Aurora Christian's trophy journey provides a sense of accomplishment
Only the Stanley Cup travels more than the Aurora Christian boys basketball team's state trophy.
Coach Dan Beebe and assistant Demetrice Stephens on Tuesday set out to visit the homes of all 14 Aurora Christian players after IHSA assistant director Kurt Gibson delivered the hardware to the school that morning.
Beebe felt it would be the perfect pick-me-up for his Eagles, who were unable to compete in the state finals when the state shut down less than 24 hours before their March 13 semifinal.
Aurora Christian (25-6) advanced to Peoria with a 70-43 dismantling of previously undefeated Indian Creek in the Northern Illinois supersectional on March 10.
Visiting 14 private school players spread out over four counties took approximately six hours. The journey took Beebe and Stephens through Aurora, North Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, Elburn, DeKalb, Sugar Grove, Yorkville, Bolingbrook and back to Aurora.
"It was really neat on a few different levels," Beebe said. "Number one, you got a chance to go see them. We haven't seen them in several weeks. Then it was great just to allow them to hold it so they could get that sense of accomplishment. It was just to let them know that, hey, you had a great year. We have a rich tradition of basketball at Aurora Christian and this is the third team to make it to state. That's something to always be proud of."
The trophy tour stopped at the DeKalb home of catalyst Taaj Gibson. The 6-foot-1 point guard was the area's leading scorer in 2019-20 with 799 points in 31 games (25.8 ppg). He set a new school record with 58 points in a Jan. 10 win over Bishop McNamara. The next night he dropped 57 points on Chicago Christian.
Davis, committed to Vincennes, a Division-I junior college, said it was bittersweet to hold a trophy with "state finalist" emblazoned upon the base.
"I'm happy we have it, but there's still a sour taste in my mouth because it doesn't say champion, just finalist," Davis said. "You're never going to know the ending because it was taken away so quickly. At least I got a trophy. You can't complain about that. It's tough, though. I just wanted to give back to my school. I wanted to give them a state championship trophy."
The trophy tour stopped at the home of senior Karsen Olsen, who recently committed to play at Culver Stockton University. Olsen was almost as surprised to see the trophy as his coaches were to see his now-blonde hair.
"I knew they were going to show up; I just didn't know they were coming with the trophy," Olsen said. "I was surprised that we got it and we got to hold it. I was grateful because we earned it."
As for the hair?
"It's something I always wanted to do and I had a little more freedom to do it," he said.
Beebe enjoyed reconnecting with his team.
"It was so good to be able to spend some time with them," he said. "All the parents, they were excited. They came out and took pictures with their kids. It was neat."