Illinois high school basketball has a storied tradition. With players like Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Kevin Garnett, Terry Cummings and Mark Aguirre who all played their high school ball in Chicago, the remarkable talent that has come through Chicago alone is undeniable.
The history runs even deeper if you head out 10 miles west of the Windy City. A Cleveland Cavalier and NBA champion played his high school basketball in Oak Park, Illinois, a well-known suburb just west of Chicago.
That man is Iman Shumpert.
Shumpert—a McDonald’s All-American and a 2008 OPRF graduate—is one of the most decorated players in IHSA basketball history and a signature representative of the Huskies’ basketball tradition.
The Oak Park and River Forest Huskies compete in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division, one of the toughest leagues in the state.
Featuring teams like Hinsdale Central, Lyons Township, Glenbard West, and York, OPRF has its hands full annually.
Over the last decade or so, OPRF has generally been regarded as the team to beat in conference. And yet, during that span the Huskies have won just two conference championships with three runner-up showings. While those are fine results, it also reflects the balance in conference.
This season represents the fifth 20-plus win campaign in nine years and the fourth in the last six years under head coach Matt Maloney. OPRF has averaged over 19 wins the past six seasons
Under the reign of former OPRF head coach Al Allen, the Huskies also fared well in conference with their talent, athleticism and depth.
From a broader historical perspective, OPRF is chasing its sectional title since the 1975-76 season. Coached by Tom Meyer (son of legendary DePaul coach Ray Meyer), the Huskies also won the supersectional and went to Champaign for the state quarterfinals, where they finished third in Class AA – the highest finish in school basketball history. It also set the single-season school record for wins that still stands – 28 (Huskies finished 28-5 that year).
OPRF owns two sectional titles in its history – in 1956 and 1976. Both times the Huskies have won sectionals, they’ve gone Downstate (’56 team finished 4th).
Maloney has enjoyed his share of success, coaching players like Simmie Cobbs, Gabe Levin, Ka’Darryl Bell, Erick Locke and Andrew Godbold.
Maloney owns an all-time record of 157–85 as the OPRF head coach.
After disappointing exits in the past three playoffs, the Huskies (21-6, 11-1 West Suburban Silver) are living up to expectations this season.
“I’m so proud of the young men I coach,” Maloney said. “We’ve had an incredible season and this team is one of the Husky greats! I think we’ve improved throughout the entire season and we are playing our best basketball at the right time.”
Lots of talented players graduated around the West Suburban Conference last year, while OPRF has kept the nucleus of its team together. Senior standouts Cam Gross and Jared Scott along with versatile guards Isaiah Fuller and Dashon Enoch offer star power at the top of the lineup. Bolstered by a strong bench, this truly could be the year for the Huskies. They are hungry for a deep run in the postseason.
While winning a Class 4A state title won’t be easy, simply getting out of the stacked Proviso East Sectional will be quite a feat of its own. As expected the Huskies rocked Curie 75-51 in the semifinals of the Fenton Regional.
Now the real fun begins with a regional showdown Friday, March 3 against St. Patrick at Fenton High School. Tip-off is 7 p.m.
“St. Patrick has some of the best guards in the state,” Maloney said. “They are a very talented team that also features length, size and shooters.They have so many weapons to guard.”
If the Huskies get by the Shamrocks on a neutral floor (which won’t be easy), tougher competition likely awaits in the sectional with Curie, Whitney Young or Kenwood.
Fortunately, an up-tempo game that suits several of the top city teams also meshes well with “Huskie Havoc.”
The Huskies apply constant pressure defensively, rebound the ball well off the glass, and get out in transition. Throughout the season, OPRF has flourished by its ability to turn defense into offense. In fact, this is arguably the most athletic team since the years of Shumpert and former teammates Daniel Barnes and Adam Taylor.