Boys Basketball

2021-22 The Herald-News boys basketball preview capsules

Southwest Prairie

Joliet Central

Coach: Larry Thompson

Last season’s record: 5-7

Top returning players: Josh Adim, sr. (G, 5-10); Brian Campbell, sr. (F, 6-3); Aiden Finch, sr. (G/F, 6-1); Marquis Johnson, sr. (G/F, 6-1); Anthony Lee, sr. (G/F, 5-8); Keyshawn Smith, sr. (G, 5-6)

Top new players: Anthony Nava, sr. (G, 5-4); Jayden Turner-Jackson, jr. (G/F, 6-3)

Worth noting: Joliet Central has a number of players returning with some varsity experience but still needs some players to step into more regular roles. Adim is the team’s leading returning scorer after hitting at a seven points-a-game clip last season, but the Steelmen will need some players to step up and fill some voids.

“We are very happy to have a chance to play a full high school basketball schedule this season,” Thompson said. “We expect to be competitive and represent Joliet Central with the resiliency of Steel.”

Joliet West

Coach: Jeremy Kreiger

Last season’s record: 12-2

Top returning players: Skylar Crudup, sr. (G/F, 6-1); Jayden Martin, jr. (G, 6-1)

Top new players: Jeremiah Fears, fr. (G, 5-10); Drew King, so. (C, 6-7); Justus McNair, so. (G, 6-2)

Worth noting: The Tigers are hoping that success will breed success with a number of younger players who need to step into larger roles. Crudup and Martin logged meaningful minutes over the past two seasons and should provide a solid foundation. The breakout could be Fears, whose older brother Jeremy remains at La Lumiere Prep Academy in Indiana.

“We are excited for this young group that has been able to view our past two years of success and now have the opportunity to build upon that success coming into year three of our leadership,” Kreiger said. “Where we lack true varsity on-court experience we have some very talented, athletic and driven student athletes. Like previous years, we will rely on our team defense to wear teams out, play in transition and allow for a balanced attack offensively with contributions from all over.”

Minooka

Coach: Kevin Cain

Last season’s record: 8-5

Top returning players: Darren Anderson, sr. (F, 6-3); Ricky Hill Jr., sr. (G, 5-10); Trevor Hudak, sr. (G, 6-1); Adrian Manning, sr. (G, 5-10); Cade Ooms, sr. (F, 6-0)

Top new players: Nick Andreano, Jr. (F, 6-3); Preston Van Pelt, jr. (G, 6-0)

Worth noting: Minooka likely will have one of the area’s more electric backcourts with the combo of Hill and Hudak. Anderson is an intriguing player as well as the all-state track athlete will be asked to use his athleticism for Minooka.

“We bring back game experience and will be senior-heavy,” Cain said.

Plainfield Central

Coach: Gregg Bayer

Last season’s record: 4-7

Top returning players: Colin Bailye, jr. (F/C, 6-6); Donovan Brown, sr. (G, 6-2); Luke Cervelli, sr. (C, 6-7); Bryce Shoto, jr. (G, 5-9)

Top new players: Marquese Dotson, sr. (F/C, 6-5); Alen Mujcinovic, sr. (G/F, 6-2); Cameron Velasquez, sr. (G/F, 6-1)

Worth noting: It wasn’t a smooth sail for the Wildcats last season, but several younger players got plenty of minutes, including Shoto, the team’s point guard and floor general, and Cervelli, who are returning starters. That experience could pay huge dividends, especially early this season.

“This group has a good balance of guard play and size which should make us difficult to defend,” Bayer said. “They are a high IQ group who will play extremely hard. We look to be competitive in the always balanced Southwest Prairie Conference.”

Plainfield East

Coach: Mike Fowler

Last season’s record: 5-6

Top returning players: Donovan Byrd, sr. (G, 5-7); Dylan Silva, Sr. (F, 6-1); Bryant Tchoffa, sr. (F, 5-11)

Top new players: Jett Jones, so, (G, 5-10); Ehi Ogbomo, so. (G, 5-10); Andrew Soenksen, jr. (F, 6-6)

Worth noting: It will largely be a new group of Bengals that try to climb the ladder in the Southwest Prairie race as a large number of contributors have left via graduation. The roster does have some decent size with a trio of player 6-foot-6 or taller, which could help them gain an advantage.

“We will have a good mix of seniors and underclassmen, as well as a good mix of size this season,” Fowler said. “We are looking to compete for the SPC East title.”

