Where they’ve been — and where they are now – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

In the decade since the Simeon boys basketball team won its fourth straight Class 4A state championship, coach Robert Smith and the 15 players on the state roster have branched off on different paths in basketball and life.

Here’s a quick look at their college and professional careers and their ambitions after basketball.

College: Duke

Career highlights: Two-time Mr. Basketball of Illinois. Won four state championships with Simeon. Averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in one All-American season at Duke. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted him No. 2 overall in 2014, and he averaged 15.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 183 games over four seasons despite suffering two ACL tears. Also played for the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics, who waived him in January 2022.

You should know: Parker’s potential was hyped from a young age, but he said he wouldn’t change anything about those expectations.

“I loved every bit of it,” he said. “I love pressure and I love performing under pressure. And honestly I like where I am right now because it makes me the best version of myself, and the sense of urgency is unlike any other because when you have your back against the wall, you have no other choice but to go up. It gives you an opportunity to excel and to be the best.”

Parker is training himself in Chicago six days a week so that he is ready to play whenever the next opportunity comes. He said he is being picky about going to the right situation.

“I do get anxious a lot,” he said of waiting. “But I try to remind myself that the only thing that matters is the time I have now. Because I know this time I’ve got to stay sharp, stay in the gym and perfecting my game for that moment.”

He also is trying to make a mark in the community, advising current Simeon players and others, working out with kids and running free camps.

He said it: On returning to live in Chicago after living all over the country: “I think about it all the time. It’s like, if I started a life, why would I start it over? It takes years to develop friendships. It takes years to develop a sense of direction in the city. I don’t have the patience to do that somewhere else. I’ve developed that here in the city, and I don’t think I’ll ever leave. I think it’s a place I’ll always call home, and I think it’s an opportunity for me now to uplift those underneath me, playing in high school, playing in grade school. Because I want them to get the best out of their careers and their talents.”

College: Illinois, Oakland.

Career highlights: Four-time state champion with Simeon. Averaged 10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists over three seasons at Illinois. Was dismissed from the team after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge related to a domestic violence arrest. Played his senior year at Oakland, where he averaged 25.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Averaged 15 points and three assists over his first two NBA seasons with the Miami Heat and played in the NBA Finals his rookie year. Also has played for the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards.

You should know: Nunn is restarting with a new team after the Lakers traded him to the Wizards in January. He sat out last season with a bone bruise in his knee but tried to use that as a learning experience watching players such as LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

“I got to sit back and observe a lot not playing,” he said. “I had a great time, just being in the locker room with a handful of Hall of Famers. My time there was great. … To see how they worked day in and day out and took care of their bodies and things like that. So I definitely was a sponge there from a younger player in this league perspective. It was an honor.”

He said it: “Coming from Chicago and playing in the (Chicago Public League) Red South (Conference), that competitiveness that the players have in Chicago played to my advantage now being a pro. … Just all players from Chicago have a different type of grit, I think, playing the game.”

Former Simeon basketball player Jaylon Tate works out at P.R.O. Fitness and Sports Academy in Chicago on Jan. 31, 2023.

College: Illinois.

Career highlights: Won two state championships with Simeon after transferring from De La Salle. Started 35 games and played in 121 over four seasons at Illinois, averaging 2.4 points and 2.5 assists. Has played professionally in Canada, Finland, Latvia and Austria, where he won a championship. Was the NBL Canada Rookie of the Year in 2017-18. Played for the Lakers and Golden State Warriors G League teams.

You should know: Tate recently decided to start a new career path with a marketing firm and envisions himself thriving in sales in the future.

But he still trains and plays basketball with his former Simeon teammates whenever they’re in town, including Parker, Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker, an NBA player from Simeon who was five years behind the 2012-13 team.

“I get in there with everybody, all my guys that I grew up playing with,” he said.

He said it: “The main goal was to try to get to the NBA. Everybody thought that. Honestly, the older I got, I just always appreciated everybody has their own story, their own journey. And as I got older, I just appreciated and accepted my journey and where I’m at today. No matter what, I wouldn’t switch my life and what I went through with anybody. And I think me being a kid and going through what I went through at a young age prepared me for being where I’m at now. Being able to travel like that, playing big-time games, playing on TV all the time, that prepared me for college and prepared me for my professional career for sure.”

Former Simeon basketball player Kendall Pollard with his son, Kyaire, at a gaming arcade in Orland Park on Feb. 3, 2023.

College: Dayton

Career highlights: Won three state championships with Simeon. Made four NCAA Tournament appearances with Dayton, reaching the Elite Eight in 2014. His Dayton recruiting class set a school record for most wins (102) over a four-year stretch. Was third team All-Atlantic 10 his senior year, when he finished in the Top 10 for field goal percentage (.525) and top 15 for steals per game (1.5). After graduating from Dayton, he played for the NBA’s G League, as well as teams in Iceland and Austria.

