It’s increasingly rare for a suburban team to begin the season ranked No. 1. Bloom earns the honor this year. Stevenson was the last suburban team to begin on top, back in 2015. Jalen Brunson led the Patriots to the state title that year.
Bloom has a storied tradition dating back to 1900 but has never won a state championship. It lost the title game to Proviso East in 1974 and Phillips in 1975.
The Blazing Trojans are arguably without a superstar. It generally takes one to win the Class 4A state title. EJ Liddell, Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker dominated while leading their teams to titles.
Bloom will have to win with a different recipe: Five excellent players, solid depth and the support of basketball-crazed, title-hungry Chicago Heights.
The core four of Martice Michell, Donovan Newby, Keshawn Williams and Dante Maddox Jr. are well-known but coach Dante Maddox Sr. also has some depth. Senior Justin Moore was a major contributor last season and Christian Shumate, a D-1 prospect, has transferred from Plainfield East. The is the year the Blazing Trojans have been building towards.
2. Morgan Park
The Mustangs easily could have grabbed the top spot. Adam Miller is a major Player of the Year contender after averaging 29 points last season. Marcus Watson, a Wake Forest recruit, earned a national reputation as a high-level point guard this summer. Newcomer Brandon Weston, a transfer from Lake Forest, is expected to be a star. Isaiah Burrell will provide rebounding and toughness. The Mustangs have two freshman with offers from Illinois, 6-6 Javonte Taylor and guard Darrin Ames.
Everything starts with Duke recruit DJ Steward. Tyler Beard’s consistency will be key for the Dolphins. The senior has high-major college potential. Sangolay Njie, a 6-5 forward, and guard Elliott Sieger return. Guard Jaeshon Thomas transferredf from Aurora Christian. Highly-regarded prospect Grant Newell, a 6-7 junior, could emerge this season. Watch 6-5 sophomore Xavier Amos and freshman Dalen Davis.
Jeremiah Williams transferred from St. Laurence and changed everything for the Wolverines. The 6-4 senior can play a variety of roles, from scoring to shot blocking and rebounding. Junior Ahamad Bynum, a DePaul recruit, missed most of last season with an injury and is poised to become one of the city’s top scorers. Coach Robert Smith has an abundance of big men to fill roles and likes the chemistry on this team. Sophomore guard Jaylen Drane showed incredible flashes of potential last season. Freshman guard Jaylen Griffin is highly-touted.
The Patriots don’t have a Division I recruit but get it done with teamwork. Leading scorer Matthew Ambrose and most of last season’s 27-win core returns including 6-4 athlete RJ Holmes and senior guard John Ittuonas. Junior Evan Ambrose will step in at point guard. Stevenson won the prestigious, 64-team Riverside-Brookfield Shootout over the summer.
6. Marian Catholic
Iowa recruit Ahron Ulis is a Player of the Year candidate and 6-6 Elijah Jones, a Western Illinois recruit, has improved every season. Senior guard Joe Green is vastly underrated.
7. Notre Dame
Are the Dons a year away or will they achieve big things this season now that they have dropped to Class 3A? The talent is impressive. Guard Anthony Sayles and 6-6 Troy D’Amico, two experienced juniors, are joined by Evanston transfer Louis Lesmond. Senior Jason Bergstrom should provide valuable senior leadership.
Antoine Bloxton was electric late last season. Bloxton and 6-5 senior Kyndall Davis both have the potential to breakout star seniors. Tremear Fraley, a 6-8 senior, gives the Bengals some nice size and junior guard Darrion Jones is ready for an expanded role.
Wildkits coach Mike Ellis has an experience core of three juniors: Blake Peters, Jaylin Gibson and Elyjah Bull. Peters has been a dependable scorer for two seasons. He made 114 threes last year. Gibson is expected to take a major step forward along with junior Isaiah Holden and sophomore Rashawn Bost. Absolutely no size, so rebounding will be an issue.
Point guard Mar’Keise Irving is out with a football injury and that leaves a big hole early in the season. Junior Julius Rollins emerged last season. Two other juniors, 6-5 Hamahrie Bowers and 6-6 Jakobi Heady are late bloomers that are attracting attention from colleges.
11. Lincoln Park
Ismail Habib and Julio Montes proved a lot as sophomores last season and will be one of the best backcourts in the area this season. Romelle Howard, a 6-8 senior, missed most of last season. Major production from Howard could mean a monster season for the Lions.
Are the Condors underrated again? Ramean Hinton a talented, energetic senior, can do everything. Elijah Pickens, Nick Owens and Armond Williams will have expanded roles. Keep an eye on juniors Reggie Ward and Phillip Berryhill.
All five senior starters that led the Spartans to the Class 2A title are gone, but the Public League’s “second-chance school” has reloaded with St. Joseph transfer Reggie Strong, Simeon transfer Bryce Hall and Prosser transfer Norvell Meadows. Senior Demarius Splunge is a year removed from his injury and should produce. Sophomore guard Leonte Lilly is one to watch.
Forward RJ Ogom was playing at an All-Area level late last season. St. Rita transfer Joel Watts gives the Vikings an experienced point guard. Chad Readey, a 6-8 junior, has intriguing potential.
Elon recruit Darius Burford is a tremendous scorer. Montini transfer Kai Evans and Glenbard East transfer Alijah Nelson are talented, experienced guards joining Isaiah Stafford and Kyonte Thomas. Donaven Younger, a 6-7 freshman, is very highly-regarded.
16. Oak Park
Junior Isaiah Barnes has major scholarship offers and could have a breakout season. Justin Cross, a 6-7 senior, improved quite a bit over the season and junior guard Josh Smith is ready to take on a bigger role.
It’s all about junior Bryce Hopkins. The Louisville recruit is a game-changing force but the Friars are very young. Sophomore Trey Pettigrew started every game as a freshman, three to four other sophomores are expected to make major contributions.
Four starters return from a 22-win season. Hard-nosed Derrick Williams makes everything go for coach Tai Streets. Brandon Hall is a potential star and Thornwood transfer Donald Coates is a major addition.
The Warriors are back in the Red. Nearly everyone is back that earned promotion from the White, led by high-scoring senior Devin Davis. Ryan Brown and Kier Jordan are experienced. Size has arrived in 6-6 sophomore Martell Webb and 6-7 junior Gary Johns.
Senior Beau Frericks is fun to watch and a tremendous shooter. He’s joined by 6-7 Belmont recruit Frank Jakubicek, junior Ryan Weaver and senior point guard Clark Cunningham.
21. DePaul Prep
Coach Tommy Kleinschmidt has built an impressive program on the North Side. Excellent guard play with senior Lance Mosely and junior Tyler Johnson. Junior big man Brian Matthews is full of potential.
22. St. Charles North
All the ingredients are in place with experienced guards Luke Scheffers and Christian Czerniak and Bradley recruit Connor Linke. The 6-9 senior is one of the area’s few rim protectors.
23. Oak Lawn
Senior Sami Osmani is one of the area’s hardest-workers and most consistent scorers, he averaged 22 points and seven rebounds last season. Seniors Trey Ward, David Reyes and Kevin Swatek appear ready to take a major step forward. Their play will determine if the Spartans can live up to the early-season hype.
24. Lake Park
Four starters return from 23-win regional title winners. Guard Luke Sgarbossa can score and strong 6-5 senior Trevor Montiel can pass and shoot. Newcomers 6-5 Joey Harrington, 6-8 Alex Burzawa will add more size.
The Mustangs have two D-1 players in juniors Conor Enright (Drake) and 6-8 Scottie Ebube. They won 20 games last year and have much-improved depth this season.