Preps Talk

High School Lites Preview: Basketball Week 2

high_school_lites_basketball_hoops.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites Preview: Basketball Week 2

This week's edition of High School Lites has plenty of enticing matchups from all over the area. Our show includes highlights of a couple of ranked teams in action while we also feature some games of teams off to solid starts.

The newest episode of High School Lites will air on NBC Sports Chicago at 11 p.m. on Friday night with replays on Saturday at 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. on the same network.

Plainfield East at No. 13 Oswego East, 6:30 p.m. -- The Southwest Prairie opens conference play with this intriguing matchup. Plainfield East (4-1) is off to a solid start with some positive results from the always tough St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament as Yamani Shareef & Christian Shumate made the all-tournament team. Oswego East (5-0) is off to a great start as they've won almost all of their games by double-digits. Senior RayJ Dennis is off to a monster start on the season as he's a Player of the Year candidate.

No. 17 Lincoln Park at Crane, 6:30 p.m. -- The Public League Red-North/West has an interesting game on the West Side. Lincoln Park (3-3, 0-1) is trying to snap a two-game losing streak after losing to nationally-ranked LaLumiere and locally-ranked Uplift during the week. Junior big man Romelle Howard is a player to watch as Division I schools are taking notice. Crane (2-1, 0-1) is coming off of a conference loss to Prosser earlier in the week as they try to stay in the mix after bumping up from the White Division.

Richards at Hillcrest, 6:30 p.m. -- Arguably the top two teams in the South Suburban play in this one. Representing the Red division is defending champion Richards (5-1, 1-1) as they lost to Oak Forest earlier this week. Hillcrest (5-2, 2-0) is coming off of a win over Eisenhower this week as their only losses are to ranked teams like Bloom and Marian Catholic. Senior Dylan West is off to a strong start on the interior for the Hawks.

No. 9 Benet at St. Patrick, 7:00 p.m. -- The East Suburban Catholic Conference kicks off play with a good one here. Benet (6-1) will see themselves drop in the rankings next week after a loss to York in overtime. Senior Kendrick Tchoua is off to a strong start for the Redwings. St. Patrick (4-2) is coming off of a win against Joliet West in the Ridgewood Shootout over the weekend as Austin Freeman and Joe Fanning played well.

No. 14 Marian Catholic at Marist, 7:30 p.m. -- Staying in the ESCC, this should be an intriguing clash. Marian Catholic (4-1) has already played a strong schedule to open the year as they're led by senior Chris White and junior Ahron Ulis. Marist (4-1) is in the midst of a three-game winning streak as this will be their first game in eight days.

Latin vs. Parker at DePaul, 7:30 p.m. -- One of the area's best rivalries in the Independent School League continues in this one. Latin (4-0) is favored after the solid start as they have won each game by double digits. Parker (2-5, 1-1) is hoping to get a conference win after falling to Northside earlier in the week.

Schaumburg at Barrington, 7:30 p.m. -- Mid-Suburban West play continues with two teams off to good starts. Schaumburg (6-2, 1-0) is a team to keep an eye on thanks to a strong start. They've won five straight games as Michael Hodges is looking like one of the conference's best players so far this season. Barrington (4-2, 0-1) has dropped two straight games after a strong showing at Crystal Lake Central during Thanksgiving.

Lake Forest at Lake Zurich, 7:30 p.m. -- We head to the North Suburban Conference as these two teams try to reverse some slow starts. Lake Forest (2-4, 0-1) has struggled to put up points in the midst of a two-game losing streak. The Scouts do own a top-25 win over Lincoln Park though as they have the potential to play well. Lake Zurich (2-4, 0-1) has dropped three straight games as they try to figure things out under new head coach Terry Coughlin. These two teams will also play again on Jan. 25. 

VIEWERS' CHOICE GAME OF THE WEEK

Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m. -- After over 2,500 votes, this DuPage Valley Conference game won a tight race this week. Neuqua Valley (3-3, 0-0) has won three straight games after a sluggish start as they make their conference debut for the 2018-19 season. Waubonsie Valley (5-0, 1-0) took home the title at Batavia earlier this season as senior guard Eric Cannon is one of the conference's most productive players.

