The 2023-24 boys basketball season is underway. Here are previews of teams in the Suburban Life coverage area.
Coach: Gene Heidkamp
Last season’s record: 35-2, finished in second place in Class 4A
Top returning players: Parker Sulaver, sr., C; Patrick Walsh, sr., G
Top new player: Gabriel Sularski, so., G
Worth noting: The Redwings bring back only two players from last season’s Class 4A runner-up, but don’t expect that to stop them from another stellar season. A solid group of newcomers is led by highly recruited 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Sularski. Sularski already holds offers from Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin. Other newcomers to watch are 6-9 junior Daniel Pauliukonis and 6-10 sophomore Colin Stack.
Coach: James Thomas
Last season’s record: 32-5, 10-2, finished in fourth place in Class 4A.
Top returning players: Jack Stanton, sr., G; Owen Thulin, sr., G; Jake Riemer, sr., F; Alex Miller, sr., G/F
Top new players: Aidan Akkawi, jr., F; Bobby Grganto, jr., F
Worth noting: Don’t be surprised if the Trojans fall victim to a slow start because six players were on the Class 7A state finalist football team. The return of high-scoring guard Stanton, one of the state’s top seniors, is a big plus, especially with his ability to stretch the floor and attack the basket. Stanton recently signed with Princeton. “We will have our work cut out for us this season with a revamped nonconference schedule that features many of the area’s top teams, highlighted by our first appearance in the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic,” Thomas said. “We hope to blend four key contributors from last season’s state run, including a trio of three-year starters, with a strong junior class.”
Coach: Zach Miller
Last season’s record: 11-19
Top returning players: Justin Sveiteris, sr., F; Daniel Sveiteris, jr., F; Richard Gasmen, sr., G; Will Potter, sr., G; Dominic Marcantelli, sr., F
Top new players: Keon Maggitt, jr., G/F; Jeremiah Harlin, sr.
Worth noting: Downers Grove South has all the tools – plenty of experience, size and depth – to put together a winning team. Justin Sveiteris is an inside and outside threat. Daniel Sveiteris is a solid all-around player. “Our depth and experience is a strength,” Miller said. “We return our top eight from last year and add two guards who will impact the game on both ends. We have length and athleticism that will allow us to do some different things on the defensive end while also spacing the floor on the offensive end. These guys have gone through two years of varsity basketball and have seen a lot, which I think will pay dividends for this season. This will be the most talented team I’ve had in three years.”
Coach: David Fergerson
Last season’s record: 21-13
Top returning players: Nate Marshall, jr.; Dom Ducree, jr.; Ty Macariola, jr.; Kam Hogan, jr.; Caleb Burgins, jr.; Deonte Meeks, jr.
Top new players: Jack O’Leary, jr.; Frankie Hosty.
Worth noting: The Friars are in search of another 20-win season behind a strong junior class. Fergerson says defense and playing together are two of the team’s strengths. “We’re hoping to make a deep run in the playoffs,” Fergerson said.
Coach: Eric Kelly (second season)
Last season’s record: 9-23, 7-11 in the Upstate Eight Conference
Top returning players: Aleks Jajic, sr., F; Ari Pierson, sr., G; Mike Nee, so., G; Danny Snyder, so., G
Top new player: Mateo Villavazo, jr., G
Worth noting: Glenbard East returns some size in 6-foot-5 Jajic and experience in 6-1 backcourt leader Pierson. Kelly has high expectations for his squad after a nine-win campaign in his first season at the helm. “This is a team that can challenge for the top spot in the Upstate Eight,” Kelly said. “The nonconference schedule (which includes Naperville Central, Wheaton Academy, Willowbrook and Elk Grove) is tough and includes a trip to the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York. Nee, who averaged 10 points a game as a freshman last year, is poised for a big year, Kelly said. “Aleks Jajic had a big summer and is the best big in the Upstate Eight,” said Kelly, who calls Villavazo “an X factor.”
Coach: Jason Mead (first season)
Last season’s record: 17-11, 12-6 in the Upstate Eight
Top returning players: Harper Bryan, sr., G/F; Masroor Sahi, sr., G/F; Angjelos Salca, sr., G; Christian Pogorzelski, sr., F; Mitchell Erickson, jr., G
Top new players: Ben Zima, sr., G; Dayvion York, jr., F; Evan Bogue, jr., G; Ryan Hopkins, jr., G; Tawain Davis, jr., G; Cole Peterson, sr., F; Joey Villa, jr., F; Parker Langreder, jr., F; Paul Quint, sr., G; Patrick Ocasio, sr., G; Ali Razfar, sr., G
Worth noting: Mead is new to Glenbard South but not new to coaching. He’s coached the past 11 years at Dixon and Waubonsie Valley, compiling a 168-115 record. “We have a lot of new faces and a new coach, so there will be a lot to learn this year,” Mead said. “We’re focusing on building a culture of commitment and giving effort every day to compete at the highest possible level. The conference seems pretty wide open this year.”
Coach: Jason Opoka
Last season’s record: 19-13
Top returning players: Bennett Schwanke, sr., G; Dominic Seaney, jr., F
Top new players: Danny Monahan, sr., G; Logan Glover, jr., C; Michael O’Connell, jr., C; TJ Williams, so., G
Worth noting: The Hilltoppers almost won 20 games last season despite losing their entire star-studded starting lineup from the 2022 championship team, so don’t count them out this season. Schwanke and Seaney will lead the young team, relying on their experience against a difficult schedule. “We will be young and more athletic than in past years,” Opoka said. “We will see some early adversity due to youth but expect to compete for 20 wins. Bennett is a senior leader who will play college basketball and he will have to step up offensively to carry the load. Dominic has developed into a high academic recruit who has the potential to play inside and out.”
Coach: Nick Latorre
Last season’s record: 31-4, 11-1
Top returning players: Will Kusak, sr., G; Daniel Orozco, sr., G; Luke Bilenko, sr., F: Tyler Thick, jr., C
Top new players: Vincas Buzelis, jr., G; Dillon Orozco, jr., G; Dillon Dell, jr., G
Worth noting: The Red Devils will be a team in transition after the graduation of several standout players from last season’s 31-win sectional finalist, including Suburban Life Player of the Year Ben Oosterbaan. “We’re looking to improve as the season progresses and our players gain valuable varsity experience,” Latorre said.
Coach: Michael Belcaster
Last season’s record: 11-20
Top returning players: Jack Weigus, jr., G; Matthew Peczulis, sr., G; Ayden Farrare, jr., G
Top new player: Adam Flowers, so., G
Worth noting: Weigus is part of a small returning group but the Hornets will be a tough team this season due to a nice mix of returnees and newcomers. “Jack Weigus has the ability to read the floor, play on-ball defense and is a sharpshooter,” Belcaster said. “Matthew Peczulis is a transfer from Hinsdale Central. He has the ability to make others better around him. Ayden Farrare is another returning junior starter who has yet to hit his ceiling. He’s looking for a breakout season and is equipped with explosive hops and good defensive skills. Adam Flowers is a top newcomer to the roster.”
Coach: T.J. Tyrell (11th season)
Last season’s record: 23-9, 9-3 in the Metro Suburban Conference Blue
Top returning players: Jake Gallagher, sr., G; Matthew Karsten, sr., G; Aidan Johnson, sr., G
Top new players: Andrew Hill, jr., F/C; Xander Estacio, sr., F/C
Worth noting: Coming off a second-place finish behind Riverside-Brookfield in the Metro Suburban, the Knights prepare for a new challenge in the Chicago Catholic League this season. The Knights were extremely tough to beat at home a year ago, winning 15 of 17 games.
Coach: Rick Runaas
Last season’s record: 28-7
Top returning players: Ryan Runaas, sr., G (5-10); Klaidas Paskauskas, sr., G, (5-10)
Top new player: Alanas Castillo, jr., G (5-3)
Worth noting: Lemont has played in back-to-back Class 3A sectional championship games. After winning a sectional title in 2021-22, the team exceeded most outside expectations by making it back to the Sweet 16 despite the transfer of star Nojus Indrusaitis. This season, Lemont will have a whole new look after the graduation of twin guards Matas and Rokas Castillo. Their younger brother, Alanas, emerged as an impactful player in the second half of last season and will be counted on to do more as a junior. Ryan Runaas, the son of coach Rick Runaas, and Paskauskas will try to go from role players to go-to scorers.
– Steve Millar
Coach: Tom Sloan
Last season’s record: 26-6, 8-4
Top returning players: Brady Chambers, jr, F: Liam Taylor, sr., F; Michael Reilly, sr., F; Caleb Greer, sr., G
Top new players: Max Hoffmann, sr., G; Tyler Kuta, sr., F; Quinn Mulcrone, sr., F; Ian Polonowski, jr. F; Jimmy Pajauskas, sr. G
Worth noting: The Lions lost several key players from last season’s stellar team, most notably high-scoring forward Nick Polonowski. The Lions welcome back 6-foot-5 Brady Chambers, a Michigan State baseball recruit, and 6-8 Liam Taylor. “We return several seniors with experience from last season,” Sloan said. “The juniors lack varsity experience but are very competitive, tough and unselfish.”
