By Marty Maciaszek
34th annual Wildcat Hardwood Classic
When: Dec. 27-30
Where: Wheeling High School
Favorite: Notre Dame
Players to watch: Dominique Spencer (Lake Park), Eric Porter (Deerfield), Joe Ferrici (Notre Dame), Darren Hoveydai (Vernon Hills), Jack Morrissey (Loyola), Mike LaTulip (Prospect), Mike Fleming and Colby Cashaw (Stevenson), Brandon Larkin-Guilfoyle (Streamwood), Nick Czarnowski (Naperville Central), Brandon Lotzel (Carmel), D.J. Morris and Kevin Walsh (St. Viator), Conor Hart (Maine West), Ellis Matthews (Libertyville), Jeremy Stephani (Wheeling), Riley Glassman (Fremd), Malachi Nix (Niles North)
Outlook: This is one of the deepest and best fields in tournament history with the addition of Fremd and some excellent opening-round matchups and no easy routes to the title game. Defending champion Notre Dame lost all of its starters and star power in MVP Quinton Chievous and Rodney Pryor but has been succeeding with balance. But its half of the bracket includes Stevenson, which upset Warren and lost in OT to Elgin and has frosh phenom Tyler Brunson, a surging Loyola team finally getting its lineup in place from injuries and football, much-improved Lake Park, Prospect and LaTulip and Deerfield (just beat Glenbrook North in OT). The bottom half of the bracket has unbeatens in St. Viator, which is getting a big boost from soph Ore Arogundade, and Libertyville. The pace of the first-round finale between defensive-minded Fremd and Niles North, last year's runner-up, is intriguing. Carmel is also dangerous with its defensive pressure.
37th annual Elgin Holiday Tournament
When: Dec. 19-22
Where: Chesbrough Field House, Elgin High School
Favorite: La Lumiere (Ind.)
Darkhorse: Neuqua Valley
Players to watch: Sam Wacker (Buffalo Grove), Cole Gardner (Batavia), Austin Terry (Hoffman Estates), Kory Brown and Arie Williams (Elgin), Will Stupar (Dundee-Crown), Tyler Sutton and Jabari Sandifer (Neuqua Valley), Quantice Hunter (Larkin), Josh Fleming (Glenbard North), Raphael Davis and Hanner Perea (LaLumiere), Steve McNease (Rockford East), Juwann Hubbard (Rockford Guilford)
Outlook: Numerous defections hurt the depth of the field but getting nationally ranked La Lumiere, a prep school in LaPorte, Ind., is a solid addition. La Lumiere's only loss is to perennial national power Oak Hill Academy and is the prohibitive favorite with Big Ten recruits in Davis (Purdue) and Perea (Indiana). The Hoffman/Dundee-Crown winner gets La Lumiere in the second round. D-C gave Larkin its first loss Wednesday and its losses are to Huntley, Stevenson, Fremd and St. Patrick. A potential cross-town semifinal is possible in the bottom half of the bracket with Elgin and Larkin, which has rebounded from a 4-23 finish last year. The Royals could have a tough second-round test with defending champion Neuqua Valley, which has suffered its four losses to high-caliber teams.
38th annual Jack Tosh Holiday Classic
When: Dec. 27-30
Where: York High School, Elmhurst
Darkhorse: Naperville North
Players to watch: Sean Bourke (Conant), Roosevelt Smart (Palatine), David Cohn (York), Jaylon Tate and Gavin Schilling (DeLaSalle), Jerron Wilbut and Jamal Millison (Downers Grove South), Brian Howard (St. Ignatius), Jared Brownridge (Waubonsie Valley), Nick Calabrese (Maine South), Ryan Coyle (St. Francis), Matt Stacho (Naperville North), Tim Zyburt (WW South), Jake Maestranzi (South Elgin), Matt Robare (Lyons), Damonta Henry (Riverside-Brookfield).
Outlook: DeLaSalle lost 6-8 Mike Shaw to the University of Illinois but has a solid core of talented juniors with size in the 6-8 Schilling and 6-7 Alex Foster and solid guards led by Tate. Downers South is also a big threat with its guard duo of Wilbut and Millison and Waubonsie has a talented junior in Brownridge. St. Ignatius always gives opponents fits with its discipline and defense and Naperville North has made an early impression by ending Benet's 43-game regular-season winning streak. Riverside-Brookfield is another team that traditionally makes a tourney impact and Cohn is one of the area's top junior guards.
