The crop of mostly newcomers have the talent and skill to yield plenty of success this upcoming basketball season.
Few teams will be able to live up to the grandeur of last year's crew that went 34-3 overall, earning NJCAA Region IV and Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championships, finishing eighth at the national tournament, breaking records and boasting a number of impressive individual honors. Unfortunately, seven of the players from that team were sophomores who graduated and transferred to four-year universities. The mostly new assembly of players has high expectations to live up to, but come with plenty of ability and athleticism to bring additional accomplishments.
The No. 13 nationally ranked Cyclones are a young group but do have a few returners on the scene. After a two-year hiatus, All-Region 5-6 guard Diamond Dortch (Romeoville) is back. She competed with the 2016-17 team that went to nationals and broke a long-standing assists record. Her skill with the ball will help guide the younger players. Forward Erin Greenfield (Sandburg), at 5-9, was a rotated player last season but one of the toughest Head Coach Delwyn Jones has ever coached. She made an impact in a number of games. Nicole Poole (Sandburg), a 5-11 forward, returns with her ability to play many positions and score when needed, particularly from the three-point line. Lexi Langellier (Lockport Township), a 5-10 guard, brings her spirit and go-getter attitude to the team and can be an effective scorer when hot.
A few big additions should complete the puzzle. Kirsten Kamholz (Andrew), a 5-10 forward, has a feel for the ball and is a solid three-point shooter as well as a good passer. Kaeli Ford (Lockport Township) is a dynamic 5-10 forward with a consistent jump shot and high defensive basketball IQ. Chelsea Cross (Plainfield North), a 5-6 guard, was a key offensive player in high school and will look to score some points for the Cyclones. Six-foot center Selena Guerra (Argo) was brought in for her rebounding prowess but also has good touch around the basket and mid-range, and is a skilled scorer. Point guard Natalia Trejo (De La Salle), at 5-5, is crafty with the ball, sees the ball well and is a skilled passer. Marty Reeves (Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy) is a 5-9 forward and one of the most athletic players, offensively and defensively, on the team. At 5-10, Briana Sanchez (Oak Lawn) is a Dennis Rodman-type of player on the court, according to Jones. She is a strong rebounder with a high basketball IQ and will be effective doing the dirty work under the basket when needed.
With a mostly new lineup, winning more championships is a realistic goal, even if they're not the nationally ranked favorites they were last year.
"We'll be good this year. We can compete for the conference and region. They have great attitudes and character. Any time you have that, you have a chance," said Jones, who enters his 20th season leading the Cyclones. "I think we'll be better than others think. This year we have a lot of freshmen, but we also have five people who've been to nationals and won over 30 games and seen what it takes to be successful. Using that will help us and give us an advantage."
Jones is joined again on the sidelines by assistant coaches Sean Mackey and Kathleen Zulevic.
The Cyclones' home opener is Thursday, Nov. 14, 5 p.m., against Olive-Harvey College.