NORTHERN LAKE COUNTYANTIOCH SEQUOITSCoach: Jim White (7th season)
Last year: 13-17
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in the Class 3A sectional semifinals to North Chicago, 81-59.
Key players lost: F Reece Eldridge, G Logan Weber
Key players returning: G Dan Filippone, jr., F Branden Gallimore, sr., G Andrew Hare, sr.
Newcomers: F Jack Gillespie, jr., G Austin Andrews, jr., G Michael Balagot, jr., F Ben Nauman, jr.
Outlook: It's been said that basketball players are made in the summer. Antioch coach Jim White certainly is hoping that is true. "This was the best summer we have had in my tenure," White said. "There were lots of bodies in the gym as we have two deep classes in the junior and senior groups. After the back-to-back regional last spring and how strong we were playing at the end of last season, players were eager to get back in the gym after spring break for some open gyms." Because of the good showing with numbers over the off-season, White figures he'll be able to count on a lot of players this season for significant minutes. "We will be extremely deep and probably play as many as 10 early in the season," White said. "We have great balance of senior leadership and overall experience as well as scrappy, confident newcomers who will be ready to compete when their number is called." The Sequoits will be led by junior guard Dan Filippone, who scored more than 400 points last season. Two football players, quarterback Branden Galliore and cornerback Andrew Hare, are returning veterans as well.
Opener: Monday (6:30 p.m.) vs. Woodstock at Woodstock Hoops for Healing tournament
LAKES EAGLESCoach: Chris Snyder (8th season)
Last year: 13-15, 7-7 NLCC
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals to New Trier, 47-35.
Key players lost: G Kyle Rohr (St. Ambrose), F Ian Haflinger (CLC), G Nick Garcia
Key players returning: G Michael Behrendt, jr., F Wade Parmly, sr., G Logan McCann, sr., G Brad Cherry, jr.
Newcomers: Leighsean Triplett, Ethan Greenfield, Tylor Gunthor
Outlook: Lakes won't out-size most opponents this season. But the Eagles could out-quick them. "We will be a guard-oriented team this year," Lakes coach Chris Snyder said. "Due to our lack of size, we'll need to rely on our athleticism and team speed." The Eagles will also need to rely heavily on Michael Behrendt, the only returning starter from last year. Behrendt is a 3-year varsity player. "We will need great leadership from Michael this season," Snyder said. Wade Parmly, the Eagles' sixth-man last year, is also back, as is Logan McCann, who got significant minutes. "Wade brings added experience and is a versatile player who can fill many roles for us," Snyder said. "And Logan is our best pure shooter." Brad Cherry was also up on varsity last year as a sophomore, but injuries prevented him from playing much. He is healthy. Meanwhile, Leighsean Triplett is a sophomore who has been pulled up and could make an impact right away. "This is a hard-working group that wants to do well," Snyder said. "We'll be looking for some guys to step up in the first few weeks of the season to add to our rotation. We're confident we have the guys to do that."
Opener: Monday (5:30 p.m.) vs. Grayslake North at Johnsburg
GRANT BULLDOGSCoach: Wayne Bosworth (10th season)
Last year: 21-9, 13-1 NLCC
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in the Class 4A sectional semifinals to Fremd, 53-24.
Key players lost: F John Kerr (St. Ambrose), F Ben Kusiak, G Logan Lewis
Key players returning: G Michael Huff, sr.
Newcomers: G/F Hunter Waszkowski, jr., G Henry Kusiak, jr., G Michael John Smith, jr., G/F Matt McGraw, jr., G/F Samir Muhammed, jr., F Tavarus Williams, jr., G Joe Gorden, jr., G Torren Curry, jr.
Outlook: Grant is out to build on one of its best seasons in program history. But the Bulldogs will have to do so with an almost completely re-tooled roster. Graduation cleared out 11 seniors, including 3 three-year starters, from last year's regional championship team. The only returning starter is sharpshooter Michael Huff, who averaged 10 points per game last year, but was one of the top 3-point shooters in Lake County. "This year is an entirely new group with little varsity experience," Grant coach Wayne Bosworth said. "This year's group will look to continue to build upon last year's success. Our current junior and senior classes have had a lot of success in the program so far and are looking to translate that to the varsity level." The current junior class has lost only a handful of games over the last two years as freshmen and sophomores (47-6 combined) and won conference titles (NSC Prairie Division, Northern Lake County Conference) both years. In fact, the current juniors have never lost a conference game. "We have a lot of junior talent and I'm sure someone will have a big year," Bosworth said. "I don't know who that will be quiet yet since we have quite a few good players in this class, but they'll come from not a lot of people knowing them to most likely an (all-area) player this season."
Opener: Monday (7 p.m.) vs. North Lawndale at Grant Thanksgiving tournament
GRAYSLAKE CENTRAL RAMSCoach: Kosta Kougias (4th season)
Last year: 11-16, 7-7 NLCC
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals to Palatine, 65-31.
Key players lost: G Sidney Goodman, G Justin Shepley, F Ryan Spicer, F Zack Cashmore, G Billy Drevline
Key players returning: F Jack Spalding, sr., G Alec Novak, sr., F Clay Stoffel, sr., F Jack Fortmann, sr., G Tony Crews, jr.
