High School: Girls Basketball

Jackie Kemph building her legend

April, 11, 2013
Jackie KemphCourtesy Jim VanAntwerpJackie Kemph averaged 20 points, 7.6 assists, and 3.3 steals for Rolling Meadows (Ill.) as a junior.

Fenwick (Oak Park, Ill.) had been paired with Rolling Meadows (Ill.) at the McDonald’s Shootout because the two girls’ basketball teams played the same vertical game, with the same emphasis on taking the best shot available as early in the shot clock as possible. They were two of the highest-scoring teams in the state of Illinois, largely due to pace and, in Rolling Meadows’ case, the point guard who pushes it.

Fenwick entered that high-profile game with two goals: mitigate Rolling Meadows’ height and stop Jackie Kemph. The former went all right. The latter did not.

Rolling Meadows’ junior point guard went for 38 points on 23 shots, shredding Fenwick doubles and full-court traps in an 87-83 victory. She also dished seven assists. To celebrate her career night and an important win over a fellow suburban Chicago power, she walked into the locker room after the game and vomited.

“That was Jackie just refusing to lose,” said Jenny Vliet, a Division I talent who’s been playing by Kemph’s side since the two were in fifth grade. “She was really not feeling well, but if she hadn’t told me I never would have known. Her intensity that game was what pulled us through.”

Read the entire story here.

McDonald's games extend Chicago deal

October, 24, 2012
The McDonald's All-American Games announced Wednesday it will remain in Chicago for at least five more years.

The games were held at Chicago's United Center in 2011 and set a record for attendance with 19,909 tickets sold. The games returned to the United Center in 2012.

The deal announced Wednesday will keep the games in Chicago until 2015 and includes an option for 2016. The 2013 games will be held at the United Center on April 3.

"This is a historic day for the McDonald's All American Games," McDonald's All American Games director Douglas Freeland said in a statement. "Fans throughout the U.S. can now make Chicago their 'destination' to see the greatest high school basketball players participate in this annual rite of passage."

The 2013 games' nominees will be revealed in January and the teams will be announced in February.

The Chicago area was represented by three girls players (Whitney Young's Janee Thompson, Niles West's Jewell Loyd, Bolingbrook's Morgan Tuck) and no boys in 2012. The 2013 games are expected to include at least Simeon forward Jabari Parker, the nation's No. 1 senior.

Illinois has produced 74 McDonald's All-Americans, including 60 boys and 14 girls. The state ranks third behind California (123) and New York (84).

Rankin: Under Armour Summer Jam recap

July, 23, 2012
Nathan TaphornCourtesy of Kelly Kline/UnderArmour
Northwestern wing commit Nate Taphorn put on a show at the Under Armour Summer Jam with his outstanding shooting and ballhandling skills.

Click here to read the entire story.

Parham ready to sell Illini to Chicago

July, 6, 2012
Newly-named Illinois assistant coach Paris Parham can remember a time when most Chicago high school basketball players considered the Illini as a possible destination.

That’s changed over the years, but Parham said Friday he’s confident Illinois can return to having that standing in Chicago.

“Growing up in Chicago, playing ball, your whole dream was to play at the highest level,” said Parham, who was officially named to Illinois coach John Groce’s staff on Thursday. “During our time, Illinois has always been in the Big Ten and has always consistently been a place that guys dreamed about playing at.

“I think it can definitely be like that again. It hasn’t lost anything. The Big Ten was the best conference in the country last season. It’s in the top 3 in the country year in and year out. It’s a place with unbelievable fan support. Education-wise, the school is unbelievable across the board. People want to play for a winner. Whenever Illinois was winning, bright lights and shining stars kind of idea, kids wanted to come. We have to get back to that level.”

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Area coaches: Parham good hire for Illini

June, 26, 2012
Some of the Chicago area’s most prominent high school and clubs coaches reacted positively Tuesday to Illinois hiring assistant coach Paris Parham.

