There isn’t a junior who’s elevated his stock and reputation more in the opening weeks of the season than Plainfield North’s Trevor Stumpe. The 6-4 junior guard has been producing at a prolific level in leading the Tigers to a 7-2 start under first-year coach Robert Krahulik.
Stumpe put up numbers last year as a sophomore (15.2 ppg while shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc), and he had his moments with the Illinois Wolves on the AAU circuit this past summer, but Stumpe is a completely different player this season.
He’s grown, re-shaped his body, is a step quicker off the dribble, his game has evolved and some minor but constant injuries and ailments that slowed him over the past year are gone. He’s playing free, easy and with extreme confidence.
Among the top 20 junior prospects in the state of Illinois, Stumpe had one lone offer as of last week from UIC. Expect those scholarship offers to skyrocket for a player who has four games of 30-plus points already this season and is averaging 25.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists a game.
This is the best St. Joseph team legendary coach Gene Pingatore has had since the school left the East Suburban Catholic Conference for the Catholic League prior to the 2010-2011 season.
In the three seasons since St. Joseph joined the Catholic League, the Chargers are a combined 48-39 overall and 16-15 in the Catholic League, though in the last two seasons St. Joe’s is 14-7 in league play. But this is St. Joseph basketball, which averaged 23 wins a year in the 12 seasons prior to joining the Catholic League for a coach with over 900 career wins.
“Are we better than last year? Yes,” said Pingatore, whose team is 8-0 heading into the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. “But we still have a long way to go and have plenty of room for improvement. You just don’t have any idea when it will all click, all come together, or when they will realize they can be a pretty special team. The reason for that is our youth.”
Even with that youth, which includes three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman in the starting lineup, this is a legit Catholic League contender and a team that will be a major Class 3A threat this March.
If the Chargers, who are led by the dynamic junior backcourt of Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash, blend and bond together, 6-9 sophomore Nick Rakocevic continues his ascent, and if some depth develops, then Pingatore may have his best team since his 1999 state championship team.
With dozens of holiday tournaments and so many potential matchups in the coming week throughout the state, the hope is certain barnburners do materialize. Here are a-wishful-thinking three: city powers Simeon vs. Curie, Dec. 28, at Pontiac; St. Joseph vs. Stevenson in a a battle of unbeatens, Dec. 30, at Proviso West, followed by a Morgan Park matchup with either Bogan or Benet in the other Proviso West semifinals.