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Breaking down Michael O’Brien’s preseason Super 25 high school basketball rankings

A look at this season’s top teams.

Glenbard West’s key players. Left to right: Graham Pierce (42), Bobby Durkin (33), Louis Amabile (23), Ryan Renfro (45), Paxton Warden (24), Jack Cardwell (25), Andrew Dauksas (12), Braden Huff (34), Cade Pierce (3). 
Glenbard West’s key players. Left to right: Graham Pierce (42), Bobby Durkin (33), Louis Amabile (23), Ryan Renfro (45), Paxton Warden (24), Jack Cardwell (25), Andrew Dauksas (12), Braden Huff (34), Cade Pierce (3). 
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

It’s usually controversial when a suburban school opens as the No. 1 team. That’s the case this season. There are plenty of Glenbard West doubters around the Public League, but Simeon coach Robert Smith isn’t one of them.

“Glenbard West is the best team,” Smith said. “A lot of people in the Public League get mad at me when I say that. But they are the best team, hands down. I don’t know why they get mad, it’s the truth.”

The Hilltoppers had a dominant summer. But they won’t play the high-level national schedule that Young, the other elite Class 4A team, does.

“Just because you are the best team in the preseason it doesn’t mean you are going to win [state],” Smith said. “Right now they are the best and you have to give them their credit. A lot of people don’t want to. If we played right now they would beat all of us. Just like they did in the summer. Now, in February or March? I don’t know how that is going to look.”

It’s a long road from Thanksgiving week to the state finals in Champaign. Here’s a look at the preseason Super 25.

1. Glenbard West

The Hilltoppers’ strengths are now well known. Braden Huff, a 6-11 Gonzaga recruit, is a star. Cade Pierce, Bobby Durkin, Ryan Renfro and Paxton Warden form a tall, excellent shooting starting lineup. The defense is a game-changer. The only issue might be the lack of a natural point guard. There seems to be enough to overcome that, but time will tell.

2. Young

All the pieces seem to fit for coach Tyrone Slaughter. AJ Casey, Daniel Johnson and Xavier Amos are dynamic, scoring wings and junior Dalen Davis is a natural lead guard. There’s plenty more length and experience with 6-6 Matt Somerville, 6-8 Marcus Overstreet, Marcus Pigram and Kanye Smith.

3. Kenwood

Senior Trey Pettigrew steps into the spotlight now that JJ Taylor has transferred to California. Two juniors, guard Darrin Ames and forward Davius Loury, are expected to be two of the best players in the state. Jaden Smith, a 6-9 sophomore, transferred from Lincoln Park and Darius Robinson joined from St. Rita.

4. St. Ignatius

One of the state’s most experienced, cohesive groups. Guard AJ Redd does it all, Richard Barron and Kolby Gilles provide scoring, rebounding and size and 6-8 junior Jackson Kotecki is loaded with potential. Guards Noah Davis and Miles Casey will be solid contributors for the most hyped team in school history.

5. Simeon

Don’t underestimate the savvy, skilled backcourt of Jaylen Drane, Action Morris and Jalen Griffith. Miles and Wes Rubin, 6-7 junior twins, transferred from Homewood-Flossmoor. Senior guard JayQuan Adams has impressed early in practice. More size with 6-8 Steve Turner and 6-7 Lance Rodgers.

6. Glenbrook South

Phil Ralston has elevated expectations since taking over the Titans a few years ago. Senior Nick Martinelli, a 6-7 Elon recruit, is one of the state’s most unstoppable all-around forces. Guard Cooper Noard, a Cornell recruit, is one of the state’s best shooters.

7. Curie

The Condors don’t have a star this season, but Phoenix Bullock, Jeremy Harrington and sophomores Carlos Harris and Taevion Collier all impressed in the short February season. There are some questions, but Mike Oliver’s teams have overachieved the last several years.

8. St. Rita

A lot of talented players transferred away, but the excellent sophomore core is still here. Illinois recruit Morez Johnson and James Brown, a pair of 6-9 sophomores, will be expected to produce this season. Sophomore Jaedin Reyna and junior Kaiden Space, are talented, future Division 1 guards. Is it a year too early to expect this much of the Mustangs? Maybe.

