2021-22 boys basketball season preview: Scouting the Metro Suburban Conference
By Gregg Voss - Daily Herald Media Group
The boys basketball season starts this week. Here are previews of teams from around the Metro Suburban Conference.
Coach: Dan Beebe (sixth season)
Last season’s record: 7-3 overall and in conference
Top returning players: Danny New, sr. (G, 6-1); Drew Meyers, sr. (G, 6-0); Jabari Sisco, sr. (F, 6-4)
Top new players: Calvin Washington, jr. (G, 6-0); Grant Keppy, jr. (F, 6-5); Trey Beebe, sr. (F, 6-4); McCade Weber, sr. (G, 6-0)
Worth noting: The Eagles are 103-28 in Beebe’s tenure as head coach ... There is nothing Beebe and his charges would love more than to return to the Class 1A state tournament – a place they were in 2020, literally on the floor at Bradley’s Carver Arena before COVID-19 ruined everything. “We have two starters back that were part of the state tournament team, and all those other seniors were on the team, too,” he said. “They have great experience.”
Aurora Central Catholic
Coach: Tim Swanson (first season)
Last season’s record: 1-9 overall and in conference
Top returning players: Sam Lillwitz, sr. (G, 6-1); Ben Grunloh, jr. (G, 6-0)
Top new player: Sam Carroll, soph. (G, 5-11)
Worth noting: Swanson has been teaching at ACC since 2012 but coached the sophomores at Batavia before the Chargers’ head job opened. “... ACC will be young, Swanson said, “with a lot of new stuff offensively.” He’ll rely on the experience of top returnees Lillwitz and Grunloh to smooth the rough edges.
IC Catholic Prep
Coach: T.J. Tyrell (10th season)
Last season: 10-7 overall, 7-6 in conference
Top returning players: John Hilgart, sr. (G/F, 6-3); Antonio Richardson, sr. (F, 6-2); Augie Wassmann, sr. (G, 6-2); Liam Johnson, sr. (G/F, 6-2); Kal Kilgast, jr. (G/F, 6-3)
Top new players: Jake Gallgher, soph. (G, 5-11); Aidan Johnson, soph. (G, 6-1); Dean O’Brien, jr. (F, 6-3)
Worth noting: “(We have a) good balance of experience mixed with younger talent, and a group that is smart, gritty and poised for success,” Tyrell said. Hilgart, Richardson, Wassman and Liam Johnson are all in their third year on varsity, while Gallagher and Aidan Johnson are ready to make an impact. ... “Our goals are to come together as a team, execute a lot of things,” Hilgart said. “We’re hoping to win the conference and the regional and move on from there.”
Coach: Mike Reingruber (fifth season)
Last season’s record: 11-2 overall, 8-2 in conference
Top new players: Arius Alijosius, jr. (G, 6-2); Marques Turner, jr. (F, 6-2)
Worth noting: Reingruber has his top six players returning from last spring. “In my years coaching, this is the most we’ve had coming back, so I’m really excited,” he said. ... Hanley, McCottry, Gilhooley and Baker averaged a collective 47 ppg a year ago, so you know the Bulldogs will be able to score ... The only knock against Riverside-Brookfield may be its lack of size.
Coach: Andy Zielinski (fourth season)
Last season’s record: 3-8 overall and in conference
Top returning players: Jacob Breier, sr. (G, 5-11); Robert Wilson, sr. (G, 6-0); Ben Zielinski jr. (G, 5-11); Kaden Dawson, soph. (F, 6-5).
Top new players: Jacob Biewer, jr. (F, 6-2); Michael O’Brien, jr. (G, 6-0); Manny Esquilbias, jr. (G, 5-9)
Worth noting: The Green Wave went 3-8 last spring but won three of its last five, which gives Zielinski a positive bump heading into this season. “We have a lot of experience returning this year and have high expectations,” he said. “The key of the season is how well we jell as a unit and have everyone buy into their roles. If we can do that, we can be a pretty good team.” ... Ben Zielinski, who started as a sophomore, led the team in steals and charges during the shortened spring season. ... “For me, I started playing varsity basketball sophomore year, and we didn’t have a winning season that year or last year,” Breier said. “We want to have a winning season for sure and then a regional championship.”
Coach: Erin Dwyer (seventh season)
Last season’s record: 8-8 overall; 5-3 in conference
Top returning players: Brendan Yarusso, sr. (G, 6-2); Sebastian Miller, sr. (G, 6-3); Jack Brennan, sr. (G, 6-2); Nik Rowlan, sr. (F, 6-2)
Top new players: T.J. McMillen, jr. (F, 6-5); Adam Wiborg, sr. (F, 6-6); Matt O’Donnell, sr. (G, 6-0)
Worth noting: Wiborg (baseball) and McMillen (football) did not play last spring, instead electing to focus on college recruitment for their respective sports. ... McMillen played a little on varsity as a freshman but is expected to be a major contributor once he gets his basketball legs beneath him. ... “For goal setting, we kind of look at the small picture and take it game by game,” Brennan said. “A couple of personal goals I have is to have the team succeed and not be a selfish teammate.”
Coach: Scott Plaisier (fifth season)
Last season’s record: 14-2 overall, 11-1 in conference
Top returning players: Ben VanderWal, sr. (F, 6-7); Trey Keizer, sr. (G, 6-3); Kyle Steiner, jr. (G, 6-0)
Top new players: Alex Keizer, soph. (G, 6-3); Kosta Skokos, jr. (G, 6-0)
Worth noting: VanderWal, who made headlines in the offseason by committing to Furman, is a charge-taking machine, taking 25 in 16 games last spring. He also had 30 his sophomore year. ... Here’s a weird coincidence: The Trojans have gone undefeated in their final games the past two season. Two years ago, they advanced to the state semifinals before COVID-19 KO’d the tournament. Last year, they beat Riverside-Brookfield in overtime to win conference.
Coach: Craig Etheridge (23rd season)
Last season’s record: 1-11 overall and in conference
Top returning players: Caleb Kleinz, sr. (G, 5-11); Nikola Bogdanovic, sr. (F, 6-6); Joey Dooley, jr. (G, 5-11)
Top new player: Kalvin Requiron, jr. (G, 5-9)
Worth noting: Except for Kleinz and Bogdanovic, Etheridge’s two senior starters, the Sentinels will be young. The upshot, he said, is that there will be “lots of opportunities for the younger guys to show they are ready.” ... Joining the coaching staff at the lower levels are two Westmont graduates -- Jean Pietrzak, who played at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, will coach the sophomore team, while Adam McDaniel will handle the freshmen.
Coach: Steve Thonn (fifth season)
Last season’s record: 3-3 overall and in conference
Top returning players: Sam Anderson, sr. (G, 6-0); Cole Andrews, sr. (F, 6-3); Josh Oswald, sr. (G, 6-1); Adam Baarman, sr. (F, 6-2)
Top new players: Wade Davis, jr. (G, 5-11); Derek Schlendecker, jr. (G, 5-10); Jeffery Hillmer, jr. (G, 6-2)
Worth noting: Last spring was a bummer for Wheaton Academy due to COVID-19 issues that limited the Warriors to just six games. ... “When we got done playing last year, the guys wanted to keep going, it was so short,” Thonn said. “We had a good summer, played some good competition. I think we’re all looking forward to it.” ... Schlendecker transferred in from Benet last year and played on the sophomore team.