Plainfield North

Coach: Robert Krahulik

Last season’s record: 7-7

Top returning players: Demir Ashiru, jr. (G, 6-2); Braden Corbett, sr. (G, 5-8); Kendrick Cyracus, Sr. (F/C, 6-5); Drew Cznarik, jr. (F, 6-3); Mason Delaney, sr. (G, 6-1); Thomas Fitzgerald, sr. (C, 6-4); Dylan Lindberg, sr. (G, 6-0); Grant Wrobel, sr. (F/C, 6-4); Grant Zak, sr. (F, 6-3)

Top new players: Jeffrey Fleming, so, (G/F, 6-3); Gerald Floyd, jr. (F, 6-2); DeAngelo Jones, jr. (G, 5-9); Shaibu Mohammed, jr. (F/C, 6-5); Sean Schlanser, jr. (G/F, 6-1)

Worth noting: Plainfield North will be blending some new players into the mix as several key contributors have moved on. Ashiru was the team’s leader in assists and second-leading scorer, while Delaney was the team’s third leading scorer. Many of the other roles will be filled either by varsity newcomers or players that saw a limited role on last year’s squad.

“A little different team than last year, look to be more uptempo,” Krahilik said. “We’ll pressure more on defense and expect to compete in conference and play hard every game.”

Plainfield South

Coach: Tim Boe

Last season’s record: 9-4

Top returning players: Kenyi Callahan, sr.; Nolan Gerdich, jr.; Zander Tubbs, sr.; Tim Ward, sr.

Top new players: Tristan Acevedo, jr.; Joe Allison, jr.; Jon Carr, sr.; Ethan Crandall, jr.; Kelvin Tate, sr.; Jermaine Theodore, jr.

Worth noting: Plainfield South lost quite a few valuable members of its roster to graduation and has only one returning starter from a squad that reached the SPC Tournament championship game, falling to Joliet West. Callahan is that lone returning starter, but there are several others that logged minutes last year.

“An undersized Cougars team will have to rely on it’s heart, hustle and desire as it’s balanced attack on offense and defense will look for extra energy from its deep bench,” Boe said.

Romeoville

Coach: Mark Howard

Last season’s record: 4-8

Top returning players: Deonte Cunningham, jr. (F, 6-4); Torry Harris, jr, (F, 6-5)

Top new players: Troy Cicero, jr. (G, 6-1); Kaharie Logging, jr. (F, 6-5); Meyoh Swansey, so. (G, 6-2); Keshaun Vavel, fr. (G, 6-0)

Worth noting: The Spartans are almost an entirely different team than last season. Joliet Central transfer Troy Cicero provides a solid scorer for Romeoville to lean on, but the other components are largely unknown. But promising underclassmen Swansey and Vaval are expected to make an impact despite their youth and inexperience and the junior class has good size and some potential breakout players in that mix.

SouthWest Suburban

Bolingbrook

Coach: Rob Brost

Last season’s record: 10-5

Top returning players: Keon Alexander, jr. (F, 6-7); Josh Aniceto, so. (G, 5-8); Mekhi Cooper, jr. (G, 6-1); Jaydin Dunlap, sr. (G, 6-2); Michael Osei-Bonsu, sr. (F/C, 6-5); Donaven Younger, jr. (F, 6-9)

Top new players: Donovan Collins, jr. (G, 6-0); Danny Walker, sr. (G, 6-2)

Worth noting: Bolingbrook has a potentially excellent core with much the possibility of dominating the interior with the trio of Osei-Bonsu, Alexander and Younger. If anything the Raiders should be in good position to control the glass. But the Raiders strong tradition of having an excellent backcourt should also continue with Cooper and Dunlap and the continuing development of Aniceto, who saw minutes last year as a freshman.

“We have a chance to be a solid team this season,” Brost said. “We will see how we gel and come together as a group.”

Lincoln-Way Central

Coach: Bob Curran

Last season’s record: 8-6

Top returning players: Patrick Barry, sr. (F, 6-7); Frank De Carlo, sr. (G, 5-9)

Top new players: Ethan Aluyi, sr. (F, 6-6); Jack Barrett, jr. (G, 6-2); Reese Halberg, sr. (G, 6-0); Jack Novak, Jr. (G, 6-1); Jack Vegter, sr. (G, 6-4)

Worth noting: Lincoln-Way Central will have a seasoned roster with 12 seniors set to lead the way. Two of those seniors are returning starters in Barry and De Carlo while an infusion of transfers Vegter (Lincoln-Way East), Aluyi (Lincoln-Way East) and Hallberg (Plainfield North) give the Knights a little more depth than originally anticipated.

