Boys basketball preview: Experienced Lions plan to contend for conference

LA GRANGE – Lyons Township’s boys basketball team has had two losing seasons in a row after winning 26 games each of the previous two years, but the experience back on this team gives the Lions hope of returning to prominence.

LT has eight seniors on the roster, and junior point guard Harrison Niego, who already has Division I offers from Northern Illinois and Illinois-Chicago, is back to run the show again.

Niego averaged 11.6 points and 4.3 assists per game last season. He was second on the team in both categories to the graduated Christopher O’Reilly. O’Reilly and Jarryd Heath, the third leading scorer a year ago, are the only two major contributors gone from last season.

Matt Mrazek, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, was the Lions’ leading rebounder last year and will again be forced to match up with the opponents’ top big men. Senior Nikola Josipovic, also 6-foot-4, should also see minutes in the paint.

Senior Sam Cybulski also returns after starting much of last season. Fellow wing Chris Hester should also see an expanded role this season.

With a slew of returning players who have experience, the Lions plan to be a player in the West Suburban Silver when all is said and done.

“We return several players with significant experience from last season in Niego, Hester, Cybulski and Mrazek,” Sloan said. “We hope to contend for the Silver title.”

Seniors Omarr Gilbert, Jim Cullen, Griffin Furlong and Nathan Albertini are also varsity returners and should add depth to the team. Albertini, 6-foot-5, gives the Lions another option inside.

Sloan mentioned two juniors, Jaquan Phipps and 6-foot-4 forward Jeff Lannan, that have figure to play regular minutes this season.

In the Silver, defending champion Hinsdale Central lost a lot from last year’s team, but brings back talented 6-foot-7 junior Matt Rafferty. York lost David Cohn, currently playing for Colorado State, but has 6-foot-8 Air Force recruit Frank Toohey. Oak Park-River Forest could also be a factor in the race. LT expects to be right there with all of them this winter.

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Lyons Township Lions

Coach: Tom Sloan
Conference: West Suburban Silver
2012-13 record: 13-15 (3-9 WSS)
First game: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday vs. Argo
Top returners:
Sam Cybulski sr. G/F
Chris Hester sr. F
Matt Mrazek sr. F
Harrison Niego jr. G
Promising newcomers:
Sean Lannan jr. F
Jaquan Phipps jr. G/F