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Sophomore guard Jalen Brunson leads Stevenson in scoring this season. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
THIS WEEK’S THREE-POINTER
In the last 20 years of the big school state tournament, only three Chicago-area schools have reached the Final Four with a freshman or sophomore leading the team in scoring.
The most recent player was Jabari Parker, who averaged a team-best 15.3 points a game as a sophomore in helping Simeon to a Class 4A state title.
The other young stars both led their respective teams to Peoria in 2003. Glenbrook North finished third that year behind freshman phenom Jon Scheyer, who averaged 15.8 points a game. Von Steuben made its only trip to state in 2003 behind sophomore Angel Santiago, who averaged 16.3 points.
This season there is one team that falls into this specific category: Stevenson with sophomore sensation Jalen Brunson.
The Class of 2014 can officially be labeled as special. The junior group in Illinois has just over a year to push aside classes from the past decade and become the best since the state’s great 1998 class.
Currently, there are eight players in the local junior class that have garnered a national top 100 ranking. There is eye-opening star power at the top, with Young’s Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1 player in the country, and Curie’s Cliff Alexander, who is generally regarded among the top five.
By comparison, the Class of 2011, which was headed by Anthony Davis, and the Class of 1998 each had nine players ranked among the top 100 nationally. The 1998 class may not have had two players among the top five, but it did have six players among the top 30, led by Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette.
It is doubtful that there has ever been a bigger sectional favorite than this year’s Morgan Park team in the St. Laurence Sectional.
The Mustangs, loaded with Division-I talent, have been one of the state’s elite teams all season. They dismantled Julian 110-40 and St. Laurence 86-53 in regional play, and join a sectional field that includes Fenger, which played in the Public League’s Blue Division, Harlan, which is 12-15, and Perspectives-Calumet.