Lincoln-Way Central will test itself right out of the box with a difficult tournament to kick off the season at Marian Catholic.

Lincoln-Way East

Head coach: Richard Kolimas

Last season’s record: 6-7

Top returning players: George Bellavue, jr. (G/F, 6-6); Tommy Cheney, sr. (G, 6-3); Aidan Dauber, Sr. (G, 6-2); Kyle Olagbegi, jr. (F, 6-5); Tylon Toliver, jr. (G, 6-2)

Top new players: Jayden Cook, Sr. (G, 6-1); Josh Ellison, Jr. (G, 6-1); Mac Hagemaster, so. (C, 6-7)

Worth noting: Lincoln-Way East is an extremely young team, but also a very talented one. Bellavue and Tolliver had strong offseasons and look capable of shouldering a lot of the early load, but the rest of the roster will have to grow up quick in order to make the Griffins a factor in a loaded conference. The wildcard might be Hagemaster, who is coming off a foot injury. If he’s at full health that gives Lincoln-Way East a notable interior presence.

Lincoln-Way West

Coach: Tanner Mitchell

Last season’s record: 3-11

Top returning players: Eli Bach, so. (F, 6-3); Reagan King, jr. (F, 6-1); Carter LaMarche, sr. (G, 6-1); Quentin Villa, sr. (F, 6-3)

Top new players: Jacob Bereza, so. (F, 6-2); Jason Harris, sr. (F, 6-2); Justin Harris, sr. (G, 6-0); Nathan Passas, jr. (F, 6-3)

Worth noting: A new coaching staff is taking over for the Warriors with Mitchell at the helm. The regime change may have inspired some new faces to come back to basketball, so new names may be factoring into the mix. Villa had some strong games for Lincoln-Way West last season and King saw substantial minutes as a sophomore.

“We are excited for a fresh start at Lincoln-Way West,” Mitchell said. “We will be a team that plays hard and competes, and hopefully that along with the added talent can turn into some victories.”

Lockport

Coach: Brett Hespell

Last season’s record: 12-4

Top returning players: Khari Carpenter, sr. (F, 6-4); Dominic Crapia, sr. (G, 6-2); Ethan Gallagher, sr. (F, 6-4); Anthony Munson, sr. (G, 5-11); Julius Smith, sr. (G, 5-10); Alex Vassilakis, sr. (G, 6-0); Niko Vassilakis, sr. (G, 6-2)

Top new players: Jalen Falcon, so, (G, 6-1) Quinton Hunter, jr. (G, 6-0); Adam Labuda, jr. (G, 6-2)

Worth noting: A strong senior class looks to carry the momentum the Porters built last season. Look for Lockport to lean heavily on Munson and Gallagher, huge contributors as juniors. But the contributions of the other five returning seniors also are expected to be bountiful.

“We have to replace the shooting of recently graduated Matas Deksnys, but we have great depth and a lot of shooters,” Hespell said. “This team could contend for conference and regional championships.”

CCL/ESCC

Joliet Catholic

Coach: Joe Gura

Last season’s record: 1-8

Top returning players: Alex Brown, sr. (G, 6-1); Eli Hunter, sr. (G, 6-0); Brennan Luz, sr. (F, 6-4); Jason Pilapil (G, 6-0); Kyle Simon, sr. (G/F, 6-2)

Top new players: Anthony Birsa, jr. (F, 6-5); Tyler Surin, jr. (G, 6-0)

Worth noting: Joliet Catholic’s season was put on pause last season because of COVID concerns, and as a result the Hilltoppers struggled to get much momentum going. That said, the Hilltoppers did take the opportunity to get some younger players some minutes, and that group, led by Brown could help Joliet Catholic rebound rather quickly. On paper, JCA’s group of returners doesn’t have a ton of size, but that’s rectified by the addition of Birsa to the varsity, as he averaged a double/double at the junior varsity level.

“I’m really charged up about this years team. We have senior leadership, good juniors and some size finally,” Gura said. “We have great chemistry to go along with the talent and experience.”

