Chicago Simeon is perennially one of the top teams in Illinois. Their coach Robert Smith insists on teamwork, and he looks after the needs of his players. It takes talent and a strong work ethic to play for him.
Simeon is a young team this year. One of their top upcoming sophomores is 5'-10" point guard Jelani Neely. While he is not yet penciled into the starting lineup, he is working hard to get there.
"I'll be coming off the bench this year," Neely states. "At least, right now I'm coming off the bench. Tyjuan Pinckney is older and has more experience. That's about all he has over me. We go hard against each other every day in practice, so whatever it comes down to."
Neely starred for his 15U Mac Irvin Fire AAU team in the recent Chicago Hoops Classic. He combines excellent court awareness with the ability to penetrate and hit the open man. His perspective is that of a true point guard.
"I'm a pass-first point guard. I want to get my teammates involved, get them better."
Of course, he also enjoys shooting the rock.
"I like both outside shots and drives. I just like to score when it's my turn."
The slender Neely is eager to work on several aspects of his game and body. And he is hopeful of a boost from Mother Nature as well.
"My speed, and getting stronger. I hope to get taller also. I'm already taller than my dad."
Simeon will be led by senior Brandon Spearman. Neely says he is providing good leadership for the team.
"Brandon Spearman is our best player. He's playing with the (Illinois) Warriors. He told us to get ready for the season and win."
Neely looks forward to the upcoming high school season.
"I think we should be pretty good. We have a chance to win the (city) championship, state championship also. But I think it's gonna be real good this year. We're athletic, and we play together."
With all the good young prospects on the team, Neely anticipates three outstanding years coming up.
"I hope so. We have Jabari Parker coming in. We expect big things out of him. We have some other players who are pretty good too."
Neely hopes to land a good scholarship offer for college, but he is not privy to what colleges are inquiring about him at this early point in his career.
"I wouldn't know. Coach takes care of that. He doesn't tell us because he doesn't want us to get big-headed. But I hope for the best."