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SportsMonday: Chicago's Basketball Bounty

Have you had your fill of Super Bowl coverage? I thought so.

And now for something completely different . . .

We are in the midst of the greatest cluster of basketball talent to ever come out of Chicago. And the leading members of the group both starred in weekend productions. These young men are all the figurative younger brothers of Derrick Rose, who graduated from Simeon in 2007, went on to play for coach John Calipari at Memphis for a year and then was the first overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft. Say what you will about his career prospects now after two major knee injuries, but the fact will always remain that Rose won the Most Valuable Player award at age 22 in 2011, becoming the youngest player ever to do so.

As for the amazing group of players currently playing in Chicago and all over the country, first up is Anthony Davis, last seen giving Joakim Noah a thumping during the Bulls' most recent loss, in New Orleans. Davis, who is favored to be added to his first All-Star team when the NBA announces a replacement for the injured Kobe Bryant at some point in the next week or so, scored 24 points, grabbed eight rebounds and added a half-dozen blocks. The 6-foot, 10-inch center/power forward leads the NBA in blocks with 3.3 per game, almost a full swatted shot per game more than runner-up Roy Hibbert (2.5) of the Pacers.

Davis took an unusual route to the NBA in terms of his high school, attending Perspectives-MSA, a South Side charter school where Davis's varsity teams never finished with more wins than losses. But of course his primary prep work was done with his AAU team, Mean Streets. Rose starred for that team when he was in high school as well.

Davis also chose to follow Rose, in a way, when he chose his college. He played for Calipari at Kentucky in the 2011-12 season and then was selected first overall by the then-Hornets, now Pelicans.

Next up is Jabari Parker, another Simeon grad. Unfortunately Parker didn't have as much of a chance to star down the stretch of his Duke team's much-hyped showdown with Syracuse on Saturday night because of foul trouble. And then he was whistled for his controversial fifth foul with a little less than five minutes remaining in the game.

The final foul was one of those infuriating calls when the peacock referee comes rushing out from beyond the baseline to make his dramatic offensive foul call out where everyone can see him. The only problem here was that not only was the defender not in proper position to draw the foul, he also had a foot inside the half-circle under the basket that is supposed to delineate a no-charge zone.

Anyway, Parker finished with 16 points and six rebounds as Duke eventually lost to Syracuse ,and has averaged 18 and eight, respectively, on the season. He is wonderfully versatile 6-foot-8 forward with strong (college) three-point range and the ability to create shots in the paint.

Parker is projected to be a top-three pick in the draft and while there has been speculation of late that he might stay in school another year, hopefully that nonsense won't gain traction. He will need to add strength when he gets to the next level but that shouldn't be a problem because he does not have a skinny frame.

One of the reasons being bandied about for Parker to stay in school is that if he does, he will have a chance to team up with Jahlil Okafor next season. Okafor is the 6-10 Whitney Young center who has been rated the No. 1 prospect in his class in most polls for the last couple years. Okafor is overpowering in the low post and is one of those special prospects whose work ethic (always the first guy to practice, extra work after practice, etc., etc.) is even more impressive than his skills.

The final member of this group of players is the one who has earned a small measure of infamy. Curie's Cliff Alexander, another prodigiously talented big (6-9) man, made headlines when he chose his college team by disrespecting Illinois in the process. The senior center lined up the caps of his favorite four teams in front of him and initially picked up the Illinois hat as he said, "My college choice is . . . " Then he put the hat down and smiled big as he picked up another one and said "My choice is Kansas."

Of course it had to be Kansas, said cursed Illini fans to themselves. That is the team coached by Bill Self and Self is the coach who broke the bright orange nation's heart when he left Illinois to coach the Jayhawks a decade ago.

In the national rankings of recruits where Okafor is rated No. 1 in his class, Alexander also always grabs a spot in the top three.

Of course, other great players have come out of Chicago dating all the way back to Cazzie Russell in the early 60s. And there has been a tradition of point guards leading the way headlined by Isiah Thomas's rise through the West Side, Indiana (a national championship) and Detroit (a pair of NBA crowns). But never has there been this many great players in this short a time period.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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