Boys Basketball: Jake Maestranzi’s transfer jolts South Elgin
By Gene Chamberlain For Sun-Times Media June 17, 2012 6:50PM
South Elgin's Matt Smith brings the ball up court at the Hoop Mountain Shootout at West Aurora. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 19, 2012 6:14AM
During summer basketball, high school teams pick up where they left off or they pick up the pieces.
Larkin appears to be starting summer where it left off after an impressive showing at the West Aurora Hoop Mountain Shootout over the weekend. South Elgin, meanwhile, is trying to fit pieces together after losing the rock of its program over the past two years — point guard Jake Maestranzi.
The 5-foot-8 senior has transfered to Niles Notre Dame after a season when he averaged 11.9 points, 3.1 assists and sank 56 three-pointers.
Storm coach Chaz Taft did not want to comment on the transfer after his team’s last game at the Hoop Mountain Shootout because he said his policy is “not to talk basketball out of season.”
However, he did tell The Aurora Beacon-News, sister paper of The Courier-News, that the decision was made with an eye on Maestranzi’s potential college career.
“It hurts us, not only at the varsity level but all through the program down to the grade schools and feeder programs because all those kids looked up to him,” a disappointed Taft told The Beacon-News. “He’s the youngest of four (brothers), but will be the only one who doesn’t graduate from a U-46 school.
“His dad said he thought Jake would have a better chance of getting a Division I scholarship (playing for Niles Notre Dame).”
Maestranzi’s departure leaves the Storm looking for backcourt help, but players thought they might have some answers.
“Sure, we’re going to miss Jake,” junior guard Darius Wells said. “We’ve played with him here three years and it’s a big loss. But I can handle it some, and we’ve got an outstanding freshman coming in, Matt Smith, and he’s going to be able to play there. He’s got a lot of potential.”
Smith is the 5-11 younger brother of former South Elgin girls basketball standout Becca Smith. He put his talents on display during the early part of the weekend’s tournament, but had to sit out the finale — a 59-54 loss to Riverside-Brookfield — with a sprained ankle.
Wells also was out of the tournament due to a minor injury. Maestranzi had been the team’s captain, and now Wells has taken over as team captain.
The Storm went 1-4 in the tournament, beating St. Francis but losing to Batavia, Naperville North, Rockford Auburn and Riverside-Brookfield.
Larkin lost key post player Antonio Pipes to graduation but is basically returning the same team and it showed at the shootout. The Royals went 4-1, losing only to Morgan Park (64-40). The Royals’ wins came over Rock Island, Hinsdale South, Robinson and Aurora Central Catholic.
“Obviously we’re further along than last year at this same point because of our experience, but we need to be as far for our expectations,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “It’s all a process. The trick will be whether we can improve as much as we improved last year from this time until the beginning of last season. That’s the challenge before our guys right now.”
The Royals’ outside shooting and ability to run the floor with returning guards Quentin Ruff, Derrick Streety, Quantice Hunter and Kendale McCullum were apparent all tournament.
“We still have work to do,” Hunter said. “But I think we’re looking pretty solid. We’ve all been working hard over the offseason and it’s starting to pay off.”
Although they lost Pipes and Blake Grantham to graduation, the Royals have sophomore Daniel McFadden in the pivot and he looks to have added an inch or two since last year when he was 6-4, and his shooting ability to hit the 10-foot jumper is a welcome addition.
“He’s going to be a big key,” Carter said of his center, who saw limited varsity action as a freshman. “He’s so big and physical. And then you watch him play sometimes and he shows that in his reactions he’s still very young.
“He’s going to be able to score a little better than some of the posts we’ve had in the past, for sure.”
Drew Jones, 6-4 son of Streamwood coach Tim Jones, has added some strength and displayed an expanded shooting range in the tournament.
“He’s playing with a lot more confidence,” Carter said. “All our guys are. They’ve had some early success in the summer so that helps.”
Like many area teams, the Royals are honing their skills at Geneva’s summer league and they’ll play in early July at the Crystal Lake South Shootout before dispersing for summer. Many players take part in AAU ball then.
“The best thing is that now it’s the fourth year of our program and our seniors have been through it four years,” Carter said. “What we’ve always lacked is that senior leadership with four years in the program. That’s huge.”
St. Charles East (3-2), Huntley (2-3), Hampshire (1-4) and Burlington Central (1-4) also participated in the tournament.