City rivals: Simeon vs. Bogan  PHoto: Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune

Three years ago, I would wander into the gym at Whitney Young high school on a Monday or Wednesday evening, plunk down $5, and take a (literal) front-row seat to watch a 6-foot-11 dunking-and-shot-blocking machine by the name of Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, of course, would wind up—a mere 15 months after that season’s end—as an NBA draft lottery pick. The same was true of Simeon’s Jabari Parker the year before. And Perspectives’ Anthony Davis two years before that.

That particular streak of talent was lightning-strike freakish, but the point is that the Chicago Public League continues to showcase tomorrow’s college and even pro stars today, in the relative intimacy of high school gymnasiums. Charlie Moore and Marcus LoVett have glowed as freshman phenoms this season at Cal and St. John’s, respectively. Not long ago, they formed the backcourt for Morgan Park, a school with a gym so tiny that the worst seat is in the fifth row.

Friends, this is happening in your backyard. Start with the better-than-the-state-tournament Public League playoffs, the Final Four of which is held every mid-February at Chicago State. Or find a game featuring Morgan Park’s ankle breaker Ayo Dosunmu or Simeon’s Tonka-truck-on-ice-skates Talen Horton-Tucker—both of whom will be back next season. Because it won’t be long before you’ll be watching them on TV at the next level and bragging that you saw them when.