The City/Suburban Hoops Report continues to break down the Chicago area's top teams. Here is a look at teams ranked No. 11-15. You can find the Hoops Report's 16-25 teams in this earlier blog, with the top 10 coming this weekend.
What's to like: The talent-level. Despite the loss of Ben Moore, who graduated and is playing at SMU, coach Rob Brost has pieces to play with. It starts with junior scoring guard Prentiss Nixon, who averaged over 16 points a game last season with eight games of 20-plus points. The emerging Gage Davis, a 6-2 shooting guard headed to IPFW, appears destined for a breakout season. Then there is the size, with 6-6 Kenny Williams (signed with Division II Northern Michigan) and ever-improving Julian Torres, a 6-8 junior.
Biggest concern: In order for the Raiders to surpass last year's 20-win total, they're going to have to be more consistent and handle adverse situations better. Is this Bolingbrook team ready for that? Can this team stay away from stretches of looking like a very good team and then stretches of being average?
X-Factor: Depth. It goes so much deeper than Nixon, Davis, Williams and Torres. Senior guard C.J. Redmond started last season. Josh Dillingham, a rough-and-tumble 6-4 senior, was last year's sixth man. Sophomore guard Devon Sams is beginning to blossom. And 6-6 senior Shakur Triplett can be a major factor with his length and athleticism.
#12 BENET ACADEMY
What's to like: There is no question the backbone of this team is Xavier recruit Sean O'Mara, a 6-9, big-bodied, true back-to-the-basket threat who makes those around him better with his presence and passing ability. The productive O'Mara (17 ppg, 8 rpg as a junior) is a player capable of dominating at the high school level and is able to take pressure off those around him. The beneficiaries will be much-improved senior guard Collin Pellettieri and 6-3 junior Colin Bonnett, who can space the floor with his shooting ability.
Biggest concern: Last season, when the Redwings needed, well, just about anything, battle-tested Pat McInerney provided it. But most importantly he brought mental and physical toughness. Who will provide that this season?
X-Factor: Little-known Liam Nelligan, a 6-4 senior, moved back from Singapore after attending Benet as a freshman. He brings many different positives -- some size, toughness and versatility -- for a team looking for another weapon.
What's to like: When prepping to play the Zee-Bees, two things will jump out at any opposing coach in the film session: Milik Yarbrough's dynamic offensive talent and the pure strength and size of underrated 6-5 junior Admiral Schofield, 6-6 Jerome Davis, a transfer from Waukegan, and the 6-5 Yarbrough. Both Yarbrough, who is on pace to become the all-time leading scorer in Lake Country prep hoops history, and Schofield possess offensive gifts.
Biggest concern: Is there a player who can consistently run the offense, get teammates good shots while creating offense? The guard play will have to evolve over the course of the season if the Zee-Bees want to do anything special when March rolls around.
X-Factor: It sounds crazy to label Yarbrough as an "X-Factor" when he's a what you see is what you get plus-scorer. But even with his scoring forays, is Yarbrough poised to raise his overall game to the level where he's one of the handful of elite difference-makers in the state?
#14 LOYOLA ACADEMY
What's to like: You'll be hard pressed to find any team with a better basketball acumen than the Ramblers, whose guards are smart, tough, savvy and experienced. That will bode well for Loyola in crunch time of tight games as point guard Kevin Kucera, one of the most improved players in the area, combo guard James Clarke (14 ppg) and shooter Jack Morrissey (18.5 ppg) complement one another so well. The development of 6-4 junior Griffin Boehm inside will be a key for a team that went 22-6 a year ago but doesn't have much size.
Biggest concern: When push comes to shove and the Ramblers are playing the best of the best, do they have a) enough size, and b) enough athleticism? Coach Tom Livatino's club is lacking both.
X-Factor: The experience of the players and the continuity within the program should pay dividends this season. Livatino is now in his fifth year as head coach at Loyola, and he has a matter-of-fact honesty players respect and a system that has been embraced.
What's to like: There is so much to like that this Friars team may be the best since Corey Maggette led Fenwick to Peoria and the Elite Eight 15 years ago. There is experience (four returning starters), there is size (three key players over 6-5, including improving 6-8 Dan Dwyer) and there is a star player in Northwestern recruit Scott Lindsey, whose ascent will be eye-opening to those who watched him as a junior. Lindsey truly blossomed this offseason after an up-and-down junior year. How big of jump point guard Mike Smith makes since starting last year as a freshman will go a long way in Fenwick's success.
Biggest concern: Lindsey is still recuperating from a broken leg he suffered this past fall. If the Friars intend on competing with the state's top teams, the versatile Lindsey will need to be at 100 percent -- and the sooner the better.
X-Factor: Rick Malnati. The first-year coach returns to the high school game following two years in the college game as part of Loyola's coaching staff. Simply put, Malnati is one of the best in the business. Expect Fenwick to be efficient offensively, defend and buy into a whole new vibe.
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