You should know: Worried that he would be lost among the sea of talent at Simeon, Pollard initially considered playing for less prestigious high schools where he would be practically assured of being among the stars. Coach Robert Smith and his staff, however, convinced him that he could be a big fish in Simeon’s big pond, changing the trajectory of Pollard’s basketball career.

In 2013, ESPN.com ranked him the ninth best player out of the state of Illinois and the 42nd-best small forward in the country.

He said it: “When I was in grade school, I wanted to be like (Simeon graduate) Derrick Rose. So I went. I got a chance to play for Simeon, it felt like a dream coming true.”

Loyola Ramblers guard Donte Ingram cuts down a piece of the net after beating the Kansas State Wildcats 78-62 in the Elite 8 game of the NCAA tournament at Philips Arena, March 24, 2018, in Atlanta.

College: Loyola

Career highlights: Special mention All-State his senior year at Simeon. Averaged 11 points and 6.4 rebounds per game during senior year at Loyola. Named to the second team All-Missouri Valley Conference in 2018. During the Ramblers’ improbable run in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, he hit a 3-pointer to defeat Miami. Currently playing professional basketball in Romania and also played in the Dutch league.

You should know: Ingram and his Loyola teammates became local celebrities when the Ramblers reached the Final Four, so much so that some fans even followed them back to their apartments after class just to get an autograph or a selfie.

“That was a little a weird,” Ingram said, “but otherwise it was amazing. We knew what our team meant to the city. We never took that for granted.”

A shoutout from Chance the Rapper on Twitter during the 2018 NCAA Tournament even prompted Ingram to join the social media network. His Twitter bio has just five words: Failure is not an option.

He said it: “I think Saieed (Ivey) would be proud to know that he has left such a big mark on the world.”

Adams State University assistant coach Rickey Norris, right, works a game in Alamosa, Colorado.

College: Central Wyoming, Adams State

Career highlights: All-conference honorable mention Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 2020. Average 13 points per game his senior year at Adams State and was one of the top three rebounders in a conference, averaging 7.2 boards per contest, according to RMAC records. Also took home RMAC Defensive Player of the Week.

You should know: During his senior year, Norris moved from shooting guard to point guard in what he called the “hardest transition ever” at the time. He didn’t know it then, but his hardest transition would come years later when he went from playing basketball to coaching it.

“I don’t think anyone would have picked me to become a coach when I was at Simeon,” he said. “We were all too focused on playing to think about something like that. But I listened to my coaches and never gave them any trouble, so maybe that was a sign of what was to come.”

Norris is now an assistant basketball coach at Adams State after coaching in the high school ranks.

He said it: “It was a blast traveling all over the country with the team. We were signing autographs and posing for selfies with people in the airport. The stands would be packed everywhere we went. I realize now that it’s not your typical high school experience.”

Illinois guard D.J. Williams passes the ball against Central Michigan in Champaign on Dec.10, 2016.

Colleges: Illinois, George Washington, DePaul.

Career highlights: Was a key substitute as a sophomore on Simeon’s 2013 championship team. Saw limited action in two seasons at Illinois, averaging 2.2 points per game. Averaged 13.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in his lone season at George Washington. Transferred to DePaul to be close to home in winter of his 2020 season and played in 11 games.

You should know: Williams was ready to move on from basketball when his playing career ended with the COVID-19 pandemic while at DePaul.

He was interested in fashion as far back as middle school and now designs clothes and provides styling services.

“I still have the love for (basketball),” he said. “I still watch it. I still support my guys who are still playing. I think my love will always be there. I came up in a sports-driven family, mainly basketball, so it’s in my blood. I’m not playing, but my brand has been on players in the NBA, so I guess my name is still in the arena. That’s a great thing. Hopefully this upcoming year we can get more players and more people in our stuff. “

He said it: On his clothing brand, “Dollar $ign Junkie:” “Just having that hustler mentality and always striving to move forward. I did finish playing ball, but I’m still striving to move forward and do big and great things. I’m all about entrepreneurship and ownership, and that’s very important to me, leading my way and controlling my destiny more so than letting a coach do it.”

Chicago State center Quron Davis, right, looks to pass as DePaul guard Eli Cain defends at Allstate Arena, Dec. 5, 2015, in Rosemont.

College: Chicago State.

Career highlights: Was a 6-foot-9 reserve on two state championship teams who took pride in challenging Parker and Russell Woods in practice. Played three seasons at Chicago State, where he averaged 3.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game in his junior season. Was planning to play at Adams State for his senior year but suffered a season-ending knee injury.

