High School: Whitney Young
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CHICAGO -- Jabari Parker threw down a baseline dunk. He dished out a few assists. He grabbed a few rebounds. He made a few steals and blocked a few shots.
On the court Wednesday, Parker was being Parker as he displayed his all-around game and showed why he’s been considered one of the premier high school players in the country for much of his career.
But when Parker and most people think back of his McDonald’s All American Game experience, what they’ll remember isn’t Parker’s West team winning 110-99 or anything he did during the actual game. It’ll be the memory of his introduction before the game at the United Center.
It was the perfect reception for the hometown Duke commit Parker, a four-time state champion and two-time Mr. Basketball who is No. 2 in the ESPN 100 ranking index.
“It was like homecoming,” Parker explained after the game. “It’s just a homecoming day for me, see everybody out there. You know we can celebrate. I know I represent all the high school players, so that’s all I wanted to do. Be there and represent the city of Chicago on the way.”
Whitney Young High School junior center and fellow Chicagoan Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s No. 1 junior, was just as moved by the fans’ love for Parker.
“Seeing the crowd embrace him as they did, he deserves it more than anybody,” Okafor said. “Seeing everybody cheer that loud, I was really happy and just put like chills down my body. It’s something I can work hard for and maybe I can experience that next year.”
It was nearly the same feeling for Ronnie Fields, a former McDonald’s All American from Chicago, who was attending his first McDonald’s game in nearly 20 years.
“I was so happy,” said Fields, who was a McDonald’s All American in 1996. “I was waiting for him to come out.”
“To see the city continue to breed these guys out, it just made me proud,” he said. “You go down the list. We got Jabari. We got Derrick Rose. We got Okafor coming. That goes back to Isiah Thomas. The list goes on and on.”
Parker was thought to be playing his final game in Chicago for the foreseeable future, but he hinted at another game, possibly meaning a Duke game in Chicago next season. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski did bring Jon Scheyer back to play before his hometown Chicago crowd, and that also could be the case for Parker, who is expected to spend just one season in college before bolting for the NBA.
Whether or not Parker will be back in Chicago next year, he left a bit of everything on the floor Wednesday. He had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks; didn’t allow anything easy to No. 1-ranked Andrew Wiggins (uncommitted; from Canada by way Huntington Prep in West Virginia); and came out on the victorious side, just as he did throughout his career.
All in all, Parker realized his hometown experience was unique at this game.
“I know I’ve been spoiled a little bit more being in Chicago and playing at the United Center,” Parker said. “This was a great experience.”
No. 2 senior and Duke commit Jabari Parker talks to Phil Murphy after a big night against Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.). Parker discusses how Simeon can stay hot on national television Saturday against crosstown rival Whitney Young.
Simeon forward Jabari Parker, the nation’s top-ranked basketball recruit, will not be playing his college basketball at Illinois. The fact that the program has that information in early July – on the heels of Parker excluding the Illini from his list of 10 possible landing destinations on Wednesday – is some sort of silver lining.
The Illini’s chances of landing Parker have always been slim, and that was unlikely to change no matter how often first-year Illinois coach John Groce or his assistants sat courtside to watch Parker play in July. Now with Parker having excluded Illinois, the coaching staff can spend more meaningful time recruiting 2013 players they have a shot at securing. The coaches also can work on developing relationships with the elite 2014 and 2015 players and their families.
As Parker’s father, Sonny, said Thursday, the decision to leave Illinois out of the mix wasn’t anything personal. The Parker family has consistently emphasized that relationships are vital to Jabari’s recruitment. To no fault of Groce’s, he simply didn’t have enough time to establish a relationship with Parker.
“I guess at this stage it’s the relationship part,” Sonny said. “Coach Groce, I’ve been talking to him. My wife has been talking to coach Groce. He seemed nice. (Jabari) had to have a relationship with him, too. It had nothing to do with the school per se. He has to feel comfortable with who’s there and who’s going to be the coach.
“I don’t think he had a chance to (know Groce) because of scheduling and timing. It’s hard for coaches to call Jabari because we don’t allow coaches to call or text him. It was nothing personal (with Groce.)
“(Jabari) likes the school. His dream is to play for his state school and win a national championship like all kids, but I think the timing, where they were and where we’re at.”
