Author Archives: Kaleb Carter

Girls Notebook: Top Perfomers & Loyola Academy, Benet Academy Notes

Girls Notebook: Top Perfomers & Loyola Academy, Benet Academy Notes

By Kaleb Carter

 

Each week, I’ll be highlighting the best team and individual performances from around the state that stood out in girls basketball. It could be a state record, an amazing highlight or anything in between. Last season, I tended to base the top performers on stats from several games over the course of a week. For this season’s individual honorees I’ll be focusing on individual game performances. This will hopefully help me recognize more players and spend less time searching for statistics. 

As far as teams go, I want to highlight squads that upset highly-respected foes, put up absurd statistical performances or set new program records, things of that nature, over the course of the week, which will be focused on results over a week and not just in one game. 

Stats are critical to highlight these players and teams. Get in touch to submit a girls team or player at any point during the 2022-2023 season. You can submit stats to our Twitter, @ILL_HS_Hoops and @ill_hoop_scoops. I can also be reached at KalebCarter4256@gmail.com or on Twitter @Kaleb_M_Carter. 

Editor’s note: Not every submission is included in the top performers. Choices made at KC’s discretion. Games eligible to be considered for top performers were played Nov. 21-27.

Notable Week 2 Team Performances

Loyola 

Paige Engels is in control and with that in mind, it may make sense why a Loyola Academy team with youngsters at multiple key spots is thriving to start the season. 

At 4-0 after a 36-26 win over rivals New Trier on Wednesday, the Ramblers are looking ahead at some upcoming games that should continue to test them. 

Engels, who possessed the ball when things needed to get in order, scored early buckets as Loyola Academy took the lead that it held onto all game against the Trevians. But where Engels and the Ramblers continue to succeed is in owning the pace of the game, maintaining patience and absolutely stifling opponents with whatever zone, man or press look they trot out on defense. 

“It’s always intense at the end, we know we’ve got to keep getting stops and trying to put the ball in the basket,” Engels said. “It’s a lot of fun at the end when they’re close. It keeps us really invested in the game throughout.”

At one point in the fourth wth the Trevians within 6, Engels swiped away the ball from a Trevians player, quickly found freshman teammate Clare Weasler for a tear drop floater and a 31-23 Ramblers advantage. 

Grace Bronski was critical with 13 points in the New Trier win, making the timely plays needed.

The Ramblers have gotten contributions from all over the place, notably so in a 44-42 win over defending state champions Stevenson. The Ramblers also defeated the Patriots early last season, a loss that Stevenson later avenged in a super-sectional victory.

“It was nice to win that game, but we can hang with a lot of people in the state of Illinois,” Ramblers coach Jeremy Schoenecker said. “For such a young group to prove they can win that type of game, (Emory) Klatt is an absolute monster on the glass and I thought it showed our young kids if we keep grinding for 32 minutes, usually good things happen.”

An upcoming test at home against Montini on Dec. 7 should be a fun glimpse into a postseason-like atmosphere for both team. 

“Last year after getting all the way to the super-sectional, we knew what we needed to get there,” Loyola Academy’s Kelsey Langston said. “Only having 3 returners, we took that as we need to do everything to be able to get back there.”

Benet Academy

Class of 2023 Indiana commit Lenee Beaumont looked the part of a prospective state Player of The Year in a 61-44 home win over Carmel Catholic, a top 5 matchup in the state per our rankings here at Illinois-Basketball.com

“Last year they gave us some trouble throughout the year,” Beaumont said. “They have Jordan Wood. I’m a very good friend of hers, she’s a great player. Every game they’re going to be ready, they’re very well coached. They’re always prepared… Coach (Joe) Kilbride said before the game it’s not really any strategy we’ve got to go by, we’ve just go to go out there and be “dawgs” is what he says. It’s who wants to play harder, who wants to.. do the things to win.”

From the tip, Beaumont was visibly locked in. She hit a hanging jumper in the lane, one of several of those buckets she tossed in during the game. Senior forward Samantha Trimberger made early plays playing off the attention Carmel paid Beaumont. 

“She’s done a fantastic job offensively and defensively,” Beaumont said of Trimberger. “Obviously with the loss of (Morgan) Demos that’s a huge refunding and scoring loss we had but she’s been killing t this year. It’s awesome to see her. Every year she has a new role and she’s doing awesome at stepping into it.”

The junior super guard came off a screen and knocked down a 3-pointer as Wood, a senior Michigan State commit, looked at her coach (Ben Berg) and seemingly asked, “what do I do on that?”

Later in the half, while sitting in the stands and watching another absurd Beaumont finish around the rim, an observer just began laughing at how easy the Redwing star had made a difficult play look.He wasn’t the only one with similar reactions. Making such plays has come from a more focused effort to have body control in the paint. 

“Coming with patience, change of speed type of thing, last year if someone got to me full-court, I probably would have had a few more turnovers,” Beaumont said. “But this year I also worked on my balance, strength  that the of stuff so I feel like all the stuff is coming together.”

The Redwings actually sustained their first loss of the season several days later, when Beaumont did not play due to illness against Naperville Central and top Illinois player in the class of 2026, Trinity Jones. Emilia Sularski stepped up with 27 points and 8 three-pointers in the loss. For more on that, find details on Jones below in the top individuals section. 

Hersey

Defeated Barrington, led by a combined 50 points from seniors Katy Eidle and Natalie Alesia. 

Okawville

Alayna Kraus is averaging 18 points and 2.8 steals per game as Okawville won the Nashville tourney and moved to 4-0.

Hamilton County

 Went 5-0 at its home tournament to win the title. Carson Belangee, Desirae Dockery, Sydney Downen and Kaelee Karcher were all-tournament. 

Altamont

Now 5-0 and won Newton’s tournament title after beating Effingham 52-50, Newton 50-46 and Flora 50-46.

