Crystal Lake Central reads, reacts and wins

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Crystal Lake Central reads, reacts and wins

You've heard about John Wooden's UCLA offense, the Princeton offense, motion, triangle, flex, pick and roll, swing, shuffle, triple post and dribble-drive. They are as numerous as there are plays in a playbook, as simple or as complicated as you want.
But what about the read-and-react offense? Sounds like football's triple option. Should I hand off, run with the ball or pitch out? Well, Rick Torbett's innovation may not be as popular or as revolutionary but it has been very effective for Crystal Lake Central this season.
"It's something I saw at a clinic at the Final Four in 2007," said Crystal Lake Central coach Rick Czeslawski. "Prior to that, we were running the Princeton offense. I studied it for a few years, put it in and we went 24-5. It's a versatile offense, easy to teach.
"It isn't a hot offense, more of a grassroots game working its way up. A growing number of coaches are using it, like Pat Ambrose at Stevenson and Mike Bailey at St. Patrick. You can run it with any personnel against any defense, man-to-man or zone. It's a way of teaching offense."
The read and react offense is basically a motion offense but with specific rules and reads for players without the ball. There is more player movement and less standing around. A player is free to do what he sees best--drive, shoot or pass and cut.
"The big thing is spacing," guard Jake VanScoyoc said. "It gives players more freedom to pass and drive to the basket. We are athletic. Anyone can score. The offense suits our team really well. It isn't like a set offense. We look to reverse the ball, make sure our spacing is right, then drive to the basket or kick it back out. There is so much more freedom."
Czeslawski has made it work despite returning only one starter from last year's 22-6 team that lost to Belvidere in the regional.
"We hang our hat on defense. What stands out is we do a good job on defense and share the ball on offense. Our kids have bought into the concept of positive energy," he said.
Whatever it is or whatever it does, it is effective. Crystal Lake Central is 15-2 going into Tuesday night's game against Grayslake North. The Tigers, who had a recent 14-game winning streak snapped by Woodstock, will meet Johnsburg on Friday.
Last Wednesday, Crystal Lake Central bounced back from its stunning 54-53 loss to Woodstock on Jordan Turner's game-winning shot with four seconds to play by smashing Grayslake Central 75-53. Corban Murphy scored 18 points and VanScoyoc and Brad Knoeppel each contributed 11.
"It was a wakeup call for us," VanScoyoc said. "We didn't play a bad game but we learned we must be sharper against teams we play. We didn't come in with as much energy as other games. We were missing two starters but that's no excuse. We've got to play in the present and come out with a lot of energy."
The read and react offense has turned around Czeslawski's program. His teams were 10-20, 15-13, 6-22 and 9-18 before he adopted the new strategy. In the last two years, the Tigers were 24-5 and 22-6. They won the school's first regional championship since 1998 and its only sectional title since 1974. Now they are hoping to make history.
"We have a lot of good kids," Czeslawski said. "It took a few years to get the culture turned around, to expect winning. We had a good group of kids coming through in the first few years and they bought into the system. The school hadn't had much success and we needed to turn it around."
Czeslawski founded a Thanksgiving tournament and got his players involved in a summer league and a summer shootout. While attending a dozen clinics a year, he came up with the read-and-react offense and a concept of positive energy that he discovered after hearing Jon Gordon, author of the book "Energy Bus." Interest was stoked. More kids began to come out for basketball. They wanted to work hard and make a commitment.
The lineup includes Corban Murphy (15 ppg), a 6-foot-3 senior who was one of two unanimous all-tournament selections at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament (with Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough); 6-foot-7 senior Kyle Fleck (8 ppg, 8 rpb, 3 blocks); 6-foot-6 senior David Panicko (9 ppg, 7 rpb); VanScoyoc (10 ppg); and Knoeppel (10 ppg, 6 assists), a 5-foot-9 senior point guard. D.J. Thomas (7 ppg), a 6-foot senior, and Corban's brother, 5-foot-11 sophomore Cavanagh Murphy, come off the bench.
They probably couldn't make the roster at Whitney Young or Simeon. There aren't any Division I prospects. A few are being recruited by Division III schools. But put them together and they have a pretty good idea of how to win basketball games and make opponents very unhappy.
"We focus on each possession," Czeslawski said. "We want to make the other team uncomfortable on each possession. We average 16 assists per game. We want to spread the ball around and find the guy who has a match-up edge or has the hot hand."
The coach describes VanScoyoc as "our glue guy, our best defensive player, the guy you least want to go into a game without."
Added Czeslawski: "He has an uncanny knack when he makes a mistake, he makes up for it within the next possession. When he turns it over, he comes right back and steals the ball. His response is to make up for a mistake immediately. He keeps us together. He keeps us going."
A year ago, VanScoyoc was the seventh man. Even though Corban Murphy was the only returning starter, he shared his coach's high expectations for this year's team.
"As sophomores, we went 21-1. We have a lot of team chemistry. I knew we had some talent," he said. "We are versatile. That's our edge. If one guy is having an off game, another steps up. Anyone can score on any given night."
Their goal is to win the sectional. "Our first ever," VanScoyoc said. Not so. Many in the Crystal Lake community don't recall that coach John Swenson's 13-14 team won the school's only sectional title in 1974. Led by Dan Osmun and Rich Sexton, the Tigers lost to Oswego 64-47 in their only trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
"Our goal is to win the sectional," VanScoyoc said. "We don't talk about it too much. We just focus on the next game. No other team in school history has ever started 15-2. But we're just looking ahead to our rematch with Woodstock (on Jan. 29) at their place."