Of course, that still isn’t easy for Illinois fans to absorb. They’ve endured a recent history of the Chicago area’s premier players bypassing Illinois and succeeding elsewhere. Sherron Collins, Jon Scheyer, Julian Wright, Derrick Rose, Evan Turner, Wayne Blackshear and Anthony Davis have been among those who ended up elsewhere and won a lot of basketball games at their out-of-state destinations.
In all likelihood, Parker will elevate the college he attends into a national championship contender in the 2013-2014 season and will be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Would Illinois like that type of prodigious talent? Certainly, and there’s actually another Chicago product following up right behind Parker capable of having that same impact on a program. Whitney Young junior Jahlil Okafor, a 6-11 center currently rated as the No.2 player in the Class of 2014, appears to be one of those rare big men.
“Jahlil is right there with Jabari,” said Mac Irvin Fire coach Mike Irvin, who coaches Parker and Okafor. “He’s definitely right there. Jahlil is probably going to be the best big man this state has ever seen. He’s grown a couple of inches. He’s 6-11, mobile, can run the floor. He’s a game-changer.
“He’s a possible No. 1 draft pick. When you look at the No. 1 pick and the big men who have come out, he fits right there with the No.1 picks. He’s special.”
Okafor’s father, Chukwudi Okafor, said Thursday that his son will not be impacted by Parker choosing to eliminate the Illini and that they are in their recruiting process was still in its infancy.
Irvin believed Illinois now must do anything it can to get Okafor.
“There aren’t Jabari’s and Jahlil Okafor’s that come around often, maybe every 20 years,” Irvin said. “Illinois’ focus has to be on Jahlil Okafor now. You lose a Jabari, man, that’s huge. That’s a blow. Now your thing, if I’m the coach at Illinois, I have to convince Jahlil Okafor.”
At the end of the day, it’s possible that Parker’s rejection of the Illini could lead to Okafor’s acceptance of them.
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.
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).
HINSDALE, Ill. -- Layers of Whitney Young’s players, coaches, family members and students hugged, kissed, cried, shouted, jumped around and celebrated in every other kind of way on Hinsdale Central’s basketball floor on Monday night.
In the center of it all stood Whitney Young senior Janee Thompson. She was passed around from person to person like a freshly baked batch of cookies. Everyone wanted a piece of the person responsible for finally dethroning Bolingbrook.
In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the state’s greatest high school girls basketball games, No. 2 Whitney Young defeated No. 1 Bolingbrook 74-65 in four overtimes in the Class 4A Hinsdale Central super-sectional on Monday.
It was the first time Whitney Young knocked off Bolingbrook since 2008. The Raiders had ended Whitney Young’s season the past three years and gone on to win three consecutive state titles.
“It really feels good,” Thompson said when she finally got around to the media. “We wanted to do it for all our past players and ourselves. We’ve been working extremely hard, and I think this group deserves it the most.”
Bolingbrook (26-2) looked as if it might be the grim reaper to Whitney Young (32-0) for a fourth consecutive year in the early goings of Monday’s game. Behind McDonald’s All-American forward Morgan Tuck, the Raiders jumped on Whitney Young and led 18-9 after one quarter. Tuck had five points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal in the first quarter.
Thompson, also a McDonald’s All-American, wasn’t going out like that, though. With the Raiders ahead 22-10, Thompson took the game into her own hands. She went on a personal 11-3 run, scoring inside and out and pulled the Dolphins back into the contest. She capped off her memorable second quarter with back-to-back assists to trim Bolingbrook’s lead to 26-25.
“We never gave up,” Thompson said.
Thompson later appeared to deliver a possible dagger for Bolingbrook when she sank two free throws with 7.2 seconds remaining in regulation to give Whitney Young a 47-44 lead.
But this game wasn’t meant to end in four quarters.
Bolingbrook’s Keiera Ray got the inbounds’ pass, pushed the ball up court, pulled up from just beyond the 3-point line and her high-arcing shot fell through the net at the buzzer to send the game into its first overtime.
It was just the start.
In the second overtime, Bolingbrook went ahead 50-47, but Thompson answered with a 3-pointer. Thompson then put Whitney Young ahead 52-50 with two free throws, and Tuck forced another overtime with a bucket in the lane with 24.4 second left.
The third overtime included even more drama. Bolingbrook’s Kennedy Cattenhead put her team ahead 57-54 with a 3-pointer. On the following possession, Thompson fired back with a 3-pointer. Nia Moore then gave Bolingbrook a 63-60 lead with a layup with 37.6 seconds left.
