Preps Talk

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. 

Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

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USA Today

Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

UIC hired its next head coach this week as Luke Yaklich returns home to Illinois to take over the Flames.

There's a lot to like about the 43-year-old Yaklich when it comes to this hire for UIC. A native of Illinois who spent time here as a high school coach at LaSalle-Peru and Joliet West, Yaklich's basketball journey makes him the perfect candidate for UIC at this particular point in time.

Being familiar with the area as a former high school coach and assistant coach at Illinois State will certainly help with recruiting and other facets of the job. But it's Yaklich's ability to take UIC to the next level defensively that makes him the perfect hire.

Yaklich turned into a star assistant coach over the past four seasons. He was often utilized as a defensive coordinator at his various stops. Going from Illinois State, to Michigan, to Texas over the past four seasons, Yaklich was responsible for four consecutive top-25 defenses, according to KenPom.

Although Steve McClain won at least 16 games in each of the past four seasons, the Flames could never reach their ultimate goal of the NCAA tournament. UIC hasn't reached March Madness since 2004. The past four seasons, UIC's best defensive team was only No. 107 in the country. 

McClain's teams had plenty of scoring pop and talent. Getting crucial stops could be difficult for the Flames.

While it may take some time for UIC to jump into the nation's top 50 in defensive efficiency, Yaklich has a successful defensive track record at the mid- and high-major levels.

Illinois State's dominant defense in 2016-17 was No. 19 in the country as the Redbirds just missed the NCAA tournament. Yaklich was then hired away to Michigan. In Ann Arbor, Yaklich helped an offensive-minded program under John Beilein become elite defensively.

The Wolverines advanced to the national title game and Sweet 16 in Yaklich's two seasons. Michigan had the No. 3 defense and No. 2 defense, respectively. 

At Texas, the Longhorns maintained the No. 24 defense in the country this season despite a talent drain that saw freshman center Jaxson Hayes leave for the NBA Draft to be picked in the top ten by the New Orleans Pelicans. 

UIC will need to figure out some other areas if they are to make it back to the NCAA tournament. Yaklich will need to hire a staff familiar with the local recruiting landscape. A sound offensive mind or two wouldn't hurt either.

But the defensive pedigree and player development track record has been there for Yaklich at multiple stops over the past four seasons. Now with a chance to run his own program, Yaklich is an exciting hire for UIC during an offseason in which college basketball's coach carousel isn't seeing a lot of movement. 

Edgy Tim's Recruiting News and Notes

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USA Today

Edgy Tim's Recruiting News and Notes

Oak Park-River Forest junior three star-ranked ATH Jaden McGill (6-foot-0. 185 pounds) added an offer last week from one of his team schools when Michigan State extended him a scholarship offer. 

"The offer from them (Michigan State) means a lot," McGill said. "When I was younger they were a school that me and my friends would always dream about playing for."

McGill was set to make a spring  visit to Michigan State before the Coronavirus pandemic struck and is hoping to make up that planned visit later this spring or early this summer. 

McGill is now holding scholarship offers from Michigan State, Kansas State, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Ball State, Buffalo, Toledo and Kent State.

Oswego junior three star-ranked offensive tackle Otto Hess (6-foot-7, 285 pounds) was able to add his latest offer earlier this week from Arizona. 

"The offer from Arizona is great," Hess said. "It was pretty much unexpected but great since I've always wanted to play and go to school out West."

Hess, who also added an offer from the University of Illinois on Tuesday night, discussed his thoughts from adding an offer from the Arizona Wildcats. 

"I know that Arizona has a great business school. Coach (Kevin) Sumlin has accomplished some great things in his career. I had some limited contact with Arizona but it hasn't been a crazy amount of attention that made me feel like an offer was coming right away."

Marist sophomore offensive tackle recruit Danny "Deuce" McGuire (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) was able to add an offer on Tuesday from Michigan State. 

"I was surprised to get an offer from Michigan State," McGuire said. "I have had a few Michigan State coaches following me on Twitter for a week or so but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary."

McGuire, who is now holding early scholarship offers from Michigan State along with Illinois and Western Michigan is well aware of the Spartans program. 

"Michigan State is one of the top programs in the Big 10 conference. They also send a lot of offensive linemen to the NFL and they have a lot of new coaches from Colorado."

McGuire is now waiting and hoping to make college visits later this spring or early this summer, depending upon when the Corona virus pandemic comes to an end. 

"I'm just hoping that this all gets resolved soon and we can get back to school and hopefully I'll get a chance to visit some colleges in person again soon."

Ottawa Marquette junior tight end recruit Victor Mullen (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) is a name on the rise this early spring. Mullen, who is holding early scholarship offers from Iowa State, Central Florida, Louisville, Appalachian State and Central Michigan has been trying to stay busy during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. 

"It's been boring so far,"Mullen said. "I have a workout program I got from my trainer and I'm working out along with just watching TV. We started online classes and it's been going well so far."

Mullen has also remained in contact with several college coaches during the NCAA mandated dead period.

"I've stayed in touch with all of the schools who have offered me like Iowa State, Louisville, Appalachian State, Central Michigan and Central Florida. I was planning to make spring visits to Miami of Ohio, Illinois, Toledo and Bowling Green but those have all been canceled. I'm hoping to get back to visit those schools later this spring but for now who knows. I've made visits already to Iowa State, Louisville, Appalachian State, Central Michigan plus Toledo and Iowa."