MSL EASTBuffalo GroveCoach: Keith Peterson (fifth season)
Last year: 16-11, 7-3 Mid-Suburban East
Top returners: Jack Vaselaney (6-0, Sr. G), Caleb Mayhorn (6-2, Sr. G.) Mac Camardo (6-6, Sr. C.), Tom Trieb (6-2, Jr. F.), Zach Fricke (6-2, Sr. F.) Kyle Adams (5-10, Sr. G.), Zach Sheasby (6-3, Sr. F.)
Key varsity additions: Michael Nowakowski (6-0, Jr. G), Nathan Cole (6-3, Soph. F.), Brendan Reid (6-5 Sr. F.)
Outlook: This is the year that coach Keith Peterson has been waiting for. The Bison have kept their core group together for a third year and have added a few wrinkles which may make them one of the top teams in the area.
There is no shortage of talent with the Bison. Buffalo Grove returns their end-of-the-year starters in Vaselaney (13 ppg), Mayhorn (6 ppg), Camardo (13 ppg), Fricke and Trieb (7 ppg.). Adams and Sheasby add experience off the bench which gives the Bison depth.
Nowakowski is a transfer from Johnsburg who brings a left-handed presence and the ability to drive to the basket. Sophomore Nathan Cole set a school record for 3-pointers as a freshman, and with his summer was promoted to the varsity roster. Brandon Reid played AAU ball over the summer and impressed coaches enough that he received a scholarship offer to Aurora University.
"We're going to be able to score a lot of points this year," said coach Keith Peterson, now in his fifth year at Buffalo Grove. "We have had a lot of fun in practice and it's been competitive. Last year we were still young and we had to learn to play consistently."
Mayhorn, Camardo, Vaselaney and Fricke have been on the varsity for three years. Trieb came up as a sophomore last year.
"We're excited about this season," said Peterson. "This is what were were hoping to see a few years ago, when three players were brought up. We had more success last year than I thought we would have. One of our strong points will be rebounding. With Camardo, and at times Reid, that will give us strength under to boards. With the experience that we have, we'll have coaches on the court as well as the bench. With nine seniors we have a lot of leadership. They know what I expect from them."
The Bison will host their own Thanksgiving week round-robin, with Naperville Central and Zion-Benton added to the mix with Glenbrook South and Grayslake Central. Over the holidays, the Bison will be at Wheeling's Hardwood Classic.
Beside nonconference games with Maine West, Grayslake North, and Glenbrook North, the Bison will travel to Loras College in Iowa on Jan. 13 for a matchup with Hempstead High School from Dubuque.
Elk GroveCoach: Anthony Furman (11 yrs., 122-160)
Last year: 1-26, 0-10 Mid-Suburban East
Top returners: Dylan Ingebrigtsen (6-6, Sr. F.)
Key varsity additions: Jonathan Salinas (5-10, Sr. G.), Joe Pignato (6-3, Sr. F.), Jacob Hartness (6-4, Sr. F.)
Outlook: Relentless -- that's the word Elk Grove hopes to define itself by. "If you look it up in the dictionary it means 'unyielding,' " said Elk Grove coach Anthony Furman. "That's what this team wants to be. Last year (1-26, 0-10) was not who we are."
The Grenadiers are looking to put the pieces in place that gave them four good years from 2012 to 2016. They have a good start in senior Dylan Ingebrigtsen. "We're going to look for Dylan to be our leader," said Furman. "He has experience and know-how around the basket."
Jacob Hartness (6-4, Sr. F), who missed last year with a torn ACL, will be a help to the Grens around the basket. Furman indicated that Hartness offers strong leadership skills.
Furman will also look at Jonathan Salinas at guard. He's shown strong athleticism.
Two players are back with Elk Grove in Tyler Selvig (6-3 Sr. F) and Shivam Amin (6-1, Sr. G). The two played freshman and sophomore ball but skipped their junior year.
Juniors Ryley Rathman (6-0, G), Sean Cherry (6-0, G) and Dylan Elsner (5-7, G) will come off the bench to give some relief.
Furman pointed out that Jr. Michael Achanzor and Mark Matos will also vie for playing time.
The roster will be helped when senior Matt Crimmins returns from a football injury in December.
"We have had a tough week of practice," said Furman. "We want to make up ground during our second week and be ready to play competitive basketball when the season starts. Yes, we do lack experience but this is a good group. They are not looking back on what happened last year. The effort has been there, and so is the chemistry. This will be a group where we will learn from each game.
"This is a new roster and there is a good attitude. Nobody is dragging their feet."