Providence

Coach: Kyle Murphy

Last season’s record: 4-11

Top returning players: Jimmy Arentz, sr. (G, 6-0); Sean Meeks, sr. (F, 6-3); Owen Moran, sr. (G, 6-3); Jack Wajda, sr. (F, 6-3)

Top new players: Zinn Amos, jr. (G, 6-3); Collin Moran, jr. (F, 6-6)

Worth noting: Providence should be anchored by Arentz, Owen Moran and Wajda, who are entering their third year of varsity action. In all, the Celtics have loads of experience on the roster with 11 seniors. Providence expects to lean on the depth early until the group starts to move into regular roles. It is a versatile roster with several players capable of playing multiple positions. Collin Moran might be the breakout player of the group.

South Suburban

Lemont

Coach: Rick Runaas

Last season’s record: 12-1

Top returning players: Rokas Castillo, jr. (G, 6-0); Matas Castillo, so. (G, 6-0); Nojus Indrusaitis, so. (G-F, 6-4)

Top new players: Miles Beachum, jr. (F, 6-3)

Worth noting: Lemont might have the most interesting returning core in the area, as it hopes to follow up last season’s successful run in the spring. The core is also pretty young with a pair of sophomores in Indrusaitis and Matas Castillo averaging in double digits. Indrusaitis averaged about 20 points a game and is the area’s leading returning scorer. Rokas Castillo is yet another double-digit scorer who returns, leading Lemont to be ranked in numerous Class 3A state wide polls to start the season.

“We will try to move the ball to find open shooters and play a full court game,” Runaas said.

Coal City

Coach: Glenn Pacek (third season)

Last season’s record: 3-6 overall, 3-6 IC8

Top returning players: Nolan Berger, sr. (G, 6-1); Aiden Hansen, sr. (G, 5-10); Colin Hart, sr. (F, 6-2); Carter Garrelts, jr. (F, 6-5); Cason Headley, jr. (G, 6-1); Garrett Keeley, jr. (G, 5-11); Carson Shepard, jr. (G, 5-10)

Top new players: Chris Cholico, jr. (G, 6-0); Nick Cook, jr. (G, 5-8); Luke Crater, jr. (G, 5-10); Jim Feeney, so. (G, 5-10); Dillon Harrington, jr. (G, 5-11); Nolan Ness, jr. (G, 5-10)

Worth noting: Coal City lost almost half of its scoring from last season with the graduation of Kyle Burch (13.1 ppg) and Riley Ponio (9.2 ppg), but they will hope to make up for it with returning seniors Berger, Hansen and Hart. The Coalers began the season 3-2 last year before losing Berger to a high ankle sprain and dropping their remaining games without him. ... Garrelts will be relied upon to step in as the Coalers’ big man and play a large role as Burch’s replacement. ... “If the pieces can fit together, we can become a formidable team,” Pacek said. “Team chemistry is vital, as is working hard to continually improve throughout the season.”

Peotone

Coach: Ron Oloffson (first season)

Last season’s record: 1-9 overall

Top returning players: Mason Kibelkis, sr. (G, 6-3); Carson McGrath, sr. (G, 6-3); Brock Krska, sr. (F/C, 6-3); Niko Valone, sr. (G, 6-1); Miles Heflin, jr. (F, 6-4)

Top new players: Lucas Gesswein, jr. (F, 6-7); Wil Graffeo, jr. (G, 5-10); Marquis Walton, jr. (F, 6-2); Hunter Becker, so. (F, 6-3); Colin Emsweller, so. (G, 5-10); Landen Hamm, so. (F/C, 6-2); Brandon Weiss, fr. (G, 5-7); Rorey Hart, fr. (F, 6-1)

Worth noting: The Blue Devils won only one game in the spring’s COVID-shortened season, but a large number of players return for this season with that experience in hand. Kibelkis and McGrath will provide the catalyst for Peotone, two senior guards with scoring capability and significant defensive potential. Heflin is a versatile player who can score inside and out, handle the ball and rebound, while Krska is a strong post defender, screener and rebounder. ... This season is the first at Peotone for one of the most successful and winningest coaches in the state in Oloffson. The former Herscher fixture has a 580-383 record since his first game back in 1986, and if there is anyone in the state who can turn things around for Peotone, Oloffson is the guy.

