If you think Naperville Central's boys basketball team looks good now, wait till you seem the Redhawks next year.
OK, next week. All right, tonight, against upset-minded Deerfield in a quarterfinal game of the Wheeling Wildcat Hardwood Classic.
This young Redhawk squad moved to 7-3 Wednesday night with a methodical 69-44 breaking down of Streamwood in a first-round tournament game. Based on the hurry-up, New England Patriot-like pace they play at, they're eager to go tonight against the Warriors, who surprised Prospect.
"We like to keep the tempo high. We don't like to go slow," guard Nicky Lopez said after the win, to which he contributed 11 points in a balanced effort, including a trio of 3-pointers and almost countless steals that set up a lot of open looks for his team.
Lopez's third triple, to open the second quarter, set the lead at 26-10 and Streamwood could never chisel it closer. He likes the way this young team sets up with its blend of youth, height, sharpshooting and quickness.
"We have (6-foot-9 junior center Nick) Czarnowski in the middle, then we surround him with good shooters," Lopez noted, like himself and backcourt running mate Ryan Antony at the point. They had 24 points and 4 3-pointers between them. Czarnowski missed just one shot en route to a 14-point evening in which he pretty much dominated around the basket.
Antony, another junior, helps keep things fluid and gets everyone involved.
"Ryan did a nice job running our sets and pushing the ball," said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer, whose club is the defending champion in this event and has won two of the last four.
But it's Lopez and 6-3 swingman Mike Blaszczyk (9 points despite foul problems) who help keep the team focused with their senior leadership. In good part thanks to them, guys like Czarnowski and first-time starting forward Patrick Maloney continue to grow into their roles. The bench mob of junior Matt Bennett and seniors Matt Auld and Rob Suntken provided valuable minutes that enabled the starters to get some rest.
Streamwood (4-7) just didn't have the depth or height to keep up with the Redhawks. Senior center Zack Harris (13 points) did his best at going toe-to-toe with Czarnowski and tried to draw him away from the basket defensively with his perimeter shooting but with only limited success thanks to the depth of Czarnowski's help. Guards Jacob Seiwert, Ryan Dichose and Kyle Strong battled gamely against Naperville's defensive pressure and Vince Williams and Antonio Harris weren't shy about battling the taller Redhawks on the boards, but Naperville just had too much.
"We knew how tough they were," said Sabres' head coach Tim Jones. "They're a very good team."
But the Sabres will face another very good one today in Prospect in the consolation bracket.
Meanwhile, Naperville Central's Kramer is also looking ahead.
"We've got to be more consistent on defense," he said, avoiding breakdowns and maintaining ball pressure. Against Deerfield today and further along in this tournament, Kramer knows, "We will get tested."