Preps Talk

NBC Sports Chicago Basketball Preps Power Rankings: Six new teams enter the mix


NBC Sports Chicago Basketball Preps Power Rankings: Six new teams enter the mix

Chaos in the Power Rankings this week as six new teams enter the mix while a host of others suffered losses and moved some spots. With most of the teams in the Rankings moving to a new spot, it makes for some fun storylines to follow during a busy Martin Luther King Day weekend of basketball.

High School Lites will feature a handful of these teams during the week as the show airs Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago.

1. Curie (18-1) (1) -- Taking down Bogan to stay unbeaten in the Public League Red South/Central, the Condors are the clear No. 1 in the area.

2. Bloom (17-1) (3) -- Continuing to blaze through the Southland, Bloom is winning most games by double digits.

3. Bogan (17-2) (2) -- The Bengals dropped a conference game against Curie but they still remain in the conference and city mix as they remain a major threat.

4. Morgan Park (15-3) (4) -- A busy week for the Mustangs, piling up solid wins over DePaul Prep and Rich East in the process.

5. Whitney Young (14-6) (6) -- Busy week for the Dolphins with two conference road games (Uplift, North Lawndale) and a trip to the Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield.

6. Evanston (17-3) (7) -- The Wildkits started a hectic stretch with a quality win over New Trier as they prepare to face Glenbrook South and Bolingbrook.

7. Bolingbrook (11-3) (10) -- Unbeaten against Illinois competition, the Raiders will soon be tested by an upcoming schedule that includes H-F, Evanston and Morgan Park.

8. Marian Catholic (16-2) (5) -- Falling to Loyola over the weekend, Marian Catholic suffered its first defeat with a full lineup. 

9. Homewood-Flossmoor (12-4) (11) -- Riding a three-game winning streak, the Vikings have a huge clash with Bolingbrook this week.

10. DePaul Prep (13-4) (12) -- The Rams lost a tight one to Morgan Park, but they have to look ahead to a busy week that includes St. Laurence and New Trier.

11. Providence-St. Mel (15-4) (18) -- The Knights have looked strong since the holidays as they continue to stay in the Catholic League White race.

12. Benet (14-3) (19) -- The Redwings are still undefeated in the ESCC and they'll be a favorite in the Wheaton-Warrenville South tournament during the weekend.

13. Simeon (9-9) (20) -- The state's best .500 team is starting to figure things out as the Wolverines are very dangerous.

14. Loyola (15-4) (22) -- Impressing with a win over Marian Catholic over the weekend, the Ramblers continue to climb the Power Rankings.

15. New Trier (15-3, 5-1) (17) -- Losing to rival Evanston, the Trevians had a strong comeback before falling short. New Trier has some good games with Maine South and DePaul Prep this week.

16. Geneva (16-1) (8) -- Finally dropping a game to Lake Park, the Vikings will try to recover quickly to stay in the competitive DuKane Conference mix.

17. St. Rita (13-6) (23) -- Atop the Catholic League White, the Mustangs have quietly played very well over the last month.

18. Lincoln Park (12-6) (NR) -- Playing an incredibly difficult schedule has paid off for the Lions, who are battle-tested and one of the area's best road teams.

19. Oak Park-River Forest (11-6) (NR) -- Ranked in the preseason, it looks like OPRF is rounding into form as the Huskies are playing balanced team ball during a dominant win over York.

20. York (15-2) (14) -- The Dukes earned a West Suburban Silver win over Glenbard West before a blowout loss to OPRF.

21. St. Laurence (17-3) (NR) -- Quickly back in the rankings following a notable Catholic League win over Leo, St. Laurence has a dangerous offense.

22. Leo (13-5) (13) -- Dropping two games during the week, Leo needs to regroup before two games this week against St. Francis de Sales and Crete-Monee.

23. Orr (13-7) (NR) -- The Spartans are the only unbeaten team in the Public League Red North/West as they knocked off Uplift last week.

24. Stevenson (13-3) (NR) -- Taking down previously-ranked Waukegan demonstrates how dangerous the Patriots are now that they are getting healthy.

25. Aurora Christian (16-3) (NR) -- An impressive win over Riverside-Brookfield lands Aurora Christian in the Power Rankings.

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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Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

J.J. McCarthy, the state’s top-ranked high school quarterback and overall player according to Rivals, is transferring from Nazareth Academy to IMG Academy in Florida.

McCarthy made the announcement on his Twitter page Monday afternoon.

The news sent shock waves throughout the national prep football landscape. McCarthy, committed to play at Michigan, led the Roadrunners to an IHSA 7A second place finish back in November. As a sophomore in 2018, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. It culminated in a state title win and a 13-1 season.

The move makes sense for McCarthy, as he will team up with offensive lineman Greg Crippen, a fellow Michigan commit. According to Rivals, McCarthy (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 33 overall recruit in the country.

The loss is a huge one for head coach Tim Racki and company at the La Grange Park school. That said, the Roadrunners are one of the dominant programs in IHSA football, compiling a 38-4 record the past three seasons with three state titles in the previous six campaigns.

The big questions: Will other high-caliber Illinois high school athletes follow McCarthy? When will the IHSA commit to a fall sports schedule? What will Illinois high school football look like in the fall? What guidelines will be in place? There are many uncertainties.

What is known: The IHSA chose to cancel the state basketball tournament and all 2020 spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois is currently in a phased reopening of businesses and other institutions. Florida is ahead of Illinois in respect to some of those aforementioned facilities.

The risk, or perhaps the unknown, was worth it for McCarthy and his family. Will Florida —or other states, including Illinois— even be cleared to play football come August? Will his move be a productive one in retrospect?

Time will tell.