R-B's big man gives IC Catholic Prep fits
Stefan Cicic is aware that he plays in an era when post players want to be guards and drift to the perimeter.
That's not him.
Cicic, Riverside-Brookfield's 6-foot-11 junior, is a true back to the basket post. He is a force in the lane, overpowering smaller defenders with brute size - and with touch near the rim.
Like many opponents, IC Catholic Prep simply had no answer for Cicic. He followed up a monster game last weekend against Aurora Christian with another double-double, 18 points and 10 rebounds, powering the host Bulldogs to a 66-48 win to remain unbeaten in the Metro Suburban Blue.
"I've always been really tall. I really like playing the post," said Cicic, who shot 7 for 10 from the floor with three dunks, and also blocked two shots. "It's a lot of skill for a big man. You have to have a lot of footwork, you have to be able to score both ways with a hook shot or backing guys down. I just really like playing the post."
The Bulldogs (18-4, 7-0) certainly like having him.
Cicic transferred from Niles Notre Dame after last school year, but had limited time getting acclimated to his new team. He hurt his ankle in R-B's third game of June, and missed the rest of the summer. But he's clearly found his niche on a Bulldogs' team whose only losses have come to teams ranked in the preseason top 10 in the Chicagoland area.
Cicic was named to the All-Tournament team at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic, is averaging around a double-double and had 28 points and 24 rebounds against Aurora Christian. Fellow junior Will Gonzalez had 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists, Arius Alijosius 13 points and Steven Brown 11 points on Tuesday for R-B, which blew the game open with a 19-1 run late in the second quarter for their eighth straight win.
"First time being here, I wasn't experienced playing with the guys and we didn't have team chemistry at first. But things started to click over the last few weeks and months," Cicic said. "We have really good team chemistry now."
Riverside-Brookfield coach Mike Reingruber has had many good teams, but he's never coached a kid with the size of Cicic. In fact, Reingruber said Cicic might be the biggest kid in the history of the school.
"He's pretty hard to guard," Reingruber said. "He's an inside presence, someone defenses need to focus on and game plan around. It took us a while to figure out how to play with him but he has a great attitude and he wants to be good. He can face up and shoot and one of his best attributes might be his passing. He's a fantastic passer."
IC Catholic (17-6, 4-2) had lost just once since the teams' first meeting on Dec. 3, and came in with hopes of still contending for a league title.
The Knights played the Bulldogs even for a little over a quarter. Jake Gallagher scored seven of his team-high 11 points in a back-and-forth first quarter. IC Catholic was tied 19-19 two minutes into the second quarter after back-to-back 3s by Gallagher and Dominik Ciegotura.
But Cicic followed his own miss to give R-B the lead for good, touching off the 19-1 run. Brown scored six of his 11 during the stretch in which the Bulldogs' transition game turned a close game into a rout.
"Jake's had a lot of confidence this year, proud of that, but what hurt us most is they got out in transition," IC Catholic coach T.J. Tyrrell said. "Our missed shots turned into buckets for them. Pretty much any rebound they got, they went. We didn't do a good job in our transition defense."
Containing Cicic, who led the Bulldogs' 32-18 advantage on the boards, also proved a chore. He scored six of his points in the third quarter, and twice had dunks on lobs. The Knights consistently had multiple defenders hanging on him, but on one occasion he slipped a clever post pass to a cutting Marques Turner for a layup.
"He's tough. We were trying to get in front of him and have help, but he did a nice job," Tyrrell said. "He has nice touch around the rim, can finish with power and he uses his body well. That's what we were most concerned about coming in, was him, and he played well."
The advantage was 38-22 at halftime, and grew to 46-24 on a Cicic dunk off a lob from Gonzalez on the break early in the third quarter.
"We just clicked as a team today," Cicic said. "We got our shots in, were getting our shots to fall, we were spreading the floor and pushing it out in transition and we played good defense. When they brought the double team it leaves guys open for cutting lanes and I'm always able to find guys."
Cicic, whose sister played Division III volleyball, does not hold any offers yet, but visited Northern Iowa a few months ago and is in contact with other coaches.
He and the Bulldogs will get a high-profile game Saturday against a close rival in Lyons Township and 6-foot-6 Penn recruit Nik Polonowski.
"Saturday is a big game for us," Cicic said. "We're trying to put our name out there, hopefully get ranked with a win. They're a good team and we're looking forward to it."
Ciegotura scored eight points and Andrew Hill seven for IC Catholic.