Basketball Diaries, Volume 2

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I've started and stopped this post about three times now, because each time I got a few paragraphs in and stopped because it was causing depression.

But here goes. It's the second edition of Basketball Diaries, my unfiltered look at prep hoops in the area.

Except this time, I'll be honest, I have to filter. The expletives I'd like to use are frowned upon. So I will keep this PG, and as kind as I can. Because, you see, hoops in this area, for the 18 teams I cover, ain't pretty, people.

I mean, I knew going into this year it wasn't going to be a banner year. A lot of talent left after last season, and I understand there are ebbs and flows to every program.

But I didn't realize things would be this dire.

Let's talk good news first, OK? (This won't take long).

• HONONEGAH GIRLS: As expected, they are the top team in my coverage area. They are 8-0. The closest win they've had? 29 points, twice. That's insane. It speaks to how good the Indians are, and also just how poor the rest of the NIC-10 is. Boylan is really, really good. Depending on how the sectional matches up, I could easily see a rematch in the IHSA sectional finals with the Titans. Hopefully, things go differently this time.

The Indians are deep and talented. They are shooting the ball well from 3-point range. They have Jordan King. That's a good thing. They will win every game by a score of approximately 71-38, except for when they play Boylan. I view both of those games as toss-ups. But the other NIC-10 teams have, quite literally, zero chance to beat them. I mean, none. Does this help them prepare for the postseason? Well, no. But what can you do? They play in Sterling this weekend. Maybe there will be some better competition there. Otherwise, the Indians will enter postseason play with zero, one or two losses on their slate, and an inevitable showdown with Boylan on the horizon.

• TURNER BOYS: I breathed a huge sigh of relief during Turner's game against Whitewater on Tuesday. Whew. The Trojans are good. I wasn't hearing positive things after the Trojans fell at Bradley Tech and Edgerton to open the season.

But it was clear to me Tuesday, and even clearer after Turner's win at Evansville, that this Turner team is good. How good, I'm not quite sure yet. Let's see how they much up against the conference's elite. And yes, I'm still bitter that for the second year in a row, this team is missing its returning leading scorer because of some bad decisions.

To me, this is a possible state-qualifying team if they were full strength. But I don't want to dwell on that. What's done is done. And there is still plenty of talent left on the roster to make a deep playoff run.

Jordan Majeed looks to have made the leap we so often see between sophomore and junior year. That guy is going to fill it up this year. I love DJ Wash as the point guard, and Steve Dillard is a proven shooter and scorer.

But it isn't just the Big Three that could propel Turner into RVC title contention. Ty`Shone Lomax has been a revelation. I had heard he was a terrific defender, but he's proven to be a scorer as well. Turner just has a lot of nice pieces. Kenny Draeving, Jackson Carter, Mickey Burrows, Alden Tinder...the list goes on. These guys are good.

Thank God.

• LITERALLY EVERYONE ELSE: I'm going to be nice here. Or at least, try. Because there are some good things out there. But the two teams listed above are the only ones that I would predict winning more than one playoff game. And most of the remaining 16 teams I cover are going to go on the road for their first game, and likely be beaten soundly. It's one of those years.

There are some teams I have a little hope for. The HONONEGAH BOYS really haven't been at full strength yet. Nick Pierson is a terrific player, and they do have some shooters. Perhaps they can make a bit of a run. But in my opinion, they just don't have the athletes to compete with the top teams in the NIC-10. I expect them to improve, and they will still get their share of wins, but I haven't seen anything that would indicate they could compete for a conference title or deep playoff run.

I really like what the BIG FOOT GIRLS have done so far. Reagan Courier might be the best player in the RVC, and coach Mike Dowden is getting the most out of this year's squad. I'm a little concerned that the talent around Courier might not be quite enough to win a regional title, but a 4-1 record, with the one loss being by a basket to undefeated East Troy, is speaking loudly for itself at this point. Maybe this team could move its way into the above category, but I need to see more before I do that.

