By Joe Henricksen
The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report is in the mail this week, with profiles on teams, conferences, current issues and rankings in the preseason issue. Here is a sneak peak at a few programs that are rather new to the ranked scene and a few programs that are just fine with the sleeper label.
These programs are all ready to rise this winter and offer a new, fresh look to the Chicagoland area's top 25.
The Mustangs haven't finished among the top three in the North Suburban Lake since the 2000-2001 season. That includes four-win and six-wins seasons in the middle half of this decade. Now every coach in the North Suburban Lake that was surveyed had Mundelein at the top. And why not? Iowa-bound guard Ben Brust is an elite player who has the ability to carry a team, while 6-7 junior Ryan Sawvell is a monster. Throw in junior guard Leavon Head and hotshot freshman Robert Knar and it's easy to see why coach Dick Knar's club is making its first appearance in the Hoops Report's Top 25.
Remember, a year ago this team won 24 games and beat Oswego, the eventual Class 3A state runner-up. Now fresh off a summer in which they beat nearly everyone they faced and returning its nucleus, the Bulldogs look ready to make a deep run in 3A. The trio of Brown recruit Sean McGonagill, talented junior Ryan Jackson and guard Billy VanderMerkt should lead R-B to its first regional crown since 2002.
• Glenbard East
Another team that really opened eyes with its play this summer after winning 20 games last season. The Rams were picked by each DuPage Valley coach as the preseason favorite and should be as good -- or better -- than the 25-3 team from 2006-2007. Senior Lee Skinner is back and has the potential to be the DVC Player of the Year. And the junior tandem of point guard Zach Miller and 6-2 Jonny Hill are a year older and better.
Orr? Really? Time will tell if this team is still a little too young to be a serious threat to other Red-West powers like Whitney Young, Marshall and North Lawndale. However, Curtis "C.J." Jones is special. The 6-0 sophomore can score in bunches and won't be afraid of the bright lights. And this could be junior Mycheal Henry's coming-out party. "He will be the difference," says Orr coach Lou Adams of Henry's development. Throw in talented junior guard Santino Siggers and transfer Malik Logan and the school on the corner of Pulaski and Chicago is set to make a name for itself.
• Maine South
The football power is ready to make a name for itself in the gym. Experience goes a long way and coach Tony Lavorato, Jr. has plenty of it. The Hawks return four players who are entering their third varsity season, including a pair of All-CSL South players in 6-7 Kevin Schlitter and P.J. Killean. Everyone returns from a team that won 17 games, finished second in the rugged Central Suburban League South last year and was picked by coaches to finish second again behind powerful Waukegan. The experience and confidence gained from last season will do wonders this coming winter. This team expects to be good.
Note: Unfortunate news this week in that Maine South's top player, 6-7 Kevin Schlitter, suffered a torn ACL and will be lost for the season.
The Raiders lost a lot from last year's regional championship team, including a pair of Division I talents in Diamond Taylor and Troy Snyder. However, Wisconsin commit Devon Hodges, a 6-7 transfer from Romeoville, is cleared to play and will provide an immediate presence inside. Ryan Walker returns at the point and Antoine Cox and Delorean Weatherall on the wing could evolve into an athletic, exciting and dangerous tandem. Plus, keep an eye on up-and-coming 6-5 sophomore Nick Molonga, who will provide depth.
A regular in the Hoops Report Top 25 over the last few seasons with 100 victories in the last four years, the Bulldogs this year become a sleeper. Coach John Chappetto's program has become accustomed to success and it should continue with the trio of Brandon Snowden, Adonis Bailey and sophomore Dean Danos.
Al Biancalana can coach. If he can take middling talent and form it into a team that wins 15 games and a regional title like he did a year ago, it should be fun to see what he can do with a group that has solid, veteran guard play, can shoot and includes a rising talent in junior Will Sullivan. In addition to Sullivan, the Dukes have a three-year varsity point guard in Kevin Kahovec and senior shooter Evan Fendley. If this team can overcome its lack of size and rebound it will be in the thick of the West Suburban Silver race with Lyons Twp. and Oak Park.
The first issue of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 15th year of publication, is due out this week. To subscribe or for more information email email@example.com or call (630)-408-6709