Now that we're all still trying to digest our food after eating too much over Thanksgiving week, here are some things that caught my attention during turkey tournament basketball action last week/weekend:
Most followers of St. Charles East's basketball team already knew about Purdue-bound junior standout Kendall Stephens and returning seniors Johnny Hondlik and Charlie Fisher.
However, first-year Saints coach Patrick Woods was pleased with what he saw from sophomore point guard Dominic Adduci, who proved to be a difference-maker last week.
Adduci displayed solid ball-handling skills and outside shooting, scoring 16 points in each of the Saints' victories over East Aurora and St. Charles North.
"It's going to be fun to have him around for three years," Woods said of the Wheaton Academy transfer. "I kind of have a little more patience for him because he is young, but if we're going to go with him, we've got to give him a little leash as far as room for error.
"We're going to make mistakes but it's how you respond to them and the effort with which you make them," added Woods, who wants his players to remain aggressive. "I don't want the kids looking over their shoulder at the bench."
Now the rivalry is on
As far as I'm concerned, a rivalry isn't a true one unless the teams are beating one another.
Now that St. Charles East snapped its 7-game losing streak with St. Charles North dating back to February of 2007, I say the cross-town rivalry is back on.
The Saints' 65-51 victory over St. Charles North last Saturday was an important hurdle for St. Charles East to climb.
"(St. Charles) North has dominated in the recent past so we wanted to send a message that we're going to be tough," said Woods. "I am looking forward to the battle (on) January 7 because I'm sure it's going to be another one like this."
The third meeting between the teams will be Feb. 8 at St. Charles East, and a possible fourth matchup could materialize come regional time.
Speaking of the Saints
After playing 4 games in 6 days, St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods was looking forward to watching his team practice this week in preparation for Friday's Upstate Eight Conference River Division opener against Streamwood.
"This tournament is tough because we have no preparation time," said the coach. "We're still learning the new system and we have a nice week of practice now."
North Stars will be OK
A 1-3 start wasn't exactly what St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin wanted but all-tournament selections Kyle Nelson and Quinten Payne should provide the North Stars with plenty of potential going forward.
Junior forward Kyle Swanson, who displayed 3-point shooting prowess, got his first taste of varsity basketball and figures to keep improving.
One key point may be whether the North Stars can figure out its own identity. If they play inside-outside ball, they've got a chance to be a legitimate force come tournament time.
What a difference a year makes
I realize that losing an all-state player like Ryan Boatright, who came off the bench to score 14 points in his collegiate debut last week for UConn, has to hurt but the East Aurora team I watched at St. Charles East was one that struggled mightily.
Put it this way -- the Tomcats averaged just 45 points in 4 consecutive tournament losses. Last year, Boatright poured in 55 points during a hard-fought Thanksgiving tourney victory over St. Charles North.
How bad was it for the Tomcats?
They were outscored by an average of 25-plus points per game. Even more troubling was the fact that East Aurora's defense allowed more than 70 points per contest.
'Guarded' optimism for Kaneland
A year ago, Kaneland captured its first conference basketball title in 29 years by winning the Northern Illinois Big 12 crown.
Based on their play at last weekend's 36th annual Ken Peddy Windmill City Classic in Batavia, the Knights should be considered as strong contenders once again this season.
Despite not having a single player taller than 6-4, Kaneland won 2 of 3 tournament games, capped by its 55-42 win over host Batavia. Led by seniors Trever Heinle, Tyler Heinle, Marcel Neil (a transfer from West Aurora), junior Dan Miller, and sophomore Thomas Williams, the Knights' starting lineup is filled with guards who can take care of the basketball.
And sophomore point guard Drew David, who quarterbacked the Knights to the Class 5A football semifinals, elected to give his body some rest last weekend. David is expected back for Friday's conference opener against Morris.
If Kaneland hopes to improve upon last year's 17-9 finish, it will have to crash the boards against bigger opponents.
"It's something that we stress every day in practice," said Knights coach Brian Johnson. "We don't have any 6-5 or 6-6 guys so we really try to stress hitting the glass on every shot."
Kaneland's lone tourney loss was a 56-55 first-round decision at the hands of eventual champion St. Francis.
Who needs practice?
Coming off an all-state football campaign, Batavia power forward Cole Gardner proved he can be a force on the basketball court, too.
The 6-6 senior enjoyed a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds in his first start during the Bulldogs' 56-44 loss to St. Francis.
He certainly made a believer out of Spartans coach Bob Ward.
"Gardner is a full-grown man," said Ward. "We probably had four guys guarding him at one point. For a kid who just comes off a football season, he doesn't look like he just came off a football season. He's a very skilled basketball player."
The list of sophomores already making their presence felt for area teams includes Batavia guard Micah Coffey, whose older brothers Jordan and Jesse were long-time varsity veterans; Kaneland's Thomas Williams and Drew David; St. Charles East center David Mason and Dominic Adduci; and St. Charles North guard Alec Goetz.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org
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