The CLINTON GIRLS are another team that I believe at least has potential to turn things around. Nobody, and I mean nobody, can figure out why a team with this much talent is 1-4. I've had several people reach out to me, asking what's up with the Cougars? The truth is, I'm not sure. But the individual pieces aren't adding up to what they should be.

I still believe in the talent level of this team. But its best players need to step up, right now. What they are doing with a 1-4 start is digging themselves a very deep hole. They are essentially out of the conference race already. A few more losses, and a home playoff game is going to be out of the picture. A few more losses after that, and they are going to be a significant underdog in their first playoff game.

BUT...we are only five games in. Plenty of time, and talent, to turn the ship around. But it has to happen right now, starting Tuesday at Turner.

Speaking of the TURNER GIRLS, they aren't far away from being a really solid team. But they simply haven't been good enough at closing games. Turner has had second-half leads in each of the previous three games, all of which turned into losses.

Olivia Tinder is one of the area's top players, and I think this has the chance to be the Trojans' best team in years. But they've got to start playing well in the last 10 minutes of games if I am going to give them a full endorsement. Another reason Tuesday night's game against the Cougars is fascinating.

You've got to love what coach Brian Kammerer has been able to squeeze out of the BRODHEAD GIRLS so far. The Cardinals are 2-3, but nearly upset McFarland last week. They had a solid lead on the Spartans when star freshman Kiarra Moe exited with an arm injury.

Initially feared to be season-ending, it looks like Moe could return after the holiday break. This is good news. I can't wait to see her play. The Cards are a team of grinders, and I'll be interested to see if they could continue to surprise teams.

I'm genuinely happy for the BIG FOOT BOYS, who already have twice as many wins in RVC play as they did last year: Two. They return nearly everyone from last year, and Logan Eischeid and AJ Courier can both fill it up on occasion. This could be the surprise team of the conference if they can keep it up.

The BRODHEAD BOYS are another group that came in with very low expectations and have exceeded them thus far. Sophomore Cade Walker has been a revelation for the Cards at nearly 18 points per game. I saw their freshmen play the other night, too, and they looked good. Their youth program has some real up-and-coming talent as well. The Cardinals are going to be a handful in the future.

The CLINTON BOYS have struggled as expected. It lost nearly everyone from a team last year that went a shocking 3-15 in RVC play. It has to be said that the Cougars have been without Tyler Stauss for the past couple of games. But it also has to be said they got beat by 62 points by Big Foot. That's incredible.

Look, it's going to be a tough year for the Cougars. It's going to be a tough next couple of years for Clinton. I really like what coach Scott Gestrich is doing, but it might be several years before the Cougars see the top half of the Rock Valley Conference again. A good goal for this year would be to win a conference game.

I could say the same about the BELOIT MEMORIAL BOYS. They are a long way from being competitive in the Big Eight. After watching them a couple of times, I'm still not sure what their identity is. They don't shoot the ball particularly well, and they don't have an inside presence to speak of. They struggle so much on defense they've been forced to play a zone. That's not a winning formula in the Big Eight. Can they squeeze out a conference win or two? Well, Parker's still in the Big Eight, so yes. They can. Anything over two wins would be a win.

The SOUTH BELOIT BOYS should be fine, but they are also really young. I can't forecast a playoff run there. Same with the SoBo girls. I'm just happy they can field a JV team, so the future might be brighter there.

The BELOIT MEMORIAL GIRLS just aren't there yet. Those girls enter their freshmen season with such a skill deficiency as compared to their Big Eight rivals. I'm really happy to see increased efforts to form a girls youth program in Beloit, but we aren't there yet. Winning a single game would be a win this year.

The PARKVIEW BOYS are a fun group. They've got a bunch of guys who can fill it up. I'm keeping an eye on them as the season moves forward.

The PARKVIEW GIRLS have struggled more than their talent would indicate. I still like this team, and think they will pick up a bunch of wins in the Trailways Conference.

I also think the NORTH BOONE BOYS can win some games. Like the Parkview boys, they have some guys who can really score. Let's see if they can get enough stops to make some noise in the Big Northern.

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