Maine East boys basketball preview

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Power forward Ezeke Omeke

In the summer between his second and third varsity seasons, Omeke worked on diversifying his offensive game. The 6-foot-4 junior primarily played in the post during his first two varsity seasons, but said he focused on improving his jump shot in the offseason. 

Omeke and Maine East coach Dave Genis both said Omeke has gotten better at shooting mid-range jump shots and can even knock down 3-pointers.

“He’s expanded his game to the point that we can move him away from the basket,” Genis said. “Obviously he’s our biggest asset around the basket — our best rebounder and our strongest kid around the basket. But I think that’s something that other teams are going to find out, that they’re going to have to be able to defend him a lot differently this year.”

Point guard Abby George

Omeke and George are the only returning starters from last year’s team, and George will once again serve as Maine East’s primary ball-handler.

The junior attended Dave DeVenzio’s National Point Guard Campat St. Xavier University in July and said he was able to pick up a number of things — from playing better defense on opposing point guards to being a vocal leader — which have helped him become a more self-assured player. 

“I think my confidence went up,” George said. “Going to the point guard camp, that helped me to be more of a pass-first [player] — get everyone involved and let the game come to me.”

Shooting guard Justin Brooks

Brooks fractured his right ankle playing basketball near the beginning of the summer and was forced to miss six weeks. Although he was out for most of the summer, Genis said the smooth-shooting senior spent more time than ever in the weight room, specifically working on his upper-body strength. That will allow Brooks to play better defense against other teams’ shooting guards, and Genis added that Brooks’ additional strength has helped him expand his range. 

Genis said Brooks is now capable of hitting 3-pointers from several feet beyond the arc.

“I think Maine East is much improved. I think they’re a very athletic team that’s going to surprise some people. … I think, looking at their lower levels, they’ve had a couple pretty good athletes, so I think just their skill level has gotten a lot better. I think their freshmen had a very good year, and I’m sure some of those kids are going to play varsity this year. They have some good young players. They had some growing pains last year, but I think they’re going to be dangerous this year.”

2012-13 record: 5-21 overall, 1-9 CSL North

2013 playoffs: Lost in regional quarterfinals of Class 4A to Von Steuben 

Head coach: Dave Genis, fourth season

Projected starting five: jr. PG Abby George, sr. SG Justin Brooks, jr. SF Nick Kanjou, jr. PF Ezeke Omeke, sr. C Marko Protic.

Game to watch: Maine West at Maine East, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 2014. The Blue Demons defeated the Warriors last season to break a four-year winless drought in the CSL North.

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