CHICAGO — Simeon’s Evan Gilyard will move 1,500 miles away from home to go UTEP and play for Tim Floyd. The reason he’s moving so far away is the feeling of family he found in El Paso, and a coach with a track record of coaching NBA players.
“It was the environment. Everybody loves basketball,” Gilyard said. “The support system, everybody takes care of the basketball players, and I felt like it was a good situation for me. He told me he was going to put the ball in my hands.”
But before he heads to play for the Miners, Gilyard has work to do at home in Chicago.
Simeon last won a state championship in 2013, when Jabari Parker was a senior, but it has come close since. A one-point loss in the 4A state semifinals last season ended the Wolverines’ championship bid before a 29-point victory in the third-place game.
But the Wolverines also have seen fellow city teams Morgan Park, Curie and Whitney Young win titles since they last held the crown.
Ranked No. 11 in the USA TODAY Sports’ Super 25, Simeon is poised to return to the state title mix and is off to a good start at 3-0.
That included a fast-paced, entertaining 73-58 victory against Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) during the Chicago Elite Classic. Gonzaga bounced back to win the Gonzaga DC Classic this weekend.
As expected, the Chicago crowd was on Simeon’s side against the visitors. Gilyard and his teammates fed off the noise.
“It really boosts your confidence,” said, Gilyard, a 5-9 point guard. “It lets you know that everybody is on your side. It pushed us to do good out there.”
The Simeon squad is tight-knit, and for the first time in Gilyard’s tenure as a varsity player, has no transfers. Though it’s a young team, it’s also one that understands what is expected. The Wolverines face a number of tests this month, including Morgan Park this week and Whitney Young next week. Simeon also travels to the Penny Hardaway Classic in Dallas.
“We’ve got people who’ve been in the system for a minute,” Gilyard told The Chicago Tribune. “That is the only thing different. Everybody has been in the system and they know how Coach Rob (Smith) is and how he like to run his team.”
While Gilyard said he hasn’t thought much about his legacy at Simeon, a school that has produced NBA players including Parker and Derrick Rose, he does know it’s a special place.
“It’s just a wonderful organization,” he said. “Plus, to be under coach Rob, he’s coached a lot of NBA players. He teaches me so much.”