Lake Forest

Now 5-0 after winning the Vernon Hills Thanksgiving tourney, Rachel Kaus scored 17 with 9 rebounds and 4 assists in the 59-32 title game victory over Vernon Hills.

St. Anthony

Out to a 6-0 start, scored 81 points vs. Robinson, also defeated Fairfield, Marshall and Mt. Carmel this past week. 

Bolingbrook

Defeated Mother McAuley (55-51) and Columbus East (IN). Persais Williams emerging as a strong performer for the Raiders. 

Lincoln 

Took it to a good Pana team, 61-28 and is now 5-0. Has scored at least 61 points in each of its last 4 games. 

Byron

Won the Dakota tourney with a 53-41 victory over River Ridge/Scales Mound. Also beat Aquin Catholic, Dakota and Pearl City during the week. 

Elmwood

Claimed the Brimfield Turkey Championship with a 42-33 victory over Brimfield. 

Highland

They’re  5-0, with wins over Breese Central (45-39) and Alton Marquette (56-23).

Lombard College Prep

Won their first game since 2017, defeating Horizon Science Academy McKinley Park, 44-18. 

Tuscola

Moved to 4-0 with wins against Urbana University (50-14) and Tri County (44-43).

Notable Week 2 Individual Performances 

Trinity Jones, Naperville Central, Fr.

Scored 23 points with 14 rebounds, 6 assists as Naperville Central defeated Benet Academy.

Caitlin Washington, Neuqua Valley, Jr. 

Posted 29 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals as the Wildcats defeated Sandburg 74-65.

Emory Klatt, Stevenson, Jr. 

Posted 34 points, school-record 23 rebounds in a 54-26 victory against Phillips.

Carly Foster, Gallatin County, Sr.

Scored 33 in a 45-32 win over Wayne City. 

Janae Kent, Oak Forest, Sr. 

Posted a robust stat line of 37 points, 7 made three-pointers and 12 rebounds as the Bengals defeated Chicago Christian. 

Kate Rule, Libertyville Jr.

Netted 24 points as the Wildcats handed Barrington its first loss, 63-61.

Xamiya Walton, Butler College Prep, Jr. 

31 points, 5 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds in a loss to Pattonville (MO.).

Denver Anderson, Mt. Zion, Jr. 

2 triple doubles during the week, including 22 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists in one game. 

Heidi Rathmann, Antioch, Fr. 

Scored 42 points in a win over Lake Forest Academy.

LaKeeyah Barnes, Morgan Park, Jr. 

Scored 36 on 13-of-18 shooting in a win over Perspectives/Leadership, including 5-of-5 on three-pointers. Added 4 steals. 

 

Aaliyah Guyton, Peoria, Jr. 

26 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists as the Lions beat Eisenhower 100-27.

Lenee Beaumont, Benet, Sr. 

26 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals as the Redwings bested Carmel Catholic by 17. 

Abbey Schreacke, Quincy Notre Dame, Sr. 

35 points in a comeback home win over Butler College Prep. 

Kaitlyn Hoffing, Fenton, Sr.

Hit 7 3-pointers in a half, scored 26, with 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists vs. Parkview Christian. 

Mya Wardle, Peoria Notre Dame, Jr. 

Posted 30 points, 10 assists in an 81-37 win vs. United Township. 

Cami Hurt, Routt Catholic

Scored 31 in a win over Pittsfield.

Kameron Adams, Harrisburg, Jr. 

26 points in a win over Frankfort. 

Emily Maple, Mattoon, Jr. 

23 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists vs. Pana. 

Lauren Miller, Trinity, Jr. 

31 points, 14 rebounds as the Blazers beat Rosary 54-36.

Jadea Johnson, Romeoville, Jr.

21 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 assists in one game. 

Girls 2022-23 High School Basketball Week 2 Rankings

Girls 2022-23 High School Basketball Week 2 Rankings

By Kaleb Carter

After some carnage among the best teams in the state this past week, we try to make heads or tails of some of the results. 

Kaleb Carter is back with his top 25 and will include some teams to watch as the season goes along in the rankings.

Previous rankings:

1. Nazareth Academy (4)

Did not mess around with a good Lincoln-Way East squad that has great size, winning 68-41. The Roadrunners have started 4-0, having also handled Yorkville by 35 this past week. They’re the full package.

2. Benet Academy (1)

Did the Redwings lose? Yes, to Naperville Central and super frosh Trinity Jones. They did so without an ill Lenee Beaumont, who I saw take an excellent Carmel Catholic squad to school. It felt necessary to reward Nazareth for being unbeaten, and Benet needed to drop behind, even given the circumstances.

I caught some interesting flack on social media for saying I thought Benet was the clear No. 1. I can’t wait to see the Redwings and Roadrunners square off this year. Even if I can’t attend it, I’ll certainly be streaming it.

3. Fremd (6)

They just keep beating good teams. Nobody ever really needs to score 20, and they’ve got a plethora of extremely talented players capable of putting up big totals on other squads. They won their two games by an average of 36 points this past week and won the Hampshire tourney.

4. Carmel Catholic (5)

Lone loss is to No. 2 Benet. The Corsairs are 5-1 after beating Naperville Central, Proviso West and Guilford this week.

5. Hersey (7)

Now 5-1, the Huskies claimed the Bison Classic with a 60-49 victory against a solid Maine South team that may see the rankings this season as they grow. Hersey defeated Grayslake Central and Barrington as well this week.

6. Bolingbrook (8)

I don’t have a super great grasp on how good the Raiders are this season, but I do know that Angelina Smith is excellent. They defeated Joliet West and Mother McAuley this week.

7. Geneva (9)

Did not play this week, can grab a good win this upcoming week against Naperville North and/or Barrington.

