Chicago Simeon coach Robert Smith has carried on the tradition of previous leader Bob Hambric, insisting his athletes play unselfishly. With great talent and a team concept, his teams continue to win most of their games. It is a philosophy that works well for them.
"Yeah, that's our concept. It's a team concept and not individuals. We've got some pretty good players, but we want to make sure they understand this is a team game and not just about them."
Speaking during the recent Illinois team camp shootout, Smith discussed some of his top players. Unfortunately, his senior leader Brandon Spearman went down with a sprained ankle, contributing to a late loss to Chicago Mt. Carmel.
"Brandon Spearman twisted his ankle. It was sore for the last year, and he keeps twisting it. He needs to get to a doctor to see what's really wrong. But we have guys to hold us over.
"He's definitely our best all-around player both offensively and defensively. We're gonna miss him alot, but we've got some other guys who can step up and get the job done."
A player who sparked a lot of interest among fans watching the camp games will be a freshman at Simeon this fall. Jabari Parker, the son of former NBA player Sonny Parker, is advanced beyond his years.
"Jabari Parker will probably be the first freshman to play varsity at Simeon. He's definitely a talented young man. Right now, off the top of my head I can't compare him to anybody.
"There's a skill level that's unbelieveable. He really understands the game, he can shoot it from the perimeter. At 6'-5", he can actually play all five positions.
"That's good for us because we can use him a lot of different ways. Against bigger guys, we can put him outside and let him handle it. Against smaller guys, we can put him down in the block. It's a treat to have somebody like that.
"I think Jabari is going to be a great player. He's still a kid and still growing. The guys are kind of having fun with him because he's so young. Especially the senior guys. He just made 14 in March. But they like him alot. They know having him in our program and having him on our team with us is gonna be good for us and is gonna give us an opportunity for the state championship."
It may seem shocking that Parker would be the first freshman to play varsity at Simeon given that superstar Derrick Rose is a Simeon product. But Smith has a ready answer for the paradox.
"That's because I wasn't the coach. If I was the coach, he would have been playing."
Another promising underclassman is upcoming sophomore point guard Jelani Neeley.
"Our guard play is real good. We've got guards who play real well together. Jelani is definitely stepping up. He needs to get a little bit stronger physical build. But he understands the game real well and knows who should have the ball. He's gonna be a good one also."
Simeon was also playing without 6'-5" DeShawn Greer in Champaign, and he is a likely starter.
"DeShawn Greer wasn't here today. But he should be one of our inside players. He can play a couple positions and can step out and shoot the ball from the perimeter."