Scouting Fox area boys basketball
Aurora Central Catholic
Coach: Nathan Drye (16th year, 214-212)
Conference: Metro Suburban
2018-19 record: 5-21, 2-10 MSC Blue (seventh)
Top returning players: Danny Cwinski, jr., PG; Colin Dean, sr., G; Donovan Grunloh, sr., G; Sam Antkowiak, sr., F; Brendan O'Brien, jr., F; Dylan Bryant, jr., F
Top newcomers: Julien Berry, jr., G; Patrick Englehardt, jr., F; Michael Remlinger, jr., F; Riley Sweeney, jr., G; Colby Metcalf, jr., F; Antonio Cianferri, jr., G
Season outlook: Improvement is the key word for the Chargers this season, especially on the offensive end. "Our kids worked hard in the offseason to get better and we are excited to see how that improvement plays out on the court," said Drye. "We should be able to score the ball a bit better which was a real struggle for us last year. Grunloh, Bryant and Cwinski should be able to carry the scoring load." Aurora Central Catholic opens its season with three games at the Elmwood Park Thanksgiving Tournament Nov. 25-27 before participating in the annual Burney Wilkie Tournament the following week at Aurora Christian. So far, practices have been spirited, according to the Chargers' veteran head coach. "Our kids have been practicing exceptionally hard which we hope continues to opening night," said Drye. "We should keep improving throughout the season and be playing our best when regionals roll around."
Coach: Dan Beebe (fourth year, 71-19)
Conference: Metro Suburban
2018-19 record: 25-8, 9-3 MSC Blue (second)
Top returning players: Taaj Davis, sr., PG; Karsen Olsen, sr., G; Josh Smoot, sr., G; Dylan Denhartog, sr., G
Top newcomers: Danny New, so., G; Jabari Sisco, so., F; Daniel Walker, so., G; Jalen McDonald, jr., F; Michael Woodfork, jr., G; Caleb Kok, jr., F; Tramel Watts, jr., F; Owen Ragatz, jr., G
Season outlook: The Eagles lost more than two-thirds of their offense with the transfers of Will Wolfe (17.8 ppg) and Jaehshon Thomas (16.8 ppg) over the summer to Oswego East and Whitney Young, respectively. However, the 6-1 Davis returns to bolster the backcourt after averaging 12.4 points per contest a year ago. Davis may be looked upon for additional offensive support this season, while Beebe looks to a strong sophomore group headed by New (6-1), Sisco (6-3) and Walker (6-1). Winners of four consecutive regional championships, Aurora Christian hopes to contend with the likes of Riverside-Brookfield, Wheaton Academy, Ridgewood, Timothy Christian and Chicago Christian in the competitive Metro Suburban. "I really like this team," said Beebe. "We will be under the radar after winning 71 games the past three years but this team has a chance to be really good. Through our chemistry and hard work, I expect us to be a solid basketball team come state series time." Aurora Christian opens its season at its own 9th annual Burney Wilkie Classic (Dec. 3-7).
Coach: Jim Wolfsmith (13th year, 206-152)
Conference: Upstate Eight
2018-19 record: 8-22, 5-13 UEC (eighth)
Top returning players: Hayden Angell, jr., F; Liam Gallagher, sr., G; Jack Kline, sr., F; Cam Kunzer, sr., G; Clark Lewis, jr., G; Alex Pallela, jr., C
Top newcomers: George Betevis, jr., G; Nick Bucaro, jr., F; Nick Kantzavelos, jr., F; Conrad Luczynski, so., C; Mike Priami, jr., G; Frances Resureccion, jr., F; John Rivera, sr., G, Ian Smith, so., G
Season outlook: The Bartlett roster is a mix of six returning players, a few newcomers from last year's sophomore team and three transfer students. Three seniors return: Gallagher, Kunzer and Kline. Gallagher played in 22 games, Kunzer in 23. Kline provides leadership, according to Wolfsmith. Juniors Angell, Palella and Lewis played varsity as sophomores. Angell (6-foot-4) averaged 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Palella, also 6-4, is a valued football recruit who contributed 4 points and 3 rebounds. The savvy defender led the Hawks last season with 15 charges taken. Lewis, a golfer, can shoot from the outside. He scored 3 ppg a year ago. The team gets a boost from Luczynski, a 6-10 sophomore who transferred from St. Francis last spring. He has soft hands, plays well with the ball above his head and looks to pass, Wolfsmith said. Rivera, a quick guard, transferred from Streamwood. Bucaro (6-2) is a talented football player who transferred from Montini. Wolfsmith calls Bucaro "a great athlete, very long and very strong." Five varsity newcomers -- Kantzavelos, Betevis, Resureccion, Smith and Priami -- play at least one other sport. Kantzvelos plays football, basketball and baseball. Priami was the quarterback of Bartlett's 8-win football team this fall. The roster is a diverse mix of tantalizing ingredients. How long it takes the flavors to blend will determine the success level of a team with length and depth. "I think the beginning will be rough for us with so many football guys still banged up from a long season," Wolfsmith said. "We have three transfers and a lot of new kids to the varsity so merging them will take some time."
Coach: Jim Nazos (eighth year at Batavia, 103-101; 20th year overall, 281-253)
2018-19 record: 12-19, 4-10 DuKane (seventh).
