Huntley coach Marty Manning knew exactly what he was getting his team into when he signed the Red Raiders up for a spot as a newcomer in the Elgin Holiday Tournament.
Now in its 39th year, the event is more diverse than ever with five schools from the Chicago Public League and two from Rockford joining an eclectic mix of public and private schools from throughout the suburbs in the 16-team field. Given the makeup of the tournament, it is highly unlikely a team will see the same type of matchup two games in a row.
“What I like about going to Elgin is it seems we’re going to play a bunch of teams with different styles,” Manning said. “It will hopefully show some weaknesses and some things we have to work on through the rest of the year.”
Winners of three in a row, Huntley (5-3) is on the list of teams expected to contend for this year’s title. The Red Raiders (5-3) open up against Phillips at 6:45 p.m. Monday and boast one of the top players in the tournament in senior forward Amanze Egekeze, a 6-8 Belmont recruit who is averaging 17.9 points and 9.1 rebounds.
The top four seeds in the tournament went to Batavia, Harlan, Glenbard North and TEAM Englewood in no particular order. Out of that group, Glenbard North seems best suited for the status of pre-tournament favorite given its strong start to the season, and no matter what a new champion will be crowned as last year’s winner Larkin left to play in the Jacobs Tournament.
“There are a lot of solid teams that could do well here, so it’s kind of up in the air this year,” Elgin coach Mike Sitter said.
With four games on the slate between Monday and Saturday, the host Maroons look to use the tournament as a way to gauge their progress in what has been an up-and-down season so far.
Elgin (3-7) showed off its potential when it handed Carmel its first loss earlier this month, but a lack of consistency has kept Sitter’s squad from ever reaching the .500 mark.
Senior Isaiah Butler is the top scoring threat for a gritty rotation that gets key contributions from seniors Desmond Sanders, Ryan Sitter, Kiko Mari and Donte Harper. The Maroons are also looking for improved play from sophomores Lavion Baldwin and Desmond Douglas going into their first-round matchup against South Shore International College Prep at 1:45 p.m. Monday.
“We’re calling the Christmas Tournament our final exams,” Mike Sitter said. “We want to test ourselves to do as well as we can and then regroup after the holidays and see where we’re at.”
Dundee-Crown (2-6) finds itself in a similar spot as it hopes to build some much-needed confidence after a shaky start to the campaign.
Coach Lance Huber points to ballhandling and shot selection as two areas where his team especially needs to improve. Senior standout Cordero Parson has been in and out of the starting lineup per his coach’s decision, and Huber stresses the Chargers need all hands on deck if they hope to win their opener against TEAM Englewood at 12:15 p.m. on Monday.
“Hopefully we can take a few steps forward at the Elgin Tournament, keep improving and reach our goal of playing our best basketball by the end of the year,” Huber said.