Last year: 15-12 overall, 6-4 Mid-Suburban East
Coach: Keith Peterson (1st Year)
Top players: Andrew Apel (G, 13 ppg.), Scott Smithern (G, 6 ppg.)
Outlook: Keith Peterson is looking forward to his first taste of coaching varsity basketball after 12 years in the lower levels.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Peterson. "Ever since I played at Palatine, I wanted to be a head coach. I've been around the Mid-Suburban League for a long time, so I know how competitive it will be."
Replacing all-area guard Luke Potnick will be difficult for the Bison, but the cupboard is not bare. Seniors Andrew Apel a 6-foot-1 senior, returns with his 13 ppg. average. His running mate will be Scott Smithern, who averaged about 6 points last season. Both played for the Bison football team.
"We're going to look for Apel to be our go-to guy," said Peterson. "He's going to be the glue to the team."
Kyle Calcagno at 6-2 will be one forward along with Ryan Williams who's 6-1.
Joey Domingo, who Peterson said improved his all-around game during the summer, will miss the first week or so of the season due to an ankle sprain suffered in practice a week ago. In his place, 6-5 sophomore Hans Heller will get some valuable playing experience early in the season.
Another soph, Joey Pinkidis, along with seniors Danny Marchiafava and David Warden, will be asked to contribute.
"Were going to ask our seniors to be able to step up and assume new roles," said Peterson. "We're small, so were going to do a lot of moving and cutting. On defense we're going to do a lot of half-court pressuring. If our key players rebound and score, we're going to have a good season. They players will have to learn to become my voice on the floor."
Last year: 13-16, 6-4 Mid-Suburban East
Coach: Anthony Furman (7th year)
Top players returning: Joell Melendez (G, 8 ppg,) Bryan Alcazar (G, 4 ppg)
Outlook: Graduation hit Elk Grove hard with the loss of Kishan Patel and Austin Amman, who averaged 28 points between them. Furman still has some good returnees, along with some good height this year from up-and-coming juniors. The Grenadiers may have lost most of the scoring punch from last year's 13-16 squad -- especially Amann (18.9 ppg.) -- but Furman feels this group can help the Grenadiers turn the corner. "For the last few years we've been in the mix for the division championship," said Furman. "This year the players are taking the attitude that we can be right in the middle of the conference race. We're taking a step in the right direction with this group and we want to show that were progessing in the right direction."
That direction is going to start with Joell Melendez and Bryan Alcazar, two players who logged plenty of playing time last season. Melendez will handle the point guard with Alcazar excelling as a defensive stopper. Dan Hadler, a 6-foot 3 junior forward, will work the inside along with another returnee in 6-4 senior Scott Furlong. Furman is excited about 6-foot-6 junior Tyler Ingebrigtsen, who played well on the varsity after a mid-year call up from the sophomore level. Junior Eric Pillath, a 6 foot 3 junior, will get playing time in a backup role. The Grenadiers welcome back two former players in a pair of football standouts, quarterback Adam O'Malley and receiver John Pass. Both players played basketball at the lower levels but decided to come out for this year's hoops team. "O'Malley and Pass will bring athleticism and strength to the team," said Furman. "As time goes on I expect that they will see more playing time. It's good to have them back." Furman has been impressed with what he has seen in practice. "We're sharing the ball very well and our big men have really been working on posting up outside, and if the shot is not there kicking back to the guards for a 3-point attempt. We have really nice depth and I think that we should be able to go 10 deep right now. I think we're going to have some good balanced scoring which will keep the other team's defense honest."
The Grenadiers open the season at the Fenton tournament on Monday; Elk Grove will face long time foe Lake Park at 5:30 pm. The tournament continues during the week. Elk Grove will be one of the new entrants to the expanded York Holiday Tournament in December.
Last year: 8-20 overall, 4-6 Mid-Suburban East
Coach: Steve Messer (9th year)
Top players returning: Mike Fuerst (F, 14 ppg.), Alex Mueller (G, 9 ppg.) Payton Haas (G), Max Heeren (F)
Outlook: With experience and depth look for the Huskies to battle Prospect for the division title. "I am really excited about this team," said Hersey basketball coach Steve Messer. "This team has the most talent and experience that we have had in awhile."
