The 2007-08 high school basketball season in Illinois is over and everyone has had some time to digest what happened...the introduction of the four-class system, Mount Carmel's surprising run in the Class 4A playoff, Richards, Marshall, Zion-Benton, North Lawndale, Kevin Dillard, Courtney Hargrays, Dorothy Gaters, Mike Dunigan, Iman Shumpert, Ryan Hare.
The Zion-Benton coach is one of the most prolific winners in the state but he also was one of the most obscure and unappreciated and underrated--until this year.
In the past, Kloth produced teams that won 30, 29 and 26 games but critics discounted them, arguing that the Zee-Bees played weak competition, including an annual stop at the Luther North Holiday Tournament.
So no one blinked an eye when Zion-Benton advanced to the supersectional in 1998, 2001 and 2003 only to be eliminated.
Kloth's record is impressive--395-167 in 19 years, a .703 winning percentage. The figure is even more impressive when considering that he was 2-24, 8-18, 10-16 and 9-17 in his first four seasons after succeeding Phil Judson.
Since then, he has experienced only two seasons in which he won fewer than 20 games.
But no one seemed to notice until Kloth took this year's team to within a shot or two of winning the Class 4A championship, finally losing to Richards in one of the most exciting state finals in recent memory.
Kloth's program figures to get plenty of attention in 2008-09. The Zee-Bees will participate in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament against some of the best teams in the state, including defending Class 3A champion Marshall, St. Joseph, Proviso East, Morton, New Trier, Glenbrook North and Homewood-Flossmoor.
Zion-Benton figures to rank among the preseason favorites in Class 4A with 6-7 Markus Yarbrough, point guard Ronald Steward, 6-2 Quintrell Love and 6-3 Lenzelle Smith returning from a 32-4 state runnerup. It was the best team that Kloth had produced and next year's squad could be even better.
Smith, who will be a junior next season, skyrocketed up the recruiting charts with his late-season and tournament performances. Most analysts rank him among the top five prospects in the class of 2010, maybe better than more ballyhooed Jereme Richmond of Waukegan.
Kloth is an old-school coach who stresses fundamentals, no nonsense, teamwork and good guard play. Quiet and unassuming, he never seems to lose control of his emotions but always seems to know what is happening on the court.