Josh Ruggles never planned anything like this. Regardless, his nearly unerring ability to make long-range baskets has vaulted him to national and even international acclaim. Again.
Following up last week's item, last weekend the Wheaton Academy junior was in Vitoria, Spain, having accepted an invitation by that country's ACB men's professional basketball league to compete in a 3-point shooting contest that's part of a tournament to start the season. It was held in the 15,000-seat Buesa Arena.
Ruggles, 16, the first high school student to compete in the event, won the thing.
Beating Utah State all-time 3-point champ and two-time ACB scoring champ J.C. Carroll, Ruggles registered 25 of 30 possible points in the championship round, same as Carroll. In a shootout Ruggles won 14-12.
In prior rounds Ruggles defeated North Carolina State all-time 3s leader Scott Wood and former Chicago Bull Andres Nocioni.
"Everything about it was awesome," he said earlier this week, back in Wheaton. "I think to experience the culture over there, being able to meet the players, being able to play in that arena, overall it was a great experience."
Ruggles said the Spanish version of booing was a high-pitched whistle, which greeted certain players who had been thorns in the side of the home crowd. Ruggles didn't get that treatment.
"I think they were all, I wouldn't say behind me, but I think they ... all wanted to see, I guess, history in that contest," he said.
His father, Dave Ruggles, said the interviews started rolling after that, from the local Spanish television network covering the event to Fox News, WGN and ABC back in the states. Dave Ruggles said ESPN also contacted them.
Dave Ruggles said in Spain his son "took 300, 400 photo-ops. Little high school girls were running away screaming after they looked at their phone like they just saw one of the Beatles."
In March Josh Ruggles won the Illinois' King of the Hill 3-point shooting contest in Peoria. In August he set a world record with 135 3-pointers in a five-minute span in the Wheaton Academy gym. Now this.
"The biggest thing," he said, "is the season."
What better motivation to those competing at Neuqua Valley's Naperville Twilight Cross Country Invite than to have a pair of Nike elite athletes -- former Neuqua great Chris Derrick and Olympic steeplechaser Evan Jager out of Jacobs -- hand out the awards.
It certainly worked on Wednesday for Naperville North's Ellie DeTurris and Neuqua Valley's Nick Bushelle. They won the individual girls and boys races at the third annual Twilight Invite over a 3-mile layout on the Neuqua campus and ending on the school track.
DeTurris finished in 17 minutes, 31 seconds, just three seconds ahead of Metea Valley's Kendall Cast with Naperville North's Kate Shannon in third. Last year's winner, Maria McDaniel, took fourth.
Bushelle won in 15:12, four seconds ahead of Naperville North's Kerry Gschwendtner, 15 seconds ahead of third-place Dan Weiss of Neuqua.
Naperville North's Laurel Pereira won the 2-mile girls frosh-soph race and Neuqua's James Anderson won the boys lower level. Naperville Central and Waubonsie Valley also competed.
Held in cooperation with Nike and Gatorade, the Twilight Invite is a unique cross country event for several reasons. With varsity boys running at 6:35 p.m. and the girls at 7, it's the only Illinois meet to be run at night. The temporary lighting makes for perfect accompaniment to a deejay blasting tunes.
Announcer Len Penkala (father of Wildcats junior Lauren and University of Illinois-Chicago swimmer Alisa) has a bird's-eye view from the top of the stadium press box, overseeing a course that this year included a series of tight switchbacks around the 1,000-meter mark. If they choose, fans can sit in the stadium bleachers and watch the runners sprint to the finish.
Normal cross country meets allow seven varsity athletes per team, but the Twilight allows 15. There also are open events that allow teams to run loads of kids.
Neuqua Valley coach Paul Vandersteen sought to create an exciting event, in a prime-time slot, that would attract more than the athletes' parents. He placed last year's attendance at around 1,000 people.
"What makes this unique is that there are people coming to watch who don't have a direct affiliation with anyone in the meet. That was our dream," Vandersteen said.
The Duke of Bosnia
York wrestling coach Terry Clarke informed us that Ken Peters, a 12-year varsity volunteer assistant as well as a scout for the Dukes, won a silver medal in his division last Friday at the Veterans World Championships in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Peters claimed the honor in Greco-Roman at 76 kilograms, about 167 pounds.
A nice, round number
Over the years this space has featured many items about the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Foundation. Founded by Hinsdale Central graduate Ken Braid and wife Colleen Malany Braid, a Glenbrook South graduate, they started the foundation in 1994 shortly after their son, Kyle, took his own life.
Since then the foundation has hosted high school sophomores every summer at its ranch in Colorado, instilling leadership and decision-making lessons to take back and percolate at their respective schools.
"JKB kids" come from schools in Florida, Colorado, Ohio but mainly in Illinois. In 2013, 11 DuPage County high schools participated in leadership training.
After meeting Sept. 29 with the JKB Board, which includes Naperville Central teacher and coach Barry Baldwin and former athletic director Marty Bee, it was decided 2014 will be the foundation's last year as it now operates.
"Feb. 28 will be 20 years since Kyle passed away and went on to his bigger mission," Malany Braid said. "The way I look at it, the stars are kind of aligning. Some of our key people are looking to retire over the next couple years. Not that they can't be replaced, but it's almost like starting over."
She said the expense of maintaining the Colorado facility's 21-year-old buildings was a factor, as well as some schools' difficulty in funding their students' involvement. The board had been talking about winding down for a couple years, she said.
"We just felt the timing's right," said Malany Braid, who on Sept. 30 personally visited several local schools, including Lake Park, Wheaton North and Hinsdale Central.
She added, "I'm not done yet."
The final crop of JKB scholars will visit the ranch next summer and will continue to be supported throughout their prep tenures. Malany Braid also is considering starting a new foundation that's more "cost-effective," perhaps an option such as hosting the students at a college.
But for now it's business as usual.
"I'm not going to do anything till we get through 2014," she said. "Obviously we're going to give everything we have to this last summer."
Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1