Fremd's Chris Klimek is the Honorary Captain of the Cook County All-Area team.
Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer
This was not the ending Chris Klimek envisioned.
A dream season for the Fremd boys basketball season that came to a crushing halt so soon. One where Klimek and his teammates hoped to make a deep tournament run that would result in a trip to Peoria.
Even tougher to leave behind are the bonds Klimek and his teammates formed as they helped put Fremd back on the basketball map by ending 12-year droughts since winning Mid-Suburban League and division titles and 20 games in a season.
The third-year varsity starter and senior did more than just lead the resurgence with points and rebounds. Setting the tone for Fremd's success made Klimek the choice as the Cook County honorary captain of the 2009-10 Daily Herald All-Area boys basketball team.
"I don't think I would have gotten this award if it wasn't for my teammates," Klimek said a couple of weeks ago. "I can't put into words how great this team is and how we've come together with the season we're having.
"Me and (senior guard Chris) Vainisi have gone to school since we were 3 and Zach (junior guard Monaghan) and I have played together since we were little kids. It's a very tight group and it's been fun to play with them."
Despite Tuesday's sudden ending against Schaumburg, this was much more enjoyable for the repeat all-area pick after consecutive 12-win seasons. Klimek's major role in that turnaround went beyond averaging a team-high 17.6 points and 6 rebounds in his second year as team captain.
"He's the hardest worker in practice and all of the guys respect him," Monaghan said.
"He plays the game the right way," said Fremd coach Bob Widlowski. "He hustles, he's supportive of his teammates and he's one of the best offensive rebounders in the Northwest suburban area."
Klimek was never afraid to mix it up inside or hit the floor with a headlong dive for a loose ball. Those were things that didn't stop - and even resulted in him missing a game with a nicked-up shoulder - as he and the Vikings garnered more and more attention.
It's a reputation he earned even when he played AAU ball with high-profile teammates and future Division I stars such as Champaign Centennial's Rayvonte Rice, Mundelein's Ben Brust, Zion-Benton's Lenzelle Smith, New Trier's Alex Rossi and DeKalb's Jordan Threloff.
"I'm known as the tough defensive guy because of how the MSL plays," Klimek said with his trademark smile. "I look like the tough guy by playing like I usually do."
What Klimek wanted to do most after two sub-.500 seasons was win. Last year the Vikings lost their first seven games but did make a regional final, where they lost to eventual Class 4A state runnerup Waukegan.
"It was frustrating because we did have a lot of talent on that team but things weren't clicking and people weren't fitting into their roles as well," Klimek said. "It made this class this year realize how terrible that really was and that's why we came out so strong this year.
"Everyone goes hard and the JV team does a great job of pushing us. That's why we are so good. Everyone pushes everyone."
Basketball has always been Klimek's main sport even though his dad was a swimmer and his mom ran track. He wants to keep playing in college and has been accepted academically to Division III power Washington University in St. Louis.
More important for the future business student with a 3.9 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and a 29 ACT is finding the right fit for his future.
"I came to realization I'm not going to play in the NBA," Klimek laughed, "so I want to get as good of an education as possible."
And Chris Klimek left behind plenty of valuable lessons for kids dreaming of wearing the Fremd uniform in the future.
"He's a great example for all of our younger players in our basketball program," Widlowski said.
Fremd High School
Conference: Mid-Suburban West
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