Top-ranked Simeon is just getting started

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
3:41
AM CT
Simeon coach Robert Smith didn’t feel like he was coaching the No. 1 team in the country when the Wolverines took the floor Monday for the first practice of the 2011-2012 season -- but in a good way.

Given all the hype surrounding the Wolverines, it wouldn’t have been surprising if some of it had gone to their heads. Smith discovered that wasn’t the case.

“They came out there like they weren’t even ranked,” Smith said following practice. “They were diving for balls. They’re hungry and still feel like they have something to prove.”

[+] EnlargeJabari Parker
Scott Powers for ESPNChicago.comJabari Parker and Simeon are ready to begin their title defense.
While all the individual skill is undeniable, Smith’s concern right now is developing team chemistry. It wasn’t often this summer that Simeon played as a full team with Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn out of town with Team USA responsibilities.

“We’re very talented, but as far as experience we’re a young team,” Smith said. “The chemistry is not good right now.”

Smith began his eighth season as Simeon’s head coach on Monday. He’s gone 197-36 and has won four state championships. First day of practices are old hat to him.

For Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce, the first day of practice Monday was something special. It was his inaugural one as the Pirates’ coach.

“All day yesterday and all day today, I couldn’t wait until 3:40 p.m.,” said Boyce, who starred at Proviso East and went on to play in the NBA. “It was very exciting to say the least.”

Like Simeon, Proviso East is expected to be among the top teams in the state. The Pirates return point guard Keith Carter, who recently committed to Saint Louis, rising junior star Sterling Brown and a number of other experienced players.

Boyce spent his first day dealing with an open tryout, which is school policy. He had about 50 players come out. But aside from evaluating talent, Boyce also began the framework of teaching the type of defense he expected from his team this season.

“The one thing I always felt our teams were known for was our pressure,” Boyce said. “We gave them 32 minutes of hell. I’d like to bring that back here.”

Teams will hold practices for the next two weeks, and games will begin on Nov. 21.
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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