Coach: Brendan Lyons.
Last year: 14-15, 4-8, fifth in West Suburban Gold; lost 63-48 to Willowbrook in Class 4A Benet regional quarterfinals.
Top players: Colton Noel, sr. F; Jack Kalbas, sr. G; Michael Williams, sr. F; Stevan Jones, sr. F; Bobby Daniels, sr. G; Cyril Mathew, sr. G; Eric Lynch, sr. F; Mike Pudlo, jr. F; Adem Mehmeti, so. G.
Scouting report: Led by three returning starters -- Noel, Kalbas and Williams -- the Blazers have hopes as high as they've been in about a decade. "We feel good about the progress we've made as a program," Lyons said. "Athletically and in terms of basketball ability, this might be the best team we've had in years." The returning trio represents three of last season's top four scorers with a combined 22.6 points a game. Six-foot-six Noel brings a post presence, 6-5 Williams a wing threat who can drive to the basket, and Kalbas a perimeter talent from 3-point range. Daniels is an experienced point guard and Jones also played a bunch last season. Having Mathew's ball-handling in the mix will help take that pressure off Kalbas. "We're talented but the intangibles will be important," Lyons said. "We need offensive and defensive consistency."
Coach: Gene Heidkamp.
Last year: 31-4, 8-1, tied for first in East Suburban Catholic Conference; lost 65-59 to Curie in Class 4A championship game.
Top players: Jack Nolan, sr. G; Liam Lyman, sr. G-F; Justin Enochs, sr. G; Matt Teglia, sr. G; Ryan Liszka, sr. F; Dan Veselik, sr. G; Colin Crothers, fr. C.
Scouting report: For the second time in three years, the Redwings enter the season trying to reload from a runner-up finish in Class 4A. The program's notched seven straight 20-win seasons and, despite another brutally tough schedule, Benet's ready to make a run at eight straight. "It's never easy," Heidkamp said. "To get to where we want to be is going to take a lot of work." Nolan and Lyman return as starters after combining to average 17 points last year. Nolan led the team with 72 3-pointers, and he'll be one of the many perimeter threats on the floor. That list includes Enochs and Teglia, who both played in the state title game. Without the length of last year, though, rebounding and defense will be a work in progress. Crothers, at 6-foot-6, is poised to make an immediate impact. "It's not a matter of replacing the points from last year," Heidkamp said. "It's the toughness and the defense we need to replace."
Downers Grove North
Coach: Jim Thomas.
Last year: 14-14, 4-8, sixth in West Suburban Silver; lost 50-38 to Naperville North in Class 4A Lyons Twp. regional semifinals.
Top players: Bryan Jakobsze, sr. F; Keenan Davis, jr. F; Anthony Castelvecchi, sr. G; Ryan Pustelnik, sr. F; Charlie Kaufmann, sr. F; Sema'j Henderson, so. G; Eddie Boston, so. G.
Scouting report: The seniors won the Silver as sophomores, a junior is a returning starter and a pair of sophomores will electrify the lineup. "This will probably be the best basketball team I've coached," Thomas said. "I think we're versatile at every position." Jakobsze, 6-foot-6, averaged 12 points and 4 rebounds last year and is one of the area's top all-around players. Davis, returning 6.5 points and 5 rebounds, Castelvecchi, Pustelnik and Kaufmann lead in the post, which is where the Trojans suffered their biggest graduation losses. Those losses are offset by the addition of sophomores Henderson, a point guard, and Boston, a combination guard. It might be enough to make the Trojans a darkhorse in the Silver. "I don't think we'll have anyone with gaudy numbers, but we've got a lot of capable guys. That'll hopefully make us tougher to guard as a team."
Downers Grove South
Coach: Kris Olson.
Last year: 21-10, 10-2, first in West Suburban Gold; lost 77-55 to Hinsdale South in Class 4A Glenbard East regional final.
Top players: Denis Alibegovic, sr. G; T.J. Clifford, sr. F; Tyree Spencer, sr. G; Dylan Kaczmarek, sr. G; Darnell Wallace, sr. G; David Roubalik, sr. F; Hayden Cotter, sr. F; Tim Sims, sr. G; D'Andre Raven, sr. G.
Scouting report: A favorite to win a second straight Gold title, the Mustangs also have the experience and talent to make a deep playoff run. Clifford, committed to Western Michigan, and Alibegovic are third-year starters while Spencer and Kaczmarek played extensively last season. "It's a skilled group and they're all very smart basketball players," Olson said. "They don't just excel physically but also mentally." Six-foot-six Clifford averaged 12 points and 5.6 rebounds last year while Alibegovic knocked down 78 3s and averaged 14 points. Spencer, who averaged 7.9 points and 2.4 assists, and Kaczmarek add fuel to the backcourt. Developing post depth with 6-5 Roubalik would help for a team looking for contributions beyond its top seven. "This is a good group," Olson said. "Our sights are set as high as they can be."
Coach: Chaz Taft.
Last year: 7-19, 2-10, seventh in the Metro Suburban West; lost to Schurz in a Class 4A Whitney Young regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Brian Andrade, sr., G; Ethan Guerra, sr., G-F; Bryan Larsen, sr., G-F; Danny Lucas, sr., C; Javy Sanchez, sr., G; Tyler Santagata, sr., F; Nick Schaub, sr., G.
Scouting report: Coach Chaz Taft brings his man defense and motion offense to his alma mater -- Class of '96 -- after three years at Waubonsie Valley. He's enjoyed the Bison's work ethic and grasp of his system. Top returners are Larsen, who averaged 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in an injury-plagued junior season; sparkplug Sanchez, who averaged 9.2 points; and 6-foot-2 Santagata, who ended last season with a double-double. Sole post Danny Lucas is listed at 6-6, 335 pounds on Fenton's football roster. Despite an overall lack of height Taft likes his players' ability to handle several positions, and the ballhandling ability of point guard Andrade and others. After hosting its own Thanksgiving tournament for years, this year Fenton will start the season at Johnsburg. "I just love the way the program's going right now, how they're starting to buy into the system," Taft said.
Coach: Scott Miller.
Last year: 17-13, 7-3, tied for first in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Downers Grove South in a Class 4A Glenbard East regional semifinal.
Top players: Josh Chriske, sr., G; Korvante Davis, jr., F; Jimmy Fairbairn-Vargas, sr., G; Devin Fisher, sr., G; Orlando Kimbrough, jr., G; Alijah Nelson, fr., G; Keonta Nixon, jr., F.
Scouting report: Things have to get better for the Rams after the terrible news that all-conference guard and would-be four-year starter Michael Finley tore an ACL on Nov. 3. Finley led last year's squad in scoring and rebounding and would have steadied a group that has only 2015-16 part-time starter Kimbrough returning more than eight games of experience. "It is what it is," said Scott Miller, whose son, former Rams star Zach, has returned to become the sophomore coach. The Rams should still compete in the UEC Valley with length, ballhandling and scoring by Chriske, Kimbrough and the 6-3 Davis, who last year led Rams sophs at 20 points a game. The 6-4 Nixon is raw but could excel in the paint. If controlled, transition speed will serve this team well. "We do have pieces, so we just kind of have to put them together," Scott Miller said.
Coach: Joe Larson.
Last year: 7-19, 3-13, eighth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 75-69 to Metea Valley in Class 4A Glenbard East regional quarterfinals.
Top players: Myles Moore, sr. G-F; Chamar Flanigan, sr. F, Kibet Chepyator, sr. F; Greg Newsome, jr. G; Adam Jaszka, sr. G; D'erick Sawyer, sr. F; Aaron Hausner, sr. F; Wendell Pamfilo, sr. G; Aquil Spates, sr. G; Marvelle Coleman, sr. F.
Scouting report: With the experience they have this season, the Panthers expect to vastly improve their win total and vault in the DVC standings. "Our leadership is pretty strong," Larson said. "These guys have really been working hard." Moore, who averaged 8.4 points last year, and Flanigan are both third-year starters. Newsome was the starting point guard as a sophomore and led the team with 4.3 rebounds and dished 2.6 assists. Chepyator started the final 10 games last season and Jaszka's playing time also increased. Combined, it's a bigger, deeper and overall more talented group than a year ago. The Panthers will be in even better shape when Sawyer returns from an injury suffered in football. "This is the season where we hope all that experience pays off," Larson said.
Coach: Wade Hardtke.
Last year: 20-10, 8-4, second in the Metro Suburban West; lost to Rockford Boylan in the Class 3A Woodstock North sectional final.
