A memorable season recently concluded, but it’s never too early to take a sneak peek at next year.
Individual players will step up and emerge as the spring and summer plays out, and we will get a better feel for teams in June. But here is a way-too-early top 10 (listed alphabetically) for a season that is still many months away.
Everyone returns from a team that won 24 games this past season, headlined by all-area point guard Ahmad Henderson (15.2 ppg). He’s led the Crusaders in scoring in each of the past two seasons.
A plethora of returning juniors will be joining Henderson, including perimeter scorer Nick Niego (10.5 ppg), 6-3 Peter McShane (7.3 ppg) and some size and length with 6-6 Khalil Ross (10.5 ppg), 6-6 Ryan Kenney (4 ppg) and 6-6 Jayden Watson (6.5 ppg).
The sophomores won the Catholic League and finished 24-4 overall while sophomore guard Tre Dowdell averaged 5.3 points at the varsity level.
When you look at the record (26-7) and accomplishments of the past season, it could be argued coach Mike Oliver’s team overachieved a bit.
The Condors will have a lot back, including unheralded but impactful Jeremy Harrington. While the 6-5 junior was the backbone of this year’s team, sophomore guard Carlos Harris has the look of an emerging star in the city.
Big man Chikasi Ofoma, a physical presence inside at 6-7, and guard Shawn Brown are two other returning starters.
Aside from a sectional upset loss to Lemont, everything went just about perfect for the Hawks this past season while winning 26 games, especially considering coach Don Houston didn’t return a single starter.
But next year there will be a wealth of experience returning.
The Hawks will have an abundance of size up front with a pair of returning 6-7 juniors, Matthew Moore and Darrion Baker, along with 6-4 sophomore Nyzir Duncan. All three either started or played major minutes this past season.
The backcourt is set with junior Bryce Tillery and up-and-coming sophomore Isaiah Green, who were both double-figure scorers this past season.
Fresh off winning the first sectional title in program history, coach Mike Irvin has a bonafide state title contender returning.
There is a surplus of overall talent and big-name prospects in the program, including two of the best juniors, dynamic scoring guard Darrin Ames and versatile 6-7 Davius Loury, in the state. Freshman Bryce Heard is on the verge of becoming a young star.
Quietly, coach Phil LaScala’s team won 27 games this season, including a 13-1 mark in the North Suburban Conference. Lake Forest’s season ended with a sectional championship game loss to St. Patrick.
The Scouts return arguably the best returning shooter in the state in 6-6 Asa Thomas, one of the top players in the state with high-major offers. The supporting cast will be strong with the return of sophomores Tommie Aberle and Bolurin Taiwo and junior Anthony Mordini.
This team arrived a bit early, winning regional and sectional titles without a senior contributing in a significant way.
There is pivotal backcourt experience with Rokas Castillo and Matas Castillo and a budding star in sophomore Nojus Indrusaitis. Surround those three with valuable role players who gained a ton of big-game experience late in the season and Lemont enters next year with some lofty expectations.
Even with the departure of last year’s Player of the Year, Max Christie, the Mustangs still rolled to 28 wins and a regional title behind junior Cameron Christie.
It stung to have the season end in a blowout loss to New Trier in the sectional, but next year could be the best team coach Kevin Katovich will have during this six-year run of Christie brother basketball in Rolling Meadows.
While the loss of senior Orlando Thomas will be felt, Cameron Christie returns as one of the elite players in the state. Plus, 6-4 big man Foster Ogbonna will be a seasoned veteran next year and there is a ton of upside in the return of 6-6 freshman Ian Miletic, 6-7 junior Mark Nikolich-Wilson and 6-7 junior Tsvet Sotirov.
The progress and growth of big men Miles Rubin and Wesley Rubin over the past year has been quite measurable. If the 6-8 juniors make a similar jump over the next year the Wolverines will boast a game-altering frontline.
Jalen Griffith will take on more responsibility and a bigger role in the backcourt with the departure of Jaylen Drane and Aviyon Morris. And keep an eye on a pair of youngsters, freshman Ameer Morrow and sophomore Kenric Mosby coming up from the lower levels.
After finally getting a full season of development and continuity under its belt, coach Roshawn Russell’s team is set to take a significant step.
When you bring back the top two prospects in the Class of 2023, a pair of future high-major players, it’s a heck of a start. Yes, it all begins with the talented tandem of 6-9 James Brown and 6-8 Morez Johnson.
Kaiden Space will be a seasoned senior at point guard while promising freshman Melvin Bell will be a star sophomore.
The loss of a pair of all-state 6-8 players in AJ Casey and Xavier Amos will certainly be felt for the Class 4A state runner-up. But the firepower is still there for the Dolphins to be one of the best teams in the state, starting with returning point guard Dalen Davis.
Both 6-6 Daniel Johnson and physical guard Marcus Pigram are Division I prospects and return, while talented freshman Antonio Munoz will add a new dimension next season.