HILLSIDE – Antario Simon’s emergence this season has given the Morton boys basketball team another quality player in the front court.
That’s just what the Mustangs needed.
Simon showed flashes of his ability last year as a junior who played significant minutes, but he mostly came off the bench. This season, he has become a more consistent force on the inside as a starter for the Mustangs.
“I feel like my role increased this year,” Simon said. “My coaches told me to start doing my thing out there. They know I can create my own shot.”
As the tallest player on the team at 6-foot-7, Simon plays an important role on the interior. His improved play has given Morton a top rebounding duo along with talented junior forward Weisner Perez, a Division I prospect.
With Simon and Perez dominating the glass against most teams, the Mustangs are poised to make a strong push to win the West Suburban Gold this year. Proviso East has won league the past two years but doesn’t have quite the dominant talent it had in those seasons.
The Mustangs played the Pirates on Dec. 30 at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and held a 39-31 edge on rebounds with Perez hauling in 15 and Simon grabbing six. East came from nine points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime and eventually won, 74-70.
Both teams used the game to work out some things since it wasn’t a conference game and the two WSG favorites, which are both undefeated in conference, still have two meetings ahead.
“I think it was interesting in theory,” Martinucci said. “At least we know to practice against the zone a little bit. They’ve never played a zone before. We were playing man and they’re playing zone. Normally it’s always the opposite.”
If Morton is to get past the Pirates when it really counts – the Mustangs host East in the home opener on Jan. 17 and the two will meet in Maywood on Feb. 15 – Perez and Simon will need to play well inside.
“Me and him are playing real well together,” Perez said. “There’s teams that send two people to box me out alone and he has been helping me out.”
The praise goes both ways between the forward duo.
“Weisner, he is real dependable,” Simon said. “You can always depend on at least 10 rebounds out of him. He’s just a walking double-double.”
Next game: Morton at Leyden
What: West Suburban Gold game
Where: 3400 Rose St., Franklin Park
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday