Class AA Top 25

Admirals at the top with high hopes

 

By Frank Rusnak
    Many publications have Proviso East as the favorite in Class AA as the preseason Number 1, but Farragut coach William "Wolf" Nelson has one question: "What are you basing that on?"

    Farragut went through a rigorous summer schedule that saw them walk away from all of the tournaments they were entered in with the championship. In the process they knocked off Proviso East, with both teams at full strength.

    "[East] doesn't have anyone to stick Poole," said Nelson, referring to his 6'6" senior post man, Elliott Poole. "We do have an advantage over them on the inside. The only real trouble we had over the summer was with Von Steuben. Without question we had the most successful summer of any team in Illinois."

    While Nelson has coached a bevy of talent in his tenure as head coach of the Farragut Admirals, he feels that this is not only his deepest team, but also his best. A rather big statement considering the trio he had on his '95 squad that included Chicago-legend Ronnie Fields, former Arizona power forward Michael Wright and current Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett.


"We have five guys playing varsity for three years or better. When its time to roll, these guys know how to roll."

Coach Wolf Nelson
Farragut H.S.


    "This years team is probably the deepest team that I coached ever, including the Garnett, Fields, Wright team," said Nelson. "The Garnett, Fields, Wright team was basically that: Garnett, Fields and Wright. It was a huge drop off after them."

    While he says that many of their teammates were accustomed to standing around and watching those three operate on the court, he says that isn't the case with this year's team.

    "We have five guys playing varsity for three years or better," said Nelson. "When its time to roll, these guys know how to roll."

    With the experienced three guard lineup of seniors Jason Smith (6'1"), 6'2" Marcetteaus McGee (an academic qualifier considering such schools as Wisconsin, Miami (OH) and Georgia) and Courtney McGarry (6'2"), Nelson is confident with the ball in any of their hands. Giving Smith and McGee equal opportunities to play the point guard position, he knows that it will only help better them for the next level where they will both be looked at first as lead guards. McGarry is his sharpshooter that he says could average 20 points on any given night with his ability to stroke the ball.

    In the post Farragut will turn to its leader, Poole. Averaging 21 points and 14 rebounds last year as an all-city selection, he plays well above his 6'6" height with great footwork, an inner (and exterior) toughness and great basketball smarts.

    Assisting Poole will in the starting lineup will be 6'7" junior, Denard Montague who is a highlight waiting to happen on the fast breaks.

    Starting four seniors and a junior, Nelson brings in a solid group off the bench with two sophomores and a freshman that have all played beyond their years.

    Freshman Lamont Williams' progress has been slowed by a minor injury to start the season. Sophomore guard, 5'11" Rodnell Harris has impressed Nelson to start the season and shows signs of a very promising player in the future. Then there is 6'7" sophomore Ollie Bailey, whom Nelson says is on the brink of cracking the starting lineup. Also, look for senior post man Dwayne Lindsey to contribute.

    While Nelson feels he has the pieces in place, he has set the pavement for his troops to be ready come March. With one of the most rigorous schedules in the state, Farragut will face top teams from Indiana (Gary Westside, already played, opening game of the year which Farragut won), Missouri (St. Louis Vashon), Minnesota (Patrick Henry) and Ohio (Brookhaven). All of that on top of the demanding Red West conference schedule.

    "I'm looking to go down state again," said Nelson, who led his '95 ballclub there to eventually lose to Thornton in the semifinals. "It's not going to be easy and I acknowledge that and I always have acknowledged that."

