Senior Sean Davis is the lone returning starter for Metea Valley this season. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Coach: Bob Vozza
Last season: 25-5 overall, 10-0 Upstate Eight Valley.
Key returners: Hayden Barnard, Sr. C; Sean Davis, Sr. F; Shiv Desai, Sr. C; Trayvond Taylor, Sr. G.
Top newcomers: Nick Dodson, Soph. G; Bryson Oliver, Soph. G.
Updated: December 19, 2012 11:33AM
In its first season with a senior class last year, Metea Valley’s boys basketball team burst onto the scene — winning its first 14 games, winning the Upstate Eight Valley and reaching the sectional finals.
If the Mustangs are to sustain those feats after graduating that first senior class, the road will be hard and it starts with the first game. Metea Valley moves to the Oswego Hoops For Healing Tournament this Thanksgiving week, and it is rewarded with a season opener against Class 4A state runner-up Proviso East.
“I wanted to get closer to Metea to give our fans a chance to get out and watch us,” Metea coach Bob Vozza said of moving from the Joliet West Tournament. “When we moved, we were one of the first. And then Proviso, Benet and Andrew followed us, and it became one of those tournaments. It has the potential to be the best in terms of competition level.”
With that tournament and a conference opener against Neuqua Valley looming in the next couple of weeks, the Mustangs will know early where they stand.
Only one starter is back from that 25-5 squad, Sean Davis. He played out of position as an undersized center (6-foot-2) the past two seasons, holding his own. But he will now slide to a more natural spot — power forward — and has the potential to be one of the area’s breakout players.
“It’s the first year in a while he’s been able to do that,” Vozza said of Davis being able to play his natural position. “He filled a need for us because he’s intelligent and he was the most talented, but this is a natural switch to a position he’s comfortable in. I think he filled in nicely and did his job for the team. He did have some games that stood out. He can definitely take the next step.”
The Mustangs excelled on the perimeter last season, but they figure to be more focused on the post this year. With Davis sliding over, large centers like Hayden Barnard and Shiv Desai will get more significant minutes this season. Trayvond Taylor also saw some time last year at guard.
“We lost six of our top seven,” Vozza said. “It’s kind of been a rebuilding summer, but it’s a good class that was behind some really good players. We did have some success over the summer. We’ll be learning on the fly against some really good teams.”
Two sophomores figure to fortify the backcourt, point guard Bryson Oliver and shooting guard Nick Dodson.
“They were with us all summer, kind of opened my eyes,” Vozza said. “But it’s different during the season. They’ll be fighting for some minutes.”
It will be a challenge to defend their Upstate Eight Valley title. The conference is loaded, and the other three teams that figure to be in the mix for the conference title all return highly-regarded players. Bartlett boasts UIC-bound guard Lance Whitaker and rivals Waubonsie Valley (Santa Clara-bound Jared Brownridge) and Neuqua Valley (point guard Jabari Sandifer is committed to Western Illinois) each have Division I talent.
“It’s always a challenging league,” Vozza said. “We keep our expectations high. I’m a little leery of how things will work out early. We have to keep their confidence high. We’ll be tested early.”