This 2021-2022 season represents a changing of the guard for Chicago’s prep varsity girls basketball. Over the past 10 seasons, several Chicago programs have advanced to the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) championship rounds across its four classes (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A). 

Marshall Metropolitan High School, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School and Simeon Career Academy High School have each been able to capture at least one championship in that timespan, with Marshall winning back-to-back championships in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons.

In the midst of those perennial state championship contenders has been Kenwood Academy High School, a dark horse always on the precipice of being something special.

Given key departures at the head coaching position at Marshall and Whitney Young, a power vacuum now exists and Kenwood’s varsity girls basketball team is quickly taking advantage of its primary competitors’ rebuilding phases. In the past four years, Kenwood has participated in two Chicago Public Schools (CPS) championship games, but didn’t win a title.

But this year, the Kenwood Broncos are coming for the throne.

Ever since their 68-51 loss to Simeon in the 2020 IHSA Class 3A girls’ basketball sectional championship game on Feb. 27, 2020 — that marked the end of their 2019-2020 season —  the Kenwood Broncos have been undefeated against CPS opponents. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CPS students didn’t return to in-person learning or sports activities until Monday, Aug. 30. So when the shortened 2020-2021 girls basketball season started in February 2021, Kenwood ended the season with a 13-0 record, including a 9-0 record in the Chicago Public Red South Central conference. 

Fast forward to the current 2021-2022 season, the Kenwood Broncos are 18-5 and crushing CPS opponents by an eye-popping average of 53 points in the regular season. Their five losses were to three out-of -state opponents and two in-state opponents from Lisle, Ill. and Lincolnshire, Ill.

“Each year, we’ve gotten better,” Kenwood Broncos varsity girls head coach Andre Lewis told the TRiiBE. “We’ve built it gradually. There’s been a process of going from somebody nobody thought about to people questioning could we establish a winning program here to now where the expectation is very high and the support is extremely impactful.”

Kenwood Broncos varsity girls head coach Andre Lewis joined the team in 2012. Photo by Mike Hicks // The TRiiBE

The arrival of Lewis in 2012 changed everything for the school’s girls basketball program. Under his stewardship, Kenwood has won 207 games to just 69 losses. The Broncos qualified for the state playoffs five times in that time period, with their best finish being a sectional championship game.

Lewis explained that continuity between the junior varsity and varsity teams — when it comes to style of play and basketball principles — is one contributing factor to Kenwood’s gradual program build.

“Many of my kids played JV when they were younger. Some have not. It’s of the greatest importance that they understand it is about development and we also want to give every kid an opportunity to play,” Lewis said. “Every kid can’t play varsity as a freshman. So, it’s about giving them an opportunity to be in a position where they can grow as a player and so JV is intricately involved in that because they reinforce everything we do.” 

Two other contributing factors to Kenwood’s success are the varsity team’s two stars: seniors Brianna McDaniel and Whitney Dunn. Lewis met them back when they were in middle school, and he knew then that they were going to be special players because of their work ethic and love for the game.

“They didn’t work like normal seventh and eighth graders,” Lewis said. “They were in the gym every day. They loved being in the gym every day, and they looked forward to the challenge of playing at this level.”

Dunn is a 5’9″ guard who is the Broncos’ leading scorer at 16.4 points per game. She’s also a Loyola University Chicago commit. She’s been practicing with Kenwood’s high school team since she was in seventh grade. She originally came to the school through a selective enrollment program where she caught Lewis’ attention for her basketball prowess. 

“Even though I couldn’t play yet, I was practicing with [the varsity team] and playing with them in the summer. So then by the time I got to my freshman year, I was playing on varsity. I didn’t start at the beginning, but as the season went on, I started,” Dunn told the TRiiBE.

McDaniel is the Broncos’ second leading scorer with 13.7 points per game. The 5’11” guard is heading to College Station, Texas after graduation to play for Texas A&M University in the fall. She’s currently ranked 42nd best player in the country, according to ESPN’s 2022 HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings.

In a postgame interview on Jan. 25, she told the TRiiBE she followed in the footsteps of her big sister, Shadrian McDaniel, in coming to Kenwood Academy. Shadrian, who also hooped at the school, was a freshman when Brianna was in fourth grade.


The connection McDaniel and Dunn have forged through their years of Kenwood basketball, and off the court as friends, is the sort of synergy that could put the Broncos over the top during their respective 2022 CPS playoffs and state playoff runs.

“I’m going to miss her when we go off to college,” McDaniel said. “It’s been great playing with Whitney [Dunn] for these last four years. She’s a great teammate, a great person off the court. It’s just great to play with her.”


Kenwood’s ascension to the upper echelon of Chicago girls basketball this year is best represented in their first round CPS playoff game versus Ogden International High School on Jan. 26. 

In a contest the Broncos won by nearly 70 points, with a final score of 83-16, Kenwood forced 17 first quarter turnovers and didn’t allow the Ogden Owls to convert a single field goal until midway through the second quarter.

On Jan. 26, the Kenwood Broncos beat the Ogden Owls 83-16 in the first round CPS playoff game. Here is point guard Ariella Henigan driving to the basket. Photo by Mike Hicks // The TRiiBE

Yet, the victory did not mean the Broncos played right, according to Lewis. He subbed out all of his starters early in the first quarter in the midst of a 11-0 scoring run because he was dissatisfied with their effort and energy.

“I wasn’t happy with our energy at the beginning of the game. I felt like we came out and kind of took the opponent for granted and so that was a major point of concern for me, not so much for this game but the fact that you don’t want to start developing bad habits,” Lewis said. “That’s why I went to the bench early and often and it got better as the game went on. We have to respect our opponents and understand that if we are to achieve our long-term goals then every opportunity to play is an opportunity to get better.” 

