NORTH SUBURBAN PRAIRIE
Coach: Jim White, 3rd season
Last year: 5-22 (0-12 NSC Prairie)
Last year's tournament: Lost in the North Chicago regional semifinal to North Chicago, 78-37.
Key players lost: G Anthony Formella (CLC), G Tyler Innis
Key players returning: G AJ Marsiglio, sr.
Top newcomers: F Matt Powers, jr., G Josh Bell, jr., F Jack Kovachs, jr., F Jason Mrkovich, jr., F Kyle Gofron, soph.
Outlook: When veteran point guard Anthony Formella, who is now playing at College of Lake County, was lost last season to a shoulder injury, AJ Marsiglio stepped in and took over, often leading the Sequoits in points and assists. The unexpected experience Marsiglio gained was invaluable. The unfortunate news for the Sequoits is that Marsiglio's experience is some of the only experience that returns to this year's roster. "We will be young this year. The only senior who saw much time last year as a junior was AJ," Antioch coach Jim White said. "But where things start to look up for us is that we have numerous juniors and sophomores that will be stepping into our rotation and will provide some immediate play for our squad. The juniors had a very successful season last year as sophomores and learned how to play well together." White is particularly excited about juniors Matt Powers, Josh Bell, Jack Kovachs, Jason Mrkovich and Kyle Gofron. Powers is a 6-foot-4 forward who got strong in the weight room during the off-season while Bell is a point guard who can create for himself and his teammates. Gofron is just a sophomore who was moved up to the sophomore team last year as a freshman. "(Kyle) is an all-around athlete who is ready to play at the varsity level," White said. "We'll have a deep rotation and our results from last year will certainly motivate this group. Their work ethic is based around the idea of getting Sequoits hoops out of the basement of our division."
Opener: Monday vs. Crystal Lake Central in the Coaches vs. Cancer Thanksgiving tournament at Crystal Lake Central (7:30 p.m.)
Coach: Wayne Bosworth, 6th season
Last year: 13-14 (6-6 NSC Prairie)
Last year's tournament: Lost in the Prospect regional quarterfinal to Grayslake North, 47-46.
Key players lost: F Keion Miller, F Tom Blanchette
Key players returning: G Ryan Noda, sr., G Mike Burns, sr., F Steve Dunning, sr., G Rayvon Jones, sr.
Top newcomers: F Deonte Dillon, jr., G Mikel Graves, jr.
Outlook: Experience should not be an issue at Grant. Not only are the 10 seniors on the roster experienced with basketball, they're also experienced with each other. "That core group of 10 seniors has been playing together since seventh grade," Grant coach Wayne Bosworth said. "We are much further ahead now than we were last year at this point." Leading the way for that big senior class is guard Ryan Noda, who averaged 10 points, 6 assists, 3.3 steals and 4.2 rebounds per game last year as a junior. He's a complete player who can be a heady point guard but can also fill the role of shooter or defensive stopper. Noda was an honorable mention all-conference selection last year and has already signed on to play baseball next year at Cincinnati. Fellow seniors Mike Burns (9.4 ppg last year) and Rayvon Jones (8 ppg) return to help Noda in the backcourt while forward Steve Dunning will be the Bulldogs' top threat inside. Dunning averaged about 10 points and 5 rebounds per game last season and is quick to the basket. Trying to break their way into the senior-dominated rotation will be junior forward Deonte Dillon and junior guard Mikel Graves. "We have a lot of juniors capable of coming in and contributing right away," Bosworth said. "Our goals are to improve every day in practice and see where that takes us."
Opener: Monday vs. Machesney Park Harlem at the Johnsburg Thanksgiving tournament (5:30 p.m.)
Coach: Chris Snyder, 4th season
Last year: 24-7 (11-1 NSC Prairie)
Last year's tournament: Lost in the Antioch sectional semifinal to Carmel, 46-42.
Key players lost: G Direll Clark, G Troy Swindle, G Jake Kohler, F Justin Bergeron, G Andrew Spencer
Key players returning: G/F TJ Edwards, sr., F Michal Tomsiewicz, sr., G Tramone Hudson, jr.
