BOYS: FIRST TEAM
MAX STRUS, Stagg, G/F, Sr.
- The 2013-14 Player of the Year — who was mentioned by more than one opposing coach this season as the second-best player in the south suburbs behind Marian Catholic and future University of Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis — finished his prep career as the greatest basketball player in Stagg history. That’s the tag applied to Strus by veteran Chargers coach John Daniels, and it’s certainly difficult to debate the claim. After all, Strus was the top performer on Stagg’s finest single-season hoops squad, one that garnered 22 wins and came within two points of defeating four-time defending state champion Simeon for the Class 4A Shepard Regional crown. In his three full varsity campaigns, the Chargers piled up a total of 56 victories. Already a two-time all-area second-team selection, the 6-foot-6 Strus became a first-teamer by accruing per-game averages of 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists while connecting on 82 percent of his free throws and sinking 68 3-pointers. He recorded 10 double-doubles and led Stagg in every major statistical category except assists, where he was second to Kevin White, and Strus departs the program as its No. 1 man in made foul shots (241) and charges taken (31). His 1,140 career points are only 16 off Jeff Miller’s pacesetting mark and put him third overall in team scoring annals. Other notable career stats include 180 assists and 165 3s. Strus’ college destination has yet to be determined, but Illinois State, Nevada and Missouri-Kansas City universities are among his suitors.
NIKO CAHUE, Sandburg, F, Sr.
- Like Stagg’s Max Strus, Cahue elevated his status as a senior, earning a first-team all-area berth after being a member of the second unit in 2012-13. When Malek Harris was removed from the Eagles’ roster prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign, Cahue had no one else to draw inside attention away from him. But even with opposing defenses geared to stop him around the basket, Cahue still improved on his numbers from the year before. He averaged 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest, which bettered his previous figures by nearly five and two, respectively. He also rejected 31 shots, connected on 50 percent of his own attempts from the field and nailed 73 percent of his free throws. Cahue registered nine double-double outings this past season, with a scoring high of 32 points against De La Salle included among the production. The All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue pick has drawn interest from several colleges — among his favorites at the moment are Illinois Wesleyan University, North Central College, Elmhurst College, Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the University of St. Francis.
JEREMIAH FERGUSON, Marist, G, Jr.
- Ferguson’s statistics were not of the eye-popping variety, but his value to a youthful RedHawks contingent was evident enough to make him one of just four underclassmen named to the 13-player All-East Suburban Catholic Conference team for 2013-14. He stepped forward in a measurable way while Marist’s one proven veteran, forward Nic Weishar, was in and out of the lineup because of a nagging ankle injury. Ferguson finished as the RedHawks’ top assist man with his per-game average of 3.0 distributions, a number that equaled the average amount of rebounds the 5-11 point guard pulled down in each contest. Of note, too, was the fact that Ferguson’s scoring jumped nearly three full points, to 11.0, whenever Marist was tangling with a conference foe. That latter figure led all RedHawks in ESCC action. What made Ferguson’s breakthrough particularly remarkable is that, due to a knee injury, he was coming off a sophomore season consisting of only four games.
MATT GURGONE, St. Laurence, F, Jr.
- Though somewhat undersized for his position, the 6-1 Gurgone unquestionably ranked as a big man importance-wise to the Vikings, whose sharper performances in the second half of the schedule coincided with Gurgone’s return to full health. For an early chunk of the season, he was coping with the healing process required for a broken collarbone, which he suffered in October during St. Laurence’s football loss to Mt. Carmel. Upon recovery, Gurgone gave the Vikings the perimeter-scoring weapon they sorely needed. Highlighting his output was a 31-point explosion versus Fenwick that was largely made possible by seven 3-point baskets, but there were other memorable moments as well, such as a 26-point showing opposite Bishop McNamara. He finished with 48 3-balls and had a success rate of 43 percent from long distance. Gurgone shot 48 percent from the floor overall (96-of-197) and averaged team bests of 10.2 and 4.0 rebounds per contest, to go along with 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals.
BRIAN HOLLAND, Marist, G, Sr.
