Baskin leads Naperville Central past Neuqua Valley
In a normal year, a boys basketball game between Neuqua Valley and host Naperville Central would draw well over 1,000 screaming fans.
On Friday night, that contest drew 10 -- the same number of players on the floor from both teams. According to Naperville Central athletic director Andy Lutzenkirchen, they were all parents of senior players.
Welcome to the new normal.
Those 10 parents saw the Redhawks defeat the Wildcats 60-40 behind 22 points and 9 rebounds for senior guard Kyle Baskin, including a half-court 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer.
"As a team, we kind of like having some fans to kind of help build energy," Baskin said postgame. "It's like every guy on the bench is going to help create that energy for the guys out there. It's definitely an adjustment, but we're used to it now."
Across the court, Neuqua Valley senior guard Connor Davis, who co-led his crew with 11 points, agreed with Baskin.
"It's definitely a different atmosphere obviously, because you're used to having fans screaming and yelling when you score and you get excitement, and here you have to create your own energy. It's different and tough, for sure."
But is it better, or worse?
"I want to say it's probably a little worse, because you're not getting the energy from the fans, and the energy is what pushes you in the game," Davis said.
Keep in a mind it's not only fans in the stands that make for a high school basketball atmosphere. There are the cheerleaders, the pep band, the student crazies dressed in their finery, even chaperones and media.
All that's gone, at least for this season, but there are other considerations. For one, the players can hear each other speaking, which can be an advantage.
"It helps out those teams that have less chemistry, or are younger or less experienced, because they are able to tell each other what to do," said senior Aidan Kramer, who finished with 6 points, 6 boards and a block.
"We have to help each other out, and hear each other and communicate better," added junior James Jopes, who hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter to help the Redhawks pull away.
Another advantage is in the realm of coaching.
"I will say, my kids can hear me," said Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer, whose team improved to 1-1 overall and in the DuPage Valley Conference. "Mentally, you kind of have to get yourself up by yourself. You're not going to get jacked up because of the crowd."
Contrast that with Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton. How did the lack of fans impact his team, which was missing star senior guard John Poulakidas due to a deep bone bruise?
"No effect whatsoever," he said. "Game's the same. It doesn't change. Basketball's basketball."