Top newcomers: G Jake Balliu, jr., F Ethan Sage, jr., G Devon Cedzidlo, soph., G Ben Haviland, jr., F David Milostan, jr., G Ryan Ronayne, jr.
Outlook: The downside to having a talented, senior dominated team is that the hole they leave the following season can be sizeable. The upside is that they almost certainly left an impression with the players who are left to follow in their footsteps. "We were a senior-dominated team last year that relied heavily on our seniors," said Lakes coach Chris Snyder, who watched seniors such as Direll Clark, Troy Swindle, Jake Kohler, Justin Bergeron and Andrew Spencer put together a 24-win season last year that included a Prairie Division co-championship and a regional title. "The benefit of that is that we have a group of players who saw and learned first-hand from a talented group of players on how to compete and what it takes to reach that next level." One of those players is senior guard TJ Edwards, who was one of the few non-seniors to get major minutes last year. The starting quarterback for the Lakes football team, Edwards suffered a knee injury this fall and missed the last few weeks of the season. His productivity might not hit its potential until later in the season, but he can still be the leader he was on the field in football. "TJ Edwards will be a great senior leader for us this year," Snyder said. "He will be instrumental in preparing our young guys for the next step in their development." The "young guys" at Lakes, this year's juniors, have had success. They were division champions as sophomores last year. "They know what it takes to win," Snyder said. "We just need to get them ready for the varsity level." Guards Jake Balliu, Ben Haviland and Ryan Ronayne and forwards Ethan Sage and David Milostan are among the most promising juniors while sophomore Devyn Cedzidlo, a backfield standout on the football team, will also work his way into the rotation. Meanwhile, Michal Tomsiewicz and Tramone Hudson, who were on the varsity last year, will be looking for more minutes. Both averaged around 3 points per game last season. "Michal will provide some size for us and Tramone will run the show at point guard. I am looking for him to have a breakout year for us. He's a dynamic player," Snyder said. "We will need to be a hard-working group that uses our quickness and athleticism to win games. These guys have the want and desire, we just need to work on how to get there."
Opener: Monday vs. Chicago Uplift at the Mundelein Thanksgiving tournament (6 p.m.)
Round Lake Panthers
Coach: Jeremy Fisher, 1st season
Last year: 4-21 (0-12 NSC Prairie)
Last year's tournament: Lost in the Deerfield regional quarterfinal to Palatine, 71-48.
Key players lost: F James Mobley, C Zack Pick
Key players returning: G Karnell Wright, sr., F Mateusz Lopez, sr., G Rayshawn Bommon, sr.
Top newcomers: G Jashani Lear, jr.
Outlook: It's back for Round 2 for Round Lake head coach Jeremy Fisher. This is technically his first year at the helm, but just of this stint. Fisher was also the Panthers' head coach from 2007 to 2009. He chose to step aside for various reasons, including his desire to spend more time with his family. "It's good. I'm really enjoying being back as head coach," Fisher said. "When (former coach) Jim Roberts announced that he was leaving (for Jacobs), right away I went to our athletic director to talk about the position and to let him know that I was interested. I had talked to my wife about it and it was like, 'Let's go for another round.' I felt like the first time around I really didn't get a chance to finish the job that I set out to do. I wanted to give it another shot." Fisher stayed within the school district and has been coaching underlevel teams at Round Lake for the last couple of seasons. In fact, the seniors now, including leading returning scorer Karnell Wright (18 ppg), played for Fisher as sophomores. "I've really gotten to know those seniors over the years and it's a really good group," Fisher said. "Karnell does a good job of being a leader on the floor for us. He's also a good ball-handler and is really good at attacking the rim." Other seniors who return are forwards Mateusz Lopez and Miquel Ruiz and guards Bobby Pisarski and Rayshawn Bommon. "We have a good number of returning players," Fisher said. "I'm also not changing a whole lot, which will help. I thought Jim Roberts ran a really good program, so we're going to pick the ball up and keep going with many of the things he did. Some things will be different, like some offensive sets. But I thought it might be too hard to do everything brand new." Besides Roberts, another familiar face that won't be back at Round Lake this season is James Mobley. The dynamic forward, who started for the Panthers as a freshman last year, transferred to Libertyville. "James is a great kid and I remember having some really good conversations with him. We'll miss him," said Fisher, who is anxious to see if junior guard Jashani Lear, a transfer from Zion-Benton can help fill the void. "But I think that our goals are the same. We think we can be a competitive team in the Prairie Division."
