MID-SUBURBAN EASTBuffalo GroveLast year: 9-18 overall, 3-7 MSL East
Top returners: Jack Vaselaney (6-0, Sr., G), Colin Calcagno (6-0, Sr., G) Mac Camardo (6-6, Jr. C)
Outlook: Could this be the year that the Bison put it together for coach Keith Peterson's club? While the Bison had a 9-18 record along with a 3-7 Mid-Suburban East slate, BG showed vast improvement that last third of the year. All-conference guard Jack Vaselaney and his 11.0 scoring average return from last year. Peterson is banking on his third season playing varsity ball to be the best yet. Colin Calcagno, who averaged 8 points last season, also returns, giving the Bison a solid backcourt.
A key to the success will be how Mac Camardo builds upon the 8 points and 7 rebounds he averaged last year.
"We have to be able to get him the ball," said Peterson. "We have some good parts to work with this season. We just have to find a way to put everything together to have a good season. Our depth will be a key for us. We need to take pride with our defense. What I liked was that our younger players, this summer, showed that they can play varsity ball."
Buffalo Grove will look to get solid seasons from senior Chris Tsevis (5-10), to go with juniors Caleb Mayhorn (6-1), and Zach Fricke (6-2).
Mayhorn and Fricke played on the varsity last season with Mayhorn and Tsevis being part-time starters.
Peterson is going to be touting sophomore Tom Trieb;, who at 6-2 and 205 pounds will add some strength under the basket.
"I am really excited about his prospects," said Peterson. "We're still a little bit of a work in progress, but by opening night we hope to be ready.
"I think Prospect will be the team to beat. If we can build on early season success I see us as being competitive in the conference."
This Bison will host their annual Thanksgiving Tournament with Grayslake Central, Glenbrook South, Stevenson, and Christian Liberty. The Bison will be part of the Wheeling Hardwood Classic in late December.
Elk GroveLast tear: 19-10, 8-2 MSL East
Top teturners: Stefan Pantovic (6-4, SR. C), Nico Collazo (6-0, Sr., G)
Outlook: The Grenadiers took a big hit with last years graduation of their top players. Can they recover? Elk Grove coach Anthony Furman makes no bones about it. "It will me a learning experience for us," said Furman. "We do have some size and some small guards. Everyone will have to buy into the program and accept their roles."
The one thing that Elk Grove has going for it is that Furman's teams have grown through the program. Elk Grove has won 15, 17, and 19 games over the past three years. Furman is hoping that track record of success rubs off on his young squad.
Pantovic was just a part-time starter last year on a senior-led roster. Collazo and senior guard Joy Lopez saw limited time.
Furman has high expectations for guard Ryan Uehara, who played almost all JV ball last season and did well.
"How well we go will depend on how Ryan handles the offense for us," said Furman.
Junior Dylan Ingebrightsen, Tyler's brother, comes in at 6-5 in his junior year. Furman indicated that he'll be tested very soon on the court. Ryne Singsack (6-7) will be up on the varsity as a sophomore; as a freshman he played on the sophomore team.
"We have a good core of kids who want to play and be successful," said Furman. "We'll learn as we go along. It will be interesting how we learn as the season moves along. Defense is always a strength for our teams in the past, and this one is no different. We'll really need to learn to play together on offense."
Furman also noted that senior Connor Cloherty, a three-sport athlete, is the heart of the team.
"He wills his way on the floor with points and defense," said Furman. "He is the heart of this team. He's the type of utility player you need to have on your team."
Elk Grove returns to the Mundelein Thanksgiving tournament and will face Mundelein, Warren, Fremd and Lake Forest Academy next week. The Grens will also partake once again in York's holiday tournament in December.
HerseyLast year: 14-14 overall, 6-6 MSL East
Top returners: Joe Coffaro (5-10, Sr., G.) Ken Hasley (6-3, Sr. F)
Outlook: While the Huskies lost quite a few players to graduation, Joe Coffaro (15 ppg) returns for his third year on varsity. Halsey, who went through some early season injuries last season, is healthy and ready to go.
