Preps Talk

Simeon, Downers South lead Day 1 charge at Riverside-Brookfield


Simeon, Downers South lead Day 1 charge at Riverside-Brookfield

The Riverside-Brookfield Shootout is the first major high school basketball shootout during a busy month of June and it often features the best collection of teams from the Chicagoland area. Summer high school shootouts are always intriguing because coaches get a chance to tinker with lineups and see which younger players could have an impact on varsity for the upcoming season.

Riverside-Brookfield has marked the high school summer debut of many of the area's top players in the past few years, and this year was no different as some younger players that you'll be reading about a lot the next few seasons made a splash.

There were also plenty of city powerhouse programs like Bogan, Kenwood and Simeon, which got off to strong starts while some upstart programs started the summer right with a good opening day.

There will be plenty of more coverage coming from Riverside-Brookfield on the next few days, but here are some highlights from Saturday's action.

Simeon and Zach Norvell make a strong case to be near the top

Simeon and head coach Robert Smith fell short of reaching Peoria last season after a loss in Supersectionals to Normal, but the Wolverines still have championship aspirations heading into the 2015-16 high school season.

Although the Wolverines graduated three Big Ten recruits in D.J. Williams (Illinois), Ed Morrow (Nebraska) and Isaiah Moss (Iowa) there are still plenty of talented players on the roster.

Rising senior guard Zach Norvell leads the charge for Robert Smith's smaller and quicker ball club in 2015-16. The 6-foot-4 lefty guard had the perimeter jumper dialed in on Saturday and he helped lead the Wolverines to three blowout wins.

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

There isn't a lot of size for Simeon compared to the past few seasons, but the guard-driven lineup was ferocious with full-court pressure and it made it difficult for teams to cross half court in many situations. Joining Norvell in the four-guard lineup is senior Josh Thomas, junior Evan Gilyard and sophomore Kezo Brown.

With four Division I prospects currently starting at guard, this will be faster and more pressure-oriented Simeon team than the past few seasons. With elite star power lacking in the area in 2015-16, look for the Wolverines to be near the top of the CSN Preps Power Rankings again to start the season.

Downers Grove South surprises with a strong start

One of the pleasant surprises at Riverside-Brookfield on Saturday was the play of Downers South. The Mustangs won their pool on Saturday, beating the likes of Stevenson, Plainfield East and Morgan Park as the play of two juniors stood out.

Denis Alibegovic, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, and T.J. Clifford, a 6-foot-6 forward, both made plays for a balanced Downers South team that stood toe-to-toe with some of the state's most storied programs.

Alibegovic is a Division I prospect with a scholarship offer from Florida International, and he showed a lot of confidence creating his own shot and shooting from the perimeter. Against Plainfield East, he buried a tough step-back jumper to tie the game before making the game-winning bucket to end the contest.

At 6-foot-6, Clifford is also a Division I prospect and he has deceptive athleticism to go along with a strong frame. Clifford opened plenty of eyes by catching an alley-oop off an inbounds pass for a dunk. There are a lot of qualities to like about his game at the high-school level.

Downers South gets to test itself plenty on Sunday as they're in the main championship bracket against some city powerhouses like Simeon, Bogan and Kenwood.

Alan Griffin emerges as a sophomore to watch

Oak Park-River Forest sophomore wing Alan Griffin earned minutes as a freshman on varsity last season and impressed with his poise and basketball IQ. As the son of Chicago Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin, there was a lot of like about the 6-foot-4 prospect going forward in-part because of his strong bloodlines.

Griffin looked ready to take the next step with his play on Saturday as he buried six 3-pointers during an impressive Huskies win over Curie. With a smooth 3-point stroke and good size, Griffin made the shooting display look easy as five of those triples came in the game's opening 14 minutes.

While he still needs to develop his mid-range game and refine some of his skill set a little bit more, Griffin looks like he's ready to be one of the go-to scorers on a talented Oak Park-River Forest team that won its pool on Saturday.

33 Days to Kickoff: Benet

33 Days to Kickoff: Benet preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Benet Academy

Head coach: Pat New

How they fared in 2017: 9-4 (5-2 East Suburban Catholic Conference). Benet Academy made the Class 7A state playoff field. They defeated Maine West, Hononegah and Lincoln-Way Central before losing to Batavia in the state semifinal round. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ St. Laurence

Aug. 31 @ Moline

Sept. 7 @ St. Patrick

Sept. 14 vs Niles Notre Dame

Sept. 21 vs Nazareth Academy

Sept. 28 @ Joliet Catholic

Oct. 5 vs St. Viator

Oct. 13 @ Marian Catholic

Oct. 19 vs Marist

[MORE: 78 Days to Kickoff - St. Patrick]

Biggest storyline: After back-to-back state semifinal playoff runs, can the Redwings pick things up right where they left off and another make deep playoff run?

Names to watch this season: QB Collin Gillespie and RB/S Ben Hickey

Biggest holes to fill: While the Redwings will welcome back some key starters from a season ago, they will need to reload a bit up front on both the offensive and defensive line. 

EDGY's Early Take: Coach Pat New's Redwings had an early 14-0 lead over eventual 7A state champion Batavia before falling to the Bulldogs. Benet, who has 50 program wins since 2012 (all playoff seasons), is never short on talent. Look for their offensive skills department to carry the load early this season. The Redwings should challenge in the East Suburban Catholic Conference race and into playoff time come October. 

34 Days to Kickoff: Bartlett

34 Days to Kickoff: Bartlett preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Bartlett

Head coach: Mark Erlenbaugh

How they fared in 2017: 2-7 (2-3 Upstate 8 Valley Conference), Bartlett failed to qualify for the 20127 IHSA state football playoff field.

2018 regular season schedule:

Aug. 24 @ East Aurora

Aug. 31 vs Glenbard East

Sept. 7 vs Glenbard South

Sept. 14 @ Elgin

Sept. 21 @ West Aurora

Sept. 28 vs West Chicago

Oct. 5 vs Larkin

Oct. 13 @ South Elgin 

Oct. 19 @ Streamwood

[MORE: 53 Days to Kickoff - Glenbard East]

Biggest storyline: Can the Hawks soar in the newly realigned Upstate 8 conference?

Names to watch this season: QB Dean Kotsovetis and WR Austin Gates

Biggest holes to fill: The Hawks will need to fill in several spots this summer especially upfront on the offensive and defensive lines due to graduation losses.

EDGY's Early Take: Bartlett head coach Matt Erlenbaugh comes in from Chicago's Solorio High School and takes over the Hawks football program. Look for Bartlett to have a chance to challenge in the newly-realigned Upstate Eight schedule. The Hawks schedule this season won't include the likes of several 2017 state playoff teams like Lemont, Prairie Ridge and St. Charles East.