Scouting the Mid-Suburban West

  • Conant's Rajat Mittal drives against Brother Rice last season. Conant is hoping to have another 20-win season in 2018-19.

      Conant's Rajat Mittal drives against Brother Rice last season. Conant is hoping to have another 20-win season in 2018-19. John Starks | Staff Photographer


MSL West

BarringtonCoach: Bryan Tucker (11th season)

Last year's record: 24-7, 7-3

Graduated players: Anthony Spann, Jack Reinhard, Justin Alperin, Miles Lester, Jake Parsons

Returning players: Jason Boock (6-2, Sr., G), Mark Johnson (6-4, Sr., G), Will Raider (5-10, Sr., G), Braden Albertson (6-1, Sr., G), Evan Lauderback (6-2, Sr., G), Justyn Maroon (5-10, Sr., G), David Kushner (6-1, Sr., G)

Newcomers: John Bulgarelli (Jr., F), Connor Groom (Jr., G), Ben Kamptner (Jr, F), Connor Keenan (Jr., F), Dylan Keenan (Jr., F), Charlie Loomis (Jr., F), Nick MacIver (Jr., G), Kyle Rivas (Jr., G), Aaron Sarkar (Jr., G), Damian Zivak (Soph., G)

Outlook: Barrington and coach Bryan Tucker like to fly under the radar. The Broncos make little noise about themselves but when the dust settles, they find themselves right in the mix of a conference race. They were able to do it last year and it appears they could do it again this season. Last year it was the fourth consecutive year the Broncos have finished .500 or better under Tucker and the 10th time in his 11 seasons as head coach at Barrington. In his previous nine years at Loyola, his teams never finished under .500. The Broncos went on to share the MSL West title with Palatine and were the West representative in the MSL title game. They also won a regional title before bowing out in the sectional final. And despite graduating 5 of their 7 starters from that team, Barrington is still a force to be reckoned with. "We lost a lot from our sectional finalist team graduating 5 of our top 7," Tucker said. "We will be young, inexperienced and undersized, trying to compete in a division that is returning a ton of experience and talent. The young Broncos will have to grow up in a hurry to be competitive in a loaded league." Barrington does return Jason Boock, an all-area guard from last season who averaged 15 points per game and converted 45 percent of his 3-point shots. Mark Johnson and Evan Lauderback return to give the Broncos some size while Will Raider, Braden Albertson, Justyn Maroon and David Kushner, who are seniors, will vie for time in the backcourt. John Bulgarelli, Ben Kamptner, Charlie Loomis and twins Connor and Dylan Keenan give Barrington depth at forward and wing. Connor Groom, Nick MacIver, Kyle Rivas and Aaron Sarkar are all junior guards while sophomore guard Damian Zivak should see some action.

ConantCoach: Jim Maley (2nd season)

Last year's record: 21-8, 6-4

Graduated players: Ryan Davis, Ben Schols, Joe Arriaga

Returning players: Raj Mittal (6-3, Sr. F), Anthony Wachal (6-0, Sr., G), Jonathan Kolev (6-4, Sr., G/F)

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Newcomers: Dominic Benigni (6-0, Sr. G), Brandon Blakely (6-0, Sr., G), Jason Copher (5-8, Sr. G), Ranier Roque (5-9, Sr., G), Abaz Karafili (6-3, Jr., F), Dayvon Ellis (6-4, Soph., F)

Outlook: It will be time for Conant to move to new country. The Cougars will find out what life will be like without Ryan "Big Country" Davis. The four-year varsity player, all-stater and last year's Daily Herald Northwest All-Area captain, graduated after last season and took his skills to the University of Vermont. Coach Jim Maley will now have to find a way to replace 24.5 points and 10.8 rebounds. He will also have to replace three-year starter Ben Schols, who averaged 10.6 points per game. Despite that, Malley likes the makeup of his team this season, his second at Conant. "This will be a fun team to coach," Maley said. "They move the ball, make the extra pass, and genuinely seem to like each other." The Cougars will lean heavily on Raj Mittal for their offense. Mittal is a three-year varsity player who missed part of last season with an injury. He still managed to average 8.5 points and 4.5 rebound and 1.8 assists. "Raj Mittal is going to take on a bigger role this year without Ryan (Davis) and Ben (Schols)," Maley said. "He proved this summer that he was up for the challenge." But it is not just his play on the basketball court that makes Mittal special. He notched a perfect score on the ACT test and was an IHSA state champion in mathematics. The Cougars also return Anthony Wachal this season. Wachal, who was a star wide receiver on the football team and helped lead it to its first conference title in 15 years, is a guard who averaged 4.9 points last season. "Anthony Wachal comes right off the football field and immediately becomes a leader," Malley said. "I know he hasn't touched a ball since July, but he looked like he didn't miss a beat at practice." Jonathan Kolev, who saw lots of action last season and averaged 3.3, also returns and gives the Cougars some size up front. Conant will be looking at a group of seniors to fill in the gaps with Dominic Benigni, Brandon Blakely, Jason Copher and Ranier Roque all in the mix. Abaz Karafili, a 6-3 junior forward and Dayvon Ellis, a 6-4 sophomore, should help under the boards.

