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South Elgin's Matt McClure drives to the basket during a game last season. McClure is recovering from a broken ankle that sidelined him for most of the Storm's summer program. | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media
New South Elgin coach Matt Petersen will have to wait until the start of basketball season in November to get a sense of how his team looks at full strength.
Petersen was hired in the first week of June, leaving him with limited time to become acclimated with the Storm’s personnel. To complicate matters, a series of injuries combined with absences due to commitments with other sports frequently left the team shorthanded for summer league games.
Two injuries in particular loomed large as key senior returners Darius Wells and Matt McClure were both watching from the sidelines for most of the summer, but despite the challenges Petersen is maintaining a positive approach.
“If everybody is healthy, I think this could be a really fun year and a really good year for us,” Petersen said. “But after going through the summer all I’m thinking is, ‘Oh man, can we please just stay healthy.’”
Petersen said by the end of the summer his team was showing up for games with only six players, most of which were freshmen and sophomores. The thin ranks offered a reminder of the second half of last season when South Elgin rounded out its lineup with four freshmen as it limped to a 5-23 finish under former coach Chaz Taft, who left in April to take over as the new coach at Wabuonsie Valley.
McClure was one of the bright spots last year as he averaged 8.5 points as a junior, but the 5-foot-8 guard went down with a broken ankle in South Elgin’s final game at West Aurora’s Hoops Mountain Shootout in mid June. The injury will keep McClure out of action until August, and he should be ready to roll by the time the basketball season arrives.
The situation is a bit murkier for Wells, who played only 11 games last year and missed the entire second half of the season with a left foot injury. The nagging ailment kept Wells out for all of the Storm’s summer program, but the hope is the 5-10 guard will be in the mix and ready to handle a big part of the scoring load this season after averaging a team-best 13.5 points in his limited action as a junior.
“Darius showed up to some summer league games and was at a lot of our camp practices,” Petersen said. “He was involved in a lot of our team meetings and had a lot of input, and you can tell he’s a committed kid.”
In theory, South Elgin could have an explosive backcourt if Wells, McClure and talented sophomore Matt Smith are all healthy. Smith started all season as a freshman last year, but ankle injuries hindered the 5-10 guard this summer.
Two other players with big upsides are 6-3 forward Jake Amrhein and 6-7 center Tyler Hankins, both of whom were called up to the varsity last year as freshmen. Petersen was particularly impressed with Amrhein, saying he made the greatest strides among anyone on the team during the summer.
There are also encouraging signs among the Storm’s projected role players, but Petersen knows it will be a work in progress as he prepares for his first season as a head coach after serving as an assistant at the college level for several women’s basketball teams in recent years.
“There is a lot of potential with this group and I think we could be really surprising, but you’ve got to have people show up, especially when you are trying to play up tempo like we are,” Petersen said. “I think everybody realized how much fun it was when we had 10 kids there, but as soon as it went to six or seven people they realized how difficult that it is and how physically and mentally exhausting that is.”
Kowalyszyn gets in groove with Sabres
New Streamwood coach Paul Kowalyszyn is a familiar face for the Sabres after serving as an assistant varsity coach at the school the past three years. Nonetheless, the former Larkin standout didn’t hesitate to remind his players he still has some game.
“The last day of camp I had to go out there and dunk a couple times for them,” said Kowalyszyn, who was hired in April at age 27. “They think I’m so old I can’t do it anymore, but now I’ve been hurting for a week.”
Kowalyszyn’s main focus this summer was bringing along an inexperienced nucleus as Streamwood looks to improve on last year’s 11-19 finish in former coach Tim Jones’ final season before retirement.
“I was a little nervous going into the summer because we have a lot of young guys coming up and only two players with significant varsity experience,” Kowalyszyn said. “But the team was a pleasant surprise. They won a few more games than we thought they would and I’m really pleased with the progress we made.”
Senior Jacob Siewert is the team’s top returner, and the 6-2 guard appears ready to shoulder a leading role after averaging 7.0 points last season. Junior forward Cole Seger is the other experienced returner, and senior forward Antonio Harris looks to be in line for an expanded presence after seeing limited minutes last year.
Royals finish off dominant summer
Larkin left no doubt about its status as the top local team to watch next season as it compiled a stellar 29-2 record during the summer, including an undefeated run to the championship of the Geneva Summer League.
The Royals ended their summer campaign with a sudden-death overtime loss against Prairie Ridge in the semifinals of the Crystal Lake South Shootout in late June. Their only other loss came against Metea Valley at West Aurora’s Hoop Mountain Shootout.
The good vibes even extended to senior forward Drew Jones, who took part in the final weeks of Larkin’s summer camp after coming back early from surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his knee.
“On the court the varsity team did really well this summer, but we were happy with the whole program, including the freshmen and sophomores,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “I’m happy to see the guys are still hungry to get better.”