- Every year, RedHawks coach Gene Nolan seems to find someone to develop into Marist’s designated sharpshooter — in 2013-14, that person was Holland, who had the unenviable task of filling one of the backcourt spots left vacant by the graduation of history-making individuals Lexus Williams and LJ McIntosh. All Holland did in their absence was to post the second-best 3-point-shooting percentage for a season in school annals with his success rate of 51. He made 64 3s in all, including 22 in the RedHawks’ eight East Suburban Catholic Conference games, which ranked second among all league players this winter. Holland, who sports a gaudy 5.38 grade-point average in the classroom, wasn’t one-dimensional on the court — Nolan referred to him as “the defensive leader” for a team that allowed the fewest points in league play. That nine-team conference, by the way, boasts Class 4A sectional champion Marian Catholic as one of its members, as well as five other schools that captured regional crowns.
JACOB LITTLETON, Shepard, G, Sr.
- The Astros rated as something of an overachiever this past season, and much of the thanks for that occurrence had to be forwarded to Littleton, who took over for former all-area player Londell Lee as Shepard’s team leader. The All-South Suburban Conference Red selection, who was a member of the all-area second team as a junior, made his presence felt in several ways. Not only was Littleton the Astros’ top scorer (17.5 ppg.) and an 83 percent foul shooter (152-of-184 during the regular campaign), but he was a better-than-average defender, as evidenced by his team-best figures of 55 steals and 11 charges taken. Littleton, who played in every game for the second straight year, averaged nearly 4 ½ rebounds per contest and buried a total of 39 3-pointers. Among the colleges that have given him more than a casual glance are Benedictine, Monmouth, North Central and Wisconsin-Washington County.
ISSAC MATTHEWS, Evergreen Park, G, Jr.
- Even by Mustangs coach Pat Flannigan’s admission, Jacquet McClendon is one of the premier athletes currently attending Evergreen Park High School. But while McClendon was indeed a key component in the Mustangs’ on-court operation this past season, he had nothing on Matthews, who emerged as a true leader for Evergreen. His per-game scoring average of 14.3 points doesn’t appear all that special, but Matthews was fully capable of tallying at a much higher clip, as demonstrated in matchups with Lincoln-Way West and Kankakee, where he tossed in 28 and 24 points, respectively. Perhaps not coincidentally, those contests also ranked as two of the Mustangs’ most impressive triumphs of the season. Matthews was solid at the foul line (76 percent accuracy) and a surprisingly good rebounder at 6-1— he pulled down 121 in all, or 4.7 per outing, and had single-game highs of nine and eight. The All-South Suburban Conference Red pick also made 64 steals, dished out 50 assists and had 39 deflections while on defense.
JOSH MEIER, Richards, C, Sr.
- There were a few rocky moments during the Chicago State University-bound center’s senior campaign, but he still was able to demonstrate often the traits that attracted the Cougars to him in the first place. The 6-8 Meier, who received South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year honors for the second season in a row and was chosen as a fourth-team all-stater by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, departs Richards as its all-time leader in rebounds (798) and blocked shots (158), and No. 4 in career points with 1,190. Four-hundred ninety-eight of those points were delivered this past winter on 63 percent shooting (178-of-283), and Meier also drilled his lone 3-point try. He canned 69 percent of his free throws, included 66 offensive rebounds among his total of 182 and blocked 52 shots by opponents. In Richards’ regular-season finale against Eisenhower, Meier helped the Bulldogs make their ninth consecutive conference title an outright one by scoring 47 points — the second-highest single-game individual effort in program history — and collecting a school-record 27 rebounds. Over half of Meier’s points in that encounter resulted from dunks. He is making his third appearance on the all-area squad, his second as a first-team pick.
QUINN NIEGO, Brother Rice, G, Sr.
- More of a role player for the Crusaders as a junior after transferring from St. Rita, Niego moved front and center upon the graduation of 2012-13 Player of the Year Alex Majewski, first-team all-area guard Jim Barista and second-teamer Cal Kennedy. Niego quickly paired with fellow returnee Ray Rubio to provide Brother Rice with one of the Chicagoland area’s most reliable 1-2 offensive punches. Niego topped the Crusaders in per-game scoring (18.6 ppg.), 3-point buckets (61), free-throw accuracy (85 percent) and total rebounds (136). An undeniable memory was when he scored 19 points in one quarter against Bishop McNamara, which established a single-period record for Rice. The All-Chicago Catholic League pick’s other numbers included 47 percent field-goal shooting — including 40 percent from 3-point territory — 34 assists and 25 steals.
RAY RUBIO, Brother Rice, G, Sr.
