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20 questions and answers on the 2015-16 basketball season

1. Who is the best player in the Chicago area?

Morgan Park guard Charlie Moore is the clear choice in the preseason. That could change in a few months though. Expect St. Joseph big man Nick Rakocevic and possibly Evanston junior Nojel Eastern to mount serious challenges for Player of the Year as well.

2. Which players are on the preseason All-State team?

Moore, Rakocevic, Eastern, Belleville Althoff junior Jordan Goodwin and Simeon senior Zach Norvell.

3. Which teams are the favorites to win Class 4A?

Simeon is clearly the most talented team in Class 4A. The Wolverines have top-notch senior leadership and talent with Norvell and Josh Thomas. Junior Evan Gilyard had a breakout summer and three key transfers were added: 6-7 Terrell Phipps, sophomore Devonire Glass and Toledo recruit James Gordon.

Riverside-Brookfield returns four starters from a squad that advanced to the supersectionals last season. Kenwood returns a load of talented players. The Class 4A title is as up for grabs as it has ever been, even Simeon is far from a lock to advance to Peoria.

4. Is there a team that could make a Cinderella run?

There are more than a dozen. It’s a wide-open year. Evanston, Marian Catholic, Curie and Young are all worth keeping an eye on. If young talent grows up quickly, those teams could all challenge for a title this season.

5. Who are the favorites in Class 3A?

Belleville Althoff, which lost St. Joseph in the Class 3A title game last season, is the clear favorite. They are the best team in the state, regardless of class, by a wide-margin. The local 3A field is as loaded as ever. Morgan Park and Fenwick, led by point guard Mike Smith, each have the pieces in place to win it all.

6. What’s the most interesting development for this season?

Golden era’s cannot last forever. There is not a superstar player in the state right now. We’ve been spoiled for the past few seaons with talents like Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Jalen Brunson. The state has hit an inevitable down-cycle in talent. There are still plenty of players that will become college basketball stars, but nothing like we’ve seen recently.

7. Which players have improved the most since last season?

Simeon junior Evan Gilyard earned raves this past spring and summer. Joliet West’s Trevian Bell firmly established himself as one of the state’s best juniors and Niles West’s Evan Hines elevated himself in to the top 25 of the senior class. West Chicago’s Tai Bibbs came out of nowhere to firmly establish himself as a Division I player.

8. Which players are worth traveling to see?

Eastern, as he showed at Glenbard East last season, is capable of putting on a spellbinding performance in any game. Rakocevic has a unique skill set for a big man.

9. Which freshman is a budding superstar?

Solorio freshman Kahlil Whitney, a 6-5 guard, has been tagged as the area’s next star attraction.

10. Who is the most important transfer?

Young’s Craig Beaudion is a talented scorer. He should be a nice fit on a Dolphins team that is loaded with talent. Sophomore Ayo Dosunmu, who started at point guard for Westinghouse last season, will make an instant impact at Morgan Park.

11. Who are the most under appreciated players in the area?

Lincoln-Way West senior Jon Marotta, Simeon senior Josh Thomas and Bradley-Bourbonnais senior Micah Bradford should all have breakout seasons on top-quality teams. It’s not inconceivable that Bradford and Thomas play themselves in to Player of the Year consideration.

12. Which teams were overlooked in the preseason Super 25?

Vocational, Orr, Hyde Park, Thornwood, St. Charles East, Downers Grove North and Conant will likely all join the rankings at some point this season. There is a lot of parity across the area.

13. What is the must-see game of the year?

Morgan Park at Simeon on Dec. 10 and Simeon at Morgan Park on Jan. 12. The Battle of Vincennes is easily one of the top rivalries in the country and this season they are the preseason No. 1 and 2 ranked teams.

14. What is the strongest conference in the area?

Obviously it is the Red South. Simeon, Morgan Park, Bogan and Vocational are all excellent teams. The Red Central, with Kenwood, Hyde Park and Curie, is especially strong this year. The East Suburban Catholic is very deep and the Southwest Suburban Red is tough at the top with Lincoln-Way West, Bradley-Bourbonnais and Thornton.

15. Who are the top shooters?

Moore, Norvell, Loyola’s Brandon Danowski, Batavia’s Canaan Coffey, Downers Grove South’s Denis Alibegovic.

16. Who are the top freshmen?

Whitney, Simeon’s Kejuan Clements, Loyola’s Andre White Jr., DePaul Prep’s Perry Cowan and St. Joseph’s Marquise Walker.

17. Which sophomores will emerge as stars?

Dosunmu, Orr’s Raekwon Drake, Simeon’s Devonire Glass, Perspective-MSA’s Marquan Williams and Young’s Xavier Castaneda.

18. Who are the best big men?

Rakocevic and Hinsdale South’s Barret Benson are excellent. There is a drop-off at that point, but Lake Forest’s Lorenzo Edwards and Bradley-Bourbonnais’ Zach Hollywood are solid. Kenwood junior Manny Patterson is poised for a big season.

19. Who are the top point guards?

Moore, Bradford, Fenwick’s Mike Smith, Riverside-Brookfield’s Daniko Jackson and Curie’s Devin Gage.

20. Who are the new coaches to watch?

Two high school basketball stars have returned to their schools as head coaches. Bobby Frasor takes over at Brother Rice and Tai Streets at Thornton. Expectations will be high at both places.