Winning every game is a dream for any ambitious team. Although they are not aiming for that kind of perfection, the Cyclone men’s basketball team has the energy to shoot for a third straight Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championship this season.
The reigning co-Skyway champions have a mixed bag of six returners along with top recruits and a new head coach. Veteran skipper Anthony Amarino took the reins when David Howard stepped down after three seasons. Amarino coached Morton College and Harper College for more than 20 years, collectively, which included several conference and region championships as well as a trip to the national tournament. After a brief stint in retirement, he’s happy to be back coaching a Skyway team. And he has a fine group to work with.
Six-foot-seven guard/forward Tommy Demogerontas (Sandburg) is back this season. Last year he had eight double-doubles and was named to the All-Region second team and All-Conference first team. He’s joined by returner Luke Hook (Andrew), a 6-foot-5 forward and second team All-Conference player. He ranked No. 4 in the NJCAA Division II for three-pointers (53.4 percent/39-73). Although 6-5 guard/forward Joe Ruzevich (Brother Rice) was out last year because of an injury, he’s in good form and expected to play solid minutes. Six-foot guard Jason Roland (Oak Forest) also returns and should make significant contributions.
Among the skilled newcomers is 6-3 forward/center Marlon Smith (Homewood Flossmoor), 6-3 guard/forward LeRon Williams (Tinley Park) and 6-foot guard Marcus Fry (Argo).
“We have a nice group. We’re quick, and we play hard. I think we look pretty good,” Amarino said. “We have a really good opportunity to do some good things. When you have vets who did well last year, they should help in the long run.”
Last year the Cyclones went 16-15 overall and were co-Skyway champions with a 10-4 conference record. Looking at a tough first half, all Amarino asks is that the guys play hard.
“I tell the guys to play every game as hard as they can. Do what you do and execute what we want, and if it doesn’t work, that’s okay. If you give yourself the opportunity to win, that’s all you can ask for,” he said. “They were co-champs last year. Why wouldn’t they think they could do it again? But, you don’t know what other schools have or if they recruited well. You never know until you see them. We have the first half of the season to scout them.”
The Cyclones open their run on Nov. 1 with an away game against a tough Triton College squad that handily defeated them last season. Moraine Valley wants to return the favor.
Amarino’s assistants this season are Roosevelt Green and Tanner Mitchell.