The preseason basketball lists are coming out in droves. With those lists, we get an early picture of what’s to come in the upcoming season.
That includes plenty of seniors who will finally quit sharing the spotlight and begin to take center stage.
These are seniors who made an impact last season, some even in a pretty big way. Yet these players are maybe still a bit underrated and certainly under-appreciated overall.
Quentin Jones, Marian Catholic
After averaging 13.5 points last year as a junior, the underrated senior category is an appropriate list for Jones. He was very good last year as the season progressed, but Jones is capable of taking a massive step forward as a dominating figure this year. And that’s why others will finally take notice.
The multi-dimensional 6-4 Jones can impact the game in so many ways. Plus, the rising confidence he now has after a stellar summer and signing with Cal-Poly enhances his chance of making a larger impact.
Jones can slash and finish at the rim, and he’s improving as a shooter. There is the potential to be a defensive star with his size, length and athleticism.
Matas and Rokas Castillo, Lemont
There is a great thing going in Lemont, including a sectional championship and 27 wins a year ago. Twin brothers Matas and Rokas Castillo have been instrumental in that success and look to keep it rolling, despite the departure of junior standout Nojus Indrusaitis who transferred to St. Rita.
The Castillo brothers, who are both headed to Division II Wisconsin-Parkside, are two entertaining and competitive guards. They play with energy, toughness and bring a ton of varsity experience as four-year varsity players. And they’ll keep Lemont relevant this season.
Jeremy Harrington, Curie
The big-bodied 6-5 forward may not be the most elegant or breathtaking player, but he’s as consistent and productive of a player as you’ll find. He was Curie’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer a year ago.
Harrington just goes about his business in a no-nonsense approach and gets a whole lot done along the way, both around the basket and knocking down shots from the perimeter. The reliably productive Harrington doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves, but he is a large reason why Curie remains a top 10 team.
Cooper LePage, Crystal Lake South
Maybe the Fox Valley Conference still goes through Burlington Central and its rising star, Drew Scharnowski. They did go a perfect 18-0 in league play last year. But with the return of Cooper LePage in the backcourt, Crystal Lake South is at least the co-favorite.
The 6-1 guard put up numbers last year in relative obscurity while BC gobbled up the headlines. LePage, known best for the toughness and competitiveness he plays with, piled up numbers across the board. He averaged 13.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.4 steals. He shot 37 percent from three — knocking down 63 threes on the year — while being a marked man on the perimeter.
Now he’s one of the best-kept secrets in the Chicago area and set for a big senior year. He’s on pace to score 1,000-plus points, 500-plus rebounds and 400-plus assists in his career. He signed with Northern Michigan earlier this month, a Division II school where both his parents played. His dad, Matt LePage, begins his 11th season as head coach at Crystal Lake South.
Cameron Williford, Hyde Park
It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle in the Public League’s big, bad Red-South/Central with the likes of Simeon, Kenwood and Curie. But Williford quietly put up 15 points and six assists a game as a junior.
More importantly, the smooth 6-0 point guard plays with an ease and calm while running a team.
First-year coach Jerrel Oliver will be leaning heavily on his senior backcourt of Williford and Damarion Morris as Hyde Park hopes to surprise.
Tyler Swierczek, Palatine
Palatine is a sneaky good team in the northwest suburbs and Swierczak is a big reason why. The unheralded 6-4 senior played a big part in helping the Pirates to 19 wins a year ago, averaging 13 points and four rebounds.
A versatile wing with a feel for scoring the basketball. Swierzcek can put the ball in the hole in a variety of ways, stretching the floor from three while knocking down mid-range, pull-ups and fadeaways jumpers.
Jordan Brown, Bloom
Brown plays fast and puts pressure on opposing teams. He disrupts defensively and plays hard. Yet the 6-2 point guard is often a forgotten player in the area.
Not only can Brown get his points from multiple spots on the floor, he brings attributes — court sense, defense, toughness, and capability of making clutch plays — that help a team win. He averaged 11 points, four rebounds and three assists as a junior last season and should only improve those numbers as a senior.
Ryan Cohen, Glenbrook North
All Cohen has done the last two years is produce. But despite averaging 17 points as a sophomore and 15 as a junior, Cohen’s ultra-production has come with little fanfare.
That’s partly due to Glenbrook North not quite being able to break through — the Spartans won 23 games but finished a distant third in the Central Suburban League South and lost in the regional.
However, Cohen and Company are legit contenders in the CSL South and a ranked team heading into 2022-23. The highly-efficient shooter — Cohen made 85 threes last year while shooting 46 percent — will be a known commodity this year.