Vernon Hills hoopsters hoping to improve on last season
Vernon Hills will have to wait a while to get the band back together this season.
The Cougars, who are coming off a season that included a berth in the regional finals, have six players who were scheduled to get a different kind of championship-game experience – the Class 5A football state-title contest, which was set for Nov. 25.
“Once the football players return, we will have our work cut out for us to gel quickly and cohesively as a team,” head coach Mike McCarty told the Lake County Gazette. “Obviously, with so many guys missing the first couple of weeks, and (freshman Dylan) Webb being injured all summer, these guys have not played together a lot. It will be fun to watch them grow and develop as a team over the next few months.”
The Cougars also have the challenge of playing in the new Central Suburban League.
“We know that the competition will be highly competitive, so I am hoping we can round into shape as soon as we return some of our key members that are presently still competing in football,” McCarty said.
Senior guards Jack O'Connell and Jack Forester will be heavily relied upon, McCarty said, with O'Connell returning to start at point guard and Forester being a threat on 3-pointers. McCarty also said Webb is a skilled offensive player, with junior Derrick Jones expected to provide offense as well.
Head coach Kosta Kougias told the Lake County Gazette that he has a nice mix of varsity experience and new blood this season, as the Knights look to improve on last season's 13-15 record. What this year's team lacks in size, compared with recent years, it adds in quickness and consistent shooting, Kougias said.
Top returners include senior guards Sidney Goodman, Justin Shepley and Billy Drevline; senior forwards Ryan Spicer and Zachary Cashmore; and junior guard Alec Novak. Key newcomers include junior forwards Jack Spalding and Clay Stoffel and sophomore guard Tony Crews.
“Our goal is always to compete for a conference championship (Northern Lake County Conference) and make some noise in the state playoffs. The new conference should be very competitive, and we hope to reach our goal,” Kougias said.
Letter winners Zach Kuligoski and Jose Tostado will be joined on this year's Panthers by junior Chris Pierre, whom head coach Jeremy Fisher said had a strong sophomore season.
“We are looking to be more competitive this year,” Fisher told the Lake County Gazette. “We have some great energy in the gym. Our guys are working hard every day and pushing each other to be better.”
Round Lake, which went 4-21 last season, joins the new Northern Lake County Conference this season.
Guard Tommy Marcotte, now in his third season as a varsity starter for the Mustangs, averaged 17 points and three assists per game last season. He is joined by fellow top returners, including juniors Jeff Bikus (6 points per game, 5 rebounds per game), junior Andrew Silva (8 ppg, 7 rpg), junior Nick Parmley (5 ppg, 3 apg) and Kyle Enright (4 ppg, 3 rpg).
“Over the course of the last six months, I believe we have shown great improvement,” head coach Corey Knigge told the Lake County Gazette. “Our junior class has a chance to be extremely competitive over the course of the next two years.”
The Corsairs have just three seniors this season after going 13-18 and reaching the regional final last season. However, a strong group of sophomores makes things promising, not just for this season, but also for the future.
“We are very excited about this team and the direction of the program,” head coach Zach Ryan told the Lake County Gazette.
Brian Julien, a senior guard, is the team's top returning scorer after averaging 11 points per game last season.
Note: Not all schools responded to requests for information from the Lake County Gazette by press time.
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50 Lakeview Pkwy Ste 101
Vernon Hills, IL 60061