FremdCoach: Bob Widlowski (18th season)

Last year's record: 17-13, 6-4

Graduated players: Ryan Martin, Elliot Kim, Luke Seidel, Isiah Turner, Greg Cano, Zach Zimmer, Griffin Maloney, Matt Gumalarz, Matt Smearman, Will Schmeling, Ryan Hansen

Returning players: Bryce Hopkins (6-4, Sr., G), John Smyros (6-0, Sr., G), Dean Ganas (6-0, Sr., G), Jake Schoffstall (5-11, Jr., G), Dean Ganas (6-0, Sr., G),


Newcomers: Kayman Hopkins (6-5, Jr., F), Max Wexley (6-2. Jr., F), Charlie Towns (6-3, Jr., F), Matt Wingen (6-1, Jr., G), Antonio Bandalo, Russell Beaupre, Peter Martin, Mike Nale, Tafara Okammor, Ryan Palmer, CJ Williams

Outlook: Fremd looks to keep the train rolling. After a fourth-place finish in the state in 2017, Fremd followed it up with another regional title last season. It was the sixth regional title in 17 years for Fremd coach Bob Widlowski. With 290 career wins, Widlowski, who is the dean of coaches in the MSL, should hit the 300-mark this season. The Vikings look to make it three regional titles in a row. They are led By Bryce Hopkins, who earned all-area honors last season by averaging 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists. Hopkins' play has drawn the interest of Division I programs and he has reportedly picked up offers from Nebraska, Loyola, Miami (OH) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "Bryce's experience and leadership will be extremely valuable to the team," Widlowski said. "He has played in some bright-light moments for Fremd. He is extremely versatile and can play all five positions on the floor." The Vikings also return John Smyros and Dean Ganas, who are both seniors, along with junior Jake Schoffstall, who is an all-stater in soccer. All three saw significant time last season and Widlowski figures to lean on them heavily along with Hopkins. "We are looking at them to set the pace with their effort and their attitude," Widlowski said. "They have all put in a great amount of work over the offseason and improved their strength as well. They are a tight-knit group that has played together for a long time. We expect them to set the tone on the defensive end with their ball pressure." The Vikings will also lean on Hopkins' brother, Kayman, who is a 6-foot-5 junior. Max Wexley, Charlie Towns and Matt Wingen who are also juniors, figure to see some time. Antonio Bandalo, Russell Beaupre, Peter Martin, Mike Nale, Tafara Okammor, Ryan Palmer and CJ Williams should provide some depth. "We are excited to get going," Widlowski said. "We have a nice mix of veteran players with newcomers to the varsity."

Hoffman EstatesCoach: Luke Yanule (8th season, 70-114)

Last year's record: 13-14, 3-7

Graduated players: Adrian Punzalan, Marshall Davis, Julian Nelson Pablo, William Nune, Marcel Boclair, David Brendan Thompson, James Allen

Returning players: Rudra Patel (6-2, Sr., G), Marquez Woodard (6-0, Sr., G) Sheldon Barnett-Morales (6-5 Sr., F), Philip Ziecina (6-2, Sr., F), Jon Robson (6-0, Sr., G), Jeremiah Blocker (5-11, Sr. G.), Jaydon Dennis (5-11, Sr., G)


Newcomers: Jevin Dobbins, (Jr. G), Vatsal Pandya (Jr, G), Nate Fisher (Jr., F)

Outlook: Hoffman Estates graduated a solid corps from last season that was able to get the Hawks close to the .500 mark, something they have not been over since the 2013-14 season. Hoffman did struggle a bit in conference play last year and finished fifth in the MSL West but did knock off the conference champion along the way. This season the Hawks feature three players who saw significant time last season, so the cupboard is not bare. "This is one of the closest teams we've had in terms of chemistry," Hoffman Estates coach Luke Yanule said. "It's a true brotherhood." The Hawks look to make a move up the MSL ladder this season and continue their success in nonconference games. It is a group that returns a trio of players that will be three-year varsity players in Rundra Patel (6.2 ppg), Sheldon Barnett-Morales (4.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Marquez Woodard (6.3 ppg, 1.3 apg) That group should give Yanule players to lean on in the clutch. "We're focused purely on creating conditions for victory every day in practice," Yanule said. "We look to hone in on the process of being our best in the moment and not looking too far ahead." Look for Phil Zienca (2.1 ppg) and Jaydon Dennis (1.3 ppg) to also make significant contributions this year. Yanule knows that his team needs to have success in the MSL West this season. "We feel the MSL West will be an absolute battle this year," Yanule said. "If we're gritty enough, we feel we can reach our potential by creating a positive energy every day and caring about each other. The scores will take care of themselves." The Hawks' schedule is quite interesting. They hope to get off to a great start thanks to a very early favorable home schedule. After playing in the Glenbrook North Thanksgiving tournament, Hoffman is home to play 6 of its next 7 games, with three of those being conference games. But after the Christmas break, they are home to only 4 of their last 12 games.

PalatineCoach: Eric Millstone (11th season)

Last year's record: 18-13 (7-3, 1st MSL West)

Graduated players: Johnny O'Shea, Cortez Hogans, Jake Moertl, Lamon Berry, Basa Balanganayi, Luke Garrett, Evan Daly, Martize Walker, AJ Grana, Leo Donlin, Sean Dell

Returning players: Julian Campbell (6-6, Soph., F), David Balanganayi (6-4, Sr., F), Ben Storm (6-3, Sr., F), Demo Collins (5-10, Sr., G), Marshawn Rayford (Sr., G), Matt Elter (5-11, Sr., G/F),

Newcomers: Zac Garnmeister (Sr, F), Luke Seiffert (Soph, G), Tommy Swanson (Jr, G/F), Josh Rivera (Jr, G/F), Brandon Hernandez (Jr, F), Connor Aikman (Jr, G), Alex Plourde (Jr, G), Eric Lambke (Jr, G), Shailan Rajpurkar (Jr, G), Jon Murray (Jr, G)

Outlook: Palatine is coming off one of its most successful seasons. The Pirates shared the MSL West title and came within a point in overtime of winning a regional title. But no team in the MSL was decimated by graduation as much as Palatine. The Pirates graduated 11 seniors and nearly all their scoring from last season. That team shared the MSL West title with Barrington and was eliminated in the regional championship game by those same Broncos. Now it is a complete rebuild for the Pirates and coach Eric Millstone. Fortunately for Millstone, the Pirates will be getting all their football players back early since that team struggled this fall. It is only the second time in the last 11 years that Millstone has had all of his players on the first day of practice. "We return some guys with a little varsity experience," Millstone said "But not enough experience to constitute confidence yet. The quicker we can be put in difficult and uncomfortable situations, the quicker we're going to figure out who we really are." What the Pirates do return is plenty of size inside with 6-foot-6, 280 pound Julian "JuJu" Campbell and 6-4, 265 pound David Balanganayi. Those two should be a solid force in the paint for Palatine. Ben Storm, who hit 16 3-pointers last season and Fremd transfer Zac Garnmeister, who quarterbacked the Pirates for football in the fall, should make up a very formidable front. Demo Collins, Marshawn Rayford and Matt Elter, who all spotted in at times, should help in the backcourt. Luke Seiffert, who is a sophomore, juniors Tommy Swanson, Josh Rivera, Brandon Hernandez, Connor Aikman, Alex Plourde, Eric Lambke, Shailan Rajpurkar and Jon Murray should provide some depth. "If we respond the right way to bumps in the road, I think we have enough skill to be competitive in our conference," Millstone said. "Like most high school kids, our guys feel good about themselves when things are going well. But it's how we react when things aren't going well that will determine how successful we'll be this season."

SchaumburgCoach: Wade Heisler (4th season)

Last year's record: 11-17, 2-8

Graduated players: Jerry Clark, Brandon Barber, Dom Tyler.

Returning players: Hezekiah (Heze) Trotter (6-2, Sr., G), Michael Hodges (6-2, Sr., G), Chris Hodges (6-8, C, Soph), Nick LaBud (5-10, Sr., G), Christian Orozco (6-2, Sr., F),

Newcomers: Jared Schoo, Armen Torosian, Vaurice Patterson, Shamaree Brown

Outlook: Schaumburg looks to flip the script this season. The Saxons have not had a winning season since the 2012-13 campaign. That could change in a big way this season. Led by 6-foot-8 sophomore Chris Hodges, not only should the Saxons be looking at a solid year, but they are the preseason favorite in the MSL West. "We will look to have a balanced offense with an inside presence," Schaumburg coach Wade Heisler said "We should have athleticism for attacking the rim and strong outside shooting threats from some new faces and some much improved returnees." Chris Hodges has already received attention from D-I schools and has picked up offers from Loyola and Miami of Ohio. "Chris certainly does not play like a sophomore," Heisler said. "He has developed physically and has the ability to be dominant on both ends of the floor." Along with Chris Hodges, the Saxons return his brother Michael, who will be a three-year starter and Heze Trotter, a four-year varsity player for the Saxons. "Heze has really improved as a basketball player and as an athlete," Heisler said. "Most importantly, he has become a tremendous ambassador of our vision." Schaumburg also returns a pair of players who saw significant time last season. Nick LaBud and Christian Orozco should be keys to the Saxons' success this season. Heisler will also look to Jared Schoo, Armen Torosian, Vaurice Patterson and freshman Shamaree Brown. "Keys to our success will be to bring our inexperienced guys along with our veterans and work toward consistent improvement," Heisler said. "The team has approached thus far with an every rep counts mentality which must hold through the grind of an entire season." Heisler said that his team will look to pick up its defensive play and attack inside when the Saxons have the ball. "Our areas of focus are to be solid defensively, have good ball movement on offense, and take care of the basketball," Heisler said. "We want play inside out, getting the ball inside in a multitude of ways."

Central Suburban North

Maine West WarriorsCoach: Tom Prokopij (2nd season)

Last year's record: 19-8, 9-1

Graduated players: Julian Dones, Corian Staten, Matt Kentgen, Darrington Bates, Milos Dugalic, Jack Collins

Returning players: Danny Rice (6-7 Sr.), Justin Scholler (5-10 Sr.), Nana Agyarko (5-8 Sr.), Danny Daood (6-3 Sr.), Ely Grimmer (6-3 Sr.) Anaan Siddiqui (6-1 Sr.), Ramiz Avdic (5-9 Sr.)

Newcomers: Isaih Csiem-Davis (6-1 Jr.), Lucas Glaister (6-1 Jr.), A.J. Ross (5-8 Jr.), Danny Kentgen (6-3 Jr.), Sean Collins (5-10 Jr.), Kentrell Johnson (5-10 Jr.), Jacob Riedl (6-0 Jr.) Jared Pearson (6-1 Soph)

Outlook: The defending Central Suburban North champion Warriors may be hard pressed to repeat this season. "I think Deerfield and Glenbrook North have to be considered the front-runners this season," said Warriors coach Tom Prokopij. "But, that's OK. We've been in a position being the chasers and this year will be no different." Still, it will be a tough task to fill the shoes of last year's team. "The sooner this group begins to fill their roles that will help us to accumulate the wins," said Prokopij. Danny Rice, Ely Grimmer, Danny Daood will present a formidable front line for Maine West. Grimmer and Rice played the most during last season as backups, and some starting roles. Daaood made his presence felt late in the season. Agyarko, Siddiqui. Avdic, will try to fill the shoes at guard. Prokopij has his eyes on promising sophomore Pearson, who is described as a physical player who made a name for himself during the summer. The group of juniors come off a solid season as sophomore and went 18-7 playing their best basketball toward the end of the season. "We don't have a lot of players who had that much playing time last season," said Prokopij. "But they learned a lot about leadership roles from last year's team and are ready for varsity basketball. We have some really nice talented juniors that should be able to contribute and make us successful. This group is very competitive from what I have seen so far in practice. A strong point for them is their attitude and what they bring it to practice." Maine West will be more of a road Warrior team. The Warriors have only 10 home games out of a potential 30 regular-season games. Maine West will play five Mid-Suburban East teams, participate in the Lake Zurich shootout in early February, and have nonconference games against Collins, Niles West, Downers Grove South and Ridgewood.

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