It’s that time of the year again. Chicago has seen its first snowfall, and come Tuesday night at 7 p.m., the Maroons will play their regular season opener against Dominican at the Ratner Center.
With a strong recruiting class and every player returning from last season, confidence is high for the Chicago squad.
One player who will have a highly anticipated return for the Maroons is fourth-year forward Steve Stefanou, who will be expected to add diversity to the offensive structure. Last season, Stefanou sustained an injury that rendered him unable to play for much of the season. Chicago, which has various three-point specialists, will look for more post play this season.
“We’re still [going to] shoot a lot of threes, but adding Steve to the mix will diversify what we do,” fourth-year guard Tommy Sotos said. “Along with the development of [second-year forward] Sam Gage on the block to go along with [third-year forward] Matt Mackenzie and [Stefanou], we’ve focused a great deal on getting the ball into the post with more proficiency this year.”
In addition to Stefanou’s return, the Maroons hope fourth-year guard Matt Johnson continues to provide a similar type of scoring attach as last year. Johnson was the team’s leading scorer last, averaging 17.7 points per game. He also had a record-breaking performance of 39 points in a game against NYU.
Fourth-year Tom Williams will also be key for the Maroons on both offense and defense. Last season Williams was the blocks leader and second behind Johnson for most points per game with 9.4.
Individually, Sotos hopes to have an all-around clutch effort in the season opener.
“As an individual, I’m really looking to lock people up on defense and bury open jumpers on the offensive end,” he said. “My effectiveness on offense is predicated on my ability to stretch the floor with the jump shot, so if I can draw out the defense with a high perimeter field goal percentage, along with a turnover-free effort, I’ll be pleased.”
Although the Maroons lost to Dominican 74–73 in the season opener last season, this year, Dominican is without their leading scorer Marquis Turley, who graduated. Turley scored 16 points in the season opener last year.
The loss of Turley, along with the Maroons’ addition of first-year point guard Royce Muskeyvalley, may be enough for the Chicago to edge out Dominican. Muskeyvalley has already received attention for his teammates for his effectiveness at practice, scrimmages, and the preseason match at UIC.
“[Muskeyvalley’s] ability to probe the lane on offense and put pressure on the interior with his penetration is the ideal compliment to [fourth-year point guard Michael Sustarsic’s] game, which is predicated on a dead-eye perimeter shot and a savvy use of the dribble to test the defense,” Sotos said. “Defensively, [Muskeyvalley] makes entry into half-court sets a nightmare for opposing point guards because of his quickness and instincts. We’re really excited to have someone with his skill set on the floor this year.”
Joining Muskeyvalley will be first-years Adam Butterfield, Ryan Davis, Ian Joyce, and Alex Pyper.
With the dynamic lineup, the Maroons are hoping to begin their season with a 1–0 record. Tip-off is tonight at 7 p.m.