Jack Stanton and Downers Grove North look to reignite last season’s sparkle

Stanton has put on some muscle and is a major contender for Player of the Year. But he’s more focused on bringing home a state title.

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Downers Grove North’s Jack Stanton (32) goes to the basket during practice on Wednesday.

Downers Grove North’s Jack Stanton (32) goes to the basket during practice on Wednesday.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Jack Stanton will remember March 6, 2023, for the rest of his life.

Downers Grove North fans packed a college arena in Chicago and went wild as he scored a game-high 19 points to shock Kenwood and with the supersectional in front of DeMar DeRozan, Ayo Dosunmu and several other Bulls…who were all there to see the Broncos.

Stanton and the Trojans were last season’s playoff sensation. They also knocked off Young and Hinsdale Central before losing to Moline, the eventual Class 4A state champions, in the state semifinals.

Stanton, now a senior committed to Princeton, returns with three other starters: Owen Thulin, Alex Miller and 6-8 Jake Riemer.

The excitement of last March is still alive at the school and has even increased. It’s a banner year for Downers Grove North sports, with cross-country state titles and a football team playing in the Class 7A semifinals this weekend.

“We’re building off one another’s programs and there is a pretty special feeling right now,” Trojans coach Jim Thomas said. “We have a lot of really good people that are around our kids. And so are the families. I’m glad to see the fruits of that labor happen for everyone.”

Stanton has put on some muscle and is a major contender for Player of the Year. But that isn’t on his mind.

“Nope, my only goal is to get to state and win it all,” Stanton. “I don’t have any personal goals. Growing up with all these guys, representing the community and seeing the joy and excitement on the faces when we are winning. That’s what I want.”

Stanton’s three-pointers thrilled the playoff crowds last season, but it was Downers Grove North’s defense that frustrated Young and Kenwood the most.

“It will still be good but it will just look different,” Thomas said. “Last year’s team could get up and hawk the ball at all spots for the most part. We can’t quite do that yet but we will still be pretty good on the defensive end.”

Six players are still with the football team, including Thulin and Jameson Ordway, two key pieces. That could make for a challenging start to the season. The Trojans are No. 3 in the preseason Super 25 and won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year.

“The schedule is tougher,” Stanton said. “But the young guys are showing promising signs in practice already.”

Downers Grove North, which opened in the mid-1960s, has never been a basketball powerhouse or even consistently good. The school is below .500 all-time. Thomas and his coaching staff have been together for 16 years and put in the work to raise the level of the program.

Downers Grove North coach Jim Thomas looks on during practice.

Downers Grove North coach Jim Thomas looks on during practice.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

“We obviously really appreciate the notoriety now,” Thomas said. “But it comes with a little bit of pressure. We’re looking forward to that. The seniors said to get us as many tough games as we could. They aren’t shying away from it and we are here to facilitate their hopes and dreams.”

The Trojans have high-profile non-conference matchups this season against Curie, Normal and Homewood-Flossmoor and will be one of the favorites at York’s Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament.

“The whole school is peaking right now,” Riemer said. “The community is bussing. I expect many games to be standing room only. Get there early for a seat.”

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