Author Archives: Kyle Williams

DeAndre Craig’s growth as player, leader key for Mount Carmel

DeAndre Craig’s growth as player, leader key for Mount Carmel

By Kyle Williams


Mount Carmel’s poise and shooting paced it to a 61-51 win against Westinghouse at the Team Rose Classic, which the Caravan hosted.

It was a sluggish start for Mount Carmel, which played its third game in as many days. At halftime, the game was deadlocked at 24.

“We’ve played three games in three days, so we had some really tired legs out there,” head coach Phil Sergroves said. “We just willed a win. Our guys are gutting things out and not wanting to give in.”

In particular, it was a slow start for Mount Carmel’s dynamic junior guard DeAndre Craig. The much-ballyhooed playmaker scored just six points in the first half.

“I found my rhythm in the second half,” Craig said. “In the first half, my shots weren’t falling, so I came out taking my time and playing my game.”

Craig’s teammate, junior guard Anthony Ciaravino, scored 12 points in the first half to keep Mount Carmel afloat.

With Craig garnering the attention of opposing defenses, he’s adapted his game to let the game come to him and have faith in his teammates.

“Teams are coming out face guarding off the rip,” Craig said. “I got to trust my teammates to do it if I can’t get it going.”

Craig took off in the second half, finishing with 20 points. The junior guard is explosive getting to the basket, in the half-court or transition, and his jumper started falling in the second-half. Sergroves spoke highly about Craig’s improvement as a shooter and his overall game.

“He’s really worked on his shot, Sergroves said. “He knocked down a ton of threes today. He also changes speed really well. Some guys are fast all the time or slow all the time. He can lull you to sleep and blow by you.”

Craig’s maturation as a leader was a focal point for the junior guard this past summer. Craig is soft-spoken, but he speaks up when he needs to.

“It starts in practice,” Craig said. “When I see guys goofing around or not giving 100 percent, I’ll get on them. I’m not trying to be mean, but the season is starting, and we gotta get going.”

Craig has played a significant role in Mount Carmel’s 10-0 start to the season, which includes victories over Marist and De La Salle.

“We expected a lot out of DeAndre since the moment he walked in the building as a freshman,” Sergroves said. “He was up on varsity towards the end of the year, so expectations are always high for him. He’s a great leader, he’s a quiet leader. He’s put in a lot of work in the off-season, a lot of work in the weight room.”

‘This is one of the more talented teams that I’ve had’: Brother Rice continues hot start to season

‘This is one of the more talented teams that I’ve had’: Brother Rice continues hot start to season

By Kyle Williams


Coming off of a tightly contested contest against Marian Catholic, Brother Rice leaned on its defense in a 55-44 win over Joliet West at the Team Rose Shootout.

The score was not indicative of how the Crusaders controlled the game from start to finish. Brother Rice isn’t the most physically imposing team, but its roster has length and was dialed in from the beginning of the contest. Joliet West only scored 15 points in the first half.

“I thought that defensively we were good for three quarters,” head coach Bobby Frasor said. “I thought we did a good job, especially in that second quarter, of extending the lead. A lot of them were on second-chance buckets.”

While the swarming defense carried Brother Rice in the first half, its size advantage paid dividends offensively at the start of the quarter.

“Once we realized we had a size difference and we’re not the most physically imposing team, good things happen,” Frasor said. “We had some specific calls to get Khalil [Ross] the ball low in the second half, and he got two and-ones in a row, and Ahmad [Henderson] fed him the ball in good spots.”

Junior Khalil Ross finished the game with 10 points and four rebounds. Junior Ahmad Henderson also had an impressive game. He’s a blur with the ball in his hands and can score from all three levels. Henderson’s primary matchup was against Joliet West point guard Jeremiah Fears. Fears is one of the best freshmen in the state.

“I was guarding Jeremiah Fears; he’s a good player and a tough guard, so I did the best I could on him,” Henderson said.

Henderson’s offensive game is tantalizing. He showcased his array of skills against the Joliet West Tigers.

