By Joe Henricksen

R-B an underrated basketball program

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By Joe Henricksen

There would be plenty of reasons for any coach at Riverside-Brookfield to accept mediocrity.

R-B is nestled in the middle of a basketball hotbed in the near-western suburbs, just west of the city of Chicago and a quick car ride from the likes of St. Joseph, Proviso East, Morton and Lyons Twp. Yes, it's pretty easy to get lost in the basketball discussion there.

The conference the Bulldogs play in, the Metro Suburban, has improved recently, but it's like the Ohio Valley Conference in the NCAA -- the league doesn't generate much basketball conversation and receives very little fanfare or respect. Fortunately, R-B has evolved into the Murray State of the Metro Suburban and flourished by winning 10 consecutive league titles.

Even with the obstacles (thank goodness, too, for the four-class system for a landlocked community and school district that is R-B), coach Tom McCloskey and his staff have done a marvelous job of promoting the program within the school and community. The basketball program has generated interest and excitement.

Riverside-Brookfield is home to arguably the best high school basketball summer shootout in the state in early June. The schedule is upgraded each year, with the Bulldogs willing to play just about anyone, anywhere while providing new and different experiences for the kids in the program, both in-season and out-of-season. The Bulldogs play a fun style for players in the program. All of that creates relevance, gets the R-B basketball name out there and helps in building success.

R-B has been very competitive since McCloskey returned as head coach in 2001 (he was also the head coach at R-B from 1989-1994). The Bulldogs have averaged 19 wins a season since his return, including a 23-win, regional championship season in 2002. But the success has come at a higher level the past few years. R-B has won 24, 22 and 23 games the past three seasons with back-to-back regional titles.

Now McCloskey's Bulldogs are off to a 17-4 start, riding a 10-game win streak and well on their way to a fourth consecutive 20-plus win season. And with a recent road win over Ridgewood last week, R-B is in position to capture its 11th straight league title.

McCloskey is doing it a little differently this year. He had to replace the entire starting five from a year ago, including star Ryan Jackson. The wins, however, keep on coming. Steady, do-it-all senior Luke Nortier is averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists a game, while a pair of juniors, guard Damonta Henry and 6-7 Miki Ljuboja, average 18 and 15 points a game, respectively.

While the Bulldogs have had some quality individual players over the years, including Jackson and Sean McGonagill, who is starring in the Ivy League for Brown, arguably the best prospect to come through R-B in a long time is Ljuboja. The junior big man is among the Hoops Report's top 30 prospects in the Class of 2013 and has blossomed. Ljuboja is big, skilled with a soft touch, a great nose for the ball and is still just 15 years old. He has a surprising tough, relentless style that puts him in position to make plays.

When you add another impressive junior like Henry, along with a sophomore team that is currently 17-2 on the year, the fortunes for next season remain extremely bright. That talent pool will keep R-B basketball humming along while it gains more and more respect.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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4 Comments

As a longtime RB basketball fan, I thank you for that great article. All this did not happen by accident. The program was built from the bottom up. Junior Bulldogs teams start in fourth grade. If I recall correctly, Bill Hitt from Proviso East helped coach in the Junior Bulldogs programs for a few years. His son, Christian, played for RB.

Kids in the community now look to RB as the place to come to play basketball and to get a good education. RB is one of the top schools in Illinois.

Tom McClosky has done a terrific job revitalizing the program. Revitalizing is not the correct word, because believe me the program was not much before. And Coach McCloskey did it without taking shortcuts, without favoritism and always understanding that the players were STUDENT-athletes.

We would be remiss if we did not also acknowldege the contributions of Mike Reingruber who runs the shootout you mentioned and oversees the Jr. Bulldogs program.

Mike has the ability to spin straw into gold as witness his highly successful Sophomore teams. Some of those teams did not seem as good in the summer as they turned out to be in the winter.

Thanks again for the article and here is a name to put in your notebook for the 2012-2013 season. 6-3 sophomore guard
Will Kincannon.

I am not a Riverside-Brookfield fan or supporter but appreciate a piece of writing like this because this about the only place you can find great info on players and programs like RB. These other sites focus so much on the heavy hitters, the big time prospects, just repeat the same stuff over and over and over that has been posted on other sites. Thanks for continuously bringing attention to these programs and players Hoops Report.

Tom McCloskey and his staff are the real deal. They're good for kids and are very good coaches. Winning games is not an accident- they know what they're doing.

Hey Joe,
How about some love for New trier soph Jordan Thomas. playing for a team 18-2 and providing the only spark off their bench. He should be playing more. what do you think?
Champ game a proviso west should get some talk.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on February 1, 2012 8:46 PM.

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