Opener: Monday vs. Woodstock at Woodstock (7 p.m.)
Vernon Hills Cougars
Coach: Matt McCarty, 11th season
Last year: 10-17 (6-6 NSC Prairie)
Last year's tournament: Lost in the Vernon Hills regional semifinal to Wauconda, 52-50.
Key players lost: G Stephen Curry, F TJ Flis, F Trent Fulton
Key players returning: G Robby Nardini, jr., G Mike Mariella
Top newcomers: F Matt Weaver, jr., C Lem Turner, jr., G Cory Levin, jr., G/F Sam Rattner, jr., G/F Bo Manso, jr.
Outlook: The numbers are a little scary at Vernon Hills, which lost a lot of firepower from a team that won just 10 games last season. "We graduated seven seniors, and return only 11 points per game," said Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty, whose biggest loss is guard Stephen Curry and his 17-point scoring average. "Since we graduated nearly 80 percent of our scoring, we will obviously be looking for some of our newcomers to step up on the offensive end." McCarty will be looking first toward guards Robby Nardini and Mike Mariella. Nardini averaged around 8 points per game last season while Mariella was at about 3 points per game. "They had some very efficient games for us late last season," McCarty said of Nardini and Mariella. Juniors Matt Weaver, Lem Turner, Cory Levin, Sam Rattner and Bo Manso will be worked heavily into the rotation with Nardini and Mariella. Turner will likely be the Cougars' main presence in the paint, both offensively and defensively. "He's got some nice athletic qualities to his game," McCarty said of Turner. "We are limited on overall varsity experience, but I am pleased with the development of our newcomers."
Opener: Monday vs. Maine East at the Northridge Prep tournament (7:30 p.m.)
Coach: Scott Luetschwager, 5th season
Last year: 14-15 (6-6 NSC Prairie)
Last year's tournament: Lost in the Vernon Hills regional championship to Lakes, 49-35.
Key players lost: G Austin Swenson (Rose-Hulman, football), G Kodey Thomas, G Keith Blomberg, G Devon King
Key players returning: C Ricky Sidlowski, jr., G Dion Head, sr., G Joey Lovelle, sr.
Top newcomers: F Ben Carlson, jr., G Dylan Latiolais, soph., F Matt Bulgarelli, jr.
Outlook: Not everything about basketball is best taught on the court. "We are spending more time in the classroom teaching this year," said Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager, who has a lot of players to get up to speed this year. The Bulldogs lost four of five starters from last year's team and return only three players who saw significant playing time. "We used the time we had this summer to find out what kind of team we were going to be and what style of play would fit us best," Luetschwager said. "When you have to replace 80 percent of your starting lineup, you have to find individuals who play well together." Luetschwager will build around junior center Ricky Sidlowski, the only returning starter from last year. He averaged 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Dion Head (7.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.7 apg) will also be a focal point as he got major minutes off the bench last season. "I have high expectations for Dion Head," Luetschwager said. "He has been on the varsity team for a year and a half. We are looking for him to use his experience to set the tone in practice and on game day. We are looking for Ricky Sidlowski to take the next step in his progression as a player. As the lone returning starter, we are looking for Ricky to be one of our vocal leaders on defense and to find ways to assert himself offensively." Also back from last season is senior guard Joey Lovelle, who averaged 2 points per game. Newcomers who look promising are junior forwards Ben Carlson and Matt Bulgarelli and sophomore guard Dylan Latiolais.
Opener: Monday vs. Grayslake North at the Richmond-Burton tournament (5:30 p.m.)