A memorable season has recently come to an end, but it’s never too early to look forward to next year.
Individual players will intensify and emerge as spring and summer unfolds, and we’ll have a better idea of squads in June. But here’s a way too early top 10 (in alphabetical order) for a season that’s still months away.
Everyone comes back from a team that won 24 games last season, headlined by all-round leader Ahmad Henderson (15.2 points per game). He has led the Crusaders in points in each of the past two seasons.
A plethora of returning juniors will join Henderson, including perimeter scorer Nick Niego (10.5 ppg), 6-3 Peter McShane (7.3 ppg) and some size and length with 6-6 Khalil Ross (10, 5 ppg), 6-6 Ryan Kenney (4 ppg) and 6-6 Jayden Watson (6.5 ppg).
Sophomores won the Catholic League and finished 24-4 overall while sophomore goaltender Tre Dowdell averaged 5.3 points at the varsity level.
When you look at the record (26-7) and the accomplishments of the last season, you could say that coach Mike Oliver’s team has gone a bit overboard.
The Condors will have plenty of returning, including the unannounced but hard-hitting Jeremy Harrington. While the 6-5 junior was the backbone of the team this year, sophomore guard Carlos Harris looks like an emerging star in the city.
Big man Chikasi Ofoma, a physical inside presence at 6-7, and guard Shawn Brown are two other returning starters.
Aside from an upset loss to Lemont, everything went pretty much perfect for the Hawks last season while winning 26 games, especially since coach Don Houston didn’t fire a single starter.
But next year there will be a wealth of returning experience.
The Hawks will have an abundance of size up front with a pair of 6-7 returning juniors Matthew Moore and Darrion Baker, as well as 6-4 sophomore Nyzir Duncan. All three started or played major minutes last season.
The backcourt is made up of junior Bryce Tillery and young sophomore Isaiah Green, both of whom were double-digit scorers last season.
After winning the first sectional title in program history, coach Mike Irvin has a real contender for the returning state title.
There’s a surplus of overall talent and marquee prospects in the program, including two of the top juniors, dynamic guard Darrin Ames and versatile 6-7 Davius Loury, in the state. Freshman Bryce Heard is on the verge of becoming a young star.
Quietly, coach Phil LaScala’s team has won 27 games this season, including a 13-1 mark in the North Suburban Conference. Lake Forest’s season ended with a Divisional Championship loss to St. Patrick.
The Scouts return arguably the state’s best returning shooter in 6-6 Asa Thomas, one of the best players in the state with major offers. The supporting cast will be strong with the return of sophomores Tommie Aberle and Bolurin Taiwo and junior Anthony Mordini.
This team came a little early, winning regional and sectional titles without a senior contributing significantly.
There is crucial backcourt experience with Rokas Castillo and Matas Castillo and a budding star in the second Nojus Indrusaitis. Surround these three valuable role players who have gained a ton of big game experience at the end of the season and Lemont enters next year with high expectations.
Even with the departure of last year’s Player of the Year, Max Christie, the Mustangs still posted 28 wins and a regional title behind junior Cameron Christie.
It hurt to see the season end in a resounding loss to New Trier in the section, but next year might be the best team coach Kevin Katovich will have in this six-year streak of basketball. Christie Brothers at Rolling Meadows.
As the loss of senior Orlando Thomas will be felt, Cameron Christie returns as one of the state’s elite players. Plus, 6-4 big man Foster Ogbonna will be a seasoned veteran next year and there’s a ton of upside in the return of 6-6 rookie Ian Miletic, 6-7 junior Mark Nikolich-Wilson and junior 6-7 Tsvet Sotirov.
The progress and growth of big men Miles Rubin and Wesley Rubin over the past year has been quite measurable. If the 6-8 juniors make a similar leap in the next year, the Wolverines will boast a game-changing front line.
Jalen Griffith will take on more responsibility and a bigger role in the backcourt with the departure of Jaylen Drane and Aviyon Morris. And keep an eye out for a pair of youngsters, freshman Ameer Morrow and sophomore Kenric Mosby coming from the lower levels.
After finally getting a full season of development and continuity under their belt, coach Rossshawn Russell’s team is about to hit a big milestone.
When you bring back the top two prospects from the Class of 2023, a pair of future top players, that’s one hell of a start. Yes, it all starts with the talented tandem of 6-9 James Brown and 6-8 Morez Johnson.
Kaiden Space will be a seasoned senior at point guard while up-and-coming rookie Melvin Bell will be a sophomore star.
The loss of an all-state 6-8 pair in AJ Casey and Xavier Amos will certainly be felt for the Class 4A runner-up. But the firepower is still there to make the Dolphins one of the best teams in the state, starting with point guard Dalen Davis.
Daniel Johnson 6-6 and physical guard Marcus Pigram are both returning Division I hopefuls, while talented rookie Antonio Munoz will add a new dimension next season.