You should know: Davis didn’t play a ton at Simeon, but he said he was happy he went there for the experiences — playing NBA-caliber athletes and traveling out of state, which he said prepared him for a tough Chicago State schedule that involved several West Coast trips.

He said he felt a lack of confidence hindered him early in his career but he began to find it in his last two collegiate seasons before a knee injury ended his career.

He now works in business and has taken up boxing as a way to work out.

He said it: “Once I was truly able to get past that mental part – and say, ‘You know what if I miss I miss, I don’t even care if I score, I’m just going to just go kill people’ — I was a completely different person on the court. I would say I didn’t find that until I was in my 20s.”

Gonzaga's Zach Norvell, right, and Florida State's Trent Forrest battle in a NCAA tournament West Region semifinal, March 28, 2019, in Anaheim, California.

College: Gonzaga.

Career highlights: Norvell and the other Simeon freshmen on the Simeon 2013 championship team finished third in Class 4A in their senior seasons. Was the West Coast Conference newcomer of the year as a Gonzaga freshman. Over two seasons there, averaged 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Helped the Zags to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in back-to-back seasons. Played with the G League teams for the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers and appeared in five NBA games in 2019-20.

You should know: Norvell hopes to play again after getting his degree in sports management from Gonzaga and recovering from knee surgery. But he’s also enjoying working as a student assistant with the Gonzaga men’s basketball team and sees a career as a coach or an agent down the line.

“I’ve got a great coaching staff around me, so there isn’t much I can say that they haven’t heard,” Norvell said. “But it’s just typically motivating and telling these guys I’ve been in their situation, their shoes. Uplifting talk more than anything and trying to just help them when I see little things, little tricks I use from time to time.”

He said it: “I remember seeing how much work I needed to put in as a freshman (at Simeon) if I wanted to be good at that level. After leaving Beasley, where we had a good elementary career, I thought I was pretty good. But then coming into Simeon and seeing you’ve got Kendrick Nunn and Jabari, Russell Woods, Kendall Pollard, Rickey Norris, I could go on and on, those guys were just super talented and good. … I remember the practices being very high level all the time, a lot of dunks and flying around.”

Windy City Bulls forward Ben Coupet signs autographs for fans after a game at Now Arena in Hoffman Estates on Feb. 22, 2023.

College: UNLV, Arkansas-Little Rock, Southern Illinois.

Career highlights: Part of the Simeon freshman class that also won third place as seniors. Saw limited action at UNLV but averaged 10.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists over two seasons at Little Rock. Used sixth year of eligibility granted because of the COVID-19 pandemic to play at Southern Illinois and average 11 points and 4.6 rebounds. Currently plays for the Windy City Bulls, Chicago’s G League team.

You should know: Coupet draws inspiration from other Simeon players who started in the G League and saw NBA action —Nunn, Norvell and Talen Horton-Tucker.

“I hope this goes where one day I get that chance to go to the NBA,” he said. “Seeing guys like that, that’s all the motivation I really need. Talking to them and bouncing off what they went through in the G League, comparing it to what I’m going through now. I feel like they went through it, got through it and got to where they wanted to go. I feel like I can too.”

He said it: On why he thinks Tim Flowers will succeed in replacing coach Robert Smith at Simeon next year: “I used to watch Tim play when I was young. I watched him and Derrick (Rose) play all the time. He’s one of the reasons I went to Simeon. I just know his blood has Simeon in there. He loves Simeon so much. That type of passion and him being as young as he is and being able to understand the culture of Simeon as a whole, I feel like he’ll be the best coach ever after Rob is done.”

Former Simeon basketball player Josh Thomas lives in Milwaukee, seen on Feb. 27, 2023, in they city’s 3rd Ward near the Milwaukee Bay. Thomas said he appreciates the city’s relative calm compared to Chicago and is still working toward a career as a professional basketball player.

College: Wabash Valley, Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Career highlights: Finished third in state as a high school senior. Played two years at Wabash Valley College, earning first-team all-region and first-team all-conference accolades in 2018-19. Played three season for UW-Milwaukee. Finalist for Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year award in 2022. Holds two of the top six single-game field-goal percentages in school history.

You should know: Thomas has an agent and is working out every day in the hopes of catching on with a professional team in Mexico or overseas. He traces his desire to see the world back to his freshman year, when the Simeon team traveled the United States — Nevada, Texas, West Virginia, Massachusetts and Tennessee — to play against the top high school teams in the country.

He said it: “I got to leave the South Side and see a lot of different parts of the country playing for Simeon. I knew there something else outside the 10-block radius in which I lived. It was a valuable lesson.”

Simeon's Bobby Harris maneuvers under the basket against Chicago Vocational in a Chicago Public League game on Jan. 14, 2013.

Career highlights: Member of the 2013 state championship team. Now works for his dad’s company and has a sneaker business on the side.

