Scouting Lake County for the 2019-20 season

  • Mundelein's Scottie Ebube (44) blocks the shot of Stevenson's John Ittounas (1) during action last season.

      Mundelein's Scottie Ebube (44) blocks the shot of Stevenson's John Ittounas (1) during action last season. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Carmel's Kimahri Wilson, right, drives on DePaul Prep's Lance Mosley during Class 3A sectional semifinal action at Grayslake Central last season.

    Carmel's Kimahri Wilson, right, drives on DePaul Prep's Lance Mosley during Class 3A sectional semifinal action at Grayslake Central last season. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Lake Zurich's Will Tucker (30) drives between Maine East's Jonathan Serrano, left, and Yash Singapore during action last season.

      Lake Zurich's Will Tucker (30) drives between Maine East's Jonathan Serrano, left, and Yash Singapore during action last season. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Grant's Tavarus Williams (24) and Round Lake's Hakim Williams tip off during action last season.

    Grant's Tavarus Williams (24) and Round Lake's Hakim Williams tip off during action last season. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Libertyville's Jackson Watson (33) heads to the hoop under pressure from Conant's Rajat Mittal during action last season.

      Libertyville's Jackson Watson (33) heads to the hoop under pressure from Conant's Rajat Mittal during action last season. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
and John Phelps
jaguilar@dailyherald.com
 
Updated 11/21/2019 6:30 PM

NORTH SUBURBAN CONFERENCE

LAKE ZURICH BEARSCoach: Terry Coughlin (second season)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Last season: 7-24, 2-12 in NSC, lost to Palatine in Class 4A Barrington regional play-in

Key losses: G J.R. Cison (Don Bosco Prep), G Austin LePage

Returning players: Sr. G Will Tucker, Sr. G Noah DeLuga, Sr. G Joey Lococo, Sr. G Brady Orton, Sr. F Jack Pfeifer, Sr. F Evan Bajerski, Sr. G Joe Galuppo, Sr. F Adam Hagen

Newcomers: Sr. G Jack Moses, Sr. F James Piggott, Jr. G Patrick Torres

Outlook: Bears coach Terry Coughlin remembers talking to his team last season about a couple of different press-breakers when guard Will Tucker chimed in. "He said, 'Well, Coach, isn't our press beaker just get the ball to J.R. and get out of the way?' " Coughlin said with a laugh. "I said, 'Pretty much, but we got to be able to get him the ball too.' " Point guard J.R. Cison graduated after putting together an all-area campaign (18 ppg, 4 apg). The Bears will miss his ability to break pressure and handle the basketball. "I think that's our biggest question coming into the year," Coughlin said. "I think in the half court we'll be great, but how are we going to handle the ball in the full court?" Only Tucker, a starting guard as a sophomore two years ago when LZ won a Class 4A sectional championship, and Division-I-bound baseball pitcher Noah DeLuga (Minnesota) return as starters for Coughlin, whose first Bears team endured a nine-game losing streak early in the season and never got on track. Senior guard Joey Lococo is the only other player who saw a lot of minutes last winter. In Tucker, the Bears have a returning team captain, a leader and one of the best spot-up shooters in the county. "He's a really selfless guy," Coughlin said. "There are times where Coach (Mike) Kolze and I are like, 'Dude, you're being selfish by not pulling the trigger when you got an open shot. You got to take those open looks when you get them.' " Coughlin expects a more balanced attack this season. "I don't know that we'll have a guy average 18-20 points a game, like J.R. did or (Ryan) Kutsor (two seasons ago)," Coughlin said. "I think we'll have a lot of guys average anywhere in that 7-13 (ppg) range. Last year, I don't know if I did a good job adjusting our scheme to some of the personnel we had to make us more balanced." Coughlin has changed his offense to a "Princeton" style, allowing the Bears not to have to rely on a true point guard as much. "We're going to be a little more deliberate than we were, fewer possessions than last year," Coughlin said. "It's based off spacing, ball and body movement." Among the players who should see more playing time this season are senior forward Evan Bajerski, who was voted the team's most improved player last season, and football stars James Piggott and Jack Moses, neither of whom played basketball last winter. Moses injured his left shoulder in the football team's state quarterfinal loss last Saturday. "They love to compete," Coughlin said of Piggott and Moses. "I think they like where the basketball program is heading from a culture standpoint and want to be a part of it."

