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University of Chicago basketball in the pink thanks to balance, depth

Updated: February 24, 2014 1:23PM

When Mike McGrath looks over his University of Chicago basketball team, he doesn’t see one big star. Instead, he sees a strong senior class and a whole lot of depth.

“A lot of time I like to coach a team where you know who your go-to guy is,” said McGrath, who is in his 15th season coaching the Maroons. “We really don’t have that. What we have is really, really good depth. We play 10 guys who are very, very good basketball players.

“To be honest with you, we have four freshmen who aren’t playing much yet who are going to be really good basketball players. They’re just behind a lot of guys.”

The Maroons (9-5, 2-1 University Athletic Association) feature 10 players who have played in every game and are averaging at least 13 minutes. Leading scorer Charlie Hughes, a 6-4 senior forward, is averaging 12.5 points a game, and 5-11 junior guard Royce Muskeyvalley averages 10.6. Chicago spreads the scoring around, with six players beyond the top two averaging at least six points a game.

“That’s our strength,” McGrath said. “We have a lot of good players. Charlie didn’t score the last game and we won a really nice game at home, and still scored 85 points [in an 85-75 victory over Brandeis]. “We just try to play really hard, and play really good defense, and come at you with a lot of depth.”

That includes a strong senior group with Hughes, 6-6 forward Sam Gage, 6-2 guard Derrick Davis and 5-10 guard Wayne Simon. There’s also a stronger local presence than usual with sophomores Nate Brooks and Jordan Smith from Young along with Simon, from St. Joseph.

“It’s been a lot of fun for us the last couple of years in that we’ve been able to get the Chicago area guys that we’re not always able to get at the University of Chicago,” McGrath said.

The Maroons are tied for second in the UAA, having lost 80-69 at league leader Washington of St. Louis, the eighth-ranked team in NCAA Division III.

‘They won the conference last year and they have most everybody back,” said McGrath, who looks forward to a March 1 rematch.

“We lost to them down there and we gave them everything they can handle. But our league top to bottom is really good. The worst record in our league nonconference is 6-5. It’s as good a conference as there is in the country right now.”

Stuut stays hot

For the second consecutive week. St. Xavier’s Morgan Stuut, a 5-10 junior forward, has been named national player of the week for NAIA Division II women’s basketball.

On Jan. 15, she had 11 points and 18 rebounds for her 14th double-double of the season as the Cougars (17-3, 7-1 CCAC) crushed Illinois Tech 92-42. Three days later, she was even better with her second triple-double of the season, scoring 40 points with 23 rebounds and 11 assists in a 117-80 CCAC rout of Olivet Nazarene.

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