Preps Talk

Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker draws strong reviews despite getting cut at USA Basketball

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NBC Sports Chicago

Simeon's Talen Horton-Tucker draws strong reviews despite getting cut at USA Basketball

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Before Talen Horton-Tucker heads to Iowa State to start a promising college basketball career, the former Simeon star participated in the USA Basketball U18 national team tryouts in Colorado Springs.

One of 33 players in his age group vying for only 12 spots on the U18 national team, Horton-Tucker was cut from the competitive tryouts over the weekend. The 6-foot-4 Horton-Tucker won't be traveling to Canada to represent the United States this summer. But even though Horton-Tucker was cut from the team, he made a strong impression on many of the scouts and coaches in attendance.

Registering a startling 7-foot-1 wingspan and showing his unique versatility on the wing, Horton-Tucker showed flashes of strong play during his time at the tryout. USA Basketball is often searching for specific skills to fill out its roster, however, as Horton-Tucker was ultimately left off the team.

"He's one of the guys who stood out the most to me at USA in Colorado Springs," Mike Schmitz of ESPN's Draft Express said of Horton-Tucker.

"I think he's going to be an instant impact guy [at Iowa State] just because of his feel, his physicality. Obviously, he's long. I just think with his maturity and his ability to think the game with those physical tools, he'll have an impact, I would imagine, as a big-time starter right away."

"It's crazy. Just being able to do something like this before college, it's a blessing," Horton-Tucker said of his USA experience.

"Just seeing myself as a college basketball player. Competing against the best guys every day and just preparing myself for every situation."

Although Horton-Tucker drew some strong reviews for his play, there were also some things he'll need to work on before he arrives in Ames for freshman year.

The thin air of Colorado Springs can quickly make life difficult on participating players. This was something scouts noticed, in particular, with Horton-Tucker. Getting in even better shape for college is likely the next step for Horton-Tucker before he begins at Iowa State.

"I think he has to get himself in better shape. I think he weighted around 240 pounds. So, probably just trimming down 10-to-20 pounds," Schmitz said. "I was surprised though. I thought he was one of the better players there. Just trimming down, finishing around the rim a little better. And for a guy who can pass as well as he can, sometimes he has a tendency to just jack a quick three. So just picking his spots a little bit better."

During a busy few weeks of basketball in Chicago, Horton-Tucker has been putting in workouts all over town. A gym rat who can often be found watching basketball when others are working out — Schmitz said Horton-Tucker was watching NBA Draft workouts at UIC in May — Horton-Tucker is doing everything he can to improve his game. Sometimes, Horton-Tucker will work out at Simeon. During other times, he'll get a workout in with his uncle at anywhere an open gym can be found in Chicago.

Since the NBA offseason is also in full effect for most of the league, Horton-Tucker has worked out some with former Simeon star and Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker.

"I'm really close with Jabari. We just worked out. I was just at his house and we were playing in the city right before I left for here. It's always been great playing with guys like that," Horton-Tucker said.

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Working out with a local legend like Parker gives Horton-Tucker a measuring stick for the next levels of basketball as he's hoping to come in and compete for heavy minutes right away at Iowa State.

"His steps were a lot bigger because he was the No. 1 player in the country and did all of these great things. He won two gold medals. But just being able to look up to somebody that I can call on a regular basis, giving me info on things I need to do to get better for college and the next level is big," Horton-Tucker said of Parker's influence.

Horton-Tucker is planning on getting to school later this summer as he continues to build a relationship with his fellow local Cyclone incoming freshmen — Corliss big man George Conditt and Hinsdale South wing Zion Griffin. The Chicagoland trio are all hoping to make an impact at Iowa State as early as next season as the Cyclones are trying to be more competitive in the always-loaded Big 12.

"They just want me to come in ready. They already think I'm ready to play college basketball skill-wise. But as my body gets better, and I mature more, things will come easier," Horton-Tucker said.

"Obviously everybody wants to start but just coming in and working is my focus."

As Horton-Tucker embarks on the next step of his basketball journey, he also can look back fondly at his memorable career at Simeon. Although he has a chip on his shoulder after not winning Mr. Basketball or a state title, Horton-Tucker has taken comfort in his legacy for being on one of the better Illinois high school teams of the past decade.

"I feel like I had the best senior year. Even though I didn't win a state championship, I won three city championships. I think I left a really good legacy at Simeon. I'm just happy for my teammates. I think there's like seven of us going to college [for basketball]," Horton-Tucker said.

"You know, even though we came up short we were still great."

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?              

NBC Sports Chicago and Wintrust present our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of passionate high school basketball followers. Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive and appears in the MyTeams app.  High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago. 

We're going with a "Chicago skyline" edition of the Viewers' Choice Game of the Week-- games that are within sight of the greatest landmarks in the country. Austin is leading the Chicago Public League Blue-West division. University High, who nearly knocked off Simeon this season, battles Public League Red-West/North newcomer Payton. They battle Prosser. And Hope Academy leads the Chicago Prep conference. They figure to get a challenge from Walther Christian. Which game should we cover?

Austin at Prosser, 6:30 p.m.

University High at Payton, 6:30 p.m.

Walther Christian at Hope Academy, 7:30 p.m.

To participate, our fans are encouraged to do the following:

**Follow our NBC Sports Chicago preps Twitter page: @NBCSPreps.

**Note the pinned tweet that is atop the feed.

**Vote for the game you want NBC Sports Chicago to cover Friday night.

**Spread the word!

The poll will start promptly at 12:00 p.m. Tuesday. We will make an announcement with the official results on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights, all season long.

Curie #1, but major changes throughout NBC Sports Chicago Power Rankings

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NBC Sports Chicago

Curie #1, but major changes throughout NBC Sports Chicago Power Rankings

Some major shakeups in the latest NBC Sports Chicago Preps Power Rankings.

A busy Martin Luther King holiday weekend saw tournaments and shootouts all over the area that included many losses to top-25 teams. It means a lot of reshuffling in the rankings this week, along with three new teams entering the picture.

Conference play and another strong shootout at Glenbard East on Saturday highlights another busy week of basketball as we hit the home stretch of the regular season.

1. Curie (17-1, 7-0) (1) -- The Condors earned three double-digit wins as they made easy work of local competition. Curie will have some enticing matchups to follow this week when they travel to Corliss and also battle Missouri power Hazelwood Central. 

2. Evanston (18-0, 5-0) (2) -- Evanston won a test against Hillcrest as they're still undefeated on the season. This week will be the Wildkits' biggest test though as they play No. 3 Bloom at Glenbard East in a major top-three showdown.

3. Bloom (18-4, 7-1) (3) -- Two double-digit wins for Bloom in conference play as the Blazing Trojans remain in the Southland mix. This week sees the Blazing Trojans face No. 2 Evanston at Glenbard East. 

4. Whitney Young (12-6, 7-0) (4) -- Whitney Young is starting to round into form with multiple wins during the week. The win at HoopHall also opened the eyes of national scouts as D.J. Steward and Tyler Beard played well in a major showcase win.

5. Bogan (18-2, 7-1) (5) -- Surviving a scare from Kenwood, Bogan went through the week without a loss. The Bengals close out the Public League schedule with a road matchup at Hyde Park this week.

6. Notre Dame (20-2, 4-0) (6) -- The Dons made a strong impression once again with a takedown of Morgan Park at Fenwick. Notre Dame gets another big Public League test this week when they play Simeon at Glenbard East. 

7. Thornton (18-0, 7-0) (7) -- Monster home win for the Wildcats as they get past Homewood-Flossmoor for another signature win. Playing its biggest road game of the season to date this week at Kankakee, this Southland showdown will have major conference title implications. 

8. Lincoln Park (16-3, 6-1) (10) -- Impressive win over Joliet West for the Lions as they are quietly remaining in the top-10 picture. The Lions have three matchups this week as they make a push towards 20 wins.

9. Homewood-Flossmoor (15-2, 1-0) (9) -- A busy week for Homewood-Flossmoor as they lost on the road to unbeaten Thornton but also gave Loyola its first Illinois loss of the season. A key conference matchup on the road at Lincoln-Way East this week as Southwest Suburban Blue action continues. 

