This is the best Bolingbrook team in school history.
This Raiders team is better than the 1985 sectional champions that won 24 games, and it’s better than the team that finished third in the state in Class 4A just two years ago.
If the Raiders can close out the regular season unbeaten they will tie the school record for most victories in a season, doing so before the postseason even begins. And they will head into state tournament play as the first No. 1 unbeaten team since Benet’s 27-0 team in 2011.
“It’s great for our community and for our school, but it does not effect how we prepare for our next opponent at all,” says Rob Brost, who is now 187-76 in nine-plus years as coach at Bolingbrook. “We have not brought it [No. 1 ranking] up or talked about it as a team.”
Right now the label “best Bolingbrook team ever” is on paper only; this year’s team hasn’t yet accomplished what those before them have. And there are opportunities for Bolingbrook to stumble before it’s awarded the No. 1 seed in the Lincoln-Way East Sectional. But there’s a reason Brost’s team is the top-ranked team.
There isn’t a team in Illinois that’s as big, fast, athletic or deep as Bolingbrook, though its depth has been hampered with the injury to senior Trevor Ross. The Raiders play fast and put an enormous amount of pressure on opposing defenses with their transition game.
The Raiders are also extremely balanced, boasting five players averaging in double-figures.
There is a high-major college prospect in 6-5 Nebraska-bound Nana Akenten (16 ppg) and a pair of jet-quick guards in junior Kaleb Thornton (14 ppg) and sophomore Joseph Yesufu (13 ppg), while rugged 6-5 Malik Binns (14 ppg) has provided a physicality and presence this team needed. Sophomore Tyler Cochran has provided additional offensive support, averaging 12 points a game.
Bolingbrook will travel to the O’Fallon Shootout this Saturday to face Belleville East and Illinois recruit Javon Pickett, who is averaging 25.3 points a game.
Just how real is the threat to ending Fenwick’s two-year dominance in the Chicago Catholic League?
The Friars went 9-0 in league play and won the Catholic League Tournament last season. Coach Rick Malnati’s team is again ranked and unbeaten in league play this season.
But Fenwick will roll into a hornet’s nest Tuesday night when it travels to face a red-hot Loyola Academy team.
Loyola has won 10 straight games. More importantly, coach Tom Livatino’s team is riding some emotion. The Ramblers beat St. Ignatius in a highly-charged game to win the Jesuit Cup in front of a standing-room only crowd and knocked off ranked St. Patrick at the War on the Shore.
Loyola isn’t operating on a large margin for error. Fortunately for the Ramblers they don’t have to look far for a template on how to maximize their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. Through the win streak they are looking like the quality Livatino teams of the past –– good, fundamentally sound defense, constant ball movement, taking good shots and playing within themselves.
Senior guard and four-year starter Ramar Evans (15 ppg) is the unquestioned leader for a team that has lost four of its five games this season by a total of seven points. Junior Kevin Cunningham has provided some offensive punch, averaging 13.5 points a game.
There are a lot of potent 1-2 punches on teams across the Chicago area, but maybe the most overlooked one is the Prospect tandem of Frankie Mack and Matt Szuba.
These two seniors are the biggest reasons why Prospect is 16-4, on top of the Mid-Suburban League East and are riding a seven-game win streak.
Mack, who scored his 1,000th career point recently, is averaging 17.4 points a game. The 6-2 guard is an offensive threat from all over the floor, shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc (52 of 132) and is nearly automatic from the line (88 percent).
Szuba is a 6-5 stat sheet-stuffing machine. He’s on pace to become the school’s all-time leading rebounder –– he pulled down 16 boards in a win over Rolling Meadows Friday night –– and is putting up 7.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game.
With Mack and Szuba leading the way, coach John Camardella’s team could end a 26-year sectional title drought.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter@joehoopsreport