Parham replaces Isaac Chew on Illinois coach John Groce’s staff after Chew departed last month for a position at Marquette. Parham is expected to be the Illini’s lead Chicago recruiter. He is a Chicago native, played at Dunbar High School in Chicago, coached at Phillips High School and Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s Public League and has recruited the city and surrounding suburbs the last five years for Illinois State.

“It’s rare a person gets an opportunity to do a do-over,” said Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, whose roster includes nationally-ranked juniors Jahlil Okafor and Paul White. “I think coach Groce and the Illinois program got a do-over. We all liked the Chew hire, but I think the Paris Parham hire is one we love. It’s means nothing negative against Chew. It’s about the relationship we all have with Paris.

“I’m elated. This is one of the few times in Illinois basketball hire history that I can say I’m excited.”

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Morgan Tuck moves up in final rankings

May, 7, 2012
Morgan TuckScott Powers/ESPNChicago.comMorgan Tuck, a three-time all-area selection, averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds for Bolingbrook.

Just because we traditionally have posted our final rankings of the recruiting-relevant class (rising seniors) in August doesn't mean we forget the seniors and just focus on the underclassmen.

During the fall club tournaments and high school girls' basketball season, the seniors are difficult to ignore. They are the leaders, a step away from college careers, and typically the best players on the nation's best teams. As we follow the high school season closely, it's impossible not to notice them.

It's just that we've never felt moved enough to do anything about what we witnessed -- until now. Call this first-ever spring tweaking of the 2012 class rankings the "Jonquel Adjustment" because it was the 6-foot-3 Jones' season at Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) that opened our eyes to the necessity of making changes that reflect a new reality.

Let's be clear: While some may rank based on performance (number of points scored in a game or tournament, for example), we find performance to be beholden to so many variables as to be an unreliable predictor of success at the next level. Performance is not why we are making changes -- or ranked a player where we did in the first place. We are making changes because of attributes (physical, mental or attitudinal) that either were revealed or clarified.

We also only wanted to make adjustments that were substantial and clear-cut, so we settled on five.

Click here to read the entire story.

Six objectives for Illinois' Groce

March, 28, 2012
Meyers LeonardBen Woloszyn/US PresswireMeyers Leonard might be a top-15 pick in the NBA draft this summer.
Here are six key objectives for new Illinois coach John Groce, who sources say agreed to a deal on Wednesday:

1. Convince sophomore Meyers Leonard to stay: With Leonard, the Illini should be able compete at the top of the Big Ten. Without him, it’s unlikely. Leonard dominated at times as a sophomore, but he still had inconsistencies due to foul trouble and his own personal frustrations. He likely will be drafted in the top 15 if he leaves, but he could be an All-American and a top-10 pick if he stays.

[+] EnlargeJabari Parker
Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.comHow will a new coach affect Jabari Parker's decision on Illinois?
2. Reach out to Parker: Simeon junior Jabari Parker is the No. 1 junior in the country and has been the priority for Illinois since he stepped foot on a high school court. Former Illinois coach Bruce Weber developed a good relationship with Parker and his family. It’s unlikely Illinois will land Parker, but Groce has to make a strong push. Groce recruited Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. to Ohio State, so he has experience with top-end players.

3. Retain assistant coach Jerrance Howard: He lives and breathes Illinois basketball. Howard grew up with it, played there and has now coached there. He has a strong relationship with the current players and the ones already committed. Howard has two years left on his contract. If he gets away, another high-major program will scoop him up, and he’ll soon be recruiting against Illinois.

4. Bring someone with Chicago ties onto the staff: Howard has opened many doors in Chicago, but Chicago coaches would be even more comfortable with one of their own. You’re never going to please everyone in Chicago, but a coach with Chicago roots would go a long way in most gyms. Simeon coach Robert Smith is the logical choice, but he’ll have to be persuaded to leave.

5. Drive to Chicago and start building relationships ASAP: It’s going to be an uphill climb for Groce in Chicago. Most Chicago coaches don’t know him, so they’re going to be skeptical until they speak with him. It will be a lot like what DePaul coach Oliver Purnell went through when he first was hired. Despite what critics have said, Chicago isn’t any more difficult to recruit than any other major city. You have to get in there and gain trust. Groce can do that, but it will take a little time.

6. Deal with Illinois’ current recruits: Groce and the Illini’s current commitments will have to decide what’s best for everyone’s futures. Crete-Monee point guard Michael Orris is the only player signed in the Class of 2012. Prospect senior combo guard Mike LaTulip was also recruited as a preferred walk-on. For the Class of 2013, Illinois has commitments from Belleville East shooting guard Malcolm Hill and LaLumiere point guard Jalen James. Both are highly touted and are considered to be Illinois’ backcourt of the future.

AAU coach defends Chicago recruiting

March, 23, 2012
One of Chicago’s most powerful club high school coaches said Friday he doesn’t believe Shaka Smart turned down Illinois’ offer because of his reluctance to deal with Chicago recruiting and believes the perception of the city’s recruiting is wrong.

Mike Irvin runs one of Chicago’s most recruited club programs, the Mac Irvin Fire. Its recent players include McDonald’s All-Americans Wayne Blackshear and Jereme Richmond, Illinois sophomore Meyers Leonard and Ohio State freshman Sam Thompson. The Fire’s current roster includes the nation’s No.1 junior Jabari Parker and No. 2 sophomore Jahlil Okafor.

According to sourced reports, Smart was turned off by the politics of Chicago recruiting, and that played a factor in his decision to reject Illinois’ offer. Irvin said Smart has recruited Chicago before and doesn’t believe that soured Smart on the Illinois job.

“Shaka knows he can come in and recruit kids from here,” said Irvin, who took over the program for his recently deceased father Mac Irvin. “When Shaka was (an assistant) at Florida, all of our guys had Florida on their list. I didn’t even know who Shaka was before, and he called me 90 times before he got a hold of me. He knows he can come in here.”

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AAU coach: State's talent affects Illini job

March, 21, 2012
Larry Butler , a longtime Chicago-area scout and former club coach, said Wednesday high-profile college coaches aren’t sold on the University of Illinois job because of in-state recruiting and the headaches involved in attracting Chicago’s players.

“It’s not attractive because what we have in our state right now,” said Butler, who coached Dwyane Wade, Andre Iguodala and Quentin Richardson, among others. “The quality isn’t there. So many people fuss over guys like [Kentucky freshman] Anthony Davis and [Louisville freshman] Wayne Blackshear getting out of town, but we’ve always had kids play in different places, and it wasn’t a big deal because we had other players across the state. Shannon Brown and Andre Iguodala went other places, and we still had Dee Brown and Luther Head go to Illinois.

“That’s the real deal. Talking to (VCU’s) Shaka Smart, (Duke’s) Chris Collins, (Nevada’s) Doug Novsek and other coaching candidates for Illinois, Southern Illinois and Eastern Illinois, this is what they’re all talking about. We were once a hotbed for talent, and we have fallen off big time.”

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UIC coach not fan of four classes in IHSA

March, 17, 2012
PEORIA, Ill. -- UIC coach Howard Moore, a former Chicago prep star, expressed his displeasure with four-class Illinois high school basketball during the state tournament on Saturday.

Moore graduated from Taft in 1990, and his high school career was played when the state only had two classes. The IHSA expanded basketball to four classes during the 2007-08 season.

“I’m not a fan of four classes,” said Moore, who attended the state tournament on Friday and Saturday. “I just think it really takes away from the strength of the state. When you split everyone up and dissect the talent and make different classes play against one other, I just think it really dilutes what we got in our state. I think it takes away from some of the natural rivalries and matchups that you would historically see.”

Moore watched in the front row of Carver Arena as Peoria Central defeated North Chicago in the Class 3A state championship on Saturday afternoon. Despite its state title, Peoria Central will likely still be considered to rank behind Class 4A finalists Simeon and Proviso East.

Moore was disappointed Peoria Central wouldn’t have the opportunity to prove whether it was better than the two Class 4A teams. Peoria Central had won three previous state titles in the two-class system.

“I just think if you get back down to two classes, then it’s even more competitive,” Moore said. “It’s even more exciting to see these kids go at it and compete. Why not see Peoria Central play against Proviso East in matchup? That’s a great matchup. It’s too bad they had to go to two more classes.”

