The ESCC has turned young over the last few years. A few teams have managed to stay old and ward off transfers, while others have capitalized or been hit by the revolving doors. Today we are looking at a handful of the ESCC for this upcoming year.
The experience, talent, and depth is there for Benet. Three-year guard Brady Kunka is the top returning scorer and will bring shooting, rebounding, and toughness defensively on again. He has a number of D3 suitors as projects as an impact player. 6-foot-5 combo guard Niko Abusara is set to break out. During the summer, his ability to use his length to be a shut down defender and get paint touches frequently with his handle proved to be key to their offense. Multiple Division 1 programs have offered him and his game is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Point guard Brayden Fagbemi (Johns Hopkins commit) has added strength and will make everything go. He will make sure everyone gets open shots in rhythm and ensure that the pace stays where it should in a given situation. After being a rotation piece last year, he should also open some eyes as both a passer and scorer. Another experienced senior, Sam Driscoll, is a lefty that can guard and shoot the three. Andy Nash (6-foot-4) should provide more depth and give some assistance on the glass.
Now the primary interior player, 6-foot-6 junior Parker Sulaver should benefit from the last two years up learning the system. He can shoot the three, has a good frame, and moves well at his size. They have balance and quality defenders at every spot. There’s a bright future in the pipeline as well for coming years when they are varsity players, led by 6-foot-9 forward Colin Stack. Gene Heidkamp is one of the best coaches in the state and Benet always has a highly disciplined team. Expect more of the same.
The emergence of 6-foot-5 wing Quentin Jones is going to be a scary sight for the rest of the ESCC. The Cal Poly commit flashed elite athleticism as a junior but has quickly shown improvements as a ball-handler and shooter. He will be among the best players in the conference. Returning senior guard Tre Davis handles pressure and is willing to scrap. Over the summer, he was effective shooting from distance with the Illinois Stars.
They have two quality interior defenders in juniors James Bullock (6-foot-7) and Marcus Everhart (6-foot-5). Bullock’s fluidity and touch makes him appealing as a long-term forward prospects. Everhart is tremendous at walling up around the rim and blocking shots. Both should have sizeable roles. I’m also interested in seeing more of 6-foot-1 sophomore Zach Sharkey, who should give them some additional backcourt punch.
Two of their top returners transfers, leaving guards Mason Ross and Kaden White to bring leadership and decision-making responsibilities to the backcourt. This will be one of the youngest teams in the area and that duo will have to guide them while producing themselves. Romeoville transfer Keshaun Vaval can really heat up and score in bunches when he gets going. Only a sophomore, he should be in for a breakout year as one of the older players who could see big minutes.
The freshmen class is loaded, with 6-foot-7 forward Stephen Brown along with guards Adoni Vassilakis and Akir Finley. In terms of talent and upside, Brown is right up there with any player in the area. He’s physical, moves more like a wing than a four, can put it on the ground, and has touch around the rim. Vassilakis manufactures shots off of the bounce well while Finley has a hard-nosed, driving style that will work well as he continues to mature. It will be a very new look, but the future is bright.
After winning a regional title, Naz hopes to stay headed in the right direction. 6-foot-5 wing Talen Pearson is a good place to start. The junior does a little bit of everything well, from locking down multiple spots on defense to hitting big shots in big moments. But with Dom Trelenberg gone (Elmhurst), Pearson will become the primary focus for opposing defenses. His IQ and improved off the dribble game should allow for the transition to occur sooner rather than later.
Senior Anthony Cullota will be in a larger role and 6-foot-4 Zach Hayes is a strong forward who is willing to mix it up inside. Both have solid size and length at their positions. Look for 5-foot-10 Declan Foley to be a sparkplug on both ends, taking some pressure off of Pearson with ball-handling duties and delivering when given open looks. They have a system that players have bought into and Pearson has the ability to take over games in multiple ways.
Notre Dame College Prep
Bludgeoned by the transfer bug, NDCP lost a majority of their rotation pieces to other schools. Senior Connor Mosele is back as the leader who played a large role as a junior. There should be an uptick in his shooting numbers while still giving that grit on the defensive end. He’s a solid Division 3 prospect. Yann Koutou also has some size around 6-foot-5 that will be welcomed as well as some face-up game to use more of this year.
The player to watch as a breakout player will be 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Brady Sehlhorst. At his size, he’s a gifted downhill attacker that can finish with floaters, hooks, and dunks while showing more willingness to play through contact and get to the line. The outside shooting has progressed as well and will allow him to open up those driving lanes more. He has the look of a volume scorer, especially on a team that lost so much. They may not have the cache of some teams in the past, but look for similar togetherness.
Another youth-driven team, St. Patrick lost a mainstay in Timaris Brown to graduation. But long-range marksman EJ Breland is back for his sophomore season and looked like a man on a mission during the summer. He’s grown a bit and is getting more comfortable making plays in traffic. Bruising senior forward Andrew Ayeni (6-foot-5) is also back and could fill some in for some of the same actions that Brown thrived in last year. Fellow senior James Clay also projects to be a high-usage player for them and should be able to use his length and 3-and-D game to add value.
St. Laurence transfer Neveah Hawkins (sophomore) has a lot of tools. At 6-foot-7, he covers ground and has smooth movements on both ends. His timing to block shots is there and he’s also an impactful offensive rebounder. His game will only get better with time. I like sophomore point guard Nathan Nano as well. He’s got the ball on a string and has a high skill level despite lacking some size. They have a couple of juniors who should also be key rotation players for a team who has some solid options.
Underclassmen has been a theme for a number of ESCC teams. St. Viator is no different. Their best player from a year ago is back in senior Eli Aldana. He has pulled in a number of high-academic Division 3 offers and brings that balance of being an aggressive scorer and floor general. They lost a few guards to transfers, but sophomore Joey Hernandez is back after starting as a freshman. It was his excellent defense that stood out a year ago, but his offensive game has taken a nice leap and should allow him to contribute in a larger way on that end.
Dayvion Ellis, also a standout football player, is another sophomore who will be impactful from the start. Another top-level defender with great lateral quickness and strength, Ellis should be able to take away some of the top opposing guards. Henry Marshall and Brandyn Michaels are sophomore guards as well, with Marshall making his presence felt with energy and defense and Michaels bringing deep shooting and athleticism. Loyola transfer Mitch Humphrey (6-foot-5) is automatic when given space as a shooter. He could be key to spacing the floor for an otherwise guard-heavy team.