65 Days to Kickoff: Solorio

65 Days to Kickoff: Solorio

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: Solorio

Head coach: Bill Ziemba

Assistant coaches: John Erlenbaugh, Rob Oden, Carol White, Joe Mende and Phil Wisniewski

How they fared in 2018: 7-5 (2-3 CPL Illini Red Bird Conference). Solorio failed to qualify for the 2018 IHSA state playoff field. The Sun Warriors then entered the CPL playoffs and defeated Lincoln Park and Curie before losing to Taft in the title game.
 
2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Clark
Sept. 6 vs Phoenix Academy
Sept. 13 @ Raby
Sept. 20 vs Simeon
Sept. 27 @ Taft
Oct. 4 vs Westinghouse
Oct. 11 @ Curie
Oct. 18 vs Hubbard
Oct. 25 vs Perspectives Leadership

[MORE: 82 Days to Kickoff - Taft]

Biggest storyline: The Sun Warriors had a recent string of IHSA playoff berths; last year they advanced to the Public League title game. Can the Sun Warriors make it back to the IHSA state playoff field in 2019?

Names to watch this season: RB Amarius Weatherspoon (Jr.) and WR/DB Brian Whitsey (Jr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Sun Warriors will bring back a ton of experience for 2019 but will need to fill a few key spots this summer. That list includes the quarterback position and along the defensive line.

EDGY's Early Take: Solorio head coach Bill Ziemba believes his Sun Warriors are in the top five of Public League programs. They finished the 2018 season with a 5-4 record but missed the IHSA state playoff field because of low playoff points. The Sun Warriors will need to ramp up their overall game as they move into to the CPL Illini Land of Lincoln conference. If they can get out of the gates well early on, they have a great shot at getting back to the state playoffs in 2019. 

Five takeaways from the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout

pic_hsl_stevenson_65_lake_forest_46_02-05.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Five takeaways from the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout

The Riverside-Brookfield Shootout is annually one of the summer's must-see events for Illinois high school basketball, but this season was elevated to another level.

Division I college coaches were able to evaluate at the tournament thanks to the NCAA's new June live evaluation period as over 60 of the state's best teams played for three days in front of hundreds of college coaches.

In the end, there was a lot to be learned about some of the area's stronger teams this season while the junior class looks like they'll be one of the strongest in terms of depth that we've seen in recent years.

Here's a look at five major takeaways to watch for this season after Riverside-Brookfield.

1. Stevenson remains a major threat after last season's strong finish

One of the most pleasant surprises of last season was Stevenson as the Patriots went from an unranked preseason team to nearly making it to state in Class 4A. We were reminded of just how good Stevenson might be this year at R-B as the Patriots took home the title with an impressive three days of play.

While head coach Pat Ambrose's roster isn't littered with Division I prospects and household names, Stevenson has the luxury of returning most of last season's successful core. Senior guard Luke Chieng will be tough to replace but Ambrose returns his two sons, senior shooter Matt and junior floor general Evan, along with athletic forward Robert Holmes and experienced senior John Ittounas.

The bench also appears to be far from bare for the Patriots as Stevenson deserves credit for picking up wins over powerhouse programs like Simeon, Collinsville, Curie and Whitney Young over the course of the weekend. Matt Ambrose was named MVP of the event, but Evan Ambrose is a heady point guard who makes plays for others while Holmes has improved enough to now be on Division II radars with his electric above-the-rim play.

It's hard to say where Stevenson will be ranked this preseason, but they'll undoubtedly be the team to beat in the North Suburban after sharing the league title with Waukegan last season. And although Ambrose is perhaps most known for his Peoria trips with Jalen Brunson, Connor Cashaw and Justin Smith, he also made a prior Peoria trip with Stevenson (2007) and a deep playoff run last season without high-major star power.

Stevenson will be a major threat in the area this season as they're one of the most cohesive and selfless teams in Illinois.

2. Despite title-game loss, Whitney Young might be the area's top preseason team

Whitney Young lost in the title game at R-B to Stevenson but the Dolphins still have the look of a team who will be in the mix for the No. 1 spot once preseason rankings come out.

Although Morgan Park, and a handful of others, remain firmly in the preseason No. 1 conversation, it's hard not to like what the Dolphins bring to the table in terms of star power, senior leadership and overall depth.

