By Joe Henricksen

Is this the year for De La Salle?

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By Joe Henricksen

De La Salle has won a lot of games over the past four years, averaging 22 wins a season in that time. But even with all those victories -- and the four consecutive regional championships and success in the Chicago Catholic League -- De La Salle still remains that talented team and program with many interested (and some skeptical) basketball eyes on them.

And what those eyes are waiting to see is whether the Meteors can take that next step and return De La Salle basketball to its glory years of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Coach Jerry Tokars led the Meteors to a Class AA third-place finish in 1977, took teams to the Elite Eight in 1979 and 1980, and captured four sectional championships in a seven-year period. But since that success 30 years ago, De La Salle is the Purdue of Illinois high school basketball -- plenty of program prominence and headlines but missing the exclamation point.

For De La Salle, getting past sectional play, through the supersectional and on to Peoria would do for its program what a long-awaited Final Four would do for Purdue, which has had plenty of Big Ten and NCAA Tournament success but no trips to college basketball's biggest stage under Gene Keady and Matt Painter.

Again, there has been great success. The last four years for De La Salle hoops has resulted in marquee games, national exposure and high-profile recruits. But locally, three sectional semifinal losses and one sectional title game defeat, falling to eventual state champion Whitney Young, 55-52, in 2009.

While 90 percent of the prep basketball programs in Illinois would trade places with De La Salle and the success it has had over the past four years, the Meteors understand the potential that is there. But that dreaded sectional round has certainly given De La Salle its share of fits. It doesn't help that the Meteors are in arguably the toughest sectional every year. And if things don't change, the sectional will once again feature two other top five teams in Whitney Young and Proviso East this March.

But winning a sectional title, which De La Salle hasn't done since the Tokars-coached team in 1983, is front and center among the players, coach Tom White and the Meteor fan base. They will all enjoy the ride over the next several months, but when the calendar turns March, all eyes will again be on De La Salle.

"That's been our focus every year, to get over that hump," says talented junior Alex Foster, who has played varsity since the day he walked into De La Salle as a freshman. "And once we get over that hump, it's going to be a big accomplishment and feel all that much better. I know it's going to be big for coach White when we do."

White is a realist and understands his program is at the point where it's ready (needs?) to shake the sectional bugaboo.

"We just have to play our best basketball and our best games down the stretch when it matters most," says White. "There are no excuses. We haven't done that in some of those sectional losses. But we have to get past that, get past that sectional hurdle, get to Peoria, because we really do want to play on the biggest stage."

"I think people think we are going to be down with Mike [Shaw] and Dre [Henley] graduating and Jaylon [Tate] transferring, so we feel like we have a lot to prove," says Foster.

While the notion that people think De La Salle "will be down," as Foster stated, is quite a stretch, there is some truth in that there are doubters who question whether De La Salle can take the next step. After all, if the Meteors couldn't do it last season with the school's all-time leading scorer, Mike Shaw, and veteran Dre Henley, along with a bunch of talented young players mixed in, when will it happen? And it sure didn't help matters when they lost the talented Tate, who figured to be a catalyst over the next two years but instead transferred to Simeon this past offseason.

Foster, however, believes. And he really believes this team is different. For De La Salle and its fan base, hopefully Foster is on to something.

"Our team is completely different," Foster pointed out when talking to the Hoops Report a few weeks prior to even the start of practice. "We haven't had the type of chemistry we have right now at any time during my first two years here. We are really close. And that carries over to the court. We are just extremely tight. Jaylon leaving was actually a real shocker. It still upsets me to this day, but what are you going to do?"

So while losing a talent like Tate is always a blow, the psyche of the team -- the togetherness, the rallying around something and developing a bond -- could carry the Meteors this winter.

"I do see that," says White of a budding camaraderie among his players. "They work hard and they have fun. You like what you see when it comes to chemistry with this group. There are no moods. They aren't worried about the touches they get. They just play."

