2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 12/14/2017 9:20 PM

Marcotte enjoys making Mundelein matter

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  • Senior Tommy Marcotte and the Mundelein boys basketball team is off to a strong start despite struggles in recent seasons.

      Senior Tommy Marcotte and the Mundelein boys basketball team is off to a strong start despite struggles in recent seasons.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Senior Tommy Marcotte has helped Mundelein to a terrific start to the season against North Suburban Conference foes.

      Senior Tommy Marcotte has helped Mundelein to a terrific start to the season against North Suburban Conference foes.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Senior guard Tommy Marcotte is helping lead the turnaround in the Mundelein boys basketball program, which had won just 11 games over the previous four seasons.

      Senior guard Tommy Marcotte is helping lead the turnaround in the Mundelein boys basketball program, which had won just 11 games over the previous four seasons.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

There are some teachers, and some students, too, who stop Tommy Marcotte in the hallways now.

These are often teachers he's never had, and students he doesn't know personally.

And they all want to talk basketball. Mundelein boys basketball.

They want to chat about the team, wish him luck in the next game.

This has never happened before.

Then again, the Mustangs have never won like this before. At least not in recent memory.

A complete 180 is happening with the boys basketball team at Mundelein, and last week's victory over Stevenson illustrates it perfectly.

"Ever since I've been in high school, Stevenson has always won everything," said Marcotte, a senior guard for the Mustangs who has started since he was a freshman. That season, Stevenson won the state championship behind guard Jalen Brunson, now a star at Villanova. "We've been losing to Stevenson by at least like 35 points. Every time. There were games against them where we lost by over 50 points.

"It felt so great to finally beat them. We were down 12 to 14 points early but we just didn't give up. And that's what we would always do in the past: give up.

"Our locker room was just crazy after that game. Guys were smiling, laughing, jumping around. It was Stevenson. And we won. It was just super hyped up."

And this is why teachers, students, people around the community are getting hyped up about Mundelein basketball. The once-proud program, a regular contender for conference and regional titles, is relevant again after a humbling stretch of being not so relevant at all.

Mundelein has started the season 6-3, with big wins over Stevenson, Warren and Zion-Benton, all teams that have dominated the Mustangs in recent years.

Actually, most teams have dominated Mundelein in recent years.

Prior to this season's Zion-Benton win, Mundelein had not won a North Suburban Conference game in four years. Four years!

Over the previous three years, which includes all of Marcotte's career prior to this season, Mundelein had won a total of nine games. That's three wins a season.

Count up the previous four years all together and Mundelein went a combined 11-106.

"We came into this season just being so fed up with the losing," Marcotte said. "I know guys were down on themselves during those losing seasons. It was hard to be proud of where we played. If we would tell someone we played basketball at Mundelein, it was always like, 'That sucks.' It felt terrible.

"It was hard to look forward to anything about basketball. But that's changed."

Now, the Mustangs can't get enough basketball.

In fact, nine players set up their own voluntary shooting practice on a recent Sunday afternoon.

"Now that we're winning, we want to keep winning," Marcotte said. "You've got guys who just want to get in the gym as much as possible to get better and better so that we can keep the winning going.

"That (kind of commitment and excitement) really hasn't ever happened here in the last three years."

So what's different at Mundelein this year compared to the last three years?

A couple of things. Big things.

Mundelein got a new coach over the off-season, Matt Badgley. He came in with a "my-way-or-the-highway" mentality. Especially about defense.

"Our guys were tired of losing," Badgley said. "They were pretty hungry. We told them that defense would be their ticket to playing, and they've done whatever we've asked."

In the past, the Mustangs have been run-and-gun, and could score points, but weren't always good at preventing their opponents from scoring points. They would often get burned on fastbreaks and in transition.

Now, stingy defense is a priority. Especially in the halfcourt set. Full-court pressure, which the Mustangs used a lot in recent years, is limited to special situations to cut down on defensive risks and liabilities.

"We really wanted to establish good, tough defense," Badgley said. "We wanted to emphasize tough on-ball defense, and help defense, and so far the guys have been like sponges, and they've bought into what we've wanted to do."

Another key for the Mustangs is that the senior class was primed for a break-out season, and is finally seeing that come to fruition.

"We've always had a really good class," Marcotte said. "We always thought we could do a lot of the things that we're doing now, but we just couldn't get it to come together in the past.

"We have good players, though."

Along with Marcotte, four other seniors were on the varsity as sophomores: Nick Parmley, Jeff Bikus, Kyle Enright and Andrew Silva.

Marcotte says as eighth graders, the Mundelein seniors went 25-5 in feeder basketball. And Marcotte's seventh and eighth grade teams at Fremont both went undefeated.

"When I was younger, Mundelein had some really good teams and I knew our class was good, so I thought it would be the same when we got to high school," Marcotte said. "But it just didn't happen. I wasn't going to give up, though. I love basketball too much. And I knew that if we stuck with it, we could still be pretty good as seniors.

"I'm not sure how far we can go now. I'm not sure how good we can be, but that Stevenson game ... you just can't get that out of your head. It kind of changes your whole perspective of what is possible. It's so different now."

It's safe to say that the Mustangs also have their own unique perspective on winning in general now.

"Every time we win, everyone is just so happy," Marcotte said. "Guys from other teams are probably just like, 'Oh, we got another win.' For us, every time we win, it just means so much to us."

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

•Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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