LIBERTYVILLE WILDCATSCoach: Brian Zyrkowski (third season)

Last season: 14-15, 6-8 in NSC, lost to Hersey in Class 4A Lake Forest regional semifinals

Key losses: G Josh Steinhaus, G/F Brian Wilterdink, F/C Travis Clark

Returning players: Sr. G Jackson Watson (6-2), Sr. F/C Will Moore (6-5), Sr. F Patrick Graham (6-4), Jr. G Blake Ellingson (6-2)

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Newcomers: Jr. G Marc Michelotti (6-0), So. F/C Chase Bonder (6-5), Jr. G Karsen Cardona (5-10), Jr. G Grant Friel (5-11), Jr. F Andrew Clark (5-11), Jr. G James Steinhaus (5-10), Jr. G Tyler Brne (5-9), Jr. F Sam Kallas (6-2)

Outlook: Two seasons ago, the Wildcats had Drew Peterson who could single-handedly beat opponents. Last season, they had Josh Steinhaus who could single-handedly beat opponents. This season, the Wildcats just want to beat opponents with a roster that's not beat up. While Steinhaus graduated (a year after the Rice-bound Peterson led LHS to 19 wins and a regional championship), three senior starters return in sharpshooting Jackson Watson (all-NSC, 10 ppg, 3 apg, 39% from three-point range), forward Will Moore and forward Patrick Graham. Moore hurt his shoulder his sophomore year of football. "It took him pretty much all last year to rehab," coach Brian Zyrkowski said. "He was playing but he was still having shoulder pain, shoulder issues. I think probably going into the spring he was feeling really good. He built some strength. He was able to lift again. He's put on some weight and he had a great summer." Also back is junior guard Blake Ellingson, whose sophomore season was delayed due to a broken leg suffered early in the football season. "I still say we're inexperienced," said Zyrkowski, who will not have any seniors on his bench. "We have a young group, and we have a bunch of guys who were beat up last year." Watson, Moore, three-sport athlete Graham and Ellingson can all score, but there might not be the same to-go guy every night, unlike the last couple of years. "This group can score in multiple ways," Zyrkowski said. "Last year, some could say we were maybe one-dimensional at times." That shouldn't be the case this winter. "We have a lot of guys who can fill roles," Zyrkowski said. "If teams focus on one guy, another guy can hurt them." The newcomers include junior guards Marc Michelotti and James Steinhaus. "They stepped it up big this summer," Zyrkowski said. Steinhaus is the youngest of the basketball-playing Steinhaus brothers (Paul, Josh). "I've coached all of them," Zyrkowski said.

MUNDELEIN MUSTANGSCoach: Matt Badgley (third season)

Last season: 20-12, 6-8 in NSC, lost to Deerfield in Class 4A Wheeling regional final

Key losses: G Sam Eddy, F Andrew Gonzalez

Returning players: Jr. G Conor Enright (6-2), Jr. C Scottie Ebube (6-8), Jr. F Jack Bikus (6-3), Sr. G Ian Lau (5-7), Sr. G Jake Salvador (5-7), Sr. F Charlie Binz (6-4)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Newcomers: Jr. G Trey Baker (5-9), So. G Ty Moenning (6-0), Jr. G Chris Rooney (6-0), Jr. F Syam Atade (6-3), Jr. G Luke Pietruswicz (5-10), Fr. F Chris Martin (6-6), Jr. G Michael Foley (5-5), Jr. F Sebastian Wojdacz (6-2), Jr. C Nick Borcia (6-6)