Messer has a right to be excited about this group of Huskies. Hersey has some good talent returning in key positions and will look to challenge Prospect in the division. Hersey is going to build around Mike Fuerst and Alex Mueller. Fuerst is the son of former Prospect standout Jeff Fuerst.
Fuerst is now 6-foot-5 and comes in at 195 pounds; he'll provide inside scoring and rebounding. And Messer is excited about defensive specialist in Mueller.
"Alex was a all-conference player last year but his biggest role for us is going to be on defense," said Messer. "He took 38 charges last season, which is a huge number. He is really good at help defense"
Rounding out the Huskies' top seven players will be juniors Max Heeren, Brandon Hattern, and Payton Haas. Seniors Grant Burke and Tyndale Dahnweih will be counted on to play valuable minutes. Dahnweih figures to help disrupting other team's offenses from a guard spot.
Ajibola Oke-Diran and Messer's son Michael, who is out of action until January as he recovers from a knee injury, will add more depth.
"We don't have a ton of height but we're going to be very competitive," said Messer. "For us to succeed, our juniors are going to play up to their roles. All the signs right now are positive. We have to develop to become smart players and stay healthy."
Messer said that with the depth that the Huskies have that they will be able to mix and match depending on the opponent's strengths and weakness. He looks for the MSL East to be a tight race.
The Huskies open their season at the Niles West Thanksgiving Tournament and then head southwest to Pekin for their holiday tournament in December.
"Our players feel like we have what it takes to win the division," Messer said. "We are hoping that the competition and the hard work the players have shown will lead to success."
Last year: 15-12 overall, 8-2 MSL East (champions)
Coach: John Camardella (7th year)
Top returner: Bobby Frasco (G 15 ppg)
Outlook: Frasco is going to bring to bring experience to the Knights, who lost key players to graduation. Role players from last year will be asked to step up. Juniors who were 24-1 last season will certainly help. Prospect has won the MSL East five of the last six years, but this one may be the most challenging in recent years. Still, the tools are there for the Knights to be contenders again. The Knights' schedule will be a character-builder, with their first eight games on the road until Dec. 17, when they face host Palatine in a nonconference MSL crossover. Frasco averaged 15 ppg last season will be looked upon early for a leadership and scoring role. He has drawn interest from several Division I programs and has the speed and soft touch to be a mainstay in Prospect's offense. At the other guard slot will be Max Cahill, who has a good 3-point range ability and will be looked upon to be a key defender. Danny Thomas was the Knights' sixth man and his improved play from the outside and inside will give Prospect a dual threat. Juniors Kyle Formanski and Kyle Beyak will be counted on in important roles. Formaski, at 6-foot 4, will be looked at to be a finisher around the basket and rebound. Beyak who was the point guard on the sophomore team last season, will be asked to run the offense.
"This is a real well-conditioned group," said Camardella. "I've been impressed with the way we've been passing the ball and running the court. That's a big plus considering how many players we lost to graduation. Last year we averaged about 52 points a game, and this year we're looking to step it up with our speed. We're going to be in a attack mode. We have to be able to control the tempo of the games."
Two seniors -- Alex Goneh and Nick Lazarz -- will play important roles if the Knights are to be the top contender for the MSL East crown. Goneh is a versatile player and who will be playing inside and outside; Lazarz was a backup point guard last year and will add needed depth. Junior Ernest Kiseliovas started every game on the sophomore level and Camardella expect him to play a strong part in the Knights' transition game.
The Knights bulked up their nonconference schedule with Stevenson, Warren, Niles North, Lyons, Glenbrook North and Warren. Prospect will also compete in the St. Viator Thanksgiving Tournament. The Knights will open with Conant, followed by Highland Park, Walther Lutheran and the host Lions the final night. Prospect will also be at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic in late December.
