The City/Suburban Hoops Report continues to break down its preseason Top 25, with a look at the teams ranked No. 16-25. The top 15 teams will be released throughout the week.
#16 PROVISO EAST
What's to like: Speed, quickness and guard play. It is Proviso East, so what else would you expect? West Virginia recruit Jevon Carter (13.3 ppg) was the leading scorer a year ago for a team that reached Peoria and finished fourth in the state. That's a nice place to start for coach Donnie Boyce. Plus, 6-2 junior Kalin Fisher should be a double-digit scorer after providing a little offensive pop as a sophomore.
Biggest concern: There are a couple concerns. First, there is no proven size to speak of. Second, while Carter is a weapon capable of carrying a team with his streaky scoring outbursts, how will he adjust to being the focal point of opposing defenses with stars Sterling Brown and Paris Lee having graduated? Carter must provide a high-level of leadership.
X-Factor: A pair of young guards named Williams -- sophomore Antonio Williams and freshman Mahir Williams. Antonio is capable of providing a real offensive boost with his explosiveness, while Mahir is special with the ball in his hands and making decisions -- yes, even as a freshman. Look for these two players, and this team, to gain more and more confidence as the year plays out.
#17 ST. JOSEPH
What's to like: Few guards can match the hype Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash have received since entering high school. Now it's their time to shine. The pairing of Watson, a pure point guard, and Ash, a 6-2 athletic guard, is one of the top guard combos in the state. Their maturation over the next three months will ultimately determine if this is a team capable of making a Class 3A run to Peoria in March.
Biggest concern: In a perfect world, you would like to rely on seniors. When the going gets tough in a rugged Chicago Catholic League this winter, coach Gene Pingatore can only turn to young players. That's cause for concern for any team, but at least Watson, Ash and guard Joffrey Brown are seasoned juniors.
X-Factor: The big men. Jon Johnson, a 6-6 senior, has to be a consistent factor on the glass and defensively. Nick Rakocevic, a 6-9 sophomore with length and skill, is a terrific talent who can knock down perimeter shots. But can these two be rim protectors on the defensive end?
What's to like: A solid nucleus returns from a team that won more games last season (23) than any Larkin team in 20 years. And it starts with the guard play of underrated Kendale McCullum, who averaged 11 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game as a junior, and four-year varsity player Derrick Streety. Both will be counted on for even more productivity, as will three-year starter Drew Jones, a 6-5 senior forward. Throw in 6-5 veteran Brayden Royse and coach Deryn Carter's club is loaded with returning talent and experience.
Biggest concern: Gone are last year's top two scorers, Quantice Hunter and Quentin Ruff. More importantly, some perimeter shooting was lost. But Larkin hardly missed a beat offensively when watching them during an impressive summer.
X-Factor: There are some significant reinforcements on the way, led by exciting 6-5 freshman Christian Negron. This team has relied so heavily on guard play, that Negron provides a dimension -- an athlete with size and high-level ability -- this team will welcome with open arms.
#19 DE LA SALLE
What's to like: The eye-opening play and development of rugged 6-5 junior Brandon Hutton is the reason the Meteors have vaulted into the top 20. His motor and competitiveness, combined with his physical and athletic presence, make him a matchup nightmare at the high school level. There is balance and depth, with junior guards Martez Cameron and 6-4 Karl Harris both poised to blossom. Keep an eye on a couple of under-the-radar young players: athletic sophomore guard George Wilborn, III and 6-7 junior Isaiah Robinson.
Biggest concern: There is talent in place, but it's still a relatively young team that may be a year away with only two seniors among the top eight. Plus, there is no getting around the fact of what Alvin Ellis, who is now at Michigan State, did for this team last year.
X-Factor: Can the Meteors turn their combination of athleticism, quickness and some decent size into not only a functional halfcourt defensive team, but a difference-making one?
What's to like: First-year coach Ron Ashlaw, who takes over after a strong run as head coach at Waukegan, will be opening things up and will get out and run a little more than past Bloom teams, which should fit his personnel perfectly. This should be a more versatile team at both ends of the floor. Plus, there is a veteran presence back in point guard Zerell Jackson, rugged 6-4 James Coleman and 6-4 wing Jared Johnson. A real key could be the steady and consistent play of senior Dalvin Echols at the 2-guard position.
Biggest concern: There could be some early growing pains with a tough early-season schedule and a new head coach in place. As is always the case with any coach taking over a program, especially a team with so many pieces and double-digit depth, developing chemistry -- and "buying in" -- will be a key.
X-Factor: It may take some time, but the development of 6-3 junior Mickhiell Harris, an exciting and promising talent, could prove to be pivotal.
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.
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.
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.
#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.
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.
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