November 21st, 2018 8:06 AM
OPRF senior Anthony Roberts emerged last season as a key contributor for the Huskies. His ability to rebound, defend and score along with plenty of hustle augmented the team's already strong core. (File photo)
OPRF coach Matt Maloney knows better than anyone that the high school basketball season is a marathon and not a sprint. And if the Huskies hope to get where the want to be towards the end of the season, improvement will need to be made. Nevertheless, it's easy to see why the Huskies are heavily favored to repeat as West Suburban Conference Silver Division champs, and perhaps, make a deep run come playoff time. The West Suburban Silver always features plenty of talented players with this year as no exception.
WEST SUBURBAN SILVER
OUTLOOK: Oak Park and River Forest has been on a roll the last two seasons in West Suburban Conference Silver Division play. The Huskies have captured back-to-back conference titles and made history last season by finishing with a perfect conference record for the first time since the West Suburban Conference was split into Gold and Silver divisions.
This year's team could be the best the school has had in many years. Dashon Enoch, Charlie Hoehne, Anthony Roberts and Chase Robinson are all excellent returning players, who are attracting recruiting interest from Division I and II programs. Hoehne has committed to Rockhurst University in Kansas City. With such a strong group, the Huskies are the prohibitive favorite to three-peat as league champs.
Beyond OPRF, the teams are evenly matched. They're all capable of finishing in places between second and seventh in the standings.
Downers Grove North and Glenbard West appear to be OPRF's main challengers. The Trojans feature a potent backcourt duo in seniors Trey Boston and Semaj Henderson, while the Hilltoppers' Evan Taylor (Southern Illinois signee) is quite capable of putting the team on his back and willing it to victory.
Elsewhere, York's deliberate style of play tends to frustrate opponents and will allow the Dukes to stay in most games. Lyons Township and Hinsdale Central look to bounce back from recent subpar seasons. Nolan Niego and Tyrese Shines return for their fourth seasons on the Lions' varsity, while Matthew Rush leads a strong returning group for the Red Devils. Proviso West always has quality athletes as the Silver's sleeper this season.
TOP 5 PLAYERS: Dashon Enoch, G, OPRF; Semaj Henderson, G, DGN; Evan Taylor, F, Glenbard West; Tyrese Shines, F, LTHS; Matthew Rush, F/G, Hinsdale Central.
DID YOU KNOW: Matthew Rush was the starting quarterback on Hinsdale Central's football team, which earned a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title along with OPRF and Glenbard West.
PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH: OPRF, Downers Grove North, Glenbard West, Lyons Township, Hinsdale Central, York, Proviso West
New head coach Staunton Peck and talented returners Bryce Hopkins, Solomon Oraegbu, Lucas Kolovitz plus promising freshman Trey Pettigrew will need to lead the way for Fenwick this season. Here's a breakdown of the perennially-tough CCL Blue and the Friars' chances.
CHICAGO CATOLIC LEAGUE BLUE
OUTLOOK: Fenwick has been the dominant power in the Catholic League the past three seasons, having won three consecutive conference titles while enjoying a 38-game conference winning streak. However, with head coach Rick Malnati stepping down in April and D.J. Steward (Whitney Young) and Damari Nixon (Curie) transferring not long after Malnati's departure, the Friars' streak of CCL success is in jeopardy.
Fenwick returns some talented, experienced players in seniors Lucas Kolovitz and Solomon Oraegbu and highly touted sophomore Bryce Hopkins. New head coach Staunton Peck was a player and assistant coach under Malnati, so there won't be any major changes to the system. Even so, the Friars will find it a challenge to repeat as CCL Blue champions.
This year's CCL Blue favorite is DePaul Prep. The Rams have a boatload of Division 1 prospects led by senior guard Perry Cowan. Brother Rice and Loyola Academy (along with Fenwick) are the main challengers. Marquise Kennedy, a Loyola University Chicago signee, is an explosive scorer for Brother Rice. Loyola's Connor Barrett is probably the best pure shooter in the league.
Elsewhere in the Blue, never count out St. Joseph. Coach Gene Pingatore and his Chargers always find a way to be competitive. St. Ignatius is a scrappy team that gives opponents fits. De La Salle and St. Laurence are two teams with good young talent, seeking to find a way to move up in the standings.
TOP 5 PLAYERS: Perry Cowan, SR, F/G, DePaul Prep; Marquise Kennedy, SR, G, Brother Rice; Connor Barrett, SR, G, Loyola Academy; Bryce Hopkins, SO, F, Fenwick; Reggie Strong, SR, G, St. Joseph
DID YOU KNOW: DePaul Prep head coach Tom Kleinschmidt enjoyed a highly successful playing career at Gordon Tech (DePaul Prep's predecessor), leading the Rams to the Class AA runner-up finish in 1990. He also enjoyed a solid career at DePaul University and played overseas in Japan for several seasons. Since becoming head coach at DePaul Prep, he has guided the Rams to four consecutive regional championships and reached a pair of Sweet 16s in the IHSA state tournament.
PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH: DePaul Prep, Loyola Academy, Fenwick, Brother Rice, St. Joseph, De La Salle, St. Ignatius, St. Laurence