Jeff Bikus MundeleinAfter several lean seasons, Mundelein made a U-turn and reached the double-digit win plateau while posting wins over some of the better teams in the area, including Warren and Stevenson. Senior Jeff Bikus played a big role in the Mustangs' resurgence. He averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. "A game that sticks out to me is an early season 2-point win over Deerfield. Jeff received a great pass in transition in the closing seconds of the game. We were down 2 points and he hits a 3 to give us a 1-point lead and we went on to win by 2 points," Mundelein coach Matt Badgley said. "Jeff and his teammates had not experienced basketball success at the varsity level while in high school, yet this game gave them some confidence that they have built on all year. A few weeks later, Jeff scored 23 points and had 4 assists in a win at Stevenson." Bikus, who is 6-foot-7, will be playing at Hope College in Michigan next year.
Donovan Carter Wauconda"More please!" That's what Wauconda's coaches were telling Carter all season. "Donovan is only a sophomore and is our leading scorer. The scary thing is, we think he should be shooting the ball more than what he does," Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager said. "Early in the season, it felt like we were always yelling to him 'Shoot the ball!' It has slowed down, but there is always the occasional reminder that he is one of our best shooters and when he has an open shot, he needs to take it. He has passed up a lot of good looks because he wants to get his teammates more involved in the offense." Carter averaged 13.1 points per game and hit 52 percent of his field goals while knocking down 50 3-pointers on the season.
Brad Cherry LakesCherry was pulled up to varsity last year as a sophomore, but he missed much of the season due to injury. "Brad dedicated himself in the off-season to be ready to go and I think he saw the rewards of that effort this season," Lakes coach Chris Snyder said. "Brad has been our go-to guy this year. He played the perimeter and post for us and was skilled at both. With us not having much height, we asked a lot out of Brad to handle multiple roles and he excelled with it." Cherry averaged 14.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He scored 20 or more points in six games.
James Connolly Grayslake NorthConnolly proved to be quite a gamer this season. The 6-foot-3 senior forward either won or sent games into overtime with clutch baskets or free throws four times this season. "James has proved to be one of the most clutch performers I have seen," Grayslake North coach Todd Grunloh said. "He hit a putback overtime buzzer beater against Richmond-Burton. He followed that by hitting a 30-foot heavily contested jumper to defeat Grayslake Central 44-43 with less than 5 seconds left. He followed that by making a free throw to defeat Antioch 50-49 with less than 5 seconds. He followed that by making another 30-foot jumper to send the Lakes game into overtime with less than 5 seconds, in which he helped lead us back from a 15 point deficit." Connolly averaged 18 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4 assists per game. He rolled up 10 double-doubles and a triple-double this season and also surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career. "James's numbers say a lot, but the most impressive aspect has been his leadership," Grunloh said. "James has led a very young team (three sophomore starters) and has shown great patience and poise throughout the season. He demonstrates the work ethic necessary to be a successful varsity player on a daily basis and his ability to lead has allowed us to overcome a very slow start to the season (3-9)." Connolly will be playing at Saint Mary's of Minnesota next year.
Ryan Connolly Grayslake NorthConnolly, a sophomore guard, has been known for his sharp-shooting from 3-point range ever since he joined the varsity as a freshman last year. But a 3-point shooter isn't all that Connolly wanted to be known as. "Last season he was too reliant on the 3-point shot throughout the first half of the season," Grayslake North coach Todd Grunloh said. "We repeatedly challenged him to be more than that, which he has bought into and put countless hours into improving his skills to develop a better mid-range jump shot and strong post moves." Connolly, the younger brother of fellow all-area first-teamer James Connolly, averaged 19 points and 5 rebounds per game this season. He scored 20 or more points 14 times, and he's already scored 800-plus career points. "Ryan's athleticism and drive continue to amaze us," Grunloh said. "For as athletic as he is, it's his drive that sets him apart from most players in that he demands so much of himself and is never content with what he is as a player or what he has already accomplished at this young age."