  1. Farragut- Coach William "Wolf" Nelson has himself a talented and well-balanced team that ranks favorably with some of the great teams in this storied program's history. The three guard lineup of seniors Marquettas McGee, Jason Smith and Courtney McGarry are tough to beat, along with the front court of 6'6" senior Elliott Poole and 6'6" junior Denard Montague. It will be a calm-winded day in Chicago before Poole gets outworked. Young talent with two sophomores and a freshman will be counted on heavily for the Admirals to improve upon last year's 19-8 record. Also, watch for 6'4" senior Dwayne Lindsey on the boards.
  2. Proviso East- The state's most talented group of guards, 6'0" senior Dee Brown, 6'3" junior Shannon Brown and 5'10" junior Charles Richardson, are all well-rounded, quick and intense players coming back from a 25-4 team. Illinois-bound Dee Brown is a leader and the team's heart and soul as a fourth year starter. Richardson is a relentless full-court defensive juggernaut and Shannon Brown is an all-around player and terrific athlete. Look for returning starter, 6'4" Arthur Talley along with 6'6" senior Montonio Blake. Juniors Jeremy Williams (6'5") and Ronnie Carlwell (6'8") could also pay big dividends if they continue to progress.
  3. Shepard- Everyone doubted them last year, when they had a 46-game conference losing streak, but returning four starters with their marquee players elevating their games against the nation's best during the off-season, one would think that few would sleep on the Astros this season (Note: the Associated Press did not have Shepard ranked among the state's top 16 teams). George Washington-bound 6'7" Mike Hall will contribute a little of everything, while 6'2" senior guard Mike Smith will lead the attack as the top returning scorer. 6'10" senior Reggie George is a space-eater on defense and is a capable low post scorer but still raw. Look for 6'2" football player Jon Cleveland to contribute muscle on the low blocks, while 5'11" senior guard Lorenzo Yelder to provide extra speed and scoring.
  4. Springfield Lanphier- When this team comes to play, they will be tough. Coming off a 27-3 year, Lanphier will be led by 6'7" senior Arkansas-bound Andre Iguodala. One of the tri-captains for the Lions, Iguodala should see ample time all positions on the floor, including point guard. 6'3" junior Richard McBride is an offensive juggernaut and a returning all-state player as a three-year starter. Look for 6'2" senior guard Tony Smith to be a big factor.
  5. Bloom Township- With only two of the top five players having starting high school at Bloom, coach Gary Meyer will have to introduce everyone to each other before tip off. Conant transfer, 6'8" Luther Boyd has the tools to be a good one. 6'5" Homewood-Flossmoor transfer Larry Ellis is a warrior and leaves it all on the court. 6'7" Rich East transfer Josh Argue, who played with Bloom last season, will contribute to the Trojans low post bruisers. Three players that were brought up to the Bloom varsity as sophomore and key components to the Trojans Elite Eight appearance two years ago will provide veteran leadership this season in 5'10" Robert Davis, 6'5" Antonio Cool and 6'5" Joe Chapman. Davis is a quick and strong point guard that makes good decisions, Cool is an electrifying athlete with a good outside shot and the Marquette-bound Chapman will lead a team coming off a 21-8 season.
  6. Pekin- Returning its top 7 players from a 19-10 team, the Dragons bring to the table Northern Illinois and Western Illinois signees and have two potential division one prospects in its 2004 class. Getting to the championship game of the acclaimed Morris Shootout during the summer, Pekin has shown that they are the team to knock off in the Mid-State Six. 6'7" NIU-bound Todd Peterson is one of the state's best shooters and as well as a tough interior player and 6'2" WIU-bound Joe Brownfield is a veteran leader capable of breaking down a press by himself. If Pekin is to achieve greatness, big things will be expected out of its young crop of players, including sophomores Matt Hagen and Jeremy Crouch, at 6'9" and 6'3" respectively.
  7. Thornwood- Post Eddy Curry years will not be as gloomy as one would think. Returning a starting lineup full of division one prospects, the Thunderbirds won't be happy unless they improve on last year's fall in the state championship game. Coach Kevin Hayhust will look to 5'10" junior Gerimie Allison, 6'4" senior Pierre Thomas, 6'7" Purdue-bound Melvin Buckley, 6'5" Indiana State-bound David Moss and 6'8" senior Justin Williams for the starting lineup. With a big, talented and versatile group, chemistry will be the key for this group.
  8. Julian- The Jaguars were looking nice prior to obtaining a few transfers and an exchange student, but now coach Loren Jackson has a city contender on his hands. Returning a 20-10 team along with all-state Duke-bound Sean Dockery and backcourt running mate 5'9" senior Mike Wilson, Julian welcomes Africa-native Ousmane Barro, a 6'10" center, and 6'1" guard Junior Reed from Canada. Also look for 6'5" junior Edward Finner and 6'3" sophomore J.J. Watson to contribute along with a cast-full of players from the football squad.
