DuPage County boys basketball notes: Lake Park's Cerese continues to shine
Lake Park junior point guard Camden Cerese is rapidly becoming a must-watch player in Chicagoland.
The 6-foot-3 Cerese is a game-changing player for the Lancers, with his ability to impact an outcome on both ends of the court.
Cerese is putting up big numbers for the Lancers, scoring 40 points against Wheaton North in early December and tallying 32 against Geneva and dropping 24 against Glenbard West last week. Through 18 games, Cerese is averaging 21.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game to go with 32 steals and a whopping 41 deflections.
"After my sophomore season, my focus was improving my overall game," Cerese said. "That consisted of working to become a three-level scorer. I worked daily with my trainer, Ray Tillman, to identify gaps in my game."
Cerese said his stellar season has helped raise the bar on his career at the next level, but he's been pushing himself to become a standout player for several years.
"I frequently set goals for myself to continuously raise the bar," he said. "For this season, my goals are to gain more exposure for college recruiting. To do that, I have to maintain consistency and play at a high level. I want to be recognized as an all-state player. Another goal is to be able to put up big numbers offensively, as well as to be a force on the defensive end.
"Playing at the next level has motivated me to work harder and to be the best version of myself. I'm striving to play at the highest level with a well-respected program."
Cerese is a unique player, mainly due to his penchant to shoot midrange jumpers and finds gaps for openings in the paint rather than launch 3-point shots. His potential to add another level to his game is enticing, especially when he expands his range, which will only add another dimension to his game in opening up driving and passing lanes. Cerese had made 18-of-58 3-point attempts this season, though he's been a frequent visitor to the free-throw line. He's shot 96-of-132 on free throws.
Lake Park coach Billy Pitcher said Cerese is an all-around talented player.
"Camden plays really good defense, and people don't really notice that," Pitcher said. "He's a scholarship player because he plays both ends. He can shoot, can drive and he can pass and he's long."
Downers Grove North update:
The Trojans rebounded from a two-game slide -- to Lyons and Hinsdale Central by a combined 3 points -- with quality victories over Glenbard West and Notre Dame last weekend. The Trojans' plethora of scorers, and a deep and physically imposing frontcourt with height, bodes well for a deep run in the Class 4A playoffs.
Against defending Class 4A state champion Glenbard West on Friday, the Trojans reeled off 26 unanswered points to runaway with a blowout victory. The Trojans (15-3, 4-2 West Suburban Silver) can pound the ball into the middle, with 6-foot-8 Jake Riemer and 6-foot-8 George Wolkow capable of overpowering most post players with their size and strength. Or they can drill 3-pointers, with junior guard Jack Stanton's picture-perfect jumper to go with Ethan Thulin and Owen Thulin to open up the middle for the post players.
Six-foot-5 senior Jacob Bozeman is a multithreat player, capable of bringing the ball up the court, guarding a variety of players, attacking the basket on drives or hitting jumpers. Six-foot-4 Finn Kramper is a do-it-all player.
"Defense has played really well for us," Downers Grove North coach James Thomas said. "I think they felt really bad after last week when we went on the road and lost by one point to Lyons and lost at home in triple overtime to Hinsdale Central. It was good to get wins. We have great balance. We can play a lot of different styles with our players and size. It's one guy after the next. It's really tough to stop us from that vantage point. It's a lot of fun to coach these guys."
Glenbard West update:
Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka anticipated a transition period for his program this season. The Hilltoppers had to replace their entire starting lineup from last season, while essentially incorporating a new rotation of inexperienced players with scant varsity experience.
The Hilltoppers (11-7, 3-2 West Suburban Silver) have several promising players, notably 6-6 senior forward Logan Brown and senior guard Benji Zander.
"The best thing about our squad is the juniors and seniors now really learned a lot from those kids who graduated but it's difficult because they had minimal experience," Opoka said. "With that minimal experience, we're trying to do the best we can to prepare them for big stages where you can't simulate the physicality and strength to actually take a shot. The kids have identified roles halfway through the season.
"It's not easy creating a new team, but we have such great kids. It's easy when you have good kids and all they care about winning and each other and sacrifice and being unselfish."
Opoka said his program is excited about their upcoming game against Scales Mound on Feb. 3 in Glen Ellyn. Scales Mound, which finished in third place in Class 1A last season, seems like an odd opponent for the Hilltoppers so late in the regular season, but Opoka said there's a reason for the game.
"We became really close friends at the supersectional at Northern Illinois when we were preparing for Larkin," Opoka said. "We saw their fans and we were so impressed with their community support and the way they played and their togetherness. It reminded us a lot about us and our team. We cheered for them, and they cheered for us that following game.
"So, lo and beyond, when we both made state, we were staying at the same hotel. We went to see their game at state and became good friends with them and their coaches. They actually stayed a couple of extra days to watch us win state. We stayed in touch and talked over the summer. They lost a game and we had an extra game this season, so we decided to schedule a game. It's a good way to bring two communities together."
Opoka said there will be several activities for the two teams during that weekend, but "nothing is set in stone yet."
"We will have a lot of things planned and will really get together to cherish the opportunity for them, especially with a two and a half-hour drive," he said.
The Sentinels hit the middle of January hoping to execute a turnaround on their season after losing three straight games heading into Tuesday's contest against IC Catholic Prep. The Sentinels (7-12) have endured some growing pains due to their youthful rotation, according to longtime coach Craig Etheridge.
"Despite our struggles, my relatively young, inexperienced group plays with a lot of energy and effort," Etheridge said. "We're gradually improving our basketball IQ which is helping to improve our execution on both ends of the court.
"We're still a work in progress. My younger players, Joe Kane and Abe Johnson, have had some really good moments on the offensive end of the court. However, we're still working on offensive consistency and defensive discipline."
Junior guard Joe Kane is one of the leaders on the Sentinels, stepping up in big moments while playing consistent basketball. He's averaging 16.6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per game. Junior guard Abe Johnson is averaging 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals.