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Chicago's Simeon Career Academy's Jabari Parker announces he will be attending Duke during a news conference at his high school Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Illinois has had its share of high-profile high school athletes over the years, including a pair of recent vintage: Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis.
But Rose went through Simeon before the explosion of social media such as Twitter and Instagram. Davis, meanwhile, was completely under the radar till his breakout senior year at Perspectives-MSA.
So maybe no one has been more under the microscope than Simeon’s Jabari Parker. Singled out as a future star when he was still in grade school, Parker has endured even more scrutiny as his profile and legend grew with the Wolverines. It all culminated in 2012, and his journey tops our list of the year’s top stories.
1. Jabari’s year
It began with Parker ranked No. 1 nationally in the Class of 2013. Before announcing his college choice on live TV a few days before Christmas, he made plenty of other headlines. He lost the consensus No. 1 ranking in the recruiting class after hurting his left foot during the summer. But he was on the floor for Simeon’s opener, if not at full strength, and steadily got back into shape. On Dec. 20, he ended the speculation about his future by committing to play for Duke and coaching legend Mike Krzyzewski.
2. Dark side of preps
Allegations of hazing in the Maine West boys soccer program led to a late December move by the Maine Township school board to fire head coach Michael Divincenzo. After the scandal broke, a lawsuit was filed against the district on behalf of athletes who said they had been victims of hazing, and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced a “top to bottom” review of the allegations.
3. Star power
Among those making history in 2012 were Joe Newton, Lauren Carlini and Olivia Smoliga. Newton coached York to the Class 3A boys cross country title, his and the program’s 28th, 50 years after winning his first state championship. Carlini, a setter and right-side hitter from West Aurora, was named the Gatorade National Girls Volleyball Player of the Year. And Smoliga, a Glenbrook South senior, set four Illinois and two national high school records at the state meet in November before breaking the American short-course record in the 50-meter backstroke in December.
4. Land of opportunity
Fenwick senior Mary Kate Callahan, who is paralyzed from the waist down, sued the IHSA after being rebuffed in her original bid to make Illinois the latest state to expand athletic opportunities for disabled athletes. The IHSA eventually relented and Callahan competed in four events at state, getting personal bests in each one.
5. March Madness
Simeon’a boys basketball program and coach Robert Smith reached new heights last March. The Wolverines held off Proviso East to win the Class 4A title with a 50-48 victory at Peoria’s Carver Arena. It was Simeon’s sixth championship and Smith’s fifth, both IHSA records.
6. No. 10 for Lenti
A year after becoming the winningest prep football coach in Illinois history, Mount Carmel’s Frank Lenti reached another milestone. The Caravan beat Glenbard North 28-14 for the Class 8A title, giving Lenti a record 10th state championship in his 29th season.
7. Warrior world
Crete-Monee’s football season may have been even more eventful than Mount Carmel’s. The Warriors finished 14-0, won the school’s first team state title in any sport, had the nation’s top-ranked receiver prospect (Laquon Treadwell) and then lost their coach when Jerry Verde resigned to take the job at his alma mater, Marian Catholic.
8. Public pride
Lane’s Max Schneider became the first Public League’s first two-time wrestling state champ in 59 years, Jones was the first CPS boys cross country team to win state since 1963 and Public League track and field athletes won eight individual and relay titles.
9. Happy ending
Four Sudanese natives who came to Mooseheart to study and compete in basketball, track and cross country won their appeal of IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman’s original ruling that they were ineligible. The four sat out the 2011-12 school year after being guided to Mooseheart by the A-Hope Foundation, but were given the OK to play this season after making their case to the IHSA Board of Directors.
10. We are Young
The game of the year in girls basketball — and one of the best in any sport — came in the Hinsdale Central Supersectional when Young outlasted Bolingbrook 74-65 in four overtimes to end the Raiders’ bid for a fourth consecutive Class 4A state championship.