“I had a lot of dribble pull-ups and worked off of ball screens,” Henderson said. “I love working off of ball screens. My mid-range and floaters, those are spots that I know I can get to.”

Henderson has played a key role for a young Crusaders team that has only two seniors on the roster and nine juniors.

“We’re 8-1,” Henderson said. “I’m the only returner from varsity last year, so a lot of these guys haven’t had varsity experience, so I’ve taken on more of a leadership role.”

Frasor has high hopes for the Crusaders, who already sport victories over Marist and Marian Catholic despite the inexperience.

“I’m excited, this is one of the more talented teams that I’ve had, and we’re all juniors too,” Frasor said. “Obviously, Ahmad is a really special talent with the ball in his hands. There’s a lot of good things that we can work with, and we have a lot more potential to reach. It’s going to be fun to see if we can achieve that.”

Stagnant Offense Undercuts Defensive Effort in St. Ignatius’ Loss to Chaminade

Stagnant Offense Undercuts Defensive Effort in St. Ignatius’ Loss to Chaminade

By Kyle Williams

The start of the season hasn’t gone as planned for the St. Ignatius boys basketball team, including a 46-33 loss to Chaminade (Mo). on Saturday, December 4. 

The Wolfpack — the No. 4 team in the Sun-Times preseason rankings — now stand at 3-4 with losses to Leo, Lake Forest, Chaminade and Loyola over their last five games overall.

The game was a tale of two halves for St. Ignatius at the Chicago Elite Classic.

The Wolfpack’s defensive prowess was on display in the first, as they held the St. Louis powerhouse to 17 points and 28 percent shooting from the field. Both teams were locked in defensively, closing out on shooters hard and making sound rotations.

“I was really proud of our defense overall,” St. Ignatius coach Matt Monroe said. “That’s the best we’ve played defensively, and that’s been an area of focus of ours.”

The St. Ignatius’ offense dried up in the second half; the team went 4-for-18 from the field in the third and fourth quarters. The Wolfpack couldn’t overcome 15 points from Chaminade junior guard Nillivan-Jothan Daniels.

“We got a lot better just during that game,” Monroe said. “And now we’re certainly not satisfied with moral victories or anything like that, but we saw a lot of improvement from our guys in a multitude of ways, especially on the defensive end.”

The best offense for the Wolfpack in the second half came courtesy of senior guard A.J. Redd, who finished with nine points, seven rebounds, and two assists. Redd is a creative driver when attacking the basket, capable of contorting his body mid-air to account for a contest at the rim. 

“My main strength is getting to the rim and attacking off the dribble,” Redd said.

“I missed a couple — it’s tough in the arena shooting. After that, I decided to cut, get to the rim. And then you saw I got to the free-throw line a couple of times to get me going.”

Redd uses his quickness to help set up his teammates for easy shots. Once his defender is on his hip, Redd surveys the court for his teammates after he draws in the defense. 

“When I see they’re pressing up on me, I might try to make a quick move and get past them, put them on my hip,” Redd said. “That’s when I’m looking for my teammates, and that’s when we get the defense moving.”

The Wolfpack are hoping to use the early season skid to prepare them for conference play and postseason. Their difficult schedule was by design. They know that the team they are now isn’t indicative of the team they can be in March. It’s just about stringing together complete games. 

“We just got to keep putting it together and being … more consistent offensively,” Monroe said. “We just got a little stagnant. We became a little drive-centric and didn’t move the ball as well as we did in the first half.”

Westinghouse Backcourt Displays Potential at Riverside-Brookfield

Westinghouse lost six seniors from its 2020-21 team — a significant exodus considering its younger players got far fewer reps than they would have in other years. Heading into the 2021-22 season, Joshua West and Isiah Giles are two Westinghouse guards to watch. 

West, now a senior, showed promise over the Friday games at the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout. His activeness and length stood out on the defensive end. He has a good handle that helps him get to where he wants to on the floor, though he doesn’t need to dominate the ball.