- The other half of the Crusaders’ dynamic duo, Rubio was Robin to Quinn Niego’s Batman — or vice-versa. Either way, they were a handful for opposition defenses, which essentially were left to pick their poison. Rubio, whose calling card as a junior was his own defensive play, flexed plenty of offensive muscle this time around as he poured in 16.1 points per contest, shot 49 percent from the floor, nailed 38 3-point baskets while hitting 36 percent of his long-range attempts and connected on 72 percent of his free throws. The All-Chicago Catholic League player didn’t forgo his defensive responsibilities, however, as he paced Brother Rice with 46 steals, eight more than he managed in 2012-13, when he was selected to this paper’s all-area second team. Rubio also passed out more assists (57) than any other Crusader this past season and was second on the team with 123 rebounds.
DEDRICK SHANNON, Richards, G, Jr.
- The son of former Moraine Valley College men’s basketball coach Dedrick Shannon Sr. completed his third varsity season as the Bulldogs’ second-best player behind Josh Meier. However, Richards coach John Chappetto cited a parallel between Shannon’s performance and that of the team, saying, “Every big win we did have, he played great.” For the year, the All-South Suburban Conference Red guard averaged 12.0 points, 5.4 assists and 1.8 steals per contest, which represented an increase in each category over his 2012-13 efforts that had been good enough to net him second-team all-area honors. His single-game highs as a junior were 27 points on 50 percent shooting versus Oak Lawn, nine assists against Eisenhower and seven steals opposite Lincoln-Way North.
DAVID STACY, Oak Lawn, G, Sr.
- After sitting out his junior season, Stacy returned to basketball as a senior and then, about midway through the 2013-14 campaign, found out he was going to become the Spartans’ point guard. While having to learn his new position on the fly, Stacy took to the assignment well enough to guide Oak Lawn to wins in seven of its last 10 regular-season games, a span that included victories over South Suburban Conference Red champ Richards and co-runner-up Shepard. In the words of Spartans coach Jason Rhodes, Stacy’s “game really kind of came together late in the year. Game by game, his improvement is pretty obvious.” Stacy dropped 30 points on Shepard and 25 on Fenton, and he wound up as Oak Lawn’s leader in scoring (12.5 ppg.), assists (2.5) and steals (1.7) while finishing second on the team in per-game rebounding with an average of six. Stacy buried 41 3-pointers while shooting a credible 34 percent from behind the arc.
ERIC STRAKA, Sandburg, F, Sr.
- Unlike David Stacy, Straka did not willingly opt out of basketball a year ago. Nevertheless, he didn’t see the floor until the Eagles began summer-league play, at which time Straka impressed Sandburg coach Todd Allen enough to where the latter pegged Straka as a player to watch this winter. And sure enough he was, as he “really filled up the stat sheet,” according to Allen. The 6-4 Straka was the Eagles’ blocks leader with 32, and he was also their top shooter percentage-wise (60) and No. 1 in steals with 38. He ranked second in both rebounds (6.5 per game) and assists (3.2), and produced a scoring average of 9.0. Straka, whose GPA is nearly 4.0, scored high on his ACT and plans to attend the University of Illinois.
TONY WEATHERSBY, Evergreen Park, F, Sr.
- Somewhat overlooked by the casual fan, Weathersby was an integral part of the Mustangs’ most successful club since 2008-09, when Evergreen Park challenged for South Suburban Conference Red supremacy that year. Weathersby was a steadying influence for the Mustangs, as he was reliable in several areas. His 12.4 points-per-game average trailed teammate Issac Matthews’ output, but Weathersby tallied in double digits 17 times, including dropping a season-best 25 points on Oak Lawn. He also scored 21 in another game and twice pulled down at least 11 rebounds. Weathersby clicked on 49 percent of his two-point shots and 68 percent of his free throws, made 40 steals and doled out 22 assists.
KEVIN WHITE, Stagg, G, Sr.
- Making his second straight appearance on the all-area first team, White’s ball-handling abilities played a large role in the Chargers’ team success, as it enabled them to easily cope with any kind of defensive pressure without committing a rash of errors. White, an All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue choice and all-tournament player at Stagg’s Thanksgiving event, averaged 13.9 points and 4.0 assists per contest, figures that were almost identical to the ones he amassed as a junior, his first year playing for the Chargers. With White running the show on the court, Stagg went 42-17 the past two seasons.
GIRLS: FIRST TEAM
LATONDRA BROOKS, Oak Lawn, G, Sr.
