Aysia Bugg (left) hopes to lead Bolingbrook back to Redbird Arena in 2014.
Looking into the crystal ball...
How do things shape up for the 2013-14 girls basketball season? Thanks to a wealth of young talent, a lot of the same faces will be prominent next season.
Here is a look at some of the teams that should rank among the best (this season's final record in parenthesis):
1. Marian Catholic (33-1) - The 2013 state champions will be well-positioned to defend their title, although they will miss 6-2 Megan Walsh's presence in the middle and Brianna Narcissi's floor leadership. Back for coach Annie Byrne will be 5-10 guard Ashton Millender, arguably the best pure shooter around, and 5-8 point guard Teniya Page. Title-game hero Kauai Bradley also returns for her junior year.
2. Rolling Meadows (30-4) - Don't be surprised if the Mustangs make a return trip to Redbird Arena. All five starters are back next year for coach Ryan Kirkorsky, including point guard extraordinaire Jackie Kemph. Also back will be Northwestern recruit Alexis Glasgow, who scored 24 points in the title game, 6-2 inside/outside threat Jenny Vliet and forward Ashley Montanez. Key reserves Sami Kay and Allie Kemph also return.
3. Montini (35-2) - The Broncos' overtime loss to Vernon Hills in their 3A semifinal should provide plenty of motivational ammunition for coach Jason Nichols. A healthy Kateri Stone should also help. Although Montini loses inside presence Malayna Johnson, point guard Kelsey Bogdan, 6-2 Kelly Karlis, power forward Rainey Kuykendall and the freshman outside shooting tandem of Lea Kerstein and Paulina Castro will return.
4. Trinity (23-5) - Injuries sabotaged the Blazers in 2012-2013. Mikayala Leyden never returned after being hurt during the preseason, and 5-11 freshman center Amber Reese was lost early with a knee injury. But the Blazers won't generate much sympathy next winter with 5-8 point guard Lauren Prochaska, 5-4 three-point ace Annie McKenna, 5-10 Patricia Stritzel and 6-foot Maryam Wilcher expected to play key roles for coach Ed Stritzel.
5. Bolingbrook (24-6) - The Raiders will miss the floor play and leadership of Kennedy Cattenhead, but coach Anthony Smith will field another state contender with slick guards Aysia Bugg and Amarah Coleman, 6-1 forward Kristen Moore, forward Destiny Harris and 6-1 Lexi Smith back. Missing trips to state the past two years is atypical for Bolingbrook, but smart money says that will change in 2014.
6. Neuqua Valley (27-4) - If Bolingbrook doesn't win the sectional next winner, it will probably be the Wildcats standing with the plaque. Coach Mike Williams welcomes back six of his top seven players including guards Najee and Malia Smith, Niki Lazar, freshmen Myia Starks and Kai Moon and 6-2 center Bryce Menendez. Overall size could be an issue with the departure of 5-10 forward Allison Hedrick.
7. Wheaton Warrenville South (29-4) - Injuries also caught up to WW South, which lost Sierra Bisso and Maggie Dansdill to knee injuries during the season. But Dansdill should be back, as will the most important Tiger of them all, all-area selection Megan Waldron, who scored a DePaul scholarship after her stellar performance in leading WW South to the sectional title game. Also back are Melinda Franke, Olivia Linebarger and Erin Zappia.
8. Joliet Catholic (24-5) - The Angels put themselves on the basketball radar thanks to their two newcomers - junior Jasmine Lumpkin and freshman Nicole Ekhomu. Lumpkin's transfer was a godsend for Joliet Catholic. All she did was provide 17 points and 12 rebounds per game and establish herself as one of the top juniors in the country. Ekhomu? If her sophomore season is anything like her freshman year, look out East Suburban Catholic Conference!
9. Huntley (26-8) - The Red Raiders took their lumps against a loaded 4A field, but don't cry for coach Steve Raethz. He still has the Andrews sisters - 6-0 Sam (16 points per game) and 6-2 Ali (16 points, seven rebounds) - and 6-foot guard Bethany Zornow back for another run at Redbird Arena. Freshman guard Kayla Barreto will benefit from another year of seasoning, as will the Huntley bench.
10. Whitney Young (29-5) - Linnae Harper and Sydney Snower will be missed, but their departure will open the way for expanded roles for players like power forward Taylor Brame, guards Tanita Allen, Madinah Muhammad and Katrina Beck, and 6-5 center Khaalia Hillsman (nine points, 10 rebounds per game). Morgan Park will challenge in the city, but don't be surprised to see the Dolphins back in the supersectional.
Others to watch: Morgan Park (23-6), Vernon Hills (31-3), Fenwick (22-6), Naperville Central (25-7), Rich South (23-6), Burlington Central (27-5), Kankakee McNamara (18-12), Benet (20-10), Geneva (19-11), Crete-Monee (23-4), Hinsdale Central (16-11), Batavia (18-10), Barrington (15-12), Crystal Lake South (23-7).
The question is going to be raised. How can you be an all-state player and not be a first-team all-area selection?
Answer: I didn't invent the four-class system.