Top returning players: Devin Cheaney, sr., C; Tyler Cooper, sr., G-F; Josh Costello, sr., C; Charley Grimm, sr., G; Jayden Johnson, sr., G-F; Kyle Neibch, so., G-F
Top newcomers: Luke Fehrenbacher, jr., G; Ethan Ivan, so., G-F; Trent Tousana, so., G
Season outlook: Jayden Johnson gives the Bulldogs a chance every game. Considered among Illinois' top wing players in his class, the 6-foot-6 senior is a two-time All-Area and returning all-DuKane pick. The four-year varsity player topped 1,000 points last season. He made 52 percent of his 2-point shots, hit 71 threes and got to the foul line 139 times. Johnson averaged a team-high 16.5 points and 4.4 rebounds. His constant development now includes stronger rebounding and defense. Team defense and ball control -- with Fehrenbacher and Tousana sharing point guard duties -- will help determine the Bulldogs' success. The 6-8 Cheaney, a college recruit like Johnson, has good athleticism and touch for a big man. Nazos believes his team's ability to run the floor and shoot well will have Batavia "in the mix" of the DuKane. "I think we're a team that can do well in the open floor," he said. "And when you have a team that can be good inside and outside I think you have a chance."
Burlington Central Rockets
Coach: Brett Porto (11th year, 197-96)
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 26-9, 10-2 Kishwaukee River Conference (first)
Top returning players: Josh Hudgens, sr., F; Jake Lenschow, sr., F; Gavin Sarvis, so., G; Zac Schmidt, so., G; Carson Seyller, so., G; Edward Wells, sr., G
Top newcomers: Nick Carpenter, so., F; Aidan De La Mar, jr., G; Charles Freeman, jr., G; Steven Langtim, jr., G; Andrew Scharnowski, fr., G; Trestan Wagner, so., G
Season outlook: League champion Burlington Central departs the Kishwaukee River Conference and joins the Fox Valley. The first order of business is replacing the output of graduated scoring machine Patrick Mayfield, now at Dubuque. His 25.7 points per game led the Fox Valley area in 2018-19. The Rockets return three starters: Lenschow, a 6-foot-5, three-sport athlete who last year averaged 11 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists, Hudgens (6-6) and Schmidt. Hudgens takes on an expanded role after coming on strong late last season and over the summer. Last year he contributed 6.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Central is an extremely young team overall. The 12-man roster includes five sophomores -- Sarvis, Wagner, Seyller, Carpenter and Schmidt -- and Scharnowski, a freshman. Schmidt played in all 35 games as a freshman. The 6-2 guard averaged 3 points, 3 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Lenschow, Hudgens and Wells are the only seniors on the roster. "It's a weird mix, but I feel like there's enough there to be really competitive," Porto said. "Enough guys know the system that we should be able to get after it, but there are still some unknowns." As for embarking on the program's first FVC season? "We'll prepare the same way we always do," Porto said. "Now, the bus just drives to different gyms."
Coach: Adam McCloud (fourth year, 50-35)
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 21-8, 11-5 FVC (second)
Top returning players: Clark Cunningham, sr., G; Beau Frericks, sr., G; Frank Jakubicek, sr., C/F; Drew Szydlo, sr., F; Ryan Weaver, jr., G/F
Top newcomers: Trevor Beaugureau, sr., F; Mike Clarke, so., G
Season outlook: The Trojans are poised for another successful season with six seniors returning from a team that won 21 games, the Jacobs holiday tournament title and finished second in the FVC. Leading the way are two returning all-area players: Jakubicek, a 6-foot-8 forward committed to Belmont, and Frericks, a 6-1 guard committed to Lewis. Jakubicek last season averaged 12.8 points and 7 rebounds. He shot 46 percent from 3-point range (26 of 57). Frericks is a pure scorer. The 46% shooter averaged 19.4 ppg as a junior, shot 84.4% from the free-throw line and 40% from beyond the arc (67 of 168). Cunningham distributed 2.2 assists per game. Weaver is a second-year varsity player who contributed 5.3 points, 2.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Szydlo is one of seven Trojans 6-2 or taller. Beaugureau, committed to Aurora University, and Clarke were both productive in summer-league play, according to their coach. McCloud said he expects Beaugureau (6-4), who saw extensive JV minutes last season, to be a bigger contributor after a solid off-season that included AAU basketball and outside training. A talented, veteran squad has lofty goals in mind but McCloud does not want his team getting ahead of itself. "We keep trying to preach the mindset of winning every day," he said. "I know it's a cliché, but if we just try to be the best we can be every day, goals will present themselves and, hopefully, we can capitalize."
Crystal Lake South Gators
Coach: Matt LePage (eighth year, 108-93)
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 23-8, 12-4 FVC (tie-first)
Top returning players: Damir Glamoc, sr., F; Casey Haskin, jr., F; Brock Jewson, jr., G; Tyler Miller, sr., G; Tom Wolek, sr., F
Top newcomers: Isaiah Keerking, so., G; Cooper LePage, fr., G; Ryan Murtaugh, sr., F; Will Stewart, jr., G
Season outlook: The Gators finished tied for first place in the FVC with rival Crystal Lake Central last season and should again be in the thick of the title hunt. Miller returns after leading CL South in scoring (13.3 ppg) and steals (56). He averaged 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists, sank 47% from 3-point range (82 of 176) and 73% from the free-throw line (53 of 73). LePage said Miller is "capable of taking another step" in his third varsity season. Glamoc emerged in the final two months last season. The 6-foot-5 left-hander contributed 4.9 points while shooting 44% from the field and 33% from 3-point range. Haskin (6-foot-6) scored 7 points and grabbed 4.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore. LePage said Haskin seems older than a junior due to his even-keeled personality, ballhandling skills and defensive ability. The Gators get additional height from Wolek (6-3) and Murtaugh (6-6), the latter of whom is a guard who sprouted three inches in five months, his coach said. Multisport athlete Jewson is a solid defender. Left-handed sophomore Keerking is expected to add scoring punch. Cooper LePage is a shooter with good handles who will help fill the void left by graduated three-year point guard Ben Geske. Does CL South have enough talent and depth to successfully navigate the 18-game conference schedule in the deep and balanced Fox Valley? "I think we're really excited about what we bring back and what we bring new to the fold," coach LePage said. "We lose some of our defensive grinders who were so good last year, but we do return a good chunk of the team. We have to be ready to go in December and finish strong in February."
Coach: Lance Huber (17th year, 213-230)
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 18-10, 9-7 FVC (tie-fourth)
Top returning players: Trayvon Hatcher, sr., G; Kyle Huber, sr., W; Doug Miller, sr., G; Justin Prusko, sr., F
Top newcomers: Josh Harris, jr., P; Ryan Hodor, sr., W; Vinnie Mercado, sr., G; Terrell Powell, jr., W
Season outlook: The Chargers graduated eight players, including their top five scorers. Several returnees find themselves in new roles that might take time to get used to, Huber said. The veteran coach already knows many of these players well. He coached several as seventh and eigth-graders when they were teammates of his son, Kyle, now a senior. Hatcher contributed 3.5 ppg and instant energy off the bench in his second varsity season as a junior. He shot 76 percent from the free-throw line. Lance Huber calls him "one of the toughest players I've had the pleasure of coaching" and said Hatcher is a vocal leader in practices and games. Prusko, committed to play tight end at Southeast Missouri State, averaged 3 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. His path to more playing time was blocked a season ago by senior leaders Jack Michalski, Brad Stec and Josh Raby. Kyle Huber was mainly a 3-point shooter last season. Of his 80 field-goal attempts, 73 were launched from beyond the arc. He hit at a 32% clip (23 of 73). Coach Huber said Kyle developed his midrange game in summer-league play and the ability to find the open man if guarded. Miller was seeing significant minutes last season before a Feb. 1 injury forced him to miss the final six games of the regular season. In 19 games he averaged 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 points. Harris (6-5) and Powell (6-3) give the team depth in the post beyond Prusko. Huber describes Hodor as a scrappy player with a nice shooting touch. Seven of 13 Chargers are seniors. "You like every senior group but this one has a little more weight for me personally," coach Huber said. "I've known them all since they were in sixth grade so this season means a lot from my perspective. I'm hoping we can be competitive in what looks like a very deep Fox Valley Conference."
Coach: Scott Hennig (third year, 50-15)
2018-19 record: 32-2, 13-1 DuKane (first)
Top returning players: Drew Johnson, sr., F; Josh Preston, sr., F.
Top newcomers: Dylan Fuzak, jr., F; Quin McNeive, G; Chris Suger, so., F; Nathan Valentine, sr., G.
Season outlook: The Vikings come off a Class 4A Elite Eight berth, "a special year," Hennig said. Stars Jack McDonald and Mitch Mascari are now at Augustana and Northwest Missouri State, respectively. Now, a fresh crew will ride a learning curve. That is, except for sole returning starter Preston, who clicked in the playoffs and averaged 6.9 points behind 70-percent shooting inside the arc. A good shooter, passer and rebounder, the 6-foot-5 University of Chicago commit "looks like a defensive end," Hennig said. These Vikings look like a lot of their teams, pretty tall with 6-2 Drew Johnson, 6-5 Preston, 6-6 Suger and 6-9 Fuzak. Juniors like Fuzak and 6-2 McNeive come off a 20-win sophomore season. Hennig sees a team, paced by Preston, that can shoot from the outside and rebound well while working to improve its ballhandling and adjusting on the fly in a strong conference. The coach likes their chances and is excited to get going. "In terms of work ethic, in terms of guys wanting to get better on the floor, this group is unbelievable," he said.
