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Naperville North senior Matt Brown rushed out of the gym and into the hall looking for someone to administer to his bloody nose during Friday morning’s basketball game against Kaneland in the 10th annual Hoop Mountain Summer Shootout at West Aurora.
The Huskies didn’t miss Brown’s brief absence as they closed the first half on a 21-4 run and cruised past the Knights, 47-19.
Like 46 other high school basketball teams, the Huskies were taking advantage of the opportunity to participate in a large-scale tournament like this one to see which holes they’ll need to fill because of graduation, as well as give their incoming junior class a chance to show what they can do.
The biggest void will be replacing the veteran starting guard combo of Anthony Rehayem and Jayson Winick.
“Anthony was a three-year starter and Winick for two years, and both had a lot of savvy and were really competitive,” Huskies coach Jeff Powers said. “But Jelani (McClain), Zach Tuxhorn and Baylor (Griffin) are all back and are very solid players. Right now we’re fooling around a bit and we have three sophomores here, and I’m thinking two of them are going to come up.”
Griffin relocated from Pennsylvania last year and was able to step in immediately and make an impact. Now, he’ll be asked to take on a leadership role as well. He averaged 7.4 points and 5.1 rebounds last season.
“We’ve been working with the new people and I’m trying to be a leader and show the younger kids how we do it here and teach Coach Powers’ style,” Griffin said, “Personally, I know I’m going to have to look to pass the ball and get people open shots and then take open layups and jump shots if they’re there.”
Griffin’s been impressed with the newcomers, many who came up big against Kaneland.
“That was all them, they know how to play basketball,” he said. “We know there’s some big spots to fill, and those guys from last year will be missed, but I’m excited with what I’ve seen from the new guys.”
Tyler Bushman, Chris Gajcak and Deon Merrill also saw minutes last year. Merrill continues to be an enigma. At a slender 6-7 he can jump out of the gym but wasn’t a big contributor last season, battling injuries and appearing in only 14 games.
“I’ve heard good things about what he’s done in AAU so we’ll see,” Powers said. “I’m optimistic that he’ll catch on and that some of these big guys, like Bushman, can get going.”
One thing the Huskies won’t have to worry about is playing West Aurora twice. The perennial power has left the DuPage Valley Conference along with Glenbard East, leaving the conference with just six teams.
“Conference should be interesting this year with the changes,” Powers said. “And Coach Healy is back at Wheaton Warrenville South.”