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Darius Wells returns to the starting lineup for South Elgin this season. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
For South Elgin, the 2012-13 season represents a blank slate.
Most of the key contributors are gone from the team that posted a 12-16 record a year ago. Included in the list of departed players is Jake Maestranzi, who was the Storm’s starting point guard the past three seasons before transferring to Niles Notre Dame for his senior campaign.
What’s left at South Elgin is a largely untested but promising group of players eager to make a name for themselves under a coach more concerned with who is on the team than who isn’t.
“This group is going to kind of create their own identity and maybe play a little bit differently than we’re used to playing,” South Elgin coach Chaz Taft said. “We have a lot of inexperience on the varsity, but the guys play hard and they practice hard. I’m really looking forward to the season.”
Junior Darius Wells (5-foot-10, G) and senior Ryne Lundy (6-4, F/C) are both back for the Storm after making significant contributions last year. Lundy came on as a post presence late in the season, but Wells was a mainstay in the starting lineup from start to finish.
After Maestranzi, Wells was the team’s No. 2 scoring option last year. This winter he’ll be counted on to carry a heavier load in all areas.
“I think Darius is ready for a bigger role,” Taft said. “Mentally and physically I think he’s taken that step toward putting his whole game together.”
Freshman Matt Smith (5-10, G) is South Elgin’s most intriguing newcomer. Smith is the younger brother of Becca Smith, who graduated last spring as the girls basketball program’s all-time leading scorer and now plays at Loyola.
Juniors Matt McClure (5-8, G) and Chris Gibadlo (6-5, F/C) are two other newcomers Taft is counting on for significant contributions this year.
The Storm’s guard-heavy rotation will also include seniors Jacob Hicks (5-8, G) and Marcus Hatchett (5-7, G). Juniors Robert Grant (6-6, C) and Brian Winsel (6-2, F) will help anchor the post.
“Every day we’re working to get better,” Taft said. “Right now we’re just hoping to find which mix of guys work best starting and coming off the bench.”