Preps Talk

James Jones leads Bogan to a title at Riverside-Brookfield


James Jones leads Bogan to a title at Riverside-Brookfield

Luwane Pipkins, Charles Matthews and Aaron Jordan all showed up to watch their former teams at the annual Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this weekend. The attendance of three decorated seniors was a reminder that a lot of star power left Illinois high school basketball with the graduation of the Class of 2015.

The era of stars leading powerhouse teams to state titles has an uncertain future entering the 2015-16 high school basketball season.

There isn't a Jalen Brunson, Jahlil Okafor or Jabari Parker type of individual talent to make a team nearly unbeatable as they roll to Peoria. The Class of 2016 will likely be the second time ever the state of Illinois doesn't produce a McDonald's All-American. Rivals only has three players from the Land of Lincoln listed in its current national top 150 for the 2016 class and no one from Illinois is in the top half.

The local headlining stars of the future appear uncertain, but it will make for an exciting and wide-open high school basketball season for 2015-16.

Action at Riverside-Brookfield this weekend indicated that we could be in for a close (and fun) year. On Sunday alone, Morgan Park beat Whitney Young on a buzzer-beater, Kenwood topped Simeon on a buzzer-beater and Bogan captured the title over Kenwood with a late 3-pointer in the final seconds from senior James Jones -- all in a three-hour window.

It was the culmination of a good opening June weekend of summer basketball that makes it appear that things could go in a number of different ways this season.

Bogan emerges as a legitimate threat once again

Defending city champion Bogan was led by the spectacular play of Jones, who had multiple high-scoring performances on Sunday against talented teams in Marian Catholic and Kenwood. The 6-foot-3 Jones is already a known mid-major recruit who was consistently dominant scoring the ball at R-B. Of the five biggest scoring performances of the weekend, Jones had three of them, and his biggest outing came with 31 points in the championship game win over Kenwood.

Using his quick first step and explosiveness, Jones finished plays above the rim, hit perimeter jumpers and also made clutch plays throughout the weekend. The consistent scoring ability of Jones -- who wasn't shabby on the defensive end, either -- made the Bengal role players comfortable staying within their strengths as the Red-South power went unbeaten over the weekend.

Head coach Arthur Goodwin has another experienced returning guard in Bryce Barnes, who had a nice spring playing reserve minutes in the Nike EYBL for the Mac Irvin Fire.

The combination of Barnes and Jones is a big reason the Bengals will be a favorite for the city and a state title this season.

Kenwood makes a statement

The Red-Central was won by Kenwood last season and the Broncos return most of the pieces from that 2014-15 group that had a breakthrough year. Led by senior forward Nick Robinson and senior guard Zion Morgan, Kenwood has multiple Division I prospects in the starting lineup and they have a good amount of size.

[RELATED: Simeon, Downers South lead Day 1 charge at Riverside-Brookfield]

In a tight win over Simeon, junior big man Manny Patterson showed he was healthy and ready to make an impact with 14 points on putbacks and post touches. With a smaller Wolverine team than last year, they had a tough time stopping Patterson in the semifinals. Junior forward Dave Hunt provides a lot of energy among the starting group as well and he buried the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Simeon on Sunday.

Head coach Marlo Finner has done a great job of building a winner in a short amount of time and it should be an interesting year in the Red-Central with Curie returning to the Red Division.

Other Observations

- While James Jones helped his recruiting stock more than any other player this weekend, Morgan Park senior guard Jarrin Randall was also tremendous. The 5-foot-11 guard hit a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Whitney Young and buried a lot of tough perimeter shots this weekend. After shooting 43 percent (25-for-58) in the Nike EYBL this spring, Randall looked really good shooting the ball off the catch or off the dribble. With his quick release and ability to space the floor, Randall should have a lot of low-major eyes on him this July. Teammate Jamal Burton was also very good and they picked up the slack when teammate Charlie Moore sat out with injury.

- Speaking of Whitney Young, they're on the younger side, but they have some talented pieces. Senior point guard Derrick Freeman is one of the fastest end-to-end players in the state while sophomore Justin Boyd is comfortable hunting shots from 3-point territory. Junior wing Lucas Williamson also showed flashes of solid play this weekend.

