Suddenly craving a Big Mac?
So is "Eyes on Five" as we take a look at this weekend's 24th annual McDonald's girls basketball shootout at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park.
On the boys side, meanwhile, we catch up with some old favorites.
1. Big Bite I:
There are a couple of ways to look at the McDonald's Shootout, which begins Friday night, continues all day Saturday and then again all day Monday.
One way is that good coaches like to put their teams in tough situations, and this shootout is all about toughening up your team so it's ready for the postseason.
"We want to put our kids in situations where they've been there, done it," said Montini coach Jason Nichols, who, with three state championship rings, knows a thing or two about going there and getting it done.
"It's one of those games that going to have a lot of impact on the next couple of months," added WW South coach Rob Kroehnke, whose team hopes to improve on last year's trip to the supersectional.
There are plenty of tough teams coming to Villa Park this weekend, and not just the locals. Kroehnke's Tigers, ranked No. 3 in the Daily Herald Top 20, get No. 5 Prospect. Montini gets perennial Class 4A heavyweight Bolingbrook, which is going through some changes after losing coach Tony Smith and some players but still looks strong. Wheaton North hopes to put a winning streak on the line against Hillcrest, a team unlike those the Falcons usually see in the DVC.
2. Big Bite II:
Another way of looking at the McDonald's Shootout is it's a good way to put your players in front of a lot of eyes.
"Just playing at Willowbrook, that shootout, it's a great atmosphere," Kroehnke said. "Everybody's watching," Nichols added. "You get a lot of college coaches there, a lot of media there."
This is not only good for recruiting purposes but also for spring preparation. The deeper into the postseason your team goes, the more eyes will be upon it. Get to March and you will get plenty of attention, playing in front of bigger crowds. Find out now what it's like so it doesn't take you by surprise then.
The girls also want to show well in front of their peers.
"Just to be able to be recognized with those teams. ...," said Falcons coach Dave Eaton, whose team is 2-2 over the past four shootouts. "It's just neat to be able to be mentioned in those groups. It's such a different level of basketball and it's a great honor to be invited, and we're trying to make a name for ourselves."
Eaton said several of his players plan to take advantage of Monday's day off from school to see some of the action.
3. Checking in:
Remember Keith Hayes? Anyone who watched Glenbard West's boys basketball team last season will find it hard to forget the guard who lit up scoreboards as a sophomore while averaging 18 points during a Daily Herald All-Area campaign for the Hilltoppers.
Hayes, now a junior, recently moved to Little Rock, Ark., and played his first game for McClellan High School on Jan. 7. He was an immediate hit while scoring 28 points in a 74-68 win over Sylvan. Hayes followed up with another 28-point performance in a 99-88 win over West Helena.
McClellan moved to 3-0 with Hayes, and younger brother Karson, in the lineup after Tuesday's blowout win over Pulaski Academy. Hayes scored 28 points yet again.
In an email exchange McClellan coach Chris Threatt raved about the impact Hayes has made on his team's lineup. With three freshman among his top seven players, Threatt welcomed the heady play of the junior.
"Keith has a chance to be one of the best players I've ever coached," Threatt wrote. "He is extremely well-mannered, has a passion for the game and is a hard worker."
Glenbard West (7-7), led by senior guard Corey Davis, moved on without Hayes with a younger group featuring sophomores Justin Pierce, Alex Passi and Brian Cochrane. McClellan and Hayes, meanwhile, continue their season Friday against Jacksonville.
4. New ballgame:
That collective roar you heard throughout the state was the thrilled reaction to the announcement earlier this week regarding a new deal that will see Wilson return as the official ball of the IHSA starting in the 2014-15 school year.
Wilson was the official ball between 1994 and 2009 before Baden took over the role the last five years. The announcement of Wilson's return was received with great joy by coaches and athletes in many sports, particularly in football and baseball.
Because the "official ball" label kicks in for the postseason, the IHSA dictates that all playoff games be played with that brand of ball. Teams and players, however, can use any brand of ball they'd like during the regular season.
Which is exactly what many have been doing.
An informal poll this week of area coaches and players revealed that, in football and baseball especially, many folks have been using Wilson balls until they had to switch to Baden in the postseason. The difference, they say, is stark.
In football, players complained about the shape of the Baden ball in addition to the difficulty in breaking it in. In baseball, pitchers prefer the higher seams of the Wilson ball and the greater ability to get movement on it.
In general, coaches prefer the durability of Wilson balls compared to Baden.
Wilson's deal with the IHSA will run through the 2023-24 school year.
5. The stat:
While senior point guard Meaghan Waldron works to take Wheaton Warrenville South to new heights in Illinois girls basketball, she continues to climb in the Tigers' school record book.
Waldron, the Daily Herald All-Area captain as a junior, has scored 1,647 points for the WW South varsity in her three-plus seasons, leaving her just 245 behind all-time school leader Charliss Ridley. At her current rate of 21.4 points a game, she might just catch Ridley.
Waldron, a DePaul recruit, also has 162 rebounds this season, not bad for a point guard. If she continues at her 9.0 a game average, that also will also should put her close to Katie Meier's 936 total by the time the season ends.
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