Reed-Custer

Coach: Mark Porter (16th season)

Last season’s record: 4-7 overall, 4-7 IC8

Top returning players: Lucas Foote, jr. (6-3); Jake McPherson, jr. (6-1); Jace Christian, jr. (6-0); Eddie Gad, sr. (6-5); Chris Hill, sr. (6-2)

Top new players: Wes Shats, jr. (6-4); Josh Bohac, jr. (5-9); Connor Esparza, jr. (5-9); Connor Eggleston, jr. (5-9); Colin Esparza, jr. (5-11); Colin Fitzpatrick, jr. (6-0); James Sheridan, jr. (5-11); Blake Clement, jr. (6-3)

Worth noting: The Comets return four starters from last season, but will be without Dylan Garrelts because of a knee injury during football season. Foote (14.5 ppg), McPherson (11.3 ppg) and Christian (5 ppg) will lead the way this year. Gad and Hill will be counted upon to step into bigger roles this year and will be joined by incoming juniors Shats, Bohac and Connor Esparza. ... Porter and his high-energy, shoot-first offensive style will look to take a step forward toward contending for the top of the conference this season. “Once we are healthy, we fell we can compete with anyone in the conference,” Porter said.

Wilmington

Coach: Bill Karavites (third season)

Last season’s record: 9-3 overall, 9-3 IC8

Top returning players: Tysen Meents, sr. (G, 5-10); Ryder Meents, jr. (G, 5-9); Ryan Banas, sr. (G, 5-7); Kyle Winker, sr. (C, 6-4)

Worth noting: The Wildcats have seen a significant boost to their fortunes over the three short seasons since Karavites took the helm and will look to improve upon them further this season. ... Tysen Meents is an experienced guard who can score from range and by slashing to the basket. Joined by Ryder Meents and Banas, they will have plenty of depth near the perimeter. ... “We will hope to improve as the season progresses with a guard-heavy lineup,” Karavites said. “We will play up-tempo basketball and work to grow into a pesky defensive ballclub.”

Interstate Eight

Morris

Coach: Joe Blumberg

Last season’s record: 4-7

Top returning players: Henry Hansen, sr. (F, 6-4); Cam Hatcher, sr. (G, 6-0); Myles Johnston, sr. (G, 6-1); Matt Munsell, sr. (G, 6-2); Aidan Romak, sr. (G, 6-0); Zach Romak, sr. (F, 6-2); Grayson Weber, sr. (F, 6-1)

Top new players: Jonah Williams, Jr. (F, 6-4); Ashton Yard, jr. (G, 6-0), AJ Zweeres, so. (G, 5-11)

Worth noting: Johnston, the team captain, should be the unquestioned leader for Morris after averaging a little more than 12 points as a junior. But Morris will be without his services until at least the Christmas Tournaments as he recovers from a finger injury. Zach Romak was the only other Morris player that got fairly regular minutes last season.

“I thought we were better than our record indicated last year. I think the two quarantine breaks ruined any momentum we had,” Blumberg said. The last month of the year, we played more games than we practiced, often playing four ball games in a week, including multiple back-to-backs. It was tough on our guys, and we are excited to be able to get back in the gym and have a more normal ratio of practice and game minutes.”

River Valley Conference

Gardner-South Wilmington

Coach: Allan Wills

Last season’s record: 9-9

Top returning players: Garrett Grant, sr. (G, 6-0)

Top new players: Brody Fatlan, jr. (F, 6-2); Bennett Grant, so. (F, 6-1); Cale Halpin, so. (G, 5-10); Gabe McHugh, fr. (F, 5-9)

Worth noting: Gardner-South Wilmington will have to put together a pretty extensive rebuild if it wants to defend its conference crown. Garrett Grant, who averaged about three points a game last season returns. The Panthers will lean heavily on a group of players that either have very little varsity experience or none at all.

“With only three returning players from last season’s team we lack experience and will have to learn a lot,” Wills said. “This group will work and play hard though and should hopefully improve throughout the season.”

Tri-County Conference

Dwight

Coach: Jeremy Connor

Last season’s record: 9-8

Top returning players: Landon Brown, sr. (G, 5-10); Jeremy Kapper, sr. (F, 6-3); Wyatt Thompson, jr. (F, 6-6)

Top new players: Dawson Carr (F, 6-2); Connor Telford, so. (G, 5-7)

Worth noting: Dwight has good size for a Class 1A team and hopes to make a strong showing as it joins the Tri-County Conference after previously being in the Sangamon Valley Conference. Thompson, an All-Conference player in the SVC, should lead the way after averaging about a double-double as a sophomore. Carr and Kapper add even more size to the frontcourt.

“We’re really excited about this season. We have a good range of height and speed,” Connor said. “We are starting a new conference this year and want to make a big splash.”