Coach: Todd Allen (first year)
Conference: Upstate Eight
2018-19 record: 6-24, 3-15 UEC (ninth)
Top returning players: Xavier Bonds, sr., G; Gio Griffin, jr., G; Darien Jackson, jr., G; Jeffery Lomax, jr., C/F; Prem Patel, sr., G
Top newcomers: Aygeon Abner, jr., G; Manny Hernandez, jr., G; Darrell Thornton, jr., G/F
Season outlook: The Maroons are now under the direction of Elgin graduate Todd Allen, hired in August. He is the program's third coach in three seasons. He is joined by longtime Elgin varsity assistant Jeff Howard. Also coaching at various levels are Elgin alumni D'Angelo Stewart, Alan Walker and Brandon Grissette. What Allen's first team lacks in height, it makes up for in quickness and athleticism. The tallest players on the roster are Lomax (6-foot-5), who quarterbacked a playoff football team this fall, and Jaimes (6-4). Only two other Maroons stand taller than 5-11. "We're really quick," Allen said. "Our quickness and getting out and defending will be big for us." Bonds, an all-around athlete who excelled on the football field, is chief among those expected to help Elgin turn defense into offense. He was the team's second-leading scorer last season at 12 ppg. Jackson is a slasher with a good midrange game who shot 32% from 3-point range. Hernandez will likely come off the bench. He is a "smooth" guard, his coach said, who is smart with the ball and can shoot from outside. Hernandez was elevated to the varsity late in his sophomore season. Thornton is a versatile player who can play any position, one through five. Jaimes complements Lomax if Allen wants to play big or give Lomax the occasional breather. Bonds, Lomax, Griffin and Jackson lend Elgin a quickness level few teams can match. The new coach is hoping to improve on last year's 8 wins. It could be a process. "After coming in late I'm still learning the guys and they are learning about me," Allen said. "I just want them to buy into their roles and buy in defensively. If they do that, we'll see some success and get better. We want to utilize their strengths, their quickness, and put them in position to succeed."
Elgin Academy Hilltoppers
Coach: Rick Williams (fourth year, 22-58)
Conference: Independent School League
2018-19 record: 15-18, 2-10 ISL (sixth)
Top returning players: Cameron Agno, jr., PG; Samuel Basa, jr., G/F; Christian Rodriguez, sr., G; Ryan Ulrichs, sr., G/F
Top newcomers: Jabe Haith, fr., G; Kyle Sauer, fr., F
Season outlook: The Hilltoppers look to continue their upward trajectory with a collection of players Williams calls "the most talented roster Elgin Academy has had in decades." Elgin Academy won 15 games last season, a major step considering the program garnered 9 victories the previous three seasons combined. There is reason for optimism with the return of 2018-19 team MVP Rodriguez, a 5-foot-10 senior leader. Also back is Ulrichs, a versatile scorer who averaged a team-high 19 ppg as a junior. Agno returns to distribute the ball after a strong showing at point guard. Basa and Peagues add to the lineup's depth. Williams said freshmen Sauer (6-foot-7) and Haith (6-2) "will play major varsity minutes." The combination of proven returnees and talented newcomers has the Hilltoppers aiming high. "Our goals are to be known for how well we play together on both ends of the floor and go after a regional championship," Williams said. "Our style of play will be to defend, talk, pass and run."
Harvest Christian Academy Lions
Coach: Bryan Bradshaw (third year, 35-18)
Conference: Northeastern Athletic
2018-19 record: 16-9, 8-1 NAC (first)
Top returning players: Nate Boldog, sr., G; Matt Ellett, jr., G; Brandon Keeran, jr., G
Top newcomers: Daniel Doby, jr., F; Ben Lothery, fr., G; Alex Nohava, so., F; George Nohava, so., F
Season outlook: The defending Northeastern Athletic Conference champs undergo a youth movement after four of their top five scorers graduated. Senior Night won't take long. The only 12th-grader on the roster is Boldog (1.3 ppg). Otherwise, the 12-man roster includes four sophomores and two freshmen. Multisport athlete Ellett is the leading returning scorer. He contributed 12.1 ppg as a sophomore by shooting 53% from the field (45 of 85), 41% from 3-point range (54 of 132) and 81% from the free-throw line (38 of 47). Bradshaw calls Ellett "one of the top players in our conference" and said his overall game has improved. Keeran sets the tone defensively. He averaged 1.4 steals as a sophomore. Boldog sank 7 attempts from 3-point range in limited action but is expected to score and provide leadership as the Lions' lone senior. The Nohava brothers are multisport athletes who bring speed and defensive toughness to the team. Bradshaw said Lothery is a player to watch. He calls him "a special talent" who sees the floor really well and can score. His coach believes Lothery can be "one of the best players in our conference" right away. Can Harvest Christian again compete for the league's top spot against the likes of Westminster Christian, Mooseheart and Parkview Christian by playing an up-tempo brand of basketball? "It will be a challenge," Bradshaw said, "but I see us right in the mix competing for a conference championship."
Coach: Mike Featherly (first year)
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 15-17, 9-7 (tie-fourth)
Top returning players: Kenyan Davis, so., G; Nick Erickson, sr., F; Jackson Milison, sr., F; Joenell Parreno, jr., G; Jeremy Rosa, Jr., sr., G; Collin Woods, sr., G
Top newcomers: Zach Bailey, jr., G; Kevin Dela Paz, so., G; Adam Ugochukwu, jr., F
Season outlook: Featherly, Hampshire's longtime girls basketball coach, brings 17 years of coaching experience to the boys program. He describes this squad as "tall and skinny. They're huge." The 14-man roster includes 12 players 6-foot-1 or taller, led by Erickson (6-7), Woods (6-5), Rosa (6-5), Davis (6-4) and Milison (6-3). Woods is a returning all-area and all-Fox Valley Conference pick. As a junior he led the team in points per game (14) and steals (52). He shot 36% from 3-point range (40 of 111) and grabbed 3.2 rebounds. Erickson is a senior leader who averaged 7.9 points and hauled down 111 rebounds. He will be asked to be a ball distributor. In fact, the new coach wants to see all the Whip-Purs dribble less and pass more considering the team has multiple returning scoring options like veterans Milison (6.4 ppg) and Rosa (6.5 ppg). Milison is a steady, multisport athlete who doesn't get too high or too low, his coach said. Rosa does the dirty work down low. He gets rebounds and guards the other team's best post player. Featherly calls Dela Paz "a quick, smart guard," Bailey "an athletic wing, more of an attacker" and Ugochukwu "a good post player who has earned a spot on the varsity." He said Parreno will get good minutes off the bench if he takes care of the ball. Hampshire has the talent to finish in the upper echelon of the Fox Valley Conference if not vie for the top spot. "I think we have a team that can be incredibly dangerous," Featherly said. "We should be able to compete in every single game if they buy into the intangible things. They are gifted basketball players. They just have to do the little things, the intangible things, every game."
Huntley Red Raiders
Coach: Will Benson (sixth year at Huntley 51-99, 10th overall 97-168)
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 18-15, 9-7 FVC (tie-fourth)
Top returning players: Ryan Crosby, sr., PG; Uchenna Egekeze, sr., G/F; Hunter French, sr., G; Nikolas Mendoza, sr., G/F; Ryan Sroka, sr., G/F; Ryan Vrugt, sr., G; Luke DiFrancesca, sr., F
Top newcomers: Ben Ahmer, so., G; Paul Kerber, jr., F
Season outlook: Huntley returns 10 seniors from an 18-win team, the most seniors sixth-year coach Benson has had on the roster in his six seasons. The Red Raiders are positioned to challenge for the FVC title, led by a trio of three-year varsity players: Crosby, Egekeze and Sroka. All-area selectee Egekeze (6-foot-3) led the team in scoring (16.1) and rebounding (7.8) as a junior while averaging 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals. Sroka (6-5) averaged 13.3 points and 5.1 rebounds. A 36.1% shooter from 3-point range (52 of 144), Sroka has become a more consistent shot maker, according to his coach. "They are totally different players and they play off each other well," Benson said of the duo. Crosby, a vocal leader, has added 15 pounds of muscle, his coach said. Last season he scored 5.2 ppg, shot 33% from 3-point range and averaged 1.6 steals. Vrugt sank 24 of 72 shots from 3-point range a year ago (33%). His coach said Ahmer is a hardworking outside shooter who should help Huntley space the floor. French (6-2), DiFrancesca (6-6) and Mendoza (6-0) all saw significant minutes as juniors and can match up defensively against opposing bigs, as can Sroka. Kerber, a track athlete, is a rebounder/defender with good hops. "I think we're in a nice spot. It's exciting," Benson said. "It's such a fun group of kids to coach. We'll have our ups and downs like everyone else, but I don't see this group fragmenting at all."
Jacobs Golden Eagles
Coach: Jimmy Roberts (seventh year at Jacobs, 131-51; 10th year overall, 150-114)
Conference: Fox Valley
2018-19 record: 13-18, 7-9 FVC (seventh)
Top returning players: Andrew Balkcom, sr., G; James Hayes, jr., G; Jaden Henderson, sr., G; Zach Leahy, jr., G; Matthew Lodi, jr., F; Brock Lewis, sr., G; Robert Pennel, jr., G; Max Stec, jr., F
Season outlook: No one used the word rebuild last season, but Roberts surrounded talented guards Henderson and Balkcom with a roster that included five sophomores after the Golden Eagles graduated all five starters from the previous season. Now juniors, those players return with a year of experience under their belts, which could put Jacobs back in the FVC title mix. "You can't replicate or manufacture experience," Roberts said. "I hope this year is why we went through some of the things we went through last year." Henderson (6-foot-4) is the catalyst. An all-area pick last season, he led the team in scoring (14.6 ppg), rebounds (4.7) and assists (1.9), shot 52% from the field and 44% from 3-point range. He spent the off-season finding ways to make the players around him better while finding his leadership voice, according to his coach. Balkcom, also a pitcher on the baseball team, averaged 4.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists last season. Last February he scored 7 points in overtime, including the game-winner with 2.1 seconds, left to beat rival Dundee-Crown. He led Jacobs with 19 points in a regional playoff loss to Streamwood. Hayes, Leahy, Lodi, Pennel and Stec last season combined for 12.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Hayes led the way with 4.2 points, 1.7 boards and 1.3 assists. "All of them have made progress, taken strides and gotten better," Roberts said. "It feels like they are all seniors because they've all been around for a while."
