St. Rita, Law looking for their props

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St. Rita, Law looking for their props

St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare says he likes to "stay under the radar." But he admits he wants his team to earn its just desserts and bristles when it doesn't. Like now. Some polls rate the Mustangs, some don't. And DeCesare can't understand why.

"Guys who do polls don't understand ratings. They don't understand the value of playing against top competition," he said. "We have played a national schedule. We can play against anyone on any given night."

St. Rita is 13-5 after crushing Bishop McNamara 90-66 on Friday night. The Mustangs have a date against Curie and 6-foot-9 Cliff Alexander on Tuesday and meet Hales Franciscan on Friday.

"Potentially, this is the best team I've had at St. Rita," said DeCesare, in his fourth season. "We're still young. We start two sophomores and two juniors. But we have four starters back from last year's 16-11 team (that lost to Whitney Young in the sectional). We have a lot of experience and the kids are battle-tested."

In an attempt to prepare for the rugged Catholic League grind and the postseason tournament, DeCesare arranged for a schedule that to date has featured five highly rated out-of-state opponents, including Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, Scott County of Kentucky and St. Raymond's of New York.

"We have seen every style of basketball from fast pace to slowdown and we have had a great deal of experience playing against the shot clock," he said. "We have a lot of versatility. We play together as a team. The kids understand the value of finding the open man and sharing the ball.

"We have four guys averaging in double figures. When we do that, we are tough to beat. When we don't, we have lost. We're trying to find our edge. I don't think they understand how good they can be. Once they do, the sky is the limit. The key is to bring the same intensity every night. We will win as a team, not as individuals."

Which is in sharp contrast to a year ago when St. Rita was led by one of the most prolific scorers in the state, 6-foot-2 do-everything Tony Hicks, who averaged 25 points per game. Hicks, an All-Stater and the recipient of the Tony Lawless Award as the most outstanding player in the Catholic League, is at the University of Pennsylvania.

This year's leader is 6-foot-6 junior Victor Law, who was an All-Catholic League selection last season. He is averaging 13 points and nine rebounds per game. He had 19 rebounds in a recent game. Against McNamara, he had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Dominique Matthews scored 21 points.

"He is one of the most versatile players in the state," DeCesare said of Law. "He has a great work ethic. His ceiling is very high. If he continues to stay the course, he will be a Division I player. He also has great leadership skills."

Law began honing his game as a second grader by playing against his older sister, Simone, who played at Marian Catholic and now is a sophomore at Loyola. A McDonald's All-America candidate, she constantly beat her younger sibling in one-on-one match-ups in the drive-way of the family's home in South Holland.

"We worked out together. It was like Reggie and Cheryl Miller. It was always embarrassing to lose to my older sister," Victor said. "But she was a good player and showed me how to be good. She pushed me to be better. Finally, in seventh grade, when I was 6-foot-2, she stopped playing me. I was too good for her. One of my goals always was to beat her."

He wasn't sure which school he wanted to attend. His original choices were De La Salle or Homewood-Flossmoor. However, after attending a tournament at St. Rita with his grammar school team, he changed his mind.

"I really liked it," he said. "It had a family feel. The love I got here was different than any other school. People knew who I was as a student and as a basketball player."

Law, a three-year starter, lines up with 6-foot-2 junior Dominique Matthews (15 ppg), 6-foot-3 junior Scott Kingsley (10 ppg), 6-foot-4 sophomore point guard Charles Matthews (11 ppg, 5 assists) and 6-foot-8 sophomore Myles Carter (6 ppg).

DeCesare said Dominique Matthews is "the most underrated guard in the city." Charles Matthews, Dominique's brother, is one of the leading prospects in the class of 2015 in Illinois.

Top reserves are 6-foot-2 junior Treston Forbes, 5-foot-9 sophomore Armani Chaney and 6-foot-4 sophomore Brandon McRoy.

"Our style hasn't changed," Law said. "The guy (Hicks) was hot all last year. We didn't want to go away from him. If he's hot, give him the ball.

"But I thought we could have gone farther in the state tournament. Some things we could have done better, small things that could be corrected. This year we've seen every type of basketball team and style of basketball. We all want to come together for one goal--win the state title."

The formula for success, DeCesare and Law agree, is try to get better every day and go undefeated in March.

"I want to be known as an all-around player," Law said. "Basketball isn't a one-dimensional game. I'll do whatever it takes to win...score, rebound, defend, take a charge, block out, steal the ball. My goal is to get a double-double or triple-double in every game.

"I want to keep pushing myself every day, one day at a time. I want to rise to the occasion every day and step up. How far can we go? We can go all the way. We're doing great things right now, even though we are young. We're playing at a high level. The key is not to waste opportunities. The coach is putting us in the right position to take advantage of our opportunities."

88 Days to Kickoff: Oak Lawn

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88 Days to Kickoff: Oak Lawn

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Oak Lawn

Head coach: Nick Novak

Assistant Coaches: Bob Novak Jim Clendenning Milt Seaton Mike Ogle Matt Arthur Dave Duer Adam Probst Pat Probst John Robinson Matt Creech Luke Sakal Steve Reed

How they fared in 2016: 3-6 (1-5 South Suburban Red), the Spartans failed to qualify for the 2016 IHSA state playoff field.

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 25 – @ Marian Catholic

Sept. 1 – vs. Julian

Sept. 8 – @ Bremen

Sept. 15 - vs Eisenhower

Sept. 22 - vs Argo

Sept. 29 – @ Shepard

Oct. 6 - Reavis

Oct. 13 -@ Evergreen Park

Oct. 20 - @ Richards

Biggest storyline: Can the Spartans continue to improve and win more games in 2017?

Names to watch this season: Senior OL/DL Patrick Michaels, Senior OL/DL Kameron McNicholas and Senior OL Don Ott

Biggest holes to fill: The Spartans will need to reload in the offensive skills in particular this fall with just senior WR Antonio Jones the lone returning starter from last season.

EDGY's Early Take: The Spartans have a good base upfront on both sides of the football and the line play will be asked to help lead an inexperienced group surrounding them. If Oak Lawn can find some answers especially early on in the offensive skills they could be a nice surprise team to watch.

89 Days to Kickoff: Vernon Hills

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89 Days to Kickoff: Vernon Hills

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Vernon Hills

Head coach: Bill Bellecomo

Assistant coaches: Corey Atwell, Greg Stilling, Tim Dydo, Jason Czarnecki, Avelino Cortez, Brian Palmer, Mike Larsen, Dave Schroetter

How they fared in 2016: 10-4 (3-2 Central Suburban North), lost to Peoria in the IHSA Class 5A state title game.

[MORE: 90 Days to Kickoff - Morris]

2017 regular season schedule:

Aug. 25 – Grayslake North

Sept. 1 – @ Zion-Benton

Sept. 8 – Rolling Meadows

Sept. 15 - @ Hoffman Estates

Sept. 22 - Highland Park

Sept. 28 – @ Deerfield

Oct. 6 - Maine West

Oct. 13 - @ Maine East

Oct. 20 - Glenbrook North

Biggest storyline: Can the Cougars make another deep run in Class 5A?

Names to watch this season: Senior WR/DB Max Lyle, senior OL/DL Danny Lester and senior LB Kyle Fasbinder

Biggest holes to fill: The Cougars will need to reload in particular on the offensive side of the football with just three starters back from a season ago.

EDGY's early take: The Cougars had a great run in 2016 and while several key starters have graduated, Vernon Hills still has some gas left in the tank. Getting off to a strong early start could be a big key in 2017 as the Cougars schedule is tough especially early on in 2017.