By Joe Henricksen
They have speed and athleticism. They have size and experience. They're ridiculously deep. They're off to a 8-0 start and are averaging over 80 points a game. And best of all, when March rolls around Seton Academy will be a Class 2A school after playing a 3A/4A schedule.
When the Hoops Report caught up with Seton Academy coach Brandon Thomas prior to the season, the second-year coach was excited and optimistic about the fortunes of the Sting this winter.
"We have a lot of guys that can play," said Thomas during the first week of practice. "We have a much tougher schedule this season than last year, so I don't know if we'll have as many wins in the regular season. But I think we will be better in March, come playoff time."
After a quick, impressive 8-0 start to the season, which includes wins over downstate Morton, Cahokia, Lincoln, Leo and Crane, Thomas may want to re-think that early forecast. Regardless, the Sting are no longer going to sneak up on people. People are talking. The Sting started the season ranked No. 26 in the City/Suburban Hoops Report preseason rankings, but are now shooting into the top 10 across the Chicago area three weeks into the season.
Seton has a wealth of depth, with Thomas easily going 12 deep. They have size, versatility and quality guard play. The Sting apply constant pressure on both ends of the court, and opponents have to be ready to play at such a fast and intense pace. Thomas' club makes teams change their game plans. Seton has scored 90-plus points in three different wins this season, including a 95-66 thrashing of Leo.
Yet Thomas was busy Wednesday night breaking down film with his team from Tuesday's win over Crane, pointing out plenty of negative in the 73-66 victory. While he still remains excited and optimistic, Thomas is still a coach.
"We watched film tonight and we saw, from a defensive standpoint, little things we didn't do very well, little things that would make us that much better," said Thomas. "They [Crane] out-rebounded us. It was our eighth game, it was their second game. And they had three players who were playing for the first time and we barely beat them."
Thomas has four players in double figures, led by 6-1 junior Mark Weems at 15 points a game, one of the more underrated players in the Class of 2013. Weems is strong, attacks the basket and plays with a motor. Kamal Shasi, a 6-0 junior guard, 6-4 Sylvester Tolliver and 6-8 Russell Robinson are also averaging in double figures. Senior guard Jordan Foster (9 ppg, 7 apg) is one of three players averaging between 7-9 points a game, while sophomore Chris Seaton is providing a lift off the bench with his shooting.
"We have eight games under our belt, and I like where we're at," says Thomas. "I know it's a cliché, but we still have a long way to go. But we're playing hard, and we're going to need to continue playing that way with the schedule we have."
The schedule will test a Seton team that is preparing for a Class 2A run in March. The slate includes Chicago Catholic League foes Mount Carmel, Brother Rice and Leo, a trip to the McDipper Tournament at Rich South in late December, and non-conference games against Milwaukee Hamilton, Orr, Marist and Farragut.
Seton, which is just a few seasons removed from the dominating 2008-2009 team that rolled to a 31-2 record and Class 2A state championship, will be ready for March.
"That was the plan," Thomas said in early November of the schedule the Sting put together. "We want to be prepared for the playoffs."
They'll be prepared and ready. Thomas has a Class 2A state title contender on his hands.