Holiday tournaments across the state will be a proving ground and a test for high school basketball teams. Here are six teams, all off to solid starts this season, who will use the coming week as a true measuring stick.
■ New Trier
New Trier competes in the very strong Central Suburban League South and will play ranked DePaul Prep at this year’s War on the Shore in January. So it’s not as if the Trevians won’t be tested.
But what lies ahead is a completely different look for coach Scott Fricke’s team.
The Trevians get out of their comfort zone and head to the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, where a run there would truly validate how good this team can be going forward. This team is hot, playing well and will head to Pontiac on a high note.
With 6-9 Harvard recruit Ciaran Brayboy and 6-8 Spencer Boehm, New Trier brings difference-making size to the table. But the key is the all-around play of 6-5 Sam Silverstein, who is an underrated prospect off to a terrific start.
But New Trier, with a win over Plainfield North in the opening round, will get its biggest test of the year thus far in the second round at Pontiac when it would face unbeaten Curie. Simeon or unbeaten Danville would likely be next.
■ Oswego East
The highly-regarded and ranked Wolves do have some wins on the résumé worth talking about. And they are a glimmering 8-1 heading into the holidays. But in the one major test thus far, Oswego East lost to St. Viator, 72-69. The opportunity at the Hinsdale Central Holiday Tournament is just what this team needs.
RayJ Dennis and Company will be tested there with the likes of DePaul Prep, Homewood-Flossmoor, Marian Catholic and others. If Oswego East can pick up an impressive win or two at Hinsdale Central –– or capture a tournament title –– there will be a lot more believers around the Chicago area.
The Vikings are unbeaten. But it’s a ranked team without a marquee win and neither the conference schedule or non-conference slate ahead will offer a chance for one going forward.
Enter the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. This tournament does offer that opportunity if the seeds play out.
A potential semifinal showdown with St. Viator, a team currently ranked in the top 10, will be an ideal measuring stick to see just how good this Geneva team, led by Jack McDonald and Mitch Mascari, is as we head into the new year.
The Bulldogs are 3-0 in the North Suburban Conference. They have just two losses on the season, both coming to ranked opponents. They are still ranked among the top 25 teams in the Chicago area. But there remain questions. The most straight-forward one being: How good is this Waukegan team?
A run through the Wheeling Hardwood Classic? That would silence the doubters. Some true quality can be found at Wheeling in the likes of St. Viator, Glenbrook South and Geneva.
The mercurial Markese Jacobs and his Uplift team always seem to be under the microscope.
While off to a solid start, coach David Taylor’s program could use a signature moment with Jacobs in uniform. Last year the stage was set at Proviso West in December with a semifinal matchup against Orr. But the Titans were drilled in a forgettable 92-38 defeat.
Here they are again, in the spotlight, hoping to make some noise and prove it can play with and beat the best at Proviso West. With Leo and Bogan in its bracket, Uplift gets that chance.
You may find it peculiar to have a loaded Young team listed here. But after last week’s home loss to Lincoln Park, along with a couple of out-of-state losses this week, it’s time talented Young, the former No. 1 team, gets a little of its mojo back.
That means going to the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and sweeping all four games, which would likely include taking down Public League power Bogan along the way.
The star trio of DJ Steward, Myles Baker and Tyler Beard all need to get going at the same time, while the supporting cast continues to find its way in understanding their roles and the impact they can make.2018 holiday tournaments, Geneva, New Trier, Oswego East, Uplift, Waukegan, Young