When it comes to reputations, Chicago doesn’t play around.
Whether good or bad, the city tends to invest itself formally in the preservation and/or disintegration of said belief as it formulates around the city.
As far as good reps go, being the perceived prep basketball capital is one of the best and for the coming weekend all others can fall by the wayside.
In recent years more outstanding high school ball players have been showcased in Chicago than in any other major city in America, whether on a season-long scale, in one offs like the McDonald’s All-American Game or this past Sunday’s Like Mike Invitational or in multiple-day events like the Chicago Elite Classic, which tips off for a sixth year tonight at the UIC Pavillion.
Recent news has the McDonald’s game leaving the Chi after a seven-year residency, but let it not be known that we can’t do for self, especially with a little corporate help in the way of Jordan Brand’s sponsorship of Like Mike.
Less mass marketing is being done with the Elite Classic, but that doesn’t make it any less special. In a way, it’s even more so, rooted in an urge for a city that was re-emerging with a brilliant new generation of players, inspired by the likes of Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis back in the event’s first year (2012), to show just how deep its talent pool was and to do so against great talent from other areas of the country in a calendar-marking event that was closer to home instead of states away.
Many of Chicago’s best high school teams still travel far and wide through the holiday season to prove themselves, but in the CEC the likes of Simeon, Whitney Young and Morgan Park have a early season showcase that acts as one part prep rally and one part highlight reel.
All three of those teams will take part in this year’s Classic and in its final three games Saturday night, a triple-header main event that should have the Pavillion rocking.
Champaign-bound Ayo Dosunmu, the top player in the state in the class of 2018, leads Morgan Park in their latest test after falling to Manute Bol’s son and Findlay (NV) Prep in the Like Mike headliner, they’ll be looking to get their season’s first win against, interestingly enough, Champaign Central.
A battle of bordering state champions will take place afterward with Young, who survived a thriller Sunday against Fenwick, playing Vashon of St. Louis, which currently holds a title in Missouri. Fenwick, by the way, tips against their in-town rival Oak Park in a recurring event that has become the highlight of Friday evenings at the CEC.
The showcase closes with Simeon and the state’s No. 2 recruit for 2018, Iowa State-bound Talen Horton-Tucker, meeting Chamimade of St. Louis.
Chaminade has been a mainstay of the CEC as far as nationally-ranked programs go, having previously brought talent in like future Duke and Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum.
One can stand to see many future top college and pro ballers at this year’s classic, including possible WNBA prospects in two girls games featuring the storied Marshall and Young programs, there will even be two grade school games, one featuring the noted eighth-grader and reality star Amari Bailey of “Bringing Up Ballers,” who gained headlines over the summer by making an early commitment to DePaul.
See the weekend’s complete schedule below and for tickets and more info on the Classic visit its website.
2017 Chicago Elite Classic Schedule
Friday, December 1
Ariel Academy vs. Skinner West Elementary — 5:00 p.m.
St. Rita vs. Bloomington — 6:00 p.m.
Lyons Township vs. Riverside-Brookfield — 7:30 p.m.
Oak Park vs. Fenwick — 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 2
Beasley Elementary vs. South Loop — 10:45 a.m.
Simeon vs. Marshall (girls) — 12 noon
Whitney Young vs. Homewood-Flossmoor (girls) — 1:30 p.m.
Sunrise Christian Academy (Kansas) vs. La Lumiere School (Indiana) — 3:00 p.m.
Kenwood vs. Gray Collegiate Academy (South Carolina) — 4:30 p.m.
Morgan Park vs. Champaign Central — 6:00 p.m.
Whitney Young vs. Vashon (St. Louis) — 7:30 p.m.
Simeon vs. Chaminade (St. Louis) — 9:00 p.m.