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The best team no one talks about

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By Joe Henricksen

They sport a sparkling 19-1 record, despite playing just three home games up to this point in the season. They won the Elgin Holiday Tournament and the Rockton-Hononegah Martin Luther King Tournament. Yet Neuqua Valley is rarely talked about when the discussion of the state's elite teams is brought up.

In fact, despite some impressive credentials and a little love from the City/Suburban Hoops Report and Illinois Prep Bulls-eye, Neuqua Valley has been the forgotten team in Chicago area rankings. The Wildcats, who are No. 7 in the City/Suburban Hoops Report current rankings, are not even among the top 10 ranked teams in the most recent Chicago Sun-Times Top 25 poll. And the Chicago Tribune has Neuqua Valley ranked No. 17.

Neuqua Valley has given highly-regarded Morton, which won the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, one of its two losses on the season. The Wildcats have gone on the road and beaten Bolingbrook and Quincy, knocked off Glenbrook South and Jack Cooley in the title game at Elgin, and just recently capped off a brilliant four days of basketball. Neuqua Valley picked up five wins in a four-day period.

While district rival Waubonsie Valley is down this season, it was still an emotional game last Friday night for Neuqua Valley. Following the convincing 68-51 win over Waubonsie, coach Todd Sutton's team traveled to Rockton-Hononegah and beat Hoffman Estates and Rockford Guilford on Saturday. Then on Monday Neuqua beat both talented Zion-Benton and Normal. While the ranking was very inflated, Normal was previously the No. 3 ranked team in Class 4A. The lone loss for the Wildcats was an overtime defeat to East Aurora on the road.

Under Sutton the Wildcats have averaged 23 wins a season this decade. Take away the 14-14 record in 2003-2004 and Neuqua Valley is an awfully impressive 169-42 in a seven-year period. But this year's team may be the one that opens everyone's eyes this March. Neuqua Valley has been everything the Hoops Report had anticipated, which ranked the Wildcats No. 16 in the preseason after winning a sectional title a year ago.

Neuqua has a little of everything, including parts that go so well together. The Wildcats feature 6-5 junior Kareem Amedu inside. He has emerged as more than a role player as his post-up game and rebounding have become huge factors around the basket. There is 6-5 junior Dwayne Evans, the team's most talented and versatile player who can get a little done inside and on the perimeter. Derek Raridon, the son of North Central College coach Todd Raridon, is a 6-5 senior who can stretch defenses with his shooting. They have a pair of steady senior guards in Ryan Wagner and Nolan Brown, while junior Rahjan Muhammad gives the team speed, athleticism and a little scoring punch on the perimeter.

Together this group, along with continued success that could very well have Neuqua Valley heading into the postseason with a 27-1 record, will get people talking soon enough.

For more information or to subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 14th year of publication, call (630)-408-6709 or email hoopsreport@yahoo.com

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what about leo.. This team came out of no where

How can you keep forgetting the Brooks Eagles and the job that Coach Chris Head, is doing with the four sophomore's: Marshall, Gray Twins & Powell. Is this something personal that you the newspaper have against Coach Head. This team is a top 25 team.


Basketball Fan ..... Tough to rank a team that has lost to a .500 Simeon team by double digits and also lost to Glenbrook North when Glenbrook North didn't even have its two best players playing in the game. You need to have some big wins against quality opponents at some point. They are young and will get there but they aren't there yet. ..... Joe H

Being a basketball fan, I have seen Neuqua play a few times and have been impressed. This team is extremely talented and enjoyable to watch as long as Coach Sutton keeps the best players on the floor.

If there is a team that nobody talks about, would it not be the team that beat Nequa Valley? East Aurora continues to roll, even following a loss to West Aurora on Saturday they follow that up with wins against solid teams like Lockport and South Elgin! This is how legitimate teams bounce back from tough losses, isn't it? If Nequa Valley is truly separating itself from the rest of them teams in the Oswego East Sectional, which I believe they are (thanks to magnificent scheduling as well as play), then East Aurora is right on their heels. They will have a chance to legitimize their chances with Simeon, and a possible Upstate 8 title on the horizon. Even in a overall down year, looks like the Upstate 8 is in line to add to their impressive resume of Regional Champions!

Foreman has an excellent team...and I like Hyde Park..both teams play together without any players signed to D-1 schools. Yet!!

Foreman has an excellent team...and I like Hyde Park..both teams play together without any players signed to D-1 schools. Yet!!

I say that Neuqua is the best team around. They can play with anybody. I was at the East game when they lost and the Tomcats rolled the first period and where up by 14 or so. After, that Neuqua played their game in the hostile environment and killed. They only lost that game because they committed 7 TO's on the first 8 possesions. Also, the got called for Hanging on the Rim which was a Technical foul and if that didn't occur they would have won in regulation. Finally, the teams that they have played are unbelievable. They have played 7 teams in the Top 25 and they have beat Six of them; all of them on the Road!!!!!!!!!!

Oswego High has a very skill team, and look for Jordan Mitchell's offensive and defensive performance!

Let me mention that the Blue West has a team in there that would be a nightmare for any team in the city. Al Raby High School plays with an intensity that I haven't seen in years. Their guard play is excellent with Andrew Mack leading the way (this kid may be leading the city in steals if we do the math on it as well as he may be one of the top senior guards no one talks about) Deangelo Thigpen and Eric Vortez are formidable D-1 prospects and they have freshman kid by the name of Anthony Knowles that is a solid contributor off of the bench. Looking at their games, it seems they've held their own against Red Conference competition and. Last but not least all three levels won their respective conferences championships last week. That's coaching and getting the most of what you have. They will be a competitive team in the Red West next year and I hear that they will be getting some good 8th graders for next year. Look out the Al Raby Raiders are coming.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on January 20, 2009 9:36 PM.

Quick hits from prep hoops scene was the previous entry in this blog.

The bizarre case of Wayne Blackshear is the next entry in this blog.

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