Outlook: The Mustangs have slowly been making strides, jumping from 4 wins in 2016-17 to 14 two seasons ago to 20 last season. They expect to be better again this winter. Not that their victory will necessarily reflect it. "We amped up our schedule," said third-year coach Matt Badgley, whose team has entered the Collinsville Christmas tournament (he used to be the athletic director there) and also has Lake Park, Schurz and North Chicago on the schedule. "We really feel like we got a good mix of 'noncon' games to add to our tournaments and our conference, so that might misconstrue our number of wins in comparison to last year. And then just the coaches and the (North Suburban) conference itself, there are going to be upsets. We would like to be in the discussion for the conference (championship) down the stretch, but you never know what's going to shake out with other teams." What's clear is that the Mustangs' junior class is one of the best in the area. Point guard Conor Enright (15.5 ppg, 5.1 apg, 5 rpg) and 6-8 center Scottie Ebube (17.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg) are both coming off all-area campaigns after being key members of the team as freshmen two years ago as well. Enright recently verbally committed to Drake. "They were on him early and basically made it very clear and very known that they wanted him," Badgley said. "Conor has really gotten stronger. He's really ripped out. He works hard in the weight room." Ebube has received offers from Southern Illinois, Miami (Ohio), Cleveland State and Northern Illinois. And then there's fellow junior Jack Bikus, whom Badgley describes as a wing/slasher who can handle the point if needed. Bikus had a pair of 20-point efforts last season. "Jack's a really nice player," Badgley said. "He's a heady kid and has like a 4.6 GPA. He's a long-limbed kid and he's pretty tough. We got the big in the middle in Scottie and the point guard in Conor, and Jack is that great complement to both of those." Another junior, guard Trey Baker, grew up playing with Enright, Ebube and Bikus but played for Stevenson the last two seasons. Others in the mix for starting spots include three-sport athlete Syam Atade, Chris Rooney and sophomore guard Ty Moenning. Chris Martin is a 6-6 freshman with good potential. "We're finally deeper," Badgley said.

STEVENSON PATRIOTS

Coach: Pat Ambrose (22nd season)

Last season: 27-6, 12-2 in NSC, won Class 4A Lake Forest regional, won Waukegan sectional, lost to Evanston in Sears Centre supersectional

Key losses: PG Luke Chieng

Returning players: Sr. G Matthew Ambrose (6-3), Sr. F RJ Holmes (6-5), Sr. F Matt Kaznikov (6-4), Sr. G John Ittounas (6-2), Sr. F Jacob Tenner (6-1), Jr. G Evan Ambrose (5-10)

Newcomers: Jr. F Jacob Morris (6-4), Jr. G Adam Wess (6-1), Jr. G Andrew Chieng (5-10), Jr. F Darius Clemons (6-6)

Outlook: The Patriots nearly stunned Evanston in the Sears Centre supersectional last March, losing in overtime. They return four starters, including their best player in guard Matthew Ambrose, but they know they are hardly guaranteed of repeating last season's success. They won't underestimate the loss of all-area point guard Luke Chieng (10 ppg, 3 apg). "The magic we had last year is tough to replicate," Patriots coach Pat Ambrose said. "The seniors last year (other than Chieng) didn't play a lot, but they sure meant a lot." This season's seniors mean a lot too, especially because of what they can contribute on the court. Matthew Ambrose is back for his third varsity season after averaging 14 points per game (59 3-pointers) as a junior. The coach's son signed last week with the University of Indianapolis. "D-II, close, great coaches. It just checked a lot of boxes," Pat Ambrose said. "Not that you just want to check boxes." Seniors RJ Holmes, John Ittounas and Matt Kaznikov also return to the starting lineup. Junior Evan Ambrose, an early-season call-up by his dad last season, replaces Chieng in the starting lineup. And while Pat Ambrose likes the junior group, finding cohesiveness, due to minor injuries, has been a challenge the first couple of weeks of practice. "Nothing tragic, nothing awful," Pat Ambrose said. "We're just trying to get continuity, trying to get the orchestra to all play together -- the percussions, the winds. We get them all together and then one kid's out. It happens everywhere. We're still a work in progress, like anyone right now." The Patriots always play a competitive schedule, and this season it includes Oak Park, Loyola and Westinghouse. "It should be a lot of fun," Pat Ambrose said of this season. "A lot of challenges, real good schedule."

