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It may still be dark, but it’s almost dawn for Antioch hoops

Point guard A.J. Marsiglio is one key returning starter he’ll be team leader. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA FILE PHOTO

Point guard A.J. Marsiglio is the one key returning starter and he’ll be a team leader. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA FILE PHOTO

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Last year: 3-24 (0-12 in NSC Prairie); lost 78-37 to North Chicago in regional semifinal.

Lost most of the contributors from last year’s squad, including PG Anthony Formella (missed the second half of the season with an injury), SG Tyler Innis, and forwards Cody Gwinn, Robert Wynter, and Ryan Weber.

5-6 senior PG A.J. Marsiglio is Antioch’s most experienced returning player.

The Sequoits are sitting on seven straight 20-loss seasons, a stretch in which they’ve gone a combined 34-164 under three different coaches.

For brief flashes at the Bob Brown Shootout last weekend at the College of Lake County, there were displays of ball-handling, ball movement, shooting, and aggressiveness on the boards that were notable. Turning those flashes into quarters and the quarters into halves and the halves into games and the games into streaks is not going to happen overnight.

It often takes more than a season for a struggling program to “learn how to win” in coaches parlance, but it would be understandable if Antioch coaches, players, and fans are looking at the glass as half-full these days.

The streak of 20-loss seasons may very well extend to eight this year, but the reasons to believe it will not reach nine in 2014-15 should continue to proliferate.

Three years ago, Antioch’s seventh-grade feeder team went 38-0 during the spring/summer season. Those players are now sophomores in the Antioch program and at least one of them, Kyle Gofron, will be playing with the varsity team this year.

Updated: July 20, 2013 6:18AM

One of the things that happens with a high school that’s always bad in a sport is that you forget it’s possible for it to ever be good.

It works the other way, too. Does anyone, for example, honestly think that Stevenson High School will be bad in football at any point in the next two centuries?

Antioch boys basketball, of course, is on the opposite side of the scale from Stevenson football.

For now.

But that situation isn’t going to last forever, with forever for Antioch hoops probably being defined as the year after next.

Ironically, Antioch might have perfect timing on this one. After next season, North Chicago will no longer be unbeatable, Grant won’t be as strong a team as it will be this next winter, and none of the other teams in the North Suburban Conference Division seem like they’ll be able to phone it in on a Friday night and come away with a “W” over the Sequoits.

That’s progress, and while progress doesn’t start with a “W,” it’s still a good starting point for a program that’s 34-164 under three different coaches over the last seven seasons.

The two reasons for optimism:

■ Three years ago, Antioch’s seventh-grade feeder team went 38-0 during the spring/summer season. Those players are now sophomores in the Antioch program and at least one of them, Kyle Gofron, will be playing with the varsity team this year.

■ Those who will be varsity players this coming season seem genuinely interested in being part of the solution rather than part of the problem that has been Sequoit hoops.

“We have 20 guys in varsity camp. There are obviously some kids around who won’t be playing with us in November, but I love the turnout,” said head coach Jim White. “It’s been a very competitive camp. The kids are going hard, not only because they want to show they deserve a spot come November, but because they want to see how they measure up to everyone else.

“We go two hours in the morning, and then have an hour and a half before our freshmen camp. That’s our open gym and weightlifting time, and the kids don’t leave. They’re there working for the entire hour and a half. We have kids who want to stick around and help out with the freshmen. It’s fun.”

The key returning player is 5-6 point guard A.J. Marsiglio, a high-motor guy with the drive to succeed.

“He runs cross country. He does not like coming out of games. I don’t think anybody does, but he can truly go the full game at the speed we need him to go.” said White. “That’s a real asset, because we need that leadership out there. He’s tough, but like Tyler Innis (a key player last year), he’s a very small package.”

For his part, A.J. is eager to get the turnaround started.

“For us, the summer is about making yourself better by playing and practicing hard. We have game plans that we try to follow through on every game, and we’ve done a pretty good job of that this summer. Things that we work on in practice we make a point of carrying over to the games,” he said.

“When you return very few starters, it makes new people want to step up. Guys are working hard in practice, and when they show up in games ,you’ve found players you can build your team around.”

The point guard conceded that the mounting losses can take a toll on the program.

“Sometimes it gets frustrating, but we have to start where we start and build up to where we want to be” he said. “We know it’s a long road, but we’re excited. If we keep working hard, we’ll get to where we want to be.”

White noted that the Antioch roster will be filled with players not used to losing.

“We’re getting a lot of pieces from the sophomore group who will be juniors this yearm” he said. “Kyle Gofron was a freshman, now a sophomore who played with that sophomore team, and he’s up with us now. He’s a great athlete. He can finish around the rim. He has great agility, which is something we need.”

Antioch’s also playing a ton of games this summer.

“We’re in enough this summer that everybody gets a chance to play. They’re getting the chance to work on their game, and they’re learning how to play with each other,” White said. “That’s the important thing right now.

“The kids understand that this is a process, and they’re starting to see glimpses of some good things. We can have a great half and be excited even though we end up losing by 10, because we’re right there competing for the entire game. That’s what we need.”

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