Peter DiCerbo Lake ZurichDiCerbo is a go-to player for Lake Zurich, and a "go-go" player. "Peter has an unbelievable motor. I've never coached a guy who is so amped up before every game," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said. "He is relentless on the boards. He is an incredible athlete. Pete can drop-step dunk at 6-foot-2, is lightning fast and strong as an ox." DiCerbo averaged 13 points and 7.5 rebounds and scored a season-high 23 points against Zion-Benton. He made 80 percent of his free throws on the season and made the all-tournament team for the Martin Luther King tournament that Lake Zurich hosted in January. DiCerbo is a two-year varsity player but likely would have been up as a sophomore if he had not missed that entire season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
Branden Ellis WarrenEllis was a constant for Warren, in numbers and in demeanor. "Branden is a great leader for our team because he is so even tempered," Warren coach Jon Jasnoch said. "Whether we are playing well or struggling, Branden's effort and focus are a constant. This is Branden's third year on varsity. His sophomore year, he showed great potential, his junior year, he was a very important part of our team and this year, he has really come into his own as he has been surrounded by a close-knit group of senior teammates. Branden is a great teammate. His number one goal is the success of the team." Ellis led Warren in scoring with 18 points per game. He also averaged 3.5 rebounds and 2 assists per game. He hit 52 percent of his field goals, including 36 percent of his 3-pointers.
Dan Filippone AntiochA three-year varsity player as a junior, Filippone has tried to be consistent every day. "Dan's teammates voted him one of the most consistent players on the team, including practice play," Antioch coach Jim White said. "Dan has a knack for getting to the basket and finishing strong at the hoop. He is becoming a better facilitator on the floor as we have needed that from the point guard position." Filippone averaged 16.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He made more than 30 3-pointers on the season and had only two games in which he didn't make at least one. Filippone already has about 800 career points.
Michael Huff GrantOne of the quickest triggers in Lake County, Huff has the ability to get his shot off in the blink of an eye, and with remarkable accuracy, particularly from 3-point range. "Mike is a straight scorer and can fill it up with anyone in the area," Grant coach Wayne Bosworth said of his senior guard, the only senior in Grant's starting lineup. "When he gets going, he's very difficult to guard due to his quick release on his shot and his quick first step to get to the rim." Huff averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He had season highs of 29 points and 10 rebounds. Huff will be playing next year at Carthage College.
Ryan Kutsor Lake ZurichNear the end of the season, Kutsor scored his 1,000th career point. But he might have been among the last to know. "He didn't even know when he hit 1,000 points," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said. "He doesn't care how much he scores. He'd rather score 4 points and us win, then score 24 points and us lose. Ryan is an excellent captain and leader, very tough, very unselfish and always willing to put the team first." Kutsor, a three-year starter, averaged 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He was all-tournament at the Pekin Holiday tournament and the most valuable player of both the Johnsburg Thanksgiving tournament and the Lake Zurich Martin Luther King tournament.
Drew Peterson LibertyvilleDefenses focus on Peterson, and they push him and pull his jersey, but they often can't stop the 6-foot-8 sharp-shooter. Peterson, a three-year starter, leads the area in scoring at about 26 points per game. He also averages nearly 8 rebounds and 4 assists per game, all while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. "Drew will go down as one of the top players to have ever played at Libertyville," Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said. "He is very talented and is an extremely tough player to defend as he can shoot from anywhere on the floor as well as see the open teammates when defenses are focusing on him. His leadership ability has driven his team to the best they can be this season." Peterson scored his 1,500th point this season and has already been named all-state in his career. This season, he has five games with 30 or more points, nine double-double and only five games in which he scored fewer than 20 points. Peterson is being chased by multiple Division I college programs and will make a decision after Libertyville's season ends.