8. Lyons (13)

Just rolling along at 4-0 after wins over Leyden and Lane tech this week, both by at least 30. 

9. Montini (12)

Dusted Plainfield East by 40 and is 4-0. Shannon Blacher playing great.

10. Loyola (17)

The defense is strong as ever. Wins over Stevenson (last week) and New Trier this past week. Young players contributing to the cause. 4-0 record.

11. Barrington (2)

Has two losses to a very good Hersey team as well as against a high-upside Libertyville. Deciding where to put Barrington and Libertyille this week gave me a massive headache. Fillies now 3-2.

12. Peoria (11)

Out to a 5-0 start, scored 100 versus Decatur Eisenhower and also beat Dunlap. Aaliyah Guyton is coming into her own.

13. Stevenson (15)

Emory Klatt is doing absurd things statistically, and the Patriots are 3-1, with line loss to Loyola.

14. Deerfield (16)

Unbeaten at 5-0. Pulverizing early competition.

15. O’Fallon (18)

3-1, lost to Evansville Memorial (IN) this past week after a win over Castle (IN). D’Myjah Bolds stepping up. 

16. Whitney Young (3)

Sitting at 1-1 with the loss to O’Fallon. 

17. Kenwood (20)

Breezed through the Rock Island tourney, with freshman Danielle Brooks opening eyes early.

18. Libertyville (10)

Has a win over Barrington and a loss to Maine South. I wasn’t sure where the Wildcats belonged. Dropping so far probably not fair to them, but this is where I feel they should be for now. Wildcats are 3-2.

19. Quincy Notre Dame (14)

Had to come back late against Butler College Prep, but secured the 63-60 win. Missouri signee Abbey Schreake scored 35. Now 4-0.

20. Alton (21)

No one has beaten them yet, all three wins by double digits.

21. Naperville North (24)

Still unbeaten (3-0), and should be in a fight with Waubonsie Valley and Naperville Central in a fun DuPage Valley.

22. St. Charles North (Unranked)

Has really impressed early with a 5-0 mark. Excited to see how their game with Bolingbrook goes on Saturday. 

23. York (Unranked)

One of the most intriguing early-season teams, they’re 5-0 and have a chance to carry an unbeaten record for a while.

24. Lake Zurich (23)

Upcoming game for Bears (2-2) against Huntley (Saturday) has my attention, I could see Huntley broaching the rankings.

25. Peoria Notre Dame (25)

Mya Wardle is playing great and has the Lady Irish out to a 5-0 start.

Other notables: Was feeling strongly that teams like Huntley, Mother McCAuley, Lincoln-Way West, Glenbrook South, Marian Catholic and Maine South are making cases for rankings. Others, like Neuqua Valley, Batavia, Okawville, Lincoln-Way East and Butler College Prep have my attention.

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Girls 2022-23 High School Basketball Preseason Rankings

Girls 2022-23 High School Basketball Preseason Rankings

By Kaleb Carter

We introduced a top-25 rankings mid 2021-22 — a way to analyze how teams stack up across the state, regardless of class.

Kaleb Carter is back to start the 2022-23 season with his top 25. As the season goes, he’ll have teams beyond the top 25 to watch.

1. Benet (4A, ESCC)

Benet is the most put-together team from what we can tell. Lenee Beaumont is an early top candidate for player of the year lists, while Samantha Trimberger should play a bigger role for the Red Wings this season. I’m expecting productive seasons from sis-duo Magdalena and Emilia Sulaski this season as well.

2. Barrington (4A, Mid-Suburban League)

With 2021-22 Illinois-Basketball Girls Player of the Year Sophie Swanson (Purdue commit) returning to lead the state runner-up squad, a state title is well within reach. Molly O’Riordan (a bevy of D-I offers) and Gwen Adler provide quite the punch. 

3. Whitney Young (4A, CPL-Red North/West)

The Dolphins were playing as well as anyone in the state late last year before running into Benet. Skylar Jones, a Missouri commit, leads the way once more. There’s talent all over the floor once more for Young.

4. Nazareth Academy (3A, ESCC)

The Roadrunners return nearly everyone from the 3A runner-up team. Grace Carstensen should be one of the state’s best shooters, Danielle Scully should be one of the more versatile bigs in the state, Amalia Dray can take over at a moment’s notice and some beyond-their-years freshmen are coming. 

5. Carmel Catholic (3A, ESCC)

After a magical run through the postseason a year ago, the Corsairs looked fluid and dominant in the summer. They’ll likely be more perimeter-oriented as they look to replace the production lost by the graduation of Grace Sullivan.

6. Fremd (4A, Mid-Suburban League)

Not too many teams in the state will have colleges calling about kids on the JV squad, but the Vikings have been so strong in recent years, that has happened. Ella Todd and NIU-bound Maddy Fay can take center stage early. 

7. Hersey (4A, Mid Suburban League)

The Huskies bring back much of the production from a team that won 27 games. Meghan Mrowicki should be back soon from an ACL tear sustained late last season. Katy Eidle is one of the top players in the state. 

8. Bolingbrook (4A Southwest Suburban)

Angelina Smith and Yahaira Bueno will lead a backcourt that must pick up the slack after the loss of some strong Raiders.

9. Geneva (4A, DuKane)

With the skill, size and balance to defeat anyone in the state, Geneva hopes to make its first run back to state since 2018 as Cassidy Arni and Leah Palmer lead.

10. Libertyville (4A, North Suburban Conference)

Folks are high on the Wildcats, and for good reason. Emily Fisher is one of the state’s best talents, and the team has established talent and other young players who are beginning to emerge. 

11. Peoria (3A, Big Twelve)

Denali Craig-Edwards and Aaliyah Guyton lead the Lions’ pack that could step pretty far forward on a state stage. 

12. Montini (3A, GCAC)

Shannon Blacher and Victoria Matulevicius will lead.