Coach: Ernie Colombe (first year)
Conference: Interstate Eight
2018-19 record: 8-24, 3-9 Northern Illinois Big 12 East (fifth)
Top returning players: Will Cushman, sr., G; Bryce Ebert, sr., F; Brett David, sr., G; Ethan Feiza, sr., C; Ben Durbala, sr., G; Gavin Cano, sr., G; Gio Valle, sr., F
Top newcomers: Porter Conroy, jr., G/F; Jamari Meeks, jr., G/F; Julian Rodriguez, jr., G; Brady Popovich, jr., G; Justin Jamrowski, jr., C; Matt Thomas, jr., F; David Kolev, jr., C; Brooks Johnson, jr., G; Sam Gomes, jr., G
Season outlook: Kaneland begins its season with a new coach and new conference affiliation as a member of the Interstate Eight. Colombe is not a stranger to the Kaneland basketball program, having spent the past 13 seasons as the Knights' girls head coach where he compiled an impressive record of 199-166. Since finishing 20-9 in 2016, the Knights have won just 28 of their last 93 games but Colombe hopes last summer's growth pays dividends this winter. "We feel like we had a solid summer that saw a lot of improvement from our team," said Colombe. "The players have been working really hard to improve individually and as a team." Kaneland begins its season on Nov. 25 against Harvard at the Hoops for Healing Tournament in Woodstock. "We think we can be competitive night in and out this season."
Coach: Deryn Carter (11th year, 158-134)
Conference: Upstate Eight
2018-19 record: 12-19, 9-9 UEC (tie-fourth)
Top returning players: Trace Boley, jr., G; Jashon Johnson-Neals, sr. G; Fernando Perez Jr., so., G; Mirko Sarovic, sr., G; Damari Wheeler-Thomas, so., G
Top newcomers: Phoenix Fulbright, jr., G; Armani Ivy, fr., G; Dontrell Maxie, so., G; Jamarion Stubbs, so., G
Season outlook: The Royals are not a big team -- eight of 12 players are 6-footers or less -- but they have speed, led by Wheeler-Thomas, a sophomore who started as a freshman. Carter calls him a special talent with elite quickness who is developing into a leader while learning how to impact the game in ways other than scoring. In his first varsity season Wheeler-Thomas averaged 10.4 points, 3 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2 steals. Johnson-Neals was Larkin's second-leading scorer a year ago. The hardworking team leader was named honorable mention all-Upstate Eight Conference as a junior after contributing 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. Perez, a long, wiry 6-3 sophomore who Carter said has the potential to play Division-I basketball someday, averaged 5 points and 3 rebounds as a freshman. Boley is the second-tallest Royal at 6-4. Last season he pitched in with 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per outing. Sarovic (6-0) is the team's strongest player, according to his coach. He brings toughness and senior leadership. Sarovic missed most of last season due to a gym-class injury. The roster includes five sophomores and Ivy, a freshman. Carter said the combination of Stubbs and Wheeler-Thomas could make for one of the quickest backcourts around. He called Stubbs "very headsy" and said he "knows the game and plays a step ahead." Maxie, who quarterbacked the Larkin football team this fall, hasn't played much organized basketball. He gives the team depth with his athleticism and ability to rebound off the bench. Carter calls Ivy a good shooter with potential who should make an impact once he adjusts to the speed of varsity basketball. Larkin opponents can expect 32 minutes of harassment. "We're back to one of those first two conference championship teams we had where we're just flying all over the place defensively, trying to cause havoc and tempo changes for teams that aren't used to playing as fast as we are," Carter said.
Coach: Tony Young (third year, 18-41).
Conference: Chicago Catholic League White
2018-19 record: 9-22, 2-13 CCL White (seventh)
Top returning players: Griffin Bohr, sr., G; Sean Kavanaugh, so., G; Carlos Liz, sr., G; Nick Reid, jr., G.
Top newcomers: Corey Crowder, jr., G; Max Lambert, jr., G-F; Neal Schwartz, jr., F; Jake Silagi, jr., G; Will Wainscott, sr., G.
Season outlook: The Cadets graduated a pair of all-CCL White selections in Jon Reid and Tommy Surges, but coach Young thinks he's getting the program to where he wants it to be. He's got a few transfers to help get it there -- point guard Crowder (Glenbard South), all-around player Silagi (Plainfield North) and 6-foot-3 shooter Wainscott (Oswego). "The big thing is, they're all basketball guys," said Young, who played on Schaumburg's 2000-01 Class AA championship team. The newcomers join Liz, a 6-1 guard who Young predicts big things from in his third year on varsity. Young also expects major contributions from Nick Reid and Kavanaugh, even as a sophomore. Bohr, a 6-2 shooting guard, hopes to stay injury free after a banged-up junior season. An emphasis on weight training will help the Cadets in a tough league, also to counter an overall lack of height aside from the 6-2 Lambert and 6-4 Schwartz. "I think we'll be a better team this year," Young said. "We won't be big, but I think we'll be a better team."
St. Charles East Saints
Coach: Patrick Woods (ninth year, 122-77; 17th year overall, 219-218.)
Conference: DuKane Conference
2018-19 record: 18-14, 8-6 DuKane (tie-third).
Top returning players: Tommy Craven, jr., G; Luke Matheny, sr., G; Chase Monkemeyer, sr., F; Aidan Sullivan, sr., F.
Top newcomers: Thomas Ditsworth, sr., F; A.J. Risberg, sr., G; Sean Sullivan sr., F.