Top players: Charlie Bair, sr., F-C; Peter Jeske, sr., F; Billy Powers, sr., F; Adam Puchalski, sr., F; Brandon Whiteside, jr., G.
Scouting report: Last season the Raiders won their first regional title since 2009 and reached their first Sweet Sixteen since 2000. Then they graduated some 80 percent of their scoring and a good 70 percent of their rebounding. Most returning stats come from sole returning starter Bair, who averaged 10.5 points and 7.7 rebounds in an all-Metro Suburban West junior season. Holding down the post last season so older brother Billy -- now an Illinois State footballer -- could shoot outside, 6-6 Charlie is ready to unleash the 15-footer he's had all along. Jeske's athleticism characterizes a team strength, and point guard Whiteside came from nowhere to play key minutes in last season's playoff run. Other than that Hardtke will compete against Riverside-Brookfield, IC Catholic, Aurora Central and the rest of the newly named Metro Suburban Blue while testing his fresh roster at game speed. "We'll be a little bit of young and a whole lot of inexperienced," he said.
Coach: Tim Hoder.
Last year: 25-4, 10-2, first in West Suburban Silver; lost 41-32 to York in Class 4A East Aurora sectional semifinals.
Top players: Connor Mullins, sr. G; Chris Langan, sr. G; Alex Pihlstrom, sr. F; Evan Taylor, so. F; Logan Morrison, sr. F; Mark Mattson, sr. F; Kevin Nelson, sr. F.
Scouting report: Graduating their top six scorers -- including all-stater Justin Pierce -- is forcing the Hilltoppers to rebuild a bit, a process again being complicated by the delayed return to the program of a half-dozen players still competing in football. "It's going to be interesting seeing this team develop," Hoder said. "We've got some talent. but it's a different looking group." Mullins and Langan were critical role players for last year's conference and regional title team, although neither returns significant stats. Six-foot-five Pihlstrom also played some in the post but little varsity experience returns beyond that. The good news is the talent coming up. Six-five Taylor already holds a scholarship offer from University of Alabama-Birmingham. "We've always prided ourselves on defense," Hoder said. "With as much as we've graduated offensively, we'll have to be even better this year."
Coach: Nick Latorre.
Last year: 17-11, 8-4, second in West Suburban Silver; lost 48-44 to Glenbard West in Class 4A Hinsdale Central regional final.
Top players: Chris Eck, sr. G; Tomas Misiunas, sr. G; Trevor Hamilton, jr. G; Jack Hoiberg, sr. G; Michael Yaeger, sr. G; Danny Ahern, sr. F; Nate McGowan, sr. F; Anthony Brescia, sr. F; Matt Rush, so. G.
Scouting report: Unless you look carefully, you might have trouble recognizing the Red Devils. For several years they've had at least one dominant post player to lean on, but this year the focus shifts to a talented and deep backcourt with four players returning experience. "Our style of play will be vastly different," Latorre said. "You have to play to your strengths as much as you can, and that's what we'll continue to do this year." The perimeter play is extremely strong with Eck, Misiunas, Hamilton and Hoiberg returning a combined 54 3-pointers and 21 points a game. Eck, Misiunas and Hamilton had 168 assists. Opposing defenses will struggle to match the Red Devils' quickness, but they'll have to work at team rebounding and post defense. "With a smaller team our margin for error will be smaller," Latorre said. "It has to be a group effort on both ends."
Coach: Brett Moore.
Last year: 22-10, 9-3, tied for second in West Suburban Gold; lost 60-43 to Benet in Class 4A East Aurora sectional semifinals.
Top players: D.J. Anderson, sr. G; Karol Lipiszko, sr. G; Mike Stoltz, sr. G; Christian Lopez, sr. G; Ethan Ashmore, sr. F; Terreon Hopkins, sr. F; Nick Perry, sr. G; Zion Griffin, jr. F.
Scouting report: For the first time in eight years there won't be a Benson -- Brock or Barret -- controlling the post. With both moved on to the next level, including Barret at Northwestern, it'll be a much different looking Hinsdale South team this season. "We don't have Barret Benson anymore, or that one guy everyone's going to go after with double- and triple-teams," Moore said. "What we have is a team with the quickness to play at a very fast pace." Anderson's the lone returning starter, tough and explosive going to the basket. He averaged 7 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds last year. Two key additions are Perry, a transfer from Homewood-Flossmoor, and Griffin, a leader on last year's sophomore team. He and Lopez, each 6-foot-4, need to anchor a thinned out inside game. "It's a different group," Moore said. "This is a team that'll get better as the season goes along."
IC Catholic Prep
Coach: T.J. Tyrrell.
Last year: 13-15, 3-9, sixth in the Metro Suburban Blue; lost to Aurora Christian in the Class 2A Aurora Christian regional final.
Top players: Kevin Cheng, jr., G; Nico Gaudio, jr., F; Tony Gaudio, sr., F; Alex Meurer, jr.; Austin Reed, sr., G; Amari Reed, jr., F; Luke Ricobene, jr., G; Matt Sutton, sr., G.
Scouting report: Tyrrell is very optimistic about this group. Key returners Sutton, Tony Gaudio and three-year starter Austin Reed are surrounded by newcomers from a sophomore group that went 26-2. The 6-3 Reed led ICCP with 13.2 points, 3.8 assists and 2.4 steals a game; he can score from the arc (40 3s) and finish at the rim. Tyrrell believes he has several scorers including the Reed brothers, Ricobene, perimeter threat Sutton and Cheng, the last of four ball playing brothers at IC. Uniformly fast, gritty, unselfish and fundamentally sound as epitomized by the 6-3 Meurer, Tyrrell thinks the deep, up-tempo Knights will overcome an overall lack of size with teamwork, speed and basketball IQ. The goal is to win ICCP's own Class 2A regional and proceed from there. "How quickly we can build chemistry between the two classes will be key to our success," Tyrrell said.
Coach: Josh Virostko.
Last year: 17-11, 10-6, third in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 54-45 to Lake Zurich in Class 4A McHenry regional final.
Top players: Andrew Vega, sr. F; Jake Hianik, sr. G; Dan Spejcher, jr. F; Brady Olenek, jr. G; Diamante Smith, jr. F; Garrett Fant, sr. G; Deonte Givens, sr. F; Laron Brown, jr. G; Elijah Marto, sr. G; Solomon Sangobowale, jr. F.
Scouting report: For a second straight season injuries are hampering the Lancers' ability to reach their potential. With Smith and Fant both out to start the year, others must step up. "They're both key players for us," Virostko said. "We need them both to be all-conference caliber players for us to be successful." The Lancers graduated their top four scorers, but several players return experience, including Vega, Spejcher and Olenek, who came up to varsity as a sophomore to play point guard in the depleted lineup. When Smith and Fant do return, they'll bring back a combined 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. Smith also will be one of the area's top defensive players, which falls in line with Lake Park's primary focus. "With the scoring we graduated, our defense needs to be very good," Virostko said.
Coach: Mark LaScala.
Last year: 17-13, 9-2, tied for second in the Interstate Eight Conference; lost to IC Catholic in a Class 2A Aurora Christian regional semifinal.
Top players: Grant Haen, sr., G; Isaiah Hunter, sr., G; Josh Jamison, sr., G; Mark McGrath, sr., G-F; Brian O'Connell, sr., F; Trevor Stitt, sr., G; David White, sr., F.
Scouting report: Versatile 2016 All-Area selection McGrath is the Lions' only returning starter, but coach LaScala said he hasn't had this many seniors since his first season in 2006-07, when Lisle went 21-11. Haen is in his third season on varsity, and all the players listed above were in the regular rotation last season. At 6-foot-2 the tireless McGrath can play any position on the floor -- and will, due to an athletic yet vertically challenged team of interchangeable parts. McGrath averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds and led Lisle in steals and blocks but will need help from inside-outside shooter O'Connell and others after two double-digit scorers graduated. Still, Lisle excelled last season turning defense into offense, and that grit, intensity and aggressiveness remains. "I wouldn't want to play us, and that's a team you want to be," LaScala said.
Coach: Matt Walpole.
Last year: 14-16, 8-8, sixth in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Hinsdale South in a Class 4A Glenbard East regional semifinal.
Top players: Cory Adams, jr., G; Manny Hess, so., F; Ethan Helwig, so., G; Jeremy Hunter, sr., F; Jayden Reed, jr., G; Payton Thorne, so., G; Ethan Wrigley, sr., G.
Scouting report: Former sophomore coach Walpole follows the resignation of original Mustangs coach Bob Vozza. Metea also lacks junior forward Malik Hall, who transferred to Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas. Thus Metea gets shorter and younger with lanky 6-foot-3 Hunter the top experienced forward. Hunter averaged 8.9 points, a team-high 4.6 rebounds, and Walpole likes his improved shooting range and defense. Metea typically favors a controlled up-tempo game; provided the entire team rebounds, speedy point guard Reed will lead that charge. Shooters include Thorne, Adams and 3-shooter Helwig, all part of last season's 15-8 sophomore team. "We're going to have to play fast because we don't have a ton of size, especially without Malik," Walpole said. "That plays into our strength. We're an athletic, fast team."
Coach: Daryl Thomas.
Last year: 7-22, 1-8, tied for eighth in the Chicago Catholic League North; lost to Marmion in a Class 3A Glenbard South regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Ray J Dennis, so., G; Mychale Hyland, jr., G; Yousef Mitchell, jr., F; Matt Morrissey, jr., G-F; Michael Orr, sr., G; Anthony Thompson, so., G; Jayston Williams, jr., G-F.
Scouting report: Regardless of record Montini was wholly entertaining to watch last season, a freewheeling crew of mainly undersized young gunners coached by an Illinois hoops legend. Not too much will change in Thomas' second season (well, he hopes the defense will) except the Broncos are deeper and taller overall with the additions of 6-foot-4 players Morrissey and Mitchell, giving the former Indiana Hoosier ability to tinker with different lineups. The Broncos graduated 6-6 Kevin Brachmann and 3-point ace Jack Westerkamp but are now flush with small forwards who could prove to be up-tempo matchup problems, able to dribble the ball and score it. Especially the 6-2 Williams, who in one stretch as a sophomore scored 24, 25 and 23 points. "It will be fun to watch, that's for sure," Thomas said. "Everyone that's on the floor can shoot it."
Coach: Pete Kramer.
Last year: 16-12, 9-7, tied for fourth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 41-37 to Benet in Class 4A Benet regional final.
Top players: Nick Kramer, sr. F; Ben Wolf, jr. C; Peter Villanova, sr. G; Patrick Meier, sr. G; Noah Swope, sr. G; Tyler O'Brien, jr. G; Dillon Kane, jr. G; Daniel Raab, jr. G; Kurt Kozarits, jr. F.
Scouting report: Despite graduating the bulk of last season's scoring, the Redhawks remain potent thanks to a couple of experienced players. Kramer is back as the only returning starter. Expect him to drastically increase last season's averages of 6.1 points and 2.2 rebounds. Six-foot-eight Wolf showed flashes as a sophomore, and those flashes will extend after a tremendous off-season. "It's going to come down to us being consistent every time out, and I think we'll get there," Pete Kramer said. The Redhawks will have four guards on the court much of the time, and they'll all be able to shoot. Kramer showed his shooting ability last year. He'll get perimeter help from Swope, O'Brien and Raab. Kramer, Villanova and Meier can attack the basket. "I know we'll battle and we'll be competitive," Pete Kramer said. "But we need to be able to finish games."
Coach: Jeff Powers.
Last year: 23-5, 15-1, first in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 47-40 to York in Class 4A Lyons Twp. regional final.
Top players: Mitch Lewis, sr. G; Chris Johnson, jr. F-C; Winston Elston, sr. G; Cam Hardy, sr. G; Tyler Carlson, sr. G; Chris Sullivan, sr. G; Tabo Tarun, sr. G; Tom Welch, so. G-F; Scott Smith, sr. G-F; Derek Amend, sr. F; Youcef Merabet, sr. G.
Scouting report: The area's most complete team is heavily favored to repeat as DVC champion and make a run at Peoria. "Obviously the goals are going to be pretty high," Powers said. "You want to be confident but not over the top." Six-foot-six Lewis, who last season averaged 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds, was the DVC's player of the year. Six-seven Johnson and Elston also were named all-conference, and defensive specialist Hardy is the fourth returning starter. With the 3-point threat from Carlson, nearly 50 points per game are back. Add the big-game experience from state champion soccer player Sullivan, and there's little this team is missing. "We've got a lot of experience and we've got a lot of other guys who can step in and play," Powers said. "We've got to keep working hard and not get big heads."
Coach: Todd Sutton.
Last year: 11-19, 6-10, seventh in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Joliet West in a Class 4A Neuqua Valley regional semifinal.
Top players: Alex Filo, sr., C; Connor Gentry, sr., F; Noah Herdman, jr., G; Ryan Kelsen, so., F; Blaise Meredith, sr., G; Christian Oliveras, sr., G; Nathan Scott, sr., F; Will Stankus, sr., F; Jonathan Tan, jr., G.
Scouting report: The Wildcats look to rebound following their third sub-. 500 season in the program's 18 seasons and the first since 1999-2000. The 6-foot-8 center Filo, 6-6 Scott, 6-4 power forward Stankus and 6-3 forwards Kelsen and Gentry give Neuqua decent across-the-board height. Meredith, who took 24 charges last season, heads a stronger defensive unit trying to improve upon foes' 36 percent 3-point shooting, 45 percent overall. Tan, Kelsen and Herdman get kudos from coach Sutton on their defense as well. Scoring must be picked up since Filo and Meredith are the top returning scorers at a respective 7.5 and 5.6 points a game last year. "We're going to shut people down," Sutton said. "If an opponent can only score 41 or 42 points we're going to be knocking on the door."
Coach: Erin Dwyer.
Last year: 11-19, 1-8, tied for eighth in the Chicago Catholic League North; lost to Burlington Central in a Class 3A Glenbard South regional semifinal.
Top players: John Brundage, sr., G; Mike Cascella, so., G; Matt Cooney, jr., G; John Detloff, jr., F; Andrew Harvey, jr., F; Bryan Murray, sr., F; Alex Rueth, jr., G; Tim Sullivan, sr., G.
Scouting report: After graduating 11 seniors and losing big men Shane Walker to injury and Greg Bogdanski to wrestling, the Spartans' top returning scorer is Brundage at 0.6 points a game. Dwyer, though, sounds taken by this team's energy, chemistry and athleticism, with "guys who want to get after it." That usually is the Spartan way particularly on defense, and fielding a mid-size team with the exception of the 6-foot-4 Harvey and 6-5 Detloff, St. Francis may try to pressure foes with quickness. Despite lacking varsity minutes, Dwyer said he's got several solid shooters including Harvey, Cooney, Detloff and point guard Sullivan. The coach called Rueth "my Shane Battier," committed to doing the little things that lead to wins. Dwyer thinks this group will surprise people. "We're young and we're looking forward to the challenges ahead," he said.
Coach: Jack LeGrand.
Last year: 11-17, 6-6, fourth in the Metro Suburban Conference East Division; lost to Aurora Christian in a Class 2A Aurora Christian regional semifinal.
Top players: Jimmy Allen, jr., G; Joey Davidson, sr., G-F; Brandon Orange, jr., F-C; Nick Huisman, jr., F-C; Ty Merrick, jr., G; Jonny Strube, sr., G; Nick Tameling, sr., F; Michael Thomas, jr., G; Trayvon Williams, sr., G.
Scouting report: Many aspects give LeGrand belief the Trojans could win the newly renamed Metro Suburban Red. First, Davidson. The three-year starter made all-conference last season averaging 14.6 points and 4.5 rebounds; a strong 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he's comfortable banging or shooting the 3. Dual 6-6 juniors Orange and Huisman (nephew of Timothy grad and former Royals pitcher Rick Huisman) and 6-3 returner Tameling must be respected either running the break or in half-court sets, allowing Davidson more room. Merrick is a 6-2 point guard, the 6-3 Strube made 40 percent of his 3-point shots and Williams is that 5-4 pest Timothy always seems to have. There's loads of primarily backcourt depth though a concern is getting the junior newcomers up to varsity speed. "I'm cautiously optimistic," LeGrand said.
Coach: Jason Mead.
Last year: 5-22, 1-15, ninth in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to West Chicago in a Class 4A Lyons Twp. regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Blake Blanzy, jr., G-F; Eric Cannon, so., G; Luke Gregorio, sr., G; Justin Mullinax, sr., G; Brian Phillips, sr., G-F; Chuck Robinson, jr., F; Kyle Schroeder, jr., F; Nick Stokes, jr., G.
Scouting report: Hoffman Estates alumnus Mead arrives after going 80-65 in five years at Dixon. He plans to install a motion offense plus a base man defense, and has honorable-mention all-DVC point guard Cannon to help run it. Mead says several players routinely came in early to shoot, great news after last season's 34 percent shooting from the floor. In what the coach forecasts as mainly a half-court offense to start, Phillips, Cannon, Mullinax and Gregorio will shoot the 3. The 6-foot-4 Robinson ("definitely one of the best athletes I've ever coached," Mead said) will have ample opportunity to rebound for a short Class 4A team. Mead likes the "buy-in" and the chemistry, and that's a good start. "I think it's a year where we're going to try to set a tone for what Waubonsie Valley basketball is going to look like," the coach said.
Coach: Bill Recchia.
Last year: 22-7, 7-3, tied for first in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to York in a Class 4A Lyons Twp. regional semifinal.
Top players: Tai Bibbs, sr., G; Jason Gimre, jr., G; Alen Mahmic, jr., F; Devonte Pascal, sr., F; Luke Seeman, jr., G.
Scouting report: Tai Bibbs, a silky 6-foot-3 point guard, returns from a team whose 22 wins were the most since 2004, a Wildcats squad that won its first boys basketball conference title in West Chicago High's 113-year history, sharing the UEC Valley title with Glenbard East. A three-year starter, Bibbs committed to Drake in September after receiving more than a dozen offers. Last season he averaged 16.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals. Recchia thinks even better things are ahead. The Wildcats have pieces such as outside shooter Gimre, lanky 6-3 youngster Mahmic and Pascal, a strong 6-3 defender who grabbed 4.4 rebounds last season and should improve on his 6-point average. He'll need to, because as Recchia continues employing up-tempo offense and brash defense there's not a lot of varsity experience. Recchia seeks mental toughness. "If they learn quick it'll equate to a successful season," he said.
Coach: Craig Etheridge.
Last year: 8-21, 2-9, 10th in the Interstate Eight Conference; lost to Lisle in a Class 2A Aurora Christian regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Caden Anderson, so., F; Sam Asa, sr., F; Ben Ledwon, jr., G; Matt O'Leary, so., G; Troy Schlicter, so., G; Michael Thompson, so., G; Tyreke Winston, jr., G; Jalen Wilmington, jr., G.
Scouting report: After a couple down years Etheridge believes this group is starting to turn the corner. Kyle Domin dominated inside last season; his graduation leaves a smaller yet more athletic, deeper team that doesn't have huge holes. The 6-2 Anderson, who made 41 3-pointers and averaged 13 points as a freshman, can play inside and out. The regular rotation doesn't get any taller, though, Asa also standing 6-2. Only four seniors on the roster, but O'Leary, Thompson and aggressive 5-4 guard Schlicter all joined Anderson as freshmen playing key minutes as Etheridge looked toward the future. Transfers Wilmington (Naperville North) and Winston (Curie) lend welcome athleticism and some rebounding ability, which the Sentinels need along with better defense. "I definitely think we're moving in the right direction again," Etheridge said.
Coach: David Osborn.
Last year: 11-16, 6-6, fourth in the Metro Suburban Conference West Division; lost to St. Francis in a Class 3A Glenbard South regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Michael Callentine, jr., C; William Fan, jr., G; Stephen Garrison, jr., F; J.D. Gunn, jr., G; Jimmy Paganis, so., G; Sam Scharnowski, sr., F; Jameson Teuscher, sr., G.
Scouting report: The Warriors look to continue improving under second-year coach Osborn, who is expecting his first child with wife Amber on New Year's Eve. Ascent may initially prove difficult because all-conference senior forward Tommy Blum tore knee ligaments in the last open gym before practices began and is lost for the season. Blum and the graduated Anthony Polinski scored the bulk of Wheaton Academy's points last season, points the players listed above need to replace. The good news is the 6-4 Gunn, 6-6 Scharnowski, Paganis, Teuscher and, late in the year, 6-5 Garrison all played quality minutes. Teuscher camping in the corner and hitting 3s will again be a familiar site. Camaraderie is solid, and Osborn hopes attention to detail also will be. "We've got to do the little things and we've got to execute and play as a team," he said.
Coach: Dave Brackmann.
Last year: 18-9, 11-5, second in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 52-50 to Hinsdale Central in Class 4A Hinsdale Central regional semifinals.
Top players: Luke Anthony, sr. G; Rowan McGowen, sr. F; Ethan Block, sr. G; Jack Bennett, sr. G-F; Michael Gehl, sr. F-C; Matt Brcka sr. G-F; Josh Sorenson, jr. F-C; Mason Biegalski, jr. G; Brayden Anthony, jr. G; Deng Reng, so. F.
Scouting report: The Falcons' lineup will look annoyingly familiar to opponents this season. That's because all five starters are back, headed by McGowen and Anthony. Combined they averaged 33 points and knocked down 129 3-pointers. "Last year we were very dependent on Luke and Rowan," Brackmann said. "This year we've got more guys who are confident in their ability to score." Between 6-foot-6 Sorenson, 6-6 Reng and 6-3 Gehl, the Falcons have better ability to score in the post. Bennett, Block and Brcka also will pitch in points. If the Falcons can consistently rebound and improve defensively, they'll challenge for the DVC title and beyond. "With the experience we have we'll be able to hit the ground running a little bit better than we have in the past," Brackmann said.
Coach: Mike Healy.
Last year: 17-12, 9-7, tied for fourth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 48-42 to Naperville Central in Class 4A Benet regional semifinals.
Top players: Drew Healy, sr. G; Dillon Durrett, sr. F; Jake Ruggles, sr. F; Matt Dohse, sr. G; Paul Kienzle, sr. G; Jake Healy, jr. G; Parker Robinson, jr. G; Chase Stebbins, jr. G; Augy Pinto, sr. F.
Scouting report: The Tigers graduated 91 percent of their scoring and 87 percent of their rebounding, but there's still reason to believe they can stay in the top half of the DVC. "Everyone on the court will be a threat to score," Mike Healy said. "We have a lot of inexperience but everyone knows their role." With experienced seniors like Drew Healy and 6-foot-3 Durrett leading the way, the roster's bolstered by a junior class that won the DVC title at the sophomore level. Drew Healy and Robinson will run the point for a team loaded with shooters. A shorter team than last year, the Tigers' defensive rebounding and interior defense are focal points for a group capable of going about 10 deep. "We don't match up well on defense with a lot of teams," Mike Healy said, "but hopefully we'll create some matchups problems for other teams on offense."
Coach: Chris Perkins.
Last year: 11-19, 3-9, sixth in West Suburban Gold; lost 56-46 to Benet in Class 4A Benet regional semifinals.
Top players: Ethan Schuemer, jr. C; Sikander Zafar, jr. G; Matthew Myers, jr. F; Matas Masys, so. G; Freddie Clay, sr. G; Neil Paxton Jr., jr. G; Marshawn Phillips, jr. G; Terry Lewis, jr. G; Diyahvion Skinner, jr. G; Martique Barksdale, jr. G; Ryan King, sr. F.
Scouting report: Look for the Warriors to continue the strong finish they showed at the end of last season. Six players return who either started or gained significant experience. "Last year was a big confidence builder for us," Perkins said. "They realized the high level they could compete at." Six-foot-seven Schuemer averaged 14.3 points and 10.3 rebounds as a sophomore. The backcourt of Clay, who averaged 7 points, and Masys, who hit 41 3-pointers, also returns. Between Clay, Paxton Jr. and Barksdale rotating at the point, ball-handling won't be an issue. There's also flexibility in the lineup with Zafar and Myers. Schuemer is a dominant presence, but the points will come from everywhere. "They took major strides last season," Perkins said. "With that experience they should be able to hit the ground running."
Coach: Vince Doran.
Last year: 20-13, 6-6, fourth in West Suburban Silver; lost 61-55 to Benet in Class 4A East Aurora sectional final.
Top players: Nick Kosich, so. G; Jordan Gray, sr. F; Nick Trapani, sr. G; Angelo Martucci, jr. G; Erik Cohn, so. G; Sam Walsh, so. F; Mike Pedote, so. G.
Scouting report: Don't be fooled by the youth listed above. The Dukes, riding a streak of four straight regional titles, are ready to win right now despite having only three seniors on the roster. "We'll be a little up and down because of how young we are," Doran said, "but hopefully we'll be more up than down." Four sophomores are up on varsity, with Kosich and Cohn slated for the starting lineup. Kosich started as a freshman, averaging 6.1 points and hitting 44 3-pointers. Trapani added 7.2 points and 61 3s. Martucci and Pedote deepen the backcourt while 6-foot-5 Gray, who started games last season, and 6-5 Walsh will contribute inside. Like the past four seasons, the Dukes will win by dictating pace, taking good shots and frustrating teams defensively. "We're not as deep as we've been but we're hoping we can develop kids and increase their minutes as the season goes along," Doran said.