Michael O’Brien’s notebook: May 19, 2017

Talen Horton-Tucker (5) of Simeon glides to the basket against Bolingbrook. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

The relationship between Simeon and Illinois is strong. It has survived and grown through several Illini coaches and two Simeon coaches. But new Illinois coach Brad Underwood isn’t off to the best start. He’s had the job for two months and still hasn’t spoken with Simeon coach Robert Smith.

“I have not had a conversation with him,” Smith said. “He called me when [Simeon grad DJ Williams transferred] but I was busy. And he never called back.”

“I guess he’s busy, I don’t really know. If you want to talk to somebody you are going to call them. He doesn’t have to call me. It’s not a big thing to me. When he wants to recruit these kids he will come and talk to me.”

Williams’ departure means there isn’t currently a Simeon player on the Illinois roster.

“It’s hard to know why you come into a state and not come talk to the school that has sent the most kids to the program,” Smith said. “I’ve been here for 13 years and sent four kids there. Coach [Bob] Hambric sent a bunch of kids. You would think they know we are committed to Illinois. But it hasn’t happened. Maybe they don’t need us.”

Underwood recently hired assistant Ronald “Chin” Coleman, who has a good relationship with Smith.

“I’ve talked with Chin,” Smith said. “All the people they have hired from Chicago were great people, Tracy Webster and Paris Parham. I just think it is a lot to expect those people to get everyone from Chicago. It’s just a hard sell.”

UPDATE: Smith and Underwood spoke on Friday night after this story was published.


The Illini are currently recruiting Simeon’s┬áTalen Horton-Tucker.

His local coming out party occurred in March in Peoria. The 6-5 junior did a lot of everything for Simeon in a commanding performance against Bolingbrook in the Class 4A state semifinals.

He’s kept up that level of play throughout the spring evaluation period, playing in the Nike EYBL with the Mac Irvin Fire. The scholarship offers are streaming in and he’s now challenging Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu for the top spot in the Class of 2018 rankings.

Horton-Tucker scored 33 points in a game last weekend at the EYBL session in Atlanta.

Horton-Tucker vs. Dosunmu will be an excellent storyline for next season. Simeon vs. Morgan Park is currently the state’s top rivalry. Now it also contains the state’s two best players. It’s a shame that they might play just one time due to the new Public League basketball schedule.

Dosunmu has also had an excellent spring. He plays with Horton-Tucker on the Mac Irvin Fire. The point guard recently picked up an offer from Wake Forest. He’s the area’s best chance at a McDonald’s All-American in a couple of years.


Tom Les retired after 10 seasons at Notre Dame. Les was 209-87. His successor hasn’t been named.

Bill Curry stepped down at Westinghouse. Rafie Fields, a member of the Warriors’ 1996 city championship squad, is the new head coach. His son Jocke is a junior at Westinghouse and will be one of the team’s top players next season.

Chris Pickett left Vocational and has taken over at Kankakee.

Fred Cleveland has stepped down as coach at Urban Prep-Englewood and his son Fred Cleveland II has transferred to Leo.


East St. Louis center Jeremiah Tilmon signed with Missouri and new coach Cuonzo Martin this week. He’ll be part of a recruiting class the includes Michael Porter, Jr., the top player in the nation. Illinois released Tilmon from his letter of intent after John Groce was fired.



  • Sammy

    Dr. Mal
    You’re right. Although they can help, high school coaches don’t control the majority of recruits and their choices anymore. 75% of recruits today are led by family and Friends, or AAU coaches.

  • DrMal

    Pappy, I’m with you Simeon coach must be crazy. So why don’t you return the call. Only 5 players from Simeon went to Illinois under Henson (Anderson, Small, Thomas, Notree, and Turner) and three under Groce (Nunn, Tate, and Williams). Eight players since Henson started 42 years of basketball and eight players. No Rose, No Parker, No (Bobby) Simmons, the list of Simeon players going to Illinois doesn’t justify a coach kissing a HS coach’s A$$ to get a player. Out of the 8 only, 2 were productive over more than a season (Anderson, Thomas) 2 transferred (Notree and Williams), 2 had one productive season (Nunn and Turner) and 2 weren’t even Big Ten talent! It doesn’t seem if you have any say of where the your top players go (Rose or Parker). Note: To Smith if you want to talk to someone call them, text them, send an email. Don’t cry because you are not getting some attention. Manual has been more loyal to Illinois than Simeon I don’t coach Booth crying he hasn’t called me. Has Calipari called you, Coach K called you! Did you send Derrick Rose to Illinois when Webster was there….NO! Did you send Jabari Parker there when Parham was there….NO! Why? Because you wasn’t the decision maker in those recruitment’s, coach basketball work on being the best high school coach….try winning a championship with out a 1 and done, and pick up the phone and welcome him to Chicago.

  • Vashon

    Of the last three kids to go from Simeon to Illinois one was released for assaulting a female, one averaged a point a game over his career and the other couldn’t get on the floor and subsequently transferred. Groce went that route and we see where it got him. Maybe underwood doesn’t subscribe your way of thinking Mike.

  • Gary

    Please stop reporting how Robert Smith needs to be coddled, his ego is the size of New York.

  • Mike

    Ha ha. Nice hatchet job Mr Obrien. When Illinois starts winning again under BU the tune of Mr smith et al will change.

  • Pappy

    So let me see if I get this straight. Underwood called Smith when DJ transferred but Smith was busy. Smith did not return the call but expects Underwood to keep calling until he gets through. Is that how this works?

    • Jordanc72

      My thoughts also….if i call you and leave a vm or you see my # on your caller id…do i keep calling you until i get thru or do i wait until you call me back???

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