While the Chicago prep basketball scene has been able to brag about a lot in recent years, from its top-ranked basketball teams to the individuals from it that have made a big impact in college and the pros, the city lacked a major regular-season high school showcase until the inaugural Chicago Elite Classic tipped off last year.
Featuring Jabari Parker and his top-ranked Simeon squad in the night’s final game and Jahlil Okafor leading Whitney Young in the game prior, last year’s Elite Classic was an unqualified success — the hometown boys dominated and Parker even helped provide some suspense by keeping his playing in the game, which was not a sure thing entering the night, a secret. Parker started the game — his first action in five months due to a foot injury — and played a short stint.
A similar drama looked to have formed around Curie standout and Kansas recruit Cliff Alexander this year. After catching two technicals in a game last week against fellow city power, St. Rita, and being ejected, Alexander was due to miss Curie’s next scheduled game due to Illinois High School Association rules.
The scheduled missed game was to occur tonight with Alexander cleared for Saturday, but that game got canceled due to anticipated weather issues, making the Elite Classic game against Las Vegas power Bishop Gorman the one to be missed until it was announced today that Alexander could miss another game later in the season, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times’ Michael O’Brien.
You got to admire the Curie coaching staff and administrators who had to have done some good ‘ol backdoor Chicago city hall negotiating with the IHSA to get Alexander to play in this showcase game. Then again, maybe Curie and Alexander were shown mercy due to the perceived role they are playing in this already important event for high school basketball in Chicago and Illinois in general. You can argue that Alexander is getting special treatment due to his talents, but them’s the breaks — if you make yourself irreplaceable (or close to it) you get more rope for your actions.
In this particular case, Curie is playing the role Whitney Young played last year — in the penultimate game of the night, hosting one of the most heralded guests of the day (Young played DeMatha (Md.) last year) and though he’s a senior, Alexander is really being showcased on a national level for the first time, much like then-junior Okafor last year.
The now-Dukie returns this year with his senior class, which includes Georgetown recruit Paul White, to play St. John Bosco (Ca.). It looks like the two premier matchups this year could shape up to be better then last year’s, which didn’t provide much of a challenge for Young and Simeon (who also play Saturday against Hamilton of Memphis).
Bosco plays a typical national schedule and they feature big-time recruits in 6-foot-8 senior Daniel Hamilton (Connecticut) and junior guard Tyler Dorsey who is in the top-10 rankings for the Class of 2015. Another ’15 recruit to watch is 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman of Bishop Gorman, the No. 2 recruit in that class according to Rivals.com, so Alexander is expected to get a prime challenge from another major college-level talent.
Having seen the Young and Simeon games at the Elite Classic last year, I would highly recommend anyone interested in the future of basketball to come out to the UIC Pavillion and check out the games already described, which make up the evening session of the event, as well as the early morning games which will feature several other standout Illinois schools and guests from Cali and D.C. For tickets and more info on the Classic visit its website.
2013 Chicago Elite Classic Schedule
10 a.m. — Fenwick vs. Normal University High
11:30 a.m. — St. Rita vs. Gonzaga (D.C.)
1 p.m. — Marian Catholic vs. Etiwanda (Ca.)
2:30 p.m. — Benet Academy vs. Redondo Union (Ca.)
6 p.m. — Simeon vs. Hamilton (Tenn.)
7:30 p.m. — Curie vs. Bishop Gorman (Nev.)
9 p.m. — Whitney Young vs. St. John Bosco (Ca.)
Look out for a recap of the Elite Classic next week in “The City Game” as well as a bonus column
this weekend this coming week looking at the early progress of Chicago’s college teams as well as my take on coaching legend Larry Brown’s visit to UIC this week with his SMU Mustangs, which featured three Chicago-area high school products in its starting lineup.
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