9. New Trier

This may be a bit low for the Trevians. Jackson Munro is one of the state’s best, most versatile big men. There is depth and experience all over the roster. Junior Jake Fiegen is an excellent shooter. Noah Shannon and Karlo Kolak are experienced seniors that will add scoring and grit.

10. Thornton

Illinois recruit Ty Rodgers is so productive and dynamic that he instantly made the Wildcats a contender when he transferred from Michigan. He joins 6-7 Kelsey Tarver and guards Montreal McCullough, Vincent Rainey and Wadell Bell.

11. Brother Rice

Junior Ahmad Henderson emerged as one of the city’s best guards last season. Khalil Ross, a 6-5 junior, transferred from Lincoln-Way East. Nick Niego could be primed for a big year. This group will be together the next two seasons.

12. Bolingbrook

Leading scorer Mekhi Cooper is back and big 6-4 junior Michael Osei-Bonsu is one of the area’s best rebounders. There’s plenty more size with 6-6 Keon Alexander and 6-8 Donaven younger. As always, the Raiders will run and most teams will have trouble keeping up.

13. Orr

Coach Lou Adams has reloaded for his final season. Guard Martez Jackson transferred from DeKalb, Davion McCarthy from Uplift and 6-5 Kelley Okoroh joined from New Jersey. They join 6-8 senior Caleb Hannah, Cam Lawin and Leonte Lilly. The Spartans are one of the state’s best in Class 2A.

14. DePaul Prep

The Rams lost all five starters from last season’s Chipotle Classic championship team, but there is a new group ready to emerge. Senior Dylan Arnett, a 6-9 Milwaukee recruit, will be the foundation. Senior guard Alex Gutierrez is experienced, Trevon Thomas opened eyes over the summer and sophomore Payton Kamin is an excellent shooter.

15. Bloom

Emondrek Ford, a 6-8 senior, is one of this season’s breakout candidates. Junior guards Raeshom Harris and Jordan Brown are experienced and there’s more size with 6-7 junior Michael Garner. This is an under the radar group that could surprise.

16. Oak Park

The Huskies only played six games last season, so this is still the early stages for coach Phil Gary. The talent is intriguing with 6-4 Denver recruit Justin Mullins, and junior Sam Lewis. Keep an eye on 6-9 John Vincent.

17. Mount Carmel

Junior guard Deandre Craig is one of the best players the Caravan has had in years. He’s one of the city’s most exciting players. Elijah Joiner, a 6-6 senior, had a nice summer and senior guard Myles Griffith returns.

18. Barrington

Four starters return for the Mid-Suburban League West champs. Seniors Will Grudzinski and Nathan Boldt have size, skill and experience. Daniel Hong gives the Broncos a true point guard.

19. Clark

Terry Head has had this group for awhile and this should be their big year. Senior Darrius Perryman is a high-scoring lead guard. The big, skilled brothers Mikqwon and Mikell Jones are the rocks everything will revolve around. Senior Sulaiman Agiste, a 6-9 center, could be a difference-maker.

20. Rolling Meadows

Cameron Christie takes over from his brother. Orlando Thomas and Foster Ogbonna return after breakout seasons and keep an eye on 6-5 freshman Ian Militec.

21. Tinley Park

Experienced guards Keon Richardson and Malachi Haythorne have been joined by two transfers, Nick Harrell from Brother Rice and 6-5 Martell Webb from Westinghouse. It’s the most talent the Titans have had in years.

22. Hillcrest

AaReyon Munir-Jones transferred from Tinley Park to give the Hawks an excellent lead guard. The rest of the team is inexperienced but has great potential. Marcus Glover, a 6-6 senior, is a physical power, 6-7 junior Matt Moore has shown flashes of potential and 6-7 junior Darrion Baker transferred from St. Rita.

23. DeKalb

Losing Jackson to Orr hurts, but Lane McVicar, Tyler Westberg, Demarria Davis and Darrell Island make the Barbs the favorites in the DuPage Valley.

24. Hyde Park

Davontae Hall is fun to watch. The Thunderbirds return almost all of their scoring, assists and rebounds from last season. Camron Williford, Damarion Morris, Malik Jenkins are back and 6-5 Byron Hobbs Jr. transferred from Lindblom.

25. Yorkville Christian

The Class 1A favorites. Duke recruit Jaden Schutt is a Player of the Year contender and he’s surrounded by experienced scorers KJ Vasser, Tyler Burrows and Brayden Long.