Hammarlund is Mr. Intangibles for St. Viator

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Hammarlund is Mr. Intangibles for St. Viator

Kevin Hammarlund is a coach's dream and an opponent's worst nightmare. St. Viator's 6-foot-1 senior guard doesn't score points as much as he creates headaches. He wishes he were 6-foot-3, could shoot and play at Duke. But he knows that isn't to be. He is comfortable in his own skin.

"The most points I ever scored in a game was 28 as a freshman. My varsity high is 18 last year, 14 this year. I average only three to nine shots a game," he said. "I realize my role is to play defense and set screens and rebound and make steals, a little bit of everything."

Hammarlund averages nine points, five rebounds and at least one steal per game. He also takes four charges per game and usually limits the opponent's leading scorer to fewer than 10 points. He doesn't count floor burns or black-and-blue marks or bumps and bruises.

"I'm not a big statistics guy," he said. "I take pride in setting good screens for my teammates to get good shots. I've had at least one steal in every game. And my goal in every game is to help on team defense and hold the other team's good scorer under 10 points."

A two-year starter at wide receiver and free safety on the football team, Hammarlund will play football in college, probably at Washington University in St. Louis or Dayton, Butler or St. Thomas in Minnesota.

"I love both sports," he said. "Basketball is harder because I'm a shorter guard. I had a great chance to start in football last year and it led to being recruited by some schools. But I love basketball. I've been playing since I was 3. I wish I could play at Duke, but..."

But it won't happen. He will have to settle for trying to help St. Viator make history this season. The Arlington Heights school was 25-4 last year and lost to Mundelein in the sectional semifinal. The Lions have never been farther in the state tournament series. This year's goal is the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

"I've been at St. Viator for eight years and this can be the best team I have seen," two-year coach Mike Howland said. "We have five returning players who saw minutes last year. We know we are talented but we are younger than last year.

"We know we would have a learning curve. We know how to play together. Everyone knows their roles. We know who is good at what. We're starting to figure it out. We have a lot of firepower and a great group of guards. We can score in bunches. We're looking to make history this year."

St. Viator is 13-4 after losing to Lake Forest 66-53 on Tuesday. The Lions will face two severe tests when they face East Suburban Catholic rivals Marian Catholic and Tyler Ulis on Friday and Notre Dame on Saturday at the Sears Center. It won't get any easier next week when they meet Benet and New Trier.

Last week, St. Viator defeated Northridge Prep 65-55 as Ore Arogundade had 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. In an 86-81 decision over Nazareth, Arogundade had 22 points and 11 rebounds while Mark Falitico had 24 points and seven assists, Patrick McNamara scored 17 points and Hammarlund had 15 points and eight rebounds.

Against Lake Forest (12-3), one of the top teams in the North Suburban, Hammarlund scored 14 points and Ore Aragundade had 13. But St. Viator couldn't contain Lake Forest's 6-foot-7 Evan Boudreaux, who had 25 points and 13 rebounds.

"This will be a fun stretch. Our conference is as good as it gets, loaded, a battle every night," Howland said. "We played our worst week of basketball at the Wheeling tournament at Christmas (they lost to Naperville Central and Niles North to finish fourth) but played our best basketball last week (beating Glenbrook North and Carmel).

"We're really good when we play together and share the ball. We have to play to our strengths...play defense, push the tempo, get stops and rebound well. I said at the beginning of the year that if we go far (in the state tournament) we must rebound the ball and give opponents one shot. When we do, we're good. When we dont, we're pretty average."

The lineup features Hammarlund, 6-foot-3 junior guard Arogundade (16 PPG, 8 RPG), 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard Falitico (13 PPG, 5 assists), 6-foot-2 senior guard Martin (10 PPG) and 6-foot-5 senior center Hugh Masterson (6 PPG, 7 RPG). Ore's brother, Mayo Arogundade 5 PPG), a 5-foot-11 senior point guard, and 6-foot-3 sophomore McNamara come off the bench.

Howland describes Hammarlund as "our do-everything guy, a winner, our intangibles guy. He doesn't need the basketball. He took five charges in one game. He is a difference-maker. He is our best defender. He takes the opponent's best player."

"My role? I do what the coach tells me. I do what it takes for this team to win," Hammarlund said. "I like to be known as a defensive player. I pride myself at working at the defensive end, trying to take their best player out of the game.

