In search of a 12th consecutive conference title this season, it’s pretty fair to say that the Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball team’s chances of attaining that goal are about as certain as Benjamin Franklin’s views on death and taxes. In other words, it’s more than likely a sure thing.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs are taking anything for granted, especially with top Metro Suburban Conference rivals Ridgewood, Timothy Christian, Illiana Christian, and Glenbard South gunning to dethrone RB. However, in an informal preseason poll, the Bulldogs were the unanimous pick to win the league again.
“We certainly have the pieces to do well,” RB coach Tom McCloskey said, “but I think everybody needs to learn their role. We had some injuries over the summer so we want to get everybody playing together.
“The conference is going to be tough and we know every team is looking to snap our title streak.”
Last year, RB finished 23-5 with a 12-0 record in the conference.
Whereas last season the Bulldogs entered their campaign a bit unproven with several talented players lacking varsity experience, this year RB appears loaded with everything: talent, experience, depth, versatility and, oh by the way, a tremendous head coach in Tom McCloskey, Since 2001, the Bulldogs claim a 212-86 overall record highlighted by a gaudy 104-11 conference mark under McCloskey.
The Bulldogs feature a premier “inside-outside” combination of senior center Mike Ljuboja and senior guard Damonta Henry. The 6-foot-8 Ljuboja exploded onto the scene last season, putting up 14 points and eight rebounds per game en route to establishing himself as a Division I college basketball prospect. Henry (17 points, 4 assists per game), a scoring threat seemingly from anywhere inside the half-court line, recently signed to play D-2 college basketball at University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.
“Damonta has had a great career at RB,” McCloskey said. “Hopefully he can just really enjoy this season and have a tremendous senior year.”
The Bulldogs also welcome back a pair of outstanding defensive players in seniors Eric Loury and Liam Lesniak. Both players are also capable scorers and really came on as the season progressed last year.
Six-foot-3 junior guard Will Kincanon, a prolific scorer on the sophomore level, provides even more offensive firepower for the scoreboard-friendly Bulldogs. Six-foot-1 senior guard Jack Gibson, 6-6 junior Jack VandeMerkt and 6-4 sophomore forward Sam Johnson add depth, size and versatility off the bench.
Riverside-Brookfield opens the season hosting its 10th annual Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Tournament. The Bulldogs will take on Rich Central on Friday (6 p.m.) and close the round robin tourney in a showdown against highly-regarded Brother Rice on Saturday (6 p.m.).
In an interesting scheduling quirk, RB hits the road for an extended period, playing away in either conference games or tournaments from Dec. 14 through Feb. 1.