Preps Talk

Five Chicagoland IHSA storylines to follow during the 2019-20 season

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NBC Sports Chicago

Five Chicagoland IHSA storylines to follow during the 2019-20 season

High school basketball season officially kicks off this week as practices begin all over the state of Illinois. 

While we still have two weeks until games tip, and a long time until the season finishes in March, there are plenty of intriguing local storylines to keep tabs on as the season begins. 

With that in mind, here are five major themes to think about as the season gets going. 

Can a Chicagoland Class 4A team capture the state title? 

For the past two years, the IHSA Class 4A state title has gone back to the St. Louis metro area with Belleville West. 

Now that E.J. Liddell has left the Land of Lincoln for Ohio State, the Class 4A title should return back to the Chicagoland area this season. 

While teams like Whitney Young, Bloom, Curie, Simeon and Stevenson remain preseason favorites among area 4A teams, there is a glaring lack of out-of-area powerhouses in 4A this season.  

Belleville West remains tough and Collinsville is a threat. But many of the top schools from outside Chicago reside in a much tougher 3A group this season. 

It’ll be interesting to see which programs emerge in the 4A race and if the Chicagoland area gets more competition from out of the area this season. Right now it looks like the 4A title will be returning to our area this season unless something dramatically changes. 

Class 3A gets way more interesting this season

It took about a decade of four-class basketball for Class 3A to become a consistent force. There have been some years where the Class 3A field wasn’t particularly competitive or compelling. 

This season should be different. There’s a a fascinating crop of Class 3A teams all over the state. Morgan Park and Bogan remain the consistent 3A favorites from the Public League. 

They get plenty of local competition from a revamped Chicagoland presence in 3A. DePaul Prep, Hillcrest, Fenwick, Notre Dame, St. Viator and Oak Forest are just a handful of 3A teams who should make the area Power Rankings at some point this season. 

And the group of 3A teams outside of Chicago is tough as well. Defending champion East St. Louis is strong again. Rockford Boylan, the Peoria area (Manual and Notre Dame), Rock Island and Lincoln also have teams firmly in the 3A mix. 

Between the overall depth of teams and a better representation of good teams from around the state, 3A should turn into a very entertaining field this season. 

Will Orr win a fourth straight title in Class 2A?

The past three seasons have seen Orr completely dominate the Class 2A field. The Spartans cruised to three state titles without much competition. 

Although the Spartans have to replace multiple double-figure scorers from last season’s team they still look like the preseason favorite to claim another Class 2A title this season. 

Senior Demarius Splunge and transfer guard Reggie Strong should form a tough duo to stop at the 2A level. Orr has become one of the city’s best programs — regardless of class. 

If head coach Lou Adams can capture the 4th state title in a row then Orr will be included among the discussion of one of Illinois’ greatest programs. 

Can Class 1A maintain a presence in Chicagoland after Providence-St. Mel

The Class 1A playoff proceedings are generally an afterthought among this area because we generally lack a state title contender. 

Providence-St. Mel changed that last season by taking Class 1A by storm. The Knights proved they were not only the state’s best 1A team but they were one of the city’s best teams last season regardless of class. 

This season doesn’t feature a Class 1A juggernaut from the area but two intriguing teams stand out in Leo and Aurora Christian. 

The Lions have been a strong 2A presence the past few seasons as forward Kendale Anderson returns for his senior season. And Aurora Christian has one of the state’s premier sophomores in Jaden Schutt. 

So while Class 1A doesn’t have a local team the caliber of Providence-St. Mel last season, there are still some smaller schools to track during the season. 

Does Illinois produce a McDonald’s All-American?

An unprecedented drought has been happening in Illinois the past few seasons. The state hasn’t produced a McDonald’s All-American since Stevenson‘s Jalen Brunson in 2015.

What used to be an annual occurrence hasn’t happened in four classes. Illinois hasn’t produced elite-level high school players for the longest span in 45 years. 

The drought has a serious chance to end this season with not only one, but potentially two local Burger Boys. 

Whitney Young senior D.J. Steward is coming off of a monster summer that saw him commit to Duke and elevate in the national rankings. Following a stellar junior season, Morgan Park’s Adam Miller will look to follow that up with another massive year. 

Both Public League stars are right near the five-star national rankings cut off in the Class of 2020. Perhaps most importantly, both seniors should get opportunities to impress during the season as the Dolphins and Mustangs play in some big national showcase games. 

As long as Miller and Steward play at a high level, they should be firmly in the McDonald’s mix when they announce the final rosters in late January. 

High School Lites Week 1 basketball roundup

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NBCSCH

High School Lites Week 1 basketball roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great basketball action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CSNPreps for all of the latest IHSA basketball scores and highlights.

Midweek Mixtape: Bogan 73, Vocational 42

Team of the Week: Mount Carmel and Lincoln-Way East football

Athlete of the Week: Marian Catholic's Ahron Ulis

Friday's Scores

Evanston 62, Notre Dame 53

Fenwick 55, Oak Park-River Forest 48

York 51, Lyons 41

 Brother Rice 61, St. Rita 58

Hillcrest 72, Oak Lawn 65

Richards 72, Tinley Park 59

Lake Park 58, Batavia 48

Leo 49, St. Joseph 46

(Girls): Hersey 71,  Prospect 46

Rolling Meadows 70, Elk Grove 37

High School Lites: Basketball season tips with the Chicago Elite Classic

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

High School Lites: Basketball season tips with the Chicago Elite Classic

High School Lites transitions to basketball season with a loaded first Friday of games for the show. 