WARREN BLUE DEVILS

Coach: Jon Jasnoch (fifth season)

Last season: 16-16, 6-8 in NSC, lost to Waukegan in Class 4A Grayslake North regional final

Key losses: G Tavion McCarthy

Returning players: Sr. F Adnan Sarancic (6-5), Sr. G Jordan Johnson (6-0), Sr. F Juan De La Cruz (6-3), Sr. F Seamus Mellican (6-4), Sr. G Hunter Subry (5-9), Sr. G Josh Langevin (5-9), Sr. G/F Josh Turner (6-1), Sr. G Austin Wolff (6-0)

Newcomers: Jr. G Alexander Figueroa (6-1). So. G Andrew Dolan (5-9), Jr. G Breyton Caruthers (5-9), So. G Gavin Cartwright (5-10), Sr. G Reece Lawler (6-3), Jr. F Joshua Leicht (6-1), Sr. F Antonio Elvir-Hernandez (6-2). Sr. F Izayah Coleman (6-1)

Outlook: The Class 8A football state championship game is set for Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. in DeKalb. That same day, Warren's boys basketball team is scheduled to finish up play in the Mundelein Thanksgiving tournament. The Blue Devils could tip off as late as 3:30 p.m. "I'm hoping we have to put Mundelein through some contortions to figure out an earlier time for us to play so we all can get out and watch that (football) game that night," a smiling Blue Devils coach Jon Jasnoch said. That's because Warren's football team, which plays in the state semifinals on Saturday, has three of Jasnoch's players. All are defensive starters. Forward Juan De La Cruz is a returning starter for Jasnoch, Seamus Mellican saw lots of action off the bench last season, and Josh Turner played the first week of last season before shutting it down to heal up and focus on football. "He came into high school as really a basketball player, and then the football coaches saw him, and obviously he's very good at (football)," Jasnoch said of Turner. "We'll be glad to have him back." The Blue Devils have their best player from last season back. Forward Adnan Sarancic (16 ppg, 7 rpg) put together an all-area campaign in his second season as a varsity starter. "He's a real positive leader," Jasnoch said. "He can score in a variety of ways, and he's a very good passer. He was really like a 'stretch 4' for us last year because he could shoot and he'd dive into the post. But this year I could see him playing even more on the perimeter." Another newcomer is guard Reece Lawler, who just signed to pitch for Iowa and has never played high school basketball. "He shoots the ball very well," Jasnoch said. "He's a good athlete, and he thinks like an athlete." One player the Blue Devils won't have, at least not until late in the season, is senior guard Jordan Johnson, who tore his ACL in July after starting last winter. Like Sarancic, Johnson played varsity as a sophomore. "Of all our players last season, he had the fewest turnovers," Jasnoch said. "So that hurts us. And he was a key defender for us." Guard Jason Langevin, a good shooter, should contribute offensively. Point guard Gavin Cartwright and lefty-shooting guard Andrew Dolan made the team as sophomores. "I think they'll both contribute," Jasnoch said.

NORTHERN LAKE COUNTY CONFERENCE

ANTIOCH SEQUOITSCoach: Tim Bowen (first season)

Last season: 13-14, 5-9 in NLCC, lost to Ridgewood in Class 3A Ridgewood regional semifinals

Key losses: G Daniel Filippone (Northern Illinois University), F Jack Gillespie, F Ben Nauman, G Austin Andrews

Returning players: F/G Gavin Eldridge, F Jackson DeVaughn, G Jackson Fries

Newcomers: G Kobe Kriese, G AJ Kutcher, G Jared Wolfe, G Jordan DeVaughn

Outlook: Veteran coach Tim Bowen steps in for Jim White, who is focusing on family after 15 years at the helm. Bowen has coached for 32 years overall, including 15 years as a head coach that included stints at Grayslake Community and Carmel Catholic. Leadership as well as scoring for Antioch should be provided by seniors Jackson DeVaughn, Gavin Eldridge and Jackson Fries. That will help make up for the graduation of prolific guard Daniel Filippone (23.1 ppg last season, school-record 1,650 points in four varsity seasons). Bowen likes what he sees from his young group. "We've got strong, physical, hardworking players," he said. White was also real high on Eldridge, the top returning starter this season. "He has a complete game. His leadership skills and basketball IQ will be a big asset for this year's team," White said. The Sequoits open the season next week in the Hoops for Healing tournament co-hosted again by Woodstock and Woodstock North.

