BLOOMINGTON — In today’s 39th annual Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Games at Shirk Center, Illinois State recruit Paris Lee hopes to put a positive ending on a week with a sad beginning.
A 5-foot-11 Proviso East High School graduate, Lee will suit up for the North in the 7 p.m. Class 3A-4A game. The 1A-2A contest begins at 5 p.m.
Lee’s week began with news senior starter Bryant Allen had been dismissed from the ISU team after he was charged with possession of marijuana and delivery, driving on a suspended license and disregarding a stop sign.
“It was real sad,” Lee said. “I looked up to Bryant just like a brother because we’re both lefties. He was like a mentor figure to me. That kind of got me down. I told him I’m going to play this season out for him.”
Lee’s mission today is to give Redbird fans a peek at his skills.
“I’m going to show them I can pass and play real good defense and show them that I can win,” he said.
Lee believes the North is “pretty stacked” and is the favorite. Among those making him feel that way are Illinois recruits Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate of four-time defending 4A state champion Chicago Simeon.
Lee and Proviso East lost to Simeon in the state semifinals and in the 2012 state finals.
“All the competition is gone so hopefully we just come together and play as one one last time before everybody ventures off to college,” Lee said.
Nunn, a 6-3 guard who averaged 15.1 points for the 30-3 Wolverines, said fans should expect a high-scoring, up-tempo battle. He added they should expect next season’s Fighting Illini to play as a team.
“We strived pretty early to get team chemistry going — get everybody bonded together,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of team events, family meals, things like that together. It’s been pretty good.”
Nunn and Tate, a 6-3 point guard who averaged 8.3 points, have been busier than ever this summer.
“It’s consistent work,” Tate said. “You are on a schedule. You’ve got class. You’ve got study hall. You’ve got workouts. You’ve got lifting, practice. It’s just getting us prepared for what we’ve got in the future.
“We’re in the gym from daytime to nighttime, but it’s something I love to do so it’s not a problem. I like the progress that we’ve been making.”
Tate and Nunn will face a South squad that includes Illini recruit Malcolm Hill, a 6-7 wing who averaged 25.3 points for Belleville East.
“He’s a terrific scorer,” Tate said. “He works hard. He listens. He’s coachable and he’s a real good person.”
Hill feels he is making real progress this summer.
“I’ve never trained this hard in my life at this point and I believe I’m getting a lot out of it,” he said.
Hill’s South teammates include former Normal Community stars Trevor Seibring, an Illinois Wesleyan recruit, and Callen Boddie, a Benedictine recruit.
The 1A-2A North boasts four Pantagraph area players including Jared Entwistle (Carl Sandburg) of Class 1A state champion Illini Central. The others are Fieldcrest’s Brady Sanders (IWU), El Paso-Gridley’s Bodee Schlipf (Lakeland) and Eureka’s Jared McCunn (Elmhurst).
Tri-Valley’s Blake Cowden (North Central) will play for the 1A-2A South, which has replaced Oblong’s Anthony Johnson with Madison’s Marquis Bourney. Among the South assistants is Tri-Valley coach Jon Nelson.
The South leads the small-school series, 21-17, while the North leads the large-school series, 25-13.