COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — It seems like the Southwestern Conference produces a new juggernaut every season.
Recently, East St. Louis and Belleville West have claimed that crown. But right now, the Collinsville Kahoks reign supreme.
Collinsville is off to an undefeated 17-0 to start the season with impressive wins over O'Fallon, Morgan Park (Chicago) and De Smet.
Their hot start has caught some attention, and not just in Illinois. Yes, the Kahoks are near the top of the leaderboard among all 4A teams in Illinois, but MaxPreps is giving them some national love as well. The prep website has them currently ranked as the 24th best team in the country. At any level.
For head coach Darin Lee, the attention has been a nice side effect of all of their winning.
"It's really neat for our school, our fans and our program. Obviously it's just one symbolic ranking, but it is good for the Collinsville program," Lee said. "Collinsville basketball has been nationally ranked and we have a national championship in 1961, so it's great for everybody involved."
And when you ask coach Lee, all the winning has come from two main components: Hard work and experience.
"I believe our practice habits have transitioned to the game. We practice hard. And I think that's what we have to continue to do," Lee said. "These guys have been playing together for a long time. Ray'Sean Taylor started as a freshman. Keydrian Jones and Cawhan Smith started as sophomores, so they're three year starters. Lots of veteran players and a lot of experience. They know how to play together and they know how to win."
Speaking of Ray'Sean Taylor, the senior guard has been the driving force for the Kahoks this season. He is currently the seventh leading scorer in the area, and has the second most overall points of any high school player in the area.
And Taylor doesn't just beat you in one way, either. He can drive and finish, use his court vision to find a teammate for a bucket and pull up from deep if need be.
In the beast that is the Southwestern Conference, Collinsville is proving they're the next team up. The rest of the state should take notice.