Huntley Red Raiders
Last year: 17-9, 11-1 Fox Valley Valley (first)
Coach: Marty Manning, eighth season (141-60)
Top returnees: seniors Amanze Egekeze (6-8, F), Zach Gorney (6-4, F), Blake Jacobs (6-2, G), Dan Janus (6-3, F), Trevor Oslance (5-10, G), Jason Shields (5-9, G), Kyle Slonka (5-7, PG), Brad Spoeth (5-10, PG), Riley Wicks (6-4, G)
Top newcomers: juniors Connor Boesch (6-5, F), Josh Esikiel (6-0, PG); freshman Jack Bessey (6-1, G)
Outlook: Winners of three straight outright titles in the Fox Valley Conference's Valley Division, Huntley is poised to make a run at No. 4 with seven seniors and the tallest lineup the Red Raiders have put on the floor since Corey Mader and Anthony Jaggers anchored coach Marty Manning's first team in 2006-07. This team's unquestioned leader is four-year varsity forward/center Amanze Egekeze, who committed to Belmont last June. Egekeze missed the first half of his junior season while recuperating from surgery to address knee tendinitis, but he returned in January to average 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. A 69-percent free-throw shooter, he will only benefit from the emphasized enforcement of rules governing body contact in the post. Now fully healthy, Egekeze is ready to fulfill the promise of his potential. "He is looking really good," Manning. "I'm disappointed people last year didn't get to see how good he is because he was coming off the injury. I think people will be shocked at his athleticism and skill level. He's shooting it really well and he's doing a good job in terms of his role as a leader of this team. If the new rules are going to go like people are saying and you can't hand check Amanze or push him in the back, I don't know how anybody is going to guard him." Also returning is 6-4 forward Zach Gorney, a versatile, aggressive senior who last year scored 58 of his 219 points from the free-throw line. Guards Blake Jacobs and Riley Wicks return on the perimeter. Jacobs, also the school's starting quarterback, played in 25 of 26 games a season ago. He sank 11 of 32 attempted 3-pointers in a reserve role and averaged 3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Riley Wicks was one of Huntley's most effective players in summer-league play, his coach said, and could be a major factor if back pain that limited him last season to 17 games does not reoccur. Forward Josh Esikiel is the younger brother of former Streamwood All-Area guard Tem Esikiel. Josh missed chunks of last season but could make up for lost time with his athleticism and ability to finish around the rim. Senior point guard Kyle Slonka was the last guy to make the team last year, but Manning said he is likely to gain playing time as a senior, the reward for his off-season work to improve. Connor Boesch (6-5) adds to Huntley's overall height advantage. Bessey is the first freshman to be elevated to varsity since Egekeze, though Manning said the talented newcomer reminds him more of Bryce Only, another four-year varsity player. Also a varsity soccer player, Bessey "has a great feel for the game and understands the importance of spacing," his coach said. This team also brings an important intangible to the table. "The difference from last year is that these guys are hungrier," Manning said. "I think they are more appreciative of playing time. They don't feel it is owed to them so they play hard in practice. I like the attitude so far."