13. Lyons (4A, West Suburban)

The brand is strong at Lyons, which will have a fundamentally skilled ball club with shooters and scorers around the perimeter. Look out for Ally Cesarini. 

14. Quincy Notre Dame (2A, West Central)

Missouri commit Abbey Schreacke returns to the defending 2A champs. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Raiders with the state’s best record this season.

15. Stevenson (4A, North Suburban League)

Even after losing great senior guards, the 4A-defending-champ Patriots will feature perhaps the best defensive frontcourt in the state with Emory Klatt and Kate Arne.

16. Deerfield (3A, Central Suburban League)

Fire power. The Warriors will bring a frantic pace to the table with a lineup full of future college hoopers that will make them the overwhelming CSL favorites. Lexi Kerstein is a Vermont signee, while Aubrey Galvan and Nikki Kerstein are receiving heavy D-I interest. 

17. Loyola (4A, GCAC)

The system works. Loyola will find a way to win games any which way you cut it. Paige Engels will do a lot.

18. O’Fallon (4A, Southwestern)

Returing talent young and old, O’Fallon has the potential to be the best team south of I-80. Laylah Jackson, Jailah Petty and Shannon Dowell (Illinois State signee) lead the Panthers.

19. Civic Memorial (3A, Mississippi Valley)

Shooters shoot, and Aubree Wallace and Olivia Durbin did that all the way to the 3A semifinals last year. Both guards are back.

20. Kenwood (4A, Red South Central)

Tasha Barnes should take center stage, while Ariella Henigan should be featured more heavily with the ball in her hands this season after the Broncos lost three D-I players.

21. Alton (4A, Southwestern)

With a young but immensely talented core, the Redbirds should take a large leap forward as one of best teams in the southern half of the state — if not the best. Alyssa Lewis, Laila Blakeny, Jarius Powers and Kiyolo Proctor make Alton plenty explosive.

22. Homewood-Flossmoor (4A, Southwest Suburban)

Syracuse commit Alyssa Latham stands ready to dominant while a talented group around her is poised to move the Vikings forward. 

23. Lake Zurich (4A, North Suburban)

Most of those who did the damage for the Bears in their sectional final run last year return. Baylie Parks, Anna Gilberton and Avery Cooper could be front and center.

24. Naperville North (4A, DuPage Valley)

Someone will need to pick up the scoring slack lost from Kenzie Hare, but Layla Henderson should be quick to the hoop, and the Huskies will reload at other spots..

25. Peoria Notre Dame (3A, Big Twelve)

 Mya Wardle needs a bit of help, but the Irish could be a 3A power and compete with Peoria in the Big Twelve. 

*Several corrections noted, with players from Naperville North and Peoria Notre Dame. 

Stat-Sheet Stuffer Sophia Loden of Mascoutah Commits to Southern Indiana

By Kaleb Carter

Follow @Kaleb_M_Carter

When looking at prospective colleges, Mascoutah incoming senior Sophia Loden told her high school coach about her excitement in soon-to-be Division I University of Southern Indiana.

Mascoutah girls coach Frank Evans took that sentiment to heart and made a move that will long endear him to Loden. Evans got Mascoutah into the Southern Indiana women’s basketball team’s summer camp this summer.  

“[It] a lot of fun and I feel like I connected with the players there,” Loden said. 

The 5-11 multi-position player — Loden plays more of a post-role for Mascoutah, but figures to play more on the perimeter in college — made the visit a productive one, and chose to come back for a second visit that also went well. She played six games over two days in the team camp visit, which presented a chance for her to play in front of college coaches. 

“My official visit was amazing,” Loden said. “The facilities are incredible but the culture that coach Rick Stein has created is unmatched. All of the girls on the team introduced themselves to me and my family. It’s just not something you see at every college. Everyone there made me feel really welcome.

“The practice that I attended was very competitive, but the players were also extremely positive with each other,” she added. “I wanted to put my shoes on and jump in there with them. It just felt right when I was there.

Loden cited COVID-19 as having interrupted what could have been a potentially busy early recruiting process. As a freshman, she averaged just under 10 points per game for a Mascoutah squad that had just one senior and claimed five victories. She averaged 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds as a sophomore. 

“I had my sophomore high school season cut in half, and coaches couldn’t really come watch AAU games,” Loden said. “During this time, I reached out to as many coaches as I could and would send them game film and highlights. Once COVID restrictions allowed fans at games, I went to as many games as I could. I also attended Elite Camps for the schools I was interested in, so the coaches could see me on their campus, and we could interact with each other. I think the biggest thing I did was really try to communicate with coaches.”

This past season, Loden easily averaged a double-double (22.7 points, 12.2 rebounds), and led her team in scoring, rebounding and steals as the program went 16-15 in Evans’ third year coaching the team in his current stint. (He also coached Mascoutah from 2005-08.) 

Evans said that Loden has improved immensely her mentality since he started watching her in her freshman season before taking over as coach. 

“Her mental midset and maturity has changed,” Evans said. “She has become more and more unselfish.”

As things have changed for the better, Evans says Loden has realized how her attitude has begun to pay off. With future D-I pole vaulter Katie Schneider and multi-sport athlete Bella Hart making up a stellar senior trio for Mascoutah, the program expects the positive upward trend to continue.

“I think it was a matter of her teammates and her coming together and her teammates showing, ‘Hey, we’ve got a few kids who can shoot the three pretty well,’ and they score in transition pretty well,” Evans said. 

Over time, Evans cited Loden’s ball-handling in transition and her passing as improved facets of her game. She’s also played volleyball and even tried her hand at golf. 

“Coaching kids like Sophie make’s it fun,” Evans said. “She has a motor that never stops. I take her out of the game for a breather, but she hardly ever asks to come out. She goes end to end as fast as she can. She plays defense as hard as she can.”

