When high school basketball fans think back to the 1980s, programs like Quincy, Providence St. Mel, East St. Louis Lincoln and the arrival of city powers King and Simeon are easy to think back on.
The 1990s brought us memorable basketball giants in Peoria Manual and Thornton, a few steamrolling Proviso East teams and the continued dominance of King.
The first 10 years of the 2000s included Glenbrook North, Peoria High and the beginning of a Simeon juggernaut.
This list is comprised of the 50 winningest programs over the past 10 years, starting with the 2010-11 season and concluding with the 2019-20 season. Every team in every class throughout the Chicago area will be broken down in a variety of ways. But total wins, with winning percentage used as tie-breaker, determined the rankings.
We present No. 12 Niles North today and will add one program a day going forward.
12. NILES NORTH: 222-88
Decade’s biggest storyline: How about simply the arrival of Niles North as a legitimate basketball program? It’s a huge storyline in high school basketball.
Consider this: Niles North went 74-192 the previous decade. Then the 2010s came with coach Glenn Olson in charge and arguably the biggest turnaround of any program in the Chicago area.
Prior to Olson taking over the program in 2009-10, Niles North won a total of 34 games the previous six seasons combined. Now the Vikings have averaged 22 wins a year over the past 10. There were nine 20-win seasons in the decade with a fair amount of postseason success, including five regional championships and the only sectional title in school history in 2011.
When you realize Niles North had one regional title and two 20-win seasons in the program’s first 46 years, it’s arguably the biggest turnaround of any program in the Chicago area when comparing the past two decades.
Underrated highlight: While the rise of the program was front and center over the course of the decade, three straight trips to sectional championship games in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including its first-ever super-sectional appearance, needs to be highlighted.
Niles North, led by future NBA player Abdel Nader, pulled out a 53-52 sectional championship win over Schaumburg before losing to Warren in the super.
Player of the Decade: Abdel Nader (2011)
All-Decade Team: Abdel Nader (2011), Malachi Nix (2013), Crishawn Cook (2016), Damaria Franklin (2018) and Aquan Smart (2020)
Other decade highlights:
-The 2012-13 team set a school record for wins with 27, and last year’s team matched it. The 2012-13 team lost to New Trier in the sectional final while the Vikings lost to Loyola in the sectional semifinals last March.
-The top three scorers in school history — and five of the top 10 — all came over the past 10 years. Malachi Nix broke the school scoring record with 1,582 points, while Damaria Franklin (1,548) and Aquan Smart (1,472) finished their careers No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, on the all-time list.
Crishawn Cook and Abdel Nader are two other 1,000-plus point scorers who are among the top 10, while current senior Jalen Butler was well on his way to scoring over 1,000 points in his career if not for the current missed season.
-The program produced five Division I players in the decade: Nader (NIU/Iowa State), Nix (Farleigh Dickinson), Damarrion Bariffe-Smith (Jackson State), Franklin (Tennessee Tech) and Smart (Maryland).
-After losing in the title game twice earlier in the decade, Niles North won its first-ever Wheeling Hardwood Classic title in 2017, one of the top holiday tournaments in the state. The Vikings ran their record to a perfect 13-0 with a 72-65 win over Libertyville.