Simeon may be ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN and MaxPreps, but coach Robert Smith saw at least one team Saturday at the Chicago Elite Classic he thought was better.
Lone Peak of Utah walloped Proviso East 84-46 behind 24 points from BYU recruit T.J. Haws at the 12-team event at UIC.
Simeon was breaking in several transfers and just welcoming back Jabari Parker from a broken foot in a 56-35 victory over Milton (Ga.).
"Yeah, they're better than us. … I'm not going to sugarcoat it," Smith said. "We're not in a great rhythm right now. It's our first game. We haven't really been getting up and down the court as much as we normally would. We're still teaching because we have so many new guys. If we had played them today, they probably would have beaten us, but in a month or so, I don't think they'd beat us."
Smith planned to take a breather Sunday after nearly a year of preparation for the first-year showcase, which Simeon and Smith co-hosted with Young and coach Tyrone Slaughter. He said they already have contacted teams for next year's event.
"It will be bigger and better," Smith said. "I think Chicago got a chance to see what we go through when we get out on the road and play some games. If you were here for the Lone Peak game, you really saw some great basketball."
Mind over sport: The weekend began with a banquet Friday featuring a speech by former St. Joseph and NBA player Isiah Thomas. His talk centered on the players' need to develop their minds as well as their basketball skills. He made his point by calling for Parker to stand up at his table in the ballroom and asking what his GPA was.
"It ain't too high," Parker replied. Thomas told him to "have a seat and get your GPA up."
"I wasn't nervous, kind of embarrassed though, more than anything," Parker later said of being called out. "It's not as much his advice as my motivation. I can't live with that type of GPA."
Thomas said he borrowed the tactic from Parker's father, Sonny.
"His dad was a big mentor in my life," Thomas said. "Sonny was always on me about my academics. Every time he saw me, he didn't ask me about my jump shot. He asked me about my grades, and that's what I did to his son tonight."
Mayoral backing: Rahm Emanuel greeted the teams and guests as they arrived at the banquet. A video message from the Chicago mayor played at the games Saturday.
"I wanted our kids to have the opportunity that kids around the country have had that we have not had," Emanuel said at the banquet. "I wanted the city of Chicago, which is a great basketball town, to host this and make it an annual event."
He said it: "It was unexpected. I didn't think he was going to be ready until we got down to Pontiac (in late December). He looked good so far. We don't want him to rush it. We told him to take his time. If it hurts, sit down some because we're going to need him in the long run." — Simeon guard Jaylon Tate on Parker's surprise return to the court Saturday.
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