- Not only is Brooks repeating as an all-area first-team selection, but this time she moves to the head of the class. Although the Lady Spartans’ 2013-14 roster featured plenty of talent, Brooks was the linchpin as she could hurt foes in a variety of ways. She almost single-handedly extended Oak Lawn’s season in the Class 4A Bloom Township Sectional final, where her seven straight points in a span of just 43 seconds wiped out a late Marian Catholic lead and forced the defending state champs into playing an overtime period. The other group of Lady Spartans ultimately prevailed, but Oak Lawn still put together its best girls’ basketball season ever. Statistically, Player of the Year Brooks delivered per-game averages of 14.2 points, 6.7 steals, 5.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds on the Lady Spartans’ behalf, and she departs the scene as Oak Lawn’s record holder in the following categories: most points (34), assists (14) and steals (14) in a single game; most assists (167) and steals (200) in one season; and most points (1,448), assists (427) and steals (572) for a career. Brooks was the South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year and tournament MVP at Oak Lawn’s Christmas event.
BROOKE ANNERINO, Oak Lawn, G, Sr.
- Annerino’s ball-handling skills were an important component for the Lady Spartans’ success, as she was usually able to break defensive presses and run whatever offensive play Oak Lawn coach Janet Meyers had drawn up. The All-South Suburban Conference Red pick averaged 7.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.1 steals per contest and shot an impressive 78 percent from the foul line. Annerino earned all-tournament honors at the Lady Spartans’ own holiday event in December.
MIA DIGIACOMO, Stagg, F, Jr.
- Possessing a great work ethic, and in the opinion of Lady Chargers coach Bill Turner also serving as an excellent role model for younger players to follow, DiGiacomo evolved into one of Stagg’s steadiest performers. Her interior presence meant opponents couldn’t solely concentrate on shutting down the Lady Chargers’ vaunted perimeter attack, and DiaGiacomo handled her chores well enough to become Stagg’s leader in rebounding (227, or 8.4 per game) and blocks (31). The All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue choice averaged 9.2 points per contest on 47 percent shooting and supplied a half-dozen double-doubles, a few of which came against highly regarded foes.
HANNAH HENDERSON, Stagg, G, Sr.
- The Lady Chargers’ co-captain was effective on both ends of the floor, as evidenced by her team-leading figures of 3.3 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Henderson, an All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue selection and named her own team’s top defender, also averaged 9.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per outing and connected on 81 percent of her free throws. She will continue her academic and athletic careers at Elmhurst College next fall.
JANNAH MAHMOUD, Oak Lawn, C, Sr.
- One of the area’s most dominating inside forces, Mahmoud came within .9 rebounds of averaging a season-long double-double as she posted per-game averages of 13.1 points and 9.1 boards for the Lady Spartans. The All-South Suburban Conference Red performer also contributed 50 blocks, 47 steals and 44 assists while seeing action in all 30 of Oak Lawn’s contests. Mahmoud saved some of her best performances for the postseason, as she registered double-doubles against both Marist (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Marian Catholic (16 points, 10 rebounds) in the Lady Spartans’ two games at the Class 4A Bloom Township Sectional. She was named to all-tournament squads at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
BRIANNA MARKUSIC, Oak Lawn, F, Jr.
- A nice complement to Jannah Mahmoud on the inside, Markusic did plenty to aid the Lady Spartans in their record-setting campaign as she averaged 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. Other notable season stats for the All-South Suburban Conference Red performer and tourney MVP at Glenbard East were 50 steals, 32 blocks and 20 assists. Markusic’s 25 points, 13 rebounds and three steals loomed large in Oak Lawn’s securing of a regional win over Lincoln-Way Central, and she also supplied 10 points and seven boards versus Marian Catholic in a sectional final. With graduation removing other key members of the roster, Markusic will be the Lady Spartans’ undisputed ringleader during the 2014-15 season.
CASEY MCMAHON, Stagg, G, Sr.
- It may be a while before anyone duplicates McMahon’s long-distance-shooting feats. The Lady Chargers’ other co-captain and repeat member of the all-area first team finished her prep career with 222 3-point buckets, the most by any Stagg athlete of either gender. Eighty-seven of those long balls were hit during the 2013-14 campaign, which represented another school mark. In all, McMahon averaged 13 points per game, to go along with 118 total rebounds (4.4 per contest), 61 steals and 50 assists. She shot a crisp 78 percent at the free-throw stripe. McMahon, who’ll attend St. Xavier University in the fall, was chosen as a special-mention member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State squad after garnering All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue honors.