The Grenadiers return to Mundelein for the Thanksgiving round robin and will head back to York for their annual holiday tournament. Elk Grove's nonconference foes include Maine West, Fenton, Niles West, Maine East, and Glenbard East.
"All our games except the one Saturday game at Mundelein are Monday, Tuesday, and Friday," said Furman. "We wanted the players and coaches to enjoy Saturday and Sunday off."
HerseyCoach: Steve Messer (20 yrs., 11 at Hersey, 283-265)
Last year: 16-12, 7-3 Mid-Suburban East
Top returners: None
Key varsity additions: Belford Davis (6-2, Jr. F) and Rocco Ranzino (6-2, Jr. F)
Outlook: The Huskies lost their starting lineup from last year, including their all time leading scorer in Joe Coffaro. Hersey will be searching for an identity, and it may take some time. Hersey coach Steve Messer will know more about his team after they participate in the Glenbrook North-St. Patrick Thanksgiving Round Robin next week.
"Right now we have quite a few players in the mix," said Messer. "We're going to pick starters towards the end of this week of practice. What the round-robin will show us is what type of rotation we will have. We'll be able to determine what players will fit into what roles. We have to see how the pieces fit."
Messer pointed out that a pair of juniors -- Belford Davis and Rocco Ranzino -- "will open some eyes."
"So far they have stood out in practice," said Messer.
While the Huskies have some promising players they all lack varsity experience. Jake Stearns, John O'Shea, Joseph Nugent (6-7, Sr., C), Drew Naumowicz, Will Nagle and Andew Leno were on the team but did not see much playing time.
Other juniors including Matt Hanushewsky (5-9 G), Jacob Kluczewski (6-4 F), and Jason Schmidt (6-0 G), will be looking for playing time.
As sophs, this year's juniors had a good year with a plus-.500 record and losses only in the single digits.
"This is a very even group," said Messer. "The juniors will need to step in at the varsity level and will be ready to go. The key to having a good season is to have good shot selection and rebounding. We have to work for shots that we can make. Every year, every group has a different style that they play. You're not going to get layups all the time. We'll have to find what works best for us. I look at what Fremd did last year. They found what kind of shots worked for them, and they worked on it. That's what we have to do."
Hersey will again travel to Pekin during the holiday break. A tough group of games dot the Hersey nonconference schedule. They include area powers Maine West, St. Viator and Libertyville. Glenbrook South and Grayslake Central.
Coach: John Camardella (11th yr., 172-106)
Last year: 23-6, 9-1 Mid-Suburban League East
Top returnees: David Swedura (5-11, SR. G)
Key varsity additions: Sam Murray (6-1, Jr. G), Jon Kreidler (6-3, Jr., F.), T. J. Johannesen (5-11, Jr., G)
Outlook: The defending Mid-Suburban East winners are going to find the waters a bit choppy at first. But coach John Camardella still has a few rabbits he can pull out of the hat.
"The first month of the season is going to be big for us," said Camardella. "With only one starter back in David Swedura, we just need to learn to be competitive and grow together. We lost a lot of great senior leadership from the players that graduated last year. I told this team that they cannot be the 2016-2017 team. We're looking at the same type of work ethic though. I'm asking for the seniors on this team to show the leadership and for the juniors to take on their roles."
Tim Lussenhop (6-3, Sr., G.) showed the most improvement over the summer and will play opposite Swedura. Johnny Czeslawski (6-5, Sr., F) will start at wing and give what Camardella calls "some great athleticism." Luka Djogo (6-5, Sr., F) , Patrick McPartin (6-5, Sr., F), and Jalen McLachian (6-4, Sr., F) will battle for the other forward spot.
Junior Sam Murray, one of the better shooters for the Knights, will come off the bench in a relief role. T. J. Johannsen will also be a backup guard.
Swedura's toughness and experience at guard will help the Knights get over the rough edges early. He was recently issued a preferred walk-on spot at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale along with many Division III offers.
Swedura averaged 11 points last year.
"A key for us will be limiting teams to one shot and avoid second-chance shots," said Camardella. "We're going to have to learn on the fly. Everyone will have to contribute if we are to be successful. We're going to run a transition game as best we can. When we have to play half court it will be out of a 4-1 set."
The Knights are going to get tested early and often. They start out at the St. Viator Thanksgiving round-robin against Evanston, Libertyville, Conant, Highland Park and the host Lions.
Prospect will be at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic at the winter break and has nonconference games scheduled against Niles North at Highland Park, Lyons, Stevenson and the two Glenbrooks, North and South.
