December 26, 28, 29, 30, 2015

HC SQUARED:  Building a New Tradition of Basketball at Its Best


Joe Henricksen from the City/Suburban Hoops Report previews this year's Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic:



When: Dec. 26, 28, 29, 30

The favorite: Homewood-Flossmoor doesn’t have a big name on its roster, but it does have a couple of big wins over Marian Catholic and Hillcrest. In what is maybe the most balanced field with more toss-up first-round games of any holiday tournament, H-F gets the slight nod as the favorite. But the Vikings could have their hands full as early as the opening round when it faces Lincoln Park.

Top contender: After four decades of playing its holiday basketball at the Big Dipper, Crete-Monee begins a new chapter as a true contender in a brand new tournament. Coach Tom Cappel, who has an impressive 570-plus wins in his career, has a terrific scoring tandem on the perimeter in Jeremiah Matthews and Dwayne Rose.

Sleepers: The sleepers are aplenty. Up and down this tournament bracket there are at least a half dozen teams outside of the “favorite” and “top contender” roles that could make a run to the title game. The lengthy list of sleepers includes Stevenson, Maine South, Rockford Auburn, Westinghouse, St. Charles East, DePaul Prep and Crespi Carmelite out of California.

Team with the most to prove: Stevenson is nowhere near where it’s been the past few years, but the Patriots (6-2) continue be a team with dangerous potential. That same description –– dangerous potential –– can be used to sum up 6-6 junior Justin Smith. So when does that danger materialize? It’s been a work in progress for coach Pat Ambrose with new arrivals and replacing so many seniors from a year ago.

Storyline to follow: It’s a great high school gym and the tournament will surely be organized. But what kind of buzz –– and crowds –– will this first-year tournament generate, particularly with the high-profile Proviso West Tournament and the venerable York Tournament both within 10 miles of Hinsdale Central?

Player to watch: DePaul Prep freshman Perry Cowan was expected to play a major role for coach Tom Kleinschmidt this season, but the very talented 6-4 guard’s role has expanded with his ever-increasing comfort at the varsity level. Cowan is one of the early elite talents in the freshman class to establish himself and has an advanced feel and productivity for his age.

The unheralded: There is a boatload of unsung players in this tournament who are aching for a little pub and attention, including DePaul Prep senior scoring combo guard Craig Atkins, Lincoln Park’s 6-6 junior Hamza Gocobija, Hinsdale Central’s 6-7 senior Peter Blust, Richards’ 6-5 junior forward Jaylan Catledge, Maine South’s versatile senior Jon Arenas and Perspectives’ sophomore guard Marquan Williams.

Dream holiday matchup: Any type of “dream matchup” in this tournament may be a bit of an exaggeration. But you know what? You could argue there will be more pick’em games in this tournament –– on both sides of the bracket and in both the winners and losers brackets –– than any other tournament field.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport


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