It’s an all new look the OPRF boys basketball team will showcase beginning Monday night at the Lane Tech Thanksgiving Tournament.

With a new head coach in Matt Maloney and no returning starters back from last season’s 24-6 squad, the Huskies begin the season anew. Maloney, a longtime assistant coach at the lower level, replaces the retired Al Allen, who spent 21 years at the helm before calling it quits after last season which showcased the play of Iman Shumpert-now at Georgia Tech.

Not only is Shumpert gone, but such standouts as Daniel Barnes (Eastern Michigan University) and Adam Taylor have also graduated. The only three players returning to varsity from last year’s team are De’Angelo Speech (6-foot-4), guard), Matt Salter (6-1, guard) and Zach Peterson (5-8, guard), none of which played in any varsity games. But Maloney is optimistic that with a solid junior crew and a few seasoned seniors, the Huskies can make some headway this year while certainly building on the future.

Different from most OPRF teams, this season’s Huskies are big. Junior Jeff Dirkin, who is expected to start at center this season and led the sophomore team to an 18-7 record last year, is 6-8, while classmate Aaron Levin is 6-6 and 265 pounds. Levin literally puts the power in power forward. Another junior expected to see significant court time is Andrew Godbold, a 6-3 215-pound forward.

Maloney will also have his choice in utilizing athletes from other sports in Marty Finnegan and Vida Durazo. The seniors-Finnegan of football notoriety and Durazo of soccer-are new to the varsity basketball team.

“These two guys should expect to see some major minutes,” said Maloney. “They are scrappy players that bring some much-needed toughness to this team.”

Maloney added that freshman Jordan Foster will also receive extended playing time at the point-guard position.

A third consecutive West Suburban (Silver) Conference title is a long shot for this young team, but not entirely out of the question. The Silver Division is not as strong as it has been in year’s past. Proviso West and Hinsdale Central look to be the main favorites right now.

“I think we have a legitimate shot at competing for another title, if not we will be battling it out in the upper bracket of the conference,” said Maloney. “Glenbard West and Downers Grove North are in the same boat as we are with a lot of young talent.”

A big game the Huskies are no doubt looking forward to is a home match-up on Dec. 20 against cross-town rival Fenwick (7:30 p.m.). Last season, the Huskies defeated the Friars 51-38 in front of a packed fieldhouse of approximately 2,500.

“I’m glad we started this rivalry back up,” said Maloney, who played on the OPRF basketball team as a student at the school. “I played against Fenwick and I know that it’s great for the community and the student body. It’s an intense but friendly rivalry.”

Up Close

Key returner: See below
Newcomers: Basically the entire team
2007 record: 24-6 overall, 10-2 back-to-back WSC Silver Division champs
Tidbit: Growing pains likely before Huskies find rhythm.

2008-09 Home Schedule

Tues., Dec. 9 vs. Walther Lutheran, 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 12 vs. Downers Grove N., 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 20 vs. Fenwick, 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 9 vs. Hinsdale C., 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Jan 23 vs. Lyons, 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 30 vs. York, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 7 vs. Lincoln Park, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 14 vs. Proviso West, 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 27 vs. Glenbard West, 7:30 p.m.

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...