10. DePaul Prep (17-2, 8-0) (11) -- The Rams took down two conference opponents this week-- St. Francis de Sales and Montini. They remain in the chase for the Catholic League Blue title. The Rams have a conference matchup at St. Laurence on Friday.

11. Loyola (19-2, 8-0) (6) -- Loyola finally lost to an Illinois opponent with a tight loss to No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor. The Ramblers are still in the midst of a crowded Catholic League Blue race as they travel to St. Joe's this week. 

12. Stevenson (15-3, 6-0) (15) -- The Patriots are rolling since the holidays as they picked up wins over Libertyville, Waukegan and West Aurora. Stevenson still is trying to hold off Mundelein in the North Suburban as the Patriots play Warren this week.

13. Marian Catholic (14-5, 3-1) (12) -- Marian Catholic suffered a setback against Bolingbrook as their brutal schedule continues. The difficult schedule continues with two games at Quincy this week against out-of-state competition.

14. Morgan Park (12-7, 5-1) (13) -- Falling to Notre Dame at Fenwick, the Mustangs continue their up-and-down season. Morgan Park still has the talent to beat anyone in the state but they lack a cohesiveness that other elite teams have at this point in the season.

15. Bolingbrook (15-4, 1-0) (NR) -- Bolingbrook rockets back into the Power Rankings behind three massive wins (Marian Catholic, Romeoville and Lincoln-Way East). Over the past month, Bolingbrook has played one of the toughest schedules in the area. 

16. York (20-2, 5-0) (17) -- Since falling to Bolingbrook in the Jack Tosh title game, York has run off eight straight wins. Winning the WW South MLK event was notable as the Dukes have been very strong in tournament play this season.

17. Kankakee (14-1, 5-1) (18) -- The Kays haven't lost since Dec. 3 but that could be tested when they host undefeated Thornton during the week. Kankakee has some major tests coming up with additional games against Bloom and the Wildcats later in the season.

18. Cary-Grove (18-2, 8-0) (NR) -- Returning to the Power Rankings for the first time since the preseason is Cary-Grove. The Trojans won the event at Lake Zurich, including a notable title-game win over No. 23 Glenbrook South. Their only losses this season have come to ranked teams (York and Waubonsie Valley).

19. Glenbrook South (17-3, 5-0) (19) -- The Titans dropped the title game at Lake Zurich to Cary-Grove. A win over Mundelein, however, was very impressive as Dom Martinelli and company continue to pile up quality wins.

20. Mundelein (16-3, 4-1) (16) -- Up and down week for the Mustangs. They stayed with Stevenson in the North Suburban race with a solid win over Libertyville. But Mundelein fell short of expectations at Lake Zurich by falling to Glenbrook South in the semifinals. 

21. Niles North (17-3, 5-0) (21) -- The Vikings cruised to some easy wins hosting their own event during the weekend. Niles North has two more winnable home games before playing Clark at the Orr Shootout this weekend. 

22. Oak Forest (17-1, 8-0) (23) -- Oak Forest continues to quietly pile up wins. The leaders of the South Suburban Blue head to the road for two winnable games during the week (Bremen, Southland). 

23. Waubonsie Valley (19-2, 3-1) (14) -- The Warriors drop after a surprising upset loss to Lyons in the Burlington Central MLK event. Waubonsie Valley has a chance to climb back up the Power Rankings with a winnable schedule until mid-February.

24. Joliet West (17-3, 10-0) (20) -- Losing a close game to Lincoln Park, the Tigers drop a few spots. The Southwest Prairie's best team goes on the road for two games this week as they should be able to beat Lockport and West Aurora.  

25. Hinsdale South (17-2, 6-0) (NR) -- Perhaps no team in the area had a better week than Hinsdale South. With six wins over the past week -- including two that included a buzzer-beater to either win or force overtime -- and the Hornets had a memorable week. Hinsdale South capped it off by winning the MLK event at Sterling with four double-digit wins.