UPDATE: Ka’Darryl Bell has had the cast removed from his injured right wrist but will not play at the Pontiac Tournament, according to head coach Matt Maloney. Bell will undergo physical therapy and Maloney said he hopes to have his point guard back against Lyons on Jan. 14. Steve Waddell is also out with a broken hand, as is Dan Moon, who has a broken growth plate in his ankle, according to Maloney. “We hope to be back at full strength by the end of January.”

With teams such as No. 1-ranked Simeon and fifth-ranked Warren, among others, finding any breathing room at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament may be a difficult task for the OPRF boys basketball team. But a lengthy stay in Pontiac surely isn’t out of the question.

The Huskies (8-1) open the tournament against St. Charles North on Wednesday night (9 p.m.). A win would pit the team up against either Pontiac or fourth-seeded Peoria Manual on Thursday (7:30 p.m.). If OPRF falls to North they’ll play at 6 p.m. in the consolation bracket on Thursday.

St. Charles North is similar to OPRF as far as having length — and depth — at the post positions. The North Stars boast 6-foot-8 center Kyle Nelson, who tallied a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in a 53-41 loss to Elgin earlier this month. The team also has three other players 6-5 or taller.

“We play a tough St. Charles North team that was a pre-season top 25 team,” said OPRF head coach Matt Maloney before his team departed for Pontiac. “They have quality guard play and they have size in the post that will make for some difficult match-ups. If we win that game, we will most likely take on Peoria Manual, the pre-season top ranked squad in [Class] 3A. The tournament is absolutely loaded this year. It is clearly the best tournament in the state.”

OPRF’s big men TK Mattox (6-7), Thomas Ross (6-8), Virgil Allen (6-9), along with the ultra-athletic Gabe Levin (6-7), should give St. Charles North fits inside. But without Bradley-bound Ka’Darryl Bell in the lineup, the Huskies could struggle against the remaining high-caliber competition. Maloney said Bell, who suffered torn ligaments in his shooting wrist during a game against Walther Lutheran on Dec. 3 and hasn’t played since, had his cast removed before Christmas, and it was possible he could be available for the tournament.

“There are other factors as in will he need to rehab the wrist awhile and he’ll need to get his timing back,” said Maloney before the holidays. “We’re hopeful, but we don’t want to rush anything.”

The Huskies haven’t struggled without their point guard, going 5-1 since the injury. Mattox, Levin, Alex Nesdinal and Allen have all had their moments in the sun. Mattox came off the bench to score 15 points and grab nine rebounds in OPRF’s victory over Hinsdale Central. Levin led the Huskies past cross-town rival Fenwick with 18 points. Earlier in the month, Nesdinal erupted for 19 points to lead the Huskies past York. Junior Jakari Cammon has done an excellent job at the point in Bell’s absence.

OPRF returns home on Jan. 6 to take on Proviso 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...