Preps Talk

Final 2016-17 Boys Basketball CSN Preps Power Rankings

Final 2016-17 Boys Basketball CSN Preps Power Rankings

Now that the 2016-17 IHSA boys basketball season has come to an end it is time to take a look at the final CSN Preps Power Rankings for the season. We've looked over accomplishments and postseason success as all of these teams won at least a regional title in the state playoffs. The Chicago Public League dominates the top five but there are many other strong programs who finished in the final rankings as well.

1. Whitney Young (27-7, 8-2) (6)

Preseason Ranking: 4

Accomplishments: Class 4A state champions, Proviso West Holiday Tournament champions, Public Leagued Red-West conference champion

Players to Remember: Senior Lucas Williamson was outstanding as he averaged 17.6 points per game. Junior Javon Freeman (14.1 ppg) was also strong down the stretch for the Dolphins while juniors like Xavier Castaneda (10.3 ppg) and senior defender Craig Beaudion (8.5 ppg) played valuable roles.

Final Thoughts: Head coach Tyrone Slaughter did perhaps the best coaching job of his three state championships with this group as he added new pieces to the rotation that fit very well while dealing with some injuries. The future is also very bright for Whitney Young. Castaneda and Freeman will be joined by junior sharpshooter Justin Boyd to form perhaps the state's best perimeter attack while younger players like sophomore Myles Baker and freshman Tyler Beard were intriguing during the season.

2. Morgan Park (26-6, 9-1) (3)

Preseason Ranking: 2

Accomplishments: Class 3A state champion, Public League Red-South conference champion, Second place in Public League Playoffs, Second place in Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

Players to Remember: Before going down to injury in the state semifinals, junior guard Ayo Dosunmu was one of this season's best players as he was a Player of the Year candidate and major force. The Mustangs also had steady seniors in big men Lenell Henry and Melo Burrell as well as guard Cam Irvin. Plenty of others also stepped up for a deep Morgan Park team throughout the season.

Final Thoughts: Winning the Class 3A title over Fenwick without Dosunmu was one of the most impressive feats of head coach Nick Irvin's career as this team has plenty of talent returning next season. Guard Lamond Johnson is back after getting significant minutes this season and freshmen Nimari Burnett -- a state-title game hero with 24 points -- and Marcus Watson both earned minutes in the state playoffs. 

3. Simeon (30-4, 9-2) (1)

Preseason Ranking: 5

Accomplishments: Second place in Class 4A, Public League Playoffs champion, Pontiac Holiday Tournament champion, No. 1 team for eight weeks in CSN Preps Power Rankings.

Players to Remember: Another balanced team for Simeon was led by senior point guard Evan Gilyard, as the UTEP commit was one of the state's best floor generals the past few seasons. The Wolverines also saw a leap in production from the junior trio of guard Kezo Brown, forward Talen Horton-Tucker and big man Messiah Jones.

Final Thoughts: The Wolverines ultimately fell short of of the state title but they still accomplished a lot this season while remaining very viable for next season. Brown, Horton-Tucker and Jones are back along with sophomore guard KeJuan Clements and junior Bakari Simmons. Head coach Robert Smith will once again have his team ready for a run next season.

4. Fenwick (30-5, 9-0) (10) 

Preseason Ranking: 17

Accomplishments: Second place in Class 3A, Chicago Catholic League conference champions, Catholic League Tournament champions, John Malone Thanksgiving Tournament champions.

Players to Remember: Seniors Jamal Nixon and Jacob Keller were two of the most well-rounded players in the state this season as both players but up solid numbers across the board. Freshman D.J. Steward, the team's leading scorer, ended up being the team's most reliable scorer by the end of the season as he went 10-for-10 from the field in the state finals loss to Morgan Park.

Final Thoughts: The overtime loss to Morgan Park will be tough to deal with but Fenwick should be proud of its other accomplishments. Head coach Rick Malnati has built a program that is dominating the Catholic League as he has plenty of talented players returning next season. Steward, A.J. Nixon, Damari Nixon and Billy Bruce all played significant minutes this season and should place the Friars back in the top 25.

5. Orr (23-5, 8-2) (11)

Preseason Ranking: 20

Accomplishments: Class 2A state champions, Motor City Roundball Classic Champions. 

Players to Remember: Since this team was profiled in-depth by Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times, many of the team's players were recognizable during the state playoffs. Juniors Raekwon Drake and Dannie Smith were among the city's best forwards while senior Alex Flute and junior Brian Hernandez were double-figure scorers are guard.

Final Thoughts: The Class 2A path wasn't exactly easy for the Spartans as they had to get through talented teams with Division I players like Uplift and DePaul Prep to even get to Peoria. With players like Drake, Smith and Hernandez set to return, Orr has a chance to make a major statement again next season.

6. Bolingbrook (30-2, 9-1) (4)

Preseason Ranking: 8

Accomplishments: Third place in Class 4A, Decatur Turkey Tournament champions, Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic champions, SouthWest Suburban Blue conference champions, No. 1 for three weeks in CSN Preps Power Rankings, started season 23-0. 

Players to Remember: One of the deepest teams in Illinois this season, the Raiders were led by senior wing and Nebraska commit Nana Akenten. Senior forward Malik Binns and senior guard Kaleb Thornton transferred in and became double-figure scorers for Bolingbrook. Sophomores like Joseph Yesufu and Tyler Cochran were also impact players this season.

Final Thoughts: The Raiders only lost to Simeon while at full strength this season, which is a testament to how good and how deep this team was. Bolingbrook loses plenty of talented seniors but they also return underclass guards like Cochran and Yesufu who should have the Raiders back in the top 25 next season. 

7. Fremd (31-2, 10-0) (8)

Preseason Ranking: NR

Accomplishments: Fourth place in Class 4A, Mundelein Thanksgiving Tournament champions, Wheeling Hardwood Classic champions, Mid-Suburban League champions, 31-0 start to the season.

Players to Remember: The Vikings don't have the Division I talent of other schools in the top 10 but seniors Kyle Sliwa, Shaan Patel, Luke Schoffstall and Brian Dompke knew how to play together. Fremd won a lot of tight games and piled up wins as one of the best Northwest Suburban teams in recent memory. 

Final Thoughts: Fremd lost its unbeaten season in Peoria with two close losses but the Vikings stayed close with both Whitney Young and Bolingbrook. As the season wore on, more people began to appreciate just how truly talented the Vikings were and how they were more than just a slow-down team. Fremd was a lot of fun to watch this season.

8. Evanston (28-4, 10-0) (2)

Preseason Ranking: 3

Accomplishments: Class 4A sectional title, Central Suburban League champion, St. Viator Thanksgiving champion, Second place at Beach Ball Classic

Players to Remember: Four years on varsity has left senior Nojel Eastern as one of Evanston's best players of all time as the Purdue commit was great down the stretch. This team also had plenty of seniors who made valuable plays like Chris Hamil, Malcolm Townsel and Elyjah Williams. 

Final Thoughts: The Wildkits were able to take home a sectional title and also got some tough national wins at out-of-state tournaments and showcases. Evanston was one of the best teams in the state this season and the future can still be solid with sophomores like Lance Jones and Jaheim Holden. 

9. Jacobs (30-2, 15-1) (9)

Preseason Ranking: 24

Accomplishments: Class 4A sectional title, Palatine Thanksgiving Tournament title, Hinkle Holiday Classic Tournament title, Fox Valley Conference champion

Players to Remember: Cameron Krutwig was one of the state's best players as the Loyola commit was unique compared to past star centers. A tremendous passer who was a double-double machine with points and rebounds, Krutwig nearly had a quadruple-double in the sectional title win over Larkin. Junior Ryan Phillips also was a double-figure scorer who frequently stepped up and made plays for the Golden Eagles.

Final Thoughts: This was one of the best teams the Fox Valley has seen over the last 20 years and the game against Fremd at the Sears Centre was a big moment for the conference's basketball reputation. Krutwig was a true star who could play with anyone in the state and Jacobs had plenty of capable players around him to make for a special season. 

10. Naperville North (25-6, 13-3) (10)

Preseason Ranking: NR

Accomplishments: Class 4A sectional champion 

Players to Remember: The Huskies were led by football star Mitch Lewis on the hardwood as the Miami of Ohio commit was the basketball team's best player as well this season. Junior big man Chris Johnson also had some productive games on the interior as he's a solid rebounder.

Final Thoughts: Naperville North couldn't get past Wheaton-Warrenville South in the regular season but got them back in the Class 4A playoffs as they showed how dangerous they were late in the season. Also beating Evanston during the year, Naperville North had a very strong season as they were one of a few DuPage Valley teams to end up in the final rankings.

11. Hillcrest (22-8, 12-1) (11)

Preseason Ranking: 10

Accomplishments: Class 3A sectional champions

Players to Remember: Senior guard Marcus Garrett put together a strong season for the Hawks as he was a reliable playmaker who could take over a game. Isaac Stanbeck was another exciting player who played well at Proviso West and had other big moments throughout the season.

Final Thoughts: The Hawks saw their conference title winning streak get snapped at the hands of T.F. North but they still made a rally to win a sectional title once again. Stanbeck should be a player to watch going forward along with junior guard Robert Harvey.

12. Joliet West (26-4, 14-0) (12)

Preseason Ranking: 6

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional champion, Southwest Prairie champion, win at the Chicago Elite Classic

Players to Remember: This group of seniors won a sectional title last season and fell a game short this season by falling Bolingbrook. Teyvion Kirk, Trevian Bell, Tabyous Casterberry and Elijah Ward helped form a talented nucleus that won a lot of big games.

Final Thoughts: Even if Joliet West didn't make it to Peoria this was still a great year for Joliet West and the city's basketball team as a whole. The Tigers have two players going on to Division I programs in Bell and Kirk and Joliet basketball seems to be in a good place right now.

13. Conant (27-5, 8-2) (13)

Preseason Ranking: 11

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional title, Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament title

Players to Remember: Sectional champions a season ago, the Cougars had another strong season from senior Jimmy Sotos as the Bucknell recruit was one of the area's best point guards. Big men Michael Downing and Ryan Davis also formed one of the top frontcourts in the area. 

Final Thoughts: In head coach Tom McCormack's final season, Conant played in some big games, including a rivalry with Fremd in which they lost three close games. Only losing to ranked teams this season, Conant had another great year as Sotos leaves as one of the better players in program history.

14. North Lawndale (23-8, 7-3) (14)

Preseason Ranking: 14

Accomplishments: Class 3A regional champions, Third place in State Farm Holiday Classic.

Players to Remember: The Phoenix were one of the only teams to beat Whitney Young this season as the Phoenix had a great collection of players led by Carlos Hines, Martrell Barnes and Steven Ross. Hines, who is headed to Northern Arizona next season, was one of the area's most talented scorers this season.

Final Thoughts: North Lawndale was one of the best teams in the city this season as they fell short of a sectional title on the road at Fenwick. The Phoenix proved themselves in a very strong Red-West as the Hines, Barnes and Ross were fun to watch.

15. Thornton (23-6, 12-0) (15)

Preseason Ranking: 9

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional title, SouthWest Suburban Red champions, Big Dipper Holiday Tournament champions

Players to Remember: In his only season at Thornton, senior Alonzo Verge made a gigantic impact with the team as he helped them back to a sectional title game. Senior Christian Anderson was one of the better knockdown shooters in the area while junior big man Orlando Allen had some flashes of bigger things.

Final Thoughts: This proved to be a fun season for the Wildcats as they got to win some big games while playing in showcase events. Head coach Tai Streets is doing a lot of positive things with that program as he has put Thornton in back-to-back section title games. Replacing Verge will be tough but Thornton should remain one of the best teams in the South suburbs at the very least.

16. Oak Park-River Forest (24-7, 11-1) (16)

Preseason Ranking: 25

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional champion, West Suburban Conference champion, Riverside-Brookfield Thanksgiving Tournament title

Players to Remember: Seniors Cameron Gross and Jared Scott had strong seasons to help lead the Huskies to some huge wins on the year, including the takedown of defending state champion Curie in the Class 4A sectional semifinals.

Final Thoughts: With a conference title and a win over Curie, the Huskies broke through for one of the best seasons in school history as they captured their first regional title since 2013. 

17. Wheaton North (24-7, 12-4) (17)

Preseason Ranking: NR

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional champion, Spartan-Ram Classic champion, 

Players to Remember: Senior Luke Anthony finished his four-year varsity career with a great final season as he averaged over 16 points per game. Rowan McGowen, another senior for the Falcons, also had a solid season while making a huge game-winning shot to help Wheaton North advance past Hinsdale South.

Final Thoughts: It was a strong year for basketball in Wheaton as the Falcons made a run to a Class 4A sectional title game before falling to DuPage Valley rival Naperville North. Anthony was one of the best multiple-sport athletes in the area after starting at quarterback for the football team and McGowan also had a good year. Wheaton North advancing that far showed how deep the DuPage Valley was this season. 

18. Waukegan (21-9, 10-4) (18)

Preseason Ranking: NR

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional title 

Players to Remember: Senior Carson Newsome had a very strong season as he's heading to Milwaukee next season. While Newsome was a focal point, DeShawn Davidson was another talented scorer while sophomore big man Bryant Brown is a player to keep an eye on for the future.

Final Thoughts: Head coach Ron Ashlaw had the Bulldogs peaking at the right time as they were able to advance to a sectional title game in Class 4A. With Waukegan having so many talented underclass players, they'll likely be a team to watch for in the CSN Preps Power Rankings next season.

19. Larkin (19-15, 6-6) (19)

Preseason Ranking: NR

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional title, 

Players to Remember: A pair of juniors had very good seasons for the Royals. Anthony Lynch spent his first two years at South Elgin but became one of the conference's best scorers this season. Big man Jalen Shaw is also drawing rave reviews from area coaches and scouts for his improved play over the course of the season.

Final Thoughts: Playing without star senior and Loyola commit Christian Negron (Loyola), the Royals started a bit slow but ultimately started winning games when it mattered as the victory over Boylan in the playoffs was very impressive. With Lynch and Shaw set to return next season, Larkin will be a team to keep an eye on next season.

20. Curie (25-4, 10-0) (21)

Preseason Ranking: 1

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional champion, Public League Red-Central champion, winner at Marshall County Hoop Fest and Chicago Elite Classic.

Players to Remember: After winning a state title as juniors, Elijah Joiner, Allante Pickens and Terry Smith Jr. all made plenty of plays as seniors. Joiner, in particular, was one of the best players in the state as the Tulsa commit had some huge games against ranked teams. 

Final Thoughts: It looked like Curie was going to be a major threat to repeat with the way they started the season but they ultimately fell short of titles at Pontiac or the Public League Playoffs. This group of seniors still had a great career that includes a Class 4A state title and a Pontiac title last season. 

21. Wheaton-Warrenville South (29-2, 16-0) (22)

Preseason Ranking: NR

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional champion, undefeated DuPage Valley conference champion, Wheaton-Warrenville South MLK Tournament title, Second place at State Farm Holiday Classic.

Players to Remember: Nobody in the area improved more this season than senior Dillon Durrett as he was the DuPage Valley Conference Player of the Year and a force on both ends of the floor. Point guard Drew Healy was also one of the area's top floor leaders as he minimized turnovers and helped the Tigers in a lot of games.

Final Thoughts: Wheaton-Warrenville South caught a lot of people off-guard this season but Durrett ascended into a star and the rest of the team played disciplined basketball while making winning plays. Winning the MLK event was a huge deal because it was such a loaded field and the Tigers have a lot of good players in their program.

22. Kenwood (21-8, 8-2) (23)

Preseason Ranking: 12

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional champion, Second place in Poplar Bluff Showdown, defeated Whitney Young in Chicago Elite Classic

Players to Remember: Senior big man Manny Patterson was one of the Public League's best big men over the last four years as he continued to put up solid production in the middle for the Broncos. Octavius Parker, Bryce Langdon, Cameron Bowles and David Hunt made for one of the deeper teams in the city this season.

Final Thoughts: The Broncos just couldn't get over the hump and beat the city's elite teams after a promising start but there is a lot of hope for the future in junior Robert McGee and sophomore Antonio Reeves. Those two should form one of the city's more talented duos next season. 

23. Notre Dame (25-6, 7-2) (24)

Preseason Ranking: 22

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional champion, Battle of the Bridge Tournament title, Second place at Wheeling Hardwood Classic

Players to Remember: Senior Jeameril Wilson finally turned potential into production more often this season and turned in some double-doubles while senior guard Matt Stritzel scored the most points of anyone in East Suburban Catholic Conference play.  

Final Thoughts: Continuing to remain one of the better programs in the Chicagoland area, the Dons finished second in a very tough ESCC this season. Playing their best ball late in the season, Notre Dame has won a respectable three regional championships in a row.

24. Marist (27-4, 8-1) (25)

Preseason Ranking: NR

Accomplishments: Class 4A regional champion, East Suburban Catholic Conference champion, Marist Holiday Tournament title, Centralia Holiday Tournament title.

Players to Remember: Senior Justin Brown was one of the area's most improved big men as he became a solid presence on the interior for Marist. Junior guard Maurice Commander continued to show why he's one of the top floor leaders in the area with another solid season. Morgan Taylor was also a solid part of the Marist success on the season as he was one of the area's more versatile guards.

Final Thoughts: Marist surprised a lot of people by waiting until 2017 to lose a game as they were a force in the ESCC this past season. To win one of the toughest leagues in the area is a major accomplishment and Marist also captured multiple holiday tournament titles and a regional. They could well be back in the CSN Power Rankings next season as well with plenty of pieces returning. 

25. St. Viator (15-17, 6-3) (20)

Preseason Ranking: NR

Accomplishments: Class 3A sectional title

Players to Remember: A pair of sophomores, Jeremiah Hernandez and J.R. Cison, were a ton of fun to watch as the Lions picked up some surprising wins in the East Suburban Catholic Conference and state playoffs this season. Hernandez should start to attract college attention soon while Cison has improved a lot over the last few months.

Final Thoughts: The Lions finished under .500 but won a sectional title in Class 3A, so they come in at No. 25. With wins over teams like Benet, Marian Catholic and St. Patrick during ESCC play, St. Viator had some solid ranked wins and deserves credit for peaking at the right time in March. 

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

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.

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

There’s country strong. And then there’s Jerry Sloan.

The NBA Hall of Fame player and coach, a tenacious defender and steady offensive threat, became a household name with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s. Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. Two-time NBA-All-Star.

Sloan died Friday after a courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

But it was Sloan’s perseverance as a child and his dedication to the game of basketball —and his home town— 300 miles south of the Windy City that made him a real star.

[MORE: Remember ‘Original Bull’ Jerry Sloan as he lived: tough, humble and honest]

The former Bull, who went on to lead the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons there as a head coach, grew up on a farm near McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan would routinely wake up in the wee hours to do family chores. He’d then walk two miles to the town’s high school for basketball practice.

The foundation of a hard work ethic and a ferocious competitive nature paved the way for Sloan’s rise to stardom.

Sloan played on several great McLeansboro teams in the late-50s. In his junior season, he helped guide his squad to a 19-6 record for coach Gene Haile. He followed that up with a senior season most kids would dream of: 26 wins, 3 losses. He was named to the All-State team.

He would later guide the Evansville Purple Aces to two Division II national championships. He became known as “the Original Bull” shortly after the startup Bulls franchise drafted him in the 1966 expansion draft. The rest was history—a brilliant 10-year career in Chicago as a player and nearly three more as a head coach on West Madison before becoming a legend in Salt Lake City.

But it was his small-town roots that made Jerry Sloan all the more genuine.

He would return to McLeansboro several times in 1984 —the year he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz— to watch his high school team play. His son, Brian, led the Foxes to the Class A state championship that year, going 35-0 in the process. Brian went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

Sloan would return frequently to this Southern Illinois town many times during his run with the Jazz— a run where he only finished below .500 once and racked up an astonishing career 1,221 wins. Hamilton County High School, formerly known as McLeansboro, dedicated its gym in Sloan’s honor in Dec. 2012. A road in McLeansboro is now called Jerry Sloan Avenue.

In a statement, a representative from McLeansboro High School said the following:

“Today is a sad day for Hamilton County and the Foxes. Coach Jerry Sloan has passed away. Coach Sloan graduated from McLeansboro High School in 1960 and was always a hometown boy. Whenever he returned he was just one of us. He will be greatly missed. RIP Coach Sloan.”

McLeansboro will always be Sloan Country.

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