It's nearly impossible to pick the Chicagoland Preps Basketball preseason Power Rankings.
With over 300 programs eligible for inclusion, there are going to be plenty of teams outside of the preseason top 25 that end up making huge waves during the season. And this season, in particular, is strange because so much of the high school basketball talent in Illinois resides in the younger classes.
So when evaluating potential preseason top 25 teams, it becomes a subjective exercise in weighing the merits of talent and experience. It's a different formula for everyone. Many of these teams have Division I star power or already found some success from last season. So the expectation is that most of these teams will reach the top 25 at some point during this season.
Here's a look at seven intriguing teams that didn't make the first Power Rankings of the 2019-20.
Benet — Even though Benet lost a lot of talent from last season's top-25 team, the Redwings are kind of similar to Wisconsin basketball under Bo Ryan: it doesn't matter who is on the roster, the coaching and execution from the players will make them a top team regardless of preseason stature. This season, Benet can still count on senior big man Colin Crothers, an All-ESCC selection as a junior. Crothers has some size up front with him in junior wing Tyler Van Eekeren, a solid perimeter shooter. If Benet's guard play steps up then they should remain heavily in the ESCC mix.
Oak Lawn — The Spartans had a bit of a breakthrough last season when they finished 16-16 and earned some notable wins. This season sees most of that core returning for a promising year. Senior guard Sami Osmani is one of the area’s more underappreciated players as he’s a big-time scorer not afraid of the big moment. And point guard Trey Ward and forward Kevin Swatek were also valuable contributors last season. Oak Lawn has its best team in many years as it could be a special season for them in the South burbs.
OPRF — Although the Huskies lose a lot of important seniors from last year's top-25 team, there is still plenty to like about OPRF this season. The summer emergence of a few key players makes the Huskies a team to keep tabs on. Junior forward Isaiah Barnes and junior guard Josh Smith both earned multiple Division I scholarships this summer. The duo's length, athleticism and skill are a perfect fit for OPRF's trademark "Husky Havoc" defense. Also keep an eye on senior forward Justin Cross, as he went from promise to production during the June period.
Oswego East — It will be next to impossible for Oswego East to replace departed guard Ray J Dennis (Boise State). Dennis was the catalyst for Oswego East's offense and a dynamic clutch player. The good news for the Wolves is the return of varsity veteran Sam Schultz, a 6-foot-7 forward, and Aurora Christian transfer and Division I prospect Will Wolfe. Oswego East will still need to figure out its ball handling responsibilities and who will run the offense. But the talent is there for the Wolves to be in the Southwest Prairie mix.
Rolling Meadows — There might not be a more fascinating team in the area this season than the Mustangs. It’s hard to know what to expect from this group. Junior superstar Max Christie has become a local household name thanks to his top-ten national status in the Class of 2021. But the rest of Rolling Meadows remains uncertain. Young talent is coming in the form of the freshman class — including Max’s younger brother, Cameron. How much help will Max Christie have this season? That’s one of the biggest questions any area team will face all season.
St. Viator — Replacing the Division I backcourt of Trey Calvin and Jeremiah Hernandez won’t be easy for the Lions. Thankfully, St. Viator can rely on William & Mary commit Connor Kochera to be the new go-to guy. The 6-foot-4 Kochera was exceptional during the June live period as he carried St. Viator to numerous wins despite missing players. Senior big man Mike Huene drew positive reviews with his play this fall as he should help Kochera with his 6-8 size on the interior. Don’t be surprised if St. Viator remains competitive in the ESCC despite some big losses.
Thornton —Thornton had over 20 wins and went an impressive 11-1 in the Southwest Suburban last season as they transition to the Southland for 2019-20. The foundation is already in place to make big things happen. Senior guard Ari Brown is one of four returning starters for this team as he's joined by Derrick Williams, DeMarco Miner and junior Brandon Hall. Hall had some eye-opening moments this offseason as he could become a breakout player. Although Bloom will be the heavy favorite to win the Southland, Thornton should make it tough on the Blazing Trojans.