"Or kids are very mature as players," said Camardella. "We want to challenge them by having them play the best nonconference teams that we could schedule."
Last year: 10-15, 5-5 Mid-Suburban East
Coach: Kevin Katovich (12th year)
Top player returning: Matt Dolan (F, 15 ppg)
Outlook: With a healthy group of players, the Mustangs are hoping to define roles for themselves early get prepared for the conference season. That would be a welcome change from a year ago, when Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich was looking for healthy bodies to fill out the roster as football injuries took their toll in the early parts of the season. But this season, everyone is healthy and ready to go. Only two football players -- seniors Matt Dolan (6-foot-4) and Calvin Gunn (5-8) are on the roster, and they avoided the injury bug. Dolan is the lone returnee from last year's 10-15 and 5-5 Mid-Suburban East squad. He scored 15 ppg, but according to Katovich the senior swingman has improved his game. "Last year Dolan was a solid inside scorer," said Katovich. "This season he has worked on his outside game, and that will be a help." Jonny Ungurean at (6-3) and Pat Kramp are seniors have made good impressions so far in the preseason practice. Gunn's running mate at guard will be A.J. Aloquin, who saw considerable playing time last year as a sophomore. "So far I really like our point guard play," said Katovich. "I think either one is going to be able to handle the job of keeping the offense going." Matt Kudla, a 6-foot-2 senior, is back on the team and looks to be one of the starting forwards. Kudla was one of the managers on the Mustangs girls team that finished second in Class 4A last winter. "We've really been playing well together in practice," said Katovich. "They are very coachable, unselfish and are a fun group to be around. We're going to be successful if our bench comes through for us. We're going to know a little bit better where we stand after the Palatine Thanksgiving Tournament. At that point you have an idea where everyone fits in." Players such as Charlie Metzger, Matt Wojcik and Terry Moran will be called on by Katovich to play key roles off the bench. "Conference-wise, Prospect looks best on paper and then Hersey. I look for Wheeling to improve and Elk Grove and Buffalo Grove and us to make things interesting. Going into the season our seniors are showing good leadership qualities. That's a nice way to start the season."
Last year: 6-21 overall, 1-9 Mid-Suburban East
Coach: Anthony Como (2nd year)
Top players returning: Jeremy Stephani (G, 15 ppg.), Chris Pierro (G, 7 ppg.)
Outlook: Stephani is a four-year starter and brings a solid all-around game. Pierro is a gamer and will be counted upon to run the point. Second-year coach Anthony Como is hoping his Wildcats will pick up where they left off last season.
"We played some of our best basketball the last few weeks of the season," said Como. " Our record doesn't show it, but we really played well. What I like about this group is they have shown in practice to be fighters. They are tough-minded and are tired of losing. I think we will be competitive on the court."
Stephani, a 6-foot-1 senior, will be a key component. He is the Mid-Suburban League's only four-year starter. Como is banking on that experience to help Wheeling in the early going.
Pierro will need to be more consistent for Wheeling to fare well.
"He's a three-year starter," said Como. "If you ask him he would tell you that he underachieved at times. Now he has that full year of (varsity) experience."
Como hopes for big things from senior Nate Laude, who stands 5-9. He was the captain on the Wildcats' second-place state finisher in soccer.
"He has really brought a high amount of energy to the practices," said Como. "He know what it takes to win on the field. I'm looking for him to carry that over come game time. He has really worked hard in the off-season to improve his game."
A pair of juniors -- Jake Jordan and Bobby Webber -- will start at the forward position. Both saw some quality minutes as sophomores on the varsity squad and Como expects to see the improvement continue.
Justin Webb will be a key player off the bench. When he returns in January, Ola Orengundade will give Wheeling more depth.
"To be successful we need to start out the season strong on defense," said Como. "We're going to go as far as our top seven players take us. They have had a year to adjust to my coaching style and what I want them to do on the court. Now let's see how they execute."
Wheeling will be tested early at the very competitive Ridgewood Thanksgiving Tournament. The Wildcats of course will be the hosts in the annual Hardwood Classic in December.