By Mark Jurgena, Reporter
Collinsville returns several starters from last year’s 27-6 squad that finished tied for third in the Southwestern Conference with Alton. Both squads went 8-4 in SWC play.
The Kahoks return several starters back from a squad that beat the Class 4A state champs in Belleville West and the Class 3A state champs in East St. Louis.
“We had a great year, we’ve got a lot of guys back, three or four returning starters. We’ve got a chance to be pretty good. We return our leading scorer, return our point guard, return our center. We’ve got some key pieces back,” said Kahok coach Darin Lee.
Three-year contributor at guard, senior Ray’Sean Taylor, returns for CHS. He was named third team all-state by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association last season. He also earned a spot on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch All-Metro team and for the second consecutive season he was an All-SWC pick.
He led the team in scoring with 706 points and averaged 21.4 points per game and 3.4 assists per game.
“Obviously he’s a great scorer, a great finisher around the basket. He’s been an incredible offensive player. He’s shot it well, but really his strength is getting to the basket finishing around the basket and getting to the free throw line. He has had an incredible career to this point,” said Lee.
Coming into this season Taylor has 1,363 points for his career.
Taylor recently signed a National Letter of Intent to join SIUE next fall.
Also returning for CHS is senior point guard Cawhan Smith.
“He is very quick and a hard worker; a great point guard. He gets his hands on a lot of basketballs, you just don’t want to dribble much around him. He’s an incredibly quick, heady player.
Smith earned his way into a starting role halfway through his sophomore year. Last year he averaged 3.5 steals per game and another 3.5 assists per game.
Keydrian Jones also brings his eight points and six rebounds per game back for his senior year. The 6-6 Jones will man the five spot for Collinsville.
“He’s a hard worker in practice and runs the floor extremely well. He’s a really good offensive rebounder. He will need to finish around the bucket for us, that will be important,” said Lee.
Senior Lorent Dzeladini was in and out of the starting lineup last season. He returns to occupy the three spot for CHS.
“He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, he’s a really strong rebounder for his size,” said Lee.
Lee also mentioned a couple of potential players to play the four spot. Both Nate Hall, at 6-7 and David Granger at 6-6 are juniors working for playing time.
The Kahoks schedule is even tougher than last year.
In addition to SWC play, the Kahoks are in three shootouts.
On December 14th, they travel to Edwardsville to take on Chicago Morgan Park for a 6:30 p.m. start. Morgan Park is ranked 19th in the country by USA Today.
On January 11th, they travel to Highland to take on Creve Coeur (Mo.) DeSmet for a 1 p.m. contest.
Their final shootout appearance will be in O’Fallon against perennial Chicago and national power Chicago Simeon on February 8th.
“The key for us to compete and maybe knock some of these teams off is going to be how we defend and how we defensive rebound. Those are going to be keys for us. I thought we gave up too many defensive rebounds last year at times. We’re capable, but that’s going to be a key for us,” Lee said.
CHS began their season at Carterville Monday night in the Pyramid Plus Tournament against the host school. Results were not available at press time.
The Kahoks have moved from the Jerseyville tournament to the Chick-fil-a tournament at Belleville East in mid-January.
The annual Prairie Farms Holiday Classic will be played on Friday, Saturday and Monday this year. The tourney starts December 27th and 28th and concludes December 30th.
“It’s big thing. It’s a big tournament for us. Obviously our kids, losing the championship game the last two years, are going to be pretty hungry for that. It’s a great tournament,” said Lee.
Last season the Kahoks suffered a heartbreaking loss in the PFHC championship game against Springfield Southeast. The Spartans hit a last second three to win 65-62.