  9. Westinghouse- Quick, as always, this year's Westinghouse team has an unusual blend of height and increased versatility. UNC Greensboro-bound guard Jamal Brown will lead the Warriors into action, along with 6'5" seniors Richard Russell and Darius Glover. While this is a senior dominated team, expect 6'5" sophomore Jamarcus "Tone-Tone" Ellis to make a big impact for coach Chris Head's group. Clyde Crosby and Anthony Bennett will both provide senior leadership and added quickness.
  10. Joliet- With an overhaul of talented guards, coach Bob Koskosky will be able to work his magic returning a 25-5 team. Led by Southwest Missouri State signee Kellen Easley, 6'5" senior Jabari Saunders provides added size. The 6'7" do-everything Easley is very long and creates havoc on defense, while Saunders uses his wide frame, big hands and good lift off the ground to be a force in the middle. Defensive-hound, 6'3" senior Jeremy Cartwright, Downers Grove South transfer Branden Dillard and 6'3" senior Demario Edwards look to round out the starting five. Sophomore Joliet Catholic transfer 6'4" Jeremy Fears look to make an instant impact off the bench, while seniors Brandon Banks and Brandon Shoemaker provide added punch.
  11. Whitney Young- Marcus White, a 6'7" Depaul-bound behemoth of a power forward, looks to lead the Dolphins talented junior class into battle. With seven players out of the Class of 2003 with Division One potential, next year might be Whitney Young's year, but coach Lamont Bryant has high hopes for the present. Watch out for juniors David Howard (5'10" G), Anthony Harris (6'2" G), Andre Knox (6'2" G), Norman Winn (6'4" F), DeWitt Scott (6'5" F), Michael Binns (6'7" F) and Dwayne Curtis (6'8" C).
  12. Crane- Returning a 25-7 team that reached the Chicago Public League Finals, current Arizona guard Will Bynum is the main loss, as the Cougars bring in a talented team capable of big things. Another squad with strong players from the Class of 2003, look for an all junior starting lineup of guards Carl Marshall, a capable big time scorer, Jamale Tidwell, who will quietly dominate, Tremel Gilot, who continues to improve his all-around game to compliment his extreme athleticism, Tino Valencia, a relentless workhorse and Lorenzo Thompson, a player capable of exciting things when he gives 100-percent.
  13. Peoria Richwoods- Running the Knights will be 6'5" sophomore sensation Shaun Livingston. If Livingston can stay healthy, look for him to present defenses with a tough match up problem with his height and extreme versatility. Sharpshooter John Little, a 6'3" senior combo guard will roam the perimeters as well as senior Martell Webster. 6'7" senior Robert Faulkner will be the key factor if coach Bob Darling's group looks to improve on last year's 28-4 mark that went downstate.
  14. West Aurora- With a recruiting class (joke) that brought in 6'5" junior Dameon Mason from Waubonsie Valley and 6'7" sophomore Shaun Pruitt from Providence St. Mel, the Blackhawks don't look to lose a step from last year's Elite Eight qualifier. Continuing his steady leadership at the point will be 6'3" sophomore Jaeh Thomas while 6'2" Kris Jenkins provides solid senior leadership after starting on last year's 27-4 team. Look for 6'2" junior guard Jessie Brown to throw in a helping hand to the West Aurora's success.
  15. Thornridge- While their size blends in well with its SICA East conference, compared to outside foes, Thornridge will be a hard team to match up with. Indiana State-bound Tristian Parham, a 6'8" forward can take you inside and shows glimpses of midrange abilities. Senior power forward, 6'7" Jonathan Bell has never seen a rebound that he doesn't like and will do whatever he can to get all within his reach and many that aren't. Seniors Jeremy Massingale and Jeremy Bledsoe provide a strong perimeter nucleus, with Bledsoe an intense defensive specialist. 6'8" junior Mitchell Goforth is one to watch.
  16. Evanston- Senior postman Stacey Moragne leads the Wildkits into battle. With his wide frame, the 6'4" Moragne is adept at positioning himself to grab rebounds and get putbacks around the hoop against much larger players. Assisting Moragne down low is 6'6" junior Jonathan Blakley with an athletic brand of ball. Look for super sophomore Gordon Watt, a 6'4" swingman to provide big dividends for coach Paul Pryma's squad. While this is not a team of individuals, they can best be classified as one unit, with their group chemistry and unity on the floor.
  17. Rockford Boylan- The Titans are big and physical, while brining in a tough mentality from a football frenzied squad. Leading returning scorer, 6'5" Eric Gillam can create his own shot from all over the floor and senior point guard Steve Harris makes it that much easier for him. Sharp-shooting junior, Matt Weber can keep the defense honest, while the inside presence of 6'6" senior Adam Finley and 6'7" senior Adam Finley pound the ball inside. Coming off a 24-5 season, coach Steve Goers has high hopes.