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

High School Lites Week 2 basketball capsules

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest high school basketball games across Chicagoland for another basketball edition of High School Lites. Catch the show live at 11 p.m. Friday on CSN and streaming at CSNChicago.com

The show will feature numerous teams in the CSN Preps Power Rankings. The best game on Friday night could be No. 16 Benet traveling to No. 15 Notre Dame in a clash of unbeatens in the ESCC but there will be plenty of other highlights to check for.

The Red-West, North Suburban and Southland are all prominently featured on the show this week while High School Lites will also have highlights from the SouthWest Suburban.

This week's Viewers' Choice Game of the Week generated over 5,000 votes as Von Steuben will travel to Taft to represent the Red-North.

We'll also have a Getting to Know feature on Conant senior guard Jimmy Sotos.

Thursday's Game

Hyde Park at No. 7 Kenwood, 4:30 p.m. -- Kenwood will try to keep its momentum going as they host Hyde Park in a Red-Central battle. Kenwood (5-1, 1-0) is coming off of a Red-Central win over Dunbar earlier this week while Hyde Park (3-1, 1-0) defeated Lindblom for a conference victory as well. The Broncos are still unbeaten in Illinois as they're relying on senior big man Manny Patterson and his talented group of teammates. Hyde Park is trying to figure things out in head coach Jevon Mamon's first season as Andrew Anderson had a nice game against U-High at the Chicago Elite Classic.

Friday's Games

No. 11 North Lawndale at Westinghouse, 4:30 p.m. -- The Red-West is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season as this should be an interesting game. The Phoenix (5-1, 1-0) knocked off Marshall for a Red-West win on Wednesday while Westinghouse (3-3, 0-1) is coming off of a tough double-overtime loss to Farragut. Westinghouse is going to have to slow down Carlos Hines and Martrell Barnes but they can counter with a talented senior of their own in Coreyoun Rushin.  

Kankakee at Crete-Monee, 6:00 p.m. -- We also head to the Southland on Friday night as Kankakee (1-3, 0-1) travels to Crete-Monee (3-2, 1-0). The Warriors survived a high-scoring, double-overtime win over Rich East on Wednesday as they're led by senior and Toledo commit Dwayne Rose, the nephew of Derrick Rose. Kankakee is off to a sluggish start as they've lost some close games and they could use a conference road win here.

Rich East at No. 19 Bloom, 7:00 p.m. -- Keeping it in the Southland, Rich East (2-4, 0-1) will try to shake off a double-overtime loss this week as they travel to face No. 19 Bloom. Rich East has two one-point losses and the double-OT loss to Crete-Monee this year, so they could be better than the 2-4 record indicates. Bloom (4-1, 1-0) was impressive during Thanksgiving week at the Chicago Heights Classic as they look like one of the premier teams in the South Suburbs this year.

No. 24 Thornton at Lincoln-Way West, 7:00 p.m. -- These two teams battled in the SouthWest Suburban Red last season and both programs return some key pieces. Lincoln-Way West (2-4, 1-0) is led by senior Marco Pettinato as he's an All-Area candidate and big-time scorer. Thornton (3-2) will counter with a big scorer of its own with senior Alonzo Verge.

No. 16 Benet at No. 15 Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m. -- This could be the best matchup of Friday night as two unbeatens clash in the ESCC. Benet (5-0) is coming off of a runner-up finish in Class 4A as they bring back some talented players like Jack Nolan, Liam Lyman and Justin Enochs. The Redwings have looked very good early this season as they've piled up a lot of double-digit wins. Notre Dame (6-0) is also off to a hot start as they picked up an overtime win over Loyola and another victory over Bartlett last weekend. The Dons have a lot of size on the inside as Chris Heinichen, Jeameril Wilson and Sean Johnson are all 6-foot-5 or bigger.

