If you’re reading this, you experienced last week and made it through. Count that as a win.
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Let’s get to basketball!
One Crazy Week
Instead of getting a clear, definitive decision about the high school basketball season, the various powers that be spent the week contradicting one another seemingly ever time I opened my phone.
Here’s my best attempt at a timeline of what happened:
Tuesday, October 27
3:01 p.m. — The Sun-Times’ Michael O’Brien reports that the IDPH updated basketball from medium risk to higher risk on its website.
3:45 p.m. — News breaks that governor Pritzker announces at a press conference that basketball, among other sports, are put on hold. Pritzker’s news conference began at 3 p.m., but the stream didn’t work until later when remote reporters rewatched. (Sun-Times story)
4:30 p.m. — Pritzker reportedly blindsided the IHSA, notifying the organization of his decision just 15 minutes before his announcement.
5:23 p.m. — The Wheeling Hardwood Classic tweets that its 43rd annual event is cancelled following the governor’s announcement.
8:03 p.m. — The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association put out a statement expressing its disappointment in the move of basketball to higher risk, saying in part, “We know that the virus has caused a recent increase in cases, but we have not been given specific information as to why basketball has been elevated to “High Risk in Illinois. When so many of our players currently drive across state lines to freely compete with travel teams, this lack of transparency is incredibly frustrating for all of us who simply want to enjoy playing the game of basketball together in our home state of Illinois.”
Reaction: “Coaches ‘bitterly disappointed’ by basketball crackdown” via Matt Trowbridge at the Rockford Register-Star.
Reaction: “Rockford-area coaches say shutting down basketball ‘defies logic’” via Trowbridge.
Wednesday, October 28
~2:50 p.m. — The IHSA emails state athletic directors to relay that news. It was later posted as a press release which said in part, “The Board remains considerate of rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois and understand the importance of adhering to safety guidelines for the good of all citizens. However, the Board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally.” Also said masks are required to play.
Reaction: “Local coaches optimistic following IHSA's surprising decision” from Joe Stevenson at the Northwest Herald.
3:12 p.m. — O’Brien reports Pritzker responding to questions about the IHSA decisions:
4:29 p.m. — IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said the organization hasn’t thought much about the legal ramifications of the decision, O’Brien reports. He also reports that Anderson is not sure if the state could withhold funding from schools that defy governor Pritzker.
7:21 p.m. — State superintendent of education Dr. Carmen Ayala sent an email to school principals urging them to not move forward with basketball season on November 16. Safety and liability were the focus.
Reaction: “A 'chance to compete' welcomed by Q-C coaches” via Steve Batterson at the Dispatch-Argus.
Thursday, October 29
10:48 a.m. — In a press conference, governor Pritzker said that high-risk sports were being pushed to the spring, O’Brien reported. It was the first time he’d specified a spring move. (Sun-Times story)
4:32 p.m. — O’Brien reported that the IHSA published new basketball guidelines, which do allow multi-team events.
Reaction: “Suburban school leaders blast state agencies on conflicting basketball decisions” from John Radtke of the Daily Herald.
Reaction: “'Players have been stuck in this middle ground' Area players, coaches react to a rollercoaster week, an uncertain season” via Bob Narang of My Suburban Life.
Friday, October 30
So what to make of all of this? The IHSA-state standoff seemingly puts individual school districts in charge of the decisions.
“When it comes to recent developments, I must say that I have never seen so much punting in the sport of basketball,” Peoria Public Schools superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said to Dave Eminian of the Journal Star.
Will any public schools defy the state and its liability warnings? Could the state withhold funding from schools that choose to play?
"I have the feeling that the IHSA decision means very little,” Eldorado Superintendent Ryan Hobbs told Travis DeNeal of the Harrisburg Register. “They have no legal authority, and unless they say they're going to cover our liability, we're not going to be able to do it. The state board of education is who we're dependent on for funding.”
Why haven’t the IHSA and governor’s office gotten on the same page? The lack of communication has caused “an even bigger mess,” John Sahly said for the Daily Chronicle. At least the IHSA has its attention now, Troy Taylor writes for the Star Courier. And Jim Benson’s article for The Pantagraph has a message for both sides: “Time for Pritzker, IHSA to stop acting like kids and start thinking about the kids”
Could there be two basketball seasons? What do multi-sport athletes do if all sports are scheduled for the spring?
We’ll get more certainty the next two weeks as districts make decisions. There’s still work to do to make a season happen, Tom Johnston reminds us for the Dispatch-Argus. For now, there’s some hope for a season, as Pat Disabato writes for the Daily Southtown.
More Events Cancelled
The Prairie Farms Holiday Classic in Collinsville announced that its 37th annual tournament will be cancelled for this year. The 2021 Quincy Shootout has been cancelled as well.
Out-of-State Transfer News
Sincere Malone, a 2021 wing with multiple D1 offers, announced he will play at Carolina Basketball Academy for his senior season. Malone played at Corliss as a junior and had transferred to Lincoln Park for his senior season. He told me the move was due to uncertainty around the Illinois high school season.
This week it was Malone, last week Joliet’s Jeremy Fears Jr. announced he’s playing at La Lumiere in Indiana. They won’t be the last transfers as news unfolds and kids are kept in limbo.
Bryce Hopkins Commitment, Part Two
In any other week this would be the biggest story. After decommitting from Louisville this summer due to uncertainty around the program’s latest sanctions, Bryce Hopkins was by far the top uncommitted recruit in the 2021 class. The Fenwick forward is a top-40 commit nationally with 6-6, 230-pound size to go along with legitimate guard skills. As Joe Henricksen outline for the Sun-Times a few months ago, Hopkins did his research on schools carefully, and he had no shortage of suitors for his second recruiting stretch.
When it came down to it, Kentucky and coach John Calipari’s ability to get players to the NBA sealed the deal for Hopkins, Henricksen writes. What a gut punch for Louisville fans to lose Hopkins to their in-state rivals.
Hopkins’ sights are on the NBA, and for good reason. His recruiting rankings put him in the range of an NBA Draft pick, with 60 players per year selected, even when you add in international players and other considerations. And I’m no recruiting expert, but Hopkins sure looks the part of an NBA player.
Illinois players don’t often go to Kentucky. It will be exciting to watch him chase his NBA dream.
York 2021 point guard Amaya Rufus verbally committed to play at NAIA Indiana University South Bend. The program went 25-7 last season.
Lake Zurich 2021 wing Ashley Geisler verbally committed to play at NAIA Trinity International.
Bolingbrook 2021 point guard Kyonte Thomas verbally committed to play at NAIA Trinity International.
Glenbard West 2021 wing Aidan Murphy verbally committed to play at D3 Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh).
Last week, sisters Aneesah and Nazlah Morrow committed to DePaul. Kaleb Carter wrote about the Simeon star Morrow sisters committing to the Blue Demons.
Boys Recruiting News
Former Kankakee 2022 wing AJ Storr (now at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas) had quite the week with D1 offers from Howard, Iona, Virginia Tech, Austin Peay and Ole Miss. He also finished an alley-oop that made Sportscenter Top 10.
Oak Forest 2022 forward Robbie Avila received an offer from Loyola-Chicago.
2021 forward J. Caleb Slawinski, who played last season at St. Joseph last season, received an offer from D2 Albany State.
Lincoln-Way West 2021 wing Connor Jenkins received an offer from D2 Converse College (South Carolina).
Downers Grove North 2021 PF Jack Mielke received an offer from D2 Palm Beach Atlantic.
Proviso East 2021 SF Gabriel Wright received an offer from NAIA Governors State.
Homewood-Flossmoor 2021 guard Tai Walters received an offer from NAIA Governors State.
Timothy Christian 2021 SG Joshua Harris received an offer from NAIA Judson, his first offer.
Effingham 2021 forward Nathan Thompson received an offer from D3 Illinois College.
Elk Grove Village 2021 SG Brandon Burns received an offer from D3 Trine (Indiana).
Bloomington Central Catholic 2021 PG JT Welch received an offer from D3 Carthage College.
Girls Recruiting News
Joliet West 2023 PG Lisa Thompson received an offer from Arizona State.
Evanston 2022 wing Lola Lesmond received an offer from Southern Illinois.
Crete-Monee 2022 PG Jayda Bowen received an offer from Cal State-Bakersfield.
Waubonsie Valley 2022 PG Amari Banks received an offer from NAIA Marian (Indianapolis).
Tuscola 2021 PG Brynn Tabeling received an offer from NAIA Judson.
Teutopologis 2022 PF Izzy Hardiek received an offer from D3 Franklin.
Lincoln-Way East 2021 PG Samara Swire received an offer from D3 Houghton College (New York).
Carmel junior center Grace Sullivan is waiting to celebrate her first offer, Bob Narang writes in his recruiting notebook for the Pioneer Press.
Illinois Players in College
Illinois will play at Duke in the Big Ten/ACC challenge. Former Whitney Young and Fenwick star DJ Steward (Duke) will play against a pair of Morgan Park grads in Ayo Dosunmu and Adam Miller. He lost to Morgan Park in the 3A state final as a freshman (Dosunmu sat out with a foot injury), and he had great two battles against Adam Miller in their senior season (Morgan Park won both) before the two split player of the year awards.
Kankakee 2020 graduate Ambranette Storr has entered the transfer portal after her freshman season at Drake.
Lyons graduate Connor Niego has transferred from D1 Holy Cross, where he averaged 8.8 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, to D2 Lewis. Many factors played a factor, but some incredible family connections were a big part. Henricksen has the story for the Sun-Times.
Other Stories and News
The Rockford Register-Star and Matt Trowbridge wrapped up its list of top girls players in Rockford area history. The top player: Sophie Brunner from Freeport Aquin. Brunner played at Arizona State, then played a handful of games in the WNBA before two seasons in Italy. Kudos to the Register-Star team for a great series.
Eric Porter played at Deerfield, Lake Forest College and Loyola. Now the sneaker head has started his own shoe line, Nick Frazier writes for the Lake County News-Sun.