She has also become stronger and better at shot selection. Both she and Evans cited Mascoutah’s strength program for that. 

“Mascoutah has a really good weight training program,” Loden said. “Our strength coach ran workouts three days a week throughout summer.”

“Skill training wise, I’ve continued to work out with Coach Denney, but also making sure I train a few times a week with Dave Ruckman (a trainer here in the metro east),” Loden said. “I credit both of them for making me a much more confident player over the past year.

A notable record could be broken this season: Bec Harris’ career 1,724 points is within reach. The rising senior scored 703 last season and has 1,068 points for her career, per stltoday.com statistics. 

Other Illinois women on the other Southern Indiana roster from Illinois include Ashley Hunter, a fifth-year player who played at Homewood-Flossmoor, Neuqua Valley graduate Claudia Gallegos and Ramsey Hasewinkle, an honorary team member, from Albion. 

Upon arrival, Loden will be joining a program in-transition from NCAA D-II to D-I. 

“The players and coaches are already up to the challenge of the OVC (Ohio Valley Conference),” Loden said. “While I was at camp, I asked the players how they felt about not being able to compete in the NCAA tournament, and while they were naturally disappointed about the four-year transition, they have set goals to make the NIT in the meantime. Every player and coach told me repeatedly that at USI, we expect to contend for the OVC year-in and year-out.”

With school right around the corner, Loden says she is considering stuyding engineering.

Vision Clear as Bolingbrook/St. Ignatius Pair Commit to Miami RedHawks

Vision Clear as Bolingbrook/St. Ignatius Pair Commit to Miami RedHawks

By Kaleb Carter

Jackson Kotecki and Mekhi Cooper both feel that there is a well-detailed plan laid out before them. That trust provided to them by the Miami RedHawks coaching staff is what led the pair to both commit within days of each other to the Division I men’s basketball program in Oxford, Ohio. 

 

Cooper, a 5-10 Class of 2023 guard for Bolingbrook, and Kotecki, a 6-9 Class of 2023 forward for St. Ignatius, both cited a vision shown to them by the Miami coaches in their recruiting visits. Kotecki said he bonded with the Miami coaches more than any other staff. 

 

“I enjoyed every second of it,” Kotecki said of his visit. “The coaches’ plan for me, they physically gave me …a spreadsheet thing of how they’re going to develop me. They showed me the plan. It wasn’t like they were just saying it so that they gave me confidence that they’re really going to help develop me as a player.”

Cooper said that he believes he’ll develop well under Steele’s tutelage. 

 

“It feels great to have made a decision the biggest factors (for) me were the coaching staff from Miami showed so much love and support during the recruiting process and got to build a strong relationship,” Cooper said. “I also loved coach Steele(‘s) focus on player development and how much he believes and trust me.”

The pair are familiar with one another, having played together before for travel club Mac Irvin Fire. 

 

“I’m really excited man,” Kotecki said. “Mekhi was my man on the Fire and to be going to college together is awesome.”

 

“I know Jackson well, we (played) together one year of AAU, so that felt good to team up with him again,” Cooper said. 

Kotecki is plenty confident in his growing offensive skills, but is aware teams came calling when they saw his defensive capabilities guarding players all over the floor. 

 

“They (Miami) really wanted me and wanted to build their team around having tall, versatile guys, guys that can play multiple positions, not just one position,” Kantecki said. “That was something I was looking for in a program.”

 

Kotecki picked up his first offer in June and admitted it was stressful to see so many players around him picking up offers before him. He had confidence in his own abilities, but wasn’t seeing the interest from coaches he expected. 

 

“You see all your friends that you play with getting offers and you’re like, ‘why am I not getting offers?’ And that starts going through your mind,” Kotecki said. “Just knowing from experience and having to play through that was tough, but I just had to power through that and I did and it worked out.”

 

The big man said that his coaches, from Matt Monroe with the Wolfpack, to his Fundamental U coaches, gave him the confidence to grow this summer. It proved to be the needed growth for colleges to come clamoring. 

 

“To go out there and play with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder and be like ‘yeah, I am better than most of these kids that are ranked higher than me and just trying to not worry about that,’” Kotecki said. “Just going out and whoever is put in front of me I’m going to lock them up and I’m going to go as hard as I can through the whole game.”

 

Both state semifinalists a year ago, (Bolingbrook in 4A and St. Ignatius in 3A), the pair, both verbal commits, bring a winning pedigree to coach Travis Steele’s first recruiting class at the helm of the RedHawks. The RedHawks already have Illinois ties. 


Deerfield graduate Jackson Kenyon is a rising senior on the roster. Senior guard Will Stevens is a Chicago native. Sophomore Bryson Tatum is an Urbana graduate. Steele was also once a men’s basketball assistant at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel. 

 

Cooper, a standout at the Ridgewood Shootout this summer, put much on display in his game that leads writers like yours truly to believe he will quickly be college-ready.  Coach Robert Brost’s Raiders do tend to churn out college-ready players with remarkable consistency. 

 

“This year I really want to get bigger and stronger and this season I’m hoping to get back downstate and get a ring,” Cooper said.

 

“I know we’ll be able to get back down to state,” Kotecki said. “I have the confidence in our guys. Even though we have a younger team, we lost a lot of seniors, I know the younger guys are going to be able to step up. We’re going to be able to get back down to where we were and hopefully further.”

Clemson Commit Asa Thomas Approaches 4th Year of Varsity For Lake Forest With High Expectations

Clemson Commit Asa Thomas Approaches 4th Year of Varsity For Lake Forest With High Expectations

By Kaleb Carter

Lake Forest boys basketball coach Phil LaScala remembers when it really hit him just how much upside there was in Asa Thomas. 

“The second game of his career (as a freshman) we played St. Ignatius and he had like (22) points, 14 in the second half in clutch time,” LaScala said. “It’s one of those things like ‘wow, we have something special here.’”

