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Don't sleep on 'em: IHSA boys basketball teams to watch outside Chicagoland

NBC Sports Chicago

Don't sleep on 'em: IHSA boys basketball teams to watch outside Chicagoland

The state of Illinois has plenty of great high school basketball teams from all over the state. And while we focus mainly on the Chicagoland area at NBC Sports Chicago during the regular season, there are title contenders and fun teams to watch all over. 

With that in mind, here are five teams from outside of our Chicagoland area that fans should pay attention to this season. Some of these teams feature a star with Division I talent. Others are coming off of trips to Peoria last season and have high hopes for another trip to state. 

Try to catch these teams at some point this season if you happen to venture outside of our area. 

Collinsville -- There's an argument to be made that Collinsville is the best team in Illinois outside the Chicagoland area. Finishing 27-6 last season, Collinsville holds the distinction of beating both Class 3A champion East St. Louis and Class 4A champion Belleville West during the regular season last year.

Senior Ray'Sean Taylor, an SIUE commit, is one of the state's top returning players as he put up 21.4 points per game as a junior. Taylor has over 1,300 career points as he tries to push for the Collinsville school record this season. Taylor is joined by some talented returning players including guard Cawhan Smith and forward Keydrian Jones.

Circle the calendar on Dec. 14 as Collinsville clashes against Morgan Park at the Scott State Bank Shootout and on Feb. 8 as the Kahoks play Simeon at the O'Fallon Shootout.

Geneseo -- The logic for seeing Geneseo this season is simple: senior forward Isaiah Rivera is the best senior in the state not playing in the Chicagoland area. The Colorado State commit is a big-time athlete who puts up huge numbers for the Maple Leafs. 

Rivera is the type of player who will see constant double teams and defense geared to stop him. That won’t matter; Rivera will still get buckets. The Maple Leafs will always be a threat this season as long as Rivera is on the floor. 

Geneseo could match up with some area teams when they participate in the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament at DeKalb in December. 

East St. Louis -- The defending Class 3A champions will have to move on without graduated senior forward Terrence Hargrove Jr. and many of his strong senior teammates. But there’s still a lot to like about the Flyers this season. The program still has a healthy amount of talent. 

Senior Armond Williams showed flashes of great play during last year’s state tournament and this summer as he’s a Division I prospect and interior force at 6-foot-8. Senior point guard Jashawn Anderson is also back as he provides stability on the perimeter. Senior shooting guard Lashawn Johnson has already drawn steady buzz for his play over the last six months. 

East St. Louis plays a few local teams this season, most notably a trip to the Orr Breast Cancer Shootout in January and a mid-February matchup with Lincoln Park. 

[MORE: Five Boys Basketball Conference Races to Watch]

Rock Island — An interesting team in the Class 3A mix, the Rocks are loaded with size and experience in the front court. The co-Western Big 6 champions from last season are, once again, dangerous. 

Solomon Gustafson, Malachi Key and wing Taurean Holtam all provide varsity experience. All of them are at least 6-foot-5 and give the Rocks a decided size advantage against many opponents. Rock Island also has a lot of young talent on the perimeter. That group will have to prove itself on the varsity level if Rock Island is a true state title contender. 

Rock Island will have games against Chicagoland competition on Jan. 3 and 4 when they face Zion-Benton and Kaneland in two shootout events. 

Peoria Manual — Surprising many in the state with a final four appearance in Class 3A last season, nobody should be surprised by the Rams this season. 

A program with proud basketball tradition brings back two double-figure scorers this season in senior guard Pee Wee Brown and junior Emaryon Byrd. Brown was a breakout player during the state tournament while Byrd is a promising wing who should step up this season. 

Peoria Manual isn’t scheduled to play any Chicagoland competition during the season except for possible tournament teams in the State Farm Holiday Classic.

High School Lites Week 2 basketball roundup


High School Lites Week 2 basketball roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great basketball action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CSNPreps for all of the latest IHSA basketball scores and highlights.

