This week’s City/Suburban Hoops Report’s Three-Pointer …
Deerfield’s best days in basketball were fueled by high-level superstars.
In the mid-1990s it was Ryan Hogan, who went on to play at Kentucky and Iowa. Hogan was one of the highest scoring players in the state, leading Deerfield to a school record 28 wins in 1996 and back-to-back sectional championships under coach Steve Pappas.
Duje Dukan, a versatile 6-8 forward who played at Wisconsin, was a consensus all-stater in 2009-2010 and led the Warriors to a 23-3 record and regional championship.
This year Deerfield, without the services of a high-major player or even a Division I recruit, is flourishing and racking up a win total that rivals that of the Hogan and Dukan days.
Coach Dan McKendrick’s team is 23-3 and has locked up the Central Suburban League North. Even with four new starters joining returning standout point guard Jordan Baum, the Warriors are on track to be a top four sectional seed.
The pieces fit for this Deerfield team, which has played at a faster pace this season and with terrific balance.
Seniors Jordan Sherman and Jeremy Sernick may be undersized, but they’re versatile for their positions and productive. Junior Ben Bizar has been a defensive stalwart, while sophomore Alex Casieri has stepped up as serious perimeter shooting threat who spaces the floor. But it’s Baum who is clearly steering this team.
Baum, a heady 6-4 leader at the point guard position who will play at the University of Chicago, makes everyone around him better while still leading the team in scoring.
“He’s such a good passer and creates wide open looks,” says McKendrick. “He gives everyone confidence.”
Thanks to encouragement from McKendrick, the unselfish Baum has been more offensively assertive this season.
“We told him there are times he needs to take the ball and go make a play,” says McKendrick.
Zach Norvell has been a somewhat forgotten senior.
No, he’s not an unknown sleeper or late bloomer no one has heard of until now; Norvell has been a high school basketball fixture since his early varsity debut at Simeon a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, the big-bodied 6-5 guard hasn’t received the attention a high-profile player deserves.
Funny that the leading scorer at powerhouse Simeon who is headed to Gonzaga and is among the top five prospects in the senior class could ever be overlooked.
That’s what has happened as a result of endless talk about Morgan Park’s Charlie Moore as the frontrunner for player of the year, St. Joseph big man Nick Rakocevic as the best uncommitted prospect in the Class of 2016, and the superlatives that have been directed towards breakout seniors Mike Smith of Fenwick and Justin Pierce of Glenbard West.
Norvell has quietly shined for a Simeon team that is 21-3 and is surely a Class 4A state title threat next month. He’s averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds a game and has been an absolute rock for coach Robert Smith. Norvell, a strong, physical and consistent stat-sheet stuffer, is composed and plays the right way.
There will be some surprise league champions across the Chicago area, but none will be a bigger surprise than Batavia.
When UEC River coaches sent in their conference predictions to the City/Suburban Hoops Report prior to the season, there wasn’t a coach who picked the Bulldogs to finish among the top three. The common choice was Larkin, followed by the likes of Geneva and St. Charles East.
The Bulldogs, who are led by sharpshooter Canaan Coffey and a senior-dominated group, are 11-2 since the calendar turned to 2016. More importantly, coach Jim Nazos’ team is on the verge the program’s first 20-win season since 2008 and has eyes on winning its first regional championship in 10 years.
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