Ridgewood Varsity Shootout Recap

Fenwick walked away with the 1st place trophy by defeating Notre Dame at the Ridgewood Varsity Shootout Saturday and Sunday (June 8 and 9, 2019) at Ridgewood High School in Norridge. The interesting early look at the 2019-2020 teams showed me a few things: the Chicago Catholic League and East Suburban Catholic Conference dominated play; Notre Dame is as good as expected; Niles North’s Aquan Smart is quite a player; 3A is going to be improved with Deerfield and Orr.

The field of 32 teams included:

#13 York, 4A Regional Champ, 29-5 (10-2)

#15 DePaul Prep, CCL Blue Champs, 3A third-place, 25-10 (12-3)

#18 St. Laurence, 3A Regional Champ, 27-6 (11-4)

#19 St. Viator, 3A Regional champ, 26-7 (7-2)

#23 Lincoln Park, 23-9 (7-2)

#25 Loyola, 4A Regional champ, 22-13 (8-7)

Downers Grove North, 4A Regional Champ, 23-12 (5-7)

Benet, 24-8 (7-2)

Deerfield, 4A Regional Champ, 21-11 (7-3)

Niles North, 20-10 (5-5)

Notre Dame, 19-12 (6-3)

Except the winner wasn’t any of those teams. The Friars tore through Warren, Deerfield, Huntley and Notre Dame to take the tournament. Interestingly, the quarterfinal round that saw three teams each from the Chicago Catholic League and the East Suburban Catholic League. It was almost 7 of 8 Catholic school quarter-finalists as St. Ignatius lost to York in the final seconds.

As luck would have it, Fenwick was not one of the teams that I had a chance to see. So I’ve got nothing for you on Fenwick.

This was my first Ridgewood Varsity Shootout. In fact, the only summer showcase I have been to in fact was last year’s Riverside Brookfield Summer Shootout. These things are not for the casual basketball fan. It mostly parents and a few coaches. The games are short. Not the normal level of defense is played. The kids are gassed by the time the final games roll around.

Being new to the high school basketball beat, I have a steep learning curve to climb, so I am trying to get up to speed at these summer tournaments. They are good opportunities to see a bunch of teams all on the same day and get a preview of the new line-ups. It also affords a chance to talk to coaches in an informal setting.  

I suppose the only bit of actual news I learned is that Orr and Deerfield are going to be in 3A this coming season. I have not confirmed this yet but a coach told me that Orr is moving up to 3A and Deerfield is moving down in to 3A. That significant improves the number of quality Chicago area teams in 3A.

As for Ridgewood, while the facilities were far from ideal, they were pretty good. I liked how close together the gyms were. It was easy to pop back and forth and keep track of two or three games at once. I also liked that if I got a seat just right, I could watch two games at once. I watched St. Viator play York and Loyola play Benet at the same time.

However, there was a serious draw back late in the day on Sunday. At the outset of the Notre Dame v. DePaul Prep quarterfinal game, ND star quarterback and point guard Anthony Sayles slipped and feel on court 4—the unairconditioned “old gym.” It seems humidity in the hot and steamy gym made the court very slippery. I heard DePaul Prep Coach Klienschmidt say that “the last thing he wanted to see was any of the kids getting hurt.” Klienschmidt and Notre Dame’s Kevin Clancy conferred and agreed to suspend play while the referees asked organizers about moving the game.

The organizers agreed to move the game to court one and push the championship game back a half an hour.

So, what else have I got?

Niles North’s Aquan Smart is every bit as advertised. He leads his team and has all the skills. Niles North lost a nail-biter to a St. Viator Lions team that Quinn Hayes had playing at high level despite losing two of the best players in school history, Jeremiah Hernandez and Trey Calvin, to graduation.

Likewise, Tom Klienschmidt had his Rams playing well. Junior point guard Ty Johnson is playing at a whole different level. Bigger, stronger and faster, T.Y. is poised to became one the best players in the area. D.J. Shower, Brian Mathews and Cam Lewis filled in nicely for the Rams trio of graduated stars, Perry Cowen, Raheem Anthony and Pavle Pantovic. Brian Mathews is scoring nicely. He has a chance to be dominant player.

The Notre Dame Dons look really good. I have no doubt that Anthony Sayles will be a dominant player. That is if he doesn’t miss a significant number of games leading the Dons’ football team deep into the playoffs. Word is he is getting interest from Big 10 schools to play quarterback. With Troy D’Amico and the rest of their skilled group, I expect the Dons to challenge Marian Catholic for the ESCC crown.

St. Patrick looks very good. The Shamrocks played their formidable zone defense on the small court frustrating opponents and then turned and ran the floor. They should give people fits as they always do.

Loyola and Benet are going to be well coached and disciplined as usual but not as big as they have been. Loyola was missing their big kids so this early look will change.

Lane has a whole new team. I only saw part of the Indians game against Downers Grove North, not enough to make any informed evaluation.

As for the photos, I really wasn’t there to take photos. I mostly wanted to get a look at as many teams as I could in preparation for the upcoming season. The photos I took were mostly for the purpose of including them with my live tweets.

The light in the gyms was actually pretty good. Reporter Mike Clark (@mikeclarkpreps) teases me about my gym light comments. It’s all for the reader—my contribute to high school basketball. I can point my fellow fans in the direction of the gyms with the best light. As we all know, the most important part of basketball is the light in the gym.

Ridgewood has good light during the day. It’s the skylights. They added necessary light missing from Ridgewood’s main gym during the evening games. To any school administrators or young architects out there, skip the skylight. Add more LED lights instead.

Nevertheless, the photos are below. I hope you like them.