The Kenwood Broncos have entered a new golden era under Lewis, who began his coaching career as an assistant head coach for Harlan High School varsity boys team in 1998 before eventually becoming the head coach in 1999. He moved on to Morgan Park to become the Mustangs assistant varsity girls coach in 2011 before arriving at Kenwood in 2012. 

Lewis said his most recent teams at Kenwood may be the most talented he’s coached in his tenure there. 

“Having multiple players that could be starters at any school in the city and many in the state, yeah, this is definitely one of the most talented groups that I’ve ever had,” he said.

Lewis mentioned 2018 graduates Shadrian McDaniel and Jonaie Johnson, as well as 2019 graduates Tamara Nard and 2017 graduate Alyssa Moore, as a few of the best players he’s coached during his Kenwood tenure. All of them went on to play collegiate basketball.

“There’s a bunch of players, I could go on and on,” he said. “It’s a long list. All of them have allowed us to move in this direction. We’ve definitely benefited from their contributions.”

One way Lewis’ current varsity girls roster is different from previous teams is their perimeter shooting and rebounding.

“We have long athletes in this group,” Lewis said. “You look at our roster, and the shortest person on our team is 5’7”. In the girls game, that’s a pretty nice size squad so we’ve benefitted from that. We hang our hats on being able to defend and rebound and this group does it better than any of the groups I’ve had before.”

Now in his 10th season as a Bronco, the support for Lewis within Kenwood Academy has been overwhelming.


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First-year Kenwood athletic director Karen Garland applauded Lewis’ professionalism and dedication to the girls basketball program, labeling him a role model for the team. Kenwood’s special education teacher Deja Brown echoed Garland’s sentiments. In her five years at Kenwood, Brown said she’s seen the players grow both on the court and in the classroom.

“I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and collaborating with a few of the girls on the team in my geometry classroom that I teach, and it’s just been great to see them be outstanding students in the classroom working with curriculum and building on skills outside of the classroom,” Brown said. “[I’m] seeing how dedicated they are to their game, dedicated to practice and seeing both those things kind of align for them. It’s been great.”


Despite their successes, the Kenwood girls basketball program is due for a well-deserved break. Following a hotly contested dispute between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union over COVID-19 mitigation protocols in early January 2022, both varsity and junior varsity girls at Kenwood played six games in seven days from Jan. 13 through Jan. 19. 

At the time, Dunn worried whether the pandemic would derail her team’s season again. 

“If we did go remote, we just don’t want it to affect our season like it did last time. It was a real struggle,” Dunn told the TRiiBE in a postgame interview on Jan. 15. “It was frustrating not being able to play.”

Whitney Dunn is a 5'9" guard who is the Broncos' leading scorer at 16.4 points per game. She’s also a Loyola University Chicago commit. Photo by Mike Hicks // The TRiiBE

According to Lewis, the team scheduled make-up games for the ones that were postponed due to the COVID-19 school safety dispute. He explained that managing the latest information around COVID-19 and its omicron variant has been a unique challenge, but he’s focused on maintaining the collective health of his team.

“We’re dealing with things as they come with COVID-19, with having to quarantine [and] everything that entails. Today is only the second time we’ve played in a few weeks so it’s good to be able to get games in and hopefully we will be able to build from this,” Lewis said on Jan. 13 in a postgame interview. “The biggest thing is being able to maintain focus with everything that’s going on. Thus far, the kids have been doing a great job. Hopefully, it’ll be a long season and we’ll be able to make it through.”

Dunn is undecided about her college major, but said she will continue to research her options. Nevertheless, she told the TRiiBE that academics are among her priorities. 

With a 4.2 GPA, she will definitely have multiple doors open for her in the future. One of her goals is playing professional basketball — whether it be in the WNBA or internationally. WNBA stars Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and NBA star Stephen Curry are among her favorite pros.

“I make sure to get my work done in a timely fashion so I really try to discipline myself to do what I got to do so I can do what I want to do,” Dunn said. “Academics is always a big part of playing basketball. I keep my grades up so I can play basketball and do what I want to do in life.” 

Both McDaniel and Dunn were nominees to play in the 2022 McDonald’s All-American Game. Unfortunately, neither one was selected for the team. The lack of national acknowledgement did not shake McDaniel’s resolve on how good of a player she is and can be.

Brianna McDaniel is the Broncos’ second leading scorer with 13.7 points per game. The 5’11” guard is heading to play for Texas A&M University in the fall. Photo by Mike Hicks // The TRiiBE

Prior to the 2021-2022 season, she heard critics question her ability to play at a high level again after she tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. 

“I’m not really bummed out about it. It’s a once in a lifetime type of thing. I would have appreciated it. But I have got to move on and show people I’m as good as anybody,” McDaniel said. “Sometimes, you have to work even harder to show people you deserve to be there.” 

Meanwhile, Lewis is laser focused on winning both the city and state championships this season, as is the entire Kenwood girls basketball program. After the playoffs come to a close, he is open to conversations for potential collegial and professional coaching opportunities. 

“Right now, my focus is on this group that I have and I am always willing to listen and explore opportunities as they come; it would be foolish not to,” he told the TRiiBE. “But right now my focus is on this group I have right now as I enjoy coaching them.”

When asked about the legacy he hoped to leave at Kenwood Academy, Lewis’ response went well beyond Xs and Os on the whiteboard or even wins and losses.

“I just want to be one that is remembered for providing an opportunity for kids to grow and help them reach their goals,” Lewis said. “If I can do that, then I’ve succeeded.”

is a freelance contributor for The Triibe.