Kahlil Whitney is one of the top ten players in the national class of 2019, a genuine star attraction on the national circuit with Roselle Catholic in New Jersey.
Three years ago he was a freshman at Solorio with big plans to lead the Sun Warriors into the Red Division. But Whitney, a 6-6 Kentucky recruit, transferred away after his freshman season and Solorio became a soccer and football powerhouse instead.
Those dreams of basketball success are back at Solorio, which plays in the White-Central. First-year coach Justin Rhymes has a fun, unselfish team led by promising freshman Donovan Jones.
“This is the most excitement there has been at Solorio since Kahlil was here,” Rhymes said. “That is a huge step in the process. We will keep growing and keep getting better and things will work out.”
Jones is averaging 20 points a game. He plays club basketball with the Illinois Wolves, one of the state’s most prominent programs.
There is a regular trend of talented young players starting in the White and transferring to the Red Division. Ayo Dosunmu started at Westinghouse and then transferred to Morgan Park his sophomore year.
“Donovan is not going anywhere,” Rhymes said. “I have a really strong relationship with him. I’ve been training him since he was in seventh grade. He’s not going anywhere. He is going to stay right here at Solorio and be a big part of the culture we are building and the team we are building.”
Jones says that he’s always planned to attend Solorio. He clearly fits in well on the court. The Sun Warriors have a number of talented underclassmen, including junior Sincere Key, who scored 19 and grabbed eight rebounds in a 64-57 win against Mather on Thursday.
“We are all close,” Key said. “We hang out together outside of basketball, that is why we have such good chemistry.”
Solorio plays extremely unselfishly, which helped to fend off a late comeback attempt by the Rangers.
“At the beginning of the season we weren’t that unselfish,” Rhymes said. “It’s about growing and getting better and we are doing that.”
Jones, a six-foot guard, played a good all-around game. He had 11 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
“He’s getting better,” Rhymes said. “He’s the hardest worker on the team. As long as he keeps working and his grades stay high he will be fine.”
Sophomore Amarion Fields had 15 points and five rebounds and sophomore Jordan Hill added nine points for the Sun Warriors (10-5).
“It’s been feeling good lately,” Jones said. “The team is all working together now and we are on a winning streak.”
Mather (2-13) also has first-year coach. Things haven’t gone quite as smoothly for Byron Burt. The Rangers have been missing several players for multiple games with discipline issues.
Tyrese Guerrier, a senior guard, had 14 against Solorio, including eight points in the last 90 seconds.
Adam Benrahmani added 14 points and 10 rebounds and 6-4 junior Tim Odueyungbo was a force with 14 points, 13 rebounds and four steals.
Last season the White winners were promoted into the Red Division. That didn’t happen the previous season. Having that promotion/relegation system back is important for Public League basketball.
“There just isn’t any coverage of the White,” Rhymes said. “There is a lot of good competition, but there are some teams that are not that good. People tend to think that is the whole White and it is not.”