- Strong showing from Marian Catholic, who is very young but has the talent of a potential CSN Preps Power Rankings team. The sophomore backcourt of point guard Chase Adams and shooting guard Brandon Hurt is talented while junior Austin Ritchie can also get going as a perimeter scorer. Senior Myles Howard was an intriguing 6-foot-8 forward who defended everyone from James Jones on the perimeter to post players on the interior. This team didn't have talented junior wing T.J. Smith for the weekend and the Spartans gave Bogan everything they had on Sunday in a close loss after a 3-0 opening day.

[RELATED: End of the year CSN Preps Boys Basketball All-Area Team]

- While I mentioned the strong play of sophomore wing Alan Griffin from the first day of action, Oak Park-River Forest has a lot more talent than that. Senior guard Breshawn Wilkerson constantly plays in attack mode and it rubs off on the rest of a talented team that plays an aggressive brand of ball. Griffin continued to hit more shots on Sunday and this team has many more capable scorers on the roster as well.

- Another talented sophomore to keep an eye on this season will be West Aurora guard Camron Donatlan. The 6-foot-0 lefty has long arms and good athleticism as he can already score in multiple ways while finding teammates with solid passing ability. Donatlan put up some big numbers at R-B and could be one of the more productive second-year players in the area this season.

- Playing without injured star junior guard Nojel Eastern, Evanston took home the title in the second-place bracket. Besides a two-point loss to eventual champion Bogan, the Wildkits went 5-1 on the weekend playing a disciplined brand of team ball. Head coach Mike Ellis has a lot of hard-playing guards (senior Micquel Roseman, junior Chris Hamil) for a team that should be tough to beat this season.

- Be on the lookout for some good basketball coming from Downers Grove this year. I mentioned Downers South from my report on Saturday and Downers North also won their pool before running into a tough matchup with Simeon on Sunday. Head coach Jim Thomas has a talented wing to build around in senior Devin Blake the Trojans have some pieces in place for a good season.

Beware of the Attack of the Lower Seeds

Beware of the Attack of the Lower Seeds

With the upcoming IHSA football playoff pairings announcement on Saturday night, here are some teams with modest win-loss records who opponents probably wouldn’t want to see in the early rounds of the postseason.

Loyola Academy (5-3): The Ramblers have struggled this season. But head coach John Holocek has, once again, led his team to the state playoff field. So what gives? Loyola has been inconsistent on offense and has turned the football over way too often. The team has also been dealing with various injuries. But the defense (minus a 35-3 loss to Brother Rice) has generally played well this season. If the Ramblers can clean up the turnovers and find a way to get their offense back in a rhythm, this team can undoubtedly surprise some teams along the way in Class 8A. 

Neuqua Valley (5-3): The Wildcats and head coach Bill Ellinghaus have dropped three tight games this season including a last possession, 21-14 decision to DuPage Valley Conference champion Naperville Central two weeks ago. If the Wildcats can continue to get steady production from a balanced offense, led by RB Will Cheviliar and QB John Gronowski, the defense is capable of keeping Neuqua Valley in every game this postseason.

Aurora Christian (5-3): Coach Dave Beebe’s Eagles have lost to three playoff-bound teams this season with a combined 21-3 record (IC Prep, St. Francis and Bishop McNamara). They have a potent spread-passing attack led by sophomore QB Ethan Hampton. Aurora Christian is also slated to wind up in the Class 1A bracket on pairings night. Their dynamic offense and passing game in general could be a tough matchup for opponents in, what usually is, Class 1A North bracket with teams that generally run the ball.

Barrington (5-3): The Broncos, under head coach Joe Sanchez, have also been dealing with a rash of mid-season injuries; that said, it looks like Barrington is getting healthy at the right time. Junior QB Tommy Fitzpatrick is back from injury and is a key catalyst for any Barrington postseason run. Fitzpatrick has weapons in junior WR EJ Darlington and senior RB Michael Curran. 

