High school boys basketball insider: Huntley's Uchenna Egekeze is athlete of the week

Uchenna Egekeze
Uchenna Egekeze

Athlete of the Week

Uchenna Egekeze, Huntley, jr., G

The 6-foot-3 junior averaged 22 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists through the Red Raiders’ first six games as they got off to a 4-2 start. He was selected to the Johnsburg/Richmond-Burton Thanksgiving Tournament team and also played well on defense for the Raiders. Egekeze was shooting 42 percent on 3-pointers through the first five games.

Northwest Herald Power Rankings

1. Cary-Grove (5-1): The Trojans beat Huntley, 62-48, on Wednesday and are allowing 46 points a game through their first six games. Their only loss came against Schaumburg, 61-60. Juniors Frank Jakubicek and Beau Frericks will make C-G tough to deal with.

2. Crystal Lake Central (3-4): The record doesn’t sparkle, but the Tigers’ competition has been stiff (with losses to Barrington, Hononegah, Geneva and Stevenson). Central beat Schaumburg, 63-47, and the Saxons handed C-G its only loss.

3. Huntley (4-2): The Red Raiders opened with a two-point loss to Grayslake North, then reeled off four consecutive wins before a loss to C-G on Wednesday. Things are looking up with juniors Uchenna Egekeze and Ryan Sroka leading the way.

4. Crystal Lake South (5-2): The Gators fell to Hampshire on Wednesday, but demonstrated a knack for winning close games in the Johnsburg/Richmond-Burton Thanksgiving Tournament, with three wins by a total of seven points

5. Dundee-Crown (5-1): The Chargers fell to Huntley by 17 points on Saturday, but beat their first four foes all by double digits. There is a lot of size and experience returning from a Class 4A regional championship team.

Worth noting

What a run: It was going to be difficult for Jacobs to maintain its winning pace much longer since the Golden Eagles were nearly perfect in Fox Valley Conference games over the previous four seasons.

Crystal Lake Central defeated Jacobs, 58-35, on Saturday, ending the Eagles’ 26-game FVC winning streak. Over the last four seasons (two in the FVC Valley Division, two as FVC) Jacobs was 51-1. There was a crossover placement loss to Prairie Ridge in 2016, which did not count as a division game, and a loss in the 2017 season to the Wolves as well.

Last season, Jacobs had graduated 6-foot-9 Cameron Krutwig and two other starters, but had several players who saw important minutes coming back. The Eagles went 16-0 in the FVC.

This group does not have much experience or height. Eagles coach Jimmy Roberts thinks it may take some games for his players to learn how to respond.

“We don’t want to keep talking about it, but it’s a reality of what we are,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot of firsts we have to get through. We’re going to take other teams’ best punch. You need to get knocked in the mouth a little bit to understand the level or preparation and commitment and communication on the floor. Hopefully, we’ll be better for it.”

Losing once in 52 FVC games was a remarkable run.

“It’s crazy,” Roberts said. “It’s a testament to our culture and the kids we’ve had and what it takes to win night in and night out. It’s hard.”

Having fun: Hampshire is off to a 3-3 start, 2-0 in the Fox Valley Conference after going 5-24 with a 1-15 FVC record last season. Whip-Purs coach Ben Whitehouse said confidence has been the difference.

“It’s tough coming off last year, winning five games, winning one conference game,” Whitehouse said. “We felt like we were in a lot of them, and now we’re confident we’re going to get it done. They’re not afraid of being down three or four that we can battle back and win.”

Whitehouse liked the competition the Whips saw at the St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament with losses to Proviso East, South Elgin and St. Charles East, all by close margins.

“It’s nice to win three in a row,” Whitehouse said after Wednesday’s 61-55 victory over Crystal Lake South. “It feels good.”

Holiday season: Twelve of the area’s teams will play in two local holiday tournaments, Jacobs’ Hinkle Holiday Classic and Marengo’s E.C. Nichols Tournament.

Jacobs, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South, Johnsburg, Marian Central and Prairie Ridge will play at Jacobs, which starts Dec. 22. The last four days of the tournament run from Dec. 26-29.

Jacobs is the two-time defending champion of that tournament. Pool I has Jacobs, Chicago King, Grant and Streamwood; Pool II has Barrington, Dixon, Johnsburg and Prairie Ridge; Pool III has Bartlett, Crystal Lake South, Payton Prep and Waubonsie Valley; and Pool IV has C-G, Jefferson, Marian and South Elgin.

The pairings for the E.C. Nichols tournament will be finalized next week. It starts on Dec. 22, then runs from Dec. 27-29. Marengo, Crystal Lake Central, Hampshire, Richmond-Burton, Woodstock and Woodstock North will play in that tournament.

Dundee-Crown and Huntley will play at DeKalb’s Chuck Dayton Classic, which runs from Dec. 26-29. McHenry plays at York’s Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament from Dec. 26-29. Alden-Hebron and Harvard play in A-H’s tournament from Dec. 26-28.

What to watch

Cary-Grove at Crystal Lake South, 1:30 p.m., Saturday: Both teams are off to strong starts and look like they might contend in the FVC race.

Crystal Lake South at Huntley, 7 p.m. Wednesday: South comes off one tough FVC matchup right into another with the Red Raiders four days later.

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