Despite disagreeing with the four-class system, Moore enjoyed being at the state tournament.

“I think it’s great down to be here,” Moore said. “I think it means a lot. It’s our state’s Final Four if you want to put in that nature. It means a lot to our kids, our programs, our schools. This is a great venue.”

Coaching carousel impacts seniors

March, 12, 2012
AndersonGlenn Nelson/ESPN.com Dalacy Anderson has signed with George Washington but has an uncertain future after coach Mike Bozeman was let go.
Bolingbrook (Ill.) senior teammates Dalacy Anderson, Cabriana Capers and Nia Moore have more in common than just their fourth-ranked Raider jerseys. Anderson, who signed with George Washington in the fall, Capers, who signed with Auburn, and Moore, who signed with Illinois, all find themselves committed to programs without head coaches.

"All of them picked the schools because of what the schools offered, but the coaches played a big part," Bolingbrook head coach Tony Smith said. "They were all a little bit down about it."

Auburn's Nell Fortner resigned as head coach of the Tigers after eight seasons at the helm, leaving Capers, a 6-foot-1 forward, coachless. Similarly, the terminations of Jolette Law at Illinois, after five seasons, and Mike Bozeman at George Washington, after four years, have left Moore, a 6-3 forward, and Anderson, a 6-2 forward, with uncertain futures.

"It's just difficult because they all built relationships with those coaches," Smith said. "That's tough to do over again."

Read the entire story.

Simeon's Smith makes pitch for Illini job

March, 9, 2012
Robert SmithScott Powers/ESPNChicago.comSimeon's Robert Smith is confident he could attract the state's top talent to Illinois.
Simeon coach Robert Smith realizes he’s an unlikely candidate to be Illinois’ next basketball coach.

High school coaches rarely make the jump to becoming college head coaches, especially at the high-major level. But Smith believes he’s worth at least a look because he can provide the Illini with something they’ve struggled to get in recent years -- Chicago’s premier players.

“One thing they haven’t done is keep the top players at home,” Smith said. “People say it’s very hard. I think it’s not very hard if you have a plan. I’ve developed relationships with the players and parents. My track record proves what I can do at a program and where I can put it.”

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Undefeated Whitney Young takes 4A title

March, 3, 2012

NORMAL, Ill. -- The truth is when Whitney Young walked off the court victorious over Bolingbrook at the Hinsdale super-sectional on Monday it essentially won the Class 4A state championship.

Whitney Young knew it. It's upcoming competition knew it. The IHSA knew it.

Yet, it wasn’t as if the Class 4A state tournament could be called off and the trophy be mailed to Whitney Young. The Dolphins still had to go through the formality of winning two more games before being officially crowned champions. Plus, someone still had to play for second place.

[+] EnlargeLinnae Harper
Scott Powers for ESPNChicago.comWhitney Young's Linnae Harper dribbles the ball in the 4A championship game.
Whitney Young did as it was required and on consecutive days left no doubt how much of a gap there was between itself and the rest of the state. The Dolphins first rolled to a 24-point win over Bartlett in the state semifinals Friday and then defeated Edwardsville 63-51 in the championship on Saturday.

The victory Saturday completed an undefeated season for Whitney Young. Thirty-four games up. Thirty-four games down. The Dolphins became the first team to go unbeaten in the state since Peoria Richwoods went 38-0 in 2004-05.

It was Whitney Young’s second girls basketball state championship. The Dolphins also won it in 2008 and was the runner-up to Bolingbrook in 2009 and 2010.

“I’m sure this will go down in history,” Whitney Young coach Corry Irvin said. “This is probably one of the best teams in Illinois history. It’s good for the program. It’s good for the school. I’m really proud of the girls and everything they’ve done this year.”

Whitney Young did give Edwardsville a glimpse of hope early and late into Saturday’s championship.

The Dolphins only led Edwardsville 6-4 after the first five minutes of the game passed, but they found their groove soon after. They closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run and extended their lead to a 34-12 by halftime.

