Preps Talk

Phillips Final Thoughts: Monday's IHSA Basketball Things to Know

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Phillips Final Thoughts: Monday's IHSA Basketball Things to Know

The IHSA high school boys basketball season tipped off on Monday. 

While the calendar this time of year is generally filled with underwhelming Thanksgiving events -- or teams opting not to play at all -- Monday saw the area's top two teams face off as No. 1 Morgan Park outlasted No. 2 Whitney Young with a 61-59 win.

We have more on that game, and some more things to keep an eye on, as we get into more Thanksgiving tournament action on Tuesday. 

If you have scores, stories, highlights or updates, don't be shy to hit us up on Twitter @NBCSPreps or @Phillipshoops. Coaches, players, ADs, parents and fans are also encouraged to email me (phillipshoops@gmail.com) with any stories we should be tracking this season. 

Be sure to catch High School Lites this Saturday at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago as we'll have highlights and reactions from the eight football state title games as well as some basketball happenings from the first week of the season. 

THREE THINGS TO KNOW FROM MONDAY (11/25)

1. Brandon Weston gives Morgan Park another potential star

While Monday's matchup of Public League superpowers had plenty of subplots, the emergence of Mustangs junior Brandon Weston was the major takeaway from Morgan Park's win over Whitney Young.

I have much more on Weston's journey from missing all of last season to opening eyes in his Public League debut here.  

2. No. 17 Homewood-Flossmoor survives scare from Rich East

Coming off of a sectional title last season, it was tough to project the Vikings this season. Senior RJ Ogom returned in the frontcourt. He's a Division I signee who blossomed into a go-to player this summer. And H-F wasn't the type of team to rely on any one star to be a top-25 presence last season. This is a program that generally has many talented pieces at their disposal.

But uncertainty looms about some of the Homewood-Flossmoor rotation compared to some others in the preseason Preps Power Rankings. That showed Monday night at the Chicago Heights Classic as H-F needed double overtime, and foul trouble from Rich East, to escape with a 69-63 double overtime win.

This could be a case of early-season jitters and the Vikings trying to find themselves with many new faces. It's also certainly feasible that the Rockets are also a sleeper team for this season. I saw Rich East give Bloom some trouble last season on the road as they were a scrappy team with a handful of promising players. 

One thing is for sure: the Chicago Heights Classic is the area's best Thanksgiving event by a mile this week. I'll be checking out the event's final day of action on Friday.

  

3. Glenbrook South senior Dom Martinelli states his early case

Admittedly, I was aggressive in ranking Glenbrook South this preseason. The Titans lost a lot of senior firepower from last season's breakthrough season.

But Glenbrook South returned leading scorer and senior star Dom Martinelli. That was good enough for me to rank the Titans this preseason.

Martinelli started his sleeper Player of the Year campaign Monday with a blistering 37 points as the Titans outlasted Uplift at Buffalo Grove. As long as he stays healthy, this will likely be the first of many big games from Martinelli this season. There just aren't many at the local high school level who can pour it in like the senior wing forward can.

Again, college coaches, what more do you need to see out of this guy? It's not like the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world should be keeping track of Martinelli. But he's a bonafide stud at this level and the type of gym rat who will figure it out as a scholarship player at the next level. Division II and low-major Division I programs beware. 

  

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR TUESDAY (11/26)

Rich East at No. 8 Marian Catholic, 6:30 p.m. -- We get to see if Rich East is for real as they battle another top-25 team to begin the season. It'll also be nice to see Ahron Ulis and company get a better test on Tuesday after an easy win over Rich Central on Monday. 

No. 22 Glenbrook South vs. Zion-Benton (at Buffalo Grove) 6:00 p.m. --  The individual matchup between the Titans's Martinelli and Zion-Benton stud junior Amar Augillard should be a good one. Both have a shot at 30-point games in this one. It's also another chance for Glenbrook South to establish themselves as a credible top-25 team.

Westinghouse at No. 16 Fenwick, 7 p.m. -- An enticing matchup in Oak Park. The Friars are young -- led by standout junior and Louisville commit Bryce Hopkins and sophomore lead guard Trey Pettigrew. But they are talented enough to make some serious noise in the area this season. Westinghouse is coming off of a shocking loss to Benet in which the Redwings were without all-conference senior center Colin Crothers. For a team that some had in the preseason top-25 mix, not the start Westinghouse was looking for. Can the Warriors bounce back against another tough opponent? 

FINAL THOUGHT

Don't sleep on Whitney Young. 

