Boys Basketball: Joliet West eyeing growth spurtMarlon Johnson (20) has helped Joliet West to a 3-1 record this season.| Ray Luna~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 29, 2011 6:30PM
With two players who could be among the best at their positions and some depth on the bench, it’s obvious Joliet West has early season potential for postseason success.
Now the Tigers need more of what coach Luke Yaklich saw in the first four games.
“The nice thing we’ve done is we improved throughout the week,’’ Yaklich said. “I think this team will have an incredible amount of growth between now and February.
“Our defense and rebounding are carrying us. The passion and intensity that we’re playing with most possessions is what got us a 3-1 record.’’
A lineup with center Marlon Johnson and point guard Morris Dunnigan helps a lot, too. West opened its season with a victory over Aurora Central Catholic before a 65-48 loss to Rich South.
“Our pieces are only going to get better once we learn how to play with one another,’’ Yaklich said. “I wasn’t fretting much over the loss. I didn’t like how we competed, but I wanted to see how well we came back after that game.
“We played about as hard as you could against Plainfield North and we beat a really good team (Rich East) that beat us pretty handily this summer.’’
After winning three of four in its Thanksgiving tournament, Joliet West may not be thankful its next game is Friday against Homewood-Flossmoor, preseason favorite in the SouthWest Suburban Blue.
“They’re the team to beat on paper that should be picked to win it,’’ Yaklich said.
H-F is led by Tim Williams, Delvon Rencher and Tyrone Sherman, three returning starters Joliet West will have to account for at all times.
“If you can’t guard in our conference and the schedule we play, you’re in trouble,’’ Yaklich said. “This team can guard and we can rebound a little bit.’’
The 6-foot-9 Johnson, who mostly came off the bench last season, pulled down 18 rebounds in Saturday’s victory over Rich East.
“He’s going to mean a lot, a lot,’’ Dunnigan said. “He’ll be a big help in the middle. He’ll take pressure off the guards because when teams trap, we can throw it up to him.’’
Johnson said this season he’s “stronger. I can dribble more, pass better, shoot better. I can do a lot of things.’’
Brian Edwards, a returning starter at forward, believes the Tigers are “going to do big things. With Morris coming back and with Marlon stepping up, plus the other guys, I think we’re going to have a big year.’’
Off and running
Coming off back-to-back 21-9 seasons, Lockport was a perfect 3-0 in the WJOL Thanksgiving Tournament.
“It’s going to be about a commitment each night to rebounding, and overall are we able to dictate the pace of the game by how we take care of the ball,’’ coach Lawrence Thompson said about the season.
David Robinson and Courtney Cole join the starting lineup that includes returnees Kyle Ward, Dexter Taylor and Brandon Sawin. John Campbell, Andrew Gosney, Tom Hook and football quarterback Billy Reed will be crucial off the bench.