One of Chicago's most prominent high school basketball coaches has taken the extraordinary step of suspending nine of his underclassmen for a celebrated post state title tradition taken from another sport.
As first reported by ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers, Chicago (Ill.) Simeon Career Academy's boys basketball team celebrated the program's third consecutive Class 4A state championship by taking off their shoes and leaving them at center court. The move is essentially a direct copy of a wrestling tradition, which calls for a wrestler to leave his or her shoes in the center of the ring after their final match as they prepare to retire from the sport.
While the shoeless effort may have been intended as a way for Simeon to make a statement after its nail-biting 50-48 victory against Maywood (Ill.) Proviso East High in the state final, it rubbed a few people the wrong way.
Perhaps most importantly, it upset longtime Simeon coach Robert Smith, who acted swiftly to suspend the nine underclassmen involved in the stunt. Smith announced on Monday that all but one of the team's non-senior players would be suspended for one game during the 2012-13 campaign for the shoe incident.
"They were trying to make a statement saying this was our court," Smith told ESPN Chicago. "To take off the shoes was out of character. I don't think it was the time and place for that. We had already made our statement by winning three [state championships] in a row.
"There's just a way of going about doing things. I don't think that was the appropriate way. We have to make sure we're representing the CPS [Chicago Public Schools] and Simeon as best as we can."
Interestingly, the one non-senior who avoided the suspension was the team's most significant player. Simeon superstar junior prospect Jabari Parker, who is ranked as the nation's No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2013 by Rivals.com. There was a good reason why Parker -- whose impressive skills you can see in the video below -- wasn't suspended, too: He didn't take part in the stunt; in fact, he couldn't, because he was being interviewed by a number of media outlets on the court as it unfolded behind him.
That may have been a lucky break for a player who is actively being recruited by Duke, Kansas and just about every other top program in the nation. Regardless, Parker seems likely to be playing alongside some unfamiliar faces for at least one game next fall, collateral damage his coach seemed perfectly comfortable with.
"As a coach, I have to set the right example for these young men," Smith said. "They're going to be going to college and out into the real world."
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