Preps Talk

Five takeaways from last weekend's Ridgewood Shootout

Five takeaways from last weekend's Ridgewood Shootout

High School basketball is gone til November as June is over and local high players return to playing on the grassroots circuit for the rest of the summer. 

Thanks to some great events all over the state during June, including this past weekend at Ridgewood, we're starting to get a feel for how teams and players could look heading into the 2019-20 season.

With over 70 elite Illinois teams playing in front of college coaches this weekend at Ridgewood, it was a great opportunity for many of the area's top teams and players to play in a final event. 

Bloom took home the title with a very impressive weekend while some suburban teams opened some eyes this weekend with some deep runs and star performances.

Here's a look at five key takeaways from a great event at Ridgewood as we'll have more coverage from the event all week.

1. Bloom remains a state title threat after impressive win at Ridgewood

Following last season's promising 26-win season and consistent top-10 area status, expectations are extremely high for Bloom again this season. The Blazing Trojans return four senior starters who are all Division I prospects. Keshawn Williams, Martice Mitchell, Dante Maddox Jr. and Donovan Newby all drew plenty of attention from college coaches at Ridgewood.

And this season, Bloom will be used to being the hunted after being ranked so highly for all of last season. It appears that the Blazing Trojans are starting to understand the game-by-game effort it takes to be one of the state's best teams as the group put together some impressive wins at Ridgewood.

Knocking off a very strong Curie team was a strong summer statement while wins over New Trier and Glenbrook South were also notable. Perhaps most importantly, seeing Bloom's entire team play with a high-motor during a long tournament day of hoops is a very encouraging sign. Mitchell could be the area's best big man if he plays hard all the time. Williams, Newby and Maddox can all make plays on the perimeter as the trio has great chemistry together.

Consistent perimeter shooting and finding depth will be keys for Bloom this season if they want to reach their ceiling. But the talent and experience is in place for big things to happen as the Blazing Trojans deserve a lot of credit for winning a big summer event at Ridgewood.

2. Glenbrook South remains strong as senior Dom Martinelli is the area's most underappreciated recruit

Last season saw a breakthrough at Glenbrook South as the program won 24 games in a highly-competitive CSL South. Knocking off Class 4A finalist Evanston early in the season was a signature win. The Titans are hoping last season's success translates into competing for a conference title (and more) this season.

It starts with senior forward Dom Martinelli -- the area's most underappreciated recruit. Despite putting together a huge junior campaign in which he led the CSL South in scoring, the 6-foot-5 Martinelli remains without a college scholarship offer as of this writing.

Martinelli had it going at Ridgewood this weekend as he was the event's most productive player. The senior had 28 in a win over DePaul Prep, 33 in a win over Mundelein, 27 against St. Charles North in the semifinals and 24 in a title-game loss to Bloom. On Sunday alone, Martinelli scored over 100 points against some of the area's better teams.

Consistently scoring from all three levels of the floor, Martinelli uses his body well and understands angles when it comes to attacking the basket. Finishing with both hands through contact at the rim isn't an issue for him. Martinelli will be one of the area's most lethal and productive players this season thanks to his inside-outside scoring acumen.

The Titans have plenty of guys stepping up as help around Martinelli as well. Head coach Phil Ralston had high praise for sophomore Coop Noard's play at Ridgewood this weekend and the Titans appear more than capable defensively at multiple spots. 

It'll be interesting to see if colleges get wise and start to take a serious look at Martinelli. Not too many players in this area have won and produced the way he has over the past year.

3. St. Viator's Connor Kochera finishes a monster June in front of college coaches

St. Viator lost two of the area's best players from last season when Jeremiah Hernandez and Trey Calvin graduated and moved on to Division I.

The Lions will still be a major threat in the ESCC this season though thanks to a breakout summer from senior guard Connor Kochera. Already established as a threat from the perimeter last season, the 6-foot-4 Kochera has expanded his overall game as he does just about everything for St. Viator.

Kochera can score from all over the floor, drive going both ways and he finds teammates with astute reads with the ball in his hands. Underrated defensively, Kochera is one of the area's best overall leaders as he's constantly communicating with teammates. Despite missing three starters at Ridgewood (other sports commitments), the Lions still had some big wins thanks to Kochera's huge weekend.

Siena, Western Illinois, Brown, Furman and Wofford are some of the schools who have stepped up with scholarship offers for Kochera as it'll be intriguing to see if he stays hot during the July live evaluation period. There isn't another player in Illinois who did more for his college stock than Kochera has the past two weeks.

4. Cary-Grove keeps the Fox Valley interesting

Known more for its football than basketball, the Fox Valley Conference saw a bit of a breakthrough last season with three 20-win teams and a fourth solid team in Dundee-Crown. And that's not even including Jacobs, who has dominated the league most of the past decade.

But the Fox Valley should remain intriguing in hoops this season as Cary-Grove has some players to watch. The Trojans won 21 games last season and feature two returning college scholarship players in big man Frank Jakubicek and point guard Beau Frericks. 

Jakubicek had multiple mid-major offers before committing to Belmont on Monday as he's a perfect fit for that program. The Bruins were very successful when they took a Fox Valley big man earlier this decade as Huntley's Amanze Egekeze was a four-year starter who averaged double-figures in points his final two seasons. Belmont is hoping for more of the same with Jakubicek as he's a skilled face-up big man who can rebound and knock down shots.

Frericks is earning plenty of acclaim from the Division II level while Division I low-major programs are starting to take a serious look. A major threat as a pull-up shooter, Frericks runs Cary-Grove's offense very well as he'll be one of the area's better floor generals this season.

When a team has scholarship players at point guard and center, it's often a great sign of things to come as the Trojans could be the team to beat in the Fox Valley this season. 

5. The Player of the Year race remains wide open

Before the summer, the 2019-20 Player of the Year race was looking like a two-player battle between Morgan Park's Adam Miller and Whitney Young's D.J. Steward.

While both senior guards are still heavily in the mix if they stay healthy, there could be more competition for Player of the Year than initially anticipated.

After watching monster weekends from players like Martinelli, Kochera and Curie's Ramean Hinton, to name a small few, it's clear that this season could see some individual players putting up huge numbers for good teams. Since the Mustangs and Dolphins are the area's two deepest teams, that could take away from some of the numbers Miller and Steward put up during the season.

Of course, Player of the Year is about more than raw numbers. Winning matters and caliber of competition is also heavily considered. But what once appeared to be only a two-player race has certainly grown more interesting during June as there should be some big seasons from area players. 

7 Days to Kickoff: Homewood-Flossmoor

7 Days to Kickoff: Homewood-Flossmoor

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Homewood-Flossmoor

Head coach: Craig Buzea

Assistant coaches: Tom Cicero, Zac Wells, Alexander Pratt, Terrance Terry, Josh Ling, Matt Ramos, Josh Forney, David James, Eric Schreiber Sr., Eric Schreiber Jr. and Bart Czachor

How they fared in 2018: 10-2 (6-1 Southwest Suburban Conference). H-F made the Class 8A state playoff field and defeated Fremd and Barrington. They advanced to the quarterfinal round where they lost to Marist.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs T.F. North

Sept. 6 @ Penn (IN)

Sept. 13 vs Andrew

Sept. 20 @ Lockport

Sept. 27 @ Lincoln-Way East

Oct. 4 vs Sandburg

Oct. 11 @ Lincoln-Way West

Oct. 18 vs Bolingbrook

Oct. 25 vs Lincoln-Way Central

Biggest storyline: The Vikings, who have won a minimum of 10 games in four of the past five seasons, are looking to make another deep run in Class 8A playoffs this fall.

Names to watch this season: OL Marcus Harper II (Sr., Oregon) OL/DL Michael Ford (Sr.) 

Biggest holes to fill: The Vikings welcome back 13 returning starters (seven offense, five defense). Program numbers and overall depth are seldom an issue at H-F, so addressing some of the open spots on the defensive shouldn’t be that big of a concern. 

EDGY's Early Take: H-F, under head coach Craig Buzea, has built the football program into one of the most consistent winners in Chicago’s south suburbs. Don't look for a downturn anytime soon. The Vikings will rely on senior three-year starting QB Dominick Jones. The offensive line has size and talent and includes Marcus Harper II (Oregon), senior OL/DL Michael Ford and senior OC Denzel Bryant. The defense has speed and the back seven on defense are a big strength. Everything is pointing upwards heading into the season for the Vikings. 

 

8 Days to Kickoff: Warren

8 Days to Kickoff: Warren

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Warren Township

Head coach: Bryan McNulty

Assistant coaches: Jim Voutiritsas, Justin VanSchaick, Brandon Schild, Josh Williams, Tayler Erbach, Kurt Weinberg and Chris Caballero

How they fared in 2018: 10-2 (7-0 North Suburban Conference). Warren made the Class 8A state playoff field and defeated Neuqua Valley and Hinsdale Central. They advanced to the quarterfinal round where they lost to Brother Rice.

2019 segular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Barrington

Sept. 6 vs Glenbard North

Sept. 13 @ Waukegan

Sept. 20 @ Libertyville

Sept. 27 vs Lake Forest

Oct. 5 vs Zion-Benton

Oct. 11 @ Lake Zurich

Oct. 18 @ Stevenson

Oct. 25 vs Mundelein

[MORE: 19 Days to Kickoff: Barrington

Biggest storyline: The Blue Devils featured one of the state’s best defenses in 2018. It resulted in their best season since 1991. Can they maintain some of that momentum and advance deeper in the Class 8A playoffs come November?

Names to watch this season: DT Willis Singleton Jr. (Sr., Iowa State) and LB Juan Delacruz (Sr.) 

Biggest holes to fill: The Blue Devils welcome back 10 returning starters (five offense, five defense). And while several of those 10 returnees are key playmakers, Coach McNulty and company will have to reload in the offensive skills department and in the defensive backfield.

EDGY's Early Take: Warren had a terrific season in 2018. Several big names are back for 2019. The Blue Devils defense was a strength last season—they shut out five opponents and kept three more to a touchdown or less. This year’s unit is led by senior DT Willis Singleton Jr. The offense will look to improve on last season’s numbers with junior QB Phil Hirt. He and senior ATH Christian Phillips will bring experience. If the Blue Devils can come close to the high-level of defense they played with last season –and if the offense can generate more points-- this team could be a big time factor in the Class 8A playoffs.