St. Laurence senior guard Zerrick Johnson finds an opening against Metea Valley during a game at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

St. Laurence senior guard Zerrick Johnson finds an opening against Metea Valley during a game at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Boys Hoops | St. Laurence, Marist, Oak Lawn among teams striving to reach next level

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By Xavier Sanchez
Correspondent

 

High school boys basketball does not stop in March and pick back up in late autumn.

For many players, playing hoops is a year-round commitment. AAU ball is a big reason for, that there are summer camps, shootouts or other events at most schools during the summer.

The 21st annual Riverside-Brookfield Shootout was held June 21-23. The event featured the 2023-2024 Class 2A (Phillips), 3A (DePaul) and 4A (Homewood-Flossmoor) state champions, as well as several area teams that have their eyes on being among the best in Illinois in 2024-2025.

 

Marist
The RedHawks are early favorites in the East Suburban Catholic Conference coming into next season. Last season, Marist won 29 games including their first regional title in six years. They retain several key contributors including their trio of sophomores Stephen Brown, TJ Tate, and Adoni Vassilakis.

Vassilakis said the team benefited from participating in the shootout.

“We started to mesh well,” he said. “We played really well as a team and feel like we are improving a lot with our chemistry.

Outside of the returners, Karson Thomas joins the RedHawks after transferring from Lincoln-Way East. His new teammate Brown enjoyed getting to play with him, and the others and are liking the direction Marist is headed.

“The new guys fit well. We make sure to get them going,” Brown said. “They are both scorers and role players so they fit really well.”

Marist suffered a season-ending loss to Bloom in the Sectional Semifinals. The goal next season is to be in Champaign for the state finals come March.

“Our next step is to go down to the state playoffs,” Brown said. “We have the talent, now we need to put it all together.”

Brown and Vassilakis want to improve on their own personal skills but also want to be in the gym with their teammates. Extra gym time will allow them to work through lacking areas and not talk through those moments.

“I’m confident with what we have. We’ll have a great chance to have a memorable season.”

 

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Mount Carmel’s Cam Thomas serves up a layup for a Caravan basket during a game against Lyons at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Mount Carmel
The Caravan had a historic run last winter, falling a few baskets short of a Class 3A state title. That team was led by Angelo Ciarvino who is now at Northwestern. Despite losing Ciaravino and others, the Caravan has set themselves up to remain competitive come November.

Three notable returners include senior guards Grant Best and Cameron Thomas as well as junior point Noah Mister.

Thomas enjoyed getting on the court and seeing his teammates work together at the R-B Shootout. Events like these allow the younger players to get involved and learn the systems in place by these schools.

“It definitely boosts the younger guys’ confidence,” Thomas said. “It is definitely to find our playing style. 

The strength of schedule at the shootout allowed them to see in realtime what they should expect. Thomas highlights their size is going to be an early struggle and needing to learn to still rebound.

Despite being guards, Best and Thomas are the key rebounders. Thomas is also embracing leading the younger players.

“It’s been a pleasure to be called a leader on the team,” he said.

 

Oak Lawn
Senior guard Donte Montgomery Jr. is eager to get things rolling and take another step with the Spartans next season.

Oak Lawn is coming off of a 20-plus win season and a South Suburban conference title. Montgomery wants that to be the norm and hopes to accomplish even more.

“The next steps for us this upcoming season is to keep our crown in the SSC conference,” said Montgomery. “And to get this regional title we’ve been within reach each of the last three seasons.”

The preparation starts now for the Spartans. Coach Jason Rhodes has some changes ins toe for the offense, and Montgomery believes those changes will lead to more wins.

“Our goal this summer has really been to get used to the new offense,” he added.

Montgomery had two big scoring efforts at Riverside-Brookfield, finishing with 29 points against Lake Park and 26 points against Perspectives.

While he enjoys the offensive side of his game, he is not shying away from needing to improve defensively.

“We need to focus on our rebounding and defense,” he said.

 

SummerHoops StL Brad Stratton scaled

St. Laurence’s Brad Stratton attempts to avoid a defender while going up for a layup during a game against Metea Valley at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

St. Laurence
The Vikings will led by a new head coach next season.

Roshawn Russell steps into the seat after spending last season as the assistant to Byron Burt. Russell has been a head coach at St. Rita and is excited to be back in the driver’s seat.

“It’s exciting,” said Russell. “It’s good to be back.”

He inherits a team with several returners including Zerrick Johnson, Caleb Lindsey and Brad Stratton. St. Laurence has two notable transfers in EJ Mosley from Romeoville and Jacob Rice from Western Reserve.

Being with most of these guys last season, he’s comfortable addressing his concerns and making sure they all adjusted with his game plan.

“I got a great group of guys to coach,” he said.

Russell says summer shootouts are perfect for building team chemistry, which is at the top of his game plan heading into the fall.

“Get our chemistry together — we want to play at a fast pace, get up a lot of threes, and get to the basket more,” he said. “We will definitely turn up our defensive pressure as we get to the season.”

 

Riverside Brookfield
If anyone knows the importance of summer and how it can be beneficial for their players, it’s Bulldogs head coach Mike Reingruber. 

Reingruber understands that with the loss of players to graduation, the events are crucial for younger and less experienced players to get acclimated to the speed and abilities of varsity competition.

“We use the summer a lot to build the team, for building those rising juniors with the returning guys,” he said.

For the Bulldogs, you can expect to see them getting up a ton of shots and work areas of improvement. A way to do that is partaking in events like their own, where the play against top-tier teams, gaining valuable exerience that will help come next season.

Reingruber is not overly worried about losing games during the summer.

“Wins are great, losses are bad, but this is about preparing your team for November through March,” he added.

Junior guard Cameron Mercer has already played significant minutes but is ready for more. He scored a team-high 26 points in a loss to Maine South on June 21.

Local News

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Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound July 17, 2024

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