By Joe Henricksen

Hoops Report's preseason rankings: No. 21-25

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We are a week away from tipping off the 2013-2014 season. The City/Suburban Hoops Report begins breaking down its preseason Top 25, beginning with teams ranked No. 21-25, with the remaining 20 teams to be released throughout the week.

#25 THORNTON
What's to like: Look who's back! Although just 14-12 a year ago, Thornton has depth, quickness and plenty of scoring options on the perimeter. A veteran trio returns in three-year starter Justin Taylor and guards Justin Montgomery and DeMarcus Turner.
Biggest concern: With only one player at 6-4, the Wildcats have little to no size inside. The quickness, depth and defensive pressure must take some of the pressure off a potential problem on the glass.
X-Factor: Is it premature to put the Wildcats back in the Top 25 after a couple of so-so seasons? Coach Troy Jackson has plenty of experience returning in six key seniors. But the keep an eye on a talented junior group, highlighted by guard Leslie Wilson, 6-2 DeQuan Applewhite and 6-4 Brian Davis, who is long and rangy. The juniors went 24-0 a year ago at the sophomore level.

#24 PLAINFIELD EAST
What's to like: Aaron Jordan. He averaged 16 points a game and shot nearly 50 percent from the three-point line as a sophomore. Now he's a more dynamic, confident talent with high-major offers. His return, along with four other starters, instantly makes the Bengals the favorite in the Southwest Prairie. Sharpshooter Nick Novak (50 three-pointers a year ago) will help space the floor and keep defenses honest.
Biggest concern: The perimeter talent, including a star piece in Jordan, is in place. Will there be enough of an inside presence at both ends of the floor?
X-Factor: Although coach Branden Adkins has chemistry and experience with five returning starters, there is some impressive young talent in the program that will provide depth in 6-4 sophomore Elyjah Goss, sophomore guard Jordan Reed and 6-4 freshman Malik Benns.

#23 HILLCREST
What's to like: There are three key contributors back from a 24-win team that rolled through the South Suburban Blue unbeaten. But one of those three, 6-7 Taylor Adway, will be looked upon to become a difference-maker on both ends of the floor. Allen Jones is a perimeter threat, while 6-4 junior DeAngelo Isby can be a mismatch with his size, strength and athleticism. Almari Daniels progression at point guard will be a key.
Biggest concern: The Hawks relied so heavily on Jovan Mooring for scoring a year ago. Who will pick up the slack? Coach Don Houston, however, is excited about the balance he thinks he will have offensively.
X-Factor: Although this has been a consistent Top 25 program over the years -- and squeezed itself into the rankings again this year -- the Hawks are far from hyped. For once Hillcrest can use the "no respect" card heading into the season.

#22 DEERFIELD
What's to like: Coach Dan McKendrick's club loses virtually nothing from last year's squad, while welcoming a junior group that went 20-4 as sophomores last season. That experience/newcomer mix -- and an impressive offseason -- makes the Warriors the favorite in the Central Suburban North. Leading scorer Eric Porter (12.3 ppg) has become more than a scorer, while 6-4 Michael Alfieri (10.4 ppg, 6 rpg) is a jack-of-all-trades.
Biggest concern: Is this program ready to compete at a high level and win big games after going a combined 22-34 the past two seasons?
X-Factor: Newcomers. The veterans will be the backbone. But there is incoming talent that's going to make this team better than people realize. Jordan Baum is a talented 6-3 sophomore who showed well this past summer. Jack Lieb is a 6-8 junior who missed all of last season with an injury. And Stefanos Fasianos is a skilled, wiry 6-4 athlete on the perimeter who transferred in this summer.

#21 BOGAN
What's to like: There is tremendous speed and athleticism at every position, along with a program that always gets after it. With talented guards Luwane Pipkins and Bryce Barnes returning, coach Arthur Goodwin's strength is in its backcourt. Pipkins, a 5-10 junior, averaged over 20 a game last season, while Barnes is a playmaking sophomore. An influx of under-the-radar young talent within the program who bring size and athleticism in 6-6 junior Antonio Thomas and 6-4 wing James Jones will be a big help.
Biggest concern: Getting over the psychological hump of playing -- and finding a way to beat -- the defending state champs in 3A (Morgan Park) and 4A (Simeon) in the rugged South Side of Chicago. Also, is this young team -- there isn't a senior in the regular rotation -- a year away from being a true force?
X-Factor: It's undoubtedly Pipkins, who will have to find the right mix of scoring and distributing to help this team beat the city and state powers.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on November 18, 2013 9:26 PM.

A look back at one wild day on recruiting front was the previous entry in this blog.

Hoops Report's preseason rankings: No. 16-25 is the next entry in this blog.

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