Previewing the holiday tournaments

Bloom's Keshawn Williams (11) gets his shot blocked by Issac Stanback. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Bloom's Keshawn Williams (11) gets his shot blocked by Issac Stanback. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.


The favorite: Bloom

How impressive have the Blazing Trojans and their talented group of juniors been in the first month of the season? Bloom has beaten Homewood-Flossmoor twice and knocked off Hillcrest, West Aurora and Morgan Park.

Top contenders: Curie and Danville

A pair of unbeaten teams with impressive wins who couldn’t secure a No. 1 seed. That says a lot about the state’s best tournament. Nonetheless, both of these teams –– Curie with Kansas State recruit DaJuan Gordon and Danville with sophomore star Tevin Smith –– could certainly win this.

Sleepers: Bloomington, Simeon, New Trier and Benet

No tournament offers more legitimate sleepers than Pontiac, where if any of these four teams win you shouldn’t be shocked.

Bloomington is state ranked and has a star in Southern Illinois recruit Chris Payton, a highly-athletic big man.

New Trier is a ranked team with big expectations They’re big across the frontline with 6-9 Ciaran Brayboy and 6-8 Spencer Boehm, have versatility in unheralded 6-5 Sam Silverstein and have shown to have just enough perimeter shooting.

Benet’s only loss came in overtime to York and is fresh off an impressive win over DePaul Prep. If coach Gene Heidkamp can receive quality guard play at Pontiac, along with the impact it’s receiving from 6-6 Kendrich Tchoua and 6-7 Colin Crothers have provided, Benet could put together a deep run.

And then there is Simeon. The Wolverines head into Pontiac in an uncharacteristic role of underdog. It’s difficult to see Simeon pulling this off if sophomore guard Ahamad Bynum isn’t healthy.

Storyline to follow: This one is easy. The potential of the top ranked teams, Bloom and Curie, meeting in the final of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament is a tasty holiday treat for basketball fans if it materializes.

Hoops Report pick: Bloom over Curie



The favorite: Bogan

Bogan has a win over Simeon, a difference-making big man in Rashaun Agee and veterans in the backcourt in Jeremiah Washington and Jordan Booker.

Top contenders: Young and Leo

The recent loss to Lincoln Park knocked the Dolphins from the top of the rankings. But the “Big Three” of D.J. Steward, Myles Baker and Tyler Beard on the perimeter is as good of a trio as you’ll find.

Leo has impressed early on behind guard Fred Cleveland and big man DeChaun Anderson.

Sleeper: Uplift

This team and its star player, DePaul recruit Markese Jacobs, are aching to make a big splash on a big stage. Here’s their chance. Last year the Titans reached the semifinals where they were drilled by Orr.

Storyline to follow: Can Leo, a Class 2A power, go and knock off the city heavyweights and win the Proviso West Holiday Tournament?

Hoops Report pick: Bogan over Young



The favorite: Riverside-Brookfield

The senior-dominated Bulldogs jumped out of the gate quickly and are the top seed. R-B is led by point guard Zach Vaia and 6-5 Andrew Veon.

Top contenders: York and St. Laurence

Both are off to terrific starts. York is on its home floor, boasts strong guard play and makes it difficult for opponents with its matchup zone defense. St. Laurence has burst on the scene behind the play of Jeremiah Williams, a long, multi-faceted 6-4 guard, and a fast-paced offense.

Sleeper: Brother Rice

When you have Marquise Kennedy on the floor, you’re a team that’s capable of surprising in this 32-team field.

Storyline to follow: How far can the individual stars carry their teams at York?

That list starts with the state’s best sophomore, Max Christie of Rolling Meadows, a special talent worth watching this holiday basketball season. Three future Missouri Valley Conference players –– Kennedy and Naperville North’s Tom Welch, a pair of Loyola recruits, and Drake-bound Nate Ferguson of Lemont will all have eyes on them at York.