Newcomers: F Coby Moe, jr., G Chris Thomas, jr., G Jack Kulis, jr., G Daniel Guckenberger, jr.
Outlook: Grayslake Central coach Kosta Kougias is looking for the right mix, and he thinks he's off to the right start. The Rams welcome back a handful of veterans, led by all-conference forward Jack Spalding, and some newcomers who could be impact players right away. Spalding averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds a game last season as a junior. Four other veterans surround him to provide experience. Meanwhile, a promising junior class will be led by forward Coby Moe, who has varsity experience in a different form. Moe has been a starter for the baseball team since his freshman year, as a pitcher, third baseman and first baseman. "We have a nice mix of returners with varsity experience and some newcomers," Kougias said. "We are a bit more undersized than years past, but have added some quickness and consistent shooters. Our goal is always to compete for a conference championship and to make some noise in the state playoffs."
Opener: Monday (7:30 p.m.) vs. Buffalo Grove at Buffalo Grove Thanksgiving tournament
GRAYSLAKE NORTH KNIGHTSCoach: Todd Grunloh (12th season)
Last year: 17-10, 8-6 NLCC
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in Class 4A regional semifinals to Hersey, 63-51.
Key players lost: G Jamal Thomas (Kaskaskia College)
Key players returning: G James Connolly, sr., G Ryan Connolly, soph., C Jon Smithson, sr.
Newcomers: G Nick Lovitsch, jr., G Austin Martineau, jr., G Jamon Thomas, soph., G Jason Donohue, soph.
Outlook: Chemistry could be an issue for Grayslake North, particularly at the beginning of the season. The Knights are playing catch-up in an effort to establish theirs. "We will have to learn how to play together pretty quickly because over the summer we were plagued by injuries and at no point were we able to develop any cohesion," Grayslake North coach Todd Grunloh said. "However, this is an athletic group that plays incredibly hard, and should be a fun group to coach." The other good news is that Grayslake North returns three starters from last year, including brothers James and Ryan Connolly. James, who played injured last season, averaged 15 points per game while Ryan averaged 12 points per game as a freshman and got hot at the end of the season, averaging about 17 points per game over the last month. Jon Smithson is also back for the Knights. "We have depth throughout the roster, incluing a talented junior class and three really talented sophomores," Grunloh said.
Opener: Monday (5:30 p.m.) vs. Johnsburg at Johnsburg Thanksgiving tournament
ROUND LAKE PANTHERSCoach: Jeremy Fisher (5th season)
Last year: 3-22, 0-14 NLCC
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals to Cary-Grove, 66-40.
Key players lost: F Zach Kuligoski
Key players returning: G Chris Pierre, sr., F Lucas Hollingsworth, sr., G Alex Larson, sr., G Angelo White, sr.
Newcomers: F Ryan Lowe, jr., G Nick Pierre, fr.
Outlook: After a winless 0-14 campaign in the Northern Lake County Conference last season, there's really nowhere for the Panthers to go but up. They are confident that will happen. "Our record last year wasn't very good," Round Lake coach Jeremy Fisher said. "We accept what it was and are eager to prove that we are a way better team than what that record shows." Round Lake will need to figure out how to do that without graduated forward Zach Kuligoski, one of the top scorers in Lake County last season. He averaged 19.7 points per game. "We lost a big player in Zach, but all our guys are ready to do everything they can to fill the void," Fisher said. "We will be a better team this year and we are excited to take on all the challenges that come our way." Fisher returns four players with significant varsity experience.
Opener: Monday (5 p.m.) vs. Marian Central at Woodstock North Hoops for Healing tournament
WAUCONDA BULLDOGSCoach: Scott Luetschwager (9th season)
Last year: 9-18, 5-9 NLCC
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals to Rolling Meadows, 61-44.
Key players lost: G Jarod Stonis (CLC), F Kyle Drobnik
Key players returning: G Jimmy Ott, G Connor Brannick, jr.
Newcomers: G Donavan Carter, soph., F Kevin Jovaisas, jr.
Outlook: So far, Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager has a good feeling about this group. "There are years where you worry about the chemisty of the team. This is not one of them," Luetschwager said. "This group has come together quickly. I credit our seniors with creating an enviornment where everyone is encouraging each other and pushing each other to give their best. It is a great feeling to have a sophomore and a senior pushing each other in practice and challenging the other to go harder. The sophomore up on varsity is guard Donavan Carter, pushed by seniors such as Jimmy Ott, who has really worked since last year to improve his game. "We are expecting a lot out of Jimmy Ott," Luetschwager said. "He has worked a lot on his game over the last two years to become more of a shooting threat. Instead of just being a guy who can break a defense down and get into the paint, if a team is going to sag off of him, he will also knock down a jump shot." Meanwhile, another veteran Connor Brannick will be expected to score more this year after the loss of fellow guard Jarod Stonis, now playing at College of Lake County.
Opener: Monday (7 p.m.) vs. Richmond-Burton at Richmond-Burton Thanksgiving tournament