Fast breaks, flips mark the season

Red Devil basketball squads and girls gymnastics get their competitive footing

The 2023-24 Hinsdale Central winter sports season preview series concludes with a look at boys and girls basketball and girls gymnastics. Boys cagers and the gymnasts are counting on newcomers to step up this year, while girls hoopsters are relying on veteran leadership to guide the program.

Boys swimming/diving and boys and girls wrestling were featured in last week's issue, while boys and girls bowling and hockey were the focus in the Nov. 23 story.

Editor's note: This article was written prior to girls basketball coach Erin Navolio's resignation Monday.

Boys basketball

First game: Nov. 20 @ Naperville North (V lost 32-47)

Last season: 31-4, lost in sectional final

Head coach: Nick Latorre

Years as head coach: 11

Number on varsity roster: 21

Team strengths: We've played well in games against some really good opponents. The group is really hard-working and resilient, and I think we'll play our best basketball as we get more experience and the boys get accustomed to play at the speed of varsity basketball.

Areas of growth: They're getting used to the day-to-day rigor of varsity practice and the energy and intensity that's required to play at this level. I think that we need to identify and recognize the roles that they'll play to make our team as good as possible. Other than Daniel Orozco, none of the guys on the roster last year got any meaningful varsity minutes. We need to develop consistency in all the important areas - like rebounding, protecting the ball and shooting - and get comfortable with each person's individual role.

Who to watch: Senior guard Daniel Orozco has been our lead scorer in most of our games. Junior guard Eric Kozys has done a great job for us off the bench, both offensively and defensively. Senior forward Luke Bilenko has also been solid for us.

Season outlook: It is a really good (West Suburban Silver) conference this year, really deep and everybody's competitive. Downers Grove North has been ranked No. 1 in the state, and York is tough with all their experience. We just want to keep getting better and keep building confidence and developing the experience level with our guys. I think we're getting better as we gain experience, and I definitely see us making strides in that direction.

Girls basketball

First game: Nov. 18 @ Nazareth Academy (V lost 18-60)

Last season: 11-19, lost in regional final

Head coach: Erin Navolio

Years as head coach: two

Number on varsity roster: 10

Team strengths: We are returning six varsity players this year, which allows us to draw on their experience on the court and provide leadership to the younger players. We have also added several girls who previously played at the JV level. They are very committed to working hard and being successful. Each of them has spent significant time during the off-season working on individual skills and as a team, competing in a league against top high school teams. I am definitely seeing improvement from everyone. I also like the effort that the girls have made to create an inclusive environment for our younger players. It is great to watch them learn from each other.

Areas of growth: We need to focus on defense, shot selection and communication on the court. Everyone on the team has great potential. I believe if we pull all the pieces together we can be very successful.

Who to watch: Junior Grace Dolan, all-conference last year, will continue to give us strong shooting and attacks to the basket. Senior Greta Dani is our "go to" in the post. Greta's height and quickness gives us an advantage under the net. Senior Luella Sheehan and junior Julia Sherpitas will guide the team at the point and provide outside shooting. Junior Maya Gin and sophomore Katherine Skinner also have significant roles and provide great defensive energy.

Season outlook: Our conference is very competitive. Our goal is always to compete at the highest level and improve as the season goes on. The team has the energy and drive to be successful. I look forward to seeing them exceed expectations.

Girls gymnastics

First meet: Nov. 22 @ Hornet Invite (V placed 6th)

Last season: placed 2nd at IHSA regional

Head coach: Kim Estoque

Years as head coach: 19

Number on varsity roster: nine

Team strengths: The team members want to increase their skills and are improving their starting scores.

Areas of growth: We don't have the depth of talent we've had in the last few years. We have a lot of new people on the team this year, and they're going from club (gymnastics) to high school. Hopefully they're able to make the transition. I think a lot of the challenge is they don't realize what team (gymnastics) mean, so it will take a little bit of getting used to. But once they do, they'll really enjoy it.

Who to watch: senior Hazel Hamelka and junior Erica Driscoll, both all-arounders and returning sectional qualifiers. They did a lot of off-season training, so they're really well prepared for the season. Junior Kennedy Hannah also is one to keep an eye on.

Outlook: We're just trying to get better every meet and trying to increase our scores and have a good time. Our conference is very tough. York and LT both have got some good girls on their teams, and you've got a good Glenbard West team. I hope our girls have a good year. When they work hard and you see their improvement, and they see their improvement, it's very rewarding.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean