The holiday tournaments –– at least the vast majority of them –– will tip off over the next two days.
But here are some other tournament odds and ends as fans head out to tournaments across the state.
Teyvion Kirk release one big stocking stuffer: With the early season resignation of Drake head coach Ray Giacoletti, it became just a matter of time before the Joliet West star guard would be granted his release from the Bulldogs.
Kirk, a long, athletic point guard, received his release this week and announced he’s back on the open market –– officially –– on Christmas Day.
Now the recruitment of the still rising point guard with athleticism, grades and character will heat up. It’s not every day a City/Suburban Hoops Report top 10 prospect becomes available in the middle of his senior season.
Plus, with the amount of phone calls I’ve taken on Kirk’s status over the past several weeks, the impressive 6-3 two-way player will no doubt be bombarded by college programs looking for a lead guard and who have scholarships available.
Kirk has been one of the best stories in the senior class in Illinois, improving maybe more than any other player over the course of his high school career. Even more intriguing is the fact he just continues to move his game forward.
Kirk has been so good in fueling Joliet West’s 10-0 start to the season and will be playing in a loaded Pontiac Holiday Tournament.
Speaking the loaded Pontiac Holiday Tournament …
Loaded Pontiac field: The top two teams in the state, Curie and Simeon, headline the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. But there are six teams –– Curie, Simeon, Oak Park, Bloomington, St. Charles North and Joliet West –– that are a combined 51-2 heading into the holidays.
if the top four seeds all make it through the first two rounds, the semifinals will pit four teams –– Curie, Simeon, Joliet West and Bloomington –– with a combined record of 33-0.
When you add Bloom, Benet and West Aurora, the top nine teams at Pontiac have a won-loss total of 72-8.
Hinkle Holiday Classic semis: While the majority of the holiday tournaments tip off Monday and Tuesday, the semifinals of the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs will be played Monday night.
The favorite and host school, Jacobs, remains unbeaten on the season and faces Zion-Benton in one semifinal, while Prairie Ridge will play Grant in the other semifinal.
Zach Toussaint of Johnsburg has continued his hot start to the season. The sophomore guard has been the tournament’s leading scorer through three games with 20.3 points a game and is averaging nearly 23 points a game on the season.
Zee-Bees very busy: There can’t be a team in the state that will play more games from Dec. 17 through Jan. 16 than Zion-Benton.
The Zee-Bees will play a total of 15 games during that 31-day stretch with three different tournaments sandwiched around conference games with Waukegan and Lake Forest.
And here are some holiday travel plans no team would be envy of at this time of the year. As part of that hectic schedule, coach Bob Worthington’s team will play two games on Tuesday, Dec. 27 –– 150-plus miles apart. Zion-Benton opens up play at the State Farm Classic in Normal with a 10 a.m. game and then will travel back to Jacobs for a night game at the Jacobs Holiday Invitational, which depending on their Monday results will be played at 6:30 p.m. or 8 p.m.
Then it’s back to Bloomington-Normal the next day for either a 12:30 p.m. game or 5:30 p.m. quarterfinal game.
Marist, T.F. North travel to Centralia: Marist and T.F. North have put together the quietest good starts in the Chicago area. They are a combined 19-1 on the season. But they will be out of sight, out of mind this week as they make the trek down south for the 74h annual Centralia Holiday Tournament.
While the schedules haven’t exactly been daunting, a tournament title at Centralia –– or at least a very strong showing –– will say a lot about these two teams who are both in search of headlines that match their fine starts.
The demise of the Dipper: For all the historic value in holiday tournaments across the state, the fall of the Big Dipper at Rich South is sad.
This south suburban staple has played host to so many great holiday basketball memories since it began in 1973. From a team, individual and interest standpoint, the Dipper was a must-see stop on the holiday tournament trail. The rivalries and intensity in the crowd were just different at the Dipper, whether you were watching great Thornton, Hales and Bloom teams or players like Kendall Gill, Tyler Ulis or Nate Minnoy.
Now, sadly, it’s become holiday rubble with three out-of-state teams from Indiana in the field and –– no disrespect to these programs –– the likes of Chicago Agricultural Science, Johnson College Prep and Butler College Prep. It’s just not anything fans who have attended this event annually are accustomed to seeing.
Toughest first-round tests: While we all wait to see how the tournament brackets materialize over the coming days, here are my few first-round games that could be interesting.
1. St. Charles North (9-1) vs. Oak Park-River Forest (9-1) at Pontiac … Both teams have quality wins and sparkling records in the opening month of the season. This first-round 9 a.m. game at Pontiac shows why this tournament is so deep and talented.
2. DePaul Prep (7-3) vs. Crete-Monee (6-3) at Hinsdale Central … A bunch of talent on the floor as Dwayne Rose and Crete faces a team loaded with young talent in DePaul Prep.
3. West Aurora (7-2) vs. Danville (6-2) at Pontiac … West Aurora is favored but will have its hands full with a talented team featuring junior guard Kendle Moore.
4. Homewood-Flossmoor (7-1) vs. St. Viator (3-6) at Hinsdale Central … Don’t let Viator’s record fool you as the Lions have beaten both Marian Catholic and Benet Academy.
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