RIVERSIDE — As a junior, Miki Ljuboja battled injuries throughout the high school and AAU seasons.
As a result, his movement was limited and at times he looked more like a lumbering big man than the well-rounded center he is.
Ljuboja still made sure to improve his game during the offseason. One of those improvements was his long-range shooting. The 6-foot-8 senior was one of Riverside Brookfield’s most efficient three-point shooters, draining 15 threes in 42 attempts (35.7 percent) this season.
“Before this season I honestly don’t remember taking more than like two or three three-pointers in a game,” Ljuboja said. “It was something that I worked hard on this offseason. I just wanted to keep getting better in every aspect of my game.”
His ability to make threes is just one example of what he brought to the table for RB. This season, he led the Bulldogs in points, rebounds and blocks. The threes just added an extra bit of satisfaction.
“It’s always a good feeling when you can hit one when the other team’s big man is guarding you and sagging off a few feet,” he said.
For the past two seasons, Ljuboja has been a key part of RB’s success, which has included two conference championships and a 44-12 combined record. Last year’s all-area MVP, Damonta Henry, joined Ljuboja in forming one of the areas best duos. They helped continue a string of success at RB that has included 12 straight conference titles under coach Tom McCloskey.
“The culture that Coach McCloskey, Coach (Dan) Herbeck and Coach (Mike) Reingruber have created here is just amazing,” Ljuboja said. “It’s just such an honor that I got to play two years on the varsity level at RB. I wouldn’t have wanted to play anywhere else.”
Ljuboja will play somewhere else next year, he just doesn’t know where yet. He has a wide variety of college options, including Division I programs, smaller schools or even a year of prep school.
He is younger than his classmates because he skipped third grade. Ljuboja scored a 30 on his ACT, and the University of Chicago is among his options.
After being injured during the AAU season, Ljuboja was forced to wait for the offers to come in while he showed what he could do during the high school season.
“I’m looking forward to finishing it out,” he said of the recruiting process. “Since I was hurt last year during the biggest recruiting period it definitely put a lot more stress on me this season. It was tough, but I can’t complain.
“I’m definitely happy to have options. It’s always the best thing, just to have options.”
Meet the 2012-13 All-Area Boys Basketball East Team:
School: NazarethYear: Senior
Bonk was a two-time all-conference selection in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. The senior guard led the Roadrunners in points (14.4 per game), assists (4.4) and steals (1.9). He finishes his career seventh on the all-time scoring list at Nazareth (866 points) and second on the assists chart (266).
School: Riverside BrookfieldYear: Senior
Henry was the engine behind RB's success the last two seasons. The point guard averaged 16.4 points, 4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game this season. He will continue his career at Division II University of Mary in North Dakota.
School: FenwickYear: Senior
Lattner was the only senior starter on a Fenwick team that still managed to a win a Class 3A regional. Lattner capped his three-year varsity career by being named first-team all-Chicago Catholic League.
School: Riverside BrookfieldYear: Senior
Ljuboja isn't your ordinary 6-foot-8 center. He has quick feet, a number of moves around the basket and even showed off his shooting range this season. Ljuboja shot 35.7 percent from three-point land to go with his team highs in points (18.1), rebounds (9) and blocks (1.8) per game.
School: Lyons TownshipYear: Sophomore
LT coach Tom Sloan said he thought of Niego as a senior on the court despite being just a sophomore. The young point guard made his varsity debut this season and had no problem stepping up to the level. Niego is a traditional point guard that is already receiving interest from big college programs.
School: Lyons TownshipYear: Senior
Standing 6-foot-3 and gifted with long arms, O'Reilly was able to get to the rim and finish with ease on a regular basis. The senior became LT's leader and emerged as a standout player during the second half of the season.
School: St. JosephYear: Senior
Patty is 6-foot-8 and armed with long arms. Needless to say he was a tough matchup for anyone. If Patty got within 8 feet of the basket, it was usually an automatic two points. The Charger senior was also an elite rebounder and shot blocker.
School: MortonYear: Senior
A top-level player and student, Perez was a career 1,000-point scorer for the Mustangs. The skilled forward averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds for Morton. At 6-foot-5, Perez was able to bring up the ball and shoot from range as well as play the power game inside.
School: MortonYear: Sophomore
Perez was a double-double machine for Morton in his first full varsity season. Waller's younger brother averaged 12.2 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds. Weisner will be a key figure for the Mustangs over the next two seasons.
School: Proviso WestYear: Senior
Roby was part of a balanced Panther team that had a strong second half to the season. At 6-foot-1 and listed as a forward on the Proviso West roster, Roby was still able to be a strong rebounder despite going against taller players on a regular basis.
School: St. JosephYear: Junior
Turner was the Chargers' only double-digit scorer, averaging about 10 points per game for a very balanced St. Joseph team. The 6-foot-4 guard already has a number of offers from Division I programs and will be one of the most watched seniors next season for a St. Joseph team that will have high expectations.
Fenwick: Dan Dwyer, Scott LindseyLyons Township: Jarryd HeathMorton: Greg CarterNazareth: Dan KienzleProviso West: Lawrence Moore, Taylor WatkinsRiverside Brookfield: Liam Lesniak, Eric Loury, Jack VandeMerktSt. Joseph: Jordan Ash, Glynn Watson