Following the lead of recent Riverside-Brookfield backcourt stars like Sean McGonagill, Billy VandeMerkt and Ryan Jackson, incumbent starting guards Damonta Henry and Luke Nortier appear poised to lead the Bulldogs’ bid for an 11th straight conference championship this season.
Losing all five starters, most notably Jackson (Lewis University) and 6-8 Alex Dziagwa (Augustana), the new-look Bulldogs will lean heavily on Henry and Nortier, who both gained valuable varsity experience last year.
“I learned a lot from Ryan just watching what he did and how he carried himself,” Henry said. “We just have to get out there, play hard and be mentally tough. Defensively, I think we can be pretty good. We have quick feet and use our athleticism to help each other if somebody gets beat.”
Henry is a whippet quick combo guard who can score, pass and defend, while the 6-3 Nortier is a capable scorer also able to venture into the paint as needed. In the Class 3A Nazareth Regional final last year, Nortier scored 15 points off the bench to help fuel the Bulldogs’ 63-41 win over St. Francis.
“Damonta is a key to our team,” RB coach Tom McCloskey said. “He does so many things well for us. Luke had a great season last year, but now he has to come into the role of being a real impact player.”
While consistent production from the Bulldogs’ top tandem will be vital to another winning campaign, plenty of other players are ready in supporting roles. Seniors Andrew Hanley (guard) and Louis Marino (forward) along with promising junior post player Miki Ljuboja comprise the rest of the RB starting lineup.
The bench will be inexperienced but talented led by Chris Duplancich, Jordan Dahms, Eric Loury and Liam Lesniak.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” McCloskey said about the upcoming season. “We averaged 75 points a game last season which is a lot of points. That will be hard to duplicate so we’re going to have make up for things with our defense and rebounding.”
RB is the preseason Metro Suburban Conference favorite, but top rival Ridgewood and Glenbard South could threaten the Bulldogs’ dynastic run of 10 straight conference titles.
“We definitely want to win conference every year,” Nortier said. “We don’t have Ryan [Jackson] back and maybe our top weapons like last year, but I think we have good talent and better depth. It’s a whole different group. We are going to play as hard as we can and see what happens.”