The DeKalb County basketball scene lost plenty of talent to graduation last season – seven out of the 10 selections on the girls and boys Daily Chronicle All-Area teams were seniors.
But that talent quickly was replenished.
Freshmen are making early contributions across DeKalb County, and five of them have made an especially big impression through the first half of the season. They are:
G-K coach Corey Jenkins knew he had an intelligent, possibly special, player coming into this season in Tommy Lucca.
“We knew his basketball IQ was pretty high coming in,” Jenkins said. “He’s played a lot of basketball over the years, over the summer with his AAU stuff and then with us. He’s had a lot of game-time experience.”
It didn’t take long for everyone else to find out. In his first high school game, Lucca scored 38 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists.
The next step for Lucca is to adjust to the physical defense teams have been playing against him.
“Now, teams can plan for him after seeing his stat-line the first night,” Jenkins said. “What teams are trying to do to him is play as physical as they can on him. For a freshman, he’s handling it well. He’s putting up numbers. Of course, we still have our freshman mistakes at times, but when it’s all said and done, he can be a pretty special player.”
Sycamore coach Brett Goff knew that his daughter, Lauren Goff, had the defensive ability to succeed at the varsity level right away.
“Defensively, I knew she was capable of doing what she’s doing now,” Goff said. “She’s an extension of me on the floor.”
But on the other end of the floor, Goff has been pleasantly surprised by Lauren Goff’s performance. The freshman leads the Spartans in both 3-point field goal percentage and free-throw percentage.
The only problem the coaching staff has with her is that it would like her to shoot more.
“Offensively, she has exceeded my expectations,” Goff said. “She’s leading us in 3-point percentage, she’s leading us in free-throw percentage. I knew she was a good shooter. We have a hard time getting her to shoot more. We want her to, but she’s very unselfish to a fault, actually.”
Hopkins was on the freshman team to start the year, but the forward was called up to varsity because of an injury.
She seized the opportunity. In her first game, Hopkins scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds against Streator. Two days later, she scored the game-tying free throw against Kaneland to send the game to overtime in a Sycamore loss.
“I told her, if you play good post defense and if you rebound, you’re doing your job,” Goff said. “If you score, that’s a bonus, so we’re getting a bonus. She’s adapting. We put her right up from the freshman level, but she’s doing very well.”
DeKalb coach Chris Davenport had heard whispers about Brittney Patrick coming into the season, mainly from former coach Ben Bates, who watched Patrick play in middle school, but he didn’t know quite how good she’d be.
When he saw her at summer practice, Davenport knew right away she’d be the Barbs’ starting point guard.
“We knew right away,” Davenport said. “We like to defend, and when you throw an athlete like that in, that’s first and foremost.”
Cracking DeKalb’s starting lineup is no small feat – DeKalb returned point guard Courtney Patrick, Brittney’s sister, and Daily Chronicle All-Area first-team guard Rachel Torres from last season’s sectional champion. Patrick just wanted to fit in when she made the leap to the high school game.
“I just wanted to show everybody who I am and what I can do,” she said, “and I just didn’t want to upset anybody.”
Josie Diehl came off the bench at the beginning of the season, but she stepped into the starting lineup during the first conference game when forward Samantha Mosley was injured. Diehl scored nine points and racked up 15 rebounds, and has become an integral player for the Timberwolves.
“She works so hard and gives so much effort that we knew she’d get better as the year went on,” coach Paul Muchmore said. “We were probably a little surprised that she’s helping us this much this early.”
Diehl starts alongside Mosley and fellow post player Kate Thuestad to make up a formidable front line.
“It causes some mismatches,” Muchmore said. “That’s part of what’s so nice about Josie coming along so quickly.”