The question for coach Steve Messer, now in his ninth season at Hersey, will be to find the missing pieces. There are a handful of prospects that Messer believes can fill the bill.
Chris O'Toole (6-3, Sr.), Ed Mleko (6-5, Sr.), Jack Rasmussen (6-0, Sr.) Grant Wagner (6-2, Sr.) and junior Jake Mailloux (6-3) look to garner most of the playing time.
"A big key to our success to get stops on defense and to get points off of turnovers from our running game," said Messer. "We have some decent size and I hope one of our strengths will be us being able to match up with different lineups."
Coffaro will be counted on to provide the experience and leadership that the Huskies will need if they are to compete in the MSL East.
"Joe will have to show his experience. I expect him to have a very good year," said Messer. "He has great basketball intelligence. He worked real hard over the summer sharpening his skills."
Mailloux is a three-sport athlete and made some good strides over the summer. Messer looks for Mlecko to be a strong rebounder and to get some putback baskets. Rasmussen, a two year all-area soccer player, brings speed and athleticism to the Huskies' lineup.
"Right now I'm looking at about ten different players to be in the mix," said Messer. "I think we'll be able to play different styles against our opponents."
The Huskies will play Thanksgiving week at the combined Glenbrook North-St. Patrick tournament. Hersey will face Hoffman Estates, Niles West, and the host Spartans before finishing off at St. Patrick in Chicago.
The Huskies will make their usual holiday break trip to Pekin for their tournament.
ProspectLast year: 15-12 overall, 8-2 MSL East
Top returners: Matt Szuba (6-6, Sr., F), Frankie Mack (6-3, Sr., G), David Swedura (5-11, Sr., G)
Outlook: Top-flight returning depth makes the Knights the team to beat in the MSL East, but the schedule is not going to be a picnic for Prospect. With the likes of Conant, Libertyville, St. Viator, Highland Park and Evanston at the upcoming St. Viator tournament, coach John Camardella will find out quickly how good his team is.
"We're going to find out early what we are made of," said Camardella. "This team will have a lot of depth and these players are very selfless. That will be the ultimate key to our success."
The Knights will be led by Szuba, who blocked 40 shots last season, averaged 7.7 points, led the team with 68 assists and was the top rebounder with 8 per game. Frankie Mack who showed dramatic improvement with quickness over the summer, scored at a 15.7-ppg clip last year. Swedura scored 10 ppg and was the team's second leading scorer behind Mack.
Antonio Gardner (5-8, Sr. G) and Michael Ritchie (6-5., Sr. F) look to be the other starters.
Grant Whitebloom was a part-time starter last season and is strong on defense. Others expected to contribute will be Grant Zellmer, Mark Gray and Jonathan Raupp.
"We're going to rely on our defense quite a bit to set the tempo of games," said Camardella. "I think with this team were going to be able to show teams different looks. We want to make our defense a priority. If we execute the defense well, it will help us get some transition baskets.
"Szuba's biggest improvement was extending his shooting range. For a big man he's going to handle the ball a lot. He makes good decisions. Mack really worked on his understanding of spacing the floor better. He should be very productive for us."
Ritchie broke his leg early last season and missed 7 weeks. He started the last part of the season and should be a key factor. Gardner's role will be to aid Mack and Swedura at guard. Gardner started about half the games last year.
The Knights' nonconference schedule has some big challenges in road trips to Stevenson, Lyons, and a match up with Niles North at the Deerfield shootout Feb. 11. Prospect will also participate at which should be a challenging Wheeling Hardwood tournament in December.
Rolling MeadowsLast year: 10-17 overall, 4-6 MSL East
Top returners: Jared Murphy (6-3, Sr., F), Jack Schoessling (5-11, Sr. G), Liam Brigham (6-4, Sr., F)
Outlook: The Mustangs will need to get through the early part of the season with small numbers, until eight football players are able to fully join the basketball effort. Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich knows that the first week or two of the upcoming season could be a little rough. "We're going to be having 8 players from our (11-1) football team with us, but it's going to take a little time for everyone to get into basketball shape," said Katovich.
What the Mustangs will not have to wait for is for three-year starter Jared Murphy. he averaged 20 points and 7 rebounds last winter. "He has really worked hard over the summer," said Katovich. "He hit the weight room and added about 10 pounds of muscle. He also worked on driving to the basket and posting up. He's already a good shooter so the other things he worked on will add to his game. He'll be more effective overall."
Also returning will be guard Jack Schoessling, back for his third year on the varsity level. Schoessling averaged 10 ppg and 4 assists.
"Jack's going to be a real steady player for us," said Katovich. "He's a very heady player and he knows what to do at both ends of the court. He's going to provide the leadership that we need."
Liam Brigham will be a interesting piece of the Mustangs puzzle. A 6-4 senior, Brigham played more towards the end of the year and had what Katovich said was "a terrific summer." Brigham has shown assertiveness over the summer and in early practice.
Gio Carrillo (5-11) was the leading scorer on the Mustangs' sophomore team, and Katovich looks for him to add some scoring punch to the offense.
Every time needs an intangible boost, junior Ryan Carney (6-3) might fit that role.
"He's a jack of all trades," said Katovich. "We expect him to slash to the basket and rebound for us."
Katovich is expecting help from Marco Taibi, Justin Thompson, Willis Goodwin and Charlie Cox along with others from the football team.
"For us to be successful we have to be able to rebound," said Katovich. "That was our weakness last year."
Rolling Meadows will partake in Palatine's Thanksgiving tournament, facing off with Jacobs, Palatine and Maine West. The Mustangs will travel to York's holiday tournament in December.
WheelingLast year: 8-20 overall 2-8 MSL East
Top returners: T.J. Best (5-11, Sr., G) Jalen Dennis (6-0, Sr. G) Johnny Kappel (6-1, Sr. G)
Outlook: With possibly the best guard duo in the conference in Best and Dennis, Wheeling hopes to build the program back up. While on paper Wheeling's 8-20 and 2-8 Mid-Suburban East record did not look very favorable, the Wildcats were competitive.
"In 18 of our 28 games," said coach Michael O'Keeffe, "our games were decided by 7 points or less." Not a bad job of a first year varsity coach in rebuilding a program.
Wheeling will rely on Best, Dennis, and Johnny Kappel (6-1, Sr.) to play big minutes. Best scored 10 ppg and Dennis at 6 ppg last year, while Kappel was the Wildcats' sixth man and played well. Seniors DeShon Jacobs (6-3) and Mike Wiase (6-1) will round out the probable starting five when Wheeling travels to Northridge Prep for their Thanksgiving Tournament. "We have some inexperience to be sure," said O'Keeffe. "Our top three players will have to show their experience and leadership to the younger players. Best really had a great season for us. Dennis has worked to improve his consistency and Kappel, in my opinion, is one of the better defenders in the MSL."
O'Keefe is looking for Jacobs to continuing to show improvement.
"Jacobs is very athletic. He has a lot of raw talent but he keeps improving," said O'Keeffe.
The surprise might be Wiase. O'Keeffe cited his summer work on plays in the low post and his ability to scrap for the ball to hold on to possessions.
"We're going to be playing some young players and some seniors who didn't see a lot of playing time," said O'Keeffe. "We don't have much size but the players a really working on improving themselves and the team."
One of the younger players will be T.J Best's younger brother, sophomore Michael Best.
"I think a key to our season will be how well T.J. plays," said O'Keeffe. "If he plays well we will be competitive."
The Wildcats will face Northridge Prep, Vernon Hills, and Montini in their first three games at Northridge. The Wildcats will also play in the annual Hardwood Classic at Wheeling.