Fenwick High School boys basketball finished 21-13 last season. They won an IHSA Class 3A regional for the second consecutive year, and dropped a close sectional final to St. Ignatius, which finished fourth in the state.
But the Friars suffered several unexpected setbacks during the offseason as head coach Tony Young stepped down and four players transferred out.
New head coach David Fergerson, who served as an assistant for last year’s girls team coached by his wife Lenae, wants to keep Fenwick’s momentum going forward.
“I honestly feel that people are overlooking us,” he said. “They look at the guys we lost, but I feel I have a good core returning. Even though we lost Darshan [Thomas] (transferred to Marist), JT [Pettigrew] (Bolingbrook), and DJ [Porter] (Romeoville), their departures opened up opportunities for our returning guys. They’re hungry and ready to play, and I feel we’re going to be really good.”
Fenwick started the season on a high note, Nov. 20, with a 65-60 victory over Neuqua Valley in the Hoops 4 Healing Tournament at Oswego. Junior guard Ty Macariola had a team-high 19 points for the Friars.
Junior forward Nate Marshall, one of the state’s top football prospects, and junior guard Dominick Ducree each had 10 points, and junior Jimmy O’Brien added eight points.
“It was a nerve-wracking win,” Fergerson said. “The guys came through with some big plays at the end.”
Ducree, Marshall (All-Chicago Catholic League Honorable Mention) and junior guard Kam Hogan are returning starters from last season, while Macariola and junior guard Caleb Burgins were significant contributors off the bench. Juniors Makai Mandley, Deonte Meeks, and Jack O’Leary also return.
Besides O’Brien, newcomers include freshmen Jake Thies and Jimmy Watts, sophomore Tommy Thies, juniors Frankie Hosty and Timmy Woods, and senior Marek Hill.
“We’re just trying to stack good days together,” Fergerson said. “We’re still trying to learn each other, but things are going OK.”
He likes the way the Friars have practiced and feels as if they’ve bought into him. Effort, he says, is a major tenet of his coaching philosophy.
“You have to be able to play hard,” he said. “If you can do that, you should be fine.”
As is customary, the schedule does Fenwick no favors. The annual crosstown showdown with OPRF, Dec. 1, at Credit One Union Arena on the University of Illinois Chicago campus is always fiercely contested.
“We’re looking forward to that game,” Fergerson said. “The guys are going to be excited to play in a big-time college atmosphere.”
Fergerson also looks forward to the Friars’ first-ever appearance in the prestigious Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York, Dec. 26-30.
“That tournament has some really good teams,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”
The Catholic League is generally considered one of the area’s best conferences, and Fergerson appreciates that competition as well.
“There’s plenty of high-level basketball with good teams and good coaches,” he said. “I’m really excited and honored to be the coach at Fenwick. Traditionally, it’s been a good program, and to be here with this group of guys is a good situation for me.”
Fergerson believes it’s important for Fenwick to build upon the foundation Young developed. If the Friars keep stacking good days and continue to jell, he said, the record will take care of itself.
“We want to play a good brand of basketball and peak at the right time, which is the postseason,” Fergerson said. “I think we’re going to be solid.”
After facing Oswego Nov. 21 (after deadline), Fenwick will play Rockford Guilford on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m. and conclude the Hoops 4 tournament on Nov. 24.