  18. Lyons- Returning only two starters from last year's 28-5 Elite Eight qualifying team, one might think the Lions were having a rebuilding year. Well, one might be wrong if they made that assumption as seniors Jim Maley and Cortez Forte are no pushovers. Maley, headed to Northwestern, is a 6'7" point-producer, while Forte is a wiry defender with quick slashing abilities with the ball in his hands.
  19. Rochelle- Junior star, 6'6" Ben Rand has a great supporting cast this year and if he wants to go deep in the playoffs this might have to be the year, while graduation will hit heavy next year for the Hubs. 6'2" senior Nick Reineck is Rochelle's starting quarterback on the football field, and he brings that same toughness and leadership on the hardwood. 6'5" Jeff Zick will provide added size to offset the compensation of defenses towards Rand.
  20. Quincy- Junior guard, 6'1" Tony Humphrey is back with the team after a brief hiatus and that couldn't make star junior Marcus Medsker any happier. The 6'5" Medsker is a versatile scorer and realizes that the pressure will be heavy on his shoulders, but Humphrey will contribute with great speed and athleticism. Look for senior Aaron Douglas to contribute to coach Loren Jackson's team which is coming off a 16-10 year.
  21. Von Steuben- Youth will be the focal point for coach Vince Carter's team, starting a freshman and sophomore, along with another sophomore the sixth man. With the underclassmen not easily intimidated, youth may not play as big of a part as some expect, as they have responded well to being thrown into the water rather than eased in slowly. Starting point guard, 6'1" freshman Angel Santiago will take over for Darnell Rawls who was dismissed from the team after violating team policy. Flame-throwing junior, 6'2" Brandon Davis provides marksmanship from the outside and senior guard, 6'1" Luke Rogers is able to hurt defenses in almost any way imaginable. 6'5" sophomores Demetrius Evans and Ryne Hamblet are athletic, versatile players that can play numerous roles. Look for St. Ignatius transfer, 6'6" Cole Monahan to pay big dividends inside for the Panthers.
  22. St. Rita- Junior Rashay Russell, a 5'11" quick-as-light guard, leads the way for the Mustangs. While Rashay and fellow juniors, 6'8" Michael Rembert and 6'7" Jerrah Young both started last year, this team is young but with experience. Coach John Bonk uses Rembert as the strong post-up player that he is, but also allows him to come outside and display his accurate three-point shot. Jerrah Young is a wiry shot blocker that runs the court well. Look for seniors William Myles and Matt Eastman to play a part as well.
  23. Manley- Despite moving down from the Red West to the Blue Division, the Wildcats are as strong as ever with a quick, pressing team. With a high-octane offense, the team handles -- and dishes out -- pressure well. 5'11" senior Al Stewart will run the team from the point guard spot with a great handle and play making abilities. 6'2" senior David Harper is a supreme athlete with deadeye range from the perimeter. Look for 6'1" junior Herbert Windfield to present the biggest surprise with a quick and accurate outside shot. Big man, 6'5" senior Roy Hegwood provides coach Bo Delaney with an aggressive interior performer with midrange capabilities. 6'5" sophomore Marcus Jackson rounds out the starting five.
  24. Moline- Led by senior third-year starter Jay McAdams-Thornton, the Maroons are a no-nonsense team which folds down to McAdams-Thornton, a defensive wrecking ball. Sophomore Wesley McCorkle has progressed into a big time play with his speed and skill at 5'11". Senior Travis Nunn is a 6'4" wiry post player with the versatility to take the ball outside, as well. McAdams-Thornton though, will be the key to guiding Moline to another successful year coming off an Elite Eight appearance. Anthony Beaird, a 6'0" senior looks to show that his recovery of his broken knee last year has gone flawlessly and will provide the Maroons with a serious outside shooting threat.
  25. Urbana- Although Champaign Central is considered by most the conference favorite for the Big 12, Urbana is a sleeper with a well-rounded team. Welcoming in a new coach, the Tigers will bring in an entirely new attitude this season. Lead guard, 6'0" Dominique White provides leadership and a quickness to set up a talented group. Backcourt mate, Matt Neaville will benefit directly from White's play-making abilities as he spots out from the outside. 6'4" junior Ray Williams, coming up from the sophomore team, will bring with him added size and strength to help on the glass. Look for 6'2" senior Anton Sanders to also contribute.

     

     


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