Many played in support of teammates last year, while others have simply seen their individual game and role expand. Here are a dozen juniors and seniors without big names or reps, but they’re all ready to burst on the scene and make a big jump in this 2014-2015 season.
▪ Cole Gentry, St. Charles East
A year ago he shared the ball with three-year starter Dom Adduci, the team’s leading scorer who has since graduated. Now the ball will be in Gentry’s hands for 32 minutes. He’s the ultimate playmaker at the lead guard position who can make those around him better while still being a scoring threat at 5-9. Gentry, a pure point guard with savvy and feel, is one of the best-kept secrets in the Chicago area.
▪ George Kiernan, Hinsdale Central
This is still Matt Rafferty’s team, who is a four-year varsity performer and the team’s leading scorer. But Kiernan, who has battled injuries, is healthy and showed this offseason how big of a versatile weapon he can be at the offensive end. He can finish with sneaky athleticism around the basket, while being fully capable of spacing the floor with three-point range. The 6-6 Navy-bound forward will provide a big boost in the Red Devils’ quest for a repeat in the West Suburban Silver.
▪ Pat McNamara, St. Viator
Gone are his head coach Mike Howland and star Ore Arogundade (Drake). So, too, is returning star Roosevelt Smart, who is off to prep school. Now it’s McNamara, a strong perimeter shooter whose offensive game has evolved and become more diverse, who takes center stage for an East Suburban Catholic Conference contender.
▪ Elyjah Goss, Plainfield East
While Illinois recruit Aaron Jordan is the unquestioned star, this 6-6 athletic junior had a taste of varsity basketball a year ago. Now it’s time to emerge as a trustworthy producer. The bouncy, active forward made strides this offseason and is ready to be a much bigger and more consistent impact for the Southwest Prairie favorites.
▪ Tom Johnson, Bogan
He’s always going to be recognized as a “sidekick” at Bogan, but he’s a good one. While star Luwane Pipkins will get the headlines and shot attempts and James Jones is a rising junior, this feisty, tough, 5-9 combo guard is an underrated and mostly unknown menace at both ends of the floor.
▪ Armani Chaney, St. Rita
Dominique Matthews, the Catholic League Player of the Year and leading scorer, has moved on. That means the ball will be in Armani Chaney’s hands a lot, accompanied by plenty of scoring opportunities. The Tennessee State recruit will need to be a playmaker for the likes of Charles Matthews and Kain Harris, but this 5-10 point guard has impressive scoring potential.
▪ Noah Karras, Lake Forest
A year ago he was a role-playing, 7-points-per-game junior who tried to help take pressure off classmate and leading scorer Evan Boudreaux. In the spring and summer months he made a name for himself. Now he’s a confident, spread-the-floor offensive weapon and one of the most improved players in the class. Karras’ rise this offseason is a prime reason why many consider Lake Forest to be a potential top 10 team.
▪ David Sachs, Highland Park
He was good last year. Really good. Now “Underappreciated” is his middle name. He’s been a two-time All-Central Suburban League North player. But not many outside the North Shore are aware of all this 6-2 senior point guard brings to the table. Sachs has had a knack for making big shots. He’s calm, poised and runs a disciplined offense rather flawlessly. And he will knock shots down and score from the perimeter with a pull-up jumper or from beyond the three-point line.
▪ Zach Hollywood, Bradley-Bourbonnais
Teammate and classmate Micah Bradford is the leading scorer and a City/Suburban Hoops Report top 25 talent in the Class of 2016, but Hollywood did some damage as a sophomore as well. The 6-7 junior forward put up numbers last season, averaging 9 points and 7 rebounds a game. Look for his production to increase even more as he’s a capable face-up shooter with size and a player who always seems to be around the ball.
▪ Tyler Williams, Crete-Monee
Quietly, without any fanfare, this 6-2 wing averaged 17 points a game and knocked down 60 three-pointers as a junior a year ago. Williams is now a senior and the catalyst for coach Tom Cappel’s team that is expected to be a frontrunner in the Southland Conference.
▪ Brodric Thomas, Bolingbrook
There aren’t many players who have improved and blossomed more since last season’s conclusion than this 6-1 combo guard. Thomas, who can create and make shots, will provide a big help in complementing the inside-outside tandem of Prentiss Nixon and Julian Torres.
▪ Martin Oliver, Hyde Park
Here’s a hidden talent. You would be hard pressed to find a more underrated player in the Chicago Public League. Oliver, an exciting 6-3 senior who plays with energy and confidence, averaged 16 points a game last year as a junior. Yes, it’s time to take notice.
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