There won’t be another high school basketball game this evening, and pretty much this year, with the broad meaning and potential effect of the Chicago Public Schools boys basketball championship between Whitney Young and Curie.
Featuring arguably the top two players in the class of 2014, Young is looking for its second straight CPS championship while Curie is looking to take the title in one of the most memorable years of Chicago high school basketball.
Young’s status as the reigning champions and contending city mainstays suits its star Jahlil Okafor, who has had big-time college suitors for years and wound up choosing Duke to spend whatever time he chooses to spend at the next level.
Curie, led by Kansas University’s top recruit this year — Cliff Alexander — rose along with its talented big man, and has had the better year so far, including beating national No. 1 Monteverde in a showcase game in January. Curie enters this game as the city’s top school right now and Alexander has played throughout this season as if he wants any and all crowns, individual and collective.
Alexander told the Chicago Tribune in no uncertain words after winning the first city semifinal Wednesday night that Young and Okafor was “the matchup I want.” And he got it. If one was to do such things, the smarter bet for this game might be on the Condors.
Of course, these two have squared off before, captured in the video above. A state tournament placement was on the line in Class 4A and Young took the sectional title in a come-from-behind 62-58 win, Okafor scored 13, blocked three and grabbed three boards while Alexander scored 14, grabbed eight boards and also blocked three shots. I’m proud to say that game was played in the same gym where I received my high school diploma and played garbage minutes in one freshman intrasquad game.
Both the Curie Condors and the Young Dolphins have battled their way to this year’s game, including two painfully close semifinal games against Orr and Hyde Park respectively, but you know this final could have only shaped up one way.
Now is the time for kings and when it comes to the future of Chicago basketball and the newest guys to stand with Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, Jabari Parker and the rest who represent the city on the grandest stages there is enough room for both Alexander and Okafor to shine bright, if they want to.
Tonight’s game will tell the first chapter in regards to how much each young man wants it, because each year there’s only one city champion and only one MVP of that city champ. After tonight, that guy will be straight, his legacy as a prep legend will be solidified, while the other will just have to hope that their tale extends far beyond the city’s borders.
More on Okafor, Alexander and the CPS championship:
NBC’s College Basketball Talk shows the latest YouTube highlight video of Alexander by Ball is Life, with the most dominant moves from his big-time senior run. (CollegeBasketballTalk)
Chicago writer Jeremy Woo details the matchup for SportsNet New York (ZagsBlog)
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