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Warren's Adrian Deere (right) dribbles past Zion's Trenton Curry. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

At big professional tennis tournaments, the top players are seeded into the draw, and then the rest of the field is dropped into the bracket in random order.

Some of those “field” players actually are capable of beating the top players on any given day; they’re just not capable of beating them on a regular basis.

Those types of players are called “dangerous floaters.” They are the players nobody’s talking about who can sneak up on the elite players and bite them and, hence, they are the players the elite stars don’t want to face.

High school basketball has a similar hierarchy. In Lake County this coming winter, you have Stevenson and Zion-Benton at the top, and below them, also held in high regard, are North Chicago and Lake Forest.

And then there are the dangerous floaters.

On that list, no area team this winter will be more dangerous than the Warren Blue Devils.

This is Year 2 of the Ryan Webber Era and based on how the Blue/Gold are looking at the Let’s Play Hoops high school Sunday fall league at Trinity International University in Deerfield/Bannockburn, the rest of the area had better not go to sleep on the team from Gurnee.

Last year, remember, Warren beat Stevenson, which finished second at state, and also beat Lake Forest.

Here are some observations about Warren from last Sunday’s 56-45 Blue Devil win over Glenbrook South.

  • During the first half, impatience on the offensive end led to some questionable shots from long range without rebounders in position for putbacks or kickouts. On the other end, Glenbrook South had the Blue Devils on their heels, scoring any way they wanted as they built a 34-20 halftime lead.
  • Without a coach to direct them — players coach themselves in this league — the Blue Devils slapped on their 1-2-2 ball press after halftime and got the Titans to play so out of control that they missed layups even when they broke it. An 18-1 run turned a 38-23 deficit into a 41-39 lead for the Blue Devils, and patience and solid shooting allowed them to close out the game.
  • Senior guards Adrian Deere and James Betori are returning starters for the Blue Devils, and Eric Gillespie saw meaningful action at the point coming off the bench. The trio have an obvious chemistry on the court, but the game is not played 3-on-5. Finding players who mesh well with them will be an important part of the Blue Devils’ development over the next few months.
  • Deere led the Blue Devils with 15 points against Glenbrook South and Gillespie added 10.
  • Playing with Betori, Deerie, and Gillespie on Sunday’s starting unit were John Lewis and Jovan Jokic. Jokic has looked good at times this fall, and both looked much more comfortable when Betori, Deere, and Gillespie also found their grove in the second half.
  • On Sunday, it was hard to identify a player on the squad as a forward let alone a center. Greg Swane, an athletic 6-5 transfer from Zion-Benton, is one of the pieces the Blue Devils can use to establish an inside presence and clean up poor possessions, but he has missed the last two weeks after scoring 16 in the league’s first weekend.

Afterward, Deere, Betori and Gillespie talked about the current state of the Blue Devils, as well as where the 2013-2014 team is headed.

Q: The three guys returning who have logged a lot of varsity minutes seem to have great chemistry, but how do you extend that to the other guys?
Deere: “Just keep playing together. Play at open gym, practice. Hang out. We have to stick together.”

Q: It’s obvious they’re not a big team. How do they make up for their lack of size?
Gillespie: We have to be more vocal and make sure we make good decisions offensively. It falls on me to make sure we move the ball around or to drive and kick to these two (Deere and Betori). As long as we stay under control, speeding things up can help make up for our size.”

Q: What about breaking out the press against Glenbrook South?
Gillespie: “Nobody else runs it, so teams aren’t used to handling it.”
Betori: “It helps make up for size for sure. We’re probably one of the smallest teams in our conference. It’s like a secret weapon we can pull out if we need to.”

Q: What about Greg Swane, an athletic 6-5 forward who transferred from Zion-Benton?
Deere: “He brings versatility, a mid-range jumper, athleticism, and toughness.”
Betori: “He’s a good rebounder and a big body down low, which is something we definitely need.”

Q: What about all the talk about Zion-Benton and Stevenson ... especially given the Devils beat Stevenson last year and took Zion to the wire at their place?
Betori: “It puts a chip on our shoulder for sure.”
Deere: “While people are looking at them, we get to stay under the radar. If teams are so worried about them that they aren’t paying attention to us, they’re making a mistake. We can beat both of those teams. This is our senior year. We’re going out with a bang.”

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