Riverside-Brookfield High School rising senior Stefan Cicic wanted to make the most of the school’s 20th annual Summer Shootout.
The 6-foot-11 NCAA Division I prospect had one half of basketball remaining and the Bulldogs trailed in their final game by 11 points on June 17.
“The first half, for me, was rocky. I wasn’t getting back on defense, wasn’t really playing hard, but [RBHS coach Mike Reingruber] told me to be harder, pushing me a lot,” Cicic said. “The second half I think everyone really brought it to the table. And we closed out the game with a win.”
The Bulldogs’ 49-45 victory over Marian Catholic after trailing 31-20 at halftime was a satisfying finish to the annual event which ran from Friday through Sunday.
RBHS was among 12 teams in the 80-team field to win all four of their tournament games. More important, they played a strong final half with a dedication to team defense.
“I told the guys at halftime we’ve had a real good summer so far. It was a good opportunity to see what we’re made of,” Reingruber said. “There was no reason to panic. This is summer. This is an opportunity to get better. We just really needed to turn it up on the defensive end and they responded.”
RBHS began by beating Morton 61-23 and Hyde Park 83-41 on June 16 and Bradley-Bourbonnais 64-55 earlier on June 17.
In all, 80 high schools participated in the three-day event, all playing four games of two 20-minute halves. Roughly 225 college coaches registered to attend.
“I think it fires you up. It fires me up for sure. I’m still looking [to play collegiately],” said RBHS rising senior Steven Brown about his second Shootout. “Last year was a learning lesson for us. We went 0-4. We’re winning now, so that feels way better. There’s a lot of people that think we’re not good. We got to show them.”
Cicic, who already has four D-I offers, led the Bulldogs with 86 points over the four tournament games. That included three 20-point plus performances with 29 against Bradley to share the tournament’s No. 4 single-game high.
Brown had 59 points with 20 points against Hyde Park. Others scoring points were rising seniors Landon Rivers, Sam Shelven and Ivan Ramos; rising juniors Danny Loftus, Bryce Grove, Mantas Sleinys and Maurice Turner; and rising sophomore Cameron Mercer.
“I think our chemistry right from the start has been pretty solid. It helps when you’ve got a Division I big man who can score different ways and is super unselfish. The rest of the guys, I think we pass the ball and are moving the ball really well and I think they’re having fun playing together,” Reingruber said.
“I’m really happy with our rising juniors and Cameron Mercer. He played tremendous the whole weekend. [They] all got a ton of experience, and we look for special things from them. It’s a talented group, a good group of kids.”
Cicic, Brown and Rivers are the only players with significant varsity experience from last season’s 26-6 Class 4A regional finalist that won another Metro Suburban Conference Blue title. Rising senior Will Gonzalez transferred to Curie.
Last season, Cicic transferred to RBHS from Notre Dame, but he missed playing in the 2022 Shootout with an ankle injury.
“[Our goal is] just be better on defense, just build up more team chemistry so we can close out these games, not have to struggle with a comeback,” Cicic said.
“The team works really hard through camp and through practice and these guys are special. All of these young guys, they’re really pushing themselves to play hard and close out games so I really love the team and the group of guys.”
The Bulldogs finish out summer action with the Morris Shootout, another live event at Romeoville and a camp at Illinois-Chicago.
Reingruber said the RBHS Shootout has remained among the premier off-season events in the Chicago area because of a long list of contributors.
“It really is a group effort. It takes a community to make this happen and it’s a lot of fun,” Reingruber said.
“[Our players] help out a lot. Putting together this whole Shootout is a team effort from the coaching staff doing a lot of the work the day of to the administration giving us the opportunity to do this, to all of the parents helping with concessions, admissions, the hospitality room.”