Coach: Adam DeMong
Last season’s record: 7-23
Top returning players: Danny Peterson, sr., G; Tyler Pavlik, sr., F; Maddox Shepard, sr., G; Nick Lombardi, sr., F; Maxwell Bell, jr., Jack Barrett, jr., G
Top new players: Dillon Bagley, jr., G; Drew Church, jr., F
Worth noting: After a rough season, mainly due to having several young players, the Broncos are looking to reap the benefits of experience this season. A three-year starter, Peterson headlines the returnees. Pavlik is a good finisher who can shoot. “We have a veteran group with excellent perimeter shooting,” DeMong said. “Our goal is to be above .500 and advance in the playoffs.”
Coach: Tony Martinucci
Last season’s record: 11-16
Top returning players: Michael Barnes, sr., F; Tyler Nichols, sr., C; Twon Jones, sr., G
Top new players: Josh Arce, so., G; Donovan Johnson, jr., G
Worth noting: The Mustangs are motivated to record a winning season after enduring several ups and downs last season. Barnes, a three-year varsity player, is the most experienced returnee. Nichols and Jones also are players to watch. “This team wants to win,” Martinucci said. “To them, it doesn’t matter who is scoring or playing, they all want to win above all. Our expectations are to compete every night and get better as the season goes on. Our goal is to compete for conference and hit our stride as the playoffs come around.”
Coach: Sean Pearson
Last season’s record: 13-18
Top returning players: Talen Pearson, sr., G/F; Danny Gentile, sr., C; Ryan Lewis, sr., G
Top new players: Omar Kaakaji, sr., G; Matthew Callahan, jr., G/F; Danny Wrzesinski, jr., F
Worth noting: The Roadrunners are coming off a 13-win season and looking to add a few more wins this season. Pearson and Callahan are two players who are slated to receive a lot of playing time and will help lead the younger players. “Talen has an opportunity to be a leader and is poised to have a big senior season,” coach Pearson said. “Matthew Callahan brings a lot of grit and determination and he will be fun to watch. Overall, this team enjoys playing together and that will be a difference-maker.”
Coach: Mike Reingruber
Last season’s record: 26-6, 12-0
Top returning players: Stefan Cicic, sr., C; Steven Brown, sr., G: Sam Shelven, sr., F
Top new players Cameron Mercer, so., F; Mehki Austin, sr., G; Danny Loftus, jr., F; Mantas Sleinys, jr., F
Worth noting: At 6-foot-11, Cicic is slated to carry the load on both ends of the court. Brown is an emerging threat and Mercer is a player to watch. “Stefan is one of the top big men in the state,” Reingruber said. “He has great touch around the rim and can really shoot the ball from the perimeter and is an excellent passer. Steven Brown is a very strong, physical guard who can score from all three levels, is an excellent rebounder and a solid defender. Cameron Mercer has a very good offseason and has a very good upside. He’s an excellent shooter and has a motor that doesn’t stop. He’s going to be fun to watch in a Bulldogs uniform for the next three seasons.”
Coach: Erin Dwyer (eighth season)
Last season’s record: 13-19, 6-6 in the Metro Suburban Blue
Top returning players: Aaron Cook, sr., G; Dylan Ston, sr., F; Patrick Spahn, sr., F; Niko Quaranta, jr., G; Anthony Quaranta, jr., F; Gavin Mueller, so., F
Top new players: Kelton McEwen, sr., G (transfer from Bartlett); Owen Gjerde, jr., F; Nate Silagi, so., G
Worth noting: After somewhat of a rebuilding season last year, the Spartans’ hopes of bouncing back received a big boost with the transfer of sharpshooting senior guard McEwen, who earned all-Upstate Eight Conference and all-state honorable mention honors as a junior. Veterans Cook (6-6), Ston (6-4), Mueller (6-6), Spahn (6-3) and the Quaranta brothers figure to complement McEwen’s strong outside shooting skills. St. Francis is returning to the Chicago Catholic League this season. “That will bring some major competition with the likes of Brother Rice (30-5), Mt. Carmel (27-7), De La Salle (22-12) and DePaul Prep (2A state champion, 23-12),” Dwyer said. “We play in the York (Jack Tosh) Holiday Tournament, too, which has several top programs in the state. The philosophy is simple – we want to expose our team to the best competition we can possibly schedule. In the long run, it is great for the kids and prepares the team for the postseason.” In January, St. Francis will travel to Indiana to face nationally ranked La Lumiere (4th).
