Mount Carmel's DeAndre Craig (4) gets fouled by St. Rita's Nashawn Holmes (2) while going to the basket during a Catholic League Blue game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

Denver’s nugget: DeAndre Craig makes statement with 33 points as Mount Carmel downs St. Rita. ‘They walk like I walk.’

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Overlooked by major colleges, Mount Carmel’s DeAndre Craig is committed to Denver.

The senior guard has not garnered anywhere near the national attention of St. Rita junior stars James Brown (North Carolina), Nojus Indrusaitis and Morez Johnson (Illinois).

But Craig felt like he sent a strong message Tuesday night.

“I am the top player in the Catholic League,” Craig said. “There are a lot of great players in the Catholic League, but I do feel like I’m at the top.

Ahmad Henderson from Brother Rice is up there next to me. I feel like he and I have a lot of similarities in our games. These (St. Rita) guys, at the end of the day, put on their shoes just like I do. They walk like I walk.”

It’s hard to argue with Craig after the performance he delivered against St. Rita.

He poured in 33 points and was virtually unstoppable driving to the basket, leading the host Caravan to an 84-76 victory in a battle for first place in the Catholic League Blue.

Angelo Ciaravino scored 17 points, Lee Marks added 14 and Anthony Ciaravino contributed 10 for Mount Carmel (20-2, 8-0).

Johnson did his best to put St. Rita (13-9, 6-1) on his back, finishing with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Indrusaitis and Melvin Bell scored 16 apiece, while Brown finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Craig, however, took over the game. He scored nine points in the second quarter to push Mount Carmel ahead and closed out the win with 11 points in the fourth.

Mount Carmel's Anthony Ciaravino (21) drives to the basket against St, Rita during a Catholic League Blue game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

“I know there are a lot of really good players who are going to big schools,” Mount Carmel coach Phil Segroves said. “I think the University of Denver got the greatest steal in the country. DeAndre’s going to go to the Summit League and only get bigger, faster and stronger.

“I thought from day one that DeAndre was a Big Ten guard. Some people overlooked him. I thought he could play at Loyola or DePaul and he was overlooked there. But Denver has a great one coming.”

St. Rita is loaded with big, athletic shot blockers who typically make things tough for smaller guards like the 6-foot-1 Craig.

Craig, though, knew how to adjust — whether it was pulling up for a floater, maneuvering his body around the big guys for layups or finishing through hard contact.

Mount Carmel's Angelo Ciaravino (33) drives into the lane against St. Rita during a Catholic League Blue game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

“They had a lot of tall guys out there, but they couldn’t guard us on the perimeter,” Craig said. “I had to take advantage of that.”

Mount Carmel built a 35-27 halftime lead and was up by double digits for much of the second half.

St. Rita pulled within 62-57 early in the fourth, but Craig responded and Grant Best provided seven big points down the stretch.

“They’ve played a national schedule, so I take their record with a grain of salt,” Segroves said of St. Rita. “But the way we played (Tuesday night) … I don’t know … maybe we should be playing a schedule like that.”

Mount Carmel's Deandre Craig (4) puts up a shot as St. Rita's Nojus Indrusaitis (5) defends during a Catholic League Blue game in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

Marks helped Mount Carmel deal with a massive size disadvantage, playing tough defense inside.

“In these big games, we find a way to come together, play strong and just trust each other,” Marks said. “Being able to trust each other is the biggest part of why we have games like this.”

St. Rita coach Roshawn Russell tipped his cap to Craig.

“Unfortunately, coming in here, for some reason we just looked tight to me,” Russell said. “Mount Carmel hit us first.

“A lot of that had to do with DeAndre Craig, their senior. He set the tone for them and did a great job leading.”

Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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