John Quinn used the following words and terms to describe this season’s Fenwick boys basketball team: Work-in-progress, young, inexperienced and unpolished. The longtime head coach’s assessment isn’t too far off considering he has just three seniors on this season’s roster.
Taking the leadership role this season is Sam Ainsworth, a senior who averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds while helping the Friars to a 14-12 overall season last year. Ainsworth and Pat Hart played major roles for the Friars last season, but Hart, Fenwick’s starting quarterback and linebacker, has elected to focus solely on football.
The good news is Quinn welcomes in Willowbrook transfer Kyle Pullia, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound junior. He also has 6-1 junior guard Luke Lattner returning from an impressive sophomore season. Lattner’s cousin, the 6-3, 200-pound wing player Robert Spillane, is also expected to make an impact this season. Spillane was sidelined due to a shoulder injury during the football season but Quinn said he’s healthy and ready to go.
The Friars may be young this season, but they aren’t without talent. The sophomore team went 18-7 last season, while the freshman nearly went undefeated at 25-1. Junior Josh Carlisle and sophomore KeShawn Smith are two guards that are expected to see extensive playing time. Others include Jeremy Gruszka, Dan Dwyer and Scott Lindsey, a sophomore that Quinn is the best pure shooter on the team.
“Nobody has clearly distinguished themselves yet, but I think as we get underway these guys will become more comfortable playing at this level,” said Quinn. “The question for us is how to nurture these players the best we can.”
To help offset the inexperience, Quinn enlisted the help of former NBA coach Johnny Bach, whose expertise has come in handy during practices at Fenwick. The 87-year-old Bach retired as a Bulls assistant coach in 2006.
The Friars played around .500 ball during summer league, mostly due to an unyielding defense. Quinn expects that to be the team’s strong suit.
“We’re not real polished offensively, but the defense is quick and unrelenting. Hopefully, that will sort of offset things. We do need guys to step up on offense though, or it’s going to be a long season.”
The Friars open the season this week at the Lyons Township Thanksgiving Tournament against Morton, the same team that knocked them out of the state playoffs last season. They’ll host St. Ignatius on Dec. 2 for their home-opener (7:30 p.m.).