The annual Chicago Elite Classic remains a huge early-season event at DePaul’s Wintrust Arena as we’ll have highlights from two marquee matchups there. 

We’ll also cover games from all over the Chicagoland area, including some intriguing South Suburban crossovers. 

High School Lites begins at 11 p.m. this Friday night on NBC Sports Chicago. 

GIRLS: Prospect at Hersey, 6:00 p.m. -- We get a rivalry matchup in the Mid-Suburban East in this one. Hersey (5-2) won four straight games to take home the Bison Classic after a sluggish start. Prospect (4-2) earned a road win at Conant earlier this week as they try to earn two away from home this week. 

No. 20 Hillcrest at Oak Lawn, 6:30 p.m. -- A fascinating South Suburban crossover between two talented teams. The No. 20 Hawks are trying to earn a tough win as they've played a difficult early schedule. The junior class for Hillcrest is special, led by wing Julius Rollins. Oak Lawn (5-0) has a high-scoring senior in guard Sami Osmani as he gets scoring help from senior lead guard Trey Ward. They're a team just outside of the Power Rankings who can get in with a win. With a number of scorers on the floor in this one, it could be an up-and-down contest. 

No. 25 St. Rita at Brother Rice, 7:00 p.m. -- The unbeaten Mustangs take the road in this Catholic League crossover. St. Rita (5-0, 1-0) beat St. Ignatius while also winning the Riverside-Brookfield title last week. Christian Henry is off to a strong start for the Mustangs. Brother Rice (3-2, 1-0) is coming off of two straight wins, including a road win at Montini earlier this week. 

Leo at St. Joseph, 7:00 p.m. -- We head to the Catholic League as St. Joe's plays its first home game without legendary head coach Gene Pingatore -- who passed away over the summer. The night will honor the legacy of Pingatore in-part. On the floor, Leo (1-3, 0-1) tries to bounce back from a loss to Loyola earlier this week. The Chargers (1-3) couldn't find their footing at St. Charles East during Thanksgiving week.

Batavia at No. 12 Lake Park, 7:15 p.m. -- The DuKane Conference features a really intriguing early-season showdown in this one. Batavia (3-1) is led by high-scoring senior Jayden Johnson as he's coming off of a strong opening week to the season. The No. 12 Lancers (4-0) took the crown at Wheaton Academy as they're undefeated. Senior Luke Sgarbossa leads a balanced group.

Lyons at York, 7:30 p.m. -- The West Suburban Silver opens play in this one. Lyons (3-0) is quietly off to an unbeaten start by winning their own event, beating Maine South, Fenger and Plainfield North. York (3-1) opened some eyes with a week-one win over previously-ranked Cary-Grove before falling to top-five Stevenson in the finals at Palatine. Senior guard Nate Shockey (North Dakota) is a potential All-Area candidate.

Rolling Meadows at Elk Grove, 7:30 p.m. -- An early look at star junior Max Christie and the Mustangs in a Mid-Suburban East battle. Rolling Meadows (4-0) won the title at Fenton to open the season. Christie, one of the best juniors in the country, dropped 51 points on Elk Grove in an overtime win last season. Elk Grove (0-4) is trying to build after a tough opening week at Palatine that saw them go winless. 

(13) Evanston vs. (8) Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. -- The second Friday matchup at Wintrust Arena has two top-15 teams with a ton of talented juniors battling. The No. 13 Wildkits (4-0) are led by some college prospects in the junior class as wing Jaylin Gibson and guard Blake Peters are a strong combination. The No. 8 Dons (5-0) have been one of the season's major early storylines. Notre Dame beat DePaul Prep for the Battle of the Bridge title and looks like a major contender. The junior group of Anthony Sayles, Troy D'Amico and Louis Lesmond (who played for the Wildkits last season) is strong while senior Jason Bergstrom is another talented option as a scorer.

No. 24 Fenwick vs. OPRF, approx 9:00 p.m. -- Tipping after the Evanston and Notre Dame clash is this inner-town rivalry of Oak Park schools. The annual Friday night closer of the Chicago Elite Classic, this matchup has a lot of talent on the floor once again. The No. 24 Friars (3-1, 1-0) are led by star junior forward and Louisville commit Bryce Hopkins. Sophomore guard Trey Pettigrew is another talented weapon to watch for Fenwick. OPRF (2-2) is trying to figure things out after a sluggish start at Riverside-Brookfield last week. Senior forward Justin Cross was solid this summer and the junior group of Isaiah Barnes and Joshua Smith has a lot of promise. 

VIEWER'S CHOICE GAME OF THE WEEK

Tinley Park at Richards, 7 p.m. -- Our first Viewer's Choice matchup goes to a South Suburban crossover. Tinley Park (3-2) has the state's top sophomore in forward A.J. Casey. The high-major prospect is off to a solid start this season for the Titans. Richards (3-1) only has an overtime loss to Marist against them with a solid start at their own event.