Drama does not take long to build in the Upstate Eight Conference, which begins play tonight with some interesting storylines.
At South Elgin, the Storm (2-2) welcome back former coach Chaz Taft, who last spring was hired to fill the vacant coaching position at Waubonsie Valley (1-2).
"It was a business thing; I understand because he's making more money," said South Elgin senior guard Darius Wells, who played two seasons for Taft. "We're doing just fine." South Elgin is averaging 80.3 points per game under new coach Matt Petersen.
At Larkin, the defending UEC River champion Royals begin their quest for a repeat against formidable challenger, St. Charles East (2-2). Larkin (4-0), which won the Hoops for Healing Tournament at Woodstock for the second straight season, went 10-2 against UEC River foes last year.
The Saints finished 8-4 in the UEC River last season, tied with St. Charles North for second place. Larkin swept the Saints in 2012-13, winning 61-55 in St. Charles and 67-53 in Elgin.
Bartlett (4-0) hosts a crossover matchup against Elgin (1-3). The Hawks are coming off a Thanksgiving tournament title at Wheaton Academy, where 6-foot-2 junior guard Ryan DiCanio averaged 20.8 points per game and was named tournament MVP.
Elsewhere, Streamwood (1-3) plays at St. Charles North (3-1), Batavia (2-1) welcomes arch rival Geneva (4-1), Neuqua Valley (2-2) plays at Metea Valley (2-2) and West Chicago (3-2) makes its UEC Valley basketball debut at East Aurora (0-4).
Larkin to host hoops showcase: Larkin High School will host the first Mac Irvin Diabetes Awareness Classic on Saturday, a 5-game event featuring some of the Chicago area's top teams and talent.
The event is named in honor of Mac Irvin, a Chicago AAU pioneer who passed away in December 2011, due to complications from diabetes. Irvin was the father-in-law of Whitney Young girls basketball coach Corry Irvin, who is Larkin boys coach Deryn Carter's sister. Proceeds will be donated to the American Diabetes Association.
The lineup includes a matchup of two of the top girls basketball teams in the state as well as four boys games featuring three of the top-10 teams in the Daily Herald's coverage area.
The event is capped by No. 2 Larkin (4-0) against defending Class 3A state champion Morgan Park at 8:15 p.m. Morgan Park is coached by Nick Irvin, Mac Irvin's son, and is led by 6-foot-8 senior forward Josh Cunningham, 6-8 sophomore forward Alonzo Chatman and 6-5 senior Lamont Walker.
"They lost a lot, but people have no idea how good they are," Carter said last week of Morgan Park. "They probably have the second-best frontcourt in the state and they play hard, so we'll have our hands full. I'm not sure when the last time Larkin played a returning state champion in our gym, but we get them at home."
The event begins with a meeting between Bogan, paced by speedy point guard Luwane Pipkins, and No. 11 Huntley (2-2), led by Belmont-bound senior Amanze Egekeze, at 1:30 p.m.
The lone girls game of the day is a big one, featuring Rolling Meadows, ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 4A, against No. 3 Whitney Young at 3:15 p.m. Meadows took second in Class 4A last year and Corry Irvin's Whitney Young team placed third.
Orr faces Providence St. Mel at 5 p.m. Orr returns 6-7 Tyqoune Greer and 6-8 Marlon Jones from a team that reached a Class 3A semifinal last March.
Proviso East (4-0) squares off against No. 3 St. Viator (3-1) and Drake recruit Ore Arogundade at 6:45 p.m. The Pirates are led by West Virgina commit Jevon Carter, who last Saturday scored 29 points and made 4 steals in an 80-77 victory over North Chicago at the 8th Annual Tournament of Champions at downstate Washington High School.
"We're hoping to get some fans there so it will continually be in this area," Carter said of the event. "The west suburbs don't get to see some of the teams we're going to have, so it should be exciting for fans. It will be a full night of hoops with the kind of athleticism and quality of games that people out here will enjoy."
The red see: Hampshire basketball home games against rival Burlington Central normally yield a sea of purple-clad fans, but supporters from both schools will see red Saturday for a good cause.
Saturday's annual "Pack the Place" event against rival Burlington Central doubles as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. Red T-shirts will be sold for $10 by the AHA to support research to fight heart disease. Hampshire boys basketball coach Bob Barnett survived multiple heart attacks last November.
All fans who purchase a T-shirt gain free admission to the games, which begin at 11:30 a.m. and conclude with a varsity girls at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity boys at 7:30 p.m.
The Burlington Central boys team won 3 of its first 4 games to take third place at the Sycamore Thanksgiving Tournament, led by 6-fot-9 senior center Duncan Ozburn (11.5 ppg), senior guard Reed Hunnicutt (10 ppg, 4.5 rpg), senior guard Brett Rau (9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.0 apg), senior guard Jacob Schutta (8 ppg) and senior guard Sean Fitzgerald (6 of 16 from 3-point range).
Hampshire (2-3) is led by senior guard Ryan Cork, the area leader in assists a year ago. He showed a deft scoring touch in the fifth-place game at Sycamore on Saturday when he nailed 4 straight 3-pointers in the third quarter of a 65-56 win over Dundee-Crown.