JESS MORIARTY, Mt. Assisi, G, Jr.
- A transfer player, Moriarty’s scoring prowess and energy spearheaded the Screeching Eagles’ state tournament run, which took them all the way to the championship game of the Class 2A Harper Sectional. Her 13 points — which included five late free throws — and 11 rebounds were pivotal in Mt. Assisi’s 52-42 victory over Lisle that clinched its second consecutive regional championship. Moriarty then dropped in 14 points, including a pair of critical 3-point baskets down the stretch, to lift the Eagles to their first-ever sectional triumph (37-30 over Westmont) and tallied 10 more opposite Seton Academy in the sectional final. For the season, she averaged 12 points and five rebounds per game while sinking 37 percent of her 3-point attempts.
ELIZABETH NYE, Mother McAuley, G, Sr.
- An explosive impact player for the Mighty Macs, Nye averaged 17.9 points, 6.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as a senior for a 20-win club. The All-Girls Catholic Athletic Conference pick sank 58 3-pointers and wound up with more than 1,000 points in her Mother McAuley career. Her 21 points and six assists helped the Macs defeat Stagg in a regional semifinal contest, and she tossed in 16 more points in McAuley’s ensuing loss to Oak Lawn. In addition to her offensive input, Nye was a defensive whiz who typically guarded the opposition’s biggest scoring threat.
MEGAN PFISTER, Evergreen Park, G, Jr.
- Named to the All-South Suburban Conference Red team for the second straight year, Pfister paced the Lady Mustangs in scoring (12.8 ppg.) and assists (4.3) while also providing them with averages of 6.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. A two-year captain at Evergreen Park, Pfister helped the Lady Mustangs claim a regional title for the second season in a row and then scored 10 point sin a losing cause against Phillips in a Class 3A sectional semifinal. Pfister was a state qualifier in the IHSA-sponsored 3-point contest.
KAYCEE PITTMAN, Chicago Christian, G, Sr.
- A standout for the Lady Knights in both basketball and softball, Pittman put together a solid senior campaign on the court and earned All-Suburban Christian Conference recognition in the process. In her second varsity campaign, Pittman, the daughter of Chicago Christian boys’ basketball and softball coach Kevin Pittman, averaged 11.2 points per game and shot 34 percent from 3-point territory. She scored 18 points in a late-season victory over Marian Central Catholic. Pittman was selected to the all-tournament team at Lisle during Christmas.
SYDNI TEARS, Richards, G, So.
- A two-time All-South Suburban Conference Red selection, Tears was the Lady Bulldogs’ top offensive performer as she averaged 16.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest. Among Tears’ more notable outings were two against District 218 rival Shepard (13 points, 14 rebounds in a regular-season matchup; 18 points, five rebounds in a Class 4A regional semifinal win), one opposite Eisenhower (14 points, six rebounds) and another versus Marian Catholic (10 points, nine rebounds) in a regional loss. Tears’ brother, Spencer, plays football and basketball at Richards.
MARY KATE WETZEL, Mt. Assisi, F, Sr.
- The versatile Wetzel played a major role in the Screeching Eagles’ postseason accomplishments, which included a second consecutive regional championship and first-ever win in the sectional round. She was at her best in the playoffs, totaling 17 points and seven rebounds in a regional-clinching triumph over Lisle, nine points and nine boards against Westmont in the sectional semis, and 14 points and five rebounds versus Seton Academy in the sectional final. Wetzel averaged a double-double for the year, as she produced 10.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.
BROOKE WYDERSKI, Marist, G, Sr.
- A two-sport star for the Lady RedHawks in basketball and softball, Wyderski’s hoops exploits were important for a squad that endured some growing pains through the winter. Like Marist itself, Wyderski did some of her best work at crunch time, as she totaled 61 points in three playoff games, including a 31-point outburst against TF North. A regular-season highlight came against Morgan Park, where Wyderski torched the Lady Mustangs with five 3-point buckets en route to an 18-point performance.
SAM YOUNGWIRTH, Sandburg, G, Jr.
- An All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue choice, Youngwirth averaged 12 points and three steals per game for the Lady Eagles. She netted 23 points in a 53-49 regional victory over Crete-Monee and tossed in 13 against Marian Catholic the next time out. Youngwirth, who was tabbed for all-tournament teams at both Hinsdale South and Hillcrest, included 59 3-pointers among her scoring numbers.