2014-15 All-Area Basketball Team
JAYLAN CATLEDGE, Richards, F, So.
* The first sophomore ever chosen as this paper’s boys' Player of the Year, Catledge didn’t appear poised for such a designation at the outset of the 2014-15 campaign. Although he had played some varsity ball for the Bulldogs as a freshman, incoming coach Jevon Mamon felt Catledge would be best served by starting the season as a member of Richards’ sophomore team. Catledge didn’t like the demotion, but instead of getting mad he got better -- good enough, in fact, that Mamon couldn’t deny him a spot on the varsity roster for very long. And once he arrived Catledge became a difference-maker. Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes wouldn’t disagree after getting two up-close looks -- his Spartans were torched for 36 points the first time around and then were victimized by a 26-point, 13-rebound performance in a playoff matchup. Four of Catledge’s final five outings produced 20-plus points and for the season he averaged 17 to go along with eight boards. He shot 48 percent overall and 51 percent in two-point territory, sank 82-of-108 free throws, made 31 steals and recorded 18 blocks. Catledge was one of just two players nominated for South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year -- the award went to Eisenhower’s Vinny Curta -- and he’s getting noticed elsewhere: Some Missouri Valley Conference schools are already showing recruiting interest, one hoops report considers him among the top 40 sophomores in Illinois and Catledge was one of seven athletes named in a promotional piece advertising the inaugural Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic that is nine months away. Mamon summed it up best, however: “I don’t know if we’re sitting at 14-14 or even if we get second place in conference without him. He’s not afraid to step out and step up, and his best basketball is still in front of him.”
JOHN CONTANT, Stagg, G, So.
* Jaylan Catledge may be the area’s most noteworthy sophomore, but he’s not the only talented one. Contant qualifies too after taking over for two-time all-area pick Kevin White and becoming the trigger man for a Chargers attack that got noticeably better as the season wore on. After getting a taste of varsity action as a freshman Contant became a constant, an especially key development since Stagg standout Jeff Goral was in and out of the lineup because of a nagging injury that was initially suffered during football season. Contant, whose sister Jessica was this paper’s 2010 Girls’ Player of the Year, garnered All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue honors after averaging 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. He and fellow sophomore Josh Strama will serve as the Chargers’ cornerstones for the 2015-16 season.
TOMMY DEMOGERONTAS, Sandburg, C, Sr.
* One of three Demogerontases on the Eagles’ roster, 6-foot-7 Tommy is the tallest and was the most productive this winter. He was tabbed as team MVP and an All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue performer following a senior season in which he averaged 13 points and four rebounds per game, both team-high figures. Demogerontas, who shot 54 percent form the field, had a season-best 28 points in Sandburg’s first encounter with Joliet Central. He also supplied the Eagles with 64 assists and 13 3-pointers. In Sandburg coach Todd Allen’s words, Demogerontas “could do a little bit of everything for us. He’s a tough matchup and he can handle [the ball]. His best basketball is ahead of him.” A one-time high jumper for the Sandburg track team, Demogerontas will forgo that sport this spring and concentrate on preparing for college. Millikin University is one school that has piqued his interest.
JEREMIAH FERGUSON, Marist, G, Sr.
* Ferguson is a returning member of the all-area team as he completed a solid two-year run with the RedHawks, during which time they amassed 39 wins. Once again his statistics weren’t overwhelming, but nobody associated with Marist’s program will deny his importance to its well-being. The two-time All-East Suburban Catholic Conference selection upped his scoring average to 12.1 points and his per-game assists to 4.0, but Ferguson may have been even more valuable without the ball. He always drew the toughest defensive assignment and displayed quick hands as evidenced by his 57 steals. Ferguson is no slouch in the classroom either as he boasts a 4.77 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale. He has yet to decide on his college destination.
JEFF GORAL, Stagg, F, Sr.
* Once 2013-14 Player of the Year Max Strus graduated, the Chargers were expected to become something of a nonentity -- forecasters certainly took that viewpoint as pretty much every one of them predicted a bottom-of-the-division finish for Stagg in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue. And a slow break from the gate appeared to give those opinions validity, but Goral refused to settle for a forgettable final season. While he could not take over games in quite the same manner as his predecessor, Goral’s importance to the Chargers was found in a particular set of numbers: The team went 3-11 when the senior was either sidelined or trying to play through injury, 10-6 when he was operating at full strength. That latter mark helped Stagg defy its doubters and wind up in a third-place tie within the eight-school SWSC Blue. In earning all-conference recognition Goral -- who was an all-area honorable mention as a junior -- averaged a team-best 14.2 points per game and was second in rebounding at 4.5. He will attend Hope College in Michigan in the fall.
