Boys Basketball: Summer hoops notebook

During summer basketball, high school teams pick up where they left off or they pick up the pieces.

Larkin appears to be starting summer where it left off after an impressive showing at the West Aurora Hoop Mountain Shootout over the weekend. South Elgin, meanwhile, is trying to fit pieces together after losing the rock of its program over the past two years — point guard Jake Maestranzi.

The 5-foot-8 senior has transfered to Niles Notre Dame after a season when he averaged 11.9 points, 3.1 assists and sank 56 three-pointers.

Storm coach Chaz Taft did not want to comment on the transfer after his team’s last game at the Hoop Mountain Shootout because he said his policy is “not to talk basketball out of season.”

“It hurts us, not only at the varsity level but all through the program down to the grade schools and feeder programs because all those kids looked up to him,” a disappointed Taft told The Beacon-News. “He’s the youngest of four (brothers), but will be the only one who doesn’t graduate from a U-46 school.

“His dad said he thought Jake would have a better chance of getting a Division I scholarship (playing for Niles Notre Dame).”

Maestranzi’s departure leaves the Storm looking for backcourt help, but players thought they might have some answers.

“Sure, we’re going to miss Jake,” junior guard Darius Wells said. “We’ve played with him here three years and it’s a big loss. But I can handle it some, and we’ve got an outstanding freshman coming in, Matt Smith, and he’s going to be able to play there. He’s got a lot of potential.”

Smith is the 5-11 younger brother of former South Elgin girls basketball standout Becca Smith. He put his talents on display during the early part of the weekend’s tournament, but had to sit out the finale — a 59-54 loss to Riverside-Brookfield — with a sprained ankle.

Wells also was out of the tournament due to a minor injury. Maestranzi had been the team’s captain, and now Wells has taken over as team captain.

The Storm went 1-4 in the tournament, beating St. Francis but losing to Batavia, Naperville North, Rockford Auburn and Riverside-Brookfield.

Larkin lost key post player Antonio Pipes to graduation but is basically returning the same team and it showed at the shootout. The Royals went 4-1, losing only to Morgan Park (64-40). The Royals’ wins came over Rock Island, Hinsdale South, Robinson and Aurora Central Catholic.

“Obviously we’re further along than last year at this same point because of our experience, but we need to be as far for our expectations,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “It’s all a process. The trick will be whether we can improve as much as we improved last year from this time until the beginning of last season. That’s the challenge before our guys right now.”

The Royals’ outside shooting and ability to run the floor with returning guards Quentin Ruff, Derrick Streety, Quantice Hunter and Kendale McCullum were apparent all tournament.

“We still have work to do,” Hunter said. “But I think we’re looking pretty solid. We’ve all been working hard over the offseason and it’s starting to pay off.”

Although they lost Pipes and Blake Grantham to graduation, the Royals have sophomore Daniel McFadden in the pivot and he looks to have added an inch or two since last year when he was 6-4, and his shooting ability to hit the 10-foot jumper is a welcome addition.

“He’s going to be a big key,” Carter said of his center, who saw limited varsity action as a freshman. “He’s so big and physical. And then you watch him play sometimes and he shows that in his reactions he’s still very young.

“He’s going to be able to score a little better than some of the posts we’ve had in the past, for sure.”

Drew Jones, 6-4 son of Streamwood coach Tim Jones, has added some strength and displayed an expanded shooting range in the tournament.

“He’s playing with a lot more confidence,” Carter said. “All our guys are. They’ve had some early success in the summer so that helps.”

Like many area teams, the Royals are honing their skills at Geneva’s summer league and they’ll play in early July at the Crystal Lake South Shootout before dispersing for summer. Many players take part in AAU ball then.

“The best thing is that now it’s the fourth year of our program and our seniors have been through it four years,” Carter said. “What we’ve always lacked is that senior leadership with four years in the program. That’s huge.”

St. Charles East (3-2), Huntley (2-3), Hampshire (1-4) and Burlington Central (1-4) also participated in the tournament.