Season outlook: Six of the Saints listed above played in every game last season and three logged large minutes: point guard Matheny (6 points, 2.7 assists), 6-foot-4 Monkemeyer (4.4 points, 2.7 rebounds) and 6-5 Aidan Sullivan (2.7 points, 2.7 rebounds), a third-year varsity player. Craven is an on-the-ball stopper; Risberg and 6-4 Sean Sullivan, Aidan's twin, will look to shoot. There are no superstars, just a bunch of high-IQ players who play hard, mesh together and bring the length to play some of the best team defense Woods believes he's had at East. As such, the Saints look to press full court and get the offense moving. "We are going to play faster than we've ever played," Woods said. "I think we can go 10 deep. I think we can play a lot of guys and because of the balance on the team we're going to be able to throw a lot of people out there and maintain our intensity and wear people down." Lake Park gets the early nod in the DuKane, but the Saints will compete for their first conference title since 2014-15.
St. Charles North North Stars
Coach: Tom Poulin (14th year, 213-161)
Conference: DuKane Conference
2018-19 record: 15-18, 4-10 DuKane (fifth).
Top returning players: Christian Czerniak, sr., G; Nick DeMarco, jr., G; Thomas Kellen, sr., F; Connor Linke, sr., C; Max Love, so., F; Colin Nelson, sr., F; Luke Scheffers, sr., G.
Top newcomers: Ethan Marlowe, so., F.
Season outlook: The North Stars hope lessons learned from their 2019 regional title, their first since 2009, pay off in consistent success and a strong playoff run. The secret? "Win one possession at a time," Poulin said. At the center of it is 6-foot-9 Bradley recruit Linke, an all-area post and "elite defender," Poulin said, who averaged 6.7 rebounds and 9.8 points on 58 percent shooting with blocked 46 shots. Also, heady point guard Scheffers has a Northern Illinois offer after averaging 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3 assists. Guard Christian Czerniak and 6-3 forward Colin Nelson, an ace shooter, averaged 3.2 and 3.9 points, respectively. Physical, 6-5 Thomas Kellen was a top-rotation player. There's depth, good height adding 6-7 Marlowe and 6-4 Love, unselfishness and versatility within the roster. Challenges will be avoiding turnovers, getting transition going and a difficult schedule. Poulin likes this group a lot. "I think they have an opportunity to be remembered as one of the better teams in school history if they do what we're supposed to do on a daily basis," he said.
St. Edward Green Wave
Coach: Andy Zielinski (second year at St. Edward, 14-18; fifth year overall, 71-45)
Conference: Metro Suburban
2018-19 record: 14-18, 4-8 MSC Red (tie-fifth)
Top returning players: Luke Breier, sr., G; Aidan Franklin, sr., F; Jackson Godfrey, jr., F; Erik Hill, jr., G; JP McGuire, sr., G; Sebastian Oquendo, sr., G; Evan Sajtar, sr., F
Top newcomers: Jacob Breier, so., G; Titus Fazel, jr., G; Liam Pomeroy, jr., G; Robert Wilson, so., G
Season outlook: St. Edward begins the season at less than full strength. Hill, the team's leading returning scorer at 10.1 ppg, will not play for at least a month while he heals from an off-season injury. The Green Wave must find ways to put the ball in the basket in the meantime. That job falls to multiple candidates, including returning starters McGuire (6 ppg) and Godfrey (4 ppg.). McGuire is used to stepping up in key situations. Last February he sank a 3-pointer in the final minute of a 4-point win over Fenton. A week later he contributed 10 points in a season-ending loss to regional host Timothy Christian. "The key will be replacing Erik Hill's scoring early in the season and how well we defend as a group," Zielinski said. Oquendo is another player expected to pick up some slack. He played varsity basketball as a sophomore but missed all of last season due to injury. Football players Luke Breier and Pomeroy just completed an 11-game varsity season. The 11-man roster includes five seniors, four juniors and sophomores Wilson and Jacob Breier. Sajtar and Franklin are the tallest players at 6-foot-3. "We don't have a lot of size but do return two starters -- Erik would have been the third -- and have several seniors that saw time last year," Zielinski said. St. Edward competes in the Metro Suburban Red against Elmwood Park, Guerin Prep, Ridgewood, Timothy Christian, Westmont and Wheaton Academy.
South Elgin Storm
Coach: Brett Johnson (fourth year, 59-32)
Conference: Upstate Eight
2018-19 record: 25-9, 15-3 UEC (second)
Top returning players: Drew Cwik, so., G; Lane McVicar, so., G/F; John Aaron Wafford, jr., G, Kendis Wiley, so., C/F
Top newcomers: Josh Genz, so., G; Wyatt Steurer, jr., F/G; Brian Vesta, so., F
Season outlook: Many of the key players who last March led South Elgin to a sectional final appearance graduated. Coach Johnson said he believes the fighting spirt of determined leaders Vince Miszkiewicz, Drake Montgomery and Jace Warrick rubbed off on the younger players, particularly a trio who saw significant playing time as freshmen: McVicar, Cwik and Wiley. Johnson McVicar and Cwik "would sleep in the gym if we let them." McVicar sank 46% of his 3-point attempts last season (35 of 76). He averaged 6.5 points and 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Cwik contributed 5.7 points and 2.2 assists. Both dedicated themselves to off-season weight training, as did Wiley, who didn't play as many minutes because he was behind Miszkiewicz (Incarnate Word) on the depth chart. Wiley averaged 2 points and 2.6 rebounds in limited action over 23 games. Johnson expects an increased contribution from Wafford, who was limited to 15 games due to injury. Genz will get an immediate opportunity to play because South Elgin needs guard play. Steurer as an athletic, wiry leaper who is aggressive on both ends of the floor and will see playing time right away, his coach said. The three seniors on the 18-man roster did not get much playing time last year, but Johnson sees no reason why this young team can't compete in an Upstate Eight Conference that no longer features West Aurora. "If our kids buy into the goals of playing hard, being a tough defensive team and pushing the basketball, I don't see why we can't do what we did last year," Johnson said. "I see a lot of potential. We lack size but we can overcome that because it's a deeper, more athletic team."
