Scouting the North Suburban
NORTH SUBURBAN CONFERENCE
LAKE ZURICH BEARS
Coach: Billy Pitcher (7th season)
Last year: 24-10 (7-5 North Suburban Conference)
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in sectional championship to Conant, 59-48 OT.
Key players lost: G Nick Penny (Carroll College), G Nick Meyer, C Andrew Gilbertson
Key players returning: G Michael Bens, sr., G Ryan Kutsor, jr., G Brett Hensley, sr., F Chris Trybula, sr., G Brian Chmiel, sr., G Luke Kuhn, sr.
Newcomers: G Peter DiCerbo, jr., F Alex Miller, sr., G Joe Heffernan, jr., G Will Tucker, fr.
Outlook: Length could help Lake Zurich go a long way. Almost every player on the roster is between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-4 and that size will be a strength on defense. "We have good versatility, good strength and toughness, so I expect us to be solid on defense," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said. "Will we have enough scoring? That's the question." The Bears lost two prime-time scorers in Nick Penny and Nick Meyer who averaged 17 and 13 points respectively. "Penny created so many shots for us the last two years," Pitcher said. "Chris Pickens is my assistant again this year and he is an excellent offensive skills director with great drills and insight so I believe he will be able to work on our deficiencies and get these guys up to speed offensively." Senior guard Michael Bens is probably ahead of the curve. He averaged 11 points per game last year. "He is just a knock-down shooter and he had some huge games last year, including 18 points in the sectional final," Pitcher said of Bens. Meanwhile, 6-foot-4 junior guard Ryan Kutsor is getting Division I interest from Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wright State, Western Illinois and Southern Illinois, among others. "He is the best on the team at creating his own shot," Pitcher said of Kutsor. "He has really improved his athleticism and is a year bigger and stronger." Peter DiCerbo, a 6-foot-3 junior, will likely start at guard. He would have started last year but tore his ACL during the summer season. Forward Chris Trybula gives Lake Zurich additional size at 6-foot-5. And Alex Miller will also likely start but will need some time to recover from his nagging football injuries.
Opener: Monday, 5:30 p.m. vs. Grayslake North at Richmond-Burton
Coach: Brent Mork (2nd season)
Last year: 16-11 (6-6 North Suburban Conference)
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in regional semifinal to Niles North, 70-56.
Key players lost: G Paul Steinhaus, F Ben Kimpler, G Jabari Quigley
Key players returning: G Drew Peterson, jr., G Harrison Bach, sr., G Brandon Rule, sr.
Newcomers: G Drew Fortini, sr., G Ryan Wittenbrink, jr., G Chase Eyre, jr., G Josh Lilja, jr., F Riley Gowens, jr., G Brandon Simberg, jr., G Colin Fields, jr.
Outlook: At 6-foot-7, 165 pounds, junior guard Drew Peterson was working all last season to put on weight and strength. He's going to need it, and not only to battle opponents. "With only a handful of seniors on the roster and three returners who played significant minutes last year, we will be young and a work in progress throughout the season," Libertyville coach Brent Mork said. "Drew, who is being recruited by multiple Big Ten, MVC and other schools, will be asked to carry a significant load and we have no doubt he'll be up for the challenge." Peterson was an all-conference and honorable mention all-state selection last year. Mork says that guard Harrison Bach, also a returning starter, put significant time in during the off-season and Mork is confident Bach is going to have a break-out year. Brandon Rule will start on the perimeter but needs some time to heal from a tough and demanding football season.
Opener: Monday, 7:30 p.m. vs. Evanston at St. Viator
Coach: Corey Knigge (4th season)
Last year: 2-25 (0-12 North Suburban Conference)
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in the regional quarterfinal to Loyola Academy, 71-54.
Key players lost: F Isaiah Woolford, G Mark Gutierrez
Key players returning: G Tommy Marcotte, jr., F Jeff Bikus, jr., F Andrew Silva, jr., G Nick Parmley, jr., F Kyle Enright, jr.
Newcomers: G James Willman, jr., G Drew Breitenreiter, jr.
Outlook: It's been a rough few years for Mundelein, which was again at the bottom of the North Suburban Conference Lake Division standings last season with no wins. To change course, it will take better basketball, and a better outlook. "Mental toughness has turned into a bit of a cliché at times, but I believe that it will go a long way towards how successful we are this season," Mundelein coach Corey Knigge said. "We have some players who are physically talented, but we need to continue to work on the mental part of the game to compete." Junior guard Tommy Marcotte will lead the attempt at a turnaround. He is starting his third varsity season and averaged 17 points and 3 assists last year as a sophomore. "We're going to expect a lot from him as far as leadership is concerned," Knigge said of Marcotte. "Jeff Bikus and Andrew Silva are going to be in their second seasons as varsity starters so we expect a lot from them as far as leadership and productivity go as well." Knigge expects a lot in general. He's seen positive signs in open gyms and summer league games. "Over the course of the last six months, I believe we have shown great improvement," Knigge said. "Our junior class has a chance to be extremely competitive over the course of the next two years."
Opener: Monday, 7 p.m. vs. Lake Forest Academy at Mundelein
Coach: Pat Ambrose (18th season)
Last year: 24-7
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in sectional championship to Deerfield, 53-50.
Key players lost: G Rodney Herenton, G Ryuji Aoki, G Jordan Newman.
Key players returning: F Justin Smith, sr., F Aidan O'Connell, sr., G Eric Zalweski, sr., G Willie Herenton, sr.
Newcomers: G Samvit Ram, jr., F Nick Bonk, jr., Jackson Qualley
Outlook: Once again, Stevenson features a big-time Division I recruit. Two years ago, guard Jalen Brunson announced his intentions to play his college ball at Villanova, which won the NCAA national championship last spring with Brunson starting as a freshman. Now, the Patriots boast a future Big Ten player. Forward Justin Smith will be playing for the Indiana Hoosiers next year. Smith, a sophomore on the Stevenson team that Brunson guided to a state title as a senior, has been on the radar for a long time. And his game has improved each year. At 6-foot-7, Smith can be a force inside and is known for his desire to dunk the ball as often as possible. But he is also versatile enough now to consistently hit the 3-pointer. Meanwhile, forward Aidan O'Connell, the pass-happy quarterback of the Stevenson football team, joins Smith and guard Willie Herenton as the most experienced players back for the Patriots, who put together another 20-win season last year en route to an appearance in the sectional championship game. "We could be good if we sharpen up on a whole lot of things," Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose said. "Defensively, we should play harder. We did OK this summer, but lots of moving parts in the summer. We need to play together and work in the same direction."
Opener: Tuesday, 7 p.m. vs. Glenbrook South at Buffalo Grove
WARREN BLUE DEVILS
Coach: Jonathan Jasnoch (2nd season)
Last year: 12-16 (5-7 North Suburban Conference)
Last year's tournament finish: Lost in regional semifinal to Glenbrook South, 61-48.
Key players lost: G Maurice Chambers
Key players returning: C/F Declan O'Connor, sr., G Juwan Perry, sr., G Branden Ellis, jr.
Newcomers: G/F Shann Dilosa, sr., G Ian Schilling, jr.
Outlook: In his second season, head coach Jon Jasnoch is looking for leadership from a player who is even more experienced than he is…in terms of varsity minutes. Senior guard Juwan Perry opens his third season on varsity for the Blue Devils. "His defense and leadership really stabilizes us," Jasnoch said of Perry. Branden Ellis is also a returning veteran. "He has gotten stronger and is a very good scorer." Jasnoch is expecting offense out of guard Ian Schilling as well, and he is intrigued with the addition of Shann Dilosa. "Shann just transferred from Tremper (Wisc.)," Jasnoch said. "He looks really good in practice. I really feel good about this season. We have several returning players who had lots of playing time last year and we played well over the summer. I think we'll be very competitive in the North Suburban Conference."
Opener: Monday, 5:30 p.m. vs. Fremd at Mundelein