After graduating four starters from last season -- three standing 6-foot-6 or taller -- no one knew what to expect from Glenbard West.
Now everyone knows.
Sweeping all three games at the District 87 tournament was just the beginning. The Hilltoppers (6-0, 2-0) added West Suburban Silver wins over Lyons Twp. and Downers Grove North in addition to a crossover win against Hinsdale South.
Another test comes Friday in a Silver showdown against York (6-1, 2-0).
"We're still trying to figure ourselves out a little bit," said Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder. "But we're obviously pleased with the start we've had."
Glenbard West's emphasis shifted from the post to the perimeter with a group that's quick and athletic across the board. The Hilltoppers' strong start is even more surprising considering senior guard Jeff Levesque, the team's lone returning starter, has been out with a stress fracture.
The Hilltoppers still have immense athleticism. Corey Davis, one of the few other players with varsity experience, has stepped in at the point guard spot and is averaging 7 assists and 7 rebounds.
Dikiria Washington is a defensive stopper on the perimeter, while Keith Hayes, a sophomore, has emerged as Glenbard West's leading scorer. He's hitting 50 percent of his 3-pointers and 83 percent of his free throws.
With Sean Jenner holding his own inside the Hilltoppers have done a great job accepting roles.
"Beating a team like Glenbard East definitely gave us confidence," Hoder said. "I'm really proud of how the guys have come together."
Lisle has had some good pieces before, this 5-3 group looks to be the best at least since coach Mark LaScala went 21-11 with Dan Wenclawski and Derek Leonard in his first season as head coach, 2006-07.
"I think that remains to be seen," LaScala said. "We were pretty good my first year, but this team has a lot more size than that. In our little win streak we have really dominated the glass."
Lisle is 3-0 in the Interstate Eight Conference entering Friday's game against Manteno and has won five straight after starting 0-3 at Lisle's own Thanksgiving Tournament.
The size LaScala noted comes from Nick Saul, Jeremy Glavanovits and Shane Murray, all 6-foot-5 and taller and mainly in the banger-putback mode. A little shorter but more athletic are 6-2 forwards Lamont Ross and Dawon Burrell, who scored a personal-high 27 points in Saturday's 65-55 win over Latin.
Ross, a senior transfer from Romeoville, averages 10.3 points, second to Burrell's 11.3. Another senior transfer, point guard Cody Monson of Kentucky, is at 9.4 points.
The two transfers mean the Lions still are discovering how to play together, but they assembled a 26-2 run in a 62-32 win over Plano and a 23-2 run in a 75-52 win over Reed-Custer.
The big games -- against the likes of Seneca, Herscher or improved Wilmington in the Interstate Eight, or at Plano's holiday tournament -- have yet to come. Lisle has shown it can score in bunches, but LaScala is still looking for better shot selection, consistency and the ability to beat teams in a half-court setting.
"We have to show we can play four quarters and show we can finish games," he said.
No news is good news:
Getting Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton to expound on the Wildcats' success is nearly impossible.
"Nothing new here," the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association hall of famer replied to an email check-in about typically solid Neuqua Valley (8-0).
In itself that is really all one needs to know about the Wildcats, who enter Thursday's Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division game at Bartlett with a spotless 4-0 record. If there were something truly negative Sutton would be all over it.
As is, he's got point guard Jabari Sandifer and post Pat Kenny routinely scoring in double figures, with more recent output from Elijah Robertson, Josh Piotrowski and sophomore Connor Raridon.
More to Sutton's liking, the Wildcats are allowing less than 44 points a game.
"We are very balanced, nobody is putting up big numbers," he reported. "We play good defense. Our offense is very inconsistent."
For now that will have to -- and has to this point -- suffice.
Fly to the Eagle Club Shootout:
There's good and there's bad about high school athletic contests being held on Sunday. But if they're going to be held, it's nice if they're close to home like the Dec. 16 Eagle Club Shootout at Benedictine University's newly renovated Rice Center in Lisle. Cost of admission is a reasonable $5.
It's actually an interesting four-game presentation, which features Glenbard East and Wheaton North.
Kicking off a slate of intriguing matchups is Maine South against Lane Tech at noon.
At 2 p.m. Collins meets Wheaton North. Collins got off to just a 1-5 start but due to lack of a Thanksgiving tournament the Falcons only have three games under their belt, just 2-1 heading into Friday's DuPage Valley Conference tilt at Glenbard East.
The 4 p.m. game between said Glenbard East and Rockford Lutheran pits two third-place state teams over the past two seasons -- the Rams in 2011 in Class 4A and Rockford Lutheran last season in Class 2A. Headed by the Rams' 5-1 start, these two teams combined for a 9-2 record coming into the week.
The 6 p.m. finale offers a pair of private schools in Providence and Nazareth. One usually doesn't count Nazareth among the East Suburban Catholic Conference's powers when measured against Benet, Notre Dame, Marist and such, but John Bonk and his college of Roadrunners coaches keep rolling along, off to a 6-1 start.
When 6-foot-9 junior center Nick Czarnowski gets into foul trouble for Naperville Central, the Redhawks (4-3) need to be careful with their top player.
A prime example came in Saturday's 69-64 nonconference overtime home win over Hinsdale Central (3-3). Czarnowski picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter, his third foul late in the second quarter and his fourth foul in the final minute of the third.
In the fourth quarter and overtime, Redhawks coach Pete Kramer had to pick his moments to have Czarnowski on the court to keep him from fouling out of a tight game.
"The whole fourth quarter we were subbing in and out, offense for defense," Kramer said.
Czarnowski scored only 5 of his 12 points after the third quarter, but his rebounding and defensive presence were critical down the stretch as the Redhawks hung on for the victory.
Benet in demand:
Bob Rylko and The Integrity Group have set the lineup for the three-game McDonald's City-Suburban Showdown on Feb. 23. Smack dab in the middle is Benet (7-1). The Redwings get the 6 p.m. game against Morgan Park.
Also on the tripleheader are DeLaSalle-Proviso East at 4 p.m. and Simeon-Marist at 8 p.m. The City-Suburban Showdown will be played at the House of Hope Arena down on 114th Street in Chicago. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for students and can be had by reaching TicketMaster or, for Redwings fans and friends, at Benet.
Benet's also on the docket for another Integrity Group production, the High School Hoops Showdown on Jan. 26 at Sears Centre. The Redwings play Naperville Central, which gave Benet its sole loss at the Hoops for Healing Thanksgiving Tournament.