Coach: Kent Payne (second year, 13-19)
Conference: Upstate Eight
2018-19 record: 13-19, 8-10 UEC (tie-sixth)
Top returning players: Derrel Luce, jr. F; Zach Marquez, jr., G; Kyle Maybrun, jr., G; Luke Pentecost, sr., F; Richard Santiago, so., G; Jakobe Strong, jr., G
Top newcomers: Larenzo Coney, sr., G; Andrew Phan, so., G; Ryan Torre, jr., G; Kody White, jr., G
Season outlook: Streamwood graduated three of its top four scorers but some seasoned players return, led by Marquez. In his second varsity season as a sophomore, the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 8 points, 4.4 assists, 4.1 rebounds. One of the Fox Valley area's best long-range shooters, he sank 54.2 of his 3-point attempts (32 of 59). He also shot 81.4% from the free-throw line (57 of 70). Marquez scored 16 points in a playoff victory over Jacobs. Luce (6-foot-3) is the tallest player on a team that will play a run-and-gun, up-tempo style, according to Payne. In 12 games last season, Luce averaged 5.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and blocked 21 shots. Pentecost, a 6-2 small forward, made 12 of 35 shots from 3-point range (34.3%). Strong and Santiago also played in 12 games apiece. Strong contributed 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds; Santiago pitched in 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds as a freshman. The Sabres are not a tall team. Two of 13 rostered players exceed 6-1. "We're going to be small," Payne said. "Our aim is to play a frenetic style and I think we have the depth to keep playing that way. It's a good group of kids I really, really enjoy coaching. Hopefully, we'll get some results, but it's hard to indicate how we'll be because of our lack of experience."
West Aurora Blackhawks
Coach: Brian Johnson (fifth year, 82-38; 10th overall, 181-106).
Conference: Southwest Prairie
2018-19 record: 28-6, 17-1 Upstate Eight (first)
Top returning players: Kelvin Balfour, sr., G; Dimitrios Bazos, sr., F; Logan Mont, sr., G; Axel Motola, sr., F; Christian Nieves, sr., G; Paul Shavers, sr., F.
Top newcomers: Brandon Bolton, jr., F; Jon Down, jr., C.
Season outlook: Joining the likes of Minooka, Oswego and Oswego East in the Southwest Prairie Conference West division, the Blackhawks should remain a tough bunch despite graduating all-Upstate Eight players Hezekiah Salter, Traevon Brown and Marquise Howard. The good news is they return last year's UEC defensive player of the year, the 6-foot-2 Balfour. He averaged 11.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists. West Aurora will ride the physical guard's abilities on both ends of the floor, but will count on team scoring overall. The fearless, 6-5 Motola returns 3.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6-4 Bazos averaged 2.9 points and Mont was backup point guard. Other than that only Nieves and 6-4 Shavers saw time under the bright lights. But Johnson believes his players' willingness to learn and compete will smooth out the unevenness of inexperience. "This is my 11th year," he said, "and this might be the hardest-working group that I've come across."
Westminster Christian Warriors
Coach: Damion Abrams (second year, 12-12)
Conference: Northeastern Athletic
2018-19 record: 12-12, 4-5 NAC (tie-sixth)
Top returning players: Abalus Awudu, jr., G; Peter DeFalco, sr., G; Justin Glanzer, so., G; Justin McGinnis, so., C/F; Frankie Schlaffer, sr., F
Top newcomers: Nathanael Ephrem, fr., G; Mitchell McGrath, so., F.
Season outlook: Expect the Warriors to be a hardworking, determined team with fight, according to Abrams, their second-year coach. This squad will lean heavily on seniors Schlaffer and DeFalco, though they are not the only returnees. Glanzer was the team's fourth-leading scorer a year ago at 9.2 ppg. He sank a team-best 38 3-pointers and was named honorable mention all-Northeastern Athletic Conference. Haegland, McGinnis and Awudu each saw action. They will take on expanded roles. Abrams said Awudu "is a very, very good athlete with good fast-twitch action" and Haegland is "talented and has grown a bit since last year." The Warriors have a talented newcomer in Ephrem. "He's very athletic and he makes this team more athletic," Abrams said. "He can get to spots on the floor." These Warriors are not as experienced as last year's edition, but they hustle. "They're going to get after it," said Westminster Christian's coach. "They're hungry. They'll get on the floor. We lack experience like last year when we had those seniors, but this team is scrappy. Like last year, we're hoping to hang our hat on half-court defense and deal from that."