For the second straight season, the Glenbard West boys basketball team is hitting the reboot button.
Last summer, after riding an iconic group of senior starters to the program’s first state championship, the Hilltoppers entered a transition stage with a number of players slated to handle bigger roles.
In 2022-23, the Hilltoppers managed to surprise a lot of people by winning 19 games, including finishing in fourth place in the rugged West Suburban Conference Silver Division.
This summer, specifically in June, the Hilltoppers underwent another reconstruction after the graduation of Logan Brown and Benji Zander. Brown and Zander combined to average 21.9 points, 12.5 rebounds and 7.4 assists last season.
“Even though we graduated a solid core of seniors, we have the potential to once again make some noise,” Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka said. “This group, led by seniors Bennett Schwanke and Danny Monahan, are committed to improvement. Our makeup of the 2024 team will be young with the majority of juniors and only one returning starter, Dominic Seaney. Players will play hard and push each other in practice. We will take our bumps at moments but hopefully learn and grow throughout an entire season. Our kids are excited to carry and maintain tradition.
“Our team will be made up of four seniors with only one having varsity experience. The rest will be juniors and one sophomore, TJ Williams. We’re a tight-knit crew and hungry to prove ourselves. We’re different from previous years, but we have a deeper roster so we should have many contributors.”
Schwanke, a senior point guard, said he understands his role will change this season.
“The biggest thing right now is definitely being able to handle the ball while being under pressure,” Schwanke said. “I’ve also been working on my shot a ton this offseason. I want to be able to shoot above 40% on 3-pointers. … I have to really step it up this year and lead. I got a chance to learn many things from some very talented players at Glenbard West and how to handle this role.”
Schwanke said the Hilltoppers gained some confidence during the June team session, earning quality wins at Riverside-Brookfield and Romeoville.
“As June went on, we worked better together and learned a lot about each other,” Schwanke said. “It was actually really cool to see our progress day to day. June was a big month for us.”
Monahan said he’s ready for the challenge of increased minutes and responsibilities this season. He worked on extending his outside shot and becoming more consistent by shooting a minimum of 1,500 shots a week at morning shootarounds and his health club.
Monahan said he was happy with how he played in June for the Hilltoppers, especially his rebounding and defense.
“Offensively, I look forward to more opportunities to contribute and take some pressure off our other scorers,” Monahan said. “I learned a lot last year, just how important it is for a team to be connected off the court so that they can excel on the court.”
Opoka said he doesn’t plan on scaling back expectations for his program. He pushed his players with a tough schedule in June and is hoping they respond.
“Bennett Schwanke will be our point guard and leader,” Opoka said. “He has shown toughness and a shotmaking ability to help us on the offensive end. Danny Monahan has shown athleticism and will bring grit. We are excited to use him as a Swiss Army knife. Junior returning starter Dominic Seaney has had a big summer displaying growth and offensive confidence. He’s a fantastic student and one of the most coachable kids I have ever been around. The Hilltoppers will be longer and more athletic than last year. We will have four players 6-5 or taller, which will help our defensive strategies.”