Last year's record: 6-21 (5-5 River Valley Conference).
Head coach: Tony Waznonis.
Assistant coaches: Ryan Franczyk, Adam Keen.
Key player losses: Jake Hering, G; Aaron Mahnke, C.
Players to watch: Nick Oosting, Jr., G (2.2 apg, 1.2 spg, 35 3-point FG Pct.); Jake Krabbe, Sr., G (6.1 ppg).
Outlook: Four starters return this season, but the Bobcats still lost a great deal of scoring punch from their 2010-11 squad. Waznonis is emphasizing working hard without the ball -- in other words, he wants good defense to carry a fair amount of the load. Still, the Bobcats must find some reliable point sources, one of whom might be Krabbe. Oosting is a perimeter threat, but is just as valuable to his team as a distributor. Beecher was third in the RVC last year, a finish Waznonis believes can be improved upon.
Quote: "The culture has finally changed throughout our program, and it will show on the floor for us with our hustle and determination. The group has come together well over the summer and should compete in conference this year." !~ Waznonis.
Last year's record: 16-12 (7-3, Southland Athletic Conference).
Head coach: Jasper Williams.
Assistant coaches: Pete McGuire, Job Gunderson.
Key player losses: Ed Williams, G; Robert Rochon, F.
Players to watch: Donald Moore, Sr., G (12.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 82 FT Pct.); Lejavius Johnson, Sr., G; Henry Hicks, Sr., G/F; Johnny Griffin, Jr., F; Dejahown Freeman, Jr., G; Nhyree Mitchell, Jr., F.
Outlook: With Crete-Monee grabbing so much attention during its sectional-winning 2010-11 campaign and being the marquee team in the SAC, a pretty decent effort by the Blazing Trojans basically got overlooked. Bloom Twp. should be in the thick of this season's league race, thanks to the presence of third-year varsity players Moore, Johnson and Hicks. Moore, a preseason all-area pick, paced the Blazing Trojans in scoring, assists and steals as a junior. Griffin is an active forward who should become more of an interior force this winter.
Quote: "We will get tested right off the bat at the Chicago Heights Classic Thanksgiving tournament. Hillcrest and Mount Carmel are in our pool, with the chance to also play H-F, Thornwood or Marian. A lot will be learned before we hit December." !~ coach Jasper Williams.
Last year's record: 25-4 (9-1 Southland Athletic Conference).
Head coach: Tom Cappel.
Assistant coaches: Mike Lyman, Al Hutton.
Key player losses: Jamee Crockett, F; Greg Mays, C; Kentrell King, G.
Players to watch: Michael Orris, Sr., G (9.7 ppg, 6.0 apg, 47 FG Pct., 38 3-point FG Pct., 74 FT Pct.); LaQuon Treadwell, Jr., F (6.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 64 steals); Marvie Keith, Jr., G; Jordan Perry, Sr., F; Marius Hopkins, Sr., G/F; T.J. Morris, Sr., G; Mark Connor, Jr., F.
Outlook: The Warriors are ready to return to the court and defend their back-to-back conference and regional titles, as well as last year's sectional crown. They'll do so under the guidance of former Hillcrest boss Cappel, a 2005 IBCA Hall of Fame inductee whose Hawks squads won 502 games during his 23-year tenure, plus 20 conference championships and 18 postseason titles. With Illinois-bound Orris back to run the offense and the productive junior duo of Treadwell and Keith on hand to support him, Crete-Monee's fortunes shouldn't drop very much.
Quote: "With three returning starters and a good nucleus of newcomers, the Warriors are looking to improve on their success last year. This team should be one of the better teams in the south suburbs." !~ Cappel.
Last year's record: 23-6 (14-0 SWSC Blue).
Head coach: Jim McLaughlin.
Assistant coaches: Roy Condotti, Excell Hardy.
Key player losses: Julian Lewis, F; David Fatocki, G.
Players to watch: Tyrone Sherman, Sr., G (12.6 ppg); Delvon Rencher, Sr., F (12.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg); Tim Williams, Sr., F; Antonio Bishop, Sr., F (7.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Willie Lipsey, Sr., G; Maurius Hill, Jr., F (4.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg).
Outlook: How high were the Vikings' expectations last year? Consider this: 23 wins and a regional championship ranked as something of a disappointment. Of course, H-F wasn't at full strength most of the season, thanks to the ankle injury that sidelined Williams for many weeks. He's ready to go from the outset this fall, and with fellow seniors Rencher and Sherman back for a third varsity campaign, the Vikings are prepared to take aim at greater postseason glory. The athletic Lewis will be missed, but Bishop gives H-F another big body and both Hill and Lipsey should be steady contributors.
