New Fenwick High School boys basketball coach Tony Young is excited about the upcoming season, but he’ll have a largely young and inexperienced roster. There are — for now — just three returning players from a team that finished 13-3 in the pandemic-abbreviated 2020-21 season who have played significant varsity minutes: senior forward Gabe Madej and senior guards Denium Juette and T.J. Stephenson.
Moreover, Juette’s debut will be delayed as he is a starting cornerback on the football team, which plays in the IHSA Class 5A title game Nov. 27.
“We’ll be young,” Young said. “But we’re also talented. I’m excited about where we are and where we’re going.”
With seven underclassmen on the roster having no varsity experience, along with missing several players due to football, the Friars could very well get off to a slow start.
“Hopefully, we get a few of those [football)] guys back,” said Young, who was Marmion Academy’s coach the past four seasons. “We’re waiting to see what happens.”
Yet, it’s the play of the underclassmen that has Young enthusiastic about the season. For instance, he describes D.J. Porter as “a big-time freshman.” There are also five sophomores, four of whom played on the sophomore team as freshmen last year, who provide cause for optimism: Germaine Benson, Graham Lathan, Landon Rivers, Brandale Steward, and Reggie Taylor.
In what has become an annual expectation for the program, Fenwick has a grueling schedule. The Chicago Catholic League always presents difficulty for the Friars, and this season is no different with teams such as St. Ignatius (ranked No. 4 in the Chicago Sun-Times preseason poll), St. Rita (No. 8), Brother Rice (No. 11), DePaul Prep (No. 14), and Mount Carmel (No. 17) on the slate.
“I’m excited about the opportunity with our schedule,” Young said. “It allows us to challenge ourselves to be prepared for the end of the season. We want to be in a position come February and March where we can have success.”
Other season highlights include the Proviso West Holiday Tournament on Dec. 27-30, the Martin Luther King Day Shootout at Fenwick on Jan. 17 (the Friars face top-ranked Glenbard West), a non-conference game versus national power Chaminade Catholic in St. Louis on Jan. 29, and the annual crosstown game with rival Oak Park and River Forest High School, which will be held Dec.3 at Credit One Arena (formerly UIC Pavilion) as part of the Chicago Elite Classic.
“Everybody’s excited about the OPRF game,” said Young. “It’s a community thing, and being in that environment is good. We just want good competition.”
The Friars open the season Nov. 24 at home against Orr, followed by another home game with Morgan Park on Nov. 29.