"And I like to bring energy. I make energy plays, charges and steals, that bring us easy baskets. It gets our crowd going and gives the team momentum. I'm not a stat guy. I see how many points my man got, if I was able to hold him to a low score."

Hammarlund came off the bench last year as St. Viator went 25-4 and won its first conference championship in more than 10 years. The Lions were undefeated in the conference and on their home floor. But the loss to Mundelein in the sectional semifinal was a big disappointment, something he and his teammates haven't forgotten.

"I thought we'd go much farther than that. We should have gone to the supersectional or downstate. I felt we were that good," he said. "But we have more talent this year. We have a lot of good players and we are playing as a team. We can be better than last year."

St. Viator lacks size -- as was clearly evident in the loss to Lake Forest -- but usually makes up for it with aggressiveness, balanced scoring and lockdown defense.

"We have a lot of positive energy and leadership on and off the court," Hammarlund said. "The seniors have played together for four years. Sure, we have concern when we play a bigger team. But we have athleticism with our guards and can pressure bigger players and make it tough for them to finish."

2017 CSN Preps Boys Basketball All-Area Team

2017 CSN Preps Boys Basketball All-Area Team

The 2016-17 high school basketball season is finally in the books as the Chicagoland area saw a lot of star performances from throughout the year.

So it's time to unveil the 15-man, three-team, CSN Preps Boys Basketball All-Area team.

While other awards might only count regular-season accomplishments, the CSN Preps All-Area team is unique because we also include postseason accomplishments and titles when considering the three teams.

Only players from the Chicagoland area are consisdered for the All-Area teams as factors such as strength of schedule, final statistics, team accomplishments and personal awards are all weighed in the final decision.

Here's a look at the three All-Area teams and the CSN Preps Player of the Year. 

First Team

Alonzo Verge, Thornton senior guard (Player of the Year) -- The choice for Player of the Year is Verge after he burst back on the local scene after a year away. Leading the Wildcats back to a Class 4A sectional title game, Verge averaged 26 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals per game as he was the most unstoppable player in the area this season. Verge helped Thornton to a Southwest Suburban Red title while he earned MVP honors at the Big Dipper for leading the Wildcats to victory. 

Ayo Dosunmu, Morgan Park junior guard -- The only junior to make the All-Area team, Dosunmu averaged 18.3 points per game while helping the Mustangs win the Public League Red-South and Class 3A state championship. Although Dosunmu didn't play much in Peoria when the Mustangs won state, they definitely needed him to get there as the junior had some big-time playoff performances. 

Cameron Krutwig, Jacobs senior center -- One of the best players ever to come out of the Fox Valley Conference, Krutwig finishes his career with 1,528 points and ninth in state history with 1,258 career rebounds. A monster senior season saw Krutwig put up 15.3 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.4 assists per game entering regional finals as he was the area's best post player this season. Led Jacobs to three straight Fox Valley titles, three regional titles in four seasons and a sectional title this season.

Nojel Eastern, Evanston senior guard -- Another prolific four-year player, Eastern was a third-team CSN All-Area selection last season. After a solid regular season that saw him average 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks per game, Eastern elevated his play to an elite level in the state playoffs in helping the Wildkits to a Class 4A sectional title. Eastern put up 31 points, 10 rebounds and six steals in the Super-sectional loss to Whitney Young and 29 points and 17 rebounds in a win over Waukegan for the sectional title. 

Lucas Williamson, Whitney Young senior guard -- The unsigned senior had a final year to remember as Williamson helped the Dolphins to a Class 4A state title. The 6-foot-4 Williamson averaged 17.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 48 percent from the field and 77 percent from the free-throw line. Also the MVP of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, Williamson improved dramatically as a perimeter shooter over his four-year high school career.

Second Team

Nana Akenten, Bolingbrook senior forward -- The Nebraska commit was able to combine high-flying above-the-rim plays along with a lethal perimeter jumper. The 6-foot-6 Akenten shot 49 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point range during the season. Akenten put up 14.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game for the Raiders, as they finished third in Class 4A. The MVP of the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic, Akenten has as much upside as anyone on this list. 

Evan Gilyard, Simeon senior guard -- After a four-year varsity career, Gilyard will go down as one of the better floor leaders that Simeon has ever had. The senior led the Wolverines to back-to-back city titles and back-to-back trips to Peoria as he averaged 15.9 points, 3.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from three-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line. The A.C. Williamson award winner at Pontiac, Gilyard is committed to UTEP. 

