Multiple conference champion? Check.
Regional host? Check.
Playing at the United Center? Check.
All-day basketball shootout?
Kaneland boys basketball coach Brian Johnson is checking this off on the list of program-building aspects.
Sophomore and varsity games from noon to 9 p.m. this Saturday at the Maple Park school are the centerpiece of Kaneland’s inaugural “Hoops for Heroes — Day and Knight of Hoops.”
“It’s something I’m really excited about,” said Johnson, in his fifth season as Knights head coach. “It’s been a long time in the making for it, something I’ve thought about for a few years since I’ve been here. What makes it sweeter is we decided a few months ago to donate all proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project.”
Johnson has invited several groups within the Kaneland community to the shindig, from the Pep Band performing all day to the Kaneland Youth Basketball and Kaneland Cager programs playing during halftime of some games, both sophomore and varsity.
The Kaneland Youth Cheer team will execute their routines during a couple of the sophomore games, in addition to the usual Kaneland High Cheer squad doing their stuff for varsity games.
In addition to a progressive 50-50 raffle the event will include the popular “Chuck-A-Duck” fundraiser, and a post-event celebration afterward offers another raffle with a $2,000 prize.
In addition, Kaneland will honor longtime community staples Bob and Donna Harner with the fifth-annual “Friend of the Program” award. The Harners will join former basketball coach Bob Pederson, scorekeeper Jim Rombough, hall of fame track coach (and current athletic director) Ralph Drendel and supporters Rich and Nancy Miller as “Friends.”
A big thing for Johnson was supporting the Wounded Warrior Project. As Johnson and his volunteer team discussed the event, one among them said: “We need to have a heart and soul behind this.”
“We thought it was a good fit,” the coach said. “It’s more than them just playing a basketball game. They’re doing something for the greater good, which is probably the best life lesson for this event.”
But the basketball promises to be outstanding.
As host, Kaneland (12-7) gets the 7:30 p.m. marquee slot, hosting a Hillcrest program that won the Class 3A title in 2010, hasn’t won less than 20 games since 1996-97 and is currently 16-6 according to the Sun-Times.
At 4:30 p.m. St. Charles North (14-7) opens the varsity portion of the exhibition — sophomore games between the same schools start at noon — against Peoria Richwoods, the 2010 3A runner-up currently on a four-game winning streak entering Friday’s game against Peoria Manual.
The 6 p.m. game could really be a doozy. Larkin (20-3) recently clinched its second straight Upstate Eight River title and has lost only to Benet, Morgan Park and Zion-Benton. North Chicago (20-3) recently put up 113 points on Round Lake, and is 12-0 in the North Suburban Prairie. The Warhawks feature Murray State commit JayQuan McCloud and Toledo recruit Kurt Hall, who coach Michael Barry noted averages 23 points and 11 rebounds.
“All these programs have won a lot,” Johnson said. “North Chicago, Peoria Richwoods and Hillcrest all have been downstate in the last five years. It seemed like the perfect thing to do and it all kind of worked out that we were able to get such good programs in.”
In an effort to create a special season for his players, Johnson said he was inspired by Batavia’s Jim and Sylvia Roberts Night of Hoops, and similar events. He’s most excited about the prospect of assisting the Wounded Warrior Project.
“I like the fact that we’re bringing a lot of people together for something that has more meaning than just playing a basketball game,” he said.
For event information, visit support.woundedwarriorproject.org/individual-fundraising/hoopsforheroes
Round two: With teams like Naperville Central and Glenbard North around, it may have been unlikely that West Aurora (17-4) would go through the DuPage Valley Conference undefeated.
That became evident last Friday when Naperville Central dropped the Blackhawks 57-56 on a last-second shot, halving West Aurora’s conference lead over 8-2 Naperville Central and Glenbard North.
Though West Aurora hadn’t lost since Dec. 28 at the Pontiac Tournament, coach Gordie Kerkman said this was not one of those “good losses.”
“It’s definitely not a good thing because it puts Naperville Central and Glenbard North within a game of first place,” he said.
Glenbard North now has its second crack at the Blackhawks on Friday. On Jan. 10 West Aurora beat the Panthers 62-56 in Carol Stream. Blackhawks senior guard Jontrell Walker scored 23 points to lead all players, while junior forward Roland Griffin overcame a negligible first half to finish with 13 points including an exclamation-point slam dunk.
After having a single double-figure game the first half of the season, in the opener against Tilden, senior point guard Matt Dunn has added more scoring. He’s scored 11 or more in four of West Aurora’s last eight games and also provides surprising rebounding for a 5-foot-8 guard.
West Aurora followed its loss to Naperville Central with a 58-27 nonconference win over St. Patrick at Batavia on Saturday.
“So many people have complimented the team on how well the kids played Saturday night,” Kerkman said, “so obviously they rebounded pretty well.”