Michael O’Brien’s preseason Super 25 basketball rankings

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Morgan Park is not the traditional top-ranked team. The Mustangs don’t have a high-major superstar, they aren’t especially tall. But unlike most teams at this time of year, they know who they are. Nick Irvin’s teams play at a breakneck pace. And despite all the high-pressure situations and superstar egos that have cycled through Irvin’s teams, there never seems to be chemistry issues. The Mustangs always appear to be a happy, cohesive unit.

“It doesn’t matter what people think about the style of basketball we play, if it is too fast or whatever,” said Morgan Park senior Jarrin Randall. “We win. That’s what matters. We’ve been to state three years in a row.”

With Randall, a Western Michigan recruit, and Player of the Year favorite Charlie Moore, Morgan Park has a dynamite backcourt. The addition of Ayo Dosunmu, who transferred from Westinghouse, gives Irvin the three-man backcourt he’s used to advance to state the last three seasons.

Here’s a look at the Mustangs and the rest of the preseason Super 25:

1. MORGAN PARK: Moore, Randall and Dosunmu could possibly win 20+ games with any supporting cast at all. So whether this is a good or a historic season for the Mustangs depends on the bigs: 6-6 Alonzo Chatman, 6-5 Romelo Burrell, 6-7 Lenell Henry and 6-5 Malik Binns. If they rebound and defend with heart and smarts, the sky is the limit.

2. SIMEON: As usual, talent is dripping off the walls at 83rd and Vincennes. Seniors Zach Norvell, Josh Thomas and Ben Coupet feel the Wolverines haven’t lived up to their own standards the past two seasons. Junior Evan Gilyard had a breakout summer. Transfers James Gordon, Terrell Phipps and Devonire Glass will be difference-makers. Thomas says the squad has decided on an identity this season: defense.

3. FENWICK: Can Mike Ballard possibly continue the high-level of play he displayed the final weeks of last season? The 6-4 senior played like a Duke recruit, pouring points in from all over the court. He will probably come back to earth, but remains a threat to take over a game at any time. The Friars have all the pieces for a fabulous season. Mike Smith is a dynamic, experienced point guard and junior Jamal Nixon can do everything well.

4. RIVERSIDE-BROOKFIELD: Four starters return from the squad that lost to the Stevenson, the eventual Class 4A state champs, in the supersectional. Daniko Jackson, Mark Smith, Jalen Clanton and Henry Trelenberg learned how to win big games last season. Skyler Nash has arrived from Young and there are hopes for 6-3 junior Jalen Brooks.

5. KENWOOD: Manny Patterson, a promising 6-7 junior, is healthy after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. Senior Nick Robinson is one of the area’s best talents, it is time for him to bring it every game. Zion Morgan is a solid shooting guard. A number of players could assume point guard duties. Success at that position will determine everything.

6. BOGAN: If the summer circuit is to be believed, James Jones has improved enough that Luwane Pipkins may not be missed. Jones is very talented, but was inconsistent last season. Bryce Barnes is more than ready to step in to the lead guard role.

7. EVANSTON: Junior Nojel Eastern has tantalized area fans with occasional stretches of greatness. He’s one of two players in the junior class with a chance to be national-level star players. Elyjah Williams, a 6-5 junior, and guards Jerome Bynum and Micquel Roseman are more than capable.

8. CURIE: Mike Oliver has the Condors firmly entrenched as an elite Public League program. They have a senior Division I player, DePaul recruit Devin Gage. They have a budding star in junior Elijah Joiner, and a slew of talented sophomores. Landers Nolley, a sophomore transfer, earned raves over the summer.

9. MARIAN CATHOLIC: Sophomores Chase Adams and Brandon Hurt grew up in March and led the Spartans on an impressive playoff run. TJ Smith, a 6-6 junior, returns after missing all of last season with a knee injury. Tons of size with 6-8 senior Myles Howard and 6-8 junior TeeAaron Powell.

10. BRADLEY-BOURBONNAIS: Point guard Micah Bradford and big man Zach Hollywood are seniors, so this is the year. Bradford, a Valparaiso recruit, has the ability to mount a player of the year campaign. Senior Peter Gray, a 6-4 forward, is another key piece. Depth could be an issue against some of the area’s other elite teams.

11. ST. JOSEPH: Much was lost, but big man Nick Rakocevic has no equal in the area. Junior guard Jason Towers is solid and big things are expected from sophomores Jordan Boyd, Joffari Brown and Jalen Boyd. Point guard Marquise Walker is just a freshman, but played varsity basketball last season in Kentucky.

12. LINCOLN-WAY WEST: Jon Marotta, a 6-7 senior, and junior Marco Pettinato are the headliners but coach Brian Flaherty has the Warriors buying in to a team-first, move the ball mentality. They were a wonder to watch at times last season.

13. NOTRE DAME: Jeameril Wilson opened a lot of eyes this summer. The 6-4 wing isn’t alone. Ammar Becar might be undersized, but he’s a force in the post. Guard Lucas Simon and 6-7 Anthony D’Avanzo are other key pieces. Coach Tom Les has the Dons on a sustained run of success.

14. YOUNG: Senior leadership could be an issue but there is no denying the slew of talented sophomores and juniors. Lucas Williamson should have a big season. Xavier Casteneda and Justin Boyd are possible stars and Foreman transfer Craig Beaudion is one of the area’s best scorers

15. OAK PARK-RIVER FOREST: Very solid, deep group with Breshawn Wilkerson, Connor Fuller, Cameron Gross and Jared Scott. Freshman Dashon Enoch will contribute.

16. JOLIET WEST: The young Tigers showed potential against Simeon and Curie last season at Pontiac. Trevian Bell and Teyvion Kirk lead a very talented junior class. Elijah Ward had a nice summer and 6-5 Tabyous Casterberry adds size.

17. STEVENSON: Justin Smith has breakout star potential. Rodney and Willie Herenton transferred in from Young. Remember Ryuji Aoki? The senior had a big summer, scoring huge point totals in some shootouts.

18. BOLINGBROOK: Reloaded after a run to Peoria. Nana Akenton, a 6-5 junior, is poised for a big season. Devon Sams and Antowine Locke will be strong in the backcourt. Freshman Joseph Yesufu could be a good one.

19. DOWNERS GROVE SOUTH: A big turnaround year is on tap. Junior Denis Alibegovic can shoot it, 6-7 senior Donovan Ferguson and 6-6 junior TJ Clifford provide the size.

20. ST. IGNATIUS: Size and talent all over the roster for coach Rich Kehoe. A lot will depend on guard Kailen Lee. Daniel Ogele hits the boards hard and will have plenty of help in the paint with 6-8 Robert Lindland and 6-4 Will Fleming.

21. CRETE-MONEE: The Warriors surprised teams last year. That won’t happen again. Junior Dwayne Rose and senior Jeremiah Matthews lead the way.

22. NILES WEST: Another turnaround candidate. Evan Hines is a great athlete, talented shooter. Junior Octavius Parker seems tagged for big things. If Bob Williams can find some pieces, Wolves will have a surprisingly solid year.

23. LARKIN: Christian Negron is a bit of a freak. He’s 6-6, with big-time athletic ability and smarts. The backcourt should be much-improved this year.

24. MARSHALL: Tyrese Williford is one of the best guards that no one seems to know about. The Commandos have a lot back from a squad that was playing well at the end of the season.

25. NORTH CHICAGO: Should be back after a down year. May take a month or two to get everyone healthy, including standout junior Simeon Henton.

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