Coach: Scott Plaisier (seventh season)
Last season’s record: 8-23, 3-13 in the Metro Suburban Blue
Top returning players: Alex Keizer, sr., G/F; Thon Bill, sr., C; Stephen Hribal, sr., G/F; Marc Gamble, so., G/F; Ryan McKenzie, jr., G
Top new player: Elliot Foy, jr., G/F
Worth noting: Plaisier expects his team to make serious progress in 2023-24. “We will be a much-improved team to what our record displayed last season,” he said. Some of the reasons for optimism include the return of Keizer, an Olivet Nazarene University commit, and Bill, who is being recruited by several Division III schools, a couple of Division II schools and several NAIA schools. “He hasn’t made a college decision yet and is continuing to explore options,” Plaisier said. Keizer is a three-year varsity starter who led the team in 3-point shots as well as scoring last season. Bill, a two-year varsity starter, led the team in blocked shots and charges a year ago. Plaisier said Hribal had a tremendous offseason. McKenzie was second on the team in steals and assists while leading the team in 3-point shooting percentage. Gamble played quality minutes as a freshman last season. “We have several returning players with quality varsity experience who have put in a ton of work in the offseason to become better players,” Plaisier said. The Trojans will head south to participate in the Jim Clark Classic on Dec. 27-29 in Orlando, Florida. Timothy Christian joins the newly formed Chicagoland Christian Conference this season. “It will be a very competitive boys basketball conference,” Plaisier said.
Coach: Craig Etheridge (25th season)
Last season’s record: 10-22, 3-7 in the Metro Suburban Red
Top returning players: Joe Kone, sr., G; Abe Johnson, sr., G; Billy McGhie, sr., C
Top new players: Jude Paul, sr., G; Alexander Konoff, jr., F; Briggs Templeton, jr., G; Malachi Boatright, jr., G; Jerry Vasek, jr., F
Worth noting: After back-to-back 10-win seasons, the Sentinels are looking for an improved campaign. The return of two-time all-conference selection Kone, a 6-1 guard, should help. Kone led the team in scoring with a 16.5-points average while also averaging 4.5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals last season. Johnson scored 8.3 points a game a year ago. McGhie pulled down 5.1 rebounds a contest in 2022-23. “After a disappointing 2022-23 season, I’m optimistic about this upcoming season,” Etheridge said. “We have more size and athleticism than in previous seasons. If we can jell as a team and improve our defense, we have an opportunity to have a successful season.” The list of newcomers includes some size with 6-4 Vasek and 6-2 Konoff. Etheridge, who owns a career mark of 355-339, calls Riverside-Brookfield the team to beat in the conference.
Coach: Daniel Smith (second season)
Last season’s record: 15-13, 10-5 in MSC
Top returning players: Wandy Munoz, sr., G; Tyler Smith, jr., G
Top new player: Hayden Schroeder, fr., F
Worth noting: The Warriors are looking forward to competing with Aurora Christian, Marian Central Catholic, Hope Academy and St. Edward in the new Chicagoland Christian Conference. “We’re hoping to battle for the top of the conference, but it is a very strong basketball conference,” Smith said. “We graduated eight seniors last season but return an exciting backcourt duo in Wandy Munoz and Tyler Smith.” The Warriors coach calls the 5-10 Munoz “a dynamic scholarship level pass-first point guard with relentless ball defense while always being the fastest player on the floor.” Smith, a 6-2 shooting guard, is a three-level scorer who will guard the opponents’ top player. Schroeder, a 6-5 freshman, figures to make an immediate impact at the varsity level. Wheaton Academy will play in the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27-30 in DeKalb. Also on the schedule is a nonconference clash with Class 4A St. Charles North at the East Aurora Shootout on Jan. 27.
Coach: Mike Healy
Last season’s record: 27-6
Top returning players: Luca Carbonaro, jr., G, 6-2; Max O’Connell, sr., F, 6-3; Joe Preede, sr., F, 6-3
Top new players: Drew Berkley, sr., G, 5-10; Matt Nadelhoffer, sr., F, 5-10; Brooks Becker, sr, G, 5-10
Worth noting: Wheaton Warrenville South has been among the top teams in the DuKane Conference the past few seasons. The Tigers fell in the sectional semifinal to Geneva last season and graduated standouts Braylen Meredith, Jake Vozza and Colin Moore. Carbonaro is a highly-athletic guard who can set up the offense. O’Connell is expected to take a sizable leap from limited playing time last year. The Tigers are always known for tough defense and methodical passing. Their schedule includes Evanston, Glenbard West, Mount Carmel, Hinsdale Central and Peoria Manual.
– Jake Bartelson
Coach: Mike Dunn
Last season’s record: 13-18
Top returning players: A.J. Levine, sr., G; Kyle Waltz, sr., G/F; Braden Richardson, sr., F; Brenden Molis, sr., G
Top new players: Max Burnison, sr., F; Ryan Pechous, sr., G
Worth noting: Levine, who recently committed to Penn, headlines a strong returning group. Levine averaged 17 points and 3.9 rebounds a game last season. Waltz, Richardson and Molis are coming off solid seasons, raising the possibility of the Dukes contending for a conference championship. “We return seven seniors who made contributions to a 13-team win last year,” Dunn said. “We play one of the toughest schedules in the state and also play in one of the best basketball conferences.”