Rolling MeadowsCoach: Kevin Katovich (17th year)
Last year: 15-14, 3-7 Mid-Suburban East
Top returners: Gio Carrillo (5-9, Sr. G.) Ryan Carney (6-4, Sr. F.), Joe Coen (6-4, Sr. F.), Willis Goodwin (5-10, Sr. G), Drew Neville (6-5, Sr. C.)
Key varsity additions: Max Christie (6-3, Fr. G.), Sean Nolan (6-0, Soph. G.), Gavonte Warrenner (5-10, Jr. G.), Matt Schoessling (5-8, Jr. G), Billy Miller (6-3, Soph. F.)
Outlook: Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich is the elder statesmen in the Mid-Suburban East and just may have the team that could put the challenge to Buffalo Grove. Beside a solid core group of players returning from last years 15-14, 3-7 team in the conference, the Mustangs have one of the top freshmen in the area. Max Christie at 6-3 has the tools to be a impact player.
"He's learning to play basketball on the high school level," said Katovich. "We have to remember that he's just 14 and will have to adjust to the physical play of varsity ball. He has a very good basketball IQ."
Gio Carrillo who was the leading scorer on the sophomore team two years ago will not be asked to try to carry the load. He's going to have help from forwards Joe Coen and Ryan Carney.
"Carney's such a solid player," said Katovich. "He's a nice player and a good kid. He came on well last year as a rebounder for us."
Drew Neville will give the Mustangs added strength under the boards. Look for 6-3 senior forward Brendan O'Donnell to be factor as the season moves along.
Matt Schoessling, brother of last year's starting guard Jack, looks to be an impact player off then bench. Sean Nolan and Gavonte Warrenner will add to the depth at guard. Billy Miller a 6-3 sophomore will look for playing time.
"I'm real happy with the team chemistry that this team has shown me in the first week of practice," said Katovich. "I'm looking for 8 or 9 players to be contributors. Right now I feel real comfortable with our second group. We should have some good balance on this team. We've shown the ability to play together. This is a no-nonsense group. They are proving to be very coachable. The key to us being successful is to have the consistency coming from our second group."
The Mustangs will start the season at the Ed Molitor Thanksgiving Tournament next week at Palatine. Rolling Meadows will take part in the York Holiday Tournament in December. Nonconference games will include Cary-Grove, Glenbard South, Maine East, Niles West and Maine West.
WheelingCoach: Michael O'Keeffe (3rd Yr. 19-37)
Last year: 11-17, 4-6 Mid-Suburban East
Top returners: Phil Bucko (6-0, Sr. G.) Michael Best (6-2, Jr. F)
Key varsity additions: Jeremy Kim (5-9, Jr. G), Joe Jordan (6-3, Fr. F.), Brandon Zettek (6-2, Jr. F)
Outlook: Coach Michael O'Keeffe continues to make headwind in building the Wildcats future back up. Wheeling won 11 games last season, the most since 2008.
"We lost all five starters from last season," said O'Keeffe. "But we have two players in Bucko and Best who will be able to do a lot of good things for us on both sides of the floor. Bucko had a real solid effort for us last season. His shot has improved as well as his defense. He had an impressive summer."
O'Keeffe was impressed with Best's play over the summer and in practice so far.
"Basketball is his strong sport," said O'Keeffe. "He had a good summer league for us and is very athletic."
O'Keeffe is excited about freshman Joe Jordan, a 6-3 forward.
"I watched him in our feeder program the last few years," said O'Keeffe. "He's a hard worker, he's social and has a high basketball IQ. He played with us during the summer league and started every game. I'm going to look forward to coaching him for the next four years."
Zettek was the leading scorer on the sophomore team and O'Keeffe is looking to him to help on the offense. Jeremy Kim will be a starter at guard and showed steady improvement as last season went along.
Moe Gurney, Nate Dirkes, Robby Nehrke, and Kyle Glass will add some depth for the Wildcats.
"We don't have a lot of experience, but we have players who have worked very hard and the players are looking forward to an exciting season," said O'Keeffe.
Wheeling will go back to a man-to-man defense, switching away from the 1-3-1 zone.
"Last year we had a team where a 1-3-1 suited them. Now we have a team that I think will be good in a man-to-man defense," said O'Keeffe. "When we run our offense we are going to have to be patient and execute to get a good shot that we want."
Wheeling will again participate in the Ridgewood-Northridge Prep Thankgiving Round Robin and will be the host of the Hardwood Classic in late December.
The Wildcats' nonconference opponents will be Johnsburg, Round Lake, Niles West, Maine East and Maine West.