The talk of Tuesday is going to center around Morgan Park and Brandon Weston stepping up to give the Mustangs the season-opening win.

It would also be very silly to forget about the Dolphins and what they're capable of. Senior DJ Steward showed supreme skill and toughness playing through a bloody lip to deliver 20 points while also contributing all over the box score.

Inconsistent at times this spring and summer, senior Tyler Beard had some eye-opening stretches, including the end of the third quarter that saw him throw down a big dunk and bury a buzzer-beating three-pointer. And transfer guard Jaeshawn Thomas proved he belonged in the Public League while looking like a tough third guard to contend with.

Whitney Young might have lost this season-opening clash, but they're still arguably the best Class 4A team in the state this season. 

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 8

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NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 8

Check out our high school hoops highlights from some of the best games around the state, and be sure to follow @NBCSPREPS for all of the latest scores, highlights, and analysis

Windy City Legends: Jimmy Garoppolo

Athlete of the Week: Lincoln-Way West's Taylor Gugliuzza

Team of the Week: Hinsdale South boys basketball

Highlights: Oak Lawn 61, Richards 60

Highlights: No. 10 DePaul Prep 78, St. Laurence 57

Highlights: Deerfield 33, Highland Park 29

Highlights: No. 2 Evanston 49, New Trier 43

Midweek Mixtape: Zion-Benton 90, No. 2 Evanston 71

Highlights: No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 64, Lincoln-Way East 43

Highlights: Austin 76, Prosser 43

Highlights: DeKalb 53, Naperville Central 51

Highlights: No. 24 Joliet West 59, West Aurora 54

Highlights: Simeon 88, No. 14 Morgan Park 86

Whitney Young's DJ Steward, Maine West's Angela Dugalic named to McDonald's All-American games

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward ends the Illinois McDonald's All-American drought

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NBC Sports Chicago

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward ends the Illinois McDonald's All-American drought

Whitney Young senior guard D.J. Steward became the latest Burger Boy from the Land of Lincoln with his selection into the game on Thursday afternoon. The Duke commit is the first Illinois boys basketball player to be selected for high school basketball's most prestigious game since Stevenson's Jalen Brunson in 2015.

Maine West girls basketball star and Oregon commit Angela Dugalic was selected for the girls McDonald's game. Illinois native and former Morgan Park standout Nimari Burnett was also selected for the boys game. Burnett helped the Mustangs to a Class 3A state title as a freshman before moving to California for his last three seasons of high school basketball at Prolific Prep. 

While Illinois will have multiple local storylines in both McDonald's game, the 6-foot-2 Steward being included on the boys team is a big deal for a number of reasons.

For starters, Illinois has been without a boys McDonald's All-American since 2015. From the game's debut in 1978 until 2009, Illinois had at least one McDonald's All-American every year. In the past 11 years, Illinois has been held out of the McDonald's six times -- including the past four classes. The talent drought has been noticeable over the past several years. 

More importantly, the McDonald's distinction caps off an already stellar high school basketball career for Steward. His accomplishments already include a state finals appearance and two All-Area selections (with a third almost assuredly coming later this season). 

Starting his career at Fenwick the first two seasons, Steward earned Catholic League Player of the Year honors as only a sophomore. Now dominating in the Public League this season, Steward could also own the unique distinction of being perhaps the best player in both the Chicago Catholic League AND Public League during his four-year high school career.

By making the McDonald's game, Steward also follows in the footsteps of other Whitney Young legends like Jahlil Okafor (2014) and Quentin Richardson (1998). Steward will now forever be linked to those two first-round NBA Draft picks for the rest of his career. The only thing missing from Steward's profile at this point is an elusive IHSA state title -- something the other two captured their senior season.

While Steward's selection into the McDonald's game is an important personal accomplishment, it's also huge for the rest of the local high school season. It's no secret that Illinois high school basketball has been starving for big-name talent. The buzz for the state tournament has continued to die down in recent seasons. 

Star power like Steward, and Illinois commit Adam Miller, should draw more casual interest in the local high school basketball season down the stretch. Steward making the McDonald's game makes him an even bigger draw locally for casual fans. It's likely Whitney Young will play in front of a lot of fans as they travel in the state tournament in-part because of Steward's high-profile career. 

There is still plenty of basketball to be played the rest of the 2019-20 season. Steward has time to add to his legacy as Whitney Young prepares to play for a city and state championship. Even if Steward falls short of some personal goals, he'll always be remembered among the state's greats now that he's playing in the McDonald's game.