Summer Shootout

Thirty-eight high school teams converged at West Aurora High School this weekend. Two days and 97 games of basketball later, Morgan Park went home to Chicago with the championship of the Eighth Annual Hoop Mountain Summer Shootout.

The Mustangs defeated Warren 69-43 to keep the Blue Devils from repeating as champs and winning the title for the third time. In the semifinals, Morgan Park topped Bogan 48-40 and Warren tripped Lyons Township 66-60.

With seven area teams scattered amidst the continuous action on seven courts in the main and auxiliary gyms as well as the fieldhouse, there was plenty to see, hear and observe over the din of squeaking sneakers.

Something old

Seventy-four-year-old Gordie Kerkman, coach of the hosts, was moving gingerly Friday thanks to upper back spasms. He never coaches the team at this event, though, and watched his Blackhawks win three straight games with former West standout Dameon Mason directing the club from the bench.

West won its A pool that day by smoking Sycamore 67-31, tripping Crystal Lake South 56-54 on a bucket that beat the buzzer by center Josh McAuley and downing Providence 54-39. The Blackhawks opened bracket play among the 10 pool winners Saturday morning and dropped a 53-44 decision to Stevenson before closing out their tourney experience by routing St. Charles East 62-29.

McAuley, a legit 6-foot-7 after growing an inch since the end of last season, appeared to be ready to take on a leadership role with the graduation of Juwan Starks. He drew applause from his teammates during a sequence against Providence, swatting a Celtic shot away to a teammate to start a fastbreak the other way. Trailing the play, he timed it perfectly, going up and slamming home a miss.

“Josh is playing with a lot of confidence,” said Kerkman, who saw good play from senior twins Chandler and Spencer Thomas, senior Aaron Kennebrew and the now veteran guard combo of senior Jaquan Lee and junior Jontrel Walker. They were joined by sophomores Matt Dunn, Roland Griffin and Tommy Koth.

“We’ve got to learn to put people away, though,” said the coach, unhappy the team seemed to coast at times after building a lead of 10-12 points.

McAuley is also playing this summer with the Illinois Attack, which is coached by former East Aurora and NIU standout Rodney Davis. The team includes Oswego East’s C.J. Vaughan and Thomas Wilder (who has moved within the district again and transferred back after a year at Oswego), Oswego’s Miles Simelton and Neuqua Valley’s Jabari Sandifer, among others.

Walker said he would be getting a tryout with the Derrick Rose All-Stars, coached by Reggie Rose, the older brother of the Bulls’ star.

Kerkman sat down with veteran broadcaster Neal Ormond this week and taped an interview for a series of talks with state coaching greats being put together by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association for its new museum site in Danville. The project is the brainchild of fellow IBCA Hall of Fame coach Bruce Firchau of Westminster Christian.

The interview may also be available on the West Aurora web site at some point.

One for the ages

West Aurora returns for the Integrity Group’s High School Hoops Showdown tripleheader next season at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates (Jan. 26) in a game that will match two of the winningest coaches in Illinois history.

Kerkman’s Blackhawks will meet St. Joseph and coach Gene Pingatore. Between them, the coaches have 1,627 wins. Pingatore is the all-time wins leader in Illinois with 892 victories in his 43 seasons. Kerkman ranks No. 11 with 735 in 36 seasons according to an updated list released this spring by IHSA researcher Brian Smith.

Bulldogs keepin’ on

Batavia has not yet named a replacement for veteran coach Jim Roberts, who stepped down this spring for family health reasons, but Roberts’ assistants — sophomore coach Anthony Williams and freshman coach Ryan Sullivan — were directing the team at the West tourney.

“We’ve got to work on developing a little more toughness (on the court),” said Williams, adding that the players have not had a problem waiting on the new leader.

“Kids are resilient, they go with the flow. They’ve just got to get ready to work for the new coach because there may be changes.”

Williams, a 1981 Batavia grad who works for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, has been involved with the program for 15 years. He said he understands school administrators want someone (a teacher) within the building to take over the program.

“There’s been a lot of interest,” he said.

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