Over the next few weeks we will highlight some of the teams around the state and what to look forward to this year for them. Today, we are looking at some of the Chicago Catholic league teams in what could be the toughest conference in the state this season.
There is a lot coming back for a well coached team entering Joe Piekarz’s second season. Four-year point guard Collin Wainscott returns to lead the backcourt both as a volume shooter and primary playmaker. Senior Jabe Haith (6-foot-4) is a skilled perimeter scorer and Trevon Roots (6-foot-6) adds a premium defensive anchor who has improved his outside game. All three project as quality D3 prospects.
They have some solid role players who can shoot it, included Conlin Anderson and sophomore Bradley Stratton. This could be one of the better Marmion teams in the last decade.
De La Salle
Senior wing Evan Jackson should be fully healthy and ready to set the tone on both ends. The 6-foot-7 slasher is a Division 1 talent who has great intangibles. Fellow seniors Mike Davis and Anthony Davis provide creativity and tempo out of the backcourt.
The additions of two talented junior transfers in 6-foot-6 Tavariuyon Williams, a high-upside wing, and Richard Lindsay, an athletic Simeon transfer, will be crucial. Both had big summers with Team FVV on the UAA Rise circuit. This will be a team who should give some of the powers in the CCL some problems.
Coming off of a downstate appearance, DePaul Prep lost some key seniors including Cleveland State big Dylan Arnett. But the youth is strong and Tom Kleinschmidt tends to get the most out of his guys. 6-foot-7 juniors Jaylan McElroy and Payton Kamin should both have breakout years. McElroy is defensive stalwart that scores with energy and athleticism. Kamin is a big guard who has to be approaching 6-foot-8 and is a fluid shot maker who can hit threes, work in the mid post, or score in the paint with finesse.
Look for a nice year from senior point guard Maurice Thomas who returns to the lineup as a reliable decision maker. Sophomore Kenwood transfer Robert Walls adds another up-tempo, high-IQ playmaker and his classmate Jonas Johnson (6-foot-5) has the tools and activity level to develop into a Division 1 player. They will be tough again.
Some quality pieces to their downstate group graduated but they have a talented lineup led by George Mason commit Rich Barron, who was an All-State player last year. He’s a mismatch all over the floor with his shooting, ball control, and shear strength. Expect a big leap from Miami Ohio commit Jackson Kotecki (6-foot-9), who started to really put everything together over the summer and projects as their defensive anchor.
In his first full varsity season, sophomore Phoenix Gill is going to take off. The 6-foot-2 point guard is smooth, has elite eexplosiveness and possesses a cerebral approach on both ends that should lead to an early impact. Gill has some of the highest long-term upside in the CCL.
Junior Reggie Ray should also take a step forward serving as a scoring option who has the body to really guard in the backcourt. Similar to last year, it may not look perfect early in the season but they Matt Monroe has a team built to compete in March, especially if Gill emerges like I expect he will.
Tony Young has one of the younger teams in the conferences, leaning on sophomores and juniors to play big roles. 6-foot-3 sophomore DJ Porter has the look of a serious college prospect and should be healthy to show it. I like the versatility of 6-foot-5 junior Darshan Thomas, a long-armed wing that can defend, make plays above the rim, and stretch the floor a bit.
The 2025 class is deep. Nate Marshall (6-foot-5) and JT Pettigrew (6-foot-6) both offer some inside-out appeal and have grown since last season. The backcourt will be young as well, but they have guys who will scrap like Ty Mariciola, Kam Hogan, and Dom Ducree. They will get some interior anchors in Zion Young and Matt Callahan as well. They are on the upswing.
Believe it or not, this may be the most up-tempo Loyola team in recent memory. Still with a a grind-it-out defensive mentality, the Ramblers have the guard play to create and space the floor. Senior point guard Alex Engro is a real general on the floor who leads with toughness. His one-on-one ability and passing prowess will open things up. Miles Boland is also back, and the junior looks stronger and taller. He’s another plus shooter who has the frame to go inside.
Jimmy Tarjan (6’4) is a junior wing to keep an eye on. He could act as a 3-and-D option capable of leading them in scoring on some days. A number of juniors should step into larger roles for a team that will lean on their backcourt experience.
Probably the youngest returning core in the conference, the loaded 2025 class last a few players to transfers. But mid-range scorer Jacob Rice is back along with a dynamic guard duo in Khalil Jones and EJ Mosley. During the summer, Mosley showed flashes of scoring at will and should take a big step forward this year.
6-foot-5 wing Caleb Lindsey will fill a lot of holes with his defensive presence. His offensive game has developed nicely, looking more comfortable with his catch-and-shoot and pull-up game. They will lack size and experience but they have the pieces to play at faster paced games.
Rice should be one of the top 20 teams behind Niagara commit Ahmad Henderson. He returns as one of the most productive point guards in Illinois and has a combination of quickness, shooting, skill, and intelligence that you don’t see often. Wiry 6-foot-7 combo forward Khalil Ross is due for another jump in production and Nick Niego also returns as one of the best shooters in the state.
That trio will be formidable, but they have ample depth this year. Loras commit Jimmy Navarrete is a workhorse and 6-foot-7 big Ryan Kenney gives them a physical post. Small guard Cale Cosme plays with a ton of heart and is the perfect creator to take pressure off of Henderson.
I have been impressed with athletic face-up four Zavier Fitch, showing soft touch and a willingness to act as a rim runner. He’s going to be a scholarship player. Junior Tre Dowdell should also bring quality backcourt depth. Remember the name Marcos Gonzalez. The sophomore will be a difference maker in the next few years.
Denver commit DeAndre Craig is going to spearhead a deep backcourt that features a number of new faces this year. 6-foot-6 wing Angelo Ciaravino continues to get better and looks like a legitimate two-way scholarship player. His movement, mechanics, and athleticism all stand out. A big addition is Homewood Flossmoor transfer Lee Marks, another explosive wing that can heat up quickly and provides ranginess defensively.
Senior sharpshooter Anthony Ciaravino is a steady floor spacer and sophomores Cam Thomas and Grant Best should form a dangerous future duo for the Caravan. Thomas is one of the most complete guards in the 2025 class and Best has a nice shot and the court sense to make others better. They will have a perimeter-oriented lineup that can fill it up offensively.
St. Rita will start the season as a favorite to win the state title. Rashay Russell’s group has the makings of a national team, led by the top three juniors in Illinois in James Brown, Nojus Indrusaitis, and Morez Johnson (Illinois commit). Brown is a walking double-double, Johnson offers a 6-foot-9 athlete that can get it done facing up or down low, and Indrusaitis may be the best perimeter scorer in the state. All three are high-major players.
If that isn’t enough, 6-foot-5 guard Melvin Bell is coming back from an injury and should return to the explosive, gifted player that he showed as a freshman. Power 5 programs have offered him. Nashawn Holmes (HF transfer) looked good picking his spots this summer. Jeezy White, a showtime ball-handler and passer, will fill an important hole to make sure everyone gets fed.
Add in returning sophomore point guard Amari Edwards and a handful of defensive-minded guards and they will have a rare combination of talent and unselfishness that should prove dangerous.