Christian Liberty Academy
Last year: 7-21, 1-8 Northeastern Athletic Conference
Coach: Jed Bennett (3rd season, 25-32 overall)
Top players returning: Seniors Aaron Cunningham (6-4) and Wesley Swiderek (6-2), and juniors Tenyu Aikawa (6-4) and Ben Daniel (5-9).
Outlook: Six of Christian Liberty's nine players are new to the team this year. Only Cunningham, Aikawa and Daniel return from last season's 7-21 team, but don't count the Chargers out before they get started. "We've worked hard together a lot over the summer," coach Jed Bennett said. "We had a really good summer. We went 5-3 in our summer league and went to a couple of tournaments." Bennett is counting on Daniel and Cunningham for on-court leadership. "When I started coaching on the junior varsity, Aaron was a freshman. It'll be my fourth year coaching him. Ben was the starting point guard as a sophomore, and is a leader on the floor." Heading into the Buffalo Grove Thanksgiving Tournament, competition for the remaining starting spots is still open. "We haven't settled on a starting five," Bennett said. "There are seven guys who could start." Offensively, Bennett would like to see his team play an up-tempo game. "We want to be able to push the tempo any time we can, and we're very comfortable in half-court sets, too. We work on both," Bennett said. Daniel, 5-9 junior Sam Silva and 6-3 junior Paul Weiss are the team's best shooters. Silva is in his first year on the team, having made the switch from wrestling to basketball. Stopping the opposing team's shooters is the ticket to playing time. "You've got to learn to play defense if you want to get on the floor," Bennett said "We haven't had problems with people getting that. At this point, we're primarily a man-to-man team, and we're working on some zone stuff, too. We like man-to-man a lot." Looking to the NAC race, Bennett would like his Chargers to make a move up the standings. "We've got Mooseheart in our conference, and Luther North brought back a lot this year. The other team I like is Westminster. They're really well coached and have some guys coming back. We'd like to be in the top third of our conference and be in a regional championship." The first step on that journey begins in Buffalo Grove. "We have to play well early in the year, which helps with seeding for the regional," Bennett said. "We have to stay healthy and learn how to play basketball together. That's team chemistry."