A few years ago when former Proviso East basketball star Shannon Brown was in town for a game against the Bulls as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, when asked if he felt the tradition-rich Pirates would add more state championships to their already impressive haul of four state titles.
The Maywood native looked incredulous and replied, “Of course, man, we da Pirates.”
On Saturday night in Peoria, 6-foot-5 junior swingman Sterling Brown and his Proviso East teammates just missed making good on his older brother’s prediction as Simeon edged the Pirates 50-48 for the Class 4A state championship held at Bradley University.
Simeon (33-1), which claimed its third straight state title and sixth overall, had its hands full with Proviso East which actually held a five-point lead after three quarters. Brown finished with 25 points on 10-for-18 shooting as the Pirates suffered their lone loss all season finishing a remarkable 32-1.
Proviso East and the Maywood community celebrated the Pirates’ runner-up state finish with a slap-up parade Saturday afternoon. The marching band played, fire trucks came out and local officials shook hands the weekend before the March 20 primary election.
For first-year head coach Donnie Boyce, who led Proviso East to the first of back-to-back state championships in 1991 and 1992, Saturday’s setback loss marked a crushing finish to a magical season.
“This town likes winners,” Boyce said. “All season long, the school and community were great in supporting our program. Honestly, I can’t wait to get back in the gym and finish what we started.”
For Boyce, a member of the Pirates’ famed “Three Amigos,” which included future NBA star Michael Finley and Sherell Ford, his rookie year on the bench provided plenty of nostalgia.
“This season brought back a lot of memories,” Boyce said. “I felt like a 17-year-old again. I know the players maybe got a little tired of me talking about my playing days, but I wanted to share my experiences with them.”
Historically, Proviso East claims nine former or current NBA players, including stars like Jim Brewer, Glenn “Doc” Rivers, Dee Brown and Shannon Brown along with legendary coaches Tom Millikin, Glenn Whittenberg and Bill Hitt, who coached the “Three Amigos.”
The Pirates’ dominant run throughout the season was fueled by the inspired play of their terrific trio of guards Keith Carter, Paris Burns and Paris Lee. The St. Louis University-bound Carter averaged 18 points per game and provided leadership, while Burns netted 14 points per contest and played tenacious defense. The whippet-quick Lee chipped in 12 points per game.
“I like to think of those guys as my ‘French Connection,'” said Boyce, referring to the first names of Burns and Lee, “but really I called them my ‘Pack of Thieves” because of all the defensive pressure and steals they created for us this year.”
Other key contributors this season included: Brown; 6-5, 230-pound senior Trashaun Carroll; senior guard Michael Nicholas; senior swingman Jabari Alex and sophomore guard Jevon Carter.
Brown, in particular, has a chance to be the Pirates’ next great player. Already drawing offers from over 15 major-conference college basketball programs according to Boyce, Brown could easily crack the national players’ rankings next season. Against Simeon, Brown battled Wolverines star/fellow junior Jabari Parker (15 points, five rebounds) who is generally regarded as one of the top two players in the 2013 class.
With all the aforementioned talent on full display, the Pirates employed their trademark defensive pressure and all-court up tempo style of play to dominate the regular season. Proviso East captured the prestigious Proviso West Holiday Tournament for a 10th time with a 68-55 championship game win over New Trier and also cruised through the West Suburban (Gold) Conference to pick up a league title.
“I’ve been playing the [Simeon] game back in my mind already over and over,” Boyce said. “It was great game that lived up to the hype. Both teams played great, but Simeon just made a few more plays than us. You have to tip your cap to [Simeon]; I know how difficult it is to win multiple state titles. I really felt like we could beat them.”
Boyce, Ford (who is a Proviso East assistant coach) and Finley have remained close and serve as a wonderful template for future Proviso East squads vying to bring home a fifth state title to Maywood .
With Sterling Brown, Paris Lee and Jevon Carter back in the fold next season, Proviso East should contend again for state. After all, they are da Pirates.