Basketball in Chicago will always be king. But who are the kings among kings in Chicago high school hoops?
I made a list of the greatest players ever to come out of Chicago’s Public League. I judged players on their wins, championships, individual awards, and impact on the game—not on their college or professional careers.
I did a similar ranking of the greatest players to come out of the city’s Catholic League, but you’ll have to wait until next week to read that one.
Here goes. Let the debate begin!
25. Rickey Green – Hirsch High School (1970-1973)
Led the Huskies to a state title in 1973.The team was later credited with starting the dominance of the Public league teams downstate.
24. Russell Cross – Manley Academy (1977-1980)
At 6’10″Cross led Manley to the state title in 1980 along with 31-1 record. All-tournament team and second in scoring
23. Levi Cobb – Morgan Park High School (1973-1976)
Cobb led the Mustangs to the city championship and the state title in 1976 was one of the first players in state history to record 2000 points and 2000 rebounds.
Sawyer paced the Jaguars with 31 points and 12 rebounds a game during his senior season. He led King to the Red Central title in 1999-2000 season.
21. Jimmy Sanders – Westinghouse High School (1992-1996)
Sanders was a 5’6” point guard was average 19 points and 10 rebounds during his senior year with the Warriors. He was also first team All-State during his junior and senior seasons.
20. Johnny “Red” Kerr – Tilden Technical High School (1948-1951)
Kerr led the school’s basketball team to the 1950 Chicago Public League Championship. At Tilden Tech in Chicago, he grew eight inches in his senior year, switched from soccer to basketball.
The 6-6 forward built Chicago Westinghouse into a nationally recognized high school dynasty. The two-time All-Stater led the Warriors to the Public League final in 1977 and the state quarterfinals in 1978.
18. Luther Head – Manley Academy (1998-2001)
Luther Head averaged 20 points, seven assists and eight rebounds during his senior and junior seasons at Manley. Head also posted 10 triple-doubles and broke the city record with 25 assists in one game for the Wildcats.
17. Patrick Beverley – Marshall High School (2002-2006)
As a senior at Chicago Marshall High, he led the state in scoring with 37.3 points while also adding 8.0 steals, 6.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds for Coach Lamont Bryant. He led his team to a third-place finish in Class AA with a 35-3 record.
16. Juwan Howard – Chicago Vocational Career Academy (1988-1991)
Howard averaged 26.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists during his senior year with the Cavaliers. Howard went on to be named an All-American basketball player by Parade magazine and was named to the McDonald’s All American team in 1991.
Liberty led the Jaguars to two consecutive appearances in the state title game, winning one in 1986. Liberty is the record holder for the most points in class AA state history with 143. He also won the Chicago Sun-Times player of the year award in 1987.
Richardson was named 1998 Player of the Year by USA Today and McDonald’s All- American. He also helped lead the Dolphins to a 30-1 record and the Chicago Public League championship along with Class AA state championship.
13. Nick Anderson – Simeon Career Academy (1982-1986)
Anderson transferred from Prosser on the Northside after his sophomore season to play with his close friend Ben Wilson. Anderson averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolverines. Anderson also won the Chicago Sun-Times player of the year award and Illinois Mr. Basketball in 1986.
12. Deon Thomas – Simeon Career Academy (1986-1989)
In 1988, Deon Thomas led Simeon to the Public League title as a junior. During his senior season, he was named Mr. Basketball and was named to the McDonald’s All-American Game. Thomas also won the Chicago Sun-Times player of the year award in 1989.
11. Nick Irvin – Carver High School (1993-1997)
Irvin averaged 30 points 10 assists in his high school career while leading the Challengers to a 114-13 record in three seasons. Irvin made the All-State, All-City and All-Area teams during his time at Carver. Three times. He also scored 3,280 points in his career.
Fields, in his senior year, led his squad to an 11-1 record in the Chicago Public League with per-game averages of 32.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 4.5 blocks, 4 steals, and 4.5 dunks a game. Fields had a reported 50-inch vertical leap .Fields broke his neck in a car accident on February 26, 1996,one week before the city playoffs began.
9. Kiwane Garris – Westinghouse High School (1990-1994)
Kiwane Garris led the Warriors to three Public League titles and made the all-state team three times. Garris also posted a .840(79-15) winning percentage during his high school career.
8. Cazzie Russell – Carver High School (1960-1963)
Russell paced Carver High School to the Chicago city title in 1962, averaging over 25 points a game. Russell led Carver to the state title game in 1962.Only one player during the 1962 state tournament had scored more points than Russell did (79).
Rose led Simeon’s freshman and sophomore team to city titles. He also led Simeon to its first state title since Ben Wilson did the same in 1984. Rose followed that up with another state title in his senior year, the first public league school to do so. Simeon was 120-12 during the Rose years.
Ben Wilson led Simeon to their first state title during his junior season in 1984. He was the first prep player from Chicago to be named the number one high school player in the nation. Wilson’s life was cut short by a tragic shooting right before he was to start his senior season.
5. Jaime Brandon – Martin Luther King High School (1986-1990)
Jaime Brandon posted a 114-11 record during his high school career. Brandon won the Mr. Basketball by the largest margin in history at the time. He also led the Jaguars to a state title in 1990. Chicago Tribune writer Paul Sullivan said this about the end of Brandon’s career: “Brandon ended a 33-0 season for the team ranked No. 1 in the nation with a resounding reverse slam at the game’s conclusion.”
Even though Kevin Garnett only played one season in the Public League, he is one of the most decorated players in Chicago high school basketball history. He led the Admirals to a 28–2 record while posting averages of 25 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and six blocks per game while shooting 66.8% from the field. He also won the Sun-Times player of the year award along with Illinois Mr. Basketball in 1995.
3. George Wilson – John Marshall Metropolitan High School (1957-1961)
George Wilson led the Commandos to state titles in 1958 and 1960.Wilson was the inaugural winner of the coveted Chicago Sun-Times player of the year award in 1960. Wilson also became an all-stater three times.
Griffith entered King High School as a 6’11” ninth grader. He averaged 22 points, 14 rebounds, and seven blocks a game along with a 61-game winning streak. The Jaguars won their first 29 games in a row en route to a state title. He also won the Chicago Sun-Times player of the year award and Mr. Basketball in 1993.
1. Jabari Parker – Simeon Career Academy (2010-2013)
Jabari Parker is not only the youngest member on the list; he is the most accomplished player as well. Four state titles along with winning Mr. Basketball (the first non-senior and multiple winner). His college choice was broadcast on national television.
HONORABLE MENTION: Cedric Banks (Westinghouse), Johnny Selvie (King), Bo Ellis (Parker), Sonny Parker (Farragut), Sean Dockery (Julian), Paul McPherson (South Shore), Darrell Walker (Corliss), Nazr Mohammed (Kenwood), Voise Winters (Gage Park), Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton (Du Sable), Efrem Winters (King), Hersey Hawkins (Westinghouse), Eddie Johnson (Westinghouse), Terry Cummings (Carver), Tim Hardaway (Carver), Maurice Cheeks (DuSable), Ken Norman (Crane).