By Marty Farmer
The last time Riverside-Brookfield and Fenwick squared off in a high school boys basketball game was early February of 2019.
In that memorable showdown at Fenwick, the Bulldogs earned an impressive 64-61 win.
Looking ahead to this weekend, there is a slight chance the area rivals could reunite on the hardwood at the 17th Annual Riverside-Brookfield Summer Shootout (June 21-23). The three-day event at Riverside-Brookfield High School will feature 64 teams slotted in 16 four-team pools.
"This is one of the live, certified events for high school basketball," Riverside-Brookfield High School coach Mike Reingruber said. "We moved it from the first week of June to later in the month to be part of the new NCAA legislation. This adjustment allows high schools to have live events for a couple of weeks so Division 1 coaches can watch players. We also expanded the field of teams from 40 to 64. It's one of the best events in the Midwest, if not the country."
State champions Belleville West and East-St. Louis Lincoln will compete at the RB Shootout, along with perennial Chicago powerhouse programs like Simeon, Curie and Bogan. The tournament host Bulldogs, Fenwick and Oak Park and River Forest will also field talented teams along with fellow suburban squads such as St. Joseph, Proviso East and Evanston.
While the courts will be filled with plenty of future college players, the headliners are Whitney Young guard/forward DJ Steward and Rolling Meadows guard Max Christie. The 6-foot-3 Steward, who transferred from Fenwick to Whitney Young last year, has drawn recruiting interest from Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Louisville, Texas, Duke and Virginia. Christie, a 6-6 shooting guard, is regarded as a top 10-15 player in the Class of 2021. Christie has drawn scholarship offers from Illinois, Northwestern, De Paul, Baylor, plus interest from Duke.
Since the event serves as a showcase for both high school and college coaches to evaluate talent, each team likely will have its full roster. Fans will enjoy watching the players as well.
"The RB Shootout offers the casual fan an opportunity to watch six games going on every hour," Reingruber said. "Most of the games will have players who will play well beyond high school. It's an opportunity to see the top teams, players and programs in the state all under one roof. It's basically a basketball smorgasbord for basketball junkies."
Although RBHS graduated its top seven players this year, the Bulldogs feature a bevy of promising players intent on maintaining the program's considerable success in recent seasons.
Guards Luke Gentile and Nate Schoditsch could share playing time at point guard next winter. While replacing the production of two-time Metro Suburban Conference MVP Zach Vaia is unllikely, the two seniors are capable players with solid shooting, passing and defensive ability. Ryan Gaynor and Jordan Chapp, both good shooters, offer depth in the backcourt.
In the post, 6-5 Paul Zilinskas and 6-4 forward Jamir Truman will log most of the minutes. Zilinskas, a transfer from Richards, is a dynamic player.
"Paul can really shoot it and also get to the rim," Reingruber said. "He's also a good passer and on-ball defender. He's meshed with the other guys well this summer. Jamir is a long, athletic player who rebounds and defends well."
Similar to Ryan Cermak last season, the Bulldogs' Dylan Meehan will provide the team with a lot of the intangibles needed to win.
"Dylan has had a very good summer," Reingruber said. "He provides a lot of the intangibles needed to win. He hustles, gets loose balls and defends well."
With a 19-5 record, the Bulldogs are in the midst of having a productive summer. The team won the Addison Trail Shootout and has fared well at other tournaments.
Bryce Hopkins leads Fenwick, which finished 18-14 last season under first-year head coach Staunton Peck. Hopkins had a breakout sophomore campaign last winter, averaging 22 points and 6.5 rebounds as an all-Chicago Catholic League player. Underclassmen guards Trey Pettigrew and Kaden Cobb gained valuable experience last season. Both are athletic playmakers. The highly touted Cobb, pegged as the Friars' starting quarterback next season, is a Division I college football prospect.
"The other young guys and me got a chance to play at a high level with our older teammates guiding the way last season," said Pettigrew, who averaged six points and three assists as a full-time starter. "We're excited for next year because now we have experience. We're looking to put the work in during the offseason to come back stronger next season."
Fellow varsity returners Sean Walsh and Ryan Planek will join them at RB. The Fenwick freshman team finished 25-3 last season.
"I'm looking forward to working with this young group this summer and next season," Peck said. "I am really excited about the program. The future is bright."
The Friars are off to an auspicious start this summer, recently winning the 10thAnnual Ridgewood Shootout title with impressive victories against Notre Dame (semifinals) and Loyola Academy (final).