Preps Talk

St. Viator's Connor Kochera breaks out during monster June in front of college coaches

St. Viator's Connor Kochera breaks out during monster June in front of college coaches

At this time last summer, St. Viator guard Connor Kochera was a rising junior with minimal college attention. 

On a talented Lions team that included two Division I seniors in Jeremiah Hernandez (Kent State) and Trey Calvin (Wright State), Kochera was relegated to being the third option in the team's offense.

Fast forward a year later and St. Viator is Kochera's team now. The rising senior has improved his overall floor game -- becoming more than just a perimeter specialist that some previously labeled him.

The improvement in the 6-foot-4 Kochera this spring and summer helped make him the Chicagoland area's breakout player during the month of June as he doubled his scholarship offers and became a must-see attraction for mid-major schools as the July Live Evaluation Period approaches next week.

Before the two-week June Live Evaluation Period started at Riverside-Brookfield, Kochera only had offers from Cleveland State, Lafayette and Western Illinois. Following two blistering weeks at Riverside-Brookfield and Ridgewood and Kochera has added scholarship offers from Brown, Furman, Illinois State, Wofford and Wright State.

During the brand-new June Live Evaluation Period, no player in Illinois benefitted more than Kochera as many college coaches had positive things to say about him after the period.

"I've kind of switched to the role of being leader and I'm trying to lead by example, with my communication, and make sure everyone is involved," Kochera said. "But also, during parts of the game, I have to keep everyone focused, make sure everyone knows what they're doing and then at some points I take over. You do what you have to do to get buckets and win the game."

Playing for a depleted St. Viator team dealing with three regular starters playing other sports during the summer, the Lions still made deep runs in two of the best events in Illinois as Kochera had some monster individual efforts. Kochera poured in 35 points against Hillcrest and knocked down five first-half three-pointers on his way to 25 points in a win over Morton. When Bogan tried to attack Kochera with multiple perimeter defenders, he still found a way to score 26 points against last season's Class 3A runner-up.

More than just a shooter now, Kochera is working hard to become a well-rounded, all-around perimeter threat as he's helping the Lions adjust to life without Calvin and Hernandez.

"It's definitely an adjustment. Obviously having Jerry and Trey, they were having the ball in their hands primarily and they could get us a bucket when we needed it most," Kochera said. "But it's definitely different. I'm looking forward to the adjustment. I think it's going to make me a better player overall."

Both St. Viator coach Quin Hayes and Kochera's AAU coach, Fundamental U's Mike Weinstein, rave about Kochera's work ethic and leadership. The senior has matured into a natural on-court communicator who is figuring out when to let others get shots and when to hunt his own offense.

The results of Kochera's gym-rat mentality are also clearly starting to show as he heads into an important stretch of July. Now that Kochera has become a hot name, coaches will continue to track every game he plays in July as shooting is always at a premium.

Kochera already visited the campuses of Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Penn, Siena and Western Illinois as he's still working his way through the recruiting process.

"I'm looking for a school where not only I can excel on the basketball court but academically as well. I definitely take pride in what I do in the classroom," Kochera said.

It's hard to say where St. Viator stands among the area's top teams for next season since they were without so many key parts during the summer. The Lions are far from a complete team at this point in the process.

But they have a breakout star in Kochera who is looking like a serious preseason All-Area candidate as he's grown into one of the most productive players in the area.

 

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.