Deep South Classic Entrant Bolingbrook Panthers Flying High

The Bolingbrook Panthers have a tradition of success, and that should continue when the Illinois program hits the road again in 2015.

“I think we should be good again next year,” said Coach Chris Smith. “We only lost one player from last year. I love our roster right now, and we’re hoping to add a couple of pieces. We’re excited about the possibilities.”

The Panthers will look to make an early statement at the 2015 Deep South Classic, which will be played in Raleigh, NC on April 24-26. The Deep South Classic, which annually features the nation’s top travel programs, will once again have the entire tournament in one facility — the tremendous Raleigh Convention Center.

“Obviously they do a great job running the event,” Smith said. “It used to be that the big thing was being able to play at the UNC, Duke and NC State campuses. Then that ended. Now, the big attraction is that you have all these top teams from around the country in one building.

“When you have all your teams in one building, it’s a great situation. Plus, it’s going to give you kids prime time exposure. You have college coaches from across the country. That level of national exposure is just something you can’t pass up.”

The Panthers’ Class of 2016 features a pair of outstanding backcourt prospects who will be under the microscope in Raleigh. Nicole Ekhomu (5-9, G) is rated as the No. 22 recruit nationally in the class by the All Star Girls Report, and Cinia McCray (5-8, SG) is a rising off guard.

“Nicole is just a player who can do it all. She already has over 40 Division I offers, and most of those schools see her as a combo guard,” Smith said. “Cinia is a player that everyone should keep an eye on this summer. She is an athletic guard who can hit the three. She is very explosive off the dribble and she has a knack for getting to the basket. She can finish in the lane, and she can draw the foul.”

“Ekhomu is one of the top players in the class,” said ASGR analyst Bret McCormick. “She is an explosive athlete who is great at attacking the basket, and she can score in a lot of ways. McCray is a quick combo guard who can get to the hoop or shoot the three.”

The 2017 Panthers are paced by two talented forwards — Ty Battle (6-1, PF, No. 116 rank) and Jnaya Walker (6-0, F, No. 40)

“Most importantly, Ty has a tremendous basketball IQ,” Smith said. “She has a very good inside-outside game. She is a very strong rebounder and she finishes around the basket, and she can also step out to 15 feet.

“Jnaya is a player who could be a one, two or three. We use her as our point forward a lot of times. She can lead the transition, shoot the three, attack off the dribble or play with her back to the basket.”

“Battle is a long, athletic three-four player. She can face up to 16 feet, and she really understands the game,” added McCormick. “Walker is a good, strong athlete. She can post people up, she has a good mid-range game, and she can shoot the three.”