Scouting local Illinois college basketball teams

2013-11-06T18:45:00Z 2013-11-07T01:23:05Z Scouting local Illinois college basketball teams nwitimes.com
November 06, 2013 6:45 pm

Men

Prairie State College

Last season: 17-14 (7-7 Skyway Conference)

Star power: Joe Hughes. The 6-5 forward from Calumet City and Thornwood averaged a team-best 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest as a freshman.

Up next: Freshman Rodney Smith (Thornwood) will run the point and rack up assists and steals with above-average scoring.

Outlook: The Pioneers struggled to close out games last season but should have one of the district’s top players in Hughes. Prairie State has enough experience, with four sophomores, to come together as a cohesive unit and finish above .500 in the conference and make a deep run in the postseason.

South Suburban College

Last season: 32-5

Star power: Jalen Brown, a transfer from Columbus (Ohio State) and a Michigan native, is, at 6-8, one of the best big men eighth-year coach John Pigatti has ever had.

Up next: Antonio Levy, a transfer from Iowa Western, will run the backcourt and score in bunches.

Outlook: The national tournament has become an expectation each year with this program, and although only one starter and three total players are back from last year’s active roster, another 30-win season is realistic for a team that is 205-41 under Pigatti’s watch entering the season. The Bulldogs were 32-5 and finished sixth in the NJCAA Division II nationals, a year after finishing third. They have been ranked No. 1 in the nation at some point in three of the past four seasons.

Women

Prairie State College

Last season: 22-9

Star power: Nijea Dixon, a sophomore from Joliet, was all-region and first team all-conference as a freshman after averaging 12.3 points and 3.7 assists per game.

Up next: Chantel Malone, a 5-5 guard from Bloom, is going to be counted on heavily in her first season with the Pioneers.

Outlook: The Pioneers lost to South Suburban with the district title and a trip to the regional on the line, but Dixon’s presence along with the return of Mandie Green (Homewood-Flossmoor) and addition of do-it-all guards such as Elyse Jackson (Thornridge) should open scoring for everyone on the floor as teams will have to stay honest against a bevy of threats.

South Suburban College

Last season: 21-14

Star power: Megan Majors, a sophomore from T.F. South, averaged 14.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.8 steals per game last season.

Up next: Mariah Middleton, a Times All-Area honorable mention selection last season, is out of back-to-back Times Illinois Player of the Year Bria Gaines’ shadow and has a chance to dazzle.

Outlook: The Bulldogs won NJCAA Division II Region IV District D to advance to the regional round of the national tournament, where the season progressed into the national quarterfinals. A tough schedule awaits coach Darrell Scott’s team, which lost second team All-American Ashley Huddleston off a squad that returns six players from last season’s powerhouse.

-- compiled by Paul Trembacki

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