Scouting the MSL West
MSL WESTBarringtonCoach: Bryan Tucker 10th year (138-96)
Last year: 17-12 (4-6, 3rd MSL West)
Top returning players: Anthony Spann (5-11, Sr., G), Jack Reinhard (6-6, Sr. F), Justin Alperin (6-3, Sr., G), Miles Lester (6-2, Sr., F), Jake Parsons (6-4, Sr. F), Jason Boock (6-2, Jr., G), Mark Johnson (6-4, Jr. G).
Key varsity additions: Will Raider (5-10, Jr. G), Braden Albertson (6-1, Jr. G), Evan Lauderback (6-2, Jr., G), Justyn Maroon (5-10, Jr., G), David Kushner (6-1, Jr. G).
Outlook: The Broncos have stayed close in the tough MSL West and finished with a .500 or better record for a fifth consecutive season, and 8 out of 9 seasons that Bryan Tucker has been at the helm at Barrington. Tucker looks for another strong Barrington team that should be in the mix. "Every night in MSL West it is a battle and our kids are excited for the challenge," Tucker said. "I feel our division is a strong as it has been in my nine years here." Barrington has 42 points coming back to its varsity lineup this season. The Broncos are led by all-conference guard Anthony Spann, who averaged 10 points last season. Jason Boock (10 ppg last season) along with Jack Reinhard (8), Justin Alperin (3), Miles Lester (2), Jake Parsons (5) and Mark Johnson (4) all saw significant time last year. "We are optimistic with the way things will go, but we have a talented group back," said Tucker, whose team won 4 of its final 6 games last season. Barrington will need to replace Jackson Perkins, who was a force inside. "We lost a lot in Jackson," Tucker said. "Our big guys are not as physical as he was. Our guys are more finesse players." As in past seasons, Barrington will open the season at the Crystal Lake Central Tournament and then play at Jacobs at Christmas.
ConantCoach: James Maley (1st year)
Last year: 27-5 (8-2, 2nd, MSL West)
Top returning players: Ryan Davis (6-9, Sr., C/F), Ben Schols (6-4, Sr., G/F), Raj Mittal (6-4, Jr., F),Ike Oduocha (6-4, Sr., C); Scott McColaugh ( 5-11, Sr., G), Jon Kolev (6-4, Jr., G/F), Dominic Benigni (5-9, Jr., G)
Key varsity additions: Joe Arriaga (6-0, Sr., G), Anthony Wachal (6-0, Jr., G)
Outlook: It will be a year of change and adjustment for Conant. Gone is legendary coach Tom McCormack, who skillfully guided the Cougars for 25 seasons. James Malley takes over the reins this season and looks to continue the winning tradition at Conant. He will be without Jimmy Sotos (Bucknell), the last in a long line of Sotos brothers who led the Cougars. Michael Downing, who was also all-area, has graduated as well. But the cupboard is far from empty for Maley, who returns the league's top player In Ryan Davis. "Big Country," the 6-foot-9 stalwart who recently committed to Vermont, is a huge force to contend with for opponents. He averaged 14.6 points last season and is also a threat to shoot outside the arc. "He is the real deal," Maley said. "He can do so much with and without the ball." Also a threat from the 3-point line is Ben Schols, who averaged 6.4 points last year and was injured for part of the season. Injuries will be something that the Cougars will need to contend with this year with Raj Mittal, who saw lots of action last season as a sophomore, is out until January with a broken leg. The Cougars aren't changing their holiday tournament plans. For Thanksgiving, they are headed back to St. Viator, where they finished second last year, and for Christmas they are headed back to York, where they are defending tournament champions. "It has been awesome since I got here," Maley said. "We have an opportunity to be pretty good. We have a tough early schedule." Speaking of early, one of the things that Maley had to get used to was a before-school practice schedule at 5:35 a.m. that McCormack had in place for 25 years. "The kids are all on board with it and I am too," Maley said. "It took a little adjustment, but I like it."
FremdCoach: Bob Widlowski 17th year (273-144)
Last year: 30-2 (10-0, 1st MSL West, 4th in state)
Top returning players: Ryan Martin (6-2, Sr., G), Bryce Hopkins (6-4, Jr., G), Elliot Kim (6-0, Sr., G)
Key varsity additions: Luke Seidel (6-0, Sr. G); Isiah Turner (6-0, Sr., G), Greg Cano (6-4, Sr., F), Zach Zimmer (5-10, Sr. G), Griffin Maloney (6-3, Sr., F ), Matt Gumalarz (6-2, Sr., G), John Smyros (6-0, Jr.,G), Dean Ganas (6-0, Jr., G), Jake Schoffstall (5-11, Soph., G), Zach Garnmeister (6-1, Sr., G), Tim Carlisle (5-11, Jr., G), Will Schmeling (6-0, Sr., G), Matt Smearman (6-1, Sr., F), Ryan Hansen (6-4, Sr., F).
Outlook: The Vikings are coming off their most spectacular year in school history, which ended with a fourth-place finish in the state. Fremd coach will now have to try to fill the void left by graduating seniors Kyle Sliwa, Shaan Patel, Brian Dompke, Luke Schoffstall, Mark Kating, Austin Schwantz and Brock Rubin. "That was a special group, there is no contesting that," Widlwoski said. "But that season is concluded and there are no carryovers. The guys who are here now are hungry to get into the mix." The Viking do return a nice corps of players in three-year starter Ryan Martin, who averaged 6.5 points and 2 assists last season. Bryce Hopkins' size will give opponents some difficulty in matching up with him while Elliot Kim made some clutch baskets last year. Luke Seidel, Isaih Turner, Greg Cano and Griffin Maloney should provide some depth for Widlowski, who likes to play a deep roster in games. "We have a nice mix of seniors and juniors who are meshing well together," Widlwoski said. The Vikings are not as big as in past seasons, but that doesn't worry Widlowski. "This is a different type of team," Widlowski said. "We don't have the size we have had in past seasons. So we are playing a little different style and taste to match our team." Widlowski will find out how that style matches up with the Vikings' opponents when they play at the Mundelein tournament, where the Vikings are defending champions. At Christmas, Fremd will be back at Wheeling to defend its Hardwood Classic tourney title. "We are off to good start in practice," Widlowski said. "We are looking forward to games next week."
Hoffman EstatesCoach: Luke Yanule 7th year (57-100)
Last year: 7-19 (1-9, 6th MSL West)
Top returning players: Adrian Punzalan (5-8, Sr., G), Marshall Davis (6-0, Sr., G), Julian Nelson Pablo (5-11, Sr., G), William Nune (6-2, Sr., G) Marcel Boclair (5-6, Sr., G), David Brendan Thompson (6-4, Sr., F), James Allen (6-4, Sr., F), Rudra Patel (6-2, Jr., G), Marquez Woodard (6-0, Jr. G)
Key varsity additions: Avan Harris (5-10, Jr., G), Sheldon Barnett-Morales (6-5, Jr., F), Jon Robson (5-8, Jr., G), Michael Ameen (5-6, Jr., G), Jeremiah Blocker (5-11, Jr., G)
Outlook: Hoffman Estates coach Luke Yanule is looking for that football bump. "Success begets success," said Yanule, who has four football players on his squad that will be participating in the state semifinals on Saturday. "We believe in multisport athletes. I told our guys to focus on football." Adrian Punzalan (9.9 ppg, 2.4 assists), Davis (8.5 ppg), James Allen (6.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Rundra Patel (3.9 ppg) and David Brendan Thompson (3.5 ppg), all of whom are seniors, give the Hawks a solid starting five. "We are very excited about our seniors," Yanule said. "They are disappointed for last season. But they and the rest of the team have been building off acceptance and connectivity." Yanule says that should help his team on and off the court. "Defensively they are all connected," Yanule said. "We have lots of speed and athleticism." Yanule says the depth that comes with players such as Nune, Marquez Woodard, Julian Nelson Pablo and Sheldon Barnett-Morales will give his team lots of options. "We have some talent and depth," Yanule said. "And with the football players probably not ready until December, it will give the rest of the guys lots of playing time. We should be battle-tested for March." The Hawks will open that season at Glenbrook North. They will play again at Christmas at the Glenbard West tournament. "We are still battling some new things," Yanule said. "But this is a very unselfish group and our practices have been spirited. Give all the credit to the kids. They want to have fun out there."
PalatineCoach: Eric Millstone
Last year: 12-18 (4-6, 3rd MSL West)
Top returning players: Johnny O'Shea (6-3, Sr., F), Cortez Hogans (6-3, Sr., F), Jake Moertl (6-0, Sr., G), Lamon Berry (6-1, Sr., G), Basa Balanganayi (6-3, Sr., F), Luke Garrett (5-10, Sr., G), Evan Daly (6-0, Sr., G), Martize Walker (6-0, Sr., F), AJ Grana (5-11, Sr., G), Leo Donlin (6-5, Sr., F), Sean Dell (6-0, Sr., G).
Key varsity additions: Demareon Collins ( 5-10, Jr., G), Marshawn Rayford (5-10, Jr., G), Ben Storm (6-3, Jr., F), Matt Elter (5-11, Jr., F), Max Arakelian (6-4, Jr., F).
Outlook: For the first time in the last three years, Palatine basketball was able to start on time with a full roster. That was bad news for the Pirates' football team, but good news for the basketball program and coach Eric Millstone -- especially in light of the fact that Millstone's top four returning starters all play football. "We love multiple-sport athletes here at Palatine," Millstone said. "And it would be great if our football guys were still going." Millstone returns that core group, who all are D-1 football prospects but can also hoop it up quite well. Johnny O'Shea (10.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Cortez Hogans (11.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Jake Moertl (9.7 ppg, 73 3-pointers) and Basa Balanganayi (2.8 ppg) will be formidable in the MSL West. Add in guard Lamon Berry (7.4 ppg) along with a deep bench, and the Pirates should challenge for the West title." You can't discount experience," Millstone said. "It is just taking the next step with them. We are battle tested. That is the benefit of guys who play multiple sports. They know what it takes to close out a game. " Millstone is going to see quickly what his full team can do when Palatine hosts its own Thanksgiving tournament. The Pirates will play at Christmas at York. "We are still nursing some of the injuries," Millstone said. "We think we are little further along than we are than we usually are. The quicker we can get our timing back, that would be great. It took us until after holiday tournament to hit our stride and we are hoping for more sense of urgency this season."
SchaumburgCoach: Wade Heisler 3rd year (19-36)
Last year: 11-17 (3-7, 5th MSL West)
Top returning players: Heze Trotter (6-2, Jr., G), Brandon Barber (5-10, Sr., G), Jerry Clark (6-2, Sr., F), Dom Tyler (6-0, Sr., G), Michael Hodges (6-2, Jr., G)
Key varsity additions: Andrew Amouzou (5-7, Jr.,G), Jacob Golliher (6-1, Jr., G), Giovanni Gonnella (6-1, Jr., G), Nick LaBud (5-10, Jr., G), Christian Orozco (6-2, Jr., F), Julian Rodriguez (6-1, Jr.,G), Michael Zalas (6-3, Jr., F)
Outlook: Schaumburg is looking to turn the tables around. The Saxons return five players who will give them strength to compete this season. Heze Trotter, who has been a two-year starter, leads the Saxons. "He is an athletic player who has become more skilled," Schaumburg coach Wade Heisler said. "He is a leader for our team with the most experience." Dom Tyler will be looking to score for the Saxons, while Michael Hodges, who is a junior, came on very strong at the end of last season. Jerry Clark and Brandon Barber will be counted on for their defense and should contribute on the offensive end of the court as well. "Both are athletic strong kids who should have great senior seasons," Heisler said. Heisler also likes how his team can get up and down the court and is not worried that his team has just three seniors on the roster. "We are athletic and hard-nosed," Heisler said. "We have a group of guys who are extremely committed to playing to our identity and moving Schaumburg basketball forward. Our guys take pride in our defense, which should be seen on the floor." Schaumburg will head to St. Charles East to open the season in the Saints' tournament. The Saxons then will head to York for Christmas. "We play an extremely tough schedule before the holiday season, with 12 games," Heisler said. "We should enter the second half of season battled tested and improving toward the state series."