Henricksen: Preseason conference favorites (Part III)

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With the high school basketball season right around the corner, the City/Suburban Hoops Report continues to take a peek at the many conference favorites across the Chicago area.

Here is Part III in a series of preseason conference favorites, with Part I here and Part II here.

• Fox Valley Conference (Fox)

Team to beat: Until someone knocks off defending champ Prairie Ridge, with Payton Otto, Logan Card and Cory Lamb all returning on the perimeter, the Wolves remain the team to beat. A lot will depend on the health of Woodstock big man Nick Kubiak, who is battling back from a knee injury. With Kubiak, the Blue Streaks return the bulk of their team and are poised to contend.

• North Suburban Prairie

Team to beat: With Vernon Hills, which ran the table in league play and finished with 27 wins, losing all five starters, it’s time for North Chicago to regain its hold on the top spot. After an uncharacteristic 13-16 season, North Chicago will ride Simeon Henton, arguably the conference’s best player.

• Public League Red-West

Team to beat: Whitney Young, boasting young talent throughout the program, will be more dangerous than people realize –– and likely play with a different look this season as the Dolphins are deeper and will look to run more. The defending Red-West champs remain the favorite.

• Public League Red-South

Team to beat: Can Simeon run the table in the Red-South as it did a year ago? The defending champs and favorites will have some fun, entertaining battles with Morgan Park and Bogan as both are ready to ascend to the top spot. But right now the deep, balanced Wolverines have the bulls-eye on their back.

• Public League Red-Central

Team to beat: Talented Kenwood was unbeaten in the Red-Central last year, but guess who’s back? A loaded Curie team, which will be a top five team in the preseason with guards Devin Gage and Elijah Joiner, has returned and is ready to knock Kenwood from its perch atop the Red-Central. This is going to be an intense battle to watch, with underrated Hyde Park lurking.

• Public League Red-North

Team to beat: Uplift lost a ton (53 points a game lost from graduating seniors), but the defending Class 2A state champions, led by rapidly-rising junior Demarius Jacobs, returns as the slight Red-North favorite. But Von Steuben, led by underrated junior guard Rafael Cruz, is poised to make a run.

South Suburban Red

Team to beat: This could be the most wide open race for the top spot of any league in the Chicago area, with a balanced field of Evergreen Park, Richards, Reavis and Argo. Both Reavis and Argo are blessed with a ton of returning players and experience, while Richards boasts arguably the league’s best player in Jaylan Catledge, who averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds a game last year as a sophomore. How’s this for a pick: Richards, Reavis and Argo tie for top spot.

• Southland

Team to beat: After tying for the top spot a year ago, Crete-Monee, led by junior guard Dwayne Rose, look to hold off Bloom and Jamal Parks for the top spot.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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