Ahead of the team's home opener on Dec. 1, Proviso East boys varsity basketball coach Donnie Boyce talked about what he's looking forward to from his team this season.
The Pirates feature a core group of seniors that includes Jordan Morris, Michael Wright, Quinlan Bennett, Trevor Moore and Jaelon Hood. Bennett, Boyce said, is still recovering from off-season wrist surgery.
He also noted that sophomore guard Michael Osborne, junior guard Devin Spencer and junior forward Aaron Sykes are "playing really well."
Boyce added that he's waiting for the IHSA to approve the transfer of 6-foot-5 power forward Jeremiah Jones, a senior from St. Patrick High School in Chicago. The addition could add even more depth to his roster.
Last year's record: 16-14
Current record: 4-1 (The Pirates beat Willowbrook at the buzzer on Friday for a 74-72 victory)
We sat down with Boyce for a pre-season interview last week:
What are your expectations for this season?
For us, the expectation has never changed. We have four team goals each year: We want to win every tournament we're in — from the Thanksgiving and Christmas tournaments to the conference and state tournaments. We made it to the championship game in the Thanksgiving tournament, but unfortunately we lost.
On the team's most impressive win:
It's still early in the year, so it's hard to pinpoint the most impressive win, but our common goal in all of our games has been to really establish the tempo and make it tough on the defensive end. We want the other team to feel uncomfortable. So far, I like how we've applied pressure.
What lessons were learned from your first loss?
We lost to Naperville North in the championship game in an Oswego tourney called Hoops for Healing, which does a really good job at reaching out to people in the community who are cancer survivors. We lost in the championship game. We jumped out to an early lead on them, but took our foot off the gas. From that game, we really realized we have to play all of our minutes with the right mental focus. We have to apply the right kind of defensive pressure and play together as a team. Losing that game really opened our eyes that we have to compete the whole game.
What games should we be looking forward to?
We play [Chicago] Orr, who won the 2A state title, this month. The Proviso West Holiday Tournament is always a good gauge to see what areas we need to improve in and what we're excelling in. More importantly, you get the opportunity to test yourself against other elite programs in the area. The kids are really excited to get the opportunity to take back something that we feel belongs to us and that's the conference championship.
What are some promising intangibles you all are banking on?
I like our depth. We have several guys who can play multiple positions. We're always constantly trying to bring in a fresh wave of fresh bodies throughout the course of the game. The guys are also really locked in in the classroom, which is always a great indication. We're really looking forward to this team's growth. Hopefully, we can match our potential. We have a good chance to be one of four teams still competing in Peoria. I really believe we're going to surprise a lot of people. A lot of people are underestimating us.