Thompson tried to be hero again, but she missed one 3-pointer and then had another 3-pointer blocked. After the second miss, Whitney Young’s Alexis Lloyd found herself with the ball on the right wing. She drove hard to the basket and scored while being fouled with 5.1 seconds. After Bolingbrook tried to ice Harper with a timeout, she calmly sank the free throw to deliver the game into the decisive fourth overtime.
In the final overtime, Whitney Young finally prevailed. Tied at 65, Harper scored on a layup with 2:46 left. After a Bolingbrook turnover, Thompson made two more free throws. After another Raiders’ turnover, Thompson put the game out of reach with two more free-throw makes.
“Young hung in there and fought,” Bolingbrook coach Anthony Smith said. “We both fought. It was a heavyweight fight. Young came out with the win. We wish nothing but the best for them.”
Whitney Young coach Corry Irvin would later try to explain what it was like to be involved in such a game.
“It was just a lot of excitement,” Irvin said. “The way the intensity was on both ends of the court, I’m sure it was great to watch. It was just fun to coach in.”
Thompson finished with a game-high 34 points and was 13 of 14 from the free-throw line.
“I thought Janee was awesome,” Irvin said. “She did what she’s supposed to do. She’s an All-American. She’s supposed to carry her team in the end, and that’s what she did. That’s what we expected of her.”
Tuck finished with a team-high 16 points and 13 rebounds. Cattenhead (13 points), Moore (14 points, seven rebounds, eight blocks) and Ray (14 points) contributed for the Raiders.
Lloyd (10 points) and Harper (16 points, nine rebounds) also contributed for the Dolphins.
Janee Thompson has learned over the years to be a Whitney Young point guard is an honor, but it’s also a challenge.
Thompson watched closely how point guards Chanise Jenkins, now at DePaul, and Kiana Johnson, now at Michigan State, handled themselves and the team the last few seasons. Thompson took mental notes and prepared herself to take over for them and try to continue what past they and other past point guards have accomplished.
With her senior season nearing an end, Thompson has done just fine so far.
The Dolphins are 26-0, ranked No.2 in the area, No. 11 nationally and recently won their fourth consecutive city championship. The 5-foot-7 Thompson has struck the perfect balance between scoring and passing, averaging 19 points and seven assists, and to add to her memorable season, she was selected to the McDonald’s All-American Game on Thursday.
Thompson is also the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.
“Probably the biggest stride she’s made is she’s now able to run the show and really lead the team,” Whitney Young coach Corry Irvin said. “It’s the first year she’s able to do that. She was kind of waiting for this opportunity, playing behind other point guards. She was kind of waiting for her turn. Now, it’s her turn.”
The wait wasn’t bad. Thompson didn’t mind playing backup to Jenkins and Johnson. She admired both players and enjoying playing with them.
“Before I was able to play in the background as far as handling the ball and controlling the game and leadership as well,” Thompson said. “I had Chanise and Kiana. Now, they’re gone, and I had to step up more. There is pressure that comes with it, but I think I’ve handled it pretty well. I learned a lot of from them and playing behind them.”
The pressure Thompson speaks of is partly what comes with being the point guard on any team. There are the responsibilities of bringing the ball up, fending off defensive pressure, making the right decisions and so on.
Thompson wasn’t so worried about that. But where being the point guard at Whitney Young is different than most places is the constant success the program has had. The Dolphins have been to the state tournament six of the last seven years, and the point guards have often played a large part in that.
“It’s been a great line of point guards that have come through Whitney Young,” Thompson said. “That’s made the program very successful. I was up for the challenge. I like being able to step up and be one of those great point guards they saw come through Whitney Young.”
Individually, Thompson has undoubtedly put herself into that elite category. She’s ranked No. 35 nationally in the Class of 2012 by ESPN HoopGurlz, is headed to play in Kentucky and now will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game.
While Thompson is pleased with her individual accolades, she wants to be remembered for what her team did.
“Basically, I want to leave here with a state championship,” Thompson said. “That was my goal in high school.”
Whitney Young will embark on that goal next week when the playoffs begin. If the Dolphins are to win the Class 4A state championship, they’ll likely have to go through Bolingbrook again. They’ve faced Bolingbrook in the last four state tournaments and have won once.
Like playing point guard this season, Thompson is ready for whatever challenge is ahead.
“We don’t care,” Thompson said of playing Bolingbrook. “It is what it is. Right now, we’re taking it one game in a time. We’re just trying to get there.”?
Here are five high school basketball thoughts for your Wednesday:
1. It’s undoubtedly hard to go undefeated for an entire regular season: Andrew fell from the unbeaten ranks Tuesday when it was upset by Thornton on a buzzer-beating shot. Proviso East remains as the area’s only unbeaten team. Proviso East’s greatest challenges will likely come on Feb. 17 and 18 when the Pirates faces Downers Grove South and Warren on back-to-back nights. It is impressive how many one-loss teams there are this season. That list includes Simeon, Curie, Plainfield East, Metea Valley and now Andrew.
2. Speaking of Andrew, it’ll likely fall a bit from the rankings after its only loss: The Thunderbolts had put together a nice run of 16 consecutive wins, but their schedule hasn’t exactly been demanding. They looked as if they might run the table after defeating Thornwood on Sunday, but Thornton had other ideas. Andrew’s overall profile took a hit with the loss.
3. Since the holidays, York has been one of the area’s hottest teams: The Dukes have won 10 straight game, and junior star guard David Cohn has been a big reason for that. Among his feats, he scored 47 points on 13-of-17 shooting in a 75-64 win over Hinsdale Central recently.
4: The Catholic League has taken its lumps the last few weeks: First, De La Salle and St. Rita were upset last week. On Tuesday, St. Ignatius was the next top-ranked Catholic League team to fall. The Wolfpack were upset by Leo on Tuesday. It’s hard to gauge the Catholic League right now.
5. The Red-West is still a mess at the top: Marshall, Orr and Farragut all have 7-2 records right now. Whitney Young could join them at the top if the Dolphins defeat Crane later this week. All four teams could make some noise come Public League and state playoff time.
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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.
Here are five thoughts on the high school boys basketball scene for your Wednesday afternoon.
1. The early scholarship offer trend is getting way out of hand: It’s been ridiculous for a while, but an offer the other day reminded me of that. Cal Poly recently became the first school to offer Simeon freshman D.J. Williams. Nothing against Cal Poly -- I’m not that familiar with the program -- but why does it need to be offering a freshman who hasn’t even played varsity basketball yet? I don’t see the point. If Williams is as good as projected, he’ll land way out of Cal Poly’s league. If he doesn’t pan out, does Cal Poly need to be offering low- to mid-major players as freshmen to secure them? Maybe the offer was given to attract publicity. If so, mission accomplished. I’m writing about Cal Poly for the first time.
2. There’s a good chance Thursday’s Simeon-Whitney Young contest could be a one-sided game in front of an empty house: Simeon has lived up to the hype so far as the No. 1 team in the country and has only gotten better with the return of point guard Jelani Neely from injury. Whitney Young fell out of ESPNChicago’s rankings after losing to Orr 45-29 last week. Orr turned around and lost to Farragut this week. Whitney Young was without Tommy Hamilton Jr., Jermaine Morgan and Jordan Smith due to injuries, but it will be without at least Hamilton Jr. for the Simeon game as well. Whitney Young, especially its guards, will have to step it up Thursday if it’s going to compete with Simeon. As for Thursday’s attendance, the price tag of $15 and $33 for seats through Ticketmaster and the fact the game was moved from its original date could lead to a small crowd.
3. The location for the City-Suburban Showdown is still up in the air: It is supposed to be played at the UIC Pavilion on Feb. 18, but promoter Bob Rylko and UIC athletic director Jim Schmidt are awaiting word from the NCAA whether the event can be held at the UIC. The NCAA has been enforcing a rule this season that non-scholastic events can’t be held at Division I facilities. Every similar event around the country has had to move to another location. People may want to hold off buying tickets until the location is finalized.
4. Jabari Parker needed only 21 minutes to do something no Simeon player had done: His 40-point, 21-minute performance against Perspectives-Calumet on Monday was the most points ever by a Simeon player in a game. Parker eclipsed Tim Flowers’ record of 35 points.
5. Outside of Jabari Parker, the players who have been the most impressive in the area so far haven’t been the nationally-ranked ones: Crane’s Willie Conner, St. Rita’s Tony Hicks, Andrew’s Jubril Adekoya, Bloom’s Donald Moore, New Trier’s Connor Boehm and Curie’s Devin Foster are among those who have been the most consistent so far this season.