Edwardsville also made a final push in the fourth quarter and narrowed what had been a 20-point lead to the final margin of 12 points.

“We had a letdown,” Irvin said of the second half. “I thought we lost focus for a little bit, but I guess we had enough of a lead. It’s kind of tough to keep them focused when you have a lead like that.”

Dolphins junior Linnae Harper led the first-half charge. Despite giving up six and eight inches to Edwardsville’s twin towers of 6-2 Emmonnie Henderson and 6-4 Leigh Kesper, Harper nearly went for a double-double in the first half alone. She had seven points and 11 rebounds at halftime and finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

“It is a championship game, so we tried to go out with a bang and make history,” Harper said.

Whitney Young’s other usual suspects also played a hand in the win. McDonald’s All-American selection Janee Thompson had 12 points, and Alexis Lloyd had nine points. Taylor Brame also contributed 10 points off the bench.

Ashia Jones had a team-high 18 points and 11 rebounds for Edwardsville (34-2).

In the third-place game, Bartlett’s Lia Palmer sank two free throws with 1.0 seconds left in overtime to give the Hawks a 61-59 win over Loyola.

Palmer had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Kristin Conniff (21 points) and Haley Videckis (15 points) also contributed for Bartlett (32-2). Michelle Ricolcol (17 points) and Kathleen Stralka (12 points) led Loyola (26-9).
NORMAL, Ill. -- This was supposed to be someone else’s year.

Montini, to no one’s surprise, had won the last two Class 3A state championships. The Broncos had been stacked with Division I players, and it would have been a shock if they hadn’t raised back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011.

This year’s Montini team didn’t have those same expectations placed on it. The program had graduated its star players and while it had some young talent coming up, even Montini coach Jason Nichols thought his team was a year away from its next state championship.

[+] EnlargeMontini
Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.comMontini's Kateri Stone sets up for a 3-pointer with Vernon Hills' students behind her.
The Broncos proved Nichols and everyone else wrong on Saturday.

A night after rallying from 13 points behind in the fourth quarter to upset Hillcrest, the Broncos rolled to a 56-38 win over Vernon Hills on Saturday to win their third consecutive Class 3A state championship.

“A lot of people said this year would be our downfall, but we proved them wrong,” said Montini sophomore Jasmine Lumpkin, who scored a team-high 14 points. “We came back. We had a lot of motivation to come back and win another state title.”

As Nichols stood off to the side as his players celebrated, he expressed how this latest title did feel different than his previous ones.

“Just nobody expected us to be here, including their coach at times,” Nichols said. “I thought maybe when the pairings came out we had a shot to go down. I thought Hillcrest, Springfield would be the two favorites. All of a sudden, we were there.”

Nichols was worried about his team’s energy heading into Saturday’s game. The Broncos had been through a draining game against Hillcrest, and he noticed they looked tired when they met for breakfast.

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2011-12 all-area girls basketball team

March, 1, 2012
Morgan TuckScott Powers/ESPNChicago.comMorgan Tuck, a three-time all-area selection, averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds for Bolingbrook.

Here is ESPNChicago.com’s 2011-12 all-area girls basketball team.

Meredith Boardman, Fenwick, senior, forward

Boardman carried the torch of elite Fenwick players. She averaged 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. She shot 50.3 percent from the field. She had a career-high 30 points against Proviso East. She will play at Yale next season.

“Meredith's last name is very appropriate as she is one of our all-time leading rebounders,” Fenwick coach Dave Power said. “She is also the team's leading scorer. On the court, she has come up huge in crunch time. As one of the captains, she has taken on a leadership role both on and off the court. Her hard work ethic and her unselfish play makes her teammates better.”

Nikia Edom, Montini, junior, guard

Edom was the driving force on a balanced Montini team which is shooting for its third consecutive Class 3A state title. Edom averaged a team-best 9.9 points. She connected on 69 3-pointers and shot .383 from 3-point range. She scored a season-high 23 points in Montini’s sectional championship victory. She’s uncommitted.

“She has a calmness about her that lets her be successful,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “Nothing really fazes her, and, to me, she had an outstanding junior year.”

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