They put up numbers last year as juniors but didn’t get the fanfare they deserved. Continuing the momentum already built, there will be no shortage of production from this underrated senior group.
Before this 2018-2019 season starts, let’s celebrate some seniors who will certainly make some headlines this winter.
■ Fred Cleveland, Leo
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Fred Cleveland is under-appreciated.
The diminutive scoring point guard was not coveted enough by college programs. He wasn’t recognized enough after claiming Catholic League White Player of the Year honors. And he wasn’t talked about at all during the summer club circuit.
But the 5-9 senior will follow up his impressive junior season with an even better one this winter. Cleveland is the biggest reason Leo can legitimately contend for a Class 2A state title and play with –– and beat –– anyone in the Chicago Catholic League. With Leo playing on a bigger stage this season –– the Lions have beefed up their schedule, including a trip to the Proviso West Holiday Tournament –– expect Cleveland to become a bigger name.
■ Trey Boston, Downers Grove North
An ultra-talented guard with athleticism, Boston is a weapon offensively with the ball in his hands. Boston has range on his jumper, can slash to the basket and will surprise with eye-opening finishes. And he boasts underrated passing skills.
If the consistency and maturation as a player comes together, expect a breakout senior season as he teams up with Semaj Henderson to form one of the better and more entertaining backcourts in the Chicago area.
■ Connor Barrett, Loyola Academy
Barrett’s emergence last season was a big reason for Loyola surprising some en route to 24 wins and a regional championship. He averaged 13 points a game and did so in a very efficient manner.
You would think after the year Barrett put together he would no longer be on the list of the underrated. Despite missing a big chunk of the offseason with an injurty, Barrett’s overall game has grown. That’s bad news for Loyola foes after the 6-3 guard knocked down a whopping 90 three-pointers a year ago while shooting 40 percent. College programs in need of a knockdown shooter can find one in Wilmette.
■ Zach Toussaint, Johnsburg
A fun one to watch as the slender 5-11 guard is a sniper from the perimeter and has put up gaudy offensive numbers. Toussaint, who averaged 22.8 points and 5.3 assists a game and made 91 three-pointers as a junior, has already surpassed 1,000 career points and pumped in a career-high 52 points in a game.
■ Jack McDonald, Geneva
You could easily include McDonald’s teammate, leading returning scorer and shooter Mitch Mascari, on this list. But McDonald is Geneva’s engine.
A City/Suburban Hoops Report favorite who sets the tone with his presence at point guard. Savvy, under control and remarkably efficient, McDonald is the consummate lead guard who distributes and scores important baskets when his team needs one.
Last season he averaged 14.9 points and 6.8 assists a game while becoming Geneva’s all-time leader in assists.
■ Zach Vaia, Riverside-Brookfield
A returning conference player of the year in the Metro Suburban Blue who still needs a little more pub. The 5-10 battle-tested point guard shoots it with range (69 three-pointers) and efficiency (41 percent from beyond the arc). He averaged 14 points a game last year and provides toughness for a team with 20-win potential this season.
■ Will Engels, Benet
He played a supporting role very well last year while averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds a game. But this 6-5 versatile threat is one of the most improved players in the class.
Engles, who can dribble, pass, shoot and play as many as four different positions, is set to break out with a big senior season.
■ Matas Masys, Willowbrook
The 6-1 scoring guard has been all about production in his four-year varsity career. With the graduation of star Ethan Schuemer, Masys will carry even a bigger load for coach Chris Perkins. Already one of the top shooters in the area who plays with some swagger, Masys, who will surpass 1,000 career points, has added to his overall game.
■ Jacquan Binion, Kankakee
A tiny but disruptive point guard who averaged 12 points and 3.4 assists a game while racking up MVP honors in both holiday tournaments he played in last season.
The exciting 5-7 Binion, who is also a standout student, is constantly in attack mode and putting pressure on opposing defenses. He’s the clear catalyst for a Kays team that is flying under the radar after winning 21 games last year and hopes to challenge Bloom in the Southland Conference.
■ Oak Park’s Senior Foursome
Take your pick among Oak Park’s returning four seniors –– point guard Dashon Enoch, 6-6 Charlie Hoehne, 6-4 wing Anthony Roberts and guard Chase Robinson –– as players who will step up at different times this season.
Enoch is the biggest name of the bunch as a returning all-conference performer who averaged 12 points a game last season. But the other three have all made considerable strides since the conclusion of last season and are coveted small college scholarship-caliber players.
Most importantly, all four complement one another well, playing different positions and bring various strengths and talents to the table.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport
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