RECAP - CHI LEAGUE 2016
By Gavriel M. Wilkins (Contributing Writer, SummerLeagueChi.com)
This past weekend at Whitney Young High School (7/30-7/31), Chicago’s superior basketball talent, amongst a host of others, took center stage in front of spectators and special guests at the 2016 Nike/Jordan Brand Chi-League Classic. Figures from the likes of NBA legends and media personalities were spotted catching a glimpse of the action sitting courtside including six-time NBA champion and Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen who was on hand alongside radio personalities Shagg from Power 92 and Tone Kapone from WGCI. ESPN and Big Ten Network college basketball analyst Brooke Weisbrod, also stopped in to see some of the top talent go head-to-head.
The pro-am tournament which was open to the public was hosted by none other than Young Wayne and featured some of the city’s most notable DJs in action spinning today’s hottest joints on the turntables (DJ Pharris & Sean Mac).
Chicago’s ultimate basketball gala drew a large capacity crowd once again for the fifth consecutive year, as the rebranded two-day, single-elimination tournament brought out several former college basketball stars and NBA players to have hailed from the 312 in recent memory. Wayne Blackshear (Louisville), Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks), and Cliff Alexander (Portland Trail Blazers) alongside a host of others came back to The Go for a chance to step onto the hardwood and compete in the 12-team, win or go home event.
Which teams would come out and put together some impressive performances and exit out with the crown? Check out this year’s official recap on one of the city’s premiere basketball events to find out which team looked to take the throne as champions at the Chi-League Classic in Summer Sixteen.
Saturday’s slate of games featured four close, down to the wire opening round games and two second-round contests in the nightcap, as the top four teams in the Chi-League standings from last summer each received first-round byes (Corn Bread, We Got Game, Code Black, and Wright Sports).
The first game on the dock pitted the Mac Irvin Fire up against former Kentucky Wildcat and NBA champion Antoine Walker’s 8 Foundation. A back-and-forth, tight contest throughout, the game came down to the final minutes as guards Jimmy Gavin & Marcus Lewis alongside of power forward Cliff Alexander for the Mac Irvin Fire helped lead the way for their team late as their presence on both ends of the floor proved to be vital down the stretch. Following a three-point field goal from 8 Foundation’s Matt Humphrey and a Mac Irvin Fire turnover that led to a fast-break layup out in transition from guard Marcel Anderson to tie the game at 82 apiece, the dynamic trio came together and made some huge baskets in the fourth quarter and made several key plays on the defensive end in the final minutes of play to give Mac Irvin Fire the lead as they would go onto prevail by a score of 97-90 to face Corn Bread in the quarterfinals.
The second first-round contest on opening day of the Chi-League featured the Dream Team going up against the 2012 champions in Solid Gold. Led behind the play of guards Keifer Sykes and former Brooklyn Net Tyshawn Taylor, the Dream Team drew first blood as the two stars got out to hot starts early shooting from the field; the backcourt duo knocked down some tough shots off the dribble throughout the first half to give their team a nine-point advantage going into the locker room. Following intermission, Solid Gold emerged out of the game motivated in the second half to get back in the game playing hard on the defensive end and getting some help offensively from one of their key contributors after struggling early on.
Former Iowa Wesleyan forward Nate Fuqua helped lead the charge by burying some jumpers from mid-range and three-point land to tie the game late. However, Solid Gold’s comeback would fall short despite Fuqua’s performance, as the guard duo of Sykes and Taylor was enough to help the Dream Team survive and advance to play We Got Game in the second round (88-84).
The third game featured Mean Streets vs. The Unit, led by former NBA guard and local pro-am legend Will “The Thrill” Bynum. Behind the play of Bynum and shooting guard Ryan Allen, The Unit got out to a hot start early and never looked back as they went onto win by a score of 96-93 to set up a quarterfinal meeting with their West Side rival and last year’s Chi-League runner-up in Code Black. With three opening games already in the books, the fourth and final opening round clash would wind up being the main event on the day as Team Parker called upon a special NBA guest to help them take on Tiger.
For the first time in two years, Jabari Parker made a guest appearance onto the Chi-League Classic stage and gave the hometown crowd a show for the ages. The third-year pro and former Duke star suited up for his family’s squad alongside of his cousin Josh Parker, to put on a performance in which he displayed his full arsenal of skills alongside of his newfound inside-out game. From the opening tip to the final buzzer, Jabari took matter into his own hands as his aggressive play on the block inside combined with his pull-up game and shooting display from beyond the arc was too much for Tiger to handle as his 30+ point, 10+ rebound performance proved to be sufficient in helping Team Parker move onto the next round to play the defending champions in Wright Sports on Sunday afternoon (78-75).
The final two games on the evening featured two teams who came out victorious in the opening round up against a couple of teams who earned a first-round bye in the quarterfinal rounds. Corn Bread took on the Mac Irvin Fire in the penultimate game of Day 1 while Stefhon Hannah and his We Got Game squad look to square up against the Dream Team in the nightcap. Led behind the play of their backcourt in former NBA guards and brothers Jeremy and Jannero Pargo, Mac Irvin Fire erased an eight-point deficit at the half following the intermission and came back late in the fourth quarter to advance to the semifinals winning by a score of 83-77.
In the second quarterfinal matchup, the Dream Team came out victorious once again led by the play of their backcourt in Keifer Sykes and Tyshawn Taylor, winning against We Got Game in the finale to set up a semifinal contest with the Mac Irvin Fire and cap off a magnificent and hoops-filled Saturday in Chicago.
Sunday’s action at the Chi-League featured two quarterfinal matchups in the early part of the morning, as inner-city West Side foes looked to clash against one another in the opening contest as The Unit looked to go toe-to-toe with Code Black in the first matchup of the day. Led behind the stellar play of former Whitney Young and University of Miami point guard Anthony Harris, Code Black was able to cruise to a ten-point victory against The Unit and advance into the final four of the single-elimination tournament. The final quarterfinal game would feature two South Side teams looking to punch their ticket into the semifinal round against Code Black, as Jabari Parker returned yet again to help lead Team Parker against a Wright Sports squad seeking to win its third Chi-League title in the last four years. In the early going of the contest, Team Parker appeared to be in control of the game as the Simeon graduate threw down back-to-back jams in the first half to send the crowd at Whitney Young into an uproar and put his team up by four points midway through the second quarter. However, Wright Sports had other plans, as they made a run of their own to get back in the ball game led by guards Malcolm Griffin and Osiris Eldridge. In a game that featured several runs by both teams, big-time highlights, and clutch shots made from key players on each side late, this three-overtime thriller came down to the absolute end as a clutch shot from downtown by Eldridge in the final overtime period proved to be the biggest one of them all. The former Illinois State guard and All-Missouri Valley Conference standout helped Wright Sports survive with his play down the stretch, as they went onto win by a score of 107-102 in one of the most epic games on this year’s summer basketball circuit.
In the semi-finals, the Mac Irvin Fire looked to continue its magnificent Cinderella run through this summer’s Chi-League tournament against the Dream Team in the quest to get to the championship game and did just that behind the play of Jannero Pargo. The former Chicago Bulls guard went on a barrage from deep, knocking down seven treys en route to a 27-point game to help give the Mac Irvin Fire a 20-point lead as they never looked back and defeated the Dream Team by a score of 92-74 to march onto the evening final. The second semifinal bout gave us a rematch of last summer’s Championship Game at the Chi-League, as Wright Sports look to defend its crown once again versus Code Black in a South Side-West Side battle. In a game that came down to the stretch, it was Lavonte Douglas who struck big late as the 6’6’’ forward out of Crane hit a shot around the paint to give his Code Black squad a one-point lead late. But despite Douglas’ huge basket, Wright Sports had a chance to steal the game in the final seconds as Malcolm Griffin found Billy Baptist for a layup off of a forced turnover that ended up falling just short at the buzzer as Code Black holds on for an 89-88 win to face the Mac Irvin Fire for a chance to earn the illustrious title as Chi-League champions.
In a game that featured a veteran-led Code Black squad up against a young Mac Irvin Fire core, it was the Fire’s youth that would end up prevailing in the championship game as Nick Irvin’s former Morgan Park stars Lamont Walker and Wayne Blackshear made some key buckets to keep Mac Irvin out in front to help in the early going to help them build a narrow lead in a heavy trash-talking and physical battle between the two teams. However, it was another former star of Irvin and Chicago native whose performance in the final game of the Chi-League Classic would prove to be vital in helping the Mac Irvin Fire pull off a phenomenal two-day run. DePaul senior guard Billy Garrett Jr. put on a huge show in Sunday’s finale, converting on a series of shots from the field to score for the Fire throughout the contest. The 2013 Class 3A state champion and four-year starter at Morgan Park went on to take home MVP honors and lead the Mac Irvin Fire to its first-ever Chi-League championship by a score of 93-78.