The 2019-20 Cyclones have all the necessary pieces in play to see some accomplishments this season.
The program has a new coach leading the way—John Chappetto, who has 27 years of experience, including coaching the Dwayne Wade Basketball Camps and becoming the all-time winningest coach at Richards High School. He joined the Cyclones in March. With the help from his assistant coaches, Aaron Green and newcomer Kyle Huppe, they have strengthened the returners and brought in plenty of talent.
"I'm learning a lot. But the basketball season always brings surprises, and you have to react and be ready. We go one day at a time, but we're ready to put our product out there. I'm excited about our depth and to see what we can do," Chappetto said.
According to Chappetto, the Cyclones have a little bit of everything a good team needs. First, is a solid 5-10 All-Conference point guard in returner Jalen Hughes (Hillcrest). He worked hard in the offseason, including participating in the invite-only Mullen's Premier JC Invitational in Dallas Texas this July for the top 160 junior college players in the U.S. Then there's size with 6-6 returning forward Zion Fortune (St. Laurence) and 6-8 transfer forward Dontia Johnson (Romeoville), who should be a difference-maker with his versatility on the court. A good team needs good shooters, of which the Cyclones have three: 5-11 transfer guard Vinny Tarello (Plainfield East), 6-6 guard Ryan Saunders (Joliet Central) and 6-3 guard Christopher Harrison (Shepard). Every team needs a strong defender with spirit, which belongs to sophomore Da'Quan Dunn (Johnson College Prep), a 6-5 forward, who should make some noise this season.
"When the lights come on, we'll see how we do. You never truly know until we face others," Chappetto said. "We've worked hard at practices, but you can only control so much. We might come across a team that has more talent. But I think we have a good team."
Last year's crew went 22-10 overall and 7-5 in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference with a number of those players graduating and transferring to four-year universities. Chappetto wants his players to have as close to a big-time college experience as possible from weight training to focus in the classroom to good attitudes. The goal is always to play well and reap success in the game, but Chappetto is looking for more from his guys.
"Everybody has the dream of winning a national championship, and we talk about it. I know a lot of things need to happen. The best teams won't win if they're not all in," Chappetto said. "The simplest thing, however, is to get better every day, not just on the court but in the classroom. I want them to grow and become young men, to grow as a player, student, athlete, person."
The Cyclones' home opener is Tuesday, Nov. 5, 5 p.m., against Carl Sandburg College.