Preps Talk

Seven intriguing teams to watch outside the Preseason Power Rankings

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USA BASKETBALL

Seven intriguing teams to watch outside the Preseason Power Rankings

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.

High School Lites Week 1 basketball roundup

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NBCSCH

High School Lites Week 1 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.

Midweek Mixtape: Bogan 73, Vocational 42

Team of the Week: Mount Carmel and Lincoln-Way East football

Athlete of the Week: Marian Catholic's Ahron Ulis

Friday's Scores

Evanston 62, Notre Dame 53

Fenwick 55, Oak Park-River Forest 48

York 51, Lyons 41

 Brother Rice 61, St. Rita 58

Hillcrest 72, Oak Lawn 65

Richards 72, Tinley Park 59

Lake Park 58, Batavia 48

Leo 49, St. Joseph 46

(Girls): Hersey 71,  Prospect 46

Rolling Meadows 70, Elk Grove 37

High School Lites: Basketball season tips with the Chicago Elite Classic

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

High School Lites: Basketball season tips with the Chicago Elite Classic

High School Lites transitions to basketball season with a loaded first Friday of games for the show. 

The annual Chicago Elite Classic remains a huge early-season event at DePaul’s Wintrust Arena as we’ll have highlights from two marquee matchups there. 

We’ll also cover games from all over the Chicagoland area, including some intriguing South Suburban crossovers. 

High School Lites begins at 11 p.m. this Friday night on NBC Sports Chicago. 

GIRLS: Prospect at Hersey, 6:00 p.m. -- We get a rivalry matchup in the Mid-Suburban East in this one. Hersey (5-2) won four straight games to take home the Bison Classic after a sluggish start. Prospect (4-2) earned a road win at Conant earlier this week as they try to earn two away from home this week. 

No. 20 Hillcrest at Oak Lawn, 6:30 p.m. -- A fascinating South Suburban crossover between two talented teams. The No. 20 Hawks are trying to earn a tough win as they've played a difficult early schedule. The junior class for Hillcrest is special, led by wing Julius Rollins. Oak Lawn (5-0) has a high-scoring senior in guard Sami Osmani as he gets scoring help from senior lead guard Trey Ward. They're a team just outside of the Power Rankings who can get in with a win. With a number of scorers on the floor in this one, it could be an up-and-down contest. 

No. 25 St. Rita at Brother Rice, 7:00 p.m. -- The unbeaten Mustangs take the road in this Catholic League crossover. St. Rita (5-0, 1-0) beat St. Ignatius while also winning the Riverside-Brookfield title last week. Christian Henry is off to a strong start for the Mustangs. Brother Rice (3-2, 1-0) is coming off of two straight wins, including a road win at Montini earlier this week. 

Leo at St. Joseph, 7:00 p.m. -- We head to the Catholic League as St. Joe's plays its first home game without legendary head coach Gene Pingatore -- who passed away over the summer. The night will honor the legacy of Pingatore in-part. On the floor, Leo (1-3, 0-1) tries to bounce back from a loss to Loyola earlier this week. The Chargers (1-3) couldn't find their footing at St. Charles East during Thanksgiving week.

Batavia at No. 12 Lake Park, 7:15 p.m. -- The DuKane Conference features a really intriguing early-season showdown in this one. Batavia (3-1) is led by high-scoring senior Jayden Johnson as he's coming off of a strong opening week to the season. The No. 12 Lancers (4-0) took the crown at Wheaton Academy as they're undefeated. Senior Luke Sgarbossa leads a balanced group.

Lyons at York, 7:30 p.m. -- The West Suburban Silver opens play in this one. Lyons (3-0) is quietly off to an unbeaten start by winning their own event, beating Maine South, Fenger and Plainfield North. York (3-1) opened some eyes with a week-one win over previously-ranked Cary-Grove before falling to top-five Stevenson in the finals at Palatine. Senior guard Nate Shockey (North Dakota) is a potential All-Area candidate.

Rolling Meadows at Elk Grove, 7:30 p.m. -- An early look at star junior Max Christie and the Mustangs in a Mid-Suburban East battle. Rolling Meadows (4-0) won the title at Fenton to open the season. Christie, one of the best juniors in the country, dropped 51 points on Elk Grove in an overtime win last season. Elk Grove (0-4) is trying to build after a tough opening week at Palatine that saw them go winless. 

(13) Evanston vs. (8) Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. -- The second Friday matchup at Wintrust Arena has two top-15 teams with a ton of talented juniors battling. The No. 13 Wildkits (4-0) are led by some college prospects in the junior class as wing Jaylin Gibson and guard Blake Peters are a strong combination. The No. 8 Dons (5-0) have been one of the season's major early storylines. Notre Dame beat DePaul Prep for the Battle of the Bridge title and looks like a major contender. The junior group of Anthony Sayles, Troy D'Amico and Louis Lesmond (who played for the Wildkits last season) is strong while senior Jason Bergstrom is another talented option as a scorer.

No. 24 Fenwick vs. OPRF, approx 9:00 p.m. -- Tipping after the Evanston and Notre Dame clash is this inner-town rivalry of Oak Park schools. The annual Friday night closer of the Chicago Elite Classic, this matchup has a lot of talent on the floor once again. The No. 24 Friars (3-1, 1-0) are led by star junior forward and Louisville commit Bryce Hopkins. Sophomore guard Trey Pettigrew is another talented weapon to watch for Fenwick. OPRF (2-2) is trying to figure things out after a sluggish start at Riverside-Brookfield last week. Senior forward Justin Cross was solid this summer and the junior group of Isaiah Barnes and Joshua Smith has a lot of promise. 

VIEWER'S CHOICE GAME OF THE WEEK

Tinley Park at Richards, 7 p.m. -- Our first Viewer's Choice matchup goes to a South Suburban crossover. Tinley Park (3-2) has the state's top sophomore in forward A.J. Casey. The high-major prospect is off to a solid start this season for the Titans. Richards (3-1) only has an overtime loss to Marist against them with a solid start at their own event.