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Stevenson returns star juniors Jalen Brunson (left) and Connor Cashaw (middle) this season. | Sun-Times Media Library
The opening tip of the prep hoops season is a little over a month away, so it’s time to start stirring it up with an initial look at the top 10 teams in the Chicago area.
With a few weeks to sort out the order, here’s a look at a potential top 10 teams when preseason rankings are rolled out next month (listed in alphabetical order).
Curie: Aside from Jahlil Okafor, who in this state can come close to matching up with 6-9 manchild Cliff Alexander? Even though Alexander has vastly improved his game from a year ago, quality point guard play from promising sophomore Devin Gage is imperative to success.
Marian Catholic: Yes, the Spartans are more than just superstar Tyler Ulis — virtually the entire team returns from the best season in school history. But the Kentucky-bound Ulis remains one of the most dynamic players in the state.
Morgan Park: Billy Garrett, Jr. has moved on to DePaul. But led by athletic 6-7 senior Josh Cunningham and Lamont Walker, the defending 3A state champs have enough talent to repeat.
North Chicago: The talented, high-scoring trio of Murray State-bound JayQuan McCloud, rugged guard JaVairius Amos-Mays and hybrid forward Kurt Hall will be exciting to watch as they return from a 28-win, sectional title team.
Orr: The Division I talented threesome of 6-8 Marlon Jones, 6-7 Tyquone Greer and 6-3 Louis Adams, Jr. all return from a team that won the Red-West and reached Peoria last March.
St. Rita: Is this the year coach Gary DeCesare’s Mustangs make their mark? Northwestern-bound Vic Law and talented junior Charles Matthews will be a potent 1-2 punch.
St. Viator: The addition of Palatine transfer Roosevelt Smart (17 ppg) to a team that brings back Drake recruit Ore Arogundade, point guard Mark Falotico and 6-4 sharpshooter Pat McNamara elevates the Lions into the top 10.
Simeon: Don’t forget about the four-time defending state champs. As much as the departure of a fabulous senior class will sting, the roster is far from bare. Another group of young and talented Wolverines could be ready for a state run by March.
Stevenson: The Class 4A state runner-up will be fueled by the return of star point guard Jalen Brunson and his running-mate, 6-3 Connor Cashaw. The two juniors combined to average 38 points a game last season.
Young: With a monumental matchup nightmare in 6-11 Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1 player in the country, and veteran, versatile star Paul White, the Dolphins have arguably their best group since the 1998 state title team.