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Simeon basketball team on Nov. 12, 2012. L-R back row: Jabari Parker, Russell Woods, Rickey Norris, DJ Williams, and Quron Davis, AND Front Rpw, l-r are: Kendall Pollard, Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate, and Sean Moore. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Just a few years ago, it only took a few guys to carry Simeon’s state trophies into the gym for the preseason photo shoot. On Monday, they had to wheel the trophies in on a cart.
Six state championship trophies. That’s a mountain of hardware, a legacy that brings some serious pressure along with it.
“There are so many expectations and they are so high,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “I think this season may be the hardest. From this point on we can’t go anywhere but down. It’s kind of rough when you put yourself in that situation. If you don’t win every game then you weren’t successful.”
Once again, the Wolverines are the Sun-Times’ top-ranked team in the preseason Super 25. They are the favorites to win the city title and the state title. To a man, they are obsessed with capturing the mythical national title, which they consider the top ranking in USA Today.
“Jabari [Parker] told me he wanted to win me a national championship before he graduated,” Smith said. “I explained to him that was fine, I really appreciate what he is trying to do for me, but we can’t lose sight of what the ultimate goal is and that is to win a state championship.”
Parker and teammates don’t just want the national title for “Coach Rob.” They want it for their own legacy. When your school already has a handful of city titles and six state championships, winning another one of those is no way to set yourself apart.
“[The national title] is really important to me,” Parker said. “I think a lot of people don’t understand that. We’ve been here for four years. We don’t want our legacy to just be winning another state championship because we already have all those trophies. We want to be different. A national championship would really do that, put us in another category.”
Parker, Illinois bound guards Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate and Dayton-bound forward Kendall Pollard all return for the Wolverines. The lineup will be bolstered by four transfers: 6-8 Russell Woods, Sean Moore, Jaycee Hillsman and Dante Ingram. Woods will provide a needed interior presence. Hillsman and Ingram are both quality scorers.
Sophomore DJ Williams could have a breakout year, the 6-7 wing is competing with freshman Ben Coupet for next phenom honors at Simeon.
Coupet is part of a talented trio of Simeon freshman that includes guards Zach Norvell and Joshua Thomas.
There is a major concern for the Wolverines heading into the season. When will Parker be fully healthy and in basketball shape?
He has an MRI on his injured foot scheduled for Monday. He thinks he will be ready for Simeon’s season opener on Dec. 1 and so does Smith.
"I think Jabari will be ready to go right away, his basketball ability and IQ is so high," Smith said. "The biggest thing will be getting him in shape. We will look at it and see where he is at physically. He's not in good shape, as you can see. But we will see what we can do. I told him if he is just out there for his presence, it is huge for us."
Smith thinks Nunn is ready to step up and lead the Wolverines if Parker needs longer to get back.
"Kendrick is definitely ready to step up," Smith said. "He will take the 12 shots that Jabari would have been taken. I can guarantee you that. I think the guys are already prepared to play without him.”