21st annual Jacobs Holiday Tournament
When: Dec. 17, 19-20, 22-23
Where: Jacobs High School, Algonquin
Darkhorse: St. Charles North
Players to watch: Brad Zaumseil and Mark Bennett (Barrington), Austin Amann (Elk Grove), Milik Yarbrough (Zion-Benton), Amanze Egekeze and Troy Miller (Huntley), Robert Knar and Sean O'Brien (Mundelein), Mirko Grcic (Lake Zurich), Lorenzo Mitchell (Bartlett), Quinten Payne and Kyle Nelson (St. Charles North), Johnny Holbrook (Jacobs), Sean Valentine (Prairie Ridge), Ross Langlois (Marian Central Catholic), Max Meitzler (Crystal Lake South), Chase Cane and Nick Marchetti (Crystal Lake Central), Jake Bianchi (Cary-Grove)
Outlook: Mundelein won its first title last year and comes back looking for another in the tourney which features three rounds of pool play. The Mustangs have only two seniors but their only loss is to Warren after a 7-0 start. But their pool includes unbeaten Crystal Lake Central, which isn't as big as last year but is led by the talented Cane at point guard. Barrington finished third last year and is 6-3 -- with a loss at the buzzer to Mundelein -- without 6-7 Western Illinois-bound John Schneider (broken hand). The Broncos open with improving fellow Mid-Suburban League foe Elk Grove in their pool and also face a Jacobs team they beat by 21 on Tuesday. Rockford Jefferson is also in their pool. Huntley, last year's runner-up, suffered its first loss at the buzzer to Fremd on Tuesday but is the favorite in a pool which includes newcomer Lake Zurich. The other pool includes two teams which have struggled to get going early but have talent in St. Charles North with Payne, a 6-4 junior guard and Loyola recruit, and the 6-8 Nelson and Zion-Benton and 6-4 sophomore Yarbrough.
47th annual Pekin Holiday Tournament
When: Dec. 28-30
Where: Pekin High School
Favorite: Springfield Lanphier
Players to watch: Sean Reszotko (Hersey), Mirko Grcic (Lake Zurich), Deondre Brown and Brian Bennett (Plainfield East), Brett Bisping (Morton), Preston Wells (Peoria Richwoods), Everette Clemons and Larry Austin (Lanphier), Ben Ryan and Alec Peters (Washington), Austin Stewart (Normal West), Nathan Taphorn (Pekin), Ben Grygiel (Rockford Boylan), Luke Norman and Quavion Scott (Freeport), Alex Austin (Mt. Carmel), Hank Mathews (Bartonville Limestone)
Outlook: Lanphier, last year's tourney runner-up, earned the top seed and has a dynamic duo in Clemons and sophomore standout guard Austin. Second-seeded and unbeaten Plainfield East, a third-year varsity program, has already made an impression in the Chicago area by beating Downers Grove South and Schaumburg for the St. Charles East Thanksgiving title and now has a chance to make a statewide statement. Hersey opens with third-seeded Morton and the 6-7 Bisping, who has committed to Siena. Washington is also a threat but Peters, a 6-7 junior, was knocked out with mono at the beginning of the month. Defending champion Boylan not only lost most of its key players to graduation but also the 881 wins of coach Steve Goers to retirement. He was replaced by Mike Winters, who took Rockford Jefferson to fourth in the state in 2005.
Hinsdale South Tournament
When: Dec. 27-30
Where: Hinsdale South High School, Darien
Favorite: Metea Valley
Darkhorse: Hinsdale South
Players to watch: Brian Nelms and Tyler Gaedele (Rolling Meadows), Christian Spandiary and Kyle Bolger (Schaumburg), Brock Benson and Phil George (Hinsdale South), Alex Majewski (Brother Rice), Jake Norcia (Highland Park), Thomas Durrett (Lake Forest), Ken Payonk (Sandburg), Rob Mahlke (Downers Grove North), Sam Otto (Wheaton North), Kenny Obendorf and Ryan Solomon (Metea Valley), Tyrone Terrell (Eisenhower), Sean Dwyer (Stagg), Darrin Myers (Minooka), Jamie Nikitas (Glenbrook South)
Outlook: Can a relatively new program in Metea Valley win the new tournament? So far it's been a perfect 8-0 for Metea in its first year with seniors and a team with plenty of scoring options. But its opener is intriguing with Eisenhower, which set a state record for 3-pointers in a game with 24 on Wednesday as Terrell scored 50 and hit 12 3s in its Grinnell College-style system of quick shots and constant five-man substitution patterns. The bottom of the bracket also includes Meadows, which has won 5 of 6 with four-year varsity PG Nelms and hot-shooting Gaedele, and dangerous Hinsdale South. Schaumburg got the No. 2 seed and has been getting big production from Spandiary. It opens with Glenbrook South, which missed Nikitas in a loss to New Trier last week after he was rear-ended in a car accident. Brother Rice is also regarded as a title threat but just lost by 23 to Sandburg.
10th annual Glenbard West Tournament
When: Dec. 27-30
Where: Biester Gym, Glenbard West High School
Favorite: St. Charles East
Players to watch: Kendall Stephens (St. Charles East), Alex Herrera (Leyden), Cameron Harvey (Wheaton Academy), Michael Mache (Glenbard West), Colin Wallace (Fenton), Justin Mundt (West Chicago), Dan Leach (Timothy Christian), James Pupillo (Addison Trail)
Outlook: Glenbard West will enter its eight-team tourney with a perfect record behind Mache. The biggest test in its pool will likely be its last from Leyden, which has avoided the slow starts of recent years as Herrera has averaged nearly 20 points a game. The Eagles, in their first year in the tourney, open with a Fenton team they just beat by 19 on Tuesday. Stephens, a dynamic 6-4 junior headed to Purdue, where his father Everette was a standout player in the late 1980s, has St. Charles East off to a strong start. Wheaton Academy has been bolstered by the addition of the 6-3 Harvey, who transferred from St. Joseph and has committed to Eastern Illinois. The tourney concludes with crossover games between each pool.
Alden-Hebron Christmas Tournament
When: Dec. 27-30
Where: Alden-Hebron High School, Hebron
Favorite: Christian Liberty
Darkhorse: Harvest Christian
Players to watch: Luke Comerouski (Christian Liberty), Shane Engelbrecht (Alden-Hebron), Johns Vislisel (Harvest Christian)
Outlook: This will be Christian Liberty's first foray into a Christmas tournament as it gets four games at the school (Hebron) that is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its storied state title team. It's a four-team, round-robin including Faith Lutheran from Crystal Lake to determine who plays for the title and third place on the final day. Comerouski is a dangerous scorer and Mike Hennek is another offensive threat for Christian Liberty, which played Elgin, Stevenson and Buffalo Grove at Thanksgiving. Engelbrecht is a four-year starting guard who just passed 1,000 career points. Harvest Christian is in its first year as an IHSA-member school, is coached by Brian Clodi, who was let go after last season at St. Charles East, and has size led by the 6-6 Vislisel.
81st annual Pontiac Holiday Tournament
When: Dec. 28-30
Where: Pontiac High School
Darkhorse: West Aurora
Players to watch: Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor and Kendrick Nunn (Simeon), Darius Paul and Nathan Boothe (Warren), Juwan Starks (West Aurora), Cliff Alexander (Curie), David McCoy (Niles West), Marlon Johnson and Morris Dunnigan (Joliet West), Akeem Springs (Waukegan), Jacoby Roddy and Jeff White (Peoria Manual), Ka'Darryl Bell and Gabe Levin (Oak Park), Quinten Payne and Kyle Nelson (St. Charles North), Courtney Cole (Lockport)
Outlook: Will it be a rematch of last year's Class 4A state and Pontiac tourney championships between Simeon and Warren? They are seeded 1-2, but as usual there are plenty of formidable obstacles waiting in this storied event that is the equivalent of a mini-state tourney. Simeon is chasing the country's No. 1 ranking behind the 6-8 Parker, a junior considered one of the top prospects in the nation, 6-7 Marquette-bound Taylor and 6-1 junior and Texas A&M recruit Nunn. Warren got an early wake-up call with a 1-point loss to Stevenson and has the size in 6-8 Paul (Western Michigan) and 6-8 Boothe (Toledo). Warren's half of the bracket includes Public League power Curie and the 6-8 Alexander, resurgent West Aurora and Starks, improved Joliet West with the 6-9 Johnson and Waukegan and the talented Springs. Peoria Manual got the fourth seed and will be a 3A title contender and Oak Park has a dangerous duo in the Bradley-bound Bell and 6-6 Levin. St. Charles North also joins the field in a busy two-tourney holiday.