Jackson Qualley StevensonQualley was in an unenviable position to start the season. The senior forward returned as the only player with any significant varsity experience from last year. "He has been a great leader for our inexperienced team," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "He has been a consistent force for us throughout the season. He is an excellent shooter and is able to get to the basket and score in a variety of ways." Qualley led Stevenson in scoring (12.6 ppg) and rebounding (5.1 rpg). He has started every game over the last two seasons. He was named the most valuable player of the Palatine Thanksgiving tournament and had clutch baskets at the end of regulation and again in overtime in a big win over Waukegan.
Johnny Roeser CarmelJust a junior, Roeser, a three-year starter, is already putting up impressive career numbers at Carmel. He's started more than 80 games and is quickly approaching the 1,000-point mark. "Johnny was the steady rock of our team this year," Carmel coach Zack Ryan said. "He has the ability to play inside and out and can be a matchup problem for teams. He was able to score at all three levels this season and was the team's leading shot blocker and rebounder." Roeser averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 73 percent from the line.
Jack Spalding Grayslake CentralConsidered a '5' post player in the Grayslake Central offense, Spalding has proven that he can pull his game away from the basket and be just as effective. "Jack has developed into a dual-threat post player who can score from two feet and 20 feet," Grayslake Central coach Kosta Kougias said. "He made 19 3-pointers from our 5-spot, and had two games with three makes (from 3-point range) in a game." Spalding, who averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds, had six double-doubles this season and posted a career-high 28 points against North Chicago. He was a two-time all-tournament pick at the Buffalo Grove Thanksgiving tournament and team captain this season. "Jack has become a dominant force with the ball and improved his defense and rebounding this year," Kougias said. "His leadership was one by example and with very little fanfare."
Kimahri Wilson Carmel
The learning curve was sharp this season for Wilson, just a freshman. "Kimahri made an immediate impact as a freshman," Carmel coach Zack Ryan said. "He showed the ability to control a game from start finish with his athleticism. The most impressive thing to me about Kimahri is how hard he plays at all times. He is dynamic both offensively and defensively. He also only averaged 2 turnovers per game. He fit in well with a group that had a lot of varsity experience already." Wilson averaged 11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals per game. He was named to the all-tournament team at the Grant Thanksgiving tournament and the Centralia Holiday tournament and he also received the Mr. Hustle award at the Lake Zurich Martin Luther King tournament.
Jeff Bikus Mundelein Sr. G
Donovan Carter Wauconda Soph. F
Brad Cherry Lakes Jr. G
James Connolly Grayslake North Sr. G
Ryan Connolly Grayslake North Soph. G
Peter DiCerbo Lake Zurich Sr. F
Branden Ellis Warren Sr. G
Dan Filippone, Antioch junior guard
Michael Huff Grant Sr. G
Ryan Kutsor Lake Zurich Sr. F
Drew Peterson* Libertyville Sr. G-F
Jackson Qualley Stevenson Sr. F
Johnny Roeser Carmel Jr. F
Jack Spalding Grayslake Central Sr. F
Kimahri Wilson Carmel Fr. G
* -- All-area team captain
Honorable mentionStevenson G Matthew Ambrose, soph., Lakes G Michael Behrendt, sr., Wauconda G Connor Brannick, jr., Vernon Hills G Tony Brown, jr., Lake Zurich G JR Cison, jr., Grayslake Central G Tony Crews, jr., Warren G Barak Diehl, sr., Libertyville F Chase Eyre, sr., Antioch G Andrew Hare, sr., Round Lake F Lucas Hollingsworth, sr., Carmel G Zion Kilpatrick, sr., Grant G Henry Kusiak, jr., Mundelein G Tommy Marcotte, sr., Lakes F Logan McCann, sr., Carmel G Evan Myers, jr., Grayslake Central G Alec Novak, sr., Stevenson G Samvit Ram, sr., Mundelein F Andrew Silva, sr., Libertyville G Josh Steinhaus, jr., Carmel F Damone Williams-Gray, jr.
Selections and profiles by Patricia Babcock McGraw