Young ranks as the girls basketball team to beat, thanks especially to these four key players, who are all Division I signees: Chanise Jenkins (left), Bryesha Blair, Kiana Johnson and Dija Disu.
Bolingbrook topped Young in last season's girls basketball Class 4A final, and it would be no surprise if those two teams made it that far again this season. Here's a look at the Sun-Times' preseason top 10:
1. YOUNG: Most of the Dolphins return, including four who signed letters of intent Sunday -- Chanise ''Trix'' Jenkins (DePaul), Kiana Johnson (Michigan State), Bryesha Blair (Central Florida) and Dija Disu (Texas Southern). Also back but currently on the mend is sophomore guard Linnae Harper, who is among the best guards in the nation in her class. Though the Dolphins joke about being vertically challenged, it's hard not to notice 6-3 freshman Khaalia Hillsman, a daughter of Benoit Benjamin, the third overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers.
''We're really excited because these kids have all been playing together for a long time, the majority of their basketball lives,'' Young coach Corry Irvin said. ''These seniors are really good at competing and pushing each other every day in practice. I'm really happy with these kids and the way they are approaching the season.''
Among the top juniors are Janee Thompson and Alexis Lloyd.
The schedule is challenging and will take the Dolphins to five states. In a more balanced Public League, Young is a good bet to win again.
2. BOLINGBROOK: Coach Tony Smith's Raiders are aiming for a three-peat as state champions behind two standouts who spent the summer playing for USA Basketball in international tournaments: Tennessee-bound guard Ariel Massengale and junior forward Morgan Tuck, who combined to average 31.5 points per game last season. Also back are Tuck's older sister, Taylor, who signed with Illinois, and Northern Illinois recruit Falon Edwards. Then add three move-in transfers: sisters Nia and Ayana Moore from Morgan Park and talented junior Keiera Ray from Waubonsie Valley. Sophomores Kennedy Cattenhead and Kierra Currie and juniors Cabriana Capers, DeLacy Anderson and Alexandria Hill also are back from last year's team, which was ranked among the best in the nation.
''The strength of our team is that we have good guards and good posts,'' Smith said. ''Our job is to turn them into great guards and great posts. The kids have the potential to do that if they stay the course.''
3. MONTINI: Coach Jason Nichols' squad looks to be in a class of its own in Class 3A. Three seniors have signed: Whitney Holloway (Notre Dame), Whitney Adams (North Carolina) and Kiki Wilson (Wisconsin-Milwaukee). Add to the mix guard Kasey Reaber, a starter for Driscoll's 2009 state champs. She's scheduled to return next month after recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered over the summer. Others to watch are sophomores Malayna Johnson, the 6-4 sister of current Connecticut freshman Michala, and 6-4 Diamond Thompson. Three freshmen also could be heard from: Kelly Karlis, Kateri Stone and Sara Ross. Tianna Brown adds punch inside, and guard Nikia Edom also returns.
4. MARIAN CATHOLIC: With one of the best teams in the state, coach Annie Basic-Byrne said the goal is ''to start strong and finish even stronger.'' Leading the way will be seniors Simone Law, Jasmine Matthews and Jamie Johnson. Among the talented underclassmen are 6-foot sophomore Megan Walsh and 5-10 freshman Dajhue Mullins. Another freshman to watch is 5-8 Brianna Morrison. Marian Catholic rates a slight edge over Marist, Fenwick and Bishop McNamara in the always-tough East Suburban Catholic Conference.
5. GENEVA: The Vikings have been as good as anyone during the last two regular seasons and return one of the best backcourts around with Ohio-bound Kat Yelle and Notre Dame soccer recruit Sammy Scofield. The two were to be joined by the outstanding sister tandem of junior Ashley and freshman Sidney Santos, but Sidney suffered a season-ending ACL tear on the first day of practice and will undergo surgery. Coach Gina Nolan said sophomore Sami Pawlak will be relied on inside. Also back are guards Kelsey Pease and Katelyn Allen.
6. MARIST: Coach Mary Pat Connolly returns four starters and six seniors from a 24-8 team that was deep and talented. Sophomore JeTaun Rouse is back. Also returning for the RedHawks are junior guard Randyll Butler, the post tandem of junior Asia Bey and senior Teagan Walsh, and sophomore Leah Butler. Another player to watch is sophomore guard Cairra Cortez.
7. FENWICK: The Friars have big shoes to fill with the graduation of 2010 Player of the Year Tricia Liston (Duke). Back are guard Sarah Williams, who signed with Lehigh; shooting guard Kathleen Roche, who was sidelined in the summer following shoulder surgery, and 6-foot forward Kyra Navarrete. Junior Meredith Boardman still is recovering from an ACL injury and should be back by Christmas. Post players Heather Casper and Hannah Ballard also return. Newcomers to watch include freshman point guard Jade Owens, sophomore Maggie Reilly and junior Marek Burchell. Coach Dave Power enters the season with 796 career wins and is 16-for-16 since joining the East Suburban Catholic.
8. TRINITY: Coach Eddie Stritzel has all 10 players back from a sectional-champion team led by 6-1 junior Megan Podkowa. Also returning are Taylor Nazon, Gracie Sanchez and Taricka Linzy, a four-year varsity player. Junior transfer Alyssa Dengler and sophomore guard Mikayla Leyden, who had an ACL injury last year, are key additions. Younger players to watch include sophomore Shannon McGinnis and freshmen Lauren Prochaska and Maya Garland.
9. STEVENSON: Coach Tom Dineen returns four starters and nine players from a 21-8 team that lost seven games by 18 total points. Western Michigan recruit Michelle O'Brien averaged 16.3 points and 9.1 rebounds last season and was the MVP at the Maine West Thanksgiving tournament. The Patriots' best defender is 5-9 guard Anna Morrissey, who led the team in assists and steals. The daughter of former Bear Jim Morrissey is Stevenson's defensive stopper and will walk on at Michigan State, where her father played football. Sophomore Kari Moffat returns at the point.
10. NILES WEST: Junior guard Jewell Loyd ranks among the nation's best in her class and spent a good part of the summer playing for USA Basketball. Last year, Loyd led the Wolves to a share of the Central Suburban South title (with New Trier and Glenbrook South) and then a supersectional berth. Also returning are Nicole Moy and Laurie DeJohns. Newcomers to watch include freshman Dashae Schumate and sophomore Molly Kleppin.