Scouting the North Suburban Conference
Lake Zurich BearsCoach: Terry Coughlin
Top returning players: Brady Sykes, sr., (G), Nick Pezzella, sr., (G), Aleks Popovic, sr., (F), Brendan Powers, jr., (wing)
Top new players: Joe Fleaka, soph., (G), Nik Popovic, soph., (G)
Worth noting: "We should have good guards who can create shots for others," Coughlin said. "This group has improved every day and approaches practice with a lot of enthusiasm." Pezzella was the team's MVP last season, while Sykes earned all-North Suburban honorable mention honors as a junior. "Brady and Nick both played prominent roles for us last year, and we are hoping that experience will translate into a great senior season for both," Coughlin said. On the North Suburban front, Coughlin said Lake Forest and Libertyville will be in the contender conversation.
Libertyville WildcatsCoach: Brian Zyrkowski
Last season's record: 11-7, NSC conference tournament champions
Top returning players: Chase Bonder, sr., (F, 6-8), Cole Bonder, jr., (6-6, F), Jack Huber, jr., (G, 6-3), John Graham, sr., (G, 6-2)
Top newcomers: Andrew Sorensen, sr., (G, 6-3), Aidyn Boone, jr., (F-C, 6-7), Henry Eads, jr., (F, 6-4), Owen Leonard, sr., (F, 6-4), Nik Raic, jr., (F, 6-8)
Worth noting: Chase Bonder, a three-year varsity starter, is a returning Daily Herald All-Area and all-NSC pick after averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds as a junior. Cole Bonder averaged 5 points and 4 rebounds as sophomore, while Huber averaged 3 points and 3 assists as a sophomore. Sorensen did not play as a junior due to injury, while Leonard is a transfer from Georgia. "This group has a lot of size," Zyrkowski said. "It's one of the biggest teams I have ever coaches. We have many guys who are capable of playing inside and out. Led by Chase, this team has a lot of youth, but has shown us that we are very deep." One thing that strikes Zyrkowski is the team's dogged approach off the court. "They have great character and value their academics," he said. "Their willingness to get the job done on and off the court is unmatched. They are an unselfish, dedicated and hardworking team." Zyrkowski puts his team in the upper-echelon North Suburban mix along with Lake Forest and Stevenson.
Mundelein MustangsCoach: Matt Badgley
Last season's record: 13-2, 7-0, North Suburban champions
Top new players: Tyler Moenning, sr., (G), Chris Martin, jr., (F), Kevin Moyer, jr., (G), Omari Rhinehart, sr., (G), Brock Paluch, sr., (F)
Worth noting: The Mustangs graduated their top six players from a team that went 43-6 over the last two seasons. Mundelein won the North Suburban last season amid a COVID-19-shortened playing schedule and lost in the first round of the Chipotle Clash of Champions against Fenwick. Moenning and Martin are both two-year letter winners. "Tyler has been waiting for his opportunity and has worked relentlessly in the offseason to be ready for his chance," Badgley said. "Chris is similar to Tyler, but a big, athletic athlete who continues to improve daily." Badgley said there is a bit of the unknown in play after a large graduation exodus. "Our strengths are yet to be determined with this group still gaining valuable experience," he said. "What impresses me the most is their desire to compete and improve on a daily basis." Badgley said to keep a watch on Libertyville and Lake Forest as top-tier contenders in the North Suburban.
Stevenson PatriotsCoach: Pat Ambrose
Last season's record: 12-4
Top returning players: John Sasson, sr., (G), Andy Wang, sr., (G), Evan Porto, sr., (G), Jaden Evans, sr., (G), Tate Donica, sr., (G)
Worth noting: Ambrose likes the talent and the depth he has returning, particularly when it comes to the senior guard contingent of Sasson, Wang, Porto, Evans and Donica. "We have a lot of good players back, including our senior guards -- strength of the team," he said. "These are nice kids who work hard." Ambrose added the team's newcomers are hard at work and on the improvement trail. Ambrose noted staying injury-free will be a key. He also expects a tough North Suburban slate. "We will be chasing Libertyville, Lake Forest, Lake Zurich, Warren, Mundelein, Zion-Benton and Waukegan," he said. "This is a tough league of good players and bright coaches."
Warren Blue DevilsCoach: Jon Jasnoch
Last season's record: 6-6, 4-6 North Suburban
Top returning players: Gavin Cartright, Drew Dolan, Cooper Stacey, Ryan Panek, Nate Harris
Top new players: Amarias Stephens, jr., Patrick Sengco, jr., Adam Panek, jr., Quentin Reeves, jr., Adrian Jones, jr.
Worth noting: Stacey averaged 14 points per game for Warren this past spring, while Dolan was at 9 points and Cartright averaged 7 points. "The strength of our team is the team chemistry," Jasnoch said. "They play great together and know each other's strengths and how to play to those strengths." Preseason, Jasnoch sees Libertyville and Lake Forest as two of the North Suburban's really strong teams, he said.