Boys basketball: Scouting the North Suburban Conference
NORTH SUBURBAN CONFERNCE
Coach: Phil LaScala
Last season's record: 27-7, 13-1 North Suburban champions
Top returning players: Asa Thomas, sr., Tommie Aberle, jr., Anthony Mordini, sr.
Worth noting: Clemson-bound Thomas led the Scouts in scoring (17 ppg), rebounding (6 rpg), free-throw percentage (85%), 3-point field goal percentage (40%) and overall field goal percentage (60%) on his way to earning North Suburban player of the year honors and first-team all-state accolades. The defending North Suburban champions have three starters back, including Thomas, a four-year varsity player, Aberle, a three-year varsity player, and Mordini.
Coach: Terry Coughlin (fifth season)
Last season's record: 12-18, 4-10 North Suburban
Top returning players: Brendan Powers, sr., (G, 6-4), Nick Popovic, jr. (G, 6-2), Jon Fleaka, jr. (G, 5-10)
Top new players: Anton Strelnikov, soph. (6-6), Michael Boenzi, soph. (6-1), Noah Kyrychenko, sr. (6-3)
Worth noting: The Bears return one starter from a year ago. "We are very inexperienced, but can score from multiple levels and will have the ability to put some long and multidimensional lineups on the floor," Coughlin said. "We will be a work in progress due to our youth, but I think we will improve each week throughout the year." Coughlin likes the fact the team shares the ball well. "I think we may have a different leading scorer every game due to our versatility," he said. Coughlin likes the team's defensive prospects based on roster personnel. "People know we play ball press," he said. "This year, we have the ability to play a more aggressive style in our defense." Coughlin noted Powers' confidence "has grown tremendously, and he's worked really had to become multidimensional and add to his game," he said. Strelnikov also has plenty of potential. "Anton is young, but has great footwork and feel in the post," Coughlin said. Keys to success, Coughlin added, will be limiting turnovers and establishing an identity. "With so many new faces, roles will continue to evolve throughout the year," he said. "As long as we stay true to ourselves and play with high energy, we will have an opportunity to reach our potential."
Coach: Brian Zyrkowski (sixth season)
Last season's record: 27-8, 12-2 North Suburban
Top returning players: Aidyn Boone, sr. (F, 6-6), Cole Bonder, sr. (F, 6-6), Will Buchert, sr. (G, 6-1), Jack Huber, sr. (G, 6-3)
Top new players: Henry Eads, sr. (F, 6-5), Blaise LaVista, fresh. (G, 6-2)
Worth noting: The Wildcats have four starters back and multiple players who were part of last year's NSC runner-up squad that went to overtime with 4A semifinalist Barrington in a sectional final. Buchert averaged 8 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, while Huber was at 8 points, 5 assists and 2 steals. Bonder averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds, while Boone was at 5 points and 4 rebounds a year ago. Huber was all-NSC and an all-area selection. "This team is very unselfish with a strong returning backcourt in Jack (Huber) and Will (Buchert)," Zyrkowski noted. "Our players with size, Aidyn, Cole and Henry, can score inside and out." Experience, Zyrkowski added, will mean the ability to do more on defense. "We like to mix it up defensively," he explained. "With the experience we have, we are able to do more things defensively." Zyrkowski felt Boone was the team's most improved player last year, "and has improved much more during the off-season," he said. "Look for him to have a breakout year." The Cats will also benefit from Buchert's ability on the glass. "Will is a very good rebounder for his size and has improved his scoring range," Zyrkowski said. "He is also a very good defender." Huber, the coach added, handles pressure extremely well. "Jack is very difficult to guard and makes great decisions with the ball. He has also improved his scoring range in the off-season." And freshman LaVista is someone Zyrkowski said "is physically ready for the varsity level," he said. "He plays with a motor and has proven that he can play at this level." Zyrkowski said Lake Forest is the team to beat in the NSC with Clemson commit Thomas and Aberle leading the way. "I think we can give them a fight, for sure, but if I were to guess I see us second place in the conference," he said. "However, you never know with this tough NSC conference. We need to commit to playing our style and our tempo in order for us to be successful. Guys need to step up when others are struggling. If we control both sides of the ball, then this will be a great season."
Coach: Matt Badgley (sixth season)
Last season's record: 12-17, fifth North Suburban
Top returning players: Chris Martin, sr. (F, 6-6), Derek Bishop, soph. (G, 6-2), Emmanual Willoughby, sr. (G-F, 6-2), Kevin Moyer, sr. (G, 6-0), Vinny Rogalski, jr. (G, 5-11)
Worth noting; Martin averaged 13 points per game before suffering a season-ending injury last January, while Bishop, an all-NSC pick, averaged 12.7 points per game as a freshman. Mundelein has "three-plus starters" back, Badgley noted. Badgley said on-court experience will be a strength. Offensively, the coach noted it's too early to tell on strengths on that end, but said the Mustangs are concentrating on trying to be improved on their defensive approach. Badgley called Bishop a rising underclassman and noted Willoughby has potential. Keys to a successful season, Badgley noted, are staying healthy, be hard to guard and run an efficient offense.
Coach: Pat Ambrose (24th season)
Last season's record: 20-9, 10-4 North Suburban
Top returning players: David Sulnius, sr. (G, 6-2), Christian Uremovich, jr. (F, 6-6), Michael Maloney, sr. (G, 6-0), Jack Dabbs, jr. (F, 6-5)
Top new players: Aidan Bardic, soph. (G, 6-0)
Worth noting: Sulnius, Maloney and Uremovich were starters on last year's 20-win team that took third in the North Suburban. Uremovich averaged 7.4 points and 3.8 rebounds, while Sulnius averaged 6.4 points. "We have guys who can score inside and outside," Stevenson assistant coach Paul Swan said. "We have decent size and look to be a good rebounding team. We look to be a very balanced team in terms of scoring and rebounding." Swan added defensively the Patriots want to be good man-to-man in the half court. "We will be as good as our defense," he said. Swan noted Sulnius is a good shooter and good off the dribble, while Uremovich is a good inside scorer and rebounder. "Christian is a vocal leader and is solid at the back end of our defense," Swan said. Maloney, Swan added, is a hard-nosed defender and rebounder. "He leads our team in hustle plays," he said. Newcomer Bardic, a 10th grader, has "excellent vision and passing ability" at the point guard position," Swan said. Swan sees Lake Forest and Libertyville at the top of the NSC. "We expect the NSC to be very balanced and competitive," he said. "We hope to compete and be in the mix."
Coach: Zack Ryan (first season)
Last season's record: 15-15, 7-7 North Suburban
Top returning players: Adam Panek, sr. (6-5)
Top new players: Josh Stewart, jr. (5-11), Alex Daniels, jr. (6-5), Amarius Stephens, sr. (6-1), Immanuel Bown, jr. (6-4), Jacquari Nabb, jr. (5-10), Adrian Jones, sr. (6-0)
Worth noting: Ryan moves over to Warren after an eight-year run as Carmel Catholic's head coach in Mundelein. Panek is the Blue Devils' lone returning starter. "Adam has improved in all aspects of his game," Ryan said. Stewart started as a sophomore at Carmel last year and averaged 4.1 points and 3.2 assists on a 23-win Class 3A regional-championship team. "We have good athleticism and size, and have the potential to be a good defensive team," Ryan said. Offensively, Ryan likes Warren's size and athleticism "to go inside and get to the basket," he said. Those same attributes, Ryan added, should help Warren on defense. "With so many new guys, how we play together and build chemistry will determine much of our success." Ryan noted the 6-5 Daniels is another player to watch. "Alex has a high ceiling," he said. "He played well over the summer and his offensive game continues to evolve." Ryan said Lake Forest is the favorite in the North Suburban with Libertyville and Stevenson two more teams to keep an eye on.
Coach: Ron Ashlaw (14th season)
Last season's record: 3-27, 1-13 North Suburban
Top returning players: Devin Malone, sr. (G, 6-0), Lawrence Harris, sr. (F, 6-4), Izaiah Diaz, sr. (G, 5-9), Brandon Phillips, jr. (Wing, 6-2), Rayshaun Aaron, sr. (Wing, 6-4), D.J. Cole, soph. (G, 5-9)
Top new players: Carter Newsome, fresh. (G, 5-9), Simereon Carter, fresh. (Wing, 6-2), Jose Robles, sr. (F, 6-4), Ethan Rodriguez, jr. (Wing, 6-1)
Worth noting: The Bulldogs have four starters back from a year ago. "I think we are back closer to the speed and athleticism that Waukegan teams have generally had for years," Ashlaw said. "We are an excellent practice team already, and are developing very good basketball habits and understandings. We are extremely unselfish and play with great place. I think we are out of the basketball wilderness now, but we need to prove ourselves in a very tough and physical and defensive-minded NSC. No predictions yet, but we do feel much more positive about things heading into this season." Ashlaw said keys to a successful season include adapting to multiple paces and styles of play during the season; continuing to play together and unselfishly; great shot and drive selection; consistent offensive rebounding; reducing turnovers significantly and returning to a style of defense that permits the bulldogs to be disruptive to what opponents are trying to accomplish each possession.
Coach: Bob Worthington (10th season)
Last season's record: Eighth place NSC
Top returning players: Kurtis Main, soph. (G, 6-3), Rmoni Beals, soph. (G, 6-1), Abron Brooks, sr. (F)
Top new players: Amari Simpson, soph. (G, 5-11)
Outlook: Beals, Brooks and Main started last season for the Zee-Bees, while Simpson is an "extremely versatile combo guard that will improve us in many different statistical areas," Worthington said. Worthington likes the balance his team has throughout the roster. Worthington said Lake Forest gets the early nod as the team to beat in the North Suburban. "The NSC has always been a very tough conference," he said. "Lake Forest is well-coached and has a great basketball tradition. The keys to the Bees this year are developing winning habits, 'Bee' tough on defense, 'Bee' selfless on offense and 'Bee' a competitor. This team's best characteristic is it is extremely hard working. We are young and that is OK. The more experience this group gets the better."