CICERO – Four returning starters is enough to bring high expectations for a basketball team, but Morton coach Tony Martinucci was most excited about the depth of his team.
Martinucci said the Mustangs will play at least 10 players in their rotation this season and there isn’t much off a drop off within the bench. The deep bench will support returning starters Weisner Perez, Jarvis Cannon, Greg Carter and Antario Simon.
The Mustangs hope to compete for the West Suburban Gold title. Last year they only lost to Proviso East, which went 12-0 in the Gold.
With the Pirates losing four of their top five scorers and their top two rebounders, the Mustangs may have a shot. East still has West Virginia recruit Jevon Carter leading the way, though.
“East is still East until you beat them,” Martinucci said. “Every year they’re the team to beat until you beat them.”
Perez could potentially lead the team in points and rebounds. After playing with his brother, Waller, last year the 6-foot-6 Weisner will have a bigger role. Simon, who is 6-foot-7 and athletic, teams with Perez to give Morton a pair of quality interior players. At guard, Carter and Cannon will run the show. Carter is entering his third year on varsity.
“We got some shooters and some quickness and a little bit of size,” Martinucci said. “It’s going to be fun, but I don’t think we’ll hit our stride until hopefully [the Proviso West Holiday Tournament], but it might even be a little bit after that because the juniors will have to get used to the speed of the game.”
While it may take the Mustangs’ newcomers several games to adapt, the current juniors won the Gold as sophomores and won over 20 games.
“I think our strength over anybody in the conference is our bench,” Martinucci said. “We got a lot of kids that can play. There’s not a big drop off.”
As a result, look for the Mustangs to play at a higher tempo than normal. Martinucci isn’t shy to let his teams run, but this year’s group gives Morton more of an opportunity to try to wear out opponents.
Miguel Lopez played up on varsity for part of the season last year. Luke Belcaster, brother of former Morton star and current Ball State sophomore forward Rocco, also figures to be a regular. Senior Ogie Davis transferred back to Morton after leaving the district his junior year and will play. Juniors Dexter Dale, Antonio Haley and Keandre Townes fill out the rotation.
A strange note about Morton’s schedule is that their first home game is Jan. 17 against Proviso East. The Mustangs will travel for two holiday tournaments, play a pair of showcase games and their first three Gold games are on the road before they take the court for a game in Cicero.
Coach: Tony MartinucciConference: West Suburban Gold2012-13 record: 16-8 (10-1 WSG)First game: 6 p.m. Wednesday vs. Fenwick at Lyons TownshipTop returners: Jarvis Cannon sr. G Greg Carter sr. G Weisner Perez jr. F Antario Simon sr. FPromising newcomers: Luke Belcaster jr. G Dexter Dale jr. G Ogie Davis sr. G Antonio Haley jr. G Miguel Lopez jr. G Keandre Townes jr. G