By Joe Henricksen
With the Oscars just being handed out a week ago, the City/Suburban Hoops Report continues on that theme. In the most recent blog the Hoops Report highlighted this season's Leading Men--the top players most capable of carrying their respective teams in March. Now the Hoops Report takes a look at the Best Supporting Role, the five best sidekicks to a team's star player who will surely play a huge role in getting some of the top teams to Peoria.
COLIN NICKERSON, Waukegan
There is no question the long, lanky 6-3 combo guard would be the frontrunner for the Academy Award's Best Supporting Role. Ultra-talented Jereme Richmond, the 6-7 do-it-all junior, is the best player in Illinois regardless of class, but it's been Nickerson who has been a consistent and productive threat. Nickerson uses his length and instincts defensively, constantly getting in the passing lanes, creating turnovers and getting Waukegan out in transition. Offensively he's evolved into a complete scorer, with the ability to score off the dribble, with his mid-range game or knocking down shots from beyond the arc. If Waukegan is to get through a sectional that includes Zion-Benton, Lake Forest and Warren, Nickerson and Richmond will need to continue their Batman and Robin act.
BRANDON SNOWDEN, Richards
Who? Richards has big man Shaun Pratl as the anchor, but talented and underrated Snowden has emerged. Despite no one knowing much about this junior, he has moved into the top 30 in the Hoops Report's Class of 2010 player rankings. He's been doing basically anything and everything coach John Chappetto has asked of him, averaging 16 points and 5 rebounds a game while shooting over 60 percent from the field for a team that is 22-4. Richards has won 11 of its last 12 and are in position to make a run in 3A this March after winning a 4A title a year ago. Snowden, who has had to play a little out of position at times this year, is a strong, physical 6-2 wing. He can put it on the floor and has improved his perimeter shot. The 1-2 punch of Pratl and Snowden may be enough for a second straight sectional championship.
RONALD STEWARD, Zion-Benton
Maybe it could be argued that the Zee-Bees point guard is the star of this team. However, the reality is that label goes to standout junior Lenzelle Smith, the Ohio State commitment who does a little of everything for coach Don Kloth. Steward is the heart-and-soul of this state title contender. He brings the point guard mentality you covet in March, toughness and the ability to make crunch time plays and hit big shots.
RAUL GUZMAN, Morton
The Mustangs weren't the same team with star Luke Scarlata sidelined for a few weeks. Morton's big man has returned and demands attention from opposing team defenses. As a result life is a little easier for Guzman, making the burly and versatile 6-5 Guzman that much more of a threat. While he may not look the part, Guzman has unbelievably soft hands, is skilled, can knock down the three or use his body to bang around the basket. If Morton wants to keep this dream run alive in what is a mountain of a sectional, the Scarlata-Guzman duo, along with solid guard play from Joey Belcaster, must be at an elite level against the likes of Whitney Young, De La Salle, Foreman and the host of others in the Morton Sectional.
TREVELL RIVERS, Thornton
"We wouldn't be where we are without Trevell Rivers," says Thornton coach Troy Jackson of his No. 1 ranked Wildcats. Rivers is a Hoops Report favorite, bringing energy, toughness, athleticism and a presence inside despite being only 6-3. If Jon Mills of North Lawndale is the best rebounder in Illinois, Rivers is not far behind. Plus, he's a big-time shot blocker and finisher around the basket. Rivers is the Ben Wallace of Illinois high school basketball. Explosive junior star Reggie Smith has received the headlines--and deservedly so--as the team's best player. However, what Jackson says of Rivers is so true. Whatever the Wildcats lack, Rivers makes up for.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The Hoops Report's state tournament preview issue is due out Monday.