Thomas was reeling in big offer after big offer in the summer of 2021 following his sophomore year, with DePaul, Illinois, Iowa, Marquette, Minnesota, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin all all extending official offers. 

Thursday, Thomas (Class of 2023) made his commitment to the ACC’s Clemson Tigers and coach Brad Brownell. 

“I love the coaching staff there,” Thomas said. “Coach Brownell and Coach (Billy) Donlon are two outstanding coaches and I know my game can expand under their wing. And on top of all that, I get the chance to play in one of the best conferences in the country every night. Also Clemson’s strong academic reputation was also a big factor in my decision.  It’s an ideal combination of academics and athletics for me.

His trip to Clemson, South Carolina, a college town of under 17,000 souls, was pleasant one.

Lemont would be the closest Illinois city by population in comparison. 

“The visit was great,” Thomas said. “I was able to meet some of the guys and get a feel for how life is as a player. It just felt right when I was walking around the facilities and the campus. It was a great time.”

Last season, the then-junior guard/wing was dropping big scoring totals, scoring 40 vs. Bulls College Prep and compiling stat lines often consisting of a handful of rebounds and assists. He reached the 1,000 career points mark in early February. Thomas was an IBCA first team all-state honoree and a Chicago Sun-Times 3A all-state first team pick a season ago.  He led the Scouts to a 27-7 overall, 13-1 record in the North Suburban Conference to claim the NSC title. He also earned conference player of the year honors. 

“We’ve had some good offensive players the past couple years that have also been solid contributors and I think this year he’s really going to have to step it up a notch and be that lead guy all the time,” LaScala said.

Thomas also hones his skills playing travel ball with well-known AAU club Illinois Wolves. 

“He’s 6-8 now and he can shoot from long range and he gets his shot off really quick,” LaScala said. “He sees the court really well. He passes really well and he’s skilled. When you’re 6-8 and skilled those are hard to come by.”

“He’s a great communicator too. When they (college coaches) come in to watch practices and stuff like that, they watch how he communicates with his teammates and he’s an unbelievable leader.”

Thomas seems well aware how much will be on his shoulders heading into the season. 

“I just want to go out there and get better everyday with my high school teammates,” Thomas said. “We have a great squad this year and my goal is to go out and win a state championship.”

“I think the best is yet to come for him as far as the things he can do and I think this year,” LaScala said. “He’s… he’s really going to start to take over and dominate.”hm

Summer Notebook: Mia Bergstrom’s Time To Shine; Suburban Notables from Stevenson Summer League

By Kaleb Carter

Mia Bergstrom has some catching up to do, and she knows it. It’s a focal point to get her team moving forward. 

“We’re still kind of young, so I’ve got to lead the (underclassmen) up to what we’ve been doing the last year and the year before,” Bergstrom said. 

A Class of 2024 shooting guard, Bergstrom leads a retooling Saint Viator through the summer months as the Lions make adjustments following the loos of two Division I basketball recruits. Joy Bergstrom (now at South Dakota) and Nora Ahram (UIC) were both guards for a squad that went 20-13 (3-4 in East Suburban Catholic League). 

Three of those losses came to Class 3A state champs Carmel Catholic, another team that the Lions saw in competetion at the summer league at Stevenson High School.

Coach Jason Raymond said he expects continued growth from Bergstrom.

“It’s the first time really for her playing without her sister, she played AAU with her sister her whole life, the last two years at Saint Viator she played with her sister, so this is the first time she’s stepped out on her own,” Raymond said “So she’s trying to adapt to that new role as being the No. 1 scoring option for her team whereas before, with her AAU team, and even with us, she’s probably either the three number or four scoring option for us in years’ past. It’s a little bit of an adjustment for her, but it’s not going to take long for her to figure it out with her skill-set.”

While the No. 1 option for Saint Viator, she is more flexible in what she provides travel team Wolverinas, where she can be a 3-point specialist or all-around scorer wherever needed. 

This summer, Bergstrom has began to hear from a flurry of college coaches, picking up offers from Division I programs Murray State, St. Thomas, Cleveland State, Northern Illinois, UIC, Omaha, Valparaiso and most recently Saint Louis. She was offered by Bradley before her sophomore season even began. 

“It’s very exciting,” Bergstrom said. “I appreciate them reaching out and giving me offers, but we’ll see how this year goes, this summer.”

Bergstrom and Class of 2025 guard Allia Von schlegell will lead the backcourt while the Lions look for emerging skills from a relatively young group across the roster. 

“We’ve got a lot of good offensive players so, we’ve got to gel on defense and if we get that done, we’ll be tough,” Bergstrom said.

Other Notes From Teams at Stevenson’s Summer League

Stevenson’s young guards showed potential, but the frontcourt of highly-recruited Emory Klatt (2024)  and Kate Arne (Class of 2023) showed that they’ll provide the firepower needed to make the Patriots one of the state’s best again as they defend a 4A title. 

Reigning 3A champs Carmel Catholic was the best looking team overall in the two days of games I watched on June 16 and June 23. The Corsairs finished the summer league with a convincing win over Stevenson. Michigan State commit Jordan Wood (Class of 2024) has added to and improved her arsenal and a more confident Mia Gillis (2024) will pick up much of the slack lost by Bucknell recruit Grace Sullivan. 

Libertyville has the potential to launch itself into the upper echelon of the state’s teams this season. Maryland commit Emily Fisher (2023) leads the way, while burgeoning talent (see 6-0 forward Talya Tillman, 2025) is beginning to open eyes for the Wildcats. The Rule sister’s (Kate and Rachel, Class of 2024) are improved shooters this offseason too.

