At Zion-Benton, new year means new players and new opportunities on hardwood

SHARE At Zion-Benton, new year means new players and new opportunities on hardwood
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This is how long it’s been since Zion-Benton High School has prepared for a varsity boys basketball season without Milik Yarbrough:

It was the 2009-2010 campaign and then-senior Lenzelle Smith was the team’s star. Lenzelle’s already graduated from Ohio State University.

Now, fast-forward to the present, and current Zion-Benton players are preparing for the 2014-2015 season by participating in the Let’s Play Hoops Sunday Fall League at the Libertyville Sports Complex.

The new star — in fact, the only returning starter — is 6-5 senior Admiral Schofield. Just about everybody else, including the head coach, is new.

Longtime assistant coach Bobby Worthington is now in charge of Zion’s program, replacing legendary coach Don Kloth, who parted ways with ZBTHS after last season and now is the sophomore coach at Warren High School.

As for Yarbrough, the county’s all-time leading scorer — Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson will break his record this year, barring injury — is now a freshman at Saint Louis University. The 2,621 points he scored in his four-year prep career won’t be soon forgotten but they definitely will be missed.

As for Worthington, he was in the stands on a recent Sunday watching the Zee-Bees play and lose 63-60 to a Highland Park team that is going to be very good this winter.

Zion did well without The Admiral, who took his younger brother to a football game Sunday while his mother was in Seattle watching his older brother (O’Brien Schofield) record a sack of Peyton Manning in the Seahawks’ 26-20 overtime victory over Denver.

Point guard DeShawn Wilson, who figures to be another key piece for the Zee-Bees this year, also did not play. He cheered on his teammates from the bench.

One of those who earned the cheers was post player Kienan Baltimore.

Baltimore and Donovan Knox were key contributors in the post for the Zee-Bees against Highland Park.

This year’s team won’t have the height of Zee-Bee teams from recent years, so it’s going to be important for guys like Baltimore to give them something inside.

“I think it’s very important seeing as we’re a smaller team this year,” he said. “We have to find a way to impose our will in the paint. Instead of being bigger, we’re going to have to be more athletic and more physical.

“My focus is on playing hard, rebounding, and doing the things coach asks me to do,” he added. “I think we’ve been decent (this fall), but we can improve on a lot of things. There’s still a lot of room to get better. This is just the beginning.”

DeVonte Maynard, one of the players who did see some action last year, agreed.

With Schofield as the only returning starter, the Bees will need the composure and presence Maynard can bring, and the senior has improved his strength and quickness in the offseason.

“I think playing fall ball is really helpful for us,” Maynard said. “We have a lot of guys moving up. Playing varsity is a lot different than playing at the underclass levels.

“I definitely think we’re getting better,” he said. “It’s going to take some time, but I can definitely see the chemistry improving.”

Zion-Benton will open its season in a tournament out west, hosted by Richmond and Johnsburg high schools. The team no longer is playing at Lane Tech during Thanksgiving week.

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