The Public League’s basketball magic touch has worn off.
Orr was the last Public League school to win a state title. That was a small school Class 2A championship in 2018. The last Class 4A title the league captured was back in 2017 when Young beat Simeon.
Since then Belleville West has won two titles, Glenbard West one and Moline last year. That ended a dominant run from the Public League, which won six consecutive Class 4A state titles from 2009 to 2014 and eight of nine titles from 2009 to 2017.
Will top-ranked Kenwood finish the season in Champaign and bring the Public League back to prominence?
“Of course that’s the goal,” Broncos coach Mike Irvin said. “But I really want to push that we are students first and athletes second. The basketball team has an overall GPA of 3.60. The players don’t get enough praise for their achievements in the classroom.”
Will the book smarts pay off on the court? The Broncos have great size, which is a rarity this season, with 6-5 Chris Riddle (DePaul), 6-5 Calvin Robins and 6-11 Jaden Smith (Arizona State). Aleks Alston, a 6-9 junior shooter, is the x-factor. Much will depend on how quickly sophomore guard Rajan Roberts and freshman guard Devin Cleveland mature.
There isn’t any debate about the top player in the area. Illinois recruit Morez Johnson, who transferred after St. Rita’s team fell apart, instantly makes the Wildcats a state title threat. How quickly can coach Tai Streets get this team of talented transfers on the same page? Senior Meyoh Swansy transferred from Romeoville, Isaiah Green from Kenwood and Chase Abraham from TF North.
3. Downers Grove North
Last season’s Cinderella story is a full-fledged power. Jack Stanton (Princeton) returned along with two other starters, guard Owen Thulin and 6-8 Jake Riemer. Coach Jim Thomas’ defensive schemes dominated Kenwood and Young in the playoffs and a talented junior class is ready to step up.
Another team that loaded up on transfers. Junior point guard JD Tyler and senior Carson Brownfield return from last year and are joined by transfers Gianni Cobb, Mac Hagemaster and Bryce Heard. Cobb is a dynamic guard, Hagemaster a 6-7 post presence and Heard, 6-5, may be the state’s top junior. Another group that may need time to jell.
5. Mount Carmel
Northwestern recruit Angelo Ciaravino was the summer’s breakout star. Tre Marks, a 6-5 senior, is joined by 6-6 Stevenson transfer Christian Uremovich. Expect junior Grant Best to step up and become a factor.
The Dolphins don’t have a ton of varsity experience but the talent level is as high as any team in the state. Antonio Munoz, a 6-6 junior, is back along with Damajay Richardson and Sean Brown. The star attraction is the dynamic sophomore class: Marquis Clark, Nasir Rankin, Ricoantonio D’Alessandro, Rykan Woo and Patrick Irvin.
Carlos Harris (UIC) is the city’s most experienced senior guard. He’s joined in the backcourt by Christian Brockett. Riverside-Brookfield transfer Will Gonzalez is a nice addition and a lot could depend on the evolution of 6-6 senior Taevion Collier’s ability on the boards.
Another sophomore-heavy group. Guards TJ Tate, Adoni Vassilakis and 6-7 Stephen Brown all played a lot last year and should be ready to take a step forward. Tough junior Achilles Anderson returns and 6-5 senior Darshawn Thomas has joined from Fenwick.
Tim Flowers takes over as coach of a brand-new group. The Wolverines should be one of the area’s most interesting squads. Seniors Rashad McKinnie and Ameer Morrow will step into bigger roles and are joined by two talented transfers, guard Dekwon Brown from Peoria and 6-4 sophomore Andre Tyler from St. Rita.
10. St. Ignatius
Junior Phoenix Gill sparkled in Champaign last year and is poised to become one of the city’s star attractions. Senior guard Reggie Ray is a major factor, 6-6 Justin Scott provides a post presence and keep an eye on 6-5 sophomore Chris Bolt, a transfer from Hinsdale South.
Junior guard Elijah Lovemore improved rapidly last season and leads a deep, athletic group including 6-4 Santana Flowers, 6-4 Jaden Clark and 6-3 Payton Edwards.
12. Brother Rice
The Crusaders were a fall league sensation. Senior guard Cale Cosme is one of the area’s most dependable point guards and he’s joined by 6-4 Tyler Wooten, 6-7 Zavier Fitch and junior guard Marcos Gonzalez.
13. DePaul Prep
Nearly everyone returns from the team that won the Class 2A title. Senior Jaylan McElroy is a 6-6 stat-sheet stuffer and junior Makai Kvamme showcased rock-solid point guard skills last season in Champaign.
Gene Heidkamp’s nearly all-new group is one of his most loaded. Gabe Sularski was the breakout sophomore of the summer. He’s joined by 6-9 junior Daniel Pauliukonis, 6-10 sophomore Colin Stack, sophomore guard Jayden Wright and returners Patrick Walsh and Parker Sulaver.
There’s already a tremendous amount of hype surrounding freshman Davion Thompson, who joins a solid group including guard Josh Aniceto and 6-6 junior JT Pettigrew.
16. De La Salle
Senior wings Tavariyuan Williams and Richard Lindsey can both score and are complemented nicely by guards Bryant Hedrick and Charles Barnes.
17. Lake Park
Cam Cerese is one of the area’s most consistent scorers and should lead a big step up for the Lancers. Almost everyone else returns from last season, including Tommy Rochford, Freddy Battaglia, Dennasio LaGioia and Pavle Magazin.
18. New Trier
Loaded with shooters. Seniors Ian Brown, Logan Feller and Colby Smith are back and big things are expected of a talented sophomore class that includes Christopher Kirkpatrick and Danny Houlihan.
19. Naperville North
Luke Williams is severely underrated in basketball. The Purdue football recruit is one of the area’s most dynamic players and both of his backcourt mates, Cole Arl and Bryce Welch, return along with senior Grant Montanari.
Four starters return for what should be a showcase year for Nick LoGalbo’s program. Shaheed Solebo is on track to be a Division I recruit and he’s joined by 6-8 forward Dalton Scantlebury and seniors Parker Williams and Jackson Labkon.
21. Glenbrook South
Phil Ralston has proven to be one of the area’s top coaches and he has plenty to work with in rugged 6-7 senior Nick Taylor.
22. Joliet West
Jeremiah Fears moved to Arizona, but plenty remains. Valparaiso recruit Justus McNair impacts a game in many ways. Expect 6-7 senior Drew King to be a major factor and Crete-Monee transfer Zion Gross, a junior, will make an impact.
23. St. Patrick
Coach Mike Bailey begins his 30th season at the helm with a solid core including senior AJ Thomas and juniors EJ Breland and Nevaeh Hawkins.
24. Glenbrook North
The Spartans should have one of the area’s best backcourts with Josh Fridman, Owen Giannoulias and Sam Lappin. Big man Patrick Schaller returns as well.
Illinois recruit Jason Jakstys, a 6-10 senior, provides a special dimension for the Foxes. Starters Jory Boley and Bryce Salek also return from last season’s 26-6 squad.