Sophie Swanson was rolling through the league, but coach Babbi Barreiro clearly had a plan of testing her less experienced players in the tough summer league, as young Fillies are getting their chance to grow and make mistakes. All that said, don’t be surprised if Swanson, the reigning Illinois-Basketball Girls 4A Player of The Year erupts for a 50-burger and a handful of 40-point barrages this year. She’s even more of a versatile scorer now from the looks of things. With DI offers in-tow, Molly O’Riordan (2024) should be a big riser in the frontcourt for the Fillies. 

Deerfield is still up to its entertaining ways this summer with the Kerndt and Kerstein sisters. Meanwhile, the recruitment of guard Aubrey Galvan (2025), who played a big role on Deerfield’s third-place state soccer finish, is picking up. Galvan recently secured offers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and SIUE. 

Hersey looked predicably good, and should be battling Barrington for Mid Suburban League supremacy this season. Some new faces will be asked to take bigger roles, while some like Natalie Alesia (2024 guard) and Annika Manthy (6-3 2024 forward) should factor in a great deal to the team’s success. 

Other standouts I saw included sharp-shooting guard Kate Saccaro (New Trier, 2024), Rachel Kaus (Lake Forest, 2023). Kaus recently picked up an offer from Cornell. Never did get to see Prospect at the league. Warren and Vernon Hills showed some intriguing flashes I may follow up on in the coming season. 

Huntley’s Jessie Ozzauto, An All-Around Athlete, Energized By Lehigh Commitment

Huntley’s Jessie Ozzauto, An All-Around Athlete, Energized By Lehigh Commitment

By Kaleb Carter

 Huntley class of 2023 star Jessie Ozzauto recalls heading into her junior season with a renewed attitude geared toward success. 

“I was just having that confidence of, ‘Ok, just shoot the ball because you’re a good shooter,’” Ozzauto said she was telling herself. “I think that’s a major thing that has helped.”

The multi-sport Red Raider excelled enough as a junior to begin drawing Division I attention, and soon had Lehigh University making a move that drew her own attention. 

“One of my coaches from my old AAU team reached out and said they [Lehigh] were interested, so I started talking to them probably about a year ago,” Ozzauto said. “I’ve been talking to them a bunch. The associate head coach actually flew out to Huntley to watch a game.”

On June 2, the multi-faceted and nearly six-foot shooting guard committed to the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania institution. She’ll play for a team that piqued her interest for a variety of reasons, notably due to the temperament the unit exhibits. 

Coming off a 19-11 (overall) season, 11-7 in Patriot League play, the Mountain Hawks are in a time of transition, where former associate head coach Addie Micir takes over as head coach following a 27-year tenure from former coach Sue Troyan. 

“The energy that they have is what sticks out to me,” Ozzauto said. “No matter who scores or what happens, I feel like the energy is always up.”

Ozzauto will return to Huntley this year after a summer with the Illinois Lady Lightning, looking to help the Red Raiders repeat as FVC champs. She’s coming off a season where she averaged 12 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 steals, and sank a team-high 56 3-pointers (courtesy of Alex Kantecki, Northwest Herald).

Fellow rising senior and all-conference returnee Sammi Campanelli is back, as should be fellow senior Morgan McAughn. Also coming back into the fold is rising sophomore Anna Campanelli, who already holds a D-I offer from Fort Wayne. The Red Raiders are coming off a regional championship and a 22-7 overall record, winning the FVC at 17-1.

“That team was super fun to play with,” Ozzauto said. “We didn’t know really what to expect coming into that season. Jori (Heard) helped us out a bunch because of her skill rebounding-wise. I think all-around, every single person on that team took it to themselves to own up defensively.

“This (past) year we shot it really well too, which was something that wasn’t really part of our offense much,” she continued. “And that just started to form this year, just because of the way we were able to push the floor and the way we were able to get stops defensively and how that created our offense.”

A track athlete since middle school, Ozzauto has had no trouble staying busy outside of basketball season, playing both sportsl simultaneously. Last month, she was on the 4×200 relay team for the Red Raiders that took seventh place at the 3A state meet. She was also on the 4×100 team that qualified for day two of the state meet and the 4×400 unit that qualified for the meet. 

“I think the footwork that comes from both, I think they both really correlate with each other,” Ozzauto said “I’m in a relay for track so especially the chemistry and trust, it actually translates to basketball as well.”

The soon-to-be senior knows she needs to improve in all aspects of her game to prepare for the Division I level. While undecided on a major, she has interest in sports psychology.

“I think just overall making my game better on both ends of the floor, it’s college, it’s way more physical, you have to find different ways to get your shot off,” Ozzauto said. “I think adding more aspects to my game and just getting better all-around … it’s not simple. It’s not as simple as high school or AAU might be. There’s more complex steps and creating different opportunities for myself and for teammates.”

Lenee Beaumont Commits to Indiana After Recruitment Explodes

Lenee Beaumont Commits to Indiana After Recruitment Explodes

By Kaleb Carter

Lenee Beaumont has never backed down from playing the best. She’s reaped the rewards of playing around strong competition for years. 

For one, her Benet squad plays in arguably the strongest league in the state: the East Suburban Conference, which hosts the 2021-22 3A state champs and runner-ups (Carmel Catholic and Nazareth Academy). She’s played against strong internal competition since arriving at Benet as a freshman. She’s played at an extremely high level in travel ball and is set to do more of that this summer in the Midwest EYBL circuit. 

The 2023 point guard verbally committed to Indiana University, a rising program in the Big Ten.

She joins a growing list of Illinois Class of 2023 players heading to the Big Ten. 

“Starting up as a freshman, when I was a freshman, I think we had four or five Division I players,” Beaumont said. “Looking up to them it was always a goal of mine, like, that would be awesome. I would love to be in their shoes. Being in their position is a great feeling, a dream come true basically. I think it’s going to prepare me well, always having those types of players around me, being exposed to that level of competition.”

