Times are good around the Oak Park and River Forest High School boys basketball program. The Huskies went 23-6 last season, highlighted by a 13-0 record in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division. The undefeated run in the West Suburban Conference (created in the early 1980s) was a first for the program.
During the 2016-2017 campaign, OPRF won the Riverside-Brookfield Thanksgiving Classic title, along with conference and regional championships, en route to the Huskies’ first sectional final appearance since 1976. OPRF upset Chicago powerhouse Curie in the semifinals before falling 73-55 to eventual state champion Whitney Young in the Proviso East Sectional.
The Huskies’ recent accomplishments raise the obvious question: What’s next?
While that query will be answered over the course of the upcoming season, the Huskies certainly have the players in place to make more history.
OPRF returns four seniors who have attracted recruiting interest from Division I and II college basketball programs. Over the past two years, the seniors have won 47 games with a cumulative 25-1 record in the West Suburban Silver.
All-conference players Dashon Enoch, Chase Robinson and Anthony Roberts will lead OPRF this season. Enoch (12 points, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals per game in 2017) is an effective combo guard with great athleticism. He’s also an excellent defensive player with multiple years of varsity experience. Robinson, a transfer from Marist last year, and Roberts emerged last season as key contributors. Robinson (11 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg) and Roberts (10 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.5 spg) are not only stat-sheet stuffers, but bring strong intangibles like toughness and competitiveness to the lineup.
Charlie Hoehne, a returning honorable mention all-conference player, averaged nine points and five rebounds last season. He has signed with Rockhurst University in Kansas City. The Hawks are a perennial power in Division II basketball.
As if having four versatile veterans isn’t enough cause for optimism, the Huskies have several other players primed to make significant contributions.
Sophomores Isaiah Barnes and Josh Smith have considerable upside. The 6-foot-6 Barnes (younger brother of former OPRF star Daniel Barnes) already has five Division I offers. At 6-foot-3, Barnes led the sophomore squad in scoring last season. At 6-7, junior Justin Cross combines skills, size, and length. Senior guards Langston Robinson and Dan Francis bolster the backcourt.
“These five guys will add length, versatility and depth to an already talented and senior-laden squad,” OPRF coach Matt Maloney said. “We will have depth, versatility, skilled size and tremendous guard play, but we will need to improve.”
With a rotation of players perfectly suited for their style of play, expect OPRF to fulfill its signature “Huskie Havoc.” The approach features a variety of high-intensity defensive looks designed to force opponents into turnovers and create transition scoring opportunities for OPRF. While the Huskies prefer a faster pace, they are capable of executing in either the half court or on the fast break.
“We are going to be pushing pace all game,” Maloney said. “We have to be able to dictate the tempo while playing smart and under control.”
OPRF is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as conference champs, but West Suburban Silver games are typically a grind with so many well-prepared teams and coaches. Look for York and Downers Grove North as the top contenders to dethrone the Huskies, with Lyons Township, Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central and Proviso West vying for conference positioning as well.
The Huskies open the season at the Riverside-Brookfield Thanksgiving Classic (Nov. 20-24).
Other notable games include Fenwick in the Chicago Elite Classic (Nov. 30) at Wintrust Arena, at St. Patrick (Dec. 31), and at home against Evanston (Feb. 2). OPRF also will play at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament (Dec. 27-29).