Knight cagers hope returnees lead team full of newcomers
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—There seems to be a wrinkle at the beginning of every Kaneland High School boys basketball season.
In 2009-10, Dave Dudzinski ran roughshod over the area, while in 2010-11, the Knights captured their first conference title since the Reagan administration. And in 2011-12, the Knights benefited from all-Northern Illinois Big XII selection and West Aurora transfer Marcel Neil and secured a Regional plaque.
Now, coach Brian Johnson has to prepare a group for a similar postseason run like the one that advanced to the Sycamore Sectional semifinal, but without personnel like Neil (at Kishwaukee Junior College) and junior Thomas Williams, who transferred to Texas.
“There’s been a lot of change, even from just the summer when we had Thomas, but we have some boys that have put in a lot of hard work,” Johnson said.
Among the group of hard-workers Johnson is talking about are senior guard Dan Miller and senior forward Matt Limbrunner, the two oldest reps on the Knight squad. The Knights will also expect heavy contributions from junior forward John Pruett and junior guard Tyler Carlson.
“Those guys have put in a lot of time. They’re good athletes and good kids. People ask me what type of team we’ll have and I don’t know yet,” Johnson said. “Last year, we could attack the rim, and we rebounded fairly well. I don’t know if we’ll be able to do all those things this year.”
Adding to the question pile is the health of third-year point guard Drew David, still on the mend after football bumps and bruises.
“It’ll be nice having Drew back in his third year at the point, and Tyler and John practiced with us all year and they know what we’re expecting,” Johnson said.
Also looking to contribute with varsity minutes in 2012-13 are sophomore guard Connor Fedderly and fellow sophomore guard Ben Barnes, junior forward Tom VanBogaert, junior guard Bailey Harvell and junior forward Cole Carlson, who saw quality summer minutes.
The Knights also bring a freshman guard into the mix in the form of Dylan Vaca.
“They’ll fill their roles as best they can and see some successes. This year, we’re going to have to be a team in every meaning of the word. That’s one thing I’ve really noticed, is we don’t necessarily have those go-to guys; they all work really well together,” Johnson said.
When it comes to the hierarchy of the NIB-12 and the odds of getting to a second conference title in three seasons, Johnson knows Kaneland must wade through several capable teams.
“DeKalb’s coming back with a really nice player in Andre Harris. Rochelle has their two guards that are very solid players. They’re good teams and are at the top of our league, and Yorkville did a really nice job last year,” Johnson said.
Action got underway on Wednesday at the Batavia Windmill Classic, with results unavailable as of press time against the hosts. The home opener is Friday, Nov. 30, against Morris, with the Knights once again making a stop at the Plano Christmas Classic, beginning on Saturday, Dec. 22.