Here are 10 things to watch for in the 2011-2012 girls basketball season.
1. Bolingbrook vs. Whitey Young, Round V: Bolingbrook and Whitney Young have met in the semifinals or state championship the last four seasons. Bolingbrook has won three of those times and Whitney Young once. They’re the favorites again in 2011-2012.
2. The quest for No. 1: The state of Illinois has a shot at having the No. 1 team in the country in boys and girls basketball. Simeon’s boys team has already been ranked No. 1 by ESPN. Bolingbrook has a shot at the girls’ top spot. The Raiders finished No. 2 in last season’s final poll.
3. A valuable Jewell: Niles West senior guard Jewell Loyd has put together an unforgettable career. She’s scored 2,241 points in her first three seasons. The Notre Dame recruit averaged 30.1 points, 15 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 4.5 steals and 3.2 blocks last year. If you’re to see one girls basketball player this season, she’s the one.
4. Player of the year race: Loyd has competition for the ESPNChicago.com player of the year. Bolingbrook forward and Connecticut recruit Morgan Tuck is also among the nation’s best players. Surrounded by Division I talent, Tuck doesn’t need to put up the numbers Loyd does to win. Tuck could win her fourth state championship this season. Both are expected to be McDonald’s All-Americans.
5. New 3A champion?: Montini has won the last two Class 3A state championships. With the Broncos graduating four players, including three Division I signees, they’ll be a younger and less experienced squad this season. They still have talent, but will it come together this season to make another run at a title? Hillcrest, Morgan Park, Marshall and others believe it’s someone else’s turn at the crown.
6. Loaded ESCC: The East Suburban Catholic Conference should be among the state’s best conferences again. Marian Catholic ended Fenwick’s run at conference titles last season. This season’s title could end up with Marian Catholic, Fenwick, Benet or Marist. All four teams are among the area’s best.
7. Run and gun: It’s hard to gauge whether Fenwick will be a state contender this season, but it should be one of the more exciting teams to watch. Friars coach Dave Power has decided to go full out run and gun. He wants his team to take 40 3-pointers and 30-40 2-pointers a game. He promised to be his own shot clock and yell out the final seconds of it. If his team doesn’t shoot the ball quickly enough, he said he’s going to replace everyone on the floor.
8. Nationally-ranked seniors: Illinois has six players ranked in the Class of 2012 ESPNU 100. The six are Niles West’s Loyd (No. 4), Bolingbrook’s Tuck (No. 15), Whitney Young’s Janee Thompson (No. 35), Whitney Young’s Alexis Loyd (No. 81), Geneva’s Ashley Santos (No. 89) and T.F. South’s Dominique Brooks (No. 93)
9. The premier junior: Whitney Young guard Linnae Harper is ranked No. 6 in ESPN’S Class of 2013. She is the only player in ESPN’s Super 60.
10. Best of the rest: Outside of ESPNChicago.com’s top 20, other teams to watch out for are Benet, Grayslake Central, Loyola, Marshall, Naperville Central, Neuqua Valley, St. Joseph and Warren.