You should know: Harris was on the floor when the buzzer sounded and Simeon won its fourth consecutive state title.

He said it: “We were more than just a team, we were friends. And Coach Rob made sure we all knew our roles. If your job was to sit on the bench and clap, that’s what you were going to do. There was no arguing about it.”

Simeon's Saieed Ivey makes a pass against Marist during a regional final at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago on March 1, 2013.

College: Governors State, East Los Angeles College

Career highlights: Member of Governors State’s first recruiting class, along with older brother Sondale Conner. Scored the first basket in the history of Governors State, where he was on the athletic directors honor roll both semesters.

You should know: Ivey transferred to East Los Angeles College to play basketball after one year at Governors State. But on June 9, 2016 — his 20th birthday — he was shot and killed in L.A. after a night of celebrating with friends.

He left behind a large community of people who loved him.

“Saieed was very charismatic and very supportive and definitely concerned about the people around him,” his mother, Chareda Carter, said. “If they were dealing with (something), whatever he could do — add value or lend a hand or a conversation to help someone through something — it was like, he was all over it. … He was a joy to be around. He was a jokester. He played a lot, and he could really tickle you to irritation at times. But to know him is to love him.”

He said it: “Failure is not an option.”

Missouri's Russell Woods shoots a free throw against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on Jan.14, 2017, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

College: John A. Logan, Missouri.

Career highlights: Was a starter on the 2013 Simeon state championship team. Helped John A. Logan go 27-7 and earn an NJCAA Tournament berth in his second season. Started 38 games in two seasons at Missouri, including 32 as a senior when he averaged 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game. International team records show he played professionally in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria.

You should know: When he was a senior, Woods told the Tribune that seeing several of his teammates commit to Division I schools made him want to work to play D-I after junior college.

He said it: Woods, in 2013, on his college-bound teammates: “(Seeing) all of them strive to do good and signed to Division I scholarships, it made me hungry. It hit me I should be able to sign too. It motivates me, like, man I have to play hard. But at the same time my books are my main focus.”

Marquette's Ed Morrow dunks against Central Arkansas at Fiserv Forum on Dec. 28, 2019, in Milwaukee.

College: Nebraska, Marquette.

Career highlights: Was a key sophomore reserve on the 2013 Simeon state championship team. Was a Tribune first-team All-State player as a senior. Played two seasons at Nebraska, where he averaged 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 54 appearances. Dealt with a foot injury his sophomore year. In 1 ½ seasons at Marquette, averaged 4.9 points and 4.2 rebounds with 31 total blocks in 49 games.

You should know: Morrow comes from an athletic family. His mother, Nafeesah, played basketball at Nebraska, and his father, Edward Sr., played football there. His sisters, Aneesah and Nazlah Morrow, play basketball for DePaul.

Simeon Career Academy basketball coach Robert Smith celebrates at Simeon in Chicago on Jan. 24, 2023, after getting his 500th career win.

Career highlights: In 19 seasons as Simeon head coach, has won six state titles and eight city titles. Has finished runner-up in state twice along with a third place and a fourth place. Earned his 500th career win in January. Began his career as an assistant under coach Bob Hambric.

You should know: Smith will retire from coaching after this season and will hand the reins over to assistant coach Tim Flowers. Smith already has Flowers do a lot of the talking in the huddle and the scouting reports to prepare.

“He reminds me of myself, so I thought it would be good for him, and to leave it still with somebody in the family,” Smith said. “He played here with Derrick (Rose). He understands the school. He’s been through all the trenches. He knows what it needs to look like. I just thought it was the best fit, sort of like Coach Hambric did for me.”

Smith said he has been trying to keep the focus on the players this season, though he has had some emotional moments, including at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, where Smith loved playing year after year. He said he loves this team, which won the city title in February, because of the way each player has unique traits on the court and for the way the players and parents are bonded off it.

“They’re connected as a team,” Smith said. “Because you can have distractions. When you’ve got high level basketball players like we have, somebody thinking they should be doing more, they should be getting the ball more, whatever. But these kids just want to win. There are no egos, and that’s great. And a lot of people say, ‘Well, that’s because of you. You don’t have any ego. You’re calm, so they understand that.’ But it always comes from them and their parents.”

He said it: On having his former players and coaches return for his 500th win: “Even when I came here as a student, they always told us, ‘This is always going to be your home. And you can always come back here no matter what the situation is. You can always come back here for anything.’ It’s a family atmosphere. I don’t know if a lot of people notice, but when you walk in the building there are probably 20 of us who graduated from here who work here. And that’s rare at most schools. … To have all of those guys come back last night, the former players, was really huge because that lets you know they embrace what we gave them while they were here. They could have called or texted, but they came back to be here for the moment.”



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