Windy City Legends: Kendrick Nunn

Team of the Week: Catalyst Maria Soccer

Athlete of the Week: Halle Douglass

Friday's scores:

Stevenson 57, Zion-Benton 44

No. 8 Evanston 50, New Trier 40

Homewood-Flossmoor 63, Lincoln-Way Central 31

No. 14 Thornton 58, Rich Central 34

No. 4 Whitney Young 56, No. 11 Lincoln Park 50

Loyola 34, Notre Dame 31

Homewood-Flossmoor 63, Lincoln-Way Central 31

Francis W. Parker 55, Latin 47

GIRLS: Evanston 59, New Trier 33


Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week

Mather 61, Foreman 57

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos wins SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition award

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos wins SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition award

Catalyst Maria soccer coach Jose Miguel Burgos said he’d never been surprised, until the day the school, his players and even family from Chile let him know he won the SportsEngine TrueSport Champion Coach Recognition Award.

“It means a lot to me because of the recognition we have for the kids,” Burgos said. “As I try to think all in, and think about this, I think my initial inclination is to think about them, about the fact that what we’re doing is seen, that their hard work will pay off and those values that I’m trying to instill in them are reaching them. And I’m very humbled about the whole experience.

"I’ve never been thanked publicly and it’s new, but it’s obviously something positive for the community, which the work I do is centered around.”

The school held a ceremony to honor Burgos, whose nomination bested more than 300 others to win. His team at Catalyst Maria won $2,500. Burgos’ friend and former colleague, Joel Farran, nominated him for his countless works in the community. Just some of the acts Burgos was noted for in the nomination include helping facilitate college scholarships for students, building relationships for students who were struggling to find proper housing, reaching out to students on the middle school levels, inviting parents to come together through events like potluck picnics and organizing a tournament for sixth through eighth-grade students as a way to provide a safe and fun environment for local children.

“He puts people first, and he puts people before himself, and he’s all about elevating others,” Farran said. “Whether it’s on the field or off the field, soccer is just one of the ways he does that. But it is the way he knows best. And it’s about creating opportunities — not only on the field — but when you fail on the field, learning to adjust from that and create solutions, but off the field, creating opportunities for scholar-athletes to continue to excel.”

Burgos’ students agree.

“He’s more than just a coach,” soccer player Alondra Gonzalez said. "He’s like another father-figure to me. When it comes to coaching, he does more than beyond. He created a webpage so everyone could see us. He created a ‘Go Fund Me’ [page] so we could have money for our uniforms, like jackets, because we play in the cold, and he wants us to do a lot more than just play and practice almost every day to be better.”

Another student-athlete, Angel Santillan, said Burgos is an “amazing person.”

“He means everything to me,” Santillan said. "Like the sport, it’s just a passion that he does everything for us. It’s a great experience to be coached by Mr. B. He’s just an amazing coach and he does everything for us.”

Three-time Olympian Kara Winger presented Burgos with the award, as a representative of TrueSport.

“Coach Burgos is clearly taking the time and effort to make a difference in these kids’ lives,” Winger said. “I was very blessed to have amazing coaches growing up who taught me how to be not only the best athlete I could be, but to be the best person I could be, and it’s clearly his mission here at Catalyst Maria schools, so TrueSport is so excited to honor him with the Champion Coach Award.”

Burgos, who was visibly moved by the surprise celebration, said he appreciated his work being recognized.

“I know there’s a lot of joy when you give, when you simply give without thinking about what’s going to happen next,” he said. “I do it because it’s the way that I continue to grow; it keeps me alive. I think we humans are here on Earth to take care of each other, to respect each other, to love each other, to cheer each other up. And those are values that I defend, and I have defended always.

"And now that I’m here, and I see that they are recognized, it validates what I knew. It will ultimately — if you are kind to people, if you’re loving, this is what happens. And it’s wonderful to see it for myself.”