CHICAGO – Derrick Rose never won a state championship alone at Simeon.
At least not by himself.
Rose lifted two state championships during his career because he had a supporting cast. And on certain days, they carried the load for him.
The same is now true of Simeon junior Jabari Parker.
While more often than not Parker, like Rose, is an unstoppable one-man show, there are still those games Parker needs a little help. After all, Simeon does possess the No. 1 team in the country, not just the No. 1 player.
The top-ranked Wolverines used their full arsenal Thursday to defeat Whitney Young 62-55 before an estimated 6,000 people at the UIC Pavilion.
“They get things from different people at different times,” Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “They got a lot of good players. Different people make plays at different times, and they did that.”
Simeon first leaned on junior Kendrick Nunn, and he scored seven in the first quarter. In the second quarter, it was Steve Taylor’s and Parker’s turns, and they combined for 11 points, four steals and five rebounds.
Nunn finished with a team-high 19 points.
“He was hot, so we wanted to make sure we got him the basketball,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “He made some shots in both halves. He kind of carried us today, which is good for this team when you can reach down.
“It’s Kendrick Nunn today, it’s been Jabari, it’s been Stevie. Stevie made some big plays down the stretch. That’s the thing we got to have because everyone is keying in on Jabari all the time.
Parker had 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Taylor had 16 points, five rebounds and five steals.
Simeon (8-0) appeared as if it was going to pull away from Whitney Young (4-2) early in the fourth quarter. The Wolverines opened the quarter on an 8-0 run and led 48-35.
Whitney Young 6-10 sophomore center Jahlil Okafor wasn’t going without a fight, though. Behind Okafor’s 10 fourth-quarter points, Whitney Young stormed back. Gabe Snider, a UIC recruit, pulled Young within 58-55 with a 3-pointer with 13.2 seconds left.
Okafor finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
“He’s a big-time player,” Slaughter said of Okafor. “Big-time players make big-time plays.”
Simeon would prevail thanks to its free-throw shooting. Neely and Nunn went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 11 seconds and put the game away.
Smith was pleased with the win, but he didn’t feel like it made up for Whitney Young knocking off Simeon in the city playoffs last year. It was one of two losses for Simeon last season.
“When they beat us, it counted,” Smith said. “This is just for show.”
Thursday’s crowd included its share of basketball celebrities. Rose, who was wearing a Simeon jacket, Kentucky coach John Calipari and his star freshman Anthony Davis and Louisville coach Rick Pitinio were among those in attendance.