No. 12 Stevenson at Mundelein, 7:00 p.m. -- Stevenson is off to a great start as they try to carry that into Mundelein in this North Suburban contest. The Patriots (6-0, 2-0) are led by Indiana commit and senior Justin Smith as he's one of the best players in the state this season. Mundelein (2-4, 0-1) dropped one to Zion-Benton earlier this week as they try to get back on track in the North Suburban race.

Lake Zurich at Zion Benton, 7:00 p.m. -- Two team with high expectations in the North Suburban face each other in this one. Zion-Benton (2-1, 1-1) dropped a conference game to leader Stevenson last weekend but recovered with a double-digit win over Mundelein during the week. Lake Zurich (4-1, 0-1) dropped its conference opener to Waukegan after a 4-0 start to the season.

Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Von Steuben at Taft, 6:30 p.m. -- This week's poll was a tight one as over 5,000 people voted and this game barely beat Lane at Uplift. The Panthers (0-2, 0-1) are trying to pick up their first win of the season after losing to an out-of-state opponent and No. 9 Uplift. Senior Rafael Cruz put up monster numbers last season as he's the player to watch for Von Steuben. Taft opened its Red-North slate at home against Lincoln Park as they're facing two tough opponents right out of the gate at home. They'll try to capitalize on those early conference home games with a win here.

Recruiting News and Notes: Mitch Lewis' recruiting stock soaring

Recruiting News and Notes: Mitch Lewis' recruiting stock soaring

Mitch Lewis (TE), Naperville North

Naperville North senior three-star ranked tight end Mitch Lewis (6-foot-6, 215 pounds) has seen his overall recruiting stock soar over the past month, as he's now touting 10 verbal scholarship offers and has more interest growing by the day.

"It's been a pretty wild last week or two," Lewis said. "It just seems like a lot of schools decided to offer me. It all came out of nowhere to be honest and it feels pretty amazing."

Lewis has added several of his 10 offers over the past few weeks and ran down his list of offers.

"I have offers now from Hawaii, Wyoming, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, South Dakota, Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Northern Iowa," Lewis said. "Also Iowa, Penn State and Purdue have also been in touch weekly, and both Iowa and Penn State are coming to watch one of my basketball games this week. I have a feeling some of the Big Ten schools are getting closer to offering me."

Lewis, who made his first official visit to Wyoming back in November is planning to set more official visits in January.

Joshua Maize (DE), Deerfield

Deerfield senior three-star ranked defensive end Joshua Maize (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) has switched up his planned official visit schedule, and he will make his first official visit this weekend.

"I'm making my first official visit to UConn this weekend," Maize said. "I was suppose to go to Miami of Ohio last weekend but they wanted me to reschedule. I was suppose to go to Miami of Ohio last weekend but they wanted me to reschedule since I was the only recruit scheduled to visit."

So what is Maize looking for when he visits UConn?

"I'm just looking forward to seeing the campus and the surrounding area," Maize said. "I've never been out East before so I want to see what UConn has to offer. I'm also looking forward to getting to know the coaches and the guys on the team. UConn also is supposed to have great facilities and I'm excited to see the different facilities along with the overall environment at UConn."

Maize has also drawn late recruiting interest from a handful of schools.

"Syracuse has been showing a lot more interest," Maize said. "They have a few offers out to Juco kids so they are waiting to see what happens. Syracuse wants me to make an official visit in January. I'm also talking weekly with Toledo and Central Michigan. I'm sure I'll set more visits in January but for now my focus is on UConn this weekend."

[MORE: The 2016 Edgy Tim All-State Team]

Nick Marozas (OL), Brother Rice

Brother Rice junior offensive linemen Nick Marozas (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) added his first scholarship on Monday from Minnesota.

"Getting my first offer from Minnesota feels great," Marozas said. "It was a bit of a surprise. I talked to one of the coaches on Monday morning and then later in the day they called my coaches at school then they offered me a scholarship."

Marozas visited Minnesota earlier this fall and came away impressed with the Gophers.

"I visited Minnesota last month for the Homecoming game against Purdue," Marozas said. "I had a chance to talk to the coaches at Minnesota on that visit and that went well. I liked the campus, the facilities and the stadium. Minnesota is just a great program and school and it's pretty exciting to get my first offer from a great Big Ten program."

Marozas has drawn interest from Minnesota along with Syracuse, Illinois, Indiana, Northern Illinois and Navy. Marozas plans to make a mid January unofficial visit to Syracuse.

Alec Palczewski (OT), Prospect

Prospect senior offensive tackle Alec Palczewski (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) has seen his recruiting stock soar late this fall. Palczewski, who added his first offer from Illinois a few weeks ago, now has added offers from the Fighting Illini along with Vanderbilt and Syracuse. Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana have also started to take interest in Palczewski.