By Melvin Tate
Not only are OPRF and Fenwick among the top teams in Chicagoland, they also compete in two of the area's most competitive boys basketball leagues. Here's how the West Suburban Silver and Chicago Catholic League Blue look like entering the season according to Melvin Tate:
West Suburban Silver Outlook
OPRF has established a stronghold on the conference having won the last three titles. Although the Huskies graduated four key starters, they the favorites yet again.
York should be OPRF's main challenger. The Dukes knocked off the Huskies for the York Regional championship last spring, and their unique style of play allows them to stay competitive.
The rest of the league is up for grabs. Both Lyons Township and Hinsdale Central always have large rosters and are well-coached. Conversely, Downers Grove North and Glenbard West each lost several key players to graduation and are rebuilding. And Proviso West is always a tough out thanks to its athleticism.
Top players: DGN: Demos, G, JR; Glenbard West: Braden Huff, F, SO; Hinsdale Central: Ryan Isaacson, F, SR; Lyons Township: Grant Niego, G, SR; OPRF: Isaiah Barnes, F, JR; Justin Cross, F, SR; Josh Smith, F, JR; York: Nate Shockey, G, SR
Did you know?: Downers Grove North's junior class has lost a total of three games in its first two seasons. The Trojans return no experience from last year's Sweet Sixteen team but should gradually improve as the season progresses.
Predicted order of finish: OPRF, York, Lyons Township, Hinsdale Central, Downers Grove North, Glenbard West, Proviso West.
Catholic League Blue Outlook
DePaul Prep, Fenwick, and Loyola Academy appear to be the top contenders in this well-balanced league. Each team has an unique blend of veteran experience and promising newcomers.
DePaul Prep is the defending champion but losing All-State guard Perry Cowan to graduation is sure to have an impact. Yet the Rams still have plenty of talent, including a three-year starter in guard Lance Mosley and 6'9 junior forward Brian Matthews. Loyola may have the best frontcourt duo in brothers Bennett and Jordan Kwiecinski, and the Ramblers' Princeton-like tempo on both ends of the floor gives opponents fits.
Elsewhere in the league, Brother Rice lost all-area guard Marquise Kennedy to graduation, but the Crusaders could still factor in the title race as there is plenty of depth and shooting returning. St. Ignatius and St. Laurence each returns good guards, and De La Salle's hard-nosed defense keeps games competitive. And then there is St. Joseph, which will have a new head coach for the first time since 1969. Bill Riley takes over for Gene Pingatore, who died in June.
Top players: Brother Rice: DeAndre Hagan, G, SR; Luke Moustakas, F, JR; DePaul Prep: Brian Matthews, F, JR; Lance Mosley, G, SR; Fenwick: Kaden Cobb, G, SO; Bryce Hopkins, F, JR; Trey Pettigrew, G, SO; Loyola Academy: Bennett Kwiecinski, F, SR; Jordan Kwiecinski, F, SR; St. Ignatius: Daniel Florey, G, SR; St. Laurence: Trey Davis, G, SR; Finn Walsh, G, SR
Did you know?: Pingatore finished his 50-year career with a record of 1,035 wins and 383 losses, along with two state championships (AA in 1999 and 3A in 2015). No other coach in Illinois history has won 900 or more games.
Predicted order of finish: Loyola, DePaul Prep, Fenwick, Brother Rice, St. Laurence, St. Joseph, St. Ignatius, De La Salle.
Answer Book 2019
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