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For Huntley, the first half of the 2012-13 season could have a much different feel than the second.
Early on the Red Raiders will be looking to replace four starters from last year’s team that went 26-4 and won regional and Fox Valley Valley titles for the second straight season.
Of those four vacancies in the lineup, three were created by graduation. The other one came about when junior standout Amanze Egekeze (6-foot-7, F) underwent surgery for right knee tendonitis in September.
The procedure is expected to sideline Egekeze until at least mid-December, and there’s a chance he won’t be back until after Christmas break. That means early on Huntley will try to patch things together without a Division-I prospect who averaged a team-best 11.7 points as a sophomore to go along with 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.
“It’s tough having your best player out at the beginning because a lot of things you’d like to do offensively kind of revolve around him,” Huntley coach Marty Manning said. “I’m interested to see how we’ll do the first couple months with guys playing different roles. Then once Amanze comes back, we’re going to have to switch roles again.
“How we handle all of that will be important for how our season goes.”
If history is any indicator, the Red Raiders will be able to weather the storm under the guidance of Manning, who has enjoyed a winning season in each of his first six years at the helm.
The return of senior Bryce Only (6-1, G) is another reason for optimism. A four-year varsity starter, Only saw an up-tick in production last season when he averaged 8.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.0 steals.
“Bryce is just dominating practice, and when you’re a fourth-year starting senior, that’s just kind of the way it goes,” Manning said. “He should have a really good year.”
Senior T.J. Adams (5-11, G) takes over at point guard after coming off the bench as a junior. Seniors Tommy Regan (5-11, G) and Jake Wagner (6-2, G) are two other returning players who figure to have expanded roles.
Expectations are high for junior Zach Gorney (6-4, F), who led the sophomore team in scoring and rebounding last year. Juniors Dan Janus (6-3, F), Jason Shields (5-9, G) and Blake Jacobs (6-1, G) will also be in the mix.
Huntley went undefeated in conference play last year and enters the season on a 20-game win streak in FVC Valley games. Plenty of challenges lurk, but the Raiders look like the cream of the crop in the league once again.
“This current senior class went undefeated in middle school their seventh and eighth grade years, so we always knew they were going to be a very good class,” Manning said. “When you team them up with Amanze and Zach and some of our other juniors, this could be a potent group.”