The Bolingbrook Panthers have done their share of traveling this summer, but they will close out the year on their home turf at the Chicagoland Tournament of Champions, which will be played at Bolingbrook High School from Sept. 27-28. That event will cap what has been a strong year for the Panthers.
“This has been a really, really good year,” said veteran coach Chris Smith. “We had a lot of young players, and they have gotten some great experience this summer. We are loaded in the 2016 and 2017 classes, and those kids have really grown over the past couple of months.”
The anchor for the Panthers is 2016 point guard Nicole Ekhomu. The All Star Girls Report has the 5-8 floor leader listed as the No. 24 recruit nationally in the Class of 2016.
“Ekhomu is an explosive athlete. She is great off the bounce, and she knows how to score in traffic,” said ASGR analyst Bret McCormick. “Ekhomu is a special player who can score at will.”
“Nicole has over 40 offers from BCS schools alone,” Smith noted. “She is a super athlete with incredible hops, and the biggest thing with Nicole is her mid-range game. The other big thing is that she is just a true warrior.”
Smith is also high on two other 2016 backcourt standouts — 5-6 Brittney Patrick and 5-8 Cinia McCray.
“Brittney is out glue,” Smith said. “She is an energetic point guard who does all the little things. She makes our offense flow. Cinia is a scorer who can flat out put the ball in the basket. She is very tough and strong, and she has skills. She can hit the three and she can attack the basket — she draws fouls with the best of them.”
“Patrick and McCray are both good athletes who understand the game,” McCormick said. “Patrick is more of a point guard, while McCray is more of a two who can really get to the hoop.”
The Panthers’ 2017 class is led by Jnaya Walker (6-0, WF, No. 36 nationally), Ty Battle (6-1, F, No. 116) and Sydney Schultz (6-3, C).
“Jnaya is almost a point forward for us,” Smith said. “She can post up, but she can also take people off the dribble, lead the break, and shoot the three. She is a do it all player. Ty (the daughter of former Illinois and NBA player Kenny Battle) plays the four, and she is another glue player. For her age, she has an outrageous basketball IQ. She can score with her back to the basket, and she does well in transition.
“Both Ty and Sydney are post players who understand the game and know how to move. They can get themselves open, and they know how to create opportunities for their teammates. Sydney is very athletic, she runs the floor, and she scores in transition. She can score with her back to the basket, and she can step out to the arc.”
“Walker is a very versatile athlete who could play multiple positions,” McCormick added. “She has good strength, and she has inside-outside skills. Battle is a long athlete who can post up and score, or she can face up against people on the perimeter. Schultz can score on the low block and she can hit the jumper from the short corner or the free throw line.”
Photo By Scott Walstrom, NIU Media Services