Five Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball players (out of 11 overall) made the Landmark All-Stars team this year.
No player is more deserving than RBHS point guard Zach Vaia.
The two-time Metro Suburban Conference MVP averaged 15 points, five assists and four rebounds this season in leading the Bulldogs to a 28-5 record, highlighted by Thanksgiving, conference and regional championships. A steady floor general, Vaia also guided the Bulldogs to a school record for most wins in a regular season with 26.
“Zach has been an instrumental player in our program the past few years,” RBHS Mike Reingruber said. “When you have a three-year starter at point guard, it makes you sleep easier as a coach, knowing he is an extension of you on the court.”
Vaia is regarded as a clutch player, too, sinking game-winning baskets against Immaculate Conception and Fenwick during his junior year.
“As a kid you always picture yourself in those last-second moments,” Vaia said. “I just love those types of games. That’s when the game of basketball is so much fun. Whether it’s to shoot the ball or find the open person, I want the ball in my hands in those situations. I feel very confident in my ability to make something happen.”
Vaia’s leadership and talent should translate well to college basketball if he chooses to continue his athletic career.
“Zach is one of the top small-college point guard prospects in the area,” Reingruber said. “He has a ton of interest from Division III and NAIA schools, and I know he is in the process of narrowing down his list. I think Zach would be a tremendous college basketball player.”
Although Vaia was clearly the best player in the Metro Suburban Conference, RBHS won with balance at both ends of the floor this season.
Consequently, the Bulldogs’ best big man, Andrew Veon (13.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg), and sharpshooter, Patrick Hanley (13.2 ppg), join Vaia as first-team All-Stars. Sophomore Bryce Hopkins and senior guard Solomon Oraegbu (17 ppg) from Fenwick and guard Nolan Niego (14.1 ppg, 4.1 apg) from LTHS are the other picks.
The 6-5 Hopkins (22 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is a big-time Division I prospect who earned All-Chicago Catholic League honors and first-team recognition at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. Hopkins already has scholarship offers from Nebraska, Miami (Ohio) and Loyola Chicago, with growing interest from Big 10 schools like Ohio State and Northwestern.
Considering Fenwick started freshmen guards Trey Pettigrew and Kaden Cobb along with Hopkins, the future is bright for the Friars who won 18 games this season.
“We are a young team, but I believe in our guys,” Hopkins said. “I know what we can do and we are not backing down from any challenge.”
The second team is guard-oriented with Josh Berry and Tyrese Shines (LTHS seniors who each averaged 12 points) and Reggie Loury (RBHS) leading the way. Nazareth sophomore guard Tagen Pearson, the son of former Nazareth star/Kansas University product Sean Pearson, and versatile swingman Charles Terry (8.8 ppg, 6 rpg) from RBHS were also selected.
Marty Farmer contributed to this story.