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Thursday, June 30

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Basketball Fri Mar 08 2013

Okafor-Alexander Showdown Offers 2014 Preview

phpSbMI7WAM.jpgIt's fitting that Whitney Young, fresh off a 62-58 victory over Curie, must now face three-time defending state champion Simeon in tonight's sectional final at Argo High School in Summit. Led by juniors Jahlil Okafor and L.J. Peak, Young has the opportunity to send home senior-laden Simeon and begin the post-Jabari Parker era on their terms.

Last night's surprisingly competitive game against Curie offered a preview of that post-Parker, post-Kendrick Nunn and perhaps post-Robert Smith Chicago high school basketball landscape. In short, the city won't suffer. College coaches packed Argo High's gym to watch Okafor square up against the city's other all-American big man Cliff Alexander.

Though both had modest point totals -- Alexander 14, Okafor 13 -- their full range of skills was on display. Both Alexander and Okafor moved comfortably out to the perimeter on defense, caught the ball 12 feet from the basket and drove, rebounded well. They did everything one could expect from high school post players. And it was easy to see why both are coveted by the best college basketball programs in America. (And DePaul -- good luck, guys.)

The storyline now shifts to Simeon, who advanced to the sectional final with a throttling of DuSable on Wednesday. The Wolverines won a sloppy, nationally televised game in January and are much more rested than Young. Still, I can't help but think Young may end Parker's career tonight, one round short of a fourth trip to the state finals in Peoria.

Photo by Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune

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