By Marty Farmer
The last time Fenwick and OPRF squared off in a high school boys basketball game was at the Chicago Elite Classic in December 2018.
In that memorable showdown at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Fenwick forward Bryce Hopkins scored the game-winning basket in the closing seconds of a 66-65 overtime win. Hopkins, a talented 6-foot-5 forward who is attracting myriad Division I college recruiters, recorded a double-double of 30 points and 13 rebounds against the Huskies that night.
Looking ahead to this weekend, there is a slight chance Oak Park's crosstown rivals could reunite on the hardwood at the 17th Annual Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout (June 21-23). The three-day event at Riverside-Brookfield High School will feature 64 teams slotted in 16 four-team pools. Fenwick is in Pool A with Hinsdale Central, Bloom and Morton; OPRF landed in Pool I with Whitney Young, Schaumburg and Jacobs.
"This is one of the live, certified events for high school basketball," Riverside-Brookfield High School coach Mike Reingruber said. "We moved it from the first week of June to later in the month to be part of the new NCAA legislation. This adjustment allows high schools to have live events for a couple of weeks so Division 1 coaches can watch players. We also expanded the field of teams from 40 to 64. It's one of the best events in the Midwest, if not the country."
State champions Belleville West and East-St. Louis Lincoln will compete at the RB Shootout, along with perennial Chicago powerhouse programs like Simeon, Curie and Bogan. The tournament host Bulldogs, Fenwick and OPRF will also field talented teams along with fellow suburban squads such as St. Joseph, Proviso East and Evanston.
While the courts will be filled with plenty of future college players, the headliners are Whitney Young guard/forward DJ Steward and Rolling Meadows guard Max Christie. The 6-foot-3 Steward, who transferred from Fenwick to Whitney Young last year, has drawn recruiting interest from Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Louisville, Texas, Duke and Virginia. Christie, a 6-6 shooting guard, is regarded as a top 10-15 player in the Class of 2021. Christie has drawn scholarship offers from Illinois, Northwestern, De Paul, Baylor, plus interest from Duke.
Since the event serves as a showcase for both high school and college coaches to evaluate talent, each team likely will have its full roster. Fans will enjoy watching the players as well.
"The RB Shootout offers the casual fan an opportunity to watch six games going on every hour," Reingruber said. "Most of the games will have players who will play well beyond high school. It's an opportunity to see the top teams, players and programs in the state all under one roof. It's basically a basketball smorgasbord for basketball junkies."
The aforementioned Hopkins leads Fenwick, which finished 18-14 last season under first-year head coach Staunton Peck. Hopkins had a breakout sophomore campaign last winter, averaging 22 points and 6.5 rebounds as an all-Chicago Catholic League player. Underclassmen guards Trey Pettigrew and Kaden Cobb gained valuable experience last season. Both are athletic playmakers. The highly touted Cobb, pegged as the Friars' starting quarterback next season, is a Division I college football prospect.
"The other young guys and me got a chance to play at a high level with our older teammates guiding the way last season," said Pettigrew, who averaged six points and three assists as a full-time starter. "We're excited for next year because now we have experience. We're looking to put the work in during the offseason to come back stronger next season."
Fellow varsity returners Sean Walsh and Ryan Planek will join them at RB. The Fenwick freshman team finished 25-3 last season.
"I'm looking forward to working with this young group this summer and next season," Peck said. "I am really excited about the program. The future is bright."
The Friars are off to an auspicious start this summer, recently winning the 10th Annual Ridgewood Shootout title with impressive victories against Notre Dame (semifinals) and Loyola Academy (final).
As for OPRF, key seniors Anthony Robinson, Chase Robinson, Charlie Hoehne and Dashon Enoch guided the team to an 18-10 record and its third straight West Suburban Conference Silver Division title last season.
With those players gone, 6-8 senior wingman Justin Cross, 6-6 junior Isaiah Barnes and 6-3 guard Josh Smith take center stage as the top returners for OPRF. Kyren Gardner, Rashaad Trice, Demetrius Dortch and Eric Locke are also contributing players.
Maloney's charge is to assess and amalgamate the Huskies' considerable pool of talent.
"We look at the summer as a time when players are made," OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. "We focus much of our camp time on skill development and attacking weaknesses and enhancing strengths. We also put in our offensive foundation in the summer to get players acclimated and focus more on the defensive side of the ball come season time.
"I use the month of June to help our players get college exposure and work to get as many players to have an opportunity to play beyond high school," he added. "Last year, we had six players who will go on to play collegiate ball, and we want to maintain our steady stream of college-bound athletes."
Like Fenwick, OPRF is playing well this summer with wins against Simeon, Orr, St. Joseph, Riverside-Brookfield and Morton.
"We have played over 20 guys this summer so our record is not our main point of emphasis," Maloney said. "The focus is about playing our best basketball at the end of the month and giving guys opportunities to learn the game, our system and play the best competition. The summer helps prepare our guys for a fourth straight conference title and another 20-win season."
Answer Book 2019
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