By Joe Henricksen
With key starters Ryan Jackson and Billy VanderMerkt not playing in this past weekend's Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, there weren't many people who would have expected the Bulldogs to run the table and claim the shootout title with a 6-0 record. But behind rising point guard Sean McGonagill, who was brilliant throughout the weekend, the Bulldogs did just that.
R-B knocked off Glenbard East 74-70 in the final as McGonagill poured in a game-high 31 points. This coming after he popped in 30 against Proviso East. McGonagill was the shootout MVP after averaging 27.7 points a game in six victories. With Jackson and VanderMerkt not available, 6-5 Terrence Reed provided a nice lift inside for the Bulldogs and a host of players knocking down perimeter shots from beyond the three-point line (14 threes in the win over Evanston).
McGonagill has been about as steady and consistent as any guard in the state of Illinois this spring, whether it has been playing for his Illinois Kings AAU team or this past weekend with his high school team. McGonagill picked up Sunday right where he left off on Saturday. Again, he was sensational on Sunday and, on a game-to-game basis, was the most impressive player of the day for the second straight day.
The 6-1 point guard has shown and proven he's a scholarship player. With his academic credentials, McGonagill would be a prize recruit for a school in either the Ivy League or Patriot League. If the situation was right -- in the right system or filling a certain need for a team -- he may be able to play at a higher level.
Add Jackson, an impressive sophomore guard, and VanderMerkt to this group and the Bulldogs will likely be a preseason Top 25 team next November in the Chicago area. The Bulldogs put together an impressive 24-3 record a year ago, but this team should be even better despite losing standout guard Dan Oswald to graduation.
Coach Tom McCloskey's program could very well win 22-plus games for the fourth time in eight years and be a serious Class 3A threat.
Glenbard East was awfully impressive in its run to the championship game at Riverside-Brookfield and will be the favorites in the DuPage Valley Conference this winter. The Rams, who won 20 games last season before falling to Bolingbrook in the regional championship, beat York, Waukegan (without Jereme Richmond), Hillcrest, St. Joseph and Neuqua Valley before falling to R-B in the title game.
This program took off during the 2004-2005 season with the arrival of current Northwestern player Mike Capocci and hasn't looked back, averaging 21 wins a season and winning three regional titles in the last five years. It wasn't all that long ago when Glenbard East was the perennial doormat in the DVC. This is a program that averaged just seven wins a season -- yes, seven! -- over a 12-year period ending in the 2002-2003 season.
Lee Skinner, a long and active 6-6 senior-to-be, is one of the real sleepers in the Chicago area. Skinner, who was a dominating presence in the win over St. Joseph on Sunday, will be the top post player in the DuPage Valley this upcoming season and has legitimized himself as a Division II/NAIA prospect. He has great hands, good footwork, runs the floor and passes the look test with his length and body.
The Rams have an energizer in combo guard Jack Merrithey, a steady, experienced point guard who can shoot in Zach Miller and an explosive offensive threat on the wing in Jonny Hill, who turned the game around for Glenbard East in a come-from-behind thriller over St. Joseph on Sunday.
Check back for more coverage and thoughts from Sunday's action at the Riverside-Brookfield, which featured a terrific matchup between Mt. Carmel and New Trier and their stars -- Tracy Abrams and Alex Rossi.