City/Suburban Hoops Report Three-Pointer: CCL showdown, Ben VanderWal’s big season, Young’s schedule

When Brother Rice and Mount Carmel met this past Friday night both teams needed the win in the worst way.

SHARE City/Suburban Hoops Report Three-Pointer: CCL showdown, Ben VanderWal’s big season, Young’s schedule
Mount Carmel’s DeAndre Craig (4) floats in the air on the way to the basket to score against St. Ignatius.

Mount Carmel’s DeAndre Craig (4) floats in the air on the way to the basket to score against St. Ignatius.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

When Brother Rice and Mount Carmel met this past Friday night both teams needed the win in the worst way.

While handing Brother Rice its fourth straight defeat in a 72-67 overtime thriller, Mount Carmel picked up one of its few “signature” wins in a year with plenty of victories in this 24-win campaign.

But the subplot in this matchup of two 20-plus win Catholic League teams was the individual showdown featuring two dynamic point guards: Mount Carmel’s DeAndre Craig and Brother Rice’s Ahmad Henderson.

This isn’t about which junior got the best of the other; they both carried their teams. Henderson went for 31 points and six assists while Craig scored 30 and was a difference-maker with big basket after big basket down the stretch.

And they are both in the midst of big seasons and fun to watch. The small and slight Henderson is averaging 15.4 points, 4.1 assists, four rebounds and 1.6 steals a game. Craig, a higher volume but deadly scoring lead guard, is at 21 points, six assists and five rebounds a game.

This is about the future and what’s to come for these two players –– they both are Division I caliber prospects –– and programs, both this offseason and during the 2021-22 season.

Henderson will be the catalyst for a team that will return virtually everyone next season, including sidekick and shooter Nick Niego.

In addition to Craig, the type of player that is capable of carrying a team, the Caravan will welcome back the brother combination of promising 6-5 sophomore Angelo Ciaravino and steady junior Tony Ciaravino.

Craig, Henderson and both their teams will be central figures in the 2021-22 season. The hope is they get some playoff seasoning in coming weeks. Brother Rice is the No. 4 seed in the tough Thornwood Sectional, while Mount Carmel is a No. 2 seed and on a collision course to meet Simeon in a Class 3A sectional at Hinsdale South.

Ben VandereWal’s big season

Ben VanderWal of Timothy Christian is having a monster season.

For a player who was one of the biggest stories during the AAU club circuit last spring and summer, who has signed with a Division I school, is among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 15 prospects in the class and is putting up star-like numbers, VanderWal gets the distinction of being the best player no one talks about.

Being off the radar after such a stellar offseason is no fault of his own. Timothy Christian is a Class 2A school playing in the Metro Suburban Blue and is just 13-17 overall. That’s not going to draw a lot of eyes on you or bring attention your way.

The 6-6 forward, who is fresh off a 34-point, 12-rebound performance this past weekend against Riverside-Brookfield, has signed with Furman. The Southern Conference school is a great fit for a player who earned double-digit Division I offers last summer.

But what he’s done this season has been so impressive. He’s averaging 26.4 points, 10 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 blocks and 2.4 steals a game. VanderWal, who has knocked down 49 three-pointers while shooting 66 percent from the field inside the arc, consistently plays with purpose and toughness.

Young’s rugged schedule

Every team that schedules out-of-state opponents does so for different reasons.

Whether it’s new and different opportunities for its players, more exposure or to upgrade the regular-season schedule, there are a bountiful of factors that lead to creative scheduling by coaches.

Every opponent isn’t a powerhouse simply because they’re an out-of-state one. But there are some programs who do play legitimate, high-level teams outside Illinois and improve from playing them.

The amount of travel and out-of-state opponents tends to grow more each year. This year alone top teams Glenbard West, Young, Simeon, Kenwood, Curie, Hillcrest and New Trier have played a combined 33 games against teams from outside Illinois. Their combined record is 18-15.

St. Rita and De La Salle are two other programs that have played a number of teams from outside the state. St. Rita went 3-4 while De La Salle went 1-8. Class 1A power Yorkville Christian went 1-4.

But no one uses the out-of-state slate to its advantage more — or better — than Young.

For years coach Tyrone Slaughter has had the advantage of playing a true national schedule. That’s because he’s had the players others want to see and a team that can compete against national powers, so they’re invited to play in the best events, tournaments and face elite teams.

While they’ve taken their share of losses, the schedule prepares them. It’s a routine that has become familiar, yet so many don’t learn their lesson when the Dolphins lose regular-season games.

The 2013-14 state championship team went 8-5 while traveling the country. The 2016-17 state champs went 4-2 in out-of-state action, while the state runner-up team in 2017-18 was 3-3 outside Illinois.

This year Young has played 11 teams from outside the state lines and gone 4-7.

But look where they are now? The Dolphins, fresh off beating Kenwood and Curie, are city champs and a No. 1 sectional seed with both Kenwood and Curie standing in their way from a trip to Champaign and the State Finals next month.

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