Beaumont said she was happy to have a decision made before the upcoming live period. She can focus on her game and helping her team win. 

“I love to win no matter what. I hate losing,” Beaumont said. “That was definitely something that factored into my decision. I was paying really close attention to them this past season. They had a great successful season and most of the time they were a top-10, top-15 program. They’re heading in the right direction for sure.”

The junior noted that, just like the Benet coaching staff, she feels that the Hoosiers’ staff will refuse to allow her to be comfortable with her current abilities.  She has a drive to be great. 

“I think everyone there has the same goal,” Beaumont said of Indiana. “They’re all very level-minded. … Everyone was super sweet, understanding and very kind. Grace Berger, she’s probably one of the best players in the country, but you would not have gotten that vibe from her. Everyone there is very good people. They’re all about their motto, ‘Do the work.’”

An IBCA all-state first-team selection as a junior (honorable mention as a sophomore) and second-team all-stater for the Associated Press this past season, Beaumont has wowed her coaches and opponents alike since walking into the gym her freshman year. 

“She was playing against (Lexi) Moriarty, and Brooke Schramek and (Kendall) Holmes and those kids, and you could tell in a hurry she just knows how to play the game,” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. “I personally think she has a WNBA-level skillset. She doesn’t have a WNBA body yet, but she had a WNBA skill-set.”

Kilbride says this having coached a former Big Ten Player of the Year and WNBA player Kathleen Doyle. He said Beaumont’s recruitment process exploded ‘like a grenade’ when college coaches were able to get out and see her live in the summer of 2021, following less live evaluation during the first summer during the pandemic. 

“She’s such a fluid athlete,” Kilbride said. “When she shoots the ball, she’s got a beautiful shot. Literally a beautiful shot. I enjoy just watching her in practice during our shooting drills. It’s fun to just watch her shoot the ball, partly because of the way it looks, but partly because it’s just fun watching it go in so often.”

The long-successful Redwings coach said that Indiana made Beaumont feel like a priority.

“Back in the fall, I told her, ‘You really can’t screw this up.’ Because you could pick out of a hat and you’re not going wrong,” Kilbride said of her college shortlist. “There’s no bad options here.”

Beaumont will head to USA Basketball’s U18 National Team Trials May 31 through June 4. Also getting invitations from Illinois were Lisa Thompson (Joliet West) and Alyssa Latham (Homewood-Flossmoor).

“I just want to show that I can compete against some of the best in the country and do whatever I can to help my team be successful this summer,” Beaumont said. “Also, I’m really looking forward to the USA trials so that should be a great experience as it is and just give it my all.”

After the summer, the goal remains the same. She wants the 2021-22 4A fourth-place Redwings to have a better experience at the IHSA state finals in 2023.

“The goal is to get back to Redbird Arena,” Beaumont said. “That was just a great experience and I know I am and the rest of the team, no matter who is on it, is willing to do that, even though it’s a ways away.”

 

2022 Illinois-Basketball Girls Players of the Year

2022 Illinois-Basketball Girls Players of the Year

By Kaleb Carter

Illinois-Basketball.com is pleased to announce its first Player of the Year awards for girls basketball. The award honors standout performers on some of the best teams in the state. We considered statistical performance, team performance and all-around skill, and spoke to media and coaches around the state before choosing these deserving student-athletes.

1A Player of the Year: Ella Lune, Sr., Brimfield

A physically imposing presence among the small schools of the greater-Peoria area, Eastern Illinois signee Ella Lune led a dominant season for her squad, touting terrific stat-lines while holding down the paint on the defensive end. 

Lune’s defense — which included six blocks — was a deciding factor in Brimfield’s 33-32 state championship win over Galena. She averaged 19.5 points, 8.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.2 steals and 2.2 blocks per game for the season. Lune was the leading vote-getter for the Associated Press all-state team.

2A Player of the Year: Abbey Schreacke, Jr., Quincy Notre Dame

Schreacke, an uncommitted multi-sport star in basketball, volleyball and softball, capped her hoops season with a 35-point, 11-rebound in a decisive state title win over Winnebago.

She consistently put up 30-point scoring performances and double-double efforts, and earned the most votes for the Associated Press all-state team in 2A. Schreacke averaged 25.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and made 137-of-172 free throws (80 percent) for the year.

3A Player of the Year: Kammie Ludwig, Sr., Geneseo

A record-breaker throughout her preps career and the Maple Leafs’ all-time leading scorer, the Providence signee led Geneseo through most of the season undefeated. Geneseo finished 31-2. She was a first team all-state pick for the IBCA and AP. 

Per the Quad City Times’ Jackson Stone, Ludwig: 

“Led the WB6 this season in points per game (24.5), owns Geneseo’s career (1,881), and single-season (791) scoring records. She also has hit the most 3-pointers in a season (73) and compiled the highest single-season free throw percentage (84.3%).”

4A Player of the Year: Sophie Swanson, Jr., Barrington

Swanson’s near unmatchable scoring ability at the highest level of Illinois girls basketball won her the honor as the 4A Player of the Year, narrowly edging several worthy candidates of the most competitive race of the four classes. Two other players were heavily considered for the award, and in the process of consulting coaches, media and others, several more names were deemed worthy of consideration. 

It was Sophie Swanson’s impeccable shooting that led Barrington all the way to the state title game. Her ability to get a shot off from seemingly any angle, with perfect form, made her lethal from all over. 

The Purdue commit and Fillies junior averaged 21 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game for the 30-6, 4A state runner-up Barrington squad. It was the best finish in Barrington history. Capable of going on a run by herself instantly, Swanson posted scoring totals of 40 (versus Fremd), 37 (Fenwick), 36 (Buffalo Grove) 33 (Naperville North) and 32 (Libertyville). She also scored 35 in a state semifinal win over Bolingbrook. Swanson was the leading vote-getter for the AP all-state team. 

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