If you have been paying attention to our Boys Hoops Top 50 Countdown, then the “impact players” shouldn’t surprise you so we will be brief, but keep an eye on those players on the rise, all young men NOT in our preseason Top 50.
NOTE: The order of teams listed is Bounce’s personal predicted order of finish. Don’t sue me.
Illinois commit Luke Goode (17 ppg, 7 rpg) returns as one of the top players in the area and Homestead will bring back Grant Simmons, Andrew Leeper and Quinn Harmon alongside him. The Spartans’ height and length is a major mismatch problem as it was last year with quality wins over Blackhawk Christian and Norwell. Homestead came short of any titles last season, but a refocusing was in store for them and now they are prepared to rise back up the ranks. A helpful part in that is the transfer of high level Division 1 prospect Fletcher Loyer from Clarkston, Michigan.
“The Spartans are looking forward to a competitive season to prepare themselves for a long tournament run,” Homestead coach Chris Johnson said.
When you talk about SAC teams with a lot of length, Carroll stands solid. Their only player of consequence under 6-foot tall is senior Cody Burkey, a sharpshooter who averaged 5.9 points per game. He returns, as do starters in leading scorer Jalen Jackson (14.3 ppg) from the junior class and seniors Sam Strycker and Ryan Preston. Zach Castator rounds out a five man returning group after really coming on strong in the second half of the season for the Chargers, who were very close to cashing in on a conference title.
A four man newcomer group all land between 6-foot and 6-foot-8 with juniors Logan Lankenau (being the 6-9 center), AJ Bane and Keegan Rhoad stepping in. Sophomore Charlie Rudolph also joins the program for Outside the Huddle’s preseason #3 team.
South Side Archers
South Side will return five guys who played a lot last season and senior Austin Jordan, who missed all but five games with a torn ACL. Jordan’s ability to be up to speed could be a major catalyst for a balanced group. 6-foot-5 senior Robert Rembert will be called on more heavily, as will senior wing Xzaevyon Hollister. South Side’s junior class is led by Ashton Johnson and Jaylen Lattimore, who both have seen growth since their time coming from the middle school level, both high profile guys. Lamontrelle Manning finishes up the Archer returners, all of whom are pretty physical.
Freshman guard Cadell Wallace could really add a lot of energy as he joins this group. Juniors Derek Ruch, Jerry Thomas and Martin Vazquez will also vie for playing time. South Side was the #8 ranked team this preseason at Outside the Huddle.
Bishop Luers Knights
The road to defend their SAC title won’t be so easy for the Knights with what they lost versus what other teams retained. But at the forefront remains leading scorer from that team Naylon Thompson (16 ppg) and that is pretty solid place to start. Nick Thompson, Johnny Sewell and Lukas North will all return, but then there a lot of new faces to look forward to. Some of those new faces will be fresh off a state finals appearance in football including Carson Clark, Jayden Hill and Brody Glenn, among others. Bishop Luers was the #9 ranked team this preseason by Outside the Huddle.
“We’ve got a lot of very good athletes. We don’t have a true post threat, but we’re quick. This is a team that wants to attack, on both ends of the floor and we should be strong defensively. Depending on how fast the football guys can get up to speed. We should have the ability to go 8 or 9 or 10 deep, maybe more. Our roster will feature 13 players, and all will have a chance to leave their stamp on the season,” Bishop Luers coach Fonso White said.
So much is gone from the loaded senior class Snider won a Sectional title with. Yet, the #10 ranked team in Outside the Huddle’s preseason top 10 has much to look forward to. Karson Jenkins has leveled up his game from just being a spot up shooter and Aidan Lambert had one of the most progressive summers of any player in the conference. Jade Moore also returns with experience, size and the ability knock down a buzzer beater when needed to. Donovan Smith, Grant Brown, Tylor Harding, Elijah Davis, Markell Keal and Elijah Brown will all be looked on to contribute.
“Replacing our top 6 players and 5 of our 6 assistant coaches can feel a bit like starting over. However, because of the foundation that has been laid by all those who have been with our program over the years, we know we will be competitive again this year,” Snider coach Jeremy Rauch said.”We will rely heavily on the three returning varsity players in Jade, Karson, and Aidan for leadership. There will be many opportunities for guys to come in and make an impact, and we’re confident we have the right people to continue our winning ways. We’re going to be lacking in size and our defense has a long ways to go, but we feel like this can be as potent an offense as any team we’ve had over the past few years.”
The work ethic and grind of Janard Freeman (6.4 ppg) and Cam Toles (8 ppgz) is immediately going to set the tempo for a team who’s energy is authentic and tangible. The tenacity of Toles and character of Freeman are two things that are raved about in the Wayne program. They lead a senior group of eight players with pretty expansive experience. The senior class includes Isaac Fowlkes, Christian Flannigan, Jamari Tabb, Greg Gorman, Darrion Starks and Jashaun Hargrave. Junior Donnie Moore rounds out the returning group.
“We are excited about this team. We have tons of senior leadership, athleticism, speed and now experience. This will be one of the most fun teams I have ever coached. Each and every player has committed to being a master of their role,” Wayne coach Byron Pickens said.
North Side Legends
This is the year that North Side has been building to for the last two seasons. How much of a jump can they make from a one-win team? That is something everyone wants to keep their eyes on, but the Legends could play some spoiler in the SAC. Everyone will keep an eye on freshman Brauntae Johnson and what he did this fall on the football field will only extend that. But North Side also has back ten guys who saw the floor last season and that kind of returning depth is something to celebrate. Jacob Lambert can be really disruptive down low, as can the length of Jordan Green. Rodney Woods and Brashawn Bassett are hard working finishers while the brothers Collins, Ryan and Ronald can shoot the ball well. The Legends also bring back Jerry Powers, Capone Daniels, Chy Wynn and D’Marcus Eller, who can all contribute.
“Team should be much improved. We have a lot of experience back. Tae Johnson will be a big lift to us and he is a point guard who gets the ball to the open man and he can also score. We will still have some youth but for the first time since I have been at North we actually have seniors who have varsity experience,” North Side coach Gary Andrews said.
Bishop Dwenger Saints
The Saints fire out Brenden Lytle as a big time leader with a lot of major moments under his belt on the basketball court. The expanse of their team this season could get off ball a little bit more so he can create in different ways. Owen Shively and Xavier Nolan both return with a high potential to alter games as mismatch problems. Sam Campbell is going to be relied upon very heavily as a wing guy and pace setter with CJ Pieper also back to contribute.
Khamani Smith‘s return is crucial for a Bruins team that wants to bridge the gap from last year’s successful team and the previous season’s championship team. If Northrop wants longevity success, they need a player like Smith to lead both vocally and by example. His senior class includes returners Jayden Billingsley and Dejour Spencer while Jaden Smith and Jerrion Reese return as juniors. The biggest step up in production may be expected from sophomore Jayden Schmenk, who has a lot of preseason hype. Fellow sophomore James Mallory, at 6-foot-5, is also looked at as the future of the program starting now. Football crossovers Dane Kilby and Keone Bates will have the chance to contribute as well. Junior Homestead transfer Devin Campos shoots the ball well.
“This year will be a total team effort. Should be an interesting season of ups and downs but the hope is by midseason roles will be defined and we can make a push late,” Northrop coach Rod Chamble said.
Concordia Lutheran Cadets
If you liked seeing Brandon Davis pass to Kam Johnson, you are in luck as that duo will slide over from the football field, as will Luke Speckhard and Brayden Payne. All four are solid athletes that are going to push themselves and their teammates nightly. They will have some other guys to pull along with them that they will need to get playing at a high level quickly. Senior
“After being Sectional runner up and losing our top seven from that team, we have a lot of new faces,” Concordia Lutheran coach Phil Brackmann said. “Everybody knows the returners from the football field, it won’t take long for you to get to know the younger guys. These guys can play and it will be fun meshing the seniors and the underclassmen together.”
Luke Goode, Homestead
Some interior depth and lead guard play will go quite the distance in allowing Goode to play more naturally this season. And a natural Luke Goode is a dangerous one who can pull up from anywhere and make you pay at any time.
Naylon Thompson, Bishop Luers
Thompson leads the charge to defend the SAC title as a fluid guard who can move on and off ball in creative ways to set up the Bishop Luers offense.
Jalen Jackson, Carroll
Jackson’s improvement and additional muscle mass from the offseason has to have Carroll fans excited about his prospects during his junior season.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
Aiden Lambert, Snider
Lambert had a sensational summer and goes from a guy Snider played in spots to a guy Snider needs to probably lead them in scoring. He can shoot the ball well, that’s where he was used most a season ago, but he is getting better at cutting to the rim off ball and even playing above it on occasion. Lambert could easily be the breakout player of the SAC and it may not be close.
Brashawn Bassett, North Side
A lot of pressure was put on Bassett coming in as a freshman last season, but for the most part he settled in fine. The wins didn’t come, but the experience did and he could really be a leader for this team as they are expected to be much improved. Bassett is vocal and he has no issue setting a tone; lets see if that can be a big positive for the Legends.
Cam Toles, Wayne
Bounce absolutely loves Toles’ motor and it could lead to more big wins for Wayne this season. Teams often go by the way of their most enthusiastic leader and if Toles assumes that position fully, the Generals could be the team that throws wrenches in other people’s title hopes often.
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