The Forest Scout 2017-18 Boys Basketball Preview

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Bobby Winebrenner

As the fall sports calendar comes to a close, the excitement of winter athletics begins to bloom. Notably, the boys basketball team holds their official tryouts on November 6, even though they’ve been gearing up since June. Expected to be deep, versatile, and very talented, the squad has high hopes for the upcoming season.

After losing many talented seniors from last year’s team, big shoes are left to be filled. Guard Justin McMahon is playing in Greencastle, Indiana at Depauw University for the Tigers, and his point production and leadership will be sorely missed. The Scouts also lose forwards Reed Thomas and Brian Stickler, both starters at the end of last season. These accomplished graduates will make it tough on the newcomers to fill the scoring and rebounding void left by the class of 2017.

The team last played during an exhibition on June 24 this past summer in a fundraising event. They squared off against the reigning Illinois 2A state champions, Orr Academy. Many expected a blowout in favor of the Chicago natives, but the Scouts held their own and played a close game that would come down to the final wire. The 2017-2018 team impressed in their first showing.

Projected Lineup:

Point Guard: Jed Thomas

Shooting Guard: Jack VanHyfte

Small Forward: Sean Trkla

Power Forward: Ben Gibson

Center: Mead Payne

Led by plenty of talented senior guards, the Scouts’ backcourt should pose fits for the North Suburban Conference this season. Each player presents a different skill set, which could ultimately lead the Scouts to their first sectional title in the school’s history. Combo guard Jed Thomas–who saw lots of minutes as a junior–brings elite passing to the offense. They welcome the return of athletic point guard Jack VanHyfte after missing his junior year to an ankle injury. VanHyfte scored 15 points in the summer exhibition and showed he can be a key factor for the Scouts this season. Also, Sean Trkla provides scoring ability to an already-lethal offense. Trkla also loves the no-look pass and will be a huge help on both sides of the ball. Junior guards Carter Horan, Jake Fisher, and Michael Pasquella hope to prove themselves in their first varsity season and find a way into the rotation.

On the bigger side of things, Coach LaScala will look to returning seniors to lead their frontcourt. Mead Payne and Drew Arnson saw lots of playing time and had several starts over the course of their junior year. At 6’6″ Payne is terrific at playing through contact and getting himself to the free-throw line. Even taller, Arnson must come down with lots of rebounds if the Scouts want to have success this year. The now 6’5″ and sculpted Ben Gibson creates offensive mismatches all over the floor. After not playing a great deal in his junior campaign, he had a great summer and is much improved offensively. Gibson will be a focal point for the offensive attack this winter. Kyle Waggoner is another senior forward who will see time this year in the post. Waggoner runs the floor well for a big man and creates lots of transition opportunities. With limited frontcourt depth, however, juniors will be much needed this winter. 6’5″ Crawford Bolton also presents an explosive attack and a versatile threat; he and Tommy Hanson will be counted on to score some points from behind the arc this season. The Scouts also need another big body to be physical down low, and junior Porter Weisberg contributes to that equation.

Key Games

The Scouts begin play on Monday, November 20 in their Thanksgiving tournament at New Trier High School. They’ll face stiff competition from the likes of Loyola, New Trier, St. Ignatius, along with others depending on pool play. Conference play begins at home on December 5 in a defining game against Stevenson. The Scouts will learn a lot about themselves then as Stevenson is always a difficult opponent. A week later, Libertyville and senior phenom Drew Peterson welcome the Scouts into their house in what should be another entertaining matchup. The Friday after Winter Break, Lake Zurich, a much improved offensive team, comes to East Campus for a critical matchup igniting the second half of the season. Also, be sure to mark January 24 on the calendar when the Lake Forest buses head north to Waukegan. The Bulldogs have received lots of hype this offseason and are coming off a sectional final appearance. In order for the Scouts to claim that elusive trophy, they’ll have to get through many talented teams.

Three Factors:

Ben Gibson: The versatile forward has improved since last season. His size and ball-handling skills can pose fits for opposing teams and the Scouts must look to get him the ball this winter.

Frontcourt: The Scouts will count on Payne and Arnson to carry the load and make up for the loss of major frontcourt contributors. The juniors must step up as well if they want to compete with the bigger teams in the conference.

Controlling The Ball: Turnovers can be an issue for any team, and the Scouts have seen this problem in years past. If the Scouts want to reach their full potential this winter they’ll need to control the ball and get it to their playmakers.