If University of Illinois men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber wanted to see the future of Illini hoops last weekend, all he had to do was walk out of his office and into Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Showing their stuff in the place they‘ll soon call home, Jereme Richmond of Waukegan and Meyers Leonard of Robinson, two of the three Illinois recruits who signed letters of intent in November, played starring roles in the Deron Williams Shootout, although both of their teams lost.
Also playing in the Shootout was Mount Carmel junior guard Tracy Abrams, a 2011 Illinois verbal commitment who scored 17 points in the Caravan‘s 68-62 overtime win over Peoria Central. Rock Island junior guard Chasson Randle, who is considering the Illinois among three other Big Ten teams, scored 28 in a 58-53 win over Leonard‘s Robinson squad.
And just to mix in a bit of family, Austin Weber, a nephew of Bruce, scored 14 in Glenbrook North’s 41-23 win over Peoria Notre Dame.
"He worships the Illini," Austin’s father, Dave, Glenbrook North’s coach, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Including 6-foot-10 center Stan Simpson (a Simeon graduate), now a freshman at Illinois, and junior guard Jeff Jordan (Loyola Academy), Weber’s teams will have a strong Chicago flavor in seasons to come. His third recruit this year is also a Chicago-area star, Crandall Head of Rich South, a brother of Indiana Pacers and former Illini guard Luther Head.
Richmond, a 6-foot-8 power forward, scored 21 points in Waukegan’s battle against unbeaten Champaign Centennial, but the Bulldogs lost, 71-55. Centennial’s Rayvonte Rice, a Drake recruit, stole the show, scoring a Shootout-high 32 points as the Chargers won their ninth straight.
"You have to tip your hat to Centennial," Richmond said.
Waukegan (6-2), which also lost to nationally ranked Columbia (Ga.) in overtime last week, was to take on another nationally ranked opponent, unbeaten Ames, Iowa, on Thursday night in a nationally televised game at Iowa State University. North Carolina-bound Harrison Barnes leads Ames.
Leonard scored 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but Randle’s 28 points and eight rebounds carried Rock Island to its victory over Robinson. "I guess I’m shooting well (at Assembly Hall), so it’s looking good for the Illini," Randle said.
* Whitney Young’s girls basketball team won its 81st consecutive home game Tuesday, destroying Marshall 83-48 behind 13 points from Kiana Johnson. Combined, Young’s girls and boys teams are unbeaten after 11 games this season. The Young girls are 7-0.
* With 6-foot-3 center Cici Shannon out with the knee sprain in the first half of their game against Bogan, Homewood-Flossmoor (8-2) lost 57-52 to the Bengals. Shannon, a Southern Illinois recruit, is expected to return by late December.
* Bill McNamara has been named head football coach at Stevenson, replacing Bill Mitz, the Patriots’ coach for 28 years. McNamara had been an assistant to Mitz for the last 18 years. Stevenson finished 10-1 this past season, and won the North Suburban Lake Division crown.
* Minooka, the top-ranked wrestling team in Class 3A, defeated Providence Catholic 36-14 in a battle between two of the Chicago area’s best wrestling squads Wednesday. Minooka won 10 of the dual’s first 11 matches, including top-ranked Ed Klimara at 119 and Tom Ambrose at 125.
Top performers: Sandburg’s Verzbicas runs to history
* Orland Hills Sandburg’s Lukas Verzbicas became the first sophomore to win Foot Locker Cross Country Championship, winning the 5K boys race at Balboa Park in San Diego with a time of 15 minutes, 8 seconds. Martin Grady of Fenwick finished 13th.
* Toni Kokenis of Hinsdale Central, a Stanford recruit, broke the school’s career scoring record in a 57-36 Red Devils win over Glenbard West. She scored a game-high 18 points for Hinsdale Central (7-2), bringing her career total to 1,570 points. The old mark of 1,566 point was held by Morgan Kasperek.
* Wayne Blackshear scored a game-high 26 points and had 12 rebounds, leading Morgan Park (8-0) to a 60-39 win over Vocational (9-2).
* Paul Bunch scored 20 points and had 16 rebounds for a double-double as North Lawndale won its fourth straight, 101-48 over Manely.
* Grayslake Central‘s Rebekah Llorens scored a game-high 25 points and had 11 rebounds, leading the Rams (8-0) to a 72-51 win over Vernon Hills in a girls basketball showdown of unbeaten teams. Vernon Hills had won its first nine games.
* Janae Smith had a double-double for the unbeaten Rich Central (9-0) girls, scoring 33 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 70-53 win over rival Rich South.
On deck: Unbeatens Whitney Young, Simeon meet Saturday
Defending Class 4A champion Whitney Young will host city rival Simeon on Saturday night in a highly anticipated boys basketball showdown. Neither team has lost a game this season and the Dolphins (4-0) are the city‘s No. 1 team. Simeon won its fourth straight Wednesday in front of a sellout crowd, defeating Brooks, 46-41, behind 16 points from Dayton recruit Brandon Spearman. "I’d by lying if I told you that Young wasn’t on our mind from the coaching staff to the kids," Simeon coach Robert Smith told the Chicago Sun-Times after their close win over Brooks. Among Young’s wins: An impressive 67-46 win over Columbia (Ga.) in last weekend’s Best of the Midwest Shootout, in which Oregon State recruit Ahmad Starks scored 17.
Recruiting: Prater remains committed to USC
Brian Kelly, the new head football coach at Notre Dame, reportedly made a run after Proviso West receiver Kyle Prater, one of the most recruited receivers in the nation. However, Prater confirmed he was sticking to his commitment with USC. Notre Dame was one of Prater’s visits when Charlie Weis was the Irish head coach.
"He is going to stay strong on the (USC) commitment unless something changes," Johnny Prater, Kyle’s father, told the Chicago Tribune. Kelly has retained the commitments of other Chicago-area seniors, including Lake Forest quarterback Tommy Rees, according to multiple newspaper reports.
On campus: Proviso East grad plays for national title
Arielle Wilson, a Proviso East High grad who is a middle hitter for Penn State’s unbeaten women’s volleyball team, could become a part of NCAA history this weekend as the Nittany Lions (36-0) try to win an unprecedented third consecutive NCAA championship in the Final Four at Tampa, Fla.
Penn State has won 100 consecutive games, dating back to 2007. Wilson had five kills in the Nittany Lions’ 3-0 win over Cal in the regional final last Saturday, and she was named to the all-region team. Afterward, she admitted to not really following Penn State volleyball while she was in high school, but things are certainly different now as she constantly sends e-mails back to family and friends in Chicago. "I think they definitely know (about PSU volleyball) now," she said with a smile.
Paul Bowker, a sports journalist for 25 years who has worked at newspapers nationwide, covers the Chicago area for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com.