“I think people should know about his versatility on the offense or defensive, and he’s a great two-way player and he gets it done on both ends of the floor,” Westinghouse head coach Rafie Fields said. “On the offensive end, he can .. put the ball in the basket however you like. He can score from the mid-range game. He can attack the basket, shoot the three. Defensively, he plays the passing lanes as well.” 

West has stepped into more of a leadership role with all the roster turnover, a role that Fields says West has handled well.

For the 6-3 West, it’s a role he feels that he is used to. 

“It’s been different, but I mean, I already felt this role from our team on JV my freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “I feel like it’s the same thing, but just at a higher level.” 

West is playing with CD Elite on the AAU circuit, which he credits for the improvement in his game. 

“It’s been giving me the exposure that I need,” West said. “It’s also been preparing me for things like this tournament. It’s been helping me find my game, you know, that’s the biggest thing: finding my game.”

Eastern Illinois and Dominican are two schools that have reached out to West. 

Alongside West in the Westinghouse backcourt is scoring guard Isaiah Giles, a junior.

“He’s just a shifty guard where you know, he’s going to give you something every game, you don’t know what it is, but he’s extremely shifty and extremely quick,” Fields said. “He’s just trying to become more of a point guard because even though his frame says point guard, he’s a true shooting guard at heart, but we’re just trying to get him back into that point guard [role].”

Giles needs to just get the repetitions at the position and gain the understanding that he needs to be on the ball more. Still, he does have a jump-shot that extends beyond the three-point line. 

Giles describes himself as, “a shooter, who has improved his playmaking ability.” 

Giles and West have impressed and are two to watch for throughout the summer and next season. 

Whitney Young 2022 Forward Xavier Amos Raises Stock at RB Shootout

Xavier Amos Recruiting

Whitney Young 2022 forward Xavier Amos boosted his stock tremendously during the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout, with one of the top performances of the weekend in front of coaches from colleges such as Loyola, Michigan and Illinois. 

The multi-faceted 6-8 forward held one offer from Mount St. Mary’s before the event and left with three other college offers. The first offer of the weekend came from Loyola-Chicago, which he had been in contact with before the event.

“I went to a visit with them on Monday the 15th,” Amos said in an interview at the shootout. ”The campus was great. And the coach called me on the way home yesterday and told me he wants to tell me [about the offer] before I got home.” 

Amos has the size and skill to play as a modern power forward at the next level. He has a good handle and moves fluidly for a player of his size. Amos showed the ability to score down low or take his defender off the dribble. He and his teammate, AJ Casey, the top-ranked 2022 prospect in Illinois, have a good connection on high-low plays.  Defensively, Amos uses his length to protect the rim. 

Amos plays with Team Rose on the summer circuit, which has helped prepare him in terms of the competition he’s facing and getting exposure from college coaches. 

“Oh, It’s been really good, alking, getting more interesting from coaches,” Amos said. “Yeah, we are going to carry it into July. Hopefully, that goes well.” 

Amos is using the summer to fine-tune every aspect of his game. 

“Shooting, dribbling, defense, everything, he said. “I’m trying to get better at everything.” 

Before the end of the weekend, Amos received offers from Kent State and Northern Illinois. That momentum carried into the week, with offers from Indiana State and Cal State Fullerton as well.

Whitney Young Shows High Potential, Holds on for Win Over St. Laurence

When AJ Casey has it going, there’s no doubt how deadly Whitney Young can be.

Against St. Laurence in the Dolphins’ second game of the season Sunday, the junior forward scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half after dealing with foul trouble through halftime. Casey’s play, combined with his team’s sense of urgency on both ends of the court, helped Young escape with a 63-62 over St. Laurence, despite a late rally from the Vikings. 

When Casey and teammates were all clicking, it showed why they are thought of so highly around Illinois.

This game had various ebbs and flows: Young started strong off of three steals from Casey. He has great anticipation that, coupled with his speed and length (he’s listed at 6-8), wreak havoc on opponents. In this early season, the Casey steal-and-dunk to bring the house down is already a familiar sight.

