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Boys basketball preview: Young and talented Bulldogs set sights on conference

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 12:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:58 p.m. CDT
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(Sarah Minor file photo - sminor@shawmedia.com)
Riverside Brookfield's Jack VandeMerkt drives the lane during a game last season. VandeMerkt is one of just two seniors on a versatile and talented Bulldogs' team this season.

RIVERSIDE – Riverside Brookfield returns just two seniors on its entire roster, but an influx of young talent should allow the Bulldogs to have another winning season.

The two seniors, 6-foot-7 Jack VandeMerkt and 6-foot-3 Will Kincanon, were both regulars last season. VandeMerkt could be the Bulldogs’ best three-point shooter, a rare skill for a player his height. He is one of the tougher matchups in the state and already has received interest from Division III schools. Kincanon, who is committed to pitch for Middle Tennessee State, is a guard with good athleticism.

After that, coach Tom McCloskey is relying on newcomers to show their talent is good enough to play at the varsity level. Last year’s sophomore team went 21-3 and the freshman A team went 24-0.

“The junior class has had a lot of success, and the two sophomores we brought up have a bright future,” McCloskey said.

McCloskey said seven players have separated themselves in the preseason and look like they will form the primary rotation. Two sophomores, 5-foot-9 guard Daniko Jackson and 6-foot-7 Mark Smith, will be among them. Three juniors, 5-foot-11 guard Kevin Fitzgerald, 6-foot-6 wing Sam Johnson and 6-foot-5 forward Paul Sitkiewicz, will also play.

RB has four players standing 6-foot-5 or taller, making them a tough team for opposing teams to guard.

“This is one of the bigger teams that I’ve coached and we have a good playmaker and we have guys that can hit shots,” McCloskey said. “We should have good balance inside and out.”

With all these talented players, McCloskey knows that getting the right fit and chemistry on the court is essential.

“We consider all five guys on the court a threat so shot selection is going to be a key,” he said. “Making sure that we mix it up a little bit and get everybody some shots and take good shots. I think defense will be a key. I think we have to play with a good team defense concept. A lot of our guys haven’t had a lot of experience at the varsity level so that will be a work in progress. Everybody is optimistic.”

RB is hoping to win its 13th straight conference title, eighth straight since the inception of the Metro Suburban Conference. McCloskey also mentioned winning a holiday tournament, whether it be their own Thanksgiving tournament or York’s holiday tournament, as another goal.

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Riverside Brookfield Bulldogs

Coach: Tom McCloskeyConference: Metro Suburban2012-13 record: 21-7 (11-1 MSC)Next game: 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. KenwoodTop returners: Will Kincanon sr. G Jack VandeMerkt sr. FPromising newcomers: Kevin Fitzgerald jr. G Daniko Jackson so. G Sam Johnson jr. G Paul Sitkiewicz jr. F Mark Smith so. C

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