerably under first year head coach Luke Mertens, against the Wolves' speedy and hard-hitting defense could potentially be just as impressive. 

Phillips vs Peoria: Peoria (4-3), the defending 5A state champs, seem headed to 6A. Of course, they would have to qualify for the state playoff field first. Phillips, the 3A/4A-sized school voluntarily moved up to 5A for the next two seasons. How would the Wildcats defense contain Peoria's offense, led by Illinois commit QB Coran Taylor and company? 

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.

[MORE: Derrick Rose Week podcast]

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.