Despite the strong start for Young, St. Laurence fought its way back into the game on Darius Wilson’s back. The 6-2 senior scored 10 of his team’s 16 first-quarter points to keep the Vikings within striking distance.

At halftime, the Dolphins led 30-24. The third quarter was a shift for Young. The Dolphins came out energetically and locked in on both sides. Seniors Jaeshon Thomas and Grant Newell set the tone early. Newell, a mainstay on Young’s varsity the past two seasons, was diving for loose balls, rebounding and scoring around the rim. Thomas contributed on the glass and scoring, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds.

Casey went on a run where he was responsible for nine points, knocking down back-to-back threes on assists from sophomore point guard Dalen Davis, then returning the favor for Davis’ own three. Davis finished with 17 points and five assists.

After three quarters, it looked as the Dolphins had put this game away with a 54-37 lead, but the Vikings never gave in. 

St. Laurence kept chipping away with seniors Aaron Wofford and Eddie Martin helping out their fellow senior Wilson. The Vikings forced turnovers and took advantage on the other end.

With under 30 seconds to play, Young clung to a 63-57 lead. Young’s Thomas missed a free throw, then Wilson came down and converted a quick two. Holding a 63-59 with 18.5 seconds left, Newell had a chance to put the game away, but he also missed his free throw. 

With a chance to extend the game again, the Dolphin’s length and activity — their calling card of the young season — helped them in the end. Casey forced a missed shot at the rim. The Vikings grabbed the offensive rebound and ultimately knocked down a three, but the swarming Young defense forced too much time to run off the clock.

With their third game in as many days, the Dolphins start their 2021 season 3-0. They have a long, lengthy team that, when engaged, can just shut down an opposing team’s offense. That third-quarter run is a glimpse of what the Dolphins can be. 

Whitney Young Impresses in Win Over Taft

The last time the Whitney Young Dolphins played in a game, they defeated Simeon in the IHSA state playoffs. The long layoff is over as Whitney Young squared off against Taft on the road Friday, Feb. 19.

Gone are DJ Steward (Duke) and Tyler Beard (prep school before Georgetown) for Young. 

The cupboard is far from empty.

Seniors Grant Newell and Jaeshon Thomas, both with college-level talent, return along with sophomore Dalen Davis, who holds an offer from Illinois.

But the star will be AJ Casey, who scored the first points of the season with a thunderous two-handed slam. The junior forward, who played freshman year at Simeon and sophomore year at Tinley Park, is regarded as the best prospect in Illinois in the junior class.

The first points of the season came from transfer forward AJ Casey with a thunderous two-hand slam. The junior forward is regarded as the best player in his class in the state of Illinois according to 247 Sports.

With Casey, Thomas, Newell and junior Xavier Amos, have numerous 6-4-plus forwards with plus wingspans, and junior Marcus Overstreet provides the same off the bench.Their length and defensive activity was the difference in the game. The Dolphins were bigger and also played with a sense of urgency. Their defensive activity led to many deflections and difficult shots for taft.

At halftime the Dolphins led 36-19. For the game Whitney Young had seven players hit a three pointer, shooting over the Taft zone defense. Junior forward Daniel Johnson came off the bench and led Young with 13 points, knocking down multiple three when he came into the game. 

For Young, Thomas had 10 points and knocked down three triples. Davis added nine points and knocked down a pair of shots from long range. Senior forward Tyson Leitao came off the bench and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.

Young’s debut was impressive, dominating from the opening tip and not letting up.

For Taft junior point guard Jonathan Martinez impressed, showcasing an ability to drill threes, and sophomore guard Jewgrante Abraham led Taft with 11 points. Taft plays against Niles North on Monday. Whitney Young has a test against Thornton on the road Saturday.

This was an impressive debut for the Dolphins after the long layoff. The players wore masks and were socially distanced when they weren’t in the game. Illinois basketball wasn’t the same without the Chicago Public League..