Boys basketball: As summer ends, winter hopes high for DeKalb

DeKalb’s Marquise Bolden shoots a three pointer during their summer game against Elk Grove Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at DeKalb High School.

DeKALB – One of the surprising things about varsity basketball for DeKalb post player Justin O’Neal happened at the end of the season.

“Playoffs was unexpected tension and pressure, but I think I handled it pretty well,” O’Neal said.

The Barbs won a regional tournament for the second time in three seasons.

The Barbs recently wrapped up their summer workouts.

Head coach Mike Reynolds said the focus for the summer is finding consistency. It’s especially important for players like O’Neal and Marquise Bolden, who are rising seniors that started last season.

But if the Barbs are looking to win their first sectional since 1968 [according to IHSA records], both players are going to have an instrumental part.

“Everybody puts in the work in the summer lifting,” Bolden said. “It all starts in the summer lifting. Especially moving the ball, too. There’s a lot of tough players on this team, and everybody wants to score and stuff, but everybody shares the ball. That makes us a good team.”

Reynolds said Bolden has shown a lot of improvement with his defense and ball-handling abilities this summer. He’s projected to be a starting guard along with Jackson Kees and 2024 Daily Chronicle Boys Basketball Player of the Year Sean Reynolds.

O’Neal, at 6-foot-3, provides another option down low along with Davon Grant, the 2024 Daily Chronicle Boys Athlete of the Year and first-team all-area basketball selection.

“For both of them defensively, they’ve taken a jump forward,” Mike Reynolds said. “Just knowing the schemes and what to expect, they’ve really taken a big step in their defensive game.”

Mike Reynolds said the chemistry in the backcourt between Bolden and Sean Reynolds has improved. Bolden agreed, saying the Barbs are playing better as a team.

Bolden said he sees himself as a defender and a playmaker. And after the success of last year – a 22-11 mark for the Barbs’ third straight full season of at least 20 wins – everyone is expecting more.

“I feel like the season we had last year, it’s a pretty high standard,” Bolden said. “Hopefully, we can get as far as we did last year, and hopefully get farther.”

O’Neal said everyone is pushing toward an even stronger 2025 season.

Mike Reynolds knows that one thing that always can make a difference is defense.

“Defensively, we have a lot of interchangeable parts,” Mike Reynolds said. “That’s kind of key for us. It enables us to compete against the highest level teams.”

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