By Joe Henricksen
Neuqua Valley, the No. 16 team in the City/Suburban Hoops Report preseason rankings, is moving up. And quickly. The Wildcats have now knocked off a pair of ranked teams, beating Morton at the York Thanksgiving Tournament and going on the road Tuesday night and knocking off a talented and athletic Bolingbrook team, led by Diamond Taylor.
Looking at Neuqua Valley's schedule, the Wildcats, who are 6-0, could very well ride into the MLK Tournament in Rockford in the middle of January unbeaten. Sure, both St. Charles North and East Aurora could give them a scare in upcoming Upstate Eight games, and the Wildcats will be tested at the Elgin Holiday Tournament later this month, but this team is for real. After the MLK Tournament the Wildcats will see South Elgin and Geneva, a pair of surprising teams, and Downers Grove South in late February.
The Hoops Report did have high expectations for Neuqua Valley after the Wildcats reached the supersectional a year ago, losing to eventual state champion Richards. The Wildcats returned a strong nucleus and the Hoops Report did believe this team could be better than last year's 25-8 team. But there were some questions. Could Neuqua Valley defend quick, athletic teams? Well, check one off after beating Bolingbrook. And would there be enough perimeter shooting? The Wildcats don't exactly fill it up, but they have more than enough capable shooters to keep defenses honest and knock down big shots from beyond the arc.
While coach Todd Sutton likes to play his bench, when the junior trio of 6-5 Dewayne Evans, 6-5 Kareem Amedu and guard Rahjan Muhammad are on the floor with senior shooter Derek Raridon and point guard Nolan Brown, it's a pretty impressive mix.
And speaking of Evans, he continues to open eyes and rise in the Class of 2010 rankings. He is getting more and more comfortable out on the perimeter, extending his range out to the three-point line. He isn't flashy but he gets so much done. He will post you up, hit the mid-range jumper and put it on the floor a little. Amedu, another junior, was very impressive in the win over Bolingbrook. He's an undersized four-man at the college level but has really improved his offensive game.
Big happenings in the North Suburban
While the Hoops Report took in the Neuqua Valley-Bolingbrook game Tuesday night, as expected there were plenty of offensive fireworks in the North Suburban Lake. Warren's Brandon Paul scored 31 points in a win over Lake Forest as Michigan-bound Matt Vogrich poured in 39 to lead the Scouts. And Mundelein's Ben Brust pumped in a whopping 45 points in a win over Libertyville. Brust is one of the top 10 players in the Class of 2010.
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