GRANT BULLDOGSCoach: Wayne Bosworth (12th season)

Last season: 19-13, 11-3 in NLCC (first place), lost to Deerfield in Class 4A Wheeling regional semifinals

Key losses: G Henry Kusiak, G Hunter Waszkowski, F Tavarus Williams, G MJ Smith, G Torren Curry, F Samir Muhammad, G Joe Gorden

Returning players: Sr. G/F Mikal Ashley (6-1), Sr. C Neil Knudsen (6-6), Sr. G/F Luke Bedrosian (6-1)

Newcomers: Fr. G Chad Kiesgen (6-2), So. F Randal Holm (6-4), So. G Carter Kaye (6-0), So. G Mikal Saavedra (5-11), Jr. G Jalen Rios (5-11), Jr. G Migel Chacon (5-9), Jr. F Levi Shmagin (6-3), Jr. G Nate Lopez (5-9), Jr. G Brei Panares (5-10)

Outlook: The Bulldogs have finished first or second in the NLCC for the past four years, including 2 conference championships. Ten players graduated from last year's NLCC championship team, including four all-conference players. This year's team will feature a ton of new faces. Only Mikal Ashley, Neil Knudsen and Luke Bedrosian return from last year, but none saw significant playing time throughout the season. Grant will also roster four underclassmen this season, the most brought up in one year in coach Wayne Bosworth's 12-year tenure. "As fast as this team can learn what it takes to win at the varsity level will determine how successful this team can be this year," Bosworth said. "This is a team that will make huge strides throughout the season and will be playing a much higher level of basketball in February than in November."

GRAYSLAKE CENTRAL RAMS

Coach: Brian Centella (first season)

Last season: 16-14, 9-5 in NLCC, lost to St. Patrick in Class 3A St. Patrick regional final

Key losses: PG Antonio Crews, F Coby Moe, G Daniel Guckenberger

Returning players: Sr. G Ethan Boelens (6-2), Sr. F/G Grant Hardy (6-7), Sr. PG Dillan Dumanlang (6-0), Sr. F Daniel Rogers (6-3), Sr. G Griffin O'Gordon (6-1), Sr. F Tyler Tiffany (6-2)

Newcomers: Jr. G Amarion Coleman (6-0), Jr. G Ben Miller (6-2), Jr. F Zoel Martinez (6-2), Jr. G Tyler Shannon (5-10), Jr. G Colin O'Malley (5-10), Jr. F Conor Stahoviak (6-3)

Outlook: Losing three starters will be a challenge, but the Rams will try to make up for it with their depth. "Some guys that played only spot minutes last year will have the opportunity to step up and play a huge role for us," said coach Brian Centella, who replaces Kosta Kougias, who stepped down. The Rams will be anchored inside by 6-7 Grant Hardy, who is a returning all-conference player. "Grant was one of the conference's best rebounders and shot blockers and will look to expand his role offensively this season," Centella said. Dillan Dumanlang could have a breakout year at the point guard position. Ethan Boelens will be a two-year starter and the Rams will rely on his experience and leadership. "We will also rely heavily on our other seniors -- Daniel (Rogers), Griffin (O'Gordon) and Tyler (Tiffany)," Centella said. Amarion Coleman will look to make an immediate impact as a junior. "Our goal is to get better every day," Centella said, "and compete for a conference championship."

GRAYSLAKE NORTH KNIGHTS

Coach: Todd Grunloh (14th season)

Last season: 17-13 overall, 9-5 in NLCC, lost to Waukegan in Class 4A Grayslake North regional semifinals

Key losses: G Nick Lovitsch, F Austin Martineau

Returning players: Sr. G Ryan Connolly (6-2), Sr. PG Jamon Thomas (5-10), Sr. G Jason Donohue (5-10), Jr. G Tony Hines (5-11), Sr. F Joe Swanson (6-1), Sr. F Jeremy Rowder (6-2)

Newcomers: Fr. G Dominic Jankowski (6-1)

Outlook: The Knights suffered a huge off-season blow as three-year varsity starter Ryan Connolly tore his ACL. He averaged 22.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season and hiked his career point total to a school-record 1,525. His loss doesn't mean the Knights expect losses to pile up. "We feel that we have the necessary pieces to put together a successful season," coach Todd Grunloh said. "We return three starters in the backcourt (Jamon Thomas, Tony Hines, Jason Donohue) that bring eight years of varsity experience with them and will be counted on to lead us on both sides of the court. All three of them are extremely quick, aggressive guards that can get to the basket and put significant ball pressure on opposing guards." Forward Joe Swanson was a key part of the team last year coming off the bench and adds a great deal of versatility. "He is a difficult matchup for opponents in that he can handle the ball well, get to the basket, and use his size/strength to create mismatches around the basket," Grunloh said. "Our success will be dependent on how well we work together as a team and how quickly we realize that no one athlete will completely fill the void of Ryan Connolly, but rather the collective group will bring additional and unique strengths that perhaps we didn't have at times last season."

LAKES EAGLES

Coach: Chris Snyder (10th season)

Last season: 8-20, 6-8 in NLCC, lost to Warren in Class 4A Grayslake North regional quarterfinals

Key losses: G/F Brad Cherry, G Matt Ott, F Brad Bies

Returning players: Sr. G Leighsean Triplett (6-0), Sr. G Tylor Gunther (6-0), Sr. G Chance Andell (6-0), Sr. F Matthew Pawlak (6-4), Sr. F Chris Selig (6-4), Sr. G Garrett Klein (6-0), Sr. F Aidan Sage (6-4), Sr. F Jason Gaetano (6-0)

Newcomers: Jr. F Branden Nava (6-2), Jr. F Matthew Wiechert (6-3), Jr. G Michael Gardner (5-11), Jr. G Jake Sanders (5-10)

Outlook: The Eagles have a nice mix of returning players and new juniors this year. "This is a tight group that really pushes each other in practice and wants to have a strong season," coach Chris Snyder said. "Our depth should be one of our strengths this year. We have a lot of guys in the mix for playing time, so that has resulted in some very good practices." It also helps that Lakes has guys who have been in the program and are able to hit the ground running. "This is also a group that competes," Snyder said. "They bring great energy every day, and I think this will translate to our games." In addition, Lakes is an athletic and physical group that should be able to push the ball. "We have some good outside shooters that will help space the floor and create some good scoring looks for us," Snyder said. "We aren't the tallest team, so we will have to really compete to overcome that. We'll be looking for guys to step up and score and establish their role for the team." Snyder expects the NLCC to be competitive. "This will lead to some great games," Snyder said, "and a good conference battle."

ROUND LAKE PANTHERS

Coach: Jay Iden (second season)

Last season: 9-23, 0-14 in NLCC, lost to Buffalo Grove in Class 4A Barrington regional play-in

Key losses: F Musiq Brantley

Returning players: Jr. G/F Nick Pierre (6-3), Jr. G/F Deveauntay McNeal (6-3), Sr. G Kevonne Peterson (6-1), Sr. G Kendrick Grant (5-9), Jr. G/F Hakim Williams (6-3), Jr. F/C Jeremiah Jordan (6-5), Jr. G Isaiah Nixon (6-0), Sr. G Jamirh Jones (5-8), Sr. F Elyija Jones (6-3)

Newcomers: Jr. F Parker Waszkowski (6-3), So. G Elyijah Winslow (6-1)

Outlook: The days of the 2- and 3-win seasons appear to be ancient history with the Panthers. They won nine games in coach Jay Iden's first year last season and have a plethora of returning players, including four juniors (Nick Pierre, Isaiah Nixon, Hakim Williams, Jeremiah Jordan) who started a year ago. Pierre is a projected three-year varsity starter. "We've been in a promising program rebuild the last two years," Iden said. "We were very competitive all of last season with a young and committed group and are focused on keeping the momentum strong. The guys are extremely enthusiastic and hardworking. This is a deep group of young talents." Williams averaged 19 points and 10 boards as a sophomore in an all-area campaign. He was also named all-NLCC and all-state honorable mention. "We're fast-paced and an aggressively defensive-minded team," Iden said. The Panthers open the season in the Hoops for Healing tournament co-hosted by Woodstock and Woodstock North.