Lake Zurich (5-3): The Bears made a starting quarterback change last week as Jack Moses took the reins. He promptly led the Bears to a 42-0 win over Mundelein. If the Bears can limit turnovers and continue to get strong production from their offense, the L-Z defense is more than capable of making life very difficult for any higher seeds that they could draw in the 7A state playoff field. 

Edwardsville (5-3): The Tigers hit a rough patch starting the season with a 1-3 record. But they currently boast a four-game winnings streak heading into Friday night’s tilt at Collinsville. Edwardsville is led by senior QB Kendall Abdur Rahman (Notre Dame) and is a gamebreaker every time he touches the football. Sophomore RB Justin Johnson (and the team in general) possesses a ton of speed. There are athletes and playmakers on both sides of the football. 

Here are some more lower seeds who could wreak havoc:

Providence Catholic (5-3): If the Celtics can get their running game going, beware. 

Raby (5-3): The Raiders could be a handful in 4A.

St. Charles East (4-4): The Saints’ power-option game is always tough to defend. 

Joliet Catholic (4-4): IF the Hilltoppers can beat Notre Dame on Friday, they could be a very tough out in 5A.

Crystal Lake South (5-3): A huge offensive line leads the way for the Gators. 

Zion-Benton (4-4): The Zee-Bees can put as much talent on the field than most of their opponents. 

Lemont (4-4): Needs a win Friday over rival Oak Forest. If the offense can keep the chains moving, the Indians’ defense can do the rest. 

Crete-Monee (5-3): They are the Southland conference champs. Their first two losses in 2018? Lincoln-Way East (8-0) and Brother Rice (8-0).

Thornton (4-4): The Wildcats will need to upset Lincoln Way Central Friday. Thornton always has talent.

NBC Sports Chicago to air "IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show" on October 20

NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to air "IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show" on October 20

Bloomington, IL/Chicago, IL (October 17, 2018) -- The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football Playoff Pairing Show returns to NBC Sports Chicago for its eighth season in 2018. NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – will air the show live on NBC Sports Chicago+ on Saturday, October 20 from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM CT. Viewers are urged to visit NBC Sports Chicago’s “Channel Finder” page ( for exact NBC Sports Chicago+ channel locations in their area.

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show, which will reveal the brackets and first round match-ups of all 256 playoff qualifiers across eight classes, can also be viewed via Live stream beginning at 8:00 PM on Saturday at, on Facebook Live (, and will also be accessible for viewing to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers via the brand new MyTeams by NBC Sports app (NOTE: MyTeams is available on iOS and Android devices, at no cost, to fans anywhere in the U.S. and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store).

"The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show' continues to be one of the most highly-anticipated events in the state of Illinois and we couldn't be prouder to once again showcase two-straight hours of live, interactive coverage across all platforms on Saturday night," said Kevin Cross, Vice President of Content for NBC Sports Chicago.  

NBC Sports Chicago anchor Leila Rahimi hosts the show and will be joined by a panel of experts on-set, including long-time IHSA TV announcer Dave Bernhard and Illinois high school football bracketologist Steve Soucie. IHSA TV veteran Camron Smith will breakdown each class with media members from around the state, including NBC Sports Chicago prep football expert “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the show and ask questions to be answered during the program by utilizing the Twitter hashtag #IHSAbrackets

The program will once again feature highlights, coaches interviews and media analysis from all over the state. In addition, NBC Sports Chicago will be gathering teams & fan reaction moments throughout the “Land of Lincoln” on Saturday from numerous school playoff pairing parties taking place that evening.

“This is one of the most anticipated nights of the year on the IHSA calendar,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Student-athletes, coaches and communities around the state have put their hearts into the last nine weeks, and for 256 teams, it’s an amazing chance to celebrate their accomplishments, while looking ahead to the path to the IHSA Football State Finals. We appreciate the time and effort that our partners at NBC Sports Chicago put into making this night so special.”

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show kicks off NBC Sports Chicago’s playoff coverage of IHSA Football, which culminates with all eight state title games being televised and streamed by NBC Sports Chicago on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 23-24), live from Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.