COMMENTARY: BOYS HOOPS
We’re at the turn in the 2017-18 boys basketball season.
And how are the teams in The North Shore Weekend circulation area doing at the midpoint of the season?
Here’s our take:
- Loyola Academy (14-2). The Ramblers are … red hot. After beating St. Viator on Jan. 8, they have won eight straight games. They spent their holiday break winning the Gulfcoast Holiday Hoopfest in Naples, Florida. They never stop bringing the hard-core defensive pressure. And they are emerging quickly on the offensive end.
- New Trier (9-2). With twin towers Ciaran Brayboy (6-foot-9) and Spencer Boehm (6-8), the Trevians are extremely difficult to match up against. They have cooled off a little — but only a little — after starting the season 8-0.
- Highland Park (8-6). After beginning the season 0-4, the Giants have found their rhythm. They’re led by a talented, tight-knit senior class. They trust one another and play exceeding well together. They went 3-1 in the tough Jack Tosh Holiday Classic in York.
- Glenbrook South (6-8). The Titans, who struggled miserably early (1-6 start), are finding their way and adjusting well to new head coach Phil Ralston. They went 3-1 at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. Beating St. Viator in overtime was purely unexpected. Or, was it?
- Glenbrook North (10-4). Veteran head coach David Weber has assembled a deep and dangerous squad. The Spartans have a variety of players who can fill it up on any given night.
Player of the Year Candidates
- Loyola’s Kevin Cunningham. Long-distance shooting ace was named the MVP at the tourney in Naples. The senior guard is a true zone buster. Moreover, he has developed into a complete player.
- Highland Park’s Ziv Tal. Three-year starter continues to add “stuff” to his game. He earned all-tourney honors at the 32-team tourney at York. He plays with plenty of savvy. And he has the ability to take over a game.
- New Trier’s Andrew Kirkpatrick. A three-year varsity player, “Captain Kirk” plays the game without fear. The gritty senior guard has improved his ball skills. He lives for “the last shot”.
- Lake Forest’s Ben Gibson. The 6-6 senior, who only played sparingly a year ago, came out firing and quickly established himself as a player to watch. He’s been a revelation for coach Phil LaScala and the Scouts (5-10). An inside-outside player, he can rack up points in a hurry.
- Loyola’s Pete Mangan. Versatile senior is a winner on the court. He’s daring with the ball in his hands, and he’s hard-nosed on the defensive end.
- New Trier’s Brian Conaghan. He’s become a totally different player. He leads. He scores. He guards. And he’ll battle you to the bitter end.
- Glenbrook North’s Evan Barnes. Senior guard possesses a sweet-looking three-point shot. He used perfect form to hit eight straight threes and score 30 in a win over Grayslake North on Dec. 19.
- Highland Park’s Noah Shutan. Known for dropping dimes — he had 10 assists in a win over Sandburg in the York Tournament — the senior guard plays the game in effortless fashion. A star shortstop on the HP baseball team, he’s silky smooth on both ends of the court.
- Glenbrook South’s Will King. Dependable junior guard doesn’t get rattled in tight situations. He possesses a high basketball IQ which allows him to make good decisions. He’s that guy — a coach on the floor. He earned all-tourney honors at the Hardwood Classic.
- New Trier’s Griffin Ryan. Coaches love players like Ryan. The 6-5 junior plays the game the right way with a terrific attitude. You can count on him to get a key basket or rebound.
Potential Breakout Players
- Loyola’s Vahe Kalayjian. Senior guard is a fine shooter who could fill a key need (an additional scoring source) for the Ramblers.
- Glenbrook South’s Jimmy McMahon. Gutsy two-sport athlete — all-conference soccer player in the fall — keeps raising his level of play. He’s finding his role on this wildly improved GBS squad.
- Highland Park’s Jonny Koenig. The senior guard finally broken into the starting lineup this winter. He’s looking more and more comfortable all the time. He could be vital to HP’s success.
- Lake Forest’s Jed Thomas. There’s a lot to like with the 6-3 senior point guard. He’s a do-it-all kind of player, who can really shoot, pass and rebound. Expect him to step up big in the second half.
- Lake Forest Academy’s Matey Juric and Vasilije Vukmanovic. The two seniors, who hail from Canada, are a fun pair to watch. Both are incredibly athletic and play the game at breakneck speed.
- Loyola’s Bennett Kwiecinski and Jordan Kwiecinski. The 6-7 twins are quickly adjusting to the varsity game. The sophomores are mobile with extensive skill sets. They are learning how to get after it. Dad (Dennis) was a star player at Evanston High School who went on to play four years at the University of Texas-Arlington.
- New Trier’s Boehm and Brayboy. The killer B’s are not only big, but they’re talented. Against most teams, they are impenetrable in the paint.
- Highland Park’s Tal and Daniel Michelon. They give the Giants a terrific 1-2 punch. Both have range and are excellent at shooting off the dribble.
- Glenbrook North’s Kellen Witherell and Frank Siegien. Having a pair of 6-5 players in the starting lineup is always good — especially when they’re good at scoring and rebounding.
- North Shore Country Day’s Mazeed Olewuh and Braden Adamson-Tate. Olewuh, a junior guard, and Adamson-Tate, a senior guard, earned all-tourney recognition at the Christian Liberty Academy Tournament. Olewuh made 14 three-pointers and averaged 17.0 points per game in the four-game set. Adamson-Tate averaged 10 points and eight assists in the tourney.
• Glenbrook South’s Gavin Morse. Like McMahon, he’s a soccer standout for the Titans. He’s got a nice feel for the game.
• Lake Forest’s Sean Trkla. Senior guard brings energy to the court. He’s an effort guy. A hustler. He’s steady on both ends of the court.
• Highland Park’s Tyler Gussis. He excels on the baseball field, while he’s a valuable blue-collar player on the basketball court. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, while he plays much bigger than his 6-1 frame. He’s more than willing to do the dirty work underneath.
• Lake Forest Academy’s Benjamin Canady. He continues to draw raves from the LFA coaching staff. He’s a glue guy for the Caxys (8-4).
• Glenbrook North’s Max Knebelkamp. Senior guard is extremely athletic who finds a way to help his team succeed. He’s averaging 8.0 points per game, while he leads GBN in assists and steals.
Players on the Rise
- Glenbrook North’s Brian Johnson. A 6-5 guard/forward, his game is multidimensional. He claimed all-tourney honors in the GBN Thanksgiving Tournament.
- Glenbrook South’s Dominick Martinelli. Just a sophomore, the 6-2 forward has a lot of upside. Continuing to play at a high level at the varsity level is not a stretch for him.
- Glenbrook South’s Mac Hubbard. This 6-2 junior, who played at Loyola last year, can light it up from the outside. Teammates trust him to take the big shot.
- Lake Forest Academy’s Brandon Weston. A 6-4 freshman from Brooklyn, New York, he could be someone special for the Caxys.
- Loyola’s Connor Barrett. A true offensive threat, he keeps getting better and better. He was an all-tourney at the invite in Naples.