It was a particularly rough last six games of the season for the OPRF boys basketball team, but the future of the program certainly looks bright.
With their 67-52 loss to York in the semifinal of the Class 4A Oak Park Regional last week, the Huskies’ season concluded on a six-game losing skid. The team’s last victory came on Feb. 5 when OPRF clobbered Ridgewood 66-43 in nonconference action. Two of the six losses came by way of West Suburban (Silver) Conference foe York, who tallied three victories against the Huskies this season.
Although the rough ending left the team with a 10-13 overall record, there’s reason to be optimistic about the future of the program. Starting guard Ka’Darryl Bell and forward Gabe Levin were selected all-conference and are expected back for their senior years next season. Also expected back to the lineup next year are Steven Waddell, Thomas Ross and Jakari Cammon, all promising sophomores. Cammon’s play, particularly in the final game of the season where he scored 10 points off the bench, caught the eye of OPRF head coach Matt Maloney.
“That was the best game of the season for Jakari,” said Maloney of the speedy 5-8 guard’s performance against York last week. “He was tremendous on both ends of the floor. He is an unbelievable competitor that raises the energy level of the team. I was proud of his maturation over the course of the year and expect even better performances next season.”
While Maloney procured the services of three sophomores on varsity this season, their classmates didn’t suffer much from the absences. The sophomore team finished 19-3, proving that next year’s varsity squad should have the talent to be competitive.
“I was impressed with what was said in the locker room after the game from our underclassmen,” said Maloney in regard to the team’s post-game talk after falling to York. “Now they have to work in the off-season to reach their goals. At one point, we had two juniors and three sophomores on the floor in crunch time. That experience will bode well for next season.”
The Huskies, who jumped out to a 3-0 start against Silver Division opponents but finished 5-7 in the conference, lose three seniors to graduation who saw extensive playing time. Josh Lang, Steve Ramsey and Brian Miller are currently mulling over the possibility of playing at Division III colleges.
One question that remains up in the air is whether or not former head coach-turned assistant Al Allen will return to the team next season. Allen, 59, who suffered a stroke in early January, returned to the team in a limited capacity just two weeks before the end of the season. He coached the Huskies for 21 years and finished with a career record of 364-193 before retiring and handing the reins over to Maloney three years ago. This was his first season as an assistant under Maloney, who welcomes his former coach’s return.
“We have not talked much about coaching next year, but the invitation is always open for his return,” said Maloney, who played under Allen in the mid 1990s. “His wisdom and experience benefited the coaching staff and the players.”