Oh, and the talent isn't too shabby, either.

De La Salle was also the beneficiary of a move-in. Gavin Schilling, a promising 6-8 junior, moved back from Germany (he attended Loyola Academy as a freshman) and is among the Hoops Report's half dozen prospects in the Class of 2013. He's a high-major prospect who will team up with Foster to form an imposing frontline.

Plus, White will welcome back three juniors -- 6-3 Alvin Ellis and guards Marcus White and Demarcus Richardson -- who all have valuable varsity experience. And a breakthrough season from the long and athletic Ellis would be huge.

Add Tom White's son, 6-4 Josh White, the only senior on the team, and a good looking freshman in Martez Cameron, and there is -- once again -- enough pieces to break down that sectional wall.

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It seems like every year I see the same article. De La Salle can not get past Whitney Young so they will never win the Sectional! De La Salle loses players every year from Josh Parker who went to Thornton now starting at Dayton. Elliot Jones who was a all-area player at Hillcrest, Landon Cox who left to go to TF North who was a star at Northern Illinois in football now on Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL. Then Jeremy Leonard left in 07-08 to attend TF North. Then Dre Henley left his junior year but he did come back for his Senior season. Now this year they lost Jaylon Tate to Simeon and another good guard Zack Branch to King and thats just to name a few over the years. De La Salle should worry about keeping their top spot in the Catholic League cause St.Joseph is now in the league and the new coach at St.Rita is really turning things around fast over there.
For this season De La Salle guards(Marcus Wite & Demarcus Richardson) are not even close to what they had the past 4 years. They do have the big guys but guard plays get you into the Sectional and beyond!

The 4a system sucks. This year, at least most of the top teams are in 4a. But it needs to go. I'd be fine with keeping 1a and 2a and combining 3a and 4a. 3 classes is not ideal, but fine by me.

mr. o reilley (oops) reilly we don't mind the opinions but show a little respect when spelling someone's last name. thanks

Mr. O'Reilly... we expect a full apology as the season continues and your words were never so wrong. Like I always say, Let's just play the game and see what happens.
Oh, I'm Marcus's Uncle. So far, 3-0 all wins by 20+. I know they haven't played anyone... but didn't they lose to unranked Fenwick last year, and who were the guards and wasn't Mike Shaw and Big Dre on the team...and check with insiders and find out how many times the transfer to the country's number 1 ranked team throw his practice jersey down and walk out the building while practice was still going on...You seem like you know the school's history pretty well...that wasn't just about bad coaching...don't the starters play the backups in practice. In three games all starter have had double figures in 2 of the 3 games... Guard Play maybe? Check out the games then write your comments. PEACE!

Uhmm you say their not even close wow how wrong you are. Marcus white shoots better then all of them and is quicker, and for demarcus richardson still one of the best scoring gaurds in the state just have to let is loose both of them do. Demarcus the quickest guard in the state with lil derrick. They are one of the Top back courts in the state they just have to go out there and prove it and i believe they will so lets see.

Seems to me we have some blind and/or biased spectators out here when it comes to De Lasalle...

Case in point... read Henricksen's last article about De Lasalle... the link is below...

Let's keep score:

"Joe Henricksen" (the writer) is right. (this time)

"Mike O' Reilly" (commented above) is right.

"The Fan" (commented on other story) is right.

"Greg White" (commented above) is BIASED and BLIND!

"Judge" (commented above) is BIASED and BLIND!

and "Tha Real" (who told you guard play at De Lasalle is weak) WAS ALWAYS RIGHT!

Hey, i'm just the messenger, callin' it like i see it.... I guess Henricksen, "The Fan" and i see the same weak guard play over there...

Greg White, no comment today? I guess you're waiting for after another win. So, guess we won't be hearing from you until next week... cause tues' game against Farragut is going to be an "L."

Delasalle 62 - farragut - 50

"Tha Real" (commented above) WAS WRONG!


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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on November 20, 2011 7:34 AM.

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