Quote: "With an experienced team coming back, we hope to make a deep run in March. We truly hope that we learned valuable lessons the last two seasons. Our returning seniors have worked extremely hard, and we are very excited to watch them play." !~ coach Jim McLaughlin.
Last year's record: 12-15 (4-8 Metro Suburban Conference).
Head coach: Tom Roozeboom.
Assistant coaches: Tom Zandstra, Jeff White, Dan Gibson.
Key player losses: Zach Van Beek, F/C; Noah VanDrunen, F.
Players to watch: Brandon Martin, Jr., G (7 ppg, 3 apg, 2 spg); Austin Vandersluis, Sr., F/C (7 ppg, 5 rpg).
Outlook: A promising 2010-11 campaign spiraled downward when Van Beek suffered a season-ending injury during Christmas tournament play. The Vikings didn't roll over, but they went 4-13 after that and quietly exited the postseason. Second-year coach Roozeboom anticipates an upswing in fortunes, however, and believes his current squad has "an excellent shot at winning 17-plus games this year." Martin gives Illiana quickness and athleticism in the backcourt, while Vandersluis is part of a senior group Roozeboom has already praised for its leadership.
Quote: "I have a great vibe from this team already this year in just the first few practices. We will give Riverside-Brookfield and Ridgewood a run for the top spot in the Metro Suburban Conference." !~ Roozeboom.
Last year's record: 8-11, (2-8 River Valley Conference).
Head coach: Mark Kjenstadt.
Assistant coach: Trevor Woldhuis.
Key player losses: Paul Styx, C.
Players to watch: Mack Newson, So., G (7 ppg); Austin Wood, C, Jr.
Outlook: The arrival of the 6-foot-9 Wood could be just what the Chargers need to step forward. Illinois Lutheran lost an all-area performer in Styx, but if Wood pans out the way Kjenstadt hopes, he may be the Chargers' most imposing presence in the paint since Phil French in 2003. Although he is a sophomore, a lot will be asked of Newson as well, both as a scorer and ball distributor. He showed enough potential as a varsity freshman to keep his coach optimistic.
Quote: "We have some talent, but will be very inexperienced [so] we will have some growing pains. Our soph point guard is our key, but the Wood kid will present match-up problems. I'm excited to watch this team develop." !~ Kjenstadt.
Last year's record: 2-19.
Head coach: Tim VanDommelen.
Players to watch: Chris Echols, Jr., G; Jamaree Bass, Sr., G; David Foster, Jr., F; Martel Sallis, Jr., C.
Outlook: Record-wise, there's nowhere to go but up for the Eagles, but second-year coach VanDommelen expects more than minimal gains this season. The addition of Echols, a 6-4 guard, will help quite a bit, and Sallis and Foster are a pair of 6-2 frontcourt men who should be solid contributors.
Quote: "Our players are more familiar with the system, so this season should be much improved from a season ago. We are a year older, bigger, smarter, and we expect to be very competitive." !~ VanDommelen.
Last year's record: 13-17 (6-6 East Suburban Catholic Conference).
Head coach: Mike Taylor.
Assistant coaches: Kevin Kelly, Joe Barker.
Key player losses: Kendell Greer, Dominic Jackson.
Players to watch: Tyler Ulis, So., G (12.9 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.0 spg, 1.8 rpg, 38 3-point FG Pct.; 72 FT Pct.); Erik Crittendon, Sr., F/C; Bill Hillger, Sr., G/F; Mike Peabody, Sr., F; Jordan Lewis, Jr., F; Kevin Phillips, Jr., F/C.
Outlook: He stands just 5-8, but no one on the roster is bigger in importance than Ulis. Ulis started as a freshman and showed veteran savvy while putting up respectable statistics. Taylor sees Ulis as someone with "an ability to make every player on the floor stronger." Crittendon, Hillger and Peabody will all be counted on, too, even though none of the three made a measurable impact a year ago. The 6-3 duo of H-F transfer Lewis and Phillips should get plenty of work up front for a somewhat undersized Marian club.
Quote: "Without a tremendous amount of height, we will need to rely on depth and quickness at guard to force tempo, apply defensive pressure and create opportunities for everybody on the floor. We'll look to peak toward the conference season and regional play." !~ Taylor.
Last year's record: 21-7 (8-1 Catholic League South).
Head coach: Mike Flaherty.
Assistant coaches: Eric Schuler, John Jackson, Rex Martin.
