Illinois Fire Take Home Spiece Title

The Illinois Fire based out of Chicago wrapped up an impressive run at the Spiece Run ‘N Slam on Sunday afternoon taking home the 17U division championship.


Unfortunately, fans missed out on what would have been a terrific championship game when Seattle Rotary Select had to forfeit the final game in order to catch a flight home.

The Fire had defeated home court favorites the Spiece Indy Heat and the 2006 monster known as Greg Oden 71-70 to advance to the finals while Rotary had taken out a game Illinois Warriors squad in a 90-82 overtime thriller. However, the lack of a true championship game shouldn’t be held against the Fire who were more than worthy of being named champions.


Wandering around the Spiece Fieldhouse on stilts and in an extremely oversized Indiana University warmup was the Fieldhouse’s namesake Tom Spiece. Standing at least 10 feet tall, Spiece roamed the floor shaking hands and generally yucking it up.  At one point he stood in front of the basket that the Illinois Warriors were warming up on. Seeing the rare opportunity to dunk on a 10 footer, Julian Wright threw himself a pass off of the backboard and put down a two handed tomahawk over Spiece. That is some serious rise right there.

Since the Illinois Fire won the tournament, it is only fitting that somebody on their team should be considered an unofficial MVP. That award has to go to 6-2 combo guard Jeremy Pargo from Chicago (IL) Robeson. He’s athletic and strong and loves to get to the rim but isn’t exactly a classical PG. Still, he was the straw that stirred the drink and did what it took to make sure the Fire were in a position to win all weekend long. He had a ton of hype early in his high school career and he is at a point where he is starting to match it. Votes could also go to 6-1 WG Tony Freeman for his timely and deadly outside shooting or to De’Andre Thomas for his consistent and tough play on the blocks.

Although they fell to the Warriors in the quarterfinals of the 17 U Division, you have to admire the zest with which the Michigan Hurricanes Black squad attacks the offensive glass. Despite the fact that they rarely have anybody on the court over 6-6, the Hurricanes are relentless on the offensive glass. Sticking with the Hurricanes, 6-3 WG Eric Devendorf deserves recognition once again. The Bay City (MI) Central star has taken his game to a new level and was virtually unguardable all weekend long. He finishes with either hand around the basket, has deep range and uses an incredibly quick and sweet spin move in either direction to leave defenders in his wake. He’s taken his game to an entirely new level and may be a legit candidate for the McDonald’s game before it is all over with.

Understand this about the Warriors 6-3 WG Josh Tabb, he is a phenomenal finisher along the baseline. There really isn’t any way to explain it, but he has a special knack for attacking from and getting to the basket from the baseline on either side of the court. Once there, he uses his athleticism and strength to finish with flair and either hand. Southern Illinois flat out stole one when they got him to commit so early

The quarterfinal tilt between Rotary Select and Philly MJC almost turned really ugly as Rotary cruised to a blowout. MJC had beaten them in pool play during a physical matchup and came out flapping their gums early and often as Rotary blitzed them with a three point shooting assault. As the breakaway dunks, three pointers and playground ball handling moves mounted so did the tension. Tempers flared and a fight almost broke out during the post game handshake as an MJC assistant coach unleashed a running chest bump on a Rotary assistant who was heckling him. Luckily, cooler heads finally prevailed and a melee was narrowly avoided when a police officer and event organizers stepped in to break things up. A final note to MJC’s Shane Clark though.  The 6-6 energy forward is a mini Darius Miles, but is much more imposing on the court making plays than he is flexing his bird chest from the sidelines crying to the refs.

In 16 U action eventual champions the King James Shooting Stars were more like Dunking Stars in their blowout of Fox Valley Skillz. Marcus Johnson, a 6-2 wing from their sponsors St. Vincent/St. Mary’s High School punctuated things with a two handed alley oop finish on everybody in the building from the right baseline where his head was above the rim when he caught the bill. Sophomores in high school just shouldn’t be allowed to have bounce like that.

Spiece Indy Heat manchild Greg Oden seemingly breaks several laws of nature each time he steps on the court. For a 16 year old sophomore to be that big -- 6-11 and 240 pounds -- have that much strength and that much ability to run the floor just doesn’t jive with conventional wisdom. However, some chinks are starting to show up in the #1 prospect from the class of 2006’s armor. He’s stoic and his demeanor, never, ever changes on the court which is admirable considering the beating he has to take in order for a foul to be called. However, his teammates do look to him for some leadership that he isn’t showing yet and a little more emotion would only solidify his status as a true superstar on the high school level. It is almost like watching a young Robert Parrish in terms of his stoicism.

Class of 2007 alert. Derrick Rose a 6-1 PG from Chicago (IL) Simeon is certainly one to watch down the road. His athleticism and quickness for somebody that age is unreal and he has a good feel for the game that suggests he is more than just a freak athlete. He’s still only a freshman so it is a little early to get too excited, but he should be fun to watch develop.

You want a real challenge? Try driving through the state of Indiana for more than one hour without hearing at least one John Cougar Mellancamp (or is it John Cougar, or John Mellancamp) song. It says right here that it simply can’t be done. The Spiece Fieldhouse introduces fans to something new at the concession stand. It is called a walking taco. Exactly what is a walking taco you ask? Well, a walking taco is a bag of Fritos opened up and then drenched with nacho cheese and taco meat. Yes, it is every bit as messy as it sounds and not really worth the trouble. The mere idea of a walking taco also illustrates just how rough an environment a basketball tournament is for somebody in the induction phase of the Atkins or South Beach diet. Top Stories