WAUCONDA BULLDOGS

Coach: Scott Luetschwager (11th season)

Last season: 15-15, 7-7 in NLCC, lost to Grayslake North in Class 4A Grayslake North regional quarterfinals

Key losses: G Connor Brannick, G Nick Rinchiuso

Returning players: Sr. G Donovan Carter (6-3), Sr. F Jake Shanholtzer (6-0), Jr. F Nick Bulgarelli (6-2), Jr. G Benji Chung (6-0)

Newcomers: So. G Justin Drobnik (6-1), So. F Garrison Carter (6-4), So. F Griffen Daun (6-0), So. F Steven Reyes (6-0)

Outlook: Led by two-time all-area player Donovan Carter, the Bulldogs feature four returning starters. "We have a lot of experience with those four guys," coach Scott Luetschwager said. "Three of the starters saw time two years ago in the regional championship game against Carmel. They have played together for so long and have seen a lot. And they understand what we are trying to do. In practice they are pulling the new players aside and talking to them about the ins and outs of what we what. It is a fun group to be around." Luetschwager added that the chemistry is excellent and the team pulls for one another during spirited practices. "This group meshed quickly this summer," Luetschwager said. "The sophomores that were pulled up have played like they belonged from the beginning." Carter enters the season with 914 points and is eyeballing the school record of 1,272.

CENTRAL SUBURBAN LEAGUE NORTH DIVISION

VERNON HILLS COUGARSCoach: Matt McCarty (17th season)

Last season: 9-22, 2-8 in CSL North, lost to Grant in Class 4A Wheeling regional quarterfinals

Key losses: PG Joey Levitan, C John Dosemagen

Returning players: Sr. F Ryan Jacobson (6-3), Sr. F Jack Barszcz (6-4), Sr. C Michael Moore (6-5)

Newcomers: Sr. G Tony Brown, So F/C Erik Rimas (6-4)

Outlook: The Cougars boast plenty of experience with four returning starters. Ryan Jacobson (13.1 ppg) and Jack Barszcz can both be threats on the arc or as drivers. "Ryan is an extremely athletic player that can score at the rim consistently," coach Matt McCarty said. Depth and competition at practice will be a bonus for Vernon Hills, according to the coach. "I really like the energy and passion that we played with over the summer and in our first week of practice," McCarty said. "Seniors Josh Liu, Nick Burrows and Tony Brown have high motors on the defensive end and provide great energy on the court." Brown returns after taking a year off and is a fearless defender, and tallied 8.5 ppg as a sophomore. He is a Furman commit for baseball. Rimas provides much-needed strength and defense in the post and can also step out and shoot it. Senior P-G Aiden Isaacson provides stability at the point-guard position. "We will continue emphasizing doing the detailed things that good teams do to win games," McCarty said. "We lost four or five games last season that we had chances to win, but our inexperience showed. We need to learn from those lessons and finish games this season."

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE

CARMEL CATHOLIC CORSAIRSCoach: Zack Ryan (fifth season)

Last season: 22-13, 6-3 in ESCC, won Class 3A Camel regional, lost to DePaul Prep in Grayslake Central sectional semifinals

Key losses: G/F Johnny Roeser (Loras University), F Damone Williams-Gray, F Lukas Galdoni (baseball at Butler University), F Jalen Snell (football at Southern Illinois University)

Returning players: Jr. PG Kimahri Wilson (6-0), Sr. G Kylen Beals (5-11), So. G Bryce Moore (6-4), Jr. G Syone Usma (6-0)

Newcomers: Jr. G Josh LaBarbera (6-3), Jr. F Coby Brame (6-4), Jr. G Jalen Burton (6-0), Jr. G G Anthony Serrano (5-10)

Outlook: Carmel has averaged 20-plus wins over the last two seasons with back-to-back Class 3A regional titles. Junior Kimahri Wilson is one of the area's top point guards, averaging 16.5 points and 4 assists per game last season on his way to all-ESCC and all-area honors. Senior Kylen Beals is another returning starter. Sophomore Bryce Moore and junior Syone Usma will have increased roles after seeing heavy minutes off the bench last winter. "We're young and small," coach Zack Ryan said. "Our strengths will be guard play, quickness and athleticism."

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