How does Montini coach Jason Nichols approach November basketball?
Allow him to channel his inner amateur chef to explain.
"It's like you want to cook a meal and don't how how to prepare it," Nichols said. "It's going to look ugly at times, and you just hope it tastes good when it comes out of the oven. Either we're going to enjoy the meal or we're going to throw it out."
Nichols and the three-time defending Class 3A champion Broncos get their first taste of the new season, and a new tournament, when they tip off at the Schaumburg Tournament at 6:40 p.m. today against Glenbrook South. Wheaton Warrenville South-Rockford Boylan will follow that game.
Montini played at the Geneva Tournament in recent years; when that folded last spring, Nichols was fortunate to find an opening at Schaumburg. Glenbrook South will be a good test right off the bat, and on Saturday No. 1 Montini will hook up with No. 2 Wheaton Warrenville South and Montini transfer Diamond Thompson in a delicious early-season barometer.
"You get bored with the same schedule," Nichols said. "Making a change is pretty exciting to see teams we never really see. It keeps things from getting stale. We're excited about it."
A few health concerns have compromised Montini's readiness a little.
Junior Kelly Karlis is dealing with a hip flexor and freshman Leah Kerstein pulled a groin. Both are questionable for tonight's opener, particularly Karlis. Juniors Kateri Stone and Sara Ross both missed a couple practices with sickness but are back now. Montini has only had three practices at full strength.
"We'll go out and get our feet wet," Nichols said. "My kids will play hard. If they don't they'll have a very loud 40-year-old man yelling at them."
Familiar face, new place:
West Chicago coach Kim Wallner will see a familiar, friendly face on the other bench when her team hosts Nazareth tonight.
Wallner and new Nazareth coach Kim Connell played three sports together in high school at Schaumburg.
Connell, laid off as an English teacher at Waubonsie Valley because of budget cutbacks after guiding the Warriors to a 75-11 record and three regional titles, accepted the job at Nazareth in April. Wallner and the Wildcats played Connell's Rockford Boylan teams in the past before Connell went to Waubonsie.
Wallner's dad and Connell's parents will be at the game tonight.
"It's always fun," Wallner said. "My parents were really good friends with her parents growing up. We had a lot of experiences together athletically, and we both have a lot of respect for each other. We're both competitive people, so it's fun to get together."
A juggling act:
Forgive Mike Hofland if he's in a bit of a daze these days.
Glenbard West's girls basketball coach is also the running backs coach for the school's Class 7A semifinalist football team.
That means he's pulling double duty lately.
Football practice goes right after school, with basketball starting at 5 or 5:30. Hofland routinely got home around 9 or so last week. On Monday night after football he was firing up the GPS to head to Crete-Monee to scout for girls basketball.
"Last week honestly I had no idea what day it was," Hofland said. "It was that crazy."
Fortunately, Hofland has a solid coaching staff to lean on, young and old. Veteran assistant Ed Boddy is back, and ex-Hinsdale Central standout and coach Morgan Kasperek joins the staff this year while teaching special education in Glen Ellyn.
Hilltoppers hoops gets started Saturday at the Rachel Bach Memorial Tournament. Coincidentally, three of the school there also have football teams alive in the playoffs. Hofland will get to coach the girls at 10 a.m., then quick change and get to Duchon Field for a 1 p.m. kickoff.