The backcourt of seniors D.J. Steward and Tyler Beard remains perhaps the best one-two punch of any tandem in the state, and they're joined by the deepest backcourt to give Whitney Young supreme depth. Aurora Christian transfer Jaeshon Thomas already appears to be a starting-caliber player (although the Public League is a major step up from the Class 1A program he came from) while the bench of senior Elliot Sieger and poised freshman Dalen Davis would earn starting roles at many other places.

And the frontcourt keeps getting better for the Dolphins as well. Junior Grant Newell is starting to turn potential into production with his intriguing inside-outside play while senior Sangolay Njie is a solid defender who can control the glass.

However, head coach Tyrone Slaughter still needs to figure out why the Dolphins take their foot off the gas sometimes. There were also frightening stretches of play from Whitney Young where the Dolphins looked like they were playing at another level compared the event's other teams. As long as Steward and Beard stay healthy, the Dolphins will be a huge contender in the city and Class 4A.

3. Curie and Bogan are strong despite significant senior losses

Two of the area's best teams last season, Bogan and Curie, both lost first-team All-Area players from last season after making trips to Peoria. It'll be impossible for the Bengals to replace big man Rashaun Agee and guard DaJuan Gordon.

Thankfully for both programs, their depth at all levels continues to shine through as both teams remain active in the city and state title conversations.

Curie has a blossoming star in senior Ramean Hinton as the scoring wing can get buckets at all three levels while still maintaining improved efficiency as an overall offensive threat. Hinton has the potential to breakout and be a first-team All-Area player next season as his confidence is soaring this summer.

The Condors also return steady ball handler and menacing defender Elijah Pickens in the backcourt while junior Phillip Berryhill continues to look like an intriguing future player despite missing some shots this weekend.

Bogan has depth and athletics all over the floor as they fly to the ball defensively with some emerging talents at multiple spots. Senior guard Kyndall Davis drew rave reviews from college coaches for his upside and above-the-rim play as he's one of the area's better two-way wings. Big man Tremear Fraley finished some vicious lobs as his motor and bounciness stood out to help make him one of the event's better frontcourt players.

Both teams have plenty more assets to choose from as the Bengals and Condors can both press, attack on offense and also knock down perimeter shots. It's hard to envision a top ten that doesn't include both of these teams come preseason.

4. The addition of Louis Lesmond makes Notre Dame a team to watch

Notre Dame was already going to be fun to watch this season. The junior tandem of guard Anthony Sayles and forward Troy D'Amico was one of the state's blossoming tandems when it comes to overall play and college looks.

Now that the Dons have added transfer Louis Lesmond to the mix however, Notre Dame is going to be one of the must-see teams to catch this season. Now featuring three bonafide studs, the Dons have multiple scoring options, adept handlers and length and size at most positions.

With that junior trio joined by 6-foot-4 senior Jason Bergstrom, a talented scorer and prospect in his own right, Notre Dame is a no-brainer top-25 team next season with huge aspirations to reach higher levels following a promising 19-win season.

5. The junior class has far more star power than just Rolling Meadows guard Max Christie

A monster spring and summer has vaulted Rolling Meadows junior guard Max Christie into the five-star spectrum in national recruiting rankings. Christie didn't play this weekend at R-B in order to rest after a long summer, but the national recruit and recent Olympic Gold Medalist is the benchmark in what is looking like a deep junior class.

The Class of 2021 should have many stars leading teams this season. Fenwick forward Bryce Hopkins, OPRF wing Isaiah Barnes, Simeon guard Ahamed Bynum, Neuqua Valley wing John Poulakidas, Mundelein point guard Conor Enright, big man Scottie Ebube and Hillcrest wing Julius Rollins were among a small group of juniors who earned a lot of praise from Division I coaches with their play at Riverside-Brookfield.

When you also factor in the Notre Dame trio of juniors, Evanston's junior talent of Jaylin Gibson, Blake Peters and Isaiah Holden, Lincoln Park's returning backcourt of Julio Montes and Ismail Habib and Schaumburg big man Chris Hodges, who sat out, the Class of 2021 has the potential to be the best class the area has seen the past few seasons.