CHAMAR HAWKINS, Marist, F, Jr.
* What Jeremiah Ferguson didn’t do for the RedHawks, Hawkins often did as he joined his teammate on the All-East Suburban Catholic Conference squad. Hawkins ran dead even with Ferguson in scoring average (12.1 ppg) and gathered in almost one full rebound more as he finished at 4.9 boards per game. With Ferguson moving on, Hawkins will undoubtedly be the linchpin of Marist’s 2015-16 club and should bump up both his scoring and rebounding numbers as a senior.
NIKO KOGIONIS, Sandburg, G, Sr.
* When it comes to long balls Kogionis couldn’t have done any greater damage if he had been swinging a bat. The senior exits the Eagles hoops program as its all-time leader in 3-point baskets by a wide margin as he surpassed previous record holder Sean McBride early in the 2014-15 schedule and finished more than 50 ahead of him. Kogionis couldn’t eclipse McBride’s single-season mark of 88 3s, but he sure came close, falling short by just one as a junior and by five this season. With his 68 3s as a sophomore also factored in, Kogionis wound up with 238 beyond-the-arc buckets for his career. In his final season he averaged a team-best 13.5 points to go along with three rebounds per contest. He was an honorable mention all-area pick in 2013-14.
KYLE LONGFIELD, Shepard, F, Sr.
* An honorable mention all-area performer as a junior, Longfield makes the jump up to the first team after being the brightest light during the Astros’ difficult 2014-15 campaign. He was a more effective glass cleaner than Windex as he hauled in 292 rebounds, an average of 10.8 per contest, which actually bettered his per-game scoring mark of 9.9. Longfield reached double digits in rebounds 16 times and had 12 double-doubles. To gauge his dominance on the boards, one needs only to glance at the rebound total of Shepard’s No. 2 man, which was 213 less than Longfield’s. He paced the Astros with 44 blocks, made 30 defensive recoveries, caused 18 other turnovers and pleased Shepard coach Tony Chiuccariello greatly by taking nine charges. Longfield, who will be a member of the Astros baseball team this spring and played golf for the Astros in the fall, excels academically as well as he is a member of the National Honor Society with a 4.1 GPA and 26 on his ACT. Schools that have shown interest in Longfield include Coe and Central colleges in Iowa and Robert Morris University.
ISAAC MATTHEWS, Evergreen Park, G, Sr.
* Matthews has gotten to be quite the familiar face at all-area time as he makes his second straight appearance on the basketball squad, a double play that was bridged by first-team status on the all-area football squad last fall. His 13.8 points-per-game average was actually a touch below what he managed as a junior, but he compiled his senior-year stats while being the primary focus of every opposing defense. Matthews’ own defensive figures improved from the season before as he increased his total number of steals (79) and deflections (49) by 10 apiece. He also grabbed 149 rebounds and dished out 76 assists. Some single-game highlights included 28 points and seven steals vs. Shepard, 25 points and seven steals against Oak Lawn, 13 rebounds opposite Hubbard and 10 rebounds and seven assists versus Eisenhower. The 6-foot guard pulled down at least seven boards in nine of Evergreen Park’s 29 contests. As a football player Matthews -- who is undecided on his college destination but has attracted notice from some Division III schools -- caught 40 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns and made 56 tackles on defense.
JOSH PRINCE, Oak Lawn, F, Sr.
* Like Stagg’s Goral, Sandburg’s Kogionis, Shepard’s Longfield and Chicago Christian’s Trevor Wolterink, Prince elevated his game well enough to grab all-area first-team honors one year after being named honorable mention by this paper. In his last prep go-around, Prince checked in with team-leading per-game stats of 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds, numbers he augmented with 32 assists, 10 blocks, an average of 1.0 steals per contest and a field-goal percentage of 48. Prince didn’t play basketball as an 8th-grader and “was not very good as a freshman,” according to Spartans coach Jason Rhodes, who praised his player for how he “just worked on getting better. I can’t say enough good things about him. We’re going to miss him in a lot more ways than just his scoring and rebounding.” Prince will not play basketball in college, but he will put his 3.4 GPA to good use as he plans to study pre-pharmacy at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
BRETT RISLEY, St. Laurence, G/F, Jr.
* Two broken noses might have been enough to discourage many players, but Risley overcame those maladies to remain a central figure for the Vikings. As first-year St. Laurence coach Jim Maley stated, “He did a little bit of everything for us. He’s not physically developed [in full] yet, but he has the skill level and he’s open to anything.” Risley, an All-Chicago Catholic League North pick whose brother Ryan played at Dominican University after graduating from St. Laurence, led the Vikings with his 10.7 points-per-game average and 87 percent success rate at the line, where he sank 81-of-93 attempts. His 49 3s, which came on 38 percent shooting, tied Rich Lamb for the team lead. Risley connected on 48 percent of his tries from inside the arc. Other notable stats were 120 rebounds, 56 assists, 30 steals, 35 defensive deflections and 11 charges taken.
MIKE SHEPSKI, Brother Rice, G, So.
* In his first full season with the Crusaders varsity, Shepski quickly evolved into their go-to guy and was feted for that as Brother Rice’s lone representative on the All-Chicago Catholic League team. He ranked at or near the top of most statistical categories for the Crusaders -- his team-best figures included his 378 points and 12.6 ppg average, 55 3-point baskets and 35 steals. Shepski was second in 3-point field-goal percentage (37.9), free-throw percentage (76.3) by .3, rebounds (106) and assists (34) and third in blocks (seven). He hit 46 percent of his shots (139-of-302) from the floor.
JOSH STRAMA, Stagg, G, So.
* Along with fellow sophomore John Contant, Strama settled into a pivotal role for the Chargers almost from the outset. Unlike Contant, Strama didn’t have any previous varsity experience from which to draw, making the latter’s achievements all the more impressive. An honorable mention selection within the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue, Strama was second to teammate Jeff Goral in points per game with 12.4 while also averaging 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists. With Goral graduating, Strama will assume a heavier load next season and an increase in many statistical departments is likely.
DAYLON WASHINGTON, Chicago Christian, G, Jr.
* Forced to miss the Knights’ two playoff games, Washington’s value to Chicago Christian was evident as coach Kevin Pittman had to dramatically alter his strategies. As one of the Knights’ quickest players, Washington’s postseason absence meant there were “a lot of things we had drawn up we had to keep in our back pocket [because] a lot of things we run go through him.” Before being sidelined Washington was Christian’s top thief (2.3 steals per game) and its second-best scorer (10.8 ppg) and assist man (2.0). Despite his 5-11 frame he wasn’t too shabby as a rebounder as he snared an average of 4.9 boards.
TREVOR WOLTERINK, Chicago Christian, F, Jr.
* The Knights’ best seasons have usually resulted from balanced lineups and contributions from several sources, but in the midst of that somebody always manages to step forward and assume a leadership role. In 2014-15 that was Wolterink, who produced team-high averages of 15.9 points and 1.4 blocks per game en route to being named to the All-Metro Suburban Conference East team. Wolterink, an all-area honorable mention as a sophomore, was third in rebounding (5.9 per contest) for Chicago Christian this season and distributed an average of 1.1 assists. Expect Wolterink to play an equally vital role for the Knights baseball team in the spring after being an all-area selection in 2014 and landing on the very last All-Suburban Christian Conference unit.
JAKE KOSAKOWSKI, Brother Rice, F/C, Fr.
JOE RUZEVICH, Brother Rice, F, Sr.
DARREN PRITCHETT, Evergreen Park, C, Sr.
JOE COSENZA, Oak Lawn, F, Sr.
JIMMY WILTZIUS, Oak Lawn, G/F, Jr.
AMEEN HUSSEIN, Richards, G, Sr.
LUCAS WHITE, Richards, F, Sr.
KENNY GORSKI, Shepard, G/F, Sr.
KENJRICK WATSON, Shepard, G, Jr.
RICH LAMB, St. Laurence, F, Sr.
COACH OF THE YEAR
GENE NOLAN, Marist
* After surrendering Coach of the Year honors to Stagg’s John Daniels the past two seasons, Nolan reclaims them for the second time in four years and third time since 2004. While the RedHawks experienced an abrupt end to their campaign by losing their playoff opener to Marian Catholic, they posted what was by far the best record of any local hoops program. Included among Marist’s 20 wins were one against the Spartans and four others against East Suburban Catholic Conference squads, successes that had the RedHawks briefly thinking in terms of a league title. Despite having relatively little size the past two years, Marist racked up a total of 39 victories. Nolan, by the way, is the only person to capture both Coach and Player of the Year recognition from this paper. He gained the latter in 1992.