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Notre Dame begins a strange, unpredictable season at No. 1

Anthony Sayles, Troy D’Amico, Louis Lesmond and a talented, focused group of veterans are ready to pick up where they left off last season.

Notre Dame’s Anthony Sayles (2) dribbles around a Prospect defender.
Notre Dame’s Anthony Sayles (2) dribbles around a Prospect defender.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

It’s a season of unknowns. Schedules have been patched together. There is a 50-spectator limit and COVID-19 cancellations likely looming.

But there is something to rely on in Niles. Anthony Sayles, Troy D’Amico, Louis Lesmond and a talented, focused group of veterans are ready to pick up where they left off last season as a state powerhouse.

The Dons’ are the Sun-Times’ top-ranked team. But how do you set goals for a season with no state tournament? With no holiday tournament?

There’s only one thing to do: Go undefeated.

“That’s our goal,” Sayles said. “It’s really tough to put goals on it. But that is definitely our goal, an unblemished record.”

Sayles was spectacular in the season opener against Prospect on Thursday. He debuted a new, bulked-up frame, scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He played like a confident, aggressive senior. Sayles has been a good high school basketball player since freshman year, but there was a notable leap in performance in just his first game as a senior.

“I’ve been in the weight room all off season, just trying to get my body together and be a big, physical guard,” Sayles said.

He’s definitely achieved that and it is going to be a nightmare for high school guards to handle.

D’Amico had a breakout season last year and was a Sun-Times All-Area selection. The 6-7 SIU recruit has a versatile game. He’s able to score from anywhere on the court and is a difficult matchup for guards and bigs.

Lesmond had spectacular moments last season for Notre Dame. He was clearly finding his footing after transferring from Evanston. The 6-5 Harvard recruit prefers to play on the wing. When his shot is falling the Dons are probably unbeatable.

Notre Dame’s Louis Lesmond controls the ball as the Dons host Prospect.
Notre Dame’s Louis Lesmond controls the ball as the Dons host Prospect.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Promising sophomore Sonny Williams and spark plug senior Frank Lynch round out the starting lineup. Jake DeFranza provides stellar defense off the bench.

So the pieces are in place. Clancy has been busy trying to assemble a schedule to properly showcase his talented team.

The Dons will play conference games and have already set up dates against top-10 squads Mundelein and Fenwick.

The Illinois Department of Public Health changed its guidelines and will now allow teams to play any school within 30 miles, so Notre Dame could test itself against the city powers. Clancy said he’s holding open a couple dates late in the season in the hopes that the Public League will be able to play.

Notre Dame was the favorite to win Class 3A last season. But with no state championship this year, do classes even matter?

As Sayles said, the best any team can hope for is an unblemished record ... and maybe a spot at the top in the final rankings.

The full preseason Super 25 will be released Monday. Most teams around the area start playing next week. The Public League will be included if there is an announcement on sports sometime this weekend.

For now, here’s a look at the current preseason top 10, with no Public League teams included. Listen to No Shot Clock for a full breakdown.

Michael O’Brien’s preseason Top 10

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Evanston
  3. Mundelein
  4. DePaul Prep
  5. Hillcrest
  6. Fenwick
  7. St. Patrick
  8. Glenbard West
  9. St. Ignatius
  10. Rolling Meadows