The bigs are really, really big at Palatine
Some teams are big.
Palatine is gigantic.
The Pirates' two starting bigs are ... well, really, really big.
"We've got 13 feet and 600 pounds of post players," Palatine coach Eric Millstone said with a chuckle. "Over the years, we haven't had a lot of true post players, let alone kids this big on our team. And we start them both."
Sophomore Julian Campbell and senior David Balanganayi give Palatine one of the tallest and meatiest front lines in the suburbs.
Campbell stands 6-foot-6, 305 pounds while Balanganayi checks in at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds.
"It's a little bit of a novelty," Millstone said. "We're still trying to figure out the best way we can use them both."
Campbell leads the Pirates in scoring with 22 points per game while shooting a healthy 62 percent from 2-point range. He's also pulling down 8 rebounds per game.
On top of that, he's Palatine's leading 3-point shooter with a 42 percent clip on 14 made 3-pointers.
"There are some funny reactions when Julian goes out there and hits 3-pointers. There aren't many kids his size who can shoot it (from distance) like he does," Millstone said. "Julian has such nice touch. He's got great feet. He's got some really great skills."
Millstone is working with both Campbell and Balanganayi on their conditioning.
"It's great at practice that they bang on each other," Millstone said. "We just need to work on their stamina. For Julian, he's really got a bright future if he takes an interest in his health and fitness. He could be a Division I basketball player."
Campbell is also a football player, and was a wide receiver for the Pirates in the fall. But Millstone says his first love is basketball.
Next man up: The point guard spot has seen some unexpected change at Palatine.
Senior Demo Collins was tabbed to be the starter at that spot but has been out since the third game of the season with a knee injury. He was scheduled to get an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of his injury.
"It's tough because Demo was expected to be a leader for us," Palatine coach Eric Millstone said. "Now all of a sudden, we are trying to piece together a backcourt."
But Millstone thinks he might have found a good fit with sophomore Luke Seiffert.
Seiffert slipped into the starting spot at point guard to replace Collins and is now Palatine's second-leading scorer.
"One of the things that has been a pleasant surprise is how willing Luke has been to take on that leadership role," Millstone said. "It's been such a smooth transition for him mostly because he is mature beyond his years. I think Luke's teammates really respect and trust him too, and that's because of his personality. He's got a very good point guard personality and mentality where he doesn't get too high or too low."
Work in progress: The pause button has been pushed on the season of Maine West senior forward Ely Grimmer.
Grimmer has been dealing with a knee injury since the start of the season and tried to gut it out during the Warriors' Thanksgiving games at Palatine.
He's played in only one game since as he ramps up physical therapy over the next four weeks in an effort to be healthier after the holidays.
"Ely came back with the most returning minutes from last year and he averaged double-figures for us over Thanksgiving," Maine West coach Tom Prokopij said. "We'll see where he is after the four weeks of physical therapy. We hope to get him back but he also has a dream of playing college football so he has to think about that."
Grimmer, also a standout free safety for the Maine West football team, is getting multiple college football scholarship offers, mostly at the Division I FCS level. Morehead State, Grand Valley State, Drake and Miami of Ohio among others are all in the mix.
Meet the press: Opponents of Maine West need to be in good shape when they face the Warriors.
They will be guarded up and down the floor the entire game.
Maine West utilizes a full court pressure defense from start to finish.
"The whole idea is to wear down the other team and make them not want to play us," Maine West coach Tom Prokopij said. "For us, it leads to a lot more minutes off the bench. We have to have a lot of guys playing."
To keep up the frenetic pace they desire, the Warriors usually go at least 10 deep. But at times this season, Prokopij has used 12 different players in a game, and sometimes in the first quarter alone.
Senior guard Justin Scholler sets the tone for the press.
"He's a good leader," Prokopij said of Scholler. "He's out there guarding the other team's best ballhandler full court and he's averaging about 26 minutes per game."
He's back: Senior forward Ryne Singsank is back playing basketball for Elk Grove.
And not a moment too soon.
Singsank took last season off from basketball to focus on baseball. He has since earned a preferred walk-on spot at Southern Illinois as a pitcher.
Now, the 6-foot-9 Singsank is back in a basketball uniform and he is helping the Grenadiers with their big turnaround.
Elk Grove went just 2-25 last season. Already, the Grens have matched that win total. Elk Grove finished in third place at the Fenton Thanksgiving tournament with a 2-2 record.
"The guys are getting better and competing hard every day," Elk Grove coach Nick Oraham said. "We've got some guys like Ryne stepping up."
Singsank is averaging about 13 points and 9 rebounds per game while shooting a scorching 68 percent from the field. He's also swatting more than 3 shots per game to give the Grenadiers a strong interior defensive presence.
"He's playing really well for a kid who took a year off from varsity basketball," Oraham said of Singsank. "He's a very good shot blocker who protects the rim for us. He's also got great vision and passes out of the post really well and he reads shots off the glass really well for rebounding."
On offense, Singsank prefers to be more of an old-school post player with his back to the basket. But he also has a midrange jumper and has hit a couple of 3-pointers on the season.
"I think as the season progresses and Ryne gets back into basketball, I could see him easily averaging 17 to 19 points a game," Oraham said. "I think he feels OK about taking last year off because it helped him with baseball, but I think he's going to find as this season goes that maybe he could even play basketball in college, too."
Busy, busy: There's a lot on the plate of Elk Grove coach Nick Oraham right now.
Just 10 weeks ago, his wife Lauren gave birth to the couple's first child, son Vincent James.
Meanwhile, this is Oraham's first year on the job at Elk Grove. He was hired late in the game, in June, so the last few months have been a complete whirlwind as he has started his program, while also starting parenthood.
"Juggling a baby and your first year on the job is not easy," Oraham said. "But my wife is an all-star. She has always been a supporter of everything I do."
Before arriving at Elk Grove, Oraham, a physical education teacher and an aide, was the head coach at Dixon. Living in Naperville at the time, he had a 72-mile drive to school one way, each day.
Now, the Orahams live in Crystal Lake but will soon be moving to somewhere within District 214 to cut down on the driving.
"We are trying to find a good fit where we will be close to home," Oraham said. "We are looking forward (to getting settled)."