Jabari Parker's return to the court after recovering from a broken right foot may have been the big news Saturday night at the Chicago Elite Classic, but teammate Jaylon Tate supplied much of the early energy Simeon needed to start its season off with a victory.
Illinois coach John Groce had a front-row seat at UIC Pavilion to watch his recruit get Simeon rolling with seven first-half assists in the No. 1 Wolverines' 56-35 victory over Milton (1-4), a Georgia state champion last season.
Tate scored only two points but had four steals and nine assists, including a couple of flashy ones to future Illini teammate Kendrick Nunn, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
"(Tate) stepped up to the plate and did what people didn't think he could really do, which was lead the team," Simeon coach Robert Smith said. "He just wants to get people open, find them and get easy baskets, things of that nature. … With all the talent we have around him, he's exactly what we need."
Wearing special shoes to provide extra cushion for his feet, Parker played 10-plus minutes and finished with six points. He began with a spin move in the lane that resulted in a three-point play but also had a couple of mishaps, including a spill in the lane in the first quarter.
Tate's steal and pass to Russell Woods for an alley-oop appeared to awaken the Wolverines early in the first quarter. His fastbreak setup of Nunn gave Simeon its first double-digit lead, 27-17, late in the second quarter.
"We came out a little dead," Tate said. "We were a little nervous. We had to get our feet wet. I wanted to bring a spark to the team. Once we got the spark going, the intensity going, we took off from there."
Woods' three-point play and Parker's drive early in the third helped Simeon maintain its momentum, and the starters were moved to the bench midway through the third
They returned late in the fourth to send the crowd of 7,128 out with a couple more spectacular plays, including another alley-oop from Tate to Nunn.
"He knows where I'm going to be. I know where he's going to be, especially on fastbreaks," Tate said. "It's great playing with him.
Player of the game: Kendrick Nunn, Simeon, 11 points, 6 rebounds.