Elijah Joiner, Curie senior guard -- After helping Curie win a Class 4A state title last year, Joiner had a very strong senior season as he averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game. Joiner helped the Condors win a Red-Central conference title while he had a 40-point game on rival Kenwood. An all-tournament selection at Pontiac, Joiner is committed to Tulsa. 

Teyvion Kirk, Joliet West senior guard -- This uncommitted senior had a tremendous season on both ends of the floor for the Southwest Prairie champion Tigers. The 6-foot-3 Kirk averaged 19 points, four rebounds and three assists per game this season as he recently set his final four schools to Arkansas, Middle Tennessee, Ohio and St. Bonaventure. Kirk helped Joliet West to a sectional title last season and a regional title this season while earning all-tournament honors at Pontiac.

Justin Smith, Stevenson senior forward -- A CSN third-team All-Area selection as a junior, Smith is back on the list after a stellar senior season. Smith put up 21 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the regular season for the Patriots as he put down some of the best dunks in the area over the last three years. Smith won a state title as a sophomore starter alongside Jalen Brunson and Connor Cashaw and emerged as a star in his own right this season. Smith is currently committed to Indiana.

Third Team

Kyle Sliwa, Fremd senior guard -- One of the area's most efficient shooters, Sliwa hit some of the biggest clutch shots of the season. Sliwa twice helped Fremd beat rival Conant with game-winning three-pointers, including a buzzer-beater to win a sectional title. The 6-foot-1 Sliwa averaged 16.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. Named MVP of the Mundelein Thanksgiving Tournament, the Wheeling Hardwood Classic and the Mid-Suburban West, Sliwa helped Fremd to a 31-0 start and fourth-place finish in Class 4A. 

Dillon Durrett, Wheaton-Warrenville South senior forward -- The area's most improved player was the DuPage Valley Conference's best player after only averaging 2.3 points per game as a junior. Durrett was versatile on both ends of the floor for the Tigers as he averaged 17 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-3 Durrett often had to play bigger for a small team that won multiple in-season tournaments and went unbeaten in conference play.  

Jack Nolan, Benet senior guard -- Clutch players are tough to come by and Benet had a good one in this senior point guard. After Nolan helped lead the Redwings to a second-place finish in Class 4A last season he averaged 18 points per game and made 40 percent of his three-pointers. Also averaging three assists and two rebounds per game, Nolan was all-Tournament at Pontiac, MVP of the Loyola-New Trier Thanksgiving Tournament and an all-conference in the ESCC.

Tai Bibbs, West Chicago senior guard -- It wasn't quite the season that West Chicago hoped for but Bibbs still put up huge numbers, averaging 26 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while drawing a lot of Division I offers. The 6-foot-3 Bibbs was a two-time all-Upstate Eight Valley selection and he was the Valley's Player of the Year this season. Bibbs won MVP of the West Chicago Thanksgiving tournament and also was all-tournament at Dayton as he put up a tournament-best 32.8 points per game.

Demarius Jacobs, Uplift senior guard -- The best player in the Public League Red-North, the 6-foot-3 Jacobs was one of the premier two-way guards in the city. Jacobs helped the Titans win the Red-North and stay in the CSN Preps Power Rankings for most of the season as he averaged 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game. An All-Tournament selection at Proviso West, Jacobs signed with Southern Illinois in the fall. 

Stagg quarterback Kyle Neputy goes 1-on-1 with Edgy Tim

Stagg quarterback Kyle Neputy goes 1-on-1 with Edgy Tim

Student first, then athlete.

Stagg junior quarterback Kyle Neputy has unquestionably taken the student portion of student-athlete to heart. Neputy, who is a high-honors student and touts an impressive 4.73 GPA, has drawn steady recruiting interest from college programs on several levels, including multiple Ivy League schools. Cornell has already extended Neputy an offer.

Neputy, a big, strong and athletic quarterback who measures in at 6-foot-4 and 234 pounds, has the overall size and physical upside to draw looks at multiple positions this spring and summer.

I caught up with Neputy at the fifth annual Franklin Dodgeball Madness Tournament at Franklin Middle School in Wheaton. Proceeds from the tournament benefited the school, the DuPage Hundred Club, Team Red, White and Blue and The Pat Tillman Foundation.

Watch the interview in the video above.