RIVERSIDE – Take a look at the Riverside Brookfield varsity boys basketball roster and something might stand out about the ages of the players.
Of the 15 players on the roster, just two are seniors. Two sophomores also are on the team and both play major minutes. Most of the team is juniors, however.
That junior class has seen a lot of success coming up through the lower levels and is hoping to turn that into winning ways with the varsity team. In two years on the sophomore level, juniors Sam Johnson and Paul Sitkiewicz went 43-5.
“It just shows you how bad losing is when you only lose twice a year,” Johnson said. “It just makes you want to win more.”
Those sophomore teams also helped form chemistry for the current varsity team. When Johnson and Sitkiewicz were freshmen, they played up on the sophomore level with the Bulldogs’ two current seniors, Jack VandeMerkt and Will Kincanon. Sophomore Mark Smith played up a year to join the sophomore team a year ago.
Throw in some extra time together during AAU season and the Bulldogs had no trouble working with each other on the court.
“We all had played together,” Sitkiewicz said. “We already had a lot of chemistry coming in.”
The only player that didn’t play with the 11 juniors on the roster is sophomore Daniko Jackson, who slid into the starting point guard role. Jackson comes in with an impressive pedigree of his own. He was on a freshman A team that went 24-0 last season and won 20 of its games by double figures.
“The years before, we had a lot of success so we had something to live up to,” Sitkiewicz said. “We accepted it and we were ready.
“We had to put in a lot of work over the summer and even the fall getting [ready] with the team and making sure everyone is on the same page before coming to the first game. Everything is going well so far.”
Overall, the Bulldogs are off to a winning start. They are 3-0 in the Metro Suburban Conference, on pace for the program’s 13th straight conference title.
Individually, Johnson hit the ground running by scoring 27 points in his varsity debut. He also put up his first two double-doubles Dec. 20 against Illiana Christian in a 73-61 win (19 points, 11 rebounds) and in the first round of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic against Glenbard East on Dec. 26 (19 points, 13 rebounds).