Hoops Report pick: York over Brother Rice



The favorite: Marian Catholic

Coach Mike Taylor has fused experienced and young talent together to raise the status of the Spartans in the first month of the season. And junior guard Ahron Ulis may be one of the more underrated stars in the Chicago area.

Top contender: DePaul Prep

DePaul Prep and do-it-all Perry Cowan are primed to make a run. This is a legit Class 3A state title contender who will get tested by a number of Class 4A powers.

Sleepers: Oswego East and Homewood-Flossmoor

A pair of teams still in search of marquee wins. This is a terrific measuring stick for Oswego East, which packs a punch with star guard RayJ Dennis, and Homewood-Flossmoor, whose only losses have come to Bloom and Simeon.

Storyline to follow: The teams that make up this tournament are rock solid –– ranked, well represented geographically and boasting Division I talent.

But can this up-and-coming tournament create the type of juice and interest that accompanies the top holiday tournaments in the state? It’s been a work in progress at Hinsdale Central as the tournament enters its fourth year, but this year its arguably the second best tournament in terms of quality.

Hoops Report pick: DePaul Prep over Oswego East



The favorite: Morgan Park

This field isn’t exactly loaded, so this is Morgan Park’s tournament to lose. Junior star Adam Miller is a special talent and a star attraction.

Top contender: Farragut

The always tough Admirals, led by seniors Aaron Strong and Demetrius Schaffer, can make it tough for top teams with their grit.

Sleeper: Romeoville

Off to a fast start, we’ll find out just how good this under-the-radar Romeoville team is over the holidays.

Storyline to follow: There is no tournament in the state with a bigger favorite than Morgan Park. Thus, the storyline becomes this: Can a team knock off the Mustangs and grab the basketball world’s attention.

Hoops Report pick: Morgan Park over Farragut



The favorite: St. Viator

The Lions have really impressed in the early part of the season. And so has their potent 1-2 punch of Jeremiah Hernandez and Trey Calvin.

Top contenders: Geneva and Glenbrook South

Unbeaten Geneva has a great combo in point guard Jack McDonald and shooter Mitch Mascari to make a run. Glenbrook South, which owns a win over Evanston, and junior Dom Martinelli, who averages over 20 points a game, have been big surprises thus far.

Sleeper: Fremd

The toughness and defense Fremd plays with will make it difficult for any of the favorites when they face the Vikings.

Storyline to follow: Who can get out of this underrated tournament with four wins? The team that does will head into January with some great momentum and résumé-building wins under its belt.

Hoops Report pick: St. Viator over Glenbrook South



  • Tim


    Agree. This is a solid tournament with some very good teams.

  • Jack

    HF has beaten Mariank. Thieir 2 losses were to Bloom, prior to losing to Simeon yesterday

  • cooley

    Joe Heinricksen is obviously biased toward HC, but the best teams are at Proviso West as always. Basketball fans are smarter than he thinks.
    There’s nothing in Pontiac but the prison. Nobody around here is going down there, but its the Chicago area teams that make that tournament good. I’m not saying anything that people don’t already know.

    • ketoe

      Pontiac is the best tournament in the state . Period. Its not even close. Chicago area #1 Curie and #2 Bloom, state ranked Bloomington and Danville and Benet and Simeon. No other tourney can boast four of the top ranked teams in the state and the best teams from the Chicago area, south suburbs, north suburbs, western suburbs, Joliet, Bloomington, Danville and Aurora. This tourney will have a packed house each night, all of the small things the players enjoy, good ticket pricing, parking, safety and fun with big games. To say any other tourney is better than Pontiac is insane.

  • Clyde the Glide

    Proviso West is Solid
    The Proviso West tournament looks solid with Whitney Young, Bogan, Leo, Uplift, Hillcrest and Fenwick. Throw in Proviso East and undefeated Dunbar. The top 4-5 teams at West are the teams you will see competing for a state title in March as they do each year. The 2nd round possibilities look interesting. The semifinals could be even better.

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