Daily Chronicle

Daily Chronicle 2022 girls basketball preview: Team-by-team capsules

New DeKalb girls basketball head coach Bradley Bjelk talks to his team Thursday, June 23, 2022, at girls basketball practice at DeKalb High School.

DeKalb Barbs

Coach: Bradley Bjelk (first season)

2021 record: 15-13, 4-6 in DVC (fifth)

Top returners: Kailey Porter, sr., F/C; Ella Russell, so., G; Madison McNeil, sr., G

Key newcomers: Olivia Schermerhorn, fr., G; Alicia Johnson, fr. G/F

Worth noting: The Barbs are returning only three players from last year’s team, so there is a lot of playing time available as the new coaching staff evaluates all the players. The Barbs are young and don’t have a ton of experience, but they have a solid post presence that should help them as they find their way early in the season. Bradley Bjelk, the new coach, has been with the program for nine years as a J/V coach and is looking to provide stability for a program that has gone through a lot of coaches in the past five years. … “It’s open season for playing time,” Bjelk said. “There’s no guarantees on who will play. There are a lot of minutes available.”

Sycamore Spartans

Coach: Adam Wickness (seventh season)

2021 record: 32-3, 14-0 in I8 (first) regional and sectional champions

Top returners: Evyn Carrier, sr., C; Lexi Carlsen, jr., G; Monroe McGhee, jr.

Key newcomers: Mallory Armstrong, sr.

Worth noting: The Spartans set a record for wins and won the school’s first sectional championship last year. Despite losing two all-area players, the Spartans are still stacked with talent with Carrier and Carlsen. Both are committed to play division I basketball in the MAC. … ”Heading into this season, I think that the biggest strength of our team is our ability to push the tempo of a game,” Wickness said. “We can put up points in bunches. We have a lot of playmakers and a lot of players who are eager to prove themselves.

Kaneland Knights

Coach: Brian Claesson (first year)

2021 record: 18-13, 11-3 in I8 (second)

Top returners: Lexi Schueler, jr., PG; Kailey Plank, sr., G; Kendra Brown, so., G

Key newcomers: Brigid Gannon, sr.; Berlyn Ruh, jr., Emily Kunzer, jr.

Worth noting: After nine years as an assistant with the boys’ program, Claesson takes the reins of the girls’ varsity. The team doesn’t have a lot of size, but they are fast. Their speed should lead to fast break opportunities, so look for the Knights to be running up and down the court. …”We are not the biggest team, but we are quick,” Claesson said. “We are definitely going to have to use our quickness to our advantage defensively by pressing and trapping, which hopefully lets us run in transition as well.”

Indian Creek Timberwolves

Coach: Paul Muchmore (26th season)

2021 record: 14-16, 4-4 in Little 10 (fifth)

Top returners: Isabella Turner, so.

Key newcomers: Bethany Otle, fr.

Worth noting: The Timberwolves are a young team with only one returning player from last year’s varsity team. The team is mostly freshmen, so this year will be all about getting used to the varsity level of competition and setting up success for the future. … “We are very inexperienced,” Muchmore said. “It is going to be a learning experience every night. The players are willing to learn and have done a great job listening to coaches.”

Hinckley-Big Rock Royals

Coach: Doug Brewington (eighth season)

2021 record: 23-11, 4-4 in Little 10 (fourth), regional champions

Top returners: Devin Werner, sr., F; Alyssa Swanson, sr. G

Key newcomers: Anna Herrmann, fr., G; Sami Carlino, so. F; Lilliana Martinez, jr., G

Worth noting: The Royals are going to have a lot of height this year, with two six-footers and a 5-9 point guard. If they can get their outside shooting going, they will be a tough team to match up against. They’re transitioning from a fast, fullcourt attack to a slower pace based on their size, so it may take a little while for the team to gel. … “Last season we imposed our will on teams defensively and made them play uptempo,” Brewington said. “This season we’ll need to be a little more methodical, similar to a football team going from a no-huddle aerial attack to a ground-and-pound offense in one year. We’ll need some time to adjust to the new style of play, but our midseason and postseason potential is high.”

Hiawatha Hawks

Coach: Jason Haack (second season)

2021 record: 2-19, 0-9 in Little 10 (ninth)

Top returners: Crystal Haack, sr., Brooklyn Rylko, jr., Zoe Elder, so.; Nelly Delvalle, so.

Key newcomers: Delaney Wood, fr.

Worth noting: The Hawks are still a young team with only one senior, but most of the team is back from last year, so they have experience. The Hawks are returning their top scorer from last year and should be strong in the frontcourt. They should be improved with a year of varsity experience together. … “We are a young team but the starting five for varsity have all played together on the varsity volleyball team,” Haack said. “They have a great attitude and are willing to work hard at practice to make sure we/they get better every day. A group like this is the reason why coaches coach.”

Genoa-Kingston Cogs

Coach: Brendan Royalty

2021 record: 17-14, 2-7 in Big Northern (eighth)

* Genoa-Kingston coach Brendan Royalty did not respond to requests for an interview.