The upcoming spring season should be an exciting adventure for Chris Smith, the coach of the Bolingbrook Panthers’ squad. Smith will be leading a very talented, but very young team.
“We haven’t finalized our rosters yet, but I know about 10 of the players on our top team,” Smith said. “We are going to be young, but this is a very good group. They are all getting experience right now with their high school varsity teams, but it is going to be very interesting to see how they match up against the top competition.”
The youthful Panthers will get one of those challenges in Raleigh, NC, on April 25-27 at the Deep South Classic. Now in its 17th year, the Deep South Classic annually hosts many of the nation’s elite travel teams in a field that will eclipse 200 squads, and hundreds of collegiate coaches will be on hand searching for talent. The 2014 event will mark the second year that the Deep South Classic has been held at the Raleigh Convention Center. The venue was a tremendous success in its debut last year, with all games played at one site on 18 courts, and it is in a convenient central location.
“We’re definitely excited about being back in the Deep South Classic,” said Smith, who will be making his fourth trip to the event. “I have to admit that I was concerned when they first switched over from the college campuses. We enjoyed that set up, but they last year in downtown Raleigh was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had. I can tell you that as long as I’m involved with the Panthers, we won’t miss the Deep South Classic.”
This year the Panthers will be led in Raleigh by point guard Nicole Ekhomu. The 5-6 floor general is rated as the No. 14 recruit in the 2015 class by the All Star Girls Report. Ekhomu will be supported by 2015 post player Parris Bryant, and three highly-regarded 2017 prospects — 6-1 Ty Battle (the daughter of former Illinois/NBA standout Kenny Battle, and No. 166 on ASGR’s list for 2017), 6-0 Jnaya Walker (ASGR’s No. 44), and 6-2 Sydney Schultz.
“Nicole is a very experienced leader for us,” Smith said. “She was at the USA U-16 tryouts last year, but she broke her nose and had to drop out. Parris is a player who makes a difference for us on both ends. I definitely think she is ready to make a name for herself in the spring.
“The three 2017 players are all going to be very good. They are already being recruited by BCS schools, and I know a lot of people are going to be very interested in watching them in the spring.”
Bret McCormick, the veteran analyst for ASGR, is also looking forward to seeing the Panthers at the Deep South Classic.
“Nicole is their top player. She is a combo guard who is a great, explosive athlete who can attack the basket and score,” McCormick said. “Parris is a long, athletic post player with skills that are coming. Ty is an inside-outside player. Jnaya is a two-three who can post up inside, or she can move out to the perimeter and either shoot it or attack the rim. Sydney can score inside with a nice jump hook and she can face up and shoot it out to the arc.”