The Western Big 6 Conference boys basketball tipoff banquet returned Wednesday with a lot of anticipation ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Seven of the eight coaches made their way to the Quad-City Botanical Center to talk about their teams, joke about the “transfer portal” that occurred this offseason and changed the Big 6 landscape in a big way, and give insight into what they expect from their squads.
Here’s what the five local coaches had to say about their programs before the season gets underway next week:
Almost every coach at the podium Wednesday joked about the additions Moline made this offseason.
It’s no secret they are the conference favorites.
A pair of University of Iowa commits in Brock Harding and transfer Owen Freeman pillar a starting five that also includes 2021 starters Grant Welch and Trey Taylor. Jasper Ogburn off of the bench will also give the Maroons physical minutes.
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The Maroons are attempting to compete for a state title, and with that, loaded the schedule with teams such as Chicago Simeon, East St. Louis, Carmel (Ind.), St. Louis Vashon, Wisconsin Lutheran and Normal Community.
“I think we’re going to have a good team,” Moline coach Sean Taylor said. “We are going to have to challenge them. See how good we can be. Hopefully, we are going to be good enough at the end.”
The Rocks graduated 10 seniors from last season’s squad and return just one (Cameron Atkinson) who played significant minutes.
Termell Akers and Quonterrion Brooks also return, but Rocky also had KJ LaMonte, Cameron Figgs and D’Vonte Cartwright move up to challenge for varsity minutes.
“It’s going to be a totally different look,” Rock Island coach Marc Polite said. “We have some guys that are tired of sitting behind some others, and it’s going to be exciting to show what they can do.”
Rock Island will be one of the top teams challenging Moline for a WB6 title.
“This is the best-coached league in the state of Illinois," said Polite. "Teams are always prepared and you know it’s going to be a dogfight every night.”
Rock Island gets the season underway Nov. 25 against Carver Military Academy.
Coach Ryan Webber said the Panthers aren’t very big, but have a number of ball-skilled players such as Geneseo transfer Bristol Lewis, Omarion Roberts and De’Vontay Wright.
Roberts flashed his ability as a scorer in the summer, and Lewis has been one of the best shot makers the past two seasons in the WB6 during his time at Geneseo. Last season, Wright established himself as the teams’ best shooter from beyond the arc.
Jackson Colgan and Caeden Terrell can also provide solid minutes for a Panther squad that wants to improve on a 15-15 (5-9 WB6) season from a year ago.
United Township gets underway Nov. 25 at 10:30 a.m. against Erie-Prophetstown.
Coach Brad Storm was candid when speaking about the Maple Leafs at the podium Wednesday.
“It’s no secret our team is down this year in terms of numbers, size, athleticism and experience,” Storm said. “None of our four seniors were starters, so they are now being thrust into the lineup to be key players this season.”
Geneseo lost first-team all-conference member Lewis, and now has just 20 players in the entire program.
But before Geneseo’s first game next week, Storm said the feeling at practice has been something to enjoy.
“Attitude has been great and there is positivity in the air we haven’t had in a few years,” Storm said. “They are excited for the season and are celebrating each other.”
The Pioneers are guided by Rick Thomas, who was hired to coach Alleman in April.
Five seniors grace the 11-man varsity squad that seeks to find a win after a 0-27 campaign last year.
Thomas said they’ve been forced to practice in the morning before school because four kids are in other extracurricular activities, but appreciates their commitment to the program.
Alleman begins its season Monday at the Orion Tip-Off Classic.