CENTRAL HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
26, 28, 29, 30
The favorite: Homewood-Flossmoor doesn’t
have a big name on its roster, but it does have a couple of big wins
over Marian Catholic and Hillcrest. In what is maybe the most balanced
field with more toss-up first-round games of any holiday tournament, H-F
gets the slight nod as the favorite. But the Vikings could have their
hands full as early as the opening round when it faces Lincoln Park.
Top contender: After four decades of
playing its holiday basketball at the Big Dipper, Crete-Monee begins a
new chapter as a true contender in a brand new tournament. Coach Tom
Cappel, who has an impressive 570-plus wins in his career, has a
terrific scoring tandem on the perimeter in Jeremiah Matthews and Dwayne
sleepers are aplenty. Up and down this tournament bracket there are at
least a half dozen teams outside of the “favorite” and “top contender”
roles that could make a run to the title game. The lengthy list of
sleepers includes Stevenson, Maine South, Rockford Auburn, Westinghouse,
St. Charles East, DePaul Prep and Crespi Carmelite out of California.
Team with the most to prove: Stevenson is
nowhere near where it’s been the past few years, but the Patriots (6-2)
continue be a team with dangerous potential. That same description ––
dangerous potential –– can be used to sum up 6-6 junior Justin Smith. So
when does that danger materialize? It’s been a work in progress for
coach Pat Ambrose with new arrivals and replacing so many seniors from a
Storyline to follow: It’s
a great high school gym and the tournament will surely be organized. But
what kind of buzz –– and crowds –– will this first-year tournament
generate, particularly with the high-profile Proviso West Tournament and
the venerable York Tournament both within 10 miles of Hinsdale Central?
Player to watch: DePaul Prep freshman
Perry Cowan was expected to play a major role for coach Tom Kleinschmidt
this season, but the very talented 6-4 guard’s role has expanded with
his ever-increasing comfort at the varsity level. Cowan is one of the
early elite talents in the freshman class to establish himself and has
an advanced feel and productivity for his age.
The unheralded: There
is a boatload of unsung players in this tournament who are aching for a
little pub and attention, including DePaul Prep senior scoring combo
guard Craig Atkins, Lincoln Park’s 6-6 junior Hamza Gocobija, Hinsdale
Central’s 6-7 senior Peter Blust, Richards’ 6-5 junior forward Jaylan
Catledge, Maine South’s versatile senior Jon Arenas and Perspectives’
sophomore guard Marquan Williams.
Dream holiday matchup: Any
type of “dream matchup” in this tournament may be a bit of an
exaggeration. But you know what? You could argue there will be more
pick’em games in this tournament –– on both sides of the bracket and in
both the winners and losers brackets –– than any other tournament field.
Follow Joe Henricksen
and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport