I’ve recently gotten the opportunity to start to contributing to online basketball magazine SLAMonline. Pieces I write for them, I’ll also be posting in the Sport’s Section. Since this is the first one I’ll post it here, too:

Windy City Legacy: Chicago Products Look To Follow Suit

Chicago has developed a national reputation for many things, both good and bad: Deep Dish, Ditka, and Daley.  Capone, Cubs, and Kanye. Arrogance of Air Jordan. The list could go on, and it would eventually lead to here: The Chicago Point Guard.

The tough, gritty, Chicago Point Guard.

It’s a legacy that began over 30 years ago with Quinn Buckner. Starting out at Thornridge High School, he would go on to play for Bobby Knight, winning the 1976 National Championship and leading Indiana to a 32-0 season. Isiah Thomas, a native of Chicago’s South Side who travelled 90 minutes a day to play for the legendary Gene Pingatore at St. Josesph’s High School, would soon follow. He, too, would go on to play for Knight, and in 1981, he, too, would lead Indiana to a National Championship.

Mo Cheeks was also an early pioneer, along with the likes of Doc Rivers and TIm Hardaway.

The past decade has seen a bevy of talent emerge from the Chi. Imari Sawyer, Jannero Pargo, Sean Dockery, Dwayne Wade, Martell Bailey, Will Bynum, Luther Head, and Derrick Rose have all made names for them selves as great guards at the college level. Wade and Rose have of course gone on to be stars in the The League.

Last years standouts were Marquette’s Jerel McNeal, Wyoming’s Brandon Ewing, and Gonzaga’s Jeremy Pargo. McNeal was second-team All-Big East, and a legit candidate for Big East POY. Under the radar, Ewing had a remarkable career at Wyoming, leading the MWC in scoring 3 straight seasons, while etching his name in the school and conference record books in the process. Pargo was WCC POY in his junior year, and racked up 105 W’s in his 4 years in Spokane.

The talent pool is literally nationwide – from Florida to Cali.

Sherron Collins, Jerome Randle, Iman Shumpert, Michael Thompson, Demterti McCamey, Kevin Dillard, Jacob Pullen, and Phil Gary are among those who will look to follow in the footsteps of their ‘GO-ILL’ predecessors.

Collins and Randle, of Kansas and Cal, respectively. Both players embody everything one would expect of a point guard hailing from the Chi.

Speed, toughness, the ability to penetrate, and a knack for finding the basket.

They just have That Bounce.

Collins will be leading the Jayhawks into the season as the #1 team in the nation. After winning a National Championship as a role player in ’08, he stepped into the spotlight last year, and will look to improve on that this year. Good for almost 19 and 5 last season, Collins looks poised to lead the Jayhawks to conference and national championships with the help of Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, & Co. On top of that, expect him to make a handful of First-Teams and be in the running for Big 12 POY.

The same can be said of Jerome Randle, the Cal senior who will be running the show yet again for the Golden Bears. Though the Golden Bears may not be national championship contenders like Collins’ Jayhawks, they will be in the hunt for the Pac-10 title, largely because of Randle. In the process, the lighting-quick point guard is set to be in the running for Pac-10 POY. Widely slept on, Randle is one of the best PG’s in the nation, scoring just over 18 points last season to go along with 5 assists per game. The best part is his efficiency. He’s a 50% shooter from the field, 46% from three, and 86% from the line. While he’s gone under the radar for much of his career, it looks like he may finally get some shine this year, as he and Pat Christopher will combine form one of the nation’s best backcourts.

While those are the two who may make the most noise, they certainly aren’t the only PG’s ready to put on for the Chi. This year, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Illinois, Southern Illinois, Kansas St., and Florida International will all be led by Chi-town point guards expecting breakout years.

Iman Shumpert will take the reigns for Georgia Tech, as the Yellow Jackets are set up nicely for a top-4 finish in the ACC, if not better. At 6-5, Shumpert can see over most defenders, make plays, and score the ball. With his size, he’s also a solid rebounder, as well. G-Tech struggled last season, but with a year of experience under the belt, plus the arrival of Derrick Favors along with some other top-notch recruits, the Yellow Jackets can be a real threat this year. Look for Shumpert’s 10.5 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds per night continue to increase along with G-Tech’s record.

At Northwestern, Michael Thompson will lead the steadily improving Wildcats, who have shown great strides in the past two years. Serving largely as a playmaker and facilitator in Coach Bill Carmody’s Princeton-style offense, Thompson is also a legit scoring threat, shooting over 40% from deep for his career.  A starter since the day he arrived in Evanston, Thompson, has averaged 30+ minutes a night, and taken the Wildcats from an 8-22 record in ’07-’08, to 17-14 last season. With most all of the vastly improved Wildcats returning this year, that improvement is likely to continue.

Staying in the Big Ten, just a few hours downstate, Illinois will put the ball in the hands of Demetri McCamey. Like Thompson, he’s seen solid minutes since his freshman year in ’07, and posted a solid 11.5 points and 4.5 assists per night. Those numbers should continue to improve over his final two years. At 6-3, 205, McCamey is nearly identical to Deron Williams who starred at Illinois just a few years ago, so the potential to excel in Bruce Weber’s system is definitely there, especially with the top-tier recruits the Ilini are bringing in.

Further south, at Southern Illinois, Kevin Dillard will be at the helm. The Salukis have taken a couple steps back over the last couple years after having a great run in Chris Lowery’s first three years, but Kevin Dillard had a strong freshman year last season, averaging 12.2 points and 4.2 assists, while shooting 45% from three and grabbing more than 1 steal.

Life hasn’t been sweet for Kansas St. post-Michael Beasley, but Jacob Pullen will have an opportunity to thrive this year alongside Denis Clemente. In light of Beasley’s departure, Pullen stepped his scoring up 13.9 – nearly five points higher than his ’07-’08 average. In addition, he’s gotten it done on defense, too, with 54 steals last season.

Lastly, this year will see one of Chicago’s finest – Isiah Thomas – step into the coaching ranks as he takes over at Florida International. Upon arriving there, one of Thomas’ first moves was putting in a call to some old Chicago friends, and signing 6-0 PG Phil Gary, who spent last year at Malcolm X Junior College in Chicago. Thomas will hand the keys over to Gary from the start of the season as he looks to rebuild the FIU program.

All of these players have to go out and perform, obviously, but all are in positions to excel, guide their respective teams to successful years, and represent for the Chi. While Collins and Randle, may get the most pub (at least early on), there are far more products looking put on for the city the same way their predecessors have.


This piece can be viewed on Slamonline and in the Sport’s Section.