Key player losses: Tracy Abrams, G; Wyn Bradley, F; Malcolm Hill-Bey, G; Kevin McKenzie, F; Marcus Smith.
Players to watch: Alex Austin, Sr., F (12.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.0 spg, 1.5 apg, 46 FG Pct.); Billy Patterson, Sr., F; Terry Turner, Sr., G.
Outlook: Losing Times Player of the Year Abrams would create enough of a void in the Caravan's lineup, but the Illinois guard wasn't the only guy to leave Mount Carmel after last season. Bradley also graduated, while Hill-Bey, who figured to play a leading role for the Caravan this winter, has transferred. That means preseason all-area selection Austin looms especially large in Mount Carmel's immediate plans. Staying atop the rugged Catholic League South will take some doing, but Mike Flaherty-coached teams are always dangerous.
Quote: "Our success this season will be more directly tied to one player -- Alex Austin -- than any team we've had here at Mount Carmel. If we can get others to contribute, we can be successful as the year progresses." !~ Flaherty.
Last year's record: 21-8 (6-3 Catholic League South)
Head coach: Brandon Thomas.
Assistant coaches: Mark Weems, Arthur Kimber, Kevin McNair.
Key player losses: Chris Colter, G.
Players to watch: Russell Robinson, Sr., C (14 ppg, 8 rpg, 4 bpg); Sylvester Tolliver, Sr., F (12 ppg, 7 rpg); Kamal Shashi, Jr., G; Jordan Foster, Sr., G; Tre Patterson, Jr., F; Mark Weems, Jr., G; Tyler Williams, Sr., G.
Outlook: The return of 6-foot-9 all-area center Robinson makes handling the Sting a tall order. Seton received quite a gift from T.F. North when Tolliver -- whose uncle, Deon, is the South Holland school's athletic director -- transferred for his senior year. With the 6-4 Tolliver and 6-5 Patterson available to line up alongside Robinson, the Sting could be a match-up nightmare for many foes. Foster was All-Catholic League as a junior and Shashi possesses some solid skills.
Quote: "We are now looking to improve on last year's foundation and play deep into March. The success of our program depends on the positive attitudes and maximum effort our players bring to the classroom, practice and games. This is what we as a staff expect, and it is non-negotiable." !~ coach Brandon Thomas.
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES
Last year's record: 14-15 (3-7 Catholic League South)
Head coach: Kevin Wolfe.
Assistant coaches: Gregory Pearson, Jim Wolf, Mitchell Smith, Kene Harvey.
Key player losses: Joseph Pearson, G; Mattias Purnell, G; Robert Jackson, F; Eric Washington, F; DeTwan Hills, G.
Players to watch: Adebayo Babalola, Sr., F (14.5 ppg); Willie Orange, Sr., C (5.8 ppg, 12.2 rpg); Bruce Barnes, Sr., G (3.2 ppg); Terrone Parham, So., G (5.9 ppg).
Outlook: It's been a long time since the Pioneers were winning regional titles on an annual basis and giving fits to most Catholic League foes, but St. Francis is returning to respectability after some lean years. The Pioneers' record was above .500 in last season's nonconference contests, and with Babalola and Orange around to anchor the frontcourt, they could make more noise within the Catholic South.
Quote: "With the seniors we have on this team, our outlook is brighter than any time in the last five years or so. This year's team will only be as good as the work they put in, but for the first time in a while, there is some excitement again at St. Francis de Sales." !~ coach Kevin Wolfe.
Last year's record: 7-19 (2-12 SWSC Red)
Head coach: Scott Alderson.
Assistant coaches: Jason Battle, Jon Kohn, Lynell Ingram, Duane Hewlett.
Key player losses: Sinclaire Stevenson, F; Javon Kay, G; Kendall Irwin, G.
Players to watch: Gene Jackson, Sr., F; Ryan Burch, Sr., G; Charles King, Sr., G; Darrion Robinson, Fr., G.
Outlook: Uncertainty over the school's future likely contributed to the Falcons' sub-par 2010-11 campaign, but with only one returning starter, a rapid about-face might be too much to ask of Thornridge. That doesn't mean coach Scott Alderson is writing off the season, though. He was encouraged by the Falcons' efforts during the summer, when they stood their ground against some talented opponents. If the positive momentum carries over, Thornridge could stay relevant in an SWSC Red Division that is not teeming with firepower.
Quote: "Last season was a rough one for the Falcons, but (our players) have a chip on their shoulder with everyone talking about all of the good teams around them. They also know they have to prove it on the floor, but we honestly feel we can play with any team (in the SWSC Red)." !~ Alderson.
Last year's record: 26-3 (11-1 SWSC Red)
Head coach: Troy Jackson.
Assistant coaches: Jeff Haynes, Ronnell Johnson.
Key player losses: Jay Parker, G; Brian Greene, G; Antonio Levy, G; Bernard Brame, C; Stefan Beard, F.
Players to watch: Ed Buie, Sr., F; Marcus Ford, Sr., G; Marvin Jones, Sr., C; Joshua Russell, Sr., G; Brian Nicholson, Jr., F; Justin Taylor, So, F.
Outlook: This season could be an atypical one for the Wildcats, who annually find themselves among the area's -- and often the state's -- elite. Last year was no exception, as Thornton piled up 26 wins and reached a sectional final. A talented eight-man rotation was comprised entirely of seniors, though, meaning the 'Cats are pretty much starting from scratch now. Of course, their "leftovers" would be a main course for many programs. Hales Franciscan transfer Russell and the 6-foot-9 Jones will aid the rebuilding effort, but there'll be some growing pains in Harvey.
Quote: "This year will be the most challenging season as a head coach, and as a team, in the nine years that I have been at Thornton. It will be very tough, but our goals remain the same: win Thanksgiving and Christmas tournaments, win conference and get to Peoria." !~ Troy Jackson.
Last year's record: 18-6 (12-1 South Suburban Blue)
Head coach: Tim Bankston.
Assistant coaches: Rodney McCants, Brian Rucinski, Cornelius Deere.
Key player losses: Montero Rice, G; Deandre Lowery, G; Romero Gordon, C; Sylvester Tolliver, F.
Players to watch: D.J. Deere, Jr., G; Nick Wood, Jr., F.
Outlook: No matter what kind of personnel losses the Meteors take from year to year, nothing seems to faze them. Coach Bankston usually has at least a couple holdovers around whom he rebuilds. His work is cut out for him this season, however, as T.F. North has painfully little experience to tap into, a situation made worse by Tolliver's defection to Seton Academy. Wood and Deere are the brightest lights among the younger players, and Bankston said there are times his lineup may feature five juniors. Still, don't expect the Meteors to fade away.
Quote: "This will be a rebuilding year, (but) with a defensive-minded program, we feel we will still be able to compete in our conference. We might take our bumps early, but if this team comes to practice each day ready to work hard, we have a chance to turn into a pretty good team by playoff time." !~ Bankston.
Last year's record: 11-16 (7-6 South Suburban Blue)
Head coach: John O'Rourke.
Assistant coach: Richard Tarbunas.
Key player losses: Michael Lee, F; Justin Smith, F.
Players to watch: Ira Crawford, Sr., F; Paul Pierce, Sr., G; Donald Hardaway, Jr., G; Kenny Doss, Jr., G/F; Robert Ryan, So., G.
Outlook: The Rebels have yet to recapture the glory days that accompanied Paris Carter's presence in their lineup a few years back, but they haven't slipped back into the dark ones that occurred just before that. T.F. South has lived a middle-of-the-road existence of late, with the occasional eye-opening performance mixed in -- case in point, near-upsets of superior T.F. North and Richards squads while operating with a shortened roster two seasons ago. Crawford and Pierce must move front and center to give the Rebels the leadership Coach O'Rourke wants from his seniors.
Quote: "Leadership, hard work and dedication will play a large part in the outcome of the upcoming season. We feel that we have depth and talent, but we must develop our team chemistry." !~ O'Rourke.
Last year's record: 16-12 (9-3 SWSC Red)
Head coach: Paul Slavich.
Assistant coaches: Shawn Finnin, Sam Agyarko, Jesus Sanchez, Ken West.
Key player losses: Rodney Smith, G; Corey Robinson, F.
Players to watch: Darell Combs, Sr., G (19 ppg, 4 apg, 4 rpg); Khapri Alston, Sr., F/C (12 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg).
Outlook: Loyola University-bound Darell Combs leads a group of eight seniors into action this winter, making the Thunderbirds a very real threat to wrest control of the SWSC Red from an inexperienced Thornton squad. Alston, who joined Combs on the all-conference team, provides a solid interior complement to the latter's perimeter game, and the slew of upperclassmen means second-year coach Slavich has depth and some flexibility with his game-day rotation. The T'birds should eclipse last year's victory total and flirt with the 20-win mark.
Quote: "We are excited about the upcoming season and building upon the foundation set in place last year. We expect to compete for the SouthWest Suburban Red title this season, (but) remaining disciplined and focused each and every game will be the key." !~ Slavich.
Note: Information for Washington was not provided.
!~Compiled by Ken Karrson