Infusion of talent could make big difference for Waukegan basketball this winter

SHARE Infusion of talent could make big difference for Waukegan basketball this winter

On the backs of Waukegan High School’s basketball jerseys, there are numbers but no names.

Which means it will be paramount for fans attending games at Waukegan’s Dog Pound gym this winter get their hands on a program, because you literally won’t be able to tell the players with a scorecard.

Two fine players from last year’s 6-19 mess return. They are sophomore guard Carson Newsome and high-flying senior Jacqui Taylor.

On the other hand, if you could only return two players from last year’s team, Newsome and Taylor are exactly the two you’d choose.

And this year, they’ll be surrounded by players who should become household names by midseason.

Junior guard C.J. Duff is a transfer from Carmel where he was a starter last year. Reuben Collier is a transfer from Zion-Benton where he got to practice against players on one of the state’s best teams.

Dablessin Wilson is a transfer from a school in Tennessee. And 6-6 Shaquille Starks was a Waukegan Bulldog last winter, but didn’t see much action.

That’s a solid corps around which second-year coach Mike Wasielewski can build.

Because of IHSA rules, the coach has to watch his team play from the bleachers during the Sunday Fall League at the Libertyville Sports Complex.

But so far, the view from the stands is one he likes.

“Just playing hard,” Wasielewski said when asked about things he’s watching for. “I don’t expect them to be very organized, but I don’t think any team here is. So I’m just looking for effort and for them to get more game experience.

“With all our new guys, we’re getting them some practice wearing a Waukegan uniform,” he laughed.

For their part, the players definitely are fired up, especially Duff who was part of a winning program at Carmel.

“I definitely have to get in shape,” he said. “Coming from Carmel, where it was a slower-paced game, I definitely have to get used to the tempo, but I don’t think it will be a problem.”

As for his new teammates, Duff said: “Shaq and Jachai are going to be guys we rely on to rebound, and Carson is a special kid. I’m happy to have those guys on my team. A lot of the guys who played at the sophomore level last year are going to be contributors too.”

Newsome was one of just a couple of freshmen in the area who played major varsity minutes last year. He’s tired of losing and sees the script flipping this winter.

“This fall, there’s a lot more unity. Guys are comfortable with each other,” Newsome said. “This group is jelling really nicely.”

Newsome is bigger and stronger than he was as a freshman. He’s works out under the watchful eye of Dwayne Springs at HCT! Sports Performance).

“Strength is going to be a big part of the next step in my development,” Newsome said. “If I want to elevate my game, I need to do more than just shoot it. I need to be able to go to the basket.”

Waukegan opens its season in a Thanksgiving week tournament at Grant High. The Wednesday opponent that week will be North Chicago.

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