As Simeon coach Robert Smith stood near the free-throw line preparing to brick shot after shot Wednesday afternoon, Wolverines assistant coaches murmured their approval at the rebounding drill.
Smith figured the players could use some extra work considering Simeon's next opponent, Montverde (Fla.), features 6-foot-10 senior Dakari Johnson and 6-8 senior Devin Williams. Montverde, ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN, meets Simeon at the Cancer Research Classic on Saturday in Wheeling, W.V.
"We haven't been blocking out well," Smith said. "We're going into a game against a team that's going to be bigger than us. We have to make sure we get back to the basics of blocking out and running and getting the basketball."
Smith thought the Wolverines warmed up well by facing 6-9 Curie junior Cliff Alexander on their way to the Pontiac Holiday Tournament title last week. But Montverde, which draws players from all over the country and boasts three of ESPN's top 100 ranked seniors, might be on a different level.
Johnson (No. 12) is unsigned. Williams (No. 85) is a West Virginia recruit, and point guard Kasey Hill (No. 9) is bound for Florida.
At the City of Palms Classic over winter break, Montverde knocked off Young 68-63 in overtime in a quarterfinal and won the championship game 66-45 against Lone Peak (Utah), a team that impressed Smith earlier this season. Johnson and Williams combined for 25 points and 22 rebounds in the title game.
"They've got a lot of top players," Simeon senior Kendrick Nunn said. "It's definitely a big game. Hopefully we can get a 'W.' We just have to stay aggressive and work hard."
Five resolutions: Simeon players rang in the New Year with practices Tuesday and Wednesday. The Wolverines' starting five shared their basketball resolutions.
Nunn: "Stay confident and stay consistent. Stay aggressive and hopefully get some wins."
Jabari Parker: "I want to keep on getting better with my defense, my agility, getting in shape and I want to shed at least 10 more pounds."
Kendall Pollard: "Win a national championship."
Jaylon Tate: "To keep playing together as a team and work hard every day."
Russell Woods: "To win a state and city championship."
Back to school: The Wolverines' practice Wednesday was their last of winter break. Simeon and many other Chicago Public Schools resume class Thursday to make up for days lost during the teachers' strike this fall.
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