Some coaches are fond of saying it’s not how you start a season, but how you finish.

Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball coach Matt Maloney hopes his team starts next season like it finished the last one.

“We’re excited,” Maloney said. “We played well, especially in the second half of the year.”

Indeed, the Huskies reeled off a nine-game winning streak and won 12 of their last 15 games, losing to Kenwood in a Class 4A regional final to finish 17-10.

OPRF graduated only two starters and brings back a nice blend of promising young players and a few seasoned veterans.

“We have a wealth of experience back,” Maloney said. “Five of our top seven players return.

“If we could get some more players to step up and deepen the team so we can lengthen the rotation, we’ll be excited. We want to speed things up to do more pressure. That depends on our depth.”

While that remains to be determined, the front-line talent is impressive. Senior Cameron Gross, the Huskies’ leading scorer and rebounder, is the top returner. The 6-foot-4 forward recently was offered by Judson University and is being recruited by several Division II and NAIA schools.

Gross and 6-4 junior Malachi Ross give OPRF the foundation of an athletic front line, which also may include 6-5 sophomore Charlie Hoehne.

But the backcourt might be even better. Guards Dashon Enoch, Isaiah Fuller and 6-6 swingman Jared Scott have just begun to scratch the surface of their potential.

Scott had knee surgery in January but returned to action in June. He’s one of the most versatile players in the West Suburban Conference and drawing recruiting interest from several Division I schools including Brown, Northeastern, Maine, Boston University, Western Illinois and Central Connecticut State.

Enoch, a 6-0 sophomore, earned a starting spot as a freshman midway through last season and Fuller, a 6-1 junior, just completed a breakout summer.

“I haven’t seen a guy have such growth from the start of the summer to the end in a long time,” Maloney said about Fuller. “He’s made significant strides in all areas.

“He’s strong at both ends and he was phenomenal. (Illinois State) is recruiting him as a point guard.”

Enoch seems to be following the path blazed by 2016 Fenwick graduate Mike Smith, who started as a freshman and wound up runner-up in the voting for Illinois Mr. Basketball last winter and will play at Columbia.

“(Enoch) was out most of the summer with an ankle injury but he had a great start to the summer,” Maloney said. “He is a great on-the-ball defender for us. Defensively he’s dominant and now he’s working on his outside shooting.”

Even without Enoch, the Huskies had an impressive summer. They compiled a 5-1 record at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, losing only to Morgan Park and winning the second-place bracket by defeating West Aurora and St. Joseph.

OPRF also went 3-1 at a camp at Illinois State and had wins over Belleville Althoff and Peoria Richwoods.

All the while, Maloney had them focused on creating offense from defense.

“We call it ‘Huskie Havoc,'” Maloney said. “Controlled chaos is what we’re trying to do on the defensive side of the ball.

“We want to make things uncomfortable so we can get turnovers and create more opportunities to get out on fast breaks and use our speed.”

OPRF by the numbers

Huskies’ stats leaders during 2015-16 season (All 4 players return next season)

#14 Cam Gross: 16.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 54% shooting 47 steals

#20 Jared Scott: 9.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 50% shooting

#15 Dashon Enoch: 7.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 30 steals

#23 Isaiah Fuller: 3 PPG, 2.1 assists per game, 2.1 RPG

 

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