The state of Illinois has plenty of great high school basketball teams from all over the state. And while we focus mainly on the Chicagoland area at NBC Sports Chicago during the regular season, there are title contenders and fun teams to watch all over.
With that in mind, here are five teams from outside of our Chicagoland area that fans should pay attention to this season. Some of these teams feature a star with Division I talent. Others are coming off of trips to Peoria last season and have high hopes for another trip to state.
Try to catch these teams at some point this season if you happen to venture outside of our area.
Collinsville -- There's an argument to be made that Collinsville is the best team in Illinois outside the Chicagoland area. Finishing 27-6 last season, Collinsville holds the distinction of beating both Class 3A champion East St. Louis and Class 4A champion Belleville West during the regular season last year.
Senior Ray'Sean Taylor, an SIUE commit, is one of the state's top returning players as he put up 21.4 points per game as a junior. Taylor has over 1,300 career points as he tries to push for the Collinsville school record this season. Taylor is joined by some talented returning players including guard Cawhan Smith and forward Keydrian Jones.
Circle the calendar on Dec. 14 as Collinsville clashes against Morgan Park at the Scott State Bank Shootout and on Feb. 8 as the Kahoks play Simeon at the O'Fallon Shootout.
Geneseo -- The logic for seeing Geneseo this season is simple: senior forward Isaiah Rivera is the best senior in the state not playing in the Chicagoland area. The Colorado State commit is a big-time athlete who puts up huge numbers for the Maple Leafs.
Rivera is the type of player who will see constant double teams and defense geared to stop him. That won’t matter; Rivera will still get buckets. The Maple Leafs will always be a threat this season as long as Rivera is on the floor.
Geneseo could match up with some area teams when they participate in the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament at DeKalb in December.
East St. Louis -- The defending Class 3A champions will have to move on without graduated senior forward Terrence Hargrove Jr. and many of his strong senior teammates. But there’s still a lot to like about the Flyers this season. The program still has a healthy amount of talent.
Senior Armond Williams showed flashes of great play during last year’s state tournament and this summer as he’s a Division I prospect and interior force at 6-foot-8. Senior point guard Jashawn Anderson is also back as he provides stability on the perimeter. Senior shooting guard Lashawn Johnson has already drawn steady buzz for his play over the last six months.
East St. Louis plays a few local teams this season, most notably a trip to the Orr Breast Cancer Shootout in January and a mid-February matchup with Lincoln Park.
Rock Island — An interesting team in the Class 3A mix, the Rocks are loaded with size and experience in the front court. The co-Western Big 6 champions from last season are, once again, dangerous.
Solomon Gustafson, Malachi Key and wing Taurean Holtam all provide varsity experience. All of them are at least 6-foot-5 and give the Rocks a decided size advantage against many opponents. Rock Island also has a lot of young talent on the perimeter. That group will have to prove itself on the varsity level if Rock Island is a true state title contender.
Rock Island will have games against Chicagoland competition on Jan. 3 and 4 when they face Zion-Benton and Kaneland in two shootout events.
Peoria Manual — Surprising many in the state with a final four appearance in Class 3A last season, nobody should be surprised by the Rams this season.
A program with proud basketball tradition brings back two double-figure scorers this season in senior guard Pee Wee Brown and junior Emaryon Byrd. Brown was a breakout player during the state tournament while Byrd is a promising wing who should step up this season.
Peoria Manual isn’t scheduled to play any Chicagoland competition during the season except for possible tournament teams in the State Farm Holiday Classic.