Two nice things about Lake Forest’s boys basketball team as it prepares for the 2014-2015 season:
■ There’s one elite player (Evan Boudreaux) on the squad, but there also are a half-dozen top-end players to go with him, so this team clearly is ready for prime time.
■ The Scouts don’t have to guess about who they will have to beat in order to fulfill their dream of a Final Four appearance in the March Madness playoffs. Their obstacle is right in front of them. Or, to be exact, it’s right in front of them when they turn their heads to the southwest.
Stevenson, led by the state’s best player — Jalen Brunson — and future college players Connor Cashaw, Matt Johnson and Justin Smith, represent Lake County’s best-ever chance to win a state title in boys basketball.
The Patriots have been second and third at state in the past two years, and are the pick to click this winter before Brunson heads off to play at Villanova, Cashaw goes to Rice, and Johnson goes to whatever college program needs a guy who can shoot 58 percent from behind the arc.
In other words, as of October 2014, Lake Forest is blocked in terms of playing in Peoria in March.
But it’s a long way from October to March, and the fact is, the Scouts appear better positioned to beat Stevenson this coming winter than they have in the last two winters — the Patriots winning 95-93 in double-overtime and 66-50 last year, and 59-50 and 59-53 in the 2012-2013.
This fall, they’ve been playing on Sundays in leagues at Young High in Chicago, and at the Libertyville Sports Complex. And while the Scouts have been shorthanded — re: no Boudreaux — at Libertyville, they’ve still looked like a team that’s ready for prime time.
Here’s what a couple key Lake Forest players had to say about the season ahead:
■ Senior wing Steve Vogrich: “Between injuries and college visits, we haven’t had everybody together, but the focus right now is just working on teamwork. Once practice starts, coach (Phil) LaScala will help us with that and the other things we need to work on to be successful. Defense is one of those things that is going to be big for us.
“We’ve been playing well. We’re getting to know each other,” he added. “The younger guys and older guys are playing well together. We’re ahead of where we were last year at this point.”
And, as far as the elephant in the center of the room (i.e. Stevenson), “Beating Stevenson is definitely on our list. I’m confident we can do it. Last year, we lost to them in double-overtime. If we make one shot, we win. This year we’re going to be even better. I think we can definitely upset them.”
■ Senior guard Noah Karras: “We’re building chemistry with the younger guys. They’ve gotten a lot better from when we played our first fall game, both here and at Whitney Young. We’re definitely progressing. Evan has had college visits, but he’s played with us down at Whitney Young. Once we get everybody together in the first week in November, we’ll be good to go.
“This team feels like we have a legacy to live up to,” he added. “We’re definitely excited. For a lot of us, it’s our senior year. ‘No Regrets’ is one of our mottos. It’s going to be a fun season.”
Lake Forest will play Thanksgiving week in a tournament at New Trier and Loyola. Chicago Prosser, Glenbrook South and St. Ignatius of Chicago are the first three opponents.
The first two Stevenson games are Jan. 15 at home and Feb. 20 in Lincolnshire.
The third meeting would be in the sectional at Waukegan High’s Dog Pound gym.