Henricksen: Forecasting next year’s top teams

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When this past season tipped off back in November, everyone could guess what the top of the rankings would look like. It would be Stevenson and Simeon atop the polls –– and there was no debate.

As for next season? Well, you can start debating now. There is no clear-cut No. 1 –– or even a top five or top 10 for that matter.

Here is a sneak peak at 11 teams, with their record this past season in parenthesis, that will be vying for those early preseason rankings and pub next November.

Bradley-Bourbonnais (20-7)

Reason to be excited: Fresh off winning 39 games the past two seasons, along with the return of star guard Micah Bradford, 6-7 Zach Hollywood and shooter Peter Gray, the Boilermakers should have their best team since the early 1990s.

Curie (19-7)

Reason to be excited: The Condors finished strong, knocking off Fenwick to capture a regional championship. Senior-to-be Devin Gage will be one of the top guards in the city. And there is some talented young players in the program, led by sophomore guard Elijah Joiner.

Evanston (20-9)

Reason to be excited: The Wildkits will boast one of the elite players in the state in guard Nojel Eastern, a high-major prospect. In addition, coach Mike Ellis had several young players gain valuable experience while being a part of a 20-win team.

Fenwick (22-8)

Reason to be excited: Mike Smith is a valuable and productive returning piece as the 5-10 point guard will be a four-year starter. Shooter Mike Ballard blossomed this year as a junior, while the sophomore tandem of Jamal Nixon and Jacob Keller will only get better.

Kenwood (19-7)

Reason to be excited: In coach Marlo Finner’s second year, the program is poised to take the next step. The Class of 2016 tandem of Zion Morgan and Nick Robinson is back, while 6-7 Manny Patterson, who missed all of this past season due to injury, will be back as one of the better players in the Class of 2017.

Lincoln-Way West (21-8)

Reason to be excited: The bulk of the best team in school history is back, led by the tandem of Jon Marotta and guard Marco Pettinato. Those two were a part of the school’s first-ever 20-win season and regional championship.

Morgan Park (23-7)

Reason to be excited: Charlie Moore is a 20-plus point scorer and will be back for his senior year. Junior Jarrin Randall ended the season with a state tournament record 10 3-pointers, while big man Alonzo Chatman made strides and sophomore Romelo Burrell is coming.

Riverside-Brookfield (28-4)

Reason to be excited: Sam Johnson’s production will be missed. But there are four starters returning, including the backcourt of Jalen Clanton and Daniko Jackson, which will be one of the best in the Chicago area.

Simeon (28-4)

Reason to be excited: This doesn’t appear to be a juggernaut-type Simeon team. Nonetheless, the return of talented junior Zach Norvell and a host of up-and-coming young players will keep the Wolverines in the 4A hunt.

St. Joseph (29-6)

Reason to be excited: There are some big losses personnel wise in the backcourt, but the return of arguably the top prospect in the Class of 2016, 6-10 Nick Rakocevic, makes the Class 3A champs more than formidable.

Young (18-10)

Reason to be excited: Yes, all-area selection Joseph Toye is off to Vanderbilt, but there is